Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Revolutionary People at War

Rightfully taking its place on the bookshelf next to Alexis-Charles-Henri Clerel de Tocqueville’s (1805 to 1859) Democracy in America and Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States (1980), Charles Royster’s classic study A Revolutionary People at War (Chapel Hill, 1996) takes us once more through an emotionally stirring panoramic view of the Revolutionary War and the people who fought it.In a similar vein to Zinn, Royster’s book focuses on the political and cultural forces that have arguably remained somewhat at the heart of the American character. Royster as well, is never too shy about informing us just what made us who were are, and how we came to remake ourselves in the process. Although it is not always pleasant to hear, he never fails to tell us the truth.This is a book about how the Revolutionary War came to shape the character of the American people; and not the other way around. It is about broken promises, fear and suspicion, and then i t is about the broken hearts of so many loyal American soldiers who left the battlefield, some of them after eight long agonizing years of war, truly feeling as if they had been betrayed by their country.They could not have felt much unlike many Americans must feel today. We are also living though an era when families of fighting men and women in Iraq have often expressed feeling alienated by their own country; while the burden of fighting this war seems to have rested solely upon their shoulders. The emotions felt by many who fought in the Revolutionary war could not have been much unlike the feelings of so many Viet Nam era combatants, who faced down a skilled guerilla army in a foreign land with no clear purpose in mind; only to return home and be spat upon and treated like criminals by their own people.The only difference here is that there was indeed a clearly defined purpose for the revolutionary colonist to throw off the yoke of British colonialism. If there was one thing tha t 75% of the colonialist could agree upon, it was that they were sick of British taxes and British rule. They ultimately took up arms and fought with honor. However, before the war was over the burden had become too great for some to bear.In the beginning, the war had promised the fighting men glory beyond everything else, because at the heart of the mounting revolutionary sentiment was an undeniable sense that the nation was offering them a â€Å"dual immorality; in heaven and posthumously† (p.32). In the end though, the nation had largely disparaged and then abandoned them altogether.Royster’s book is about the clamor for resistance that got us into war in the first place, and the sense of betrayal that many soldiers in the Continental Army felt afterwards. It is about the sense of fear and suspicion that the citizenry grew to feel towards the soldiers who were raiding their farms and confiscating their wagons and life stock at will, all throughout the war (52).Yet, it is also about an officer or two, who ultimately left the battlefield feeling beset with a sense of anger; and then the looming sense of dishonor that would accompany them at the end of the war. It is about the resentment of the solider towards the Continental Congress for not doing the right thing by awarding them the pay that they deserved, after putting them in harms way.Yet it is also about the riotous manner in which a portion of men brought dishonor upon themselves. Royster presents the Clausitzian concept of the natural Trinity, framing a primordial surge towards violence, hatred, and enmity, and the effect that this came to have upon three contentious forces of our society; the army, the Continental Congress, and the people, all of whom conspired in their own self-interest to drive the nation to war.He presents the evidence and then he lets the reader decide for themselves. This is because in the end, it is really up to us as a part of this great experiment to deicide how we view the motives of each of them. A Revolutionary People at War It was the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War and first blood had been drawn at Lexington. Once Lexington had served to bring out the capabilities of the Redcoats against the fragile militias of the colonies, the need for an armed defense for on a national scale was imperative.On the 4th of 1775, the Continental Army was founded and the Americas decided to enter into a battle that would go on for eight years (Wright 1983). Congress gave George Washington the authority to not only lead the Continental Army, but the powers granted to George Washington were those that would be granted to a British Commander, as well as those that a Colonial Governor would hold.In his book A Revolutionary people at war, Charles Royster not only elaborates upon the varying aspects of the Continental Army, but also makes use of statistics to strengthen the contents of the book (Royster 1996). According to Royster, the Continental Army was one of the best armies that the United States fielded.It was an army that defined success in terms of the authentic sense of the word since it learnt its lessons for any and all shortcomings that it held. It was an army that chose to take on the enemy even though it was well aware of the fact that it severely lacked training and expertise. But as Royster notes, the men were dedicated and willing to go into battle under the leadership of their major-generals and the brigadier-general for the sake of the safe keeping of their country.The attempt that Royster has made in his book A Revolutionary people at war is to determine the true emotion of nationalism that prevailed amongst the people of that time. Royster has made this possible by delving into the emotion that existed in the Continental Army and the obstacles that the army faced in the many battles it fought and how it evolved into the refined fighting mechanism that eventually defeated the Redcoats.In the beginning, the Congress did not desire for the Continental Army to become a permane nt army and wages were established on the basis of short term enlistments. The Continental Army had its roots deep with the idealism. However, the fact remains that one finds it difficult to come to a conclusion without feeling that Royster overstates the very concept of idealism and gets carried away with his the very subject of his own book.When the American Revolutionary War began in April 1775, the revolutionaries of the colonial front did not have an army to defend them. The closest thing to an army that they had was the only available fighting force which was composed of part time soldiers. These part time soldiers constituted the individual militia of each colony.However, it has been recorded in numerous history books that colonies had begun to carry out attempts to train their militia in light of growing tensions between the colonies and Great Britain. Colonies began to bring about steady changes in the way their militia operated in order to attempt to train them to an exten t where they can ward of any unforeseen attack by the Redcoats.In 1774, Colonist Richard Henry had put forth the idea of creating a national militia. It was suggested that this militia would be held under one flag which would represent the colonies on a united front if the colonies were to experience an attack by external elements. However the idea was rejected by the First Continental Congress and the result was that the first line of defense against the Redcoats found itself severely outnumbered and caught unaware.The Redcoats had been trained for battle through the numerous battles that they had been fighting on numerous fronts for the last few decades whereas the militia was not in any way prepared to face such a highly trained enemy in the battle field.But Royster is immaculate in his attention to detail and does not show bias in his book as he boldly writes of the several developments that took place in the Continental Army as well as in the war that were in complete deviation from the ideology upon which it had begun.Royster uses historical facts and figures to highlight how the war was fought by the brave men of the Continental Army and how the war evolved into a scenario where certain colonies began to establish arms trade with the enemy and how the war became a business venture for suppliers of war material. Yet, Royster makes sure that at no point does the reader forget that the men of the Continental Army did not lose sight of their mission and continued to struggle on through thick and thin.Royster’s accounts of the Continental Army are accurate in the regard that the battalion of men that was referred to as the Continental Army was in fact a flag under which the group of men continuously changed as more men lost their lives and losses were replaced by more men. However, one advantage that the Continental Army had over their oppressors was that they knew the lay of the land. This was a factor that the Continental Army learned to benefit fro m as the war progressed.

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