Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Liberty's Fallen Generals: Leadership and Sacrifice in the American War of Independence

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Liberty's Fallen Generals: Leadership and Sacrifice in the American War of Independence

Article excerpt

Liberty's Fallen Generals: Leadership and Sacrifice in the American War of Independence. By Steven E. Siry. Military Profiles. (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2012. Pp. [xx], 147. $19.95, ISBN 978-1-59797-792-0.)

Twenty-two American generals died during the Revolutionary War, twelve of "disease, drowning, and dueling" and ten of combat wounds (p. 125nl). The latter group is the subject of Steven E. Siry's brief, enjoyable book. The author posits that these mostly wealthy men from diverse backgrounds, including both American and foreign-bom generals, died fighting against monarchy and for republican government. Their sacrifices and qualities of leadership made them "martyrs of the revolutionary ideals that would inspire later generations" (p. xi).

Siry organizes his book chronologically, beginning with a sweeping overview of the causes of the American Revolution. Each of the ten generals who died from combat wounds, the first being Joseph Warren in June 1775, receives his own treatment in a separate chapter. An overview of the relevant campaign, the general's biography, and discussion of the events leading to the martyr's death structure each chapter. This effective and consistent approach makes the book highly readable and allows for comparisons among the various generals. For example, foreign-bom officers tended to be prickly about rank and military honors, while militia generals often died because of poor tactical decisions. Such conclusions are left to the reader, however, as Siry makes few analytical comments and treats each general as an individual case of sacrifice for a greater cause. …

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