Researching the American Revolution

Your source for information on the American War of Independence

British Government and Army

To properly interpret Revolutionary events in North America requires a thorough understanding of the British Government and how it operated. Will Monk provides a concise overview in an article published in the Journal of the American Revolution.

Primary Sources

Baule, Steven M., and Stephen Gilbert. British Army Officers Who Served in the American Revolution, 1775-1783. Westminster, Md: Heritage Books, 2004.

Great Britain, K. G. Davies, and Great Britain, eds. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770-1783: Colonial Office Series. 21 vols. Shannon: Irish University Press, 1972.

Secondary Sources

Bowler, Arthur R. Logisitics and the Failure of the British Army in America. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1975.

Butler, Lewis. The Annals of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1913.

Edelson, S. Max. The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2017.

Fortescue, John. The War of Independence: The British Army in North America, 1775 – 1783. London: Greenhill Books [u.a.], 2001.

Hagist, Don N. British Soldiers, American War: Voices of the American Revolution. Yardley, PA: Westholme, 2012.

Hargreaves, Reginald. The Bloodybacks – The British Servicemen in North America and the Caribbean 1655-1783. London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1968.

Johnson, Donald F. Occupied America: British Military Rule and the Experience of Revolution. Early American Studies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020.

There are numerous accounts of life for non-combatants during the rebellion.  However, Donald F. Johnson’s new book, is the first account of the experiences of the civilian population under British military rule.  He posits that poor leadership and many miscalculations turned the local populous under military rule more against the British that did “taxation without representation.”  Johnson describes British military administration in New York, Philadelphia, Charlestown and other areas held by the British.  Only in Georgia did the British have a short-term measure of success in reestablishing a civilian government loyal to the Crown.  Other locations operated as extended military camps in which civilians were neither given rights nor a voice in government.  He cites this lack of a loyal civilian government as a major reason for the failure of the British to put down the rebellion.

Katcher, Philip R. N. Encyclopedia of British, Provincial, and German Army Units, 1775-1783. S.l: Stackpole Books, 1973.

Hagist, Don N. Noble Volunteers: The British Soldiers Who Fought the American Revolution. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2020.

The vast predominance of books on the American Revolution are written from an “American Patriot” or Rebel perspective.  As a result, historians regularly repeat misleading myths about the British soldiers acting as rapacious and brutal “bloody-backs” or “lobsters”.  Through years of detailed research of regimental muster rolls and orderly books, Don N. Hagist dispels these myths. First a substantial percentage of soldiers in the British Army were not British but hailed from many parts of Europe and the Americas.  Hagist provides another myth-busting example.  British soldiers were predominantly literate and often read classical literature for recreation. Further, his book demonstrates that the British soldiers fought valiantly for the cause they espoused and the experiences of British soldiers are just as interesting as those of the Continental Army.

O’Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson. The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire. Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

Pearson, Michael. Those Damned Rebels – The American Revolution as Seen through British Eyes. New York: G. P. Putnan’s Sons, 1972.

Sampson, Richard. Escape in America: The British Convention Prisoners, 1777-1783. Chippenham, Wiltshire: Picton Pub, 1995.

Stevens, Paul L. A King’s Colonel at Niagara, 1774-1776: Lt. Col. John Caldwell and the Beginnings of the American Revolution on the New York Frontier. Youngstown, N.Y: Old Fort Niagara Association, 1987.

Urban, Mark. Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution. 1st U.S. ed. New York: Walker & Company : Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers, 2007.

Articles

Countervailing Colonial Perspectives on Quartering the British Army

A Moonlighting British Army Surgeon

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