Thus, the best detailed history of the military conflict, devoting keen analysis to each battle, is Christopher Ward's The War of the Revolution. Willard M. Wallace has prepared a useful and relatively brief one-volume military history: Appeal to Arms: A Military History of the American Revolution. More specifically for the standard military history of the first year of the war, see Allen French, The First Year of the American Revolution. And Arthur B. Tourtellot describes the initial battle of Lexington and Concord in William Diamond's Drum.
The most important and dramatic change in interpreting the historyof the American Revolutionary War has come about very recently: therealization that the Americans won because, and insofar as,they were conducting a massive guerrilla war. They fought a "people'swar" against the superior firepower and orthodox military strategy andtactics of the British imperial power. With modern guerrilla war cominginto focus since the late 1960s, recent historians have begun to applyits lessons to the American Revolution, not only to the tactics ofindividual battles but also in basic strategic insights. For example,they realize that guerrilla war can only succeed if the great majorityof the populace back the guerrillas. This was the condition during theAmerican Revolution. The valuable military histories of the Revolution,therefore, can be grouped into two categories: those which antedatedand those which have incorporated modern insights into the nature andpotential of guerrilla warfare.
Time, itself, is something of a legitimizer. Each day that Americaninstitutions ruled the country solidified the notion of theirlegitimacy. What Adam Smith realized in his memorandum (quoted earlier)to the British government was that local American leaders, having cometo rule themselves and their communities for some period of time, wouldnot easily surrender that role.More than a military effort by the British would be needed to undo theorganic development and growing legitimacy of such a revolutionarysociety.
Though the Revolutionary War lasted only a few short years, the American Revolution was a process that started long before the first shots of war were fired.
In the context of the crisis of legitimacy, the Intolerable Acts form a sort of watershed of revolution. David Ammerman's In the Common Cause: American Response to the Coercive Acts of 1774 indicates the new direction of revolutionary protest. The Americans responded by calling a Continental Congress.
Miller, John C. Origins of the American Revolution. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1943; 2d rev. ed. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1959.
Nathanael Greene's strategy of dispersal of forces created the basisfor the partisan warfare campaign in the South. John Shy's "TheAmerican Revolution: The Military Conflict Considered as aRevolutionary War," Don Higginbotham's The War of American Independence; Military Attitudes, Policies, and Practices, 1763–1789, and Russell F. Weigley's The Partisan War: The South Carolina Campaign of 1780–1782 provide important new analyses of the role of militia and guerrilla warfare. Hugh F. Rankin's Francis Marion: The Swamp Foxdiscusses the guerrilla volunteer marksmen who formed "Marion Brigade"which played a crucial part at battles such as Georgetown, EutawSprings, and Parker's Ferry. DonHigginbotham's "Daniel Morgan: Guerrilla Fighter" analyzes DanielMorgan's guerrilla tactics (e.g., Cornwallis and Tarleton at thebattles of Cowpens, South Carolina and in North Carolina) for whichMorgan has been considered the greatest guerrilla commander of theRevolution.
The peace feelers that resulted in the Carlisle Commission weresuperceded by the news of the French Alliance. What is most interestingis the shrill tone with which the American leadership greeted theseefforts at negotiation. Surely at that date, this was not a question ofundercutting the legitimacy of the American leadership. The morehawkish British leaders correctly indicated that the very negotiationswith the Congress added to its legitimacy. What the Congress seemedmost intent on doing was cutting off any dialogue between the membersof the Carlisle Commission and the larger American population.It does not seem unfair to suggest that the great fear might have beenthat negotiations, once under way, might culminate in independencewithout empire. The alternative of independence without empire mightsatisfy the great majority of the people; it was certainly lessacceptable to a segment of the leadership concerned with empire. Themost complete study is Weldon A. Brown, Empire or Independence: A Study in the Failure of Reconciliation, 1774–1783.Franklin, in demanding Florida and Canada, plus an indemnity, was notoffering conditions upon which to open negotiations but rather to abortthem, and that is the way the British interpreted his actions. Thefailure of these negotiations protracted the war for over three moreyears with great suffering on both sides. In a peace two years afterthat, the Americans finally settled for independence without empire.
During the American Revolution the Hudson was a strategic waterway and the site of many historic events, especially in the region of Newburg and West Point.
———. "The Sons of Liberty in New York." In The Era of the American Revolution. Edited by Richard B. Morris. New York: Columbia University Press, 1939.
Maier, Pauline. From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765–1776. New York: Random House, 1972.