Last week we started a series of several books relating to our current history study –the American Revolution. The Landmark Series book by that title is a great overview for upper elementary students. This week’s book is more for the high school student or adult –although you could certainly read passages aloud to younger kids.
Voices of 1776. Wheeler, Richard. New York: Crowell, 1972. 430 pp.
Like the title implies, voices of men who were eyewitnesses to the events and battles of the American Revolution are brought to life on the pages. The majority of the text is made up of excerpts for journals and letters. The author weaves together the narratives with introductory information (anything written in italics comes from Mr. Wheeler). The book covers the entire war, not just 1776—beginning with Paul Revere’s ride to warn “The regulars are coming out!” (You see, when we consult original source documents we learn he never said “The British are coming”) to Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown. The book ends with a clip from a New Jersey newspaper: “…our illustrious Washington…like the meridian sun, has dispelled those nocturnal vapors that hung around us, and put the most pleasing aspect upon our political affairs that any era of the present war has ever beheld” (you don’t read journalism like that any more).
You’ll find b&w reproductions of portraits of key figures on both sides as well as the great maps of all the major battles drawn by Col. Henry B. Carrington (who actually fought in the Civil War but published a book on the American Revolution in 1881).
The Battle of Trenton or Washington’s Crossing the Delaware
Wheeler presents both American and British writings—as if we needed proof that there are two sides to every story. Sometimes both sides were actually fighting together, like Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold disputing who had the command (and the glory) of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. You can read both accounts.
Speaking of Benedict Arnold, there’s a whole chapter devoted to his treason. In it I read, of all things, a letter written by Maj. Andre to Gen. Washington requesting he be shot by firing squad rather than hung—he believing the former to be the more honorable way for a soldier to die.
Sir: Buoyed above the terrors of death by the consciousness of a life devoted to honorable pursuits and stained with no action that can give me remorse, I trust that the request I make to your excellency at the serious period, and which is to soften my last moments, will not be rejected. Sympathy towards a soldier will surely induce your excellency and a military tribunal to adapt the mode of my death to the feelings of a man of honor. Let me hope, sir, it aught in my character impresses you with esteem towards me—if aught in my misfortunes marks me as the victim of policy and not of resentment—I shall experience the operation of these feelings in your breast by being informed that I am not to die on a gibbet.
You see why I don’t recommend it for young students—the pattern of speech and choice of words would be beyond them. But for us older students of history—how fascinating.
My copy of Voices of 1776 came from a recent library book sale. My parents volunteered at the book sorting event and my step-dad knew we would be studying the Revolution this year. He told me about the book (and where he tucked it away on the tables). Later this year I’ll share about the other book he recommended: The Chronicles of America. If you’re interested in your own copy there seem to be reasonable priced used copies out there.
You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.
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