MY WORLD, and that of most Americans alive since 1939, was shaped to a striking degree by war. Not least in importance for me was the incredible prosperity that resulted from America's victory in World War II. It created opportunities for me that had not existed for my parents. My dad grew up in a working-class family, completed high school in 1928, and, like his forebears, immediately went to work. That was the destiny of 90 percent of American men of his generation. I graduated from high school a dozen years after World War II and, like more than half of my classmates in a petrochemical-suffused town on the Texas Gulf Coast, went on to college.
Eventually, I became a history professor. The more I studied American history, the more convinced I became that my generation was not exceptional in having been substantively influenced by war. Just as war had been instrumental in shaping the world I inhabited, it had touched generation after generation of Americans. I soon found myself devoting considerable time to America's wars in the courses that I taught, and before long I began teaching seminars on the War of Independence and creating courses on U.S. military history. My first book dealt with the experiences of a Loyalist in the American Revolution, including his services on behalf of the British army. Over the years I never strayed far from the Revolutionary War.
Now I have done what I long intended to do: write a history of the War of Independence. Of late, I've wanted to write a military history of the American Revolution, seeing it as a companion to my political history of the Revolution, A Leap in the Dark. I find the lure of the War of Independence to be ever more irresistible. It was war on a grand scale. Near its end, John Adams remarked that