NOTE: This was a little more detail here than I wanted, but it was interesting enough to keep me going all the way through. Over the course of two months, I plodded through these six hundred pages with overall less enjoyment than I had hoped for, particularly during the order-of-battle sections, which I’ll admit I skimmed through. In truth I probably only really read about 3/4 of this book. If for some reason you ever find yourself in the vicinity of my hometown of Buffalo (NY), the coolest thing you can do there as a tourist (my opinion) is to see the Niagara Falls. The second coolest thing you can do is visit Old Fort Niagara- the British fort which controlled access to Lake Erie, and supplied naval forces on Lake Ontario. Growing up, whenever people visited my family from out of town, Fort Niagara was on the short list of places we’d show off. Typically staff would dress in period costumes and give little discussions about the Fort's assorted points of interest, but it never seemed as corny as it sounds when I describe it now.To be honest, Fort Niagara is hardly mentioned in this book, because it did not see much action in the Revolutionary War. It was, however, important in the “French and Indian War” (which British know better as the American theatre of the Seven Years War). I mention this because one of the facts which this book most impressed upon me was how important the French and Indian War was in setting the conditions which ultimately resulted in the Revolutionary War. From 1754–1763, British forces battled the French, Spanish and Native American proxies for control of fur trapping land in Canada, as well as a swath of land in Appalachia and the Gulf Coast. The British colonists of the time were frequently raided by the French, for supplies, and as a way of indirectly harassing the British. At the close of the conflict, France and Spain both ceded territory to the British, but- importantly- were not driven entirely from the continent. To assuage the colonists’ lingering fears that the war might heat up again, the British were obliged to maintain a standing army in North America, to secure their northern and western borders.The cost of maintaining this presence came at an inopportune time, as it was the beginning of a period of expansion of the British influence in India, and maintaining order on the subcontinent required sizable military expense. To offset this financial strain, the English parliament decided to levy taxes in the colonies. Surely the colonists’ wouldn’t object to funding the troops which kept them secure and prosperous- er, right? And so began the whole “taxation without representation” dispute. The British Empire in 1763It starts with the Stamp Act (of 1765)… but I’m not going to go too deeply into the nitty gritty. I just deleted four pages detailing the legal wrangling of the Stamp Act, the Townsend Act and other agitations which led up to war. Not because that stuff is boring; it isn’t.. but my telling of it is, and to a lesser extent, so was this book’s. I really just want to comment on the few most memorable points I got from it: 1) The Virginian legislature had something called “The House of Burgesses”… sort of a lower House of Delegates, if I understand correctly. When the Stamp Act was getting the rest of the colonies riled up in 1765, the HOB was the first and most audacious in its protest to the British parliament. Adopting (HOB member, and later celebrity patriot) Patrick Henry’s resolution, the HOB declared a) that parliament had no right to tax the colonies without representation; b) Virginians would not pay the tax proposed (!); and c) anybody who did pay would be deemed an enemy of the colony of Virginia! WOOO! That’s some pretty ballsy stuff! What’s funny about all this is that those resolutions would normally never have been passed, except the HOB was in late night session, with just barely a quorum present to approve the resolution, and it just happened that most members present were younger, less experienced politicians, many who had reputations as firebrands who were not expected to survive in office beyond the next election. No matter; once Virginia sent the document, other colonies found their courage to add their agreement and pass similar, more toned-down resolutions.2) In episode after episode following the above reaction to the Stamp Act, the British parliament demonstrated remarkable inability to fathom the attitude of the colonies. All sorts of parliamentary discussion followed about the colonists' ingratitude, and possible repercussions, including possibly pulling out the British army to “let the colonists face the French and Indians on their own”. Realistically, nobody wanted to do that, because it would invite a French invasion. Remarkably, never once does this book record any consideration of giving the colonies representation! It seems like a fairly reasonable response- at least worth talking about. Never came up, that I can see. In defense of the British side, communications were quite slow, and a poorly-worded statement by Parliament could take literally months to identify and clarify, while colonial rage on the other side of the ocean tended to escalate rapidly. If modern telecommunications had existed (or even a trans-Atlantic telegraph), it seems likely things would never have gotten so out of hand as to result in armed conflict and a Declaration of Independence. 3) Usually the start of the Revolutionary War is drawn at either the shootouts at Lexington and Concorde (April 1775), or the more formalized clash of opposing troops at the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 1775), but in June of 1772, a bunch of incensed Rhode Island merchants blackened their faces, boarded the British blockade ship HMS Gaspee in Providence's Narragansett Bay, took control of the ship, ran it aground, and set it on fire... pretty clearly an act of war. When British officials demanded justice, they found nobody willing to cooperate with the investigation. Kind of the stereotypical mafia response “I didn’t see nuthin’.” This just confirms my longstanding impression that Rhode Island was, and still is, populated by spirited creatures filled with such vigor and enthusiasm for their principles, they can barely be described as sane, and certainly never characterized as reasonable.Don't fuck with Rhode Islanders4) Both the British and the colonist armies were reluctant to have an all-out showdown in a single confrontation. The British generals had been instructed that they should fight the campaign with the troops they had (i.e. not to expect a lot of replacement troops, because of troop demands elsewhere in the Empire). The American side was concerned the effect a large loss might have on retention and recruitment of men. As it was, American soldiers only enlisted for short periods (frequently less than a year) and maintaining high morale and a reasonable expectation of victory directly affected enlistment numbers.5) The British lacked a grand vision of how to prosecute the war. Early naval blockades of Boston and Newport, Rhode Island were not as effective as the British had hoped, because these cities could be supplied by overland routes, and the American Eastern seaboard was too broad for the allotted naval forces to blockade. Observing this, (British) General Howe led an army inland. Thinking that New England held the bulk of separatist activity, he planned on cutting off New England from the rest of the colonies, by taking New York City, and placing a large force along the Hudson River. This vision was never fully realized, because political events showed that it was really the entire colonies who meant to separate, not just New England.6) The importance of the Battles of Saratoga cannot be overstated. General John Burgoyne parlayed a minor victory at the Battle of Freeman’s Farm (September 1777) into a stunning defeat at the Battle of Bemis heights (October 1777). Burgoyne essentially overextended himself, ran out of supplies, and became surrounded by colonial forces, necessitating a complete surrender. The incident highlights the disadvantage British forces had keeping themselves supplied when fighting inland. The defeat was not only a huge loss of men and materiel, it was also a major blow to British morale, and it was the deciding factor which brought France into the war on the side of the colonies. Looking at the great British military power, it is clear the Crown could have pressed harder and brought the colonies to submission, if it had really wanted to, but doing so would have required a drawdown of forces in other theatres (read: India), which they were not willing to do. Besides that, most English still disbelieved the colonies would survive long as an independent state anyhow. True, some feared France might take over the colonies, or use them as a proxy to fight British forces, but it seems most believed the colonies would continue to trade with England, and since that really was their main value to the Empire, maybe all the acrimony about their soverignty vs. subservience was ultimately not worth fighting about. Battles of Saratoga7) Following humiliation in the northern colonies, British General William Howe turned to more vulnerable military targets in Georgia and South Carolina, hoping to gain a momentum and break the colonists' will with large land gains in the South. This never happened, because the challenges of adequately supplying his forces turned out to be insurmountable. Military planners back in London had failed to appreciate the mood of the general American public; they had assumed that the separatists were a miniscule minority, and most Americans would happily supply the liberating British army. In reality, General Howe had difficulty buying food and other supplies from American merchants at any price, and those who did sell, often did so at exploitive prices.It's a little bit scattershot, but there you go. The book was good with broad principles. I wouldn't say it "made history come alive" as the kids are fond of saying, and it didn't cover specific individuals in great depth, but overall a solid 3 star read.