PATRIOTS begins with John Adams’ attendance at the writs-ofgassistance trial in Boston in 1761 and concludes with Washington’s resignation from the Continental Army in 1783. Each event is told, as much as possible, through the actions and words of the individuals involved. By including major and minor characters from both sides of the Atlantic, Langguth shows that it was the combined actions of many men and women that determined the course of history and that the path to liberty was by no means a given, in spite of the vision and heroism of the founding fathers. In some cases, a miscalculation by King GeorgeIII was as crucial to the success of the cause as the brave fighting of the American Minutemen.
While PATRIOTS covers the military campaigns of the war, it is not a military history. It is not a social history either, and it pays scant attention to the status of women and blacks. (It does, however, mention those patriots who were troubled by the existence of slavery in a country pledged to freedom.) Langguth handles changes in time and locale deftly, and his thorough research and commitment to accuracy are evident, yet the book does not read as easily as it should. Some sections are clogged with minutiae and in places, the detail interrupts the pace of the narrative. When Washington is waiting for his men to cross the Delaware River, about to attack Trenton on Christmas Day, it breaks the suspense to be told that he sat on “an empty box that had been used as a beehive.” Nevertheless, PATRIOTS is an easily accessible and well-researched story of the American Revolution for the general reader.