Book Review: The Glorious Cause

GloriousCauseby Kung Fu Zu   3/10/14
by Jeff Shaara  •  Jeff Shaara is the son of Michael Shaara, author of The Killer Angels. Upon Michael’s death, Jeff took up his pen and wrote a prequel and sequel to his father’s book, both of which met with success. He obviously liked what he was doing as he has written a further eleven historical novels, The Glorious Cause being the third of that number.

The novel is the second of a two-volume series. The first covers pre-revolutionary American from 1770 to 1776. This book covers the period from mid-1776 until the end of the Revolutionary War and Washington’s return to Mount Vernon on Christmas Eve 1783.

Although there is some mention of the Continental Congress and diplomacy with the French, this is a book about war. Every major battle of the Revolution is covered. From the Battle of Long Island which almost smothered the Revolution in its infancy, to Yorktown which finally broke the British will to remain in North America, Shaara lays out the period prior to each clash, the fight itself including a fair amount of detail and the immediate results of the action.

Of course, Shaara gives a good account of the various high and low points in between battles. Valley Forge and the problems presented by Charles Lee are given a fair amount of space. Others such as the Conway Cabal and continuous problems with the shortage of troops and supplies are covered, but not in detail.

I liked the way Shaara structured the book into chapters titled after participants in the struggle. Each chapter was written from the perspective of the titled character. The individuals, so mentioned, include Franklin, Greene and Lafayette. But the two men who dominate the book are Washington and Cornwallis. Though the many chapters dedicated to these two men, the reader is given an idea of the numerous concerns each had to contend with; from the mostly inefficient militia and changing Congresses on Washington’s part to incompetent commanders and a sick wife on Cornwallis’.

Overall, I would say this is a good, but not great, book. The subject it covers is vast so it is fairly long, almost 700 pages including afterword. My feeling is that if someone is willing to invest the amount of time required to read such a long book, the time would be better invested in going through one of the many excellent histories of the period. There is also no shortage of biographies about the people involved.

That being said, the book’s introduction is an outstanding synopsis of the period leading up to the war and why it came about. It also gives brief biographical sketches of Washington, Franklin and Greene, the forgotten hero of the war. Those ten pages are well worth reading and should be taught in every American school.

In his afterword, Shaara outlines the later careers and lives of most of the combatants mentioned throughout the book. He closes with this statement:

Throughout the entire ordeal of the American Revolution, and throughout the exhaustive historical studies of this time, no other name has risen, no other name has ever been placed into the same historical arena as George Washington. By his patience, dignity, perseverance, and his unwavering devotion to his cause, he is entitled to claim absolute responsibility for those triumphs that ensured the existence of the United States of America. He is indeed, the Father of His Country.

And may I add, the greatest American. • (1559 views)

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6 Responses to Book Review: The Glorious Cause

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I haven’t read this, but you can’t read everything. I will mention the 3 books on the American Revolution by military history professor (and science fiction writer) William R. Forstchen and Newt Gingrich. The first deals with the 1776 campaign, especially the battle of Trenton; the second covers Valley Forge and Monmouth; the third covers 1781, especially the Yorktown campaign. They do an excellent job of showing what the real Greatest Generation had to endure in order to triumph, as well as politics, literature (Tom Paine plays a significant role in the first volume), and (in the Valley Forge volume) supply and training (Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben plays a crucial role).

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    You eat 700-page books like some people do Ding-Dongs. But, heck, I’ll download the free Kindle sample and see it that includes those 10 pages that you talked about.

  3. Rosalys says:

    Nathaniel Greene, the forgotten hero, has been coming into his own lately. There have been several books written about him in recent years. He was a founding member of the Kentish Guards, R.I.M. (a group still in existence today of which my husband is a member), but because of a limp he didn’t look like a leader and so they elected James Mitchell Varnum to be their first commander – a local patriot of note, but how many people outside of Kent County, RI have ever heard of him? So much for looking the part. Brings to mind 1 Samuel 16:6-7.

    “My feeling is that if someone is willing to invest the amount of time required to read such a long book, the time would be better invested in going through one of the many excellent histories of the period.” Books of this sort, giving an overview rather than detail, serve a useful purpose of whetting the appetite of the novice and encouraging further investigation.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I have a biography of Greene (but I have a large number of biographies of the many Patriot leaders). And I also recall Freneau’s “At Eutaw Springs the Valiant Died”, which includes the line, “Led by thy conquering genius, Greene”. I have a copy in The Spirit of Seventy-Six, a collection of writings from the era (sort of a Battles and Leaders of the Revolutionary War), edited by Commager and Morris, which includes a lot of poetry as well as articles and letters (such as Greene explaining to his fellow Quakers his decision to fight).

      • Rosalys says:

        You are far more well read than I. I’m a slow reader so I guess I must qualify as a dabbler at best. Oh how I envy those who can devour 4 lengthy tomes each week and retain everything!

        I think I’ll look up “The Spirit of Seventy-Six” – sounds like a good whet the appetite kind of book. Thanks for mentioning it.

        Maybe I should take a course in speed reading?

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Well, I’m not a speed reader either, though I have a friend who is. (This isn’t an unalloyed good, since he also reads a larger amount of crap than anyone else.) I actually had the book as a Christmas gift when I was young, but somewhere along the line it disappeared (presumably on one of our many moves). I later found another copy (and was able to recognize at least one reference — the discussion of the key battle of Cowpens — that I remembered).

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