Winning Independence: The Decisive Years of the Revolutionary War, 1778–1781

Bloomsbury. May 2021. 736p. ISBN 9781635572766. $40. HIST
Ferling (emeritus, history, Univ. of West Georgia; Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation) writes a thoughtful analysis of the 1777 Battles of Saratoga and the 1781 Siege of Yorktown. Having written several books on the Revolutionary War, Ferling knows the subject intimately, and it shows throughout this impressively researched work. The author’s nuanced account rehabilitates the character and career of British commander Henry Clinton, offering a fresh appraisal of Clinton’s military tenure and his disapproval of the actions of British general Charles Cornwallis, especially after Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown. Ferling also considers the Continental Army, most notably the wartime efforts of Colonel George Washington and General Nathanael Greene. As in his previous books, Ferling effectively explains the inner workings of military strategy. His crisp writing, always accessible and engaging, turns what could be a too-lengthy read into a fast-paced page-turner. Specifically, he argues that American victory at Saratoga and Yorktown was far from guaranteed—chance, along with military strategy, played a significant role in the founding of the U.S.
VERDICT Ferling’s lengthy, comprehensive, and essential work has staying power and should become one of the leading resources on the Revolutionary War.
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