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The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution
The First Salute A View of the American Revolution Author:Barbara W. Tuchman On November 16, 1776, a ship flying the red-and-white-striped flag of the Continental Congress entered the port of St. Eustatius in the West Indies. Adhering to custom on entering a foreign port, the ship fired a salute, and the guns of the island's fort returned a ritual response. The act of recognition acknowledged that the vessel and its ... more »flag represented a legitimate nation. It was the first official salute to the United States of America, and although it took only minutes to carry out, it would have the most profound repercussions through the events of the next five years. Now, in this masterful study, Barbara W. Tuchman illuminates for us the ways in which not only America and England were affected by the Revolution, but Holland and France, and, by extension, the entire Old World as well.
Drawing on her broad knowledge of history, her grasp of both human nature and the workings of government, and her exceptional narrative gift, Tuchman appraises the political, emotional, and geographical imperatives at work for each of the warring forces during the long, ragged years of conflict. She analyzes the rivalries that determined Europe's crucial role in the American struggle - the centuries-long animosity between England and France, Holland's defiance of England's ban on aid to the Colonials - and demonstrates how, in coming to the aid of the Americans, England's enemies made the triumph of American independence possible. She goes back to the 16th and 17th centuries to follow the course of the Dutch struggle for independence from Spain, which presaged the struggle for political liberty that was to be taken up in the next century by the Americans. She points out how Bourbon France, in its desire to replace Britain as "top dog," lent money, men, and armaments to America, thereby draining its treasury, which, in turn, helped bring down the ancien régime and initiate the age of democracy in Europe. She restores to our view of the Revolution the key role played by the contending navies. She discusses in depth three major figures: the English Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney, who was the dominant force behind Britain's sea power; Lord Cornwallis, the general who led the British forces at Yorktown; and the French Admiral François Joseph Paul de Grasse, commander of the all-important French fleet; and she finds in a fourth figure, General George Washington, a spiritual strength and nobility rare in the history of generalship. Finally, she recounts in riveting detail the decisive campaign that began when Washington set out with nearly 7,000 combined American and French troops on an extraordinary 500-march from New York to Virginia ("It required a decision as bold as Hannibal's to cross the Alps by elephant. Washington took it without visible hesitation") and ended, with an aid of the French naval forces, on October 19, 1781, with the surrender of a great British army to the American rebels.
Barbara Tuchman's The First Salute recasts America's tumultuous nascent years in a remarkably clarifying light. It is a work of singular synthesis and fascination, allowing us a broadened understanding of the essential circumstances and events surrounding what was not only the birth of our own nation but the beginning, as well, of the modern Western world.« less