The first volume of Rick Atkinson’s Revolution Trilogy shows that there’s quite a lot I don’t know about the Revolutionary War. Like a lot of people, I have a good grasp of the outline, and know a few more things, but this book goes into a number of things I hadn’t been aware of.

This is fairly purely popular military history. He goes into the immediate causes of the war, and shows what is happening in England at various points, including a prologue that starts with a naval review by George III in 1773, and includes activities in the ministry, and of course efforts to move men and supplies overseas. In comparison, the Continental Congress is conspicuous by its absence. It is talked about often enough, including the effects of its decisions, but not the process of those decisions. The Declaration of Independence is read out to the army in New York during mid-July 1776, but the deliberations leading to it are not even touched on.

This is, in the end, a laudable maintenance of focus, as there’s already much going on in here. Just be aware that the politics surrounding the war, that saw some really deep thoughts about just what the goals were, are left out.

What is here is a very readable, but detailed look at the actions of the war. There’s also a good look at some of the logistics involved, from the Continental Army’s chronic lack of gunpowder and guns, to all the things the British had to ship across the Atlantic as it became obvious that requisitioning supplies in America was not going to be possible. There’s some good mentions of the chaos done to British plans by various storms delaying and damaging ships, not to mention all the wastage they were suffering.

Most surprising to me were sections on the American invasion of Canada (featuring a guest appearance of Benjamin Franklin, and actually managed to take most everything outside of Quebec itself), and the… ‘floating governments’ of the southern colonies. Despite telling the government back home that all would be well with a few regulars to put down rebels, most of the royal governors in the south were forced to flee, and ended up on Royal Navy ships.

Naturally, Lexington and Concord get a lot of attention and detail, along with the entire Canada campaign. Then there’s very good accounts of the sieges of Boston and New York (that’s really what those extended campaigns come down to). And then ends up with the retreat across New Jersey, Trenton, and Princeton. Since that last really was the disaster that showed this war would not come to a quick close at the start of 1777, it makes a very good end point for the book.

There’s more minor actions of course, and all along the way Atkinson makes generous use of diaries and letters, giving plenty of detail or illustrating points through first-hand accounts. Overall, I was quite happy with the book, and the pages flowed by quickly.