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American Revolution by Allen C. Guelzo

American Revolution

by Allen C. Guelzo

Title Details

Unabridged Edition
Running Time
12 Hrs.


Has there ever been a more unlikely war than the American Revolution?

Why did those 13 colonies, with nothing resembling a unified and trained army, and with no navy to speak of, believe they could defeat the most powerful nation on the planet?

And why was Britain, no matter how powerful, confident it could prevail despite these burdens:

  • A 3,000-mile supply line for troops and provisions
  • A "circuit of command" for time-critical orders that could consume three months or more
  • The constant need to divert its forces, whether to protect against slave uprisings in the Caribbean or against the looming threat of the French on both sides of the Atlantic?

Considerations like these are indicative of just how unlikely this conflict was, Professor Allen C. Guelzo notes in his gripping new course The American Revolution. And they are far from the only ones.

  • Why did the British fight the way they did, "served up by seemingly unthinking generals in solid rows of walking targets while the Americans crouched Indian-style behind rocks and trees"? Why did the Americans end up fighting this same way?
  • Why did George Washington, in an uncharacteristically fractious move, lash out angrily at his troops, labeling them misfits and mutineers?
  • What moved King George III, even after Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown, to ask his secretary of state for America to put on paper the "mode which seems most feasible for conducting the war," clinging to a belief that the Americans might yet be subdued?
  • And, finally, who really deserves the credit for defeating the British army?

Was it the Continentals, gamely overcoming all odds?

Was it the French, entering on the American side not purely out of friendship but also as a first step in converting Britain's colonies into their own?

Or was it perhaps both of these factors—along with weather, terrain, timing, and sheer luck?

Above all, why was the American Revolution really won not in America at all, but in the Caribbean?

What Made America's Victory Possible

As Professor Guelzo explains the answers to these and many other questions, you find yourself gaining a fresh understanding of the factors that made America's victory possible.

You see how issues such as logistics and the human factor can influence strategy, tactics, and the course of battle. Or how happenstance can prove even more important than either of those key factors. And you gain an appreciation of how opposing sides can experience completely different perceptions of the same conflict—with key decisions influenced by those differing perceptions.

Beginning with a clear presentation of what Jefferson referred to in the Declaration of Independence as "the causes which impel [the Colonies] to the separation," Professor Guelzo presents a startlingly vivid narrative about the war for independence.

Although built on a solid foundation of the principles and politics underlying the conflict, The American Revolution is primarily about what Professor Guelzo calls the conflict's "actual mechanics as a Revolution—an armed uprising against the most dominant military power in the world."

Meet an Array of Vivid Personalities

Told in an intense, almost novelistic style that recreates the experience of the war's key battles and decisions, the lectures introduce you to an array of vivid personalities. Some will be familiar, and others perhaps less so, but all are presented from a fresh perspective that can deepen your understanding of their roles in the war:

  • George Washington: the leader whose patience and cunning—seen in the way he built an army, developed and inspired it, and even defended his own right to command it—ultimately won a war that had begun with few victories on the battlefield.
  • Lord George Sackville-Germaine: the British officer and member of Parliament, who was disgraced and court-martialed for disobeying orders during the Seven Years War, stubbornly rebuilt his reputation to become secretary of state for America.
  • Henry Knox: the young Boston bookseller who was well read on military matters and who convinced Washington he could successfully move the artillery captured at Fort Ticonderoga through the winter snows to Boston, where that threat forced the British to evacuate.
  • Sir William Howe: the British commander in America whose repeated failure to seize opportunities to pursue and destroy the main body of the Continental Army—first at Brooklyn, then at Harlem Heights, and again after White Plains—reflected his awareness of the difficulties of replacing, from 3,000 miles away, any troops lost in the process.
  • Thomas Paine: the failed corset maker, failed teacher, and failed tax collector who had sailed to America and become the editor of a failing Philadelphia newspaper. Little more than a year later, his 77-page pamphlet, Common Sense, became the biggest American best seller until Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852, its half-million copies helping to turn the tide of public opinion in favor of independence.
  • Sir George Rodney: the British naval commander in the West Indies whose repeated tactical miscues neutralized even his greatest victory.

A Vivid Story, Told from Both Sides

Lecturing in the vivid narrative style that has earned his award-winning books so much acclaim, Professor Guelzo tells the story from both the British and American sides.

His approach gives the forces at work in the palace and in Parliament equal weight with those in play at the Continental Congress and among George Washington's inner circle. It's a perspective that reveals the very different ways in which the two nations saw both their economic relationship and the philosophical underpinnings of a government's relationship to its citizens.

But you also learn what it was like to serve on either side of the conflict, how those sides were trained, and about the terrors of the battlefield, where a six-pound cannonball could bounce across the terrain, "shattering bones and skulls, mangling flesh, and spattering clots of blood" before expending its force.

Learn Why Benedict Arnold Turned on His Country

And you learn the complete story of Benedict Arnold and the factors that embittered this brilliant officer and battlefield hero and led him to betray not only his country but also George Washington, perhaps the one man who truly appreciated what Arnold had done for this country.

Arnold's betrayal was a marked contrast to the supreme loyalty expressed by Virginia governor Thomas Nelson when he was asked by Lafayette, who was commanding the artillery barrage of Yorktown, if he had a target to recommend.

Nelson pointed to his own home, knowing it would probably be used as a headquarters by Cornwallis.

"Fire upon it, my dear marquis," he said, "and never spare a particle of my property so long as it affords a comfort or a shelter to the enemies of my country."

Rich in dramatic moments like this, The American Revolution offers a fresh perspective on this seminal event in United States history, offering the diverging views of two sides whose common heritage had yielded two very different outlooks.

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