My American Revolution: A Modern Expedition Through History's Forgotten Battlegrounds

My American Revolution: A Modern Expedition Through History's Forgotten Battlegrounds

Robert Sullivan

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 1250037700

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Wall Street Journal

Americans tend to think of the Revolution as a Massachusetts-based event orchestrated by Virginians, but in fact the war took place mostly in the Middle Colonies―in New York and New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania. In My American Revolution, Robert Sullivan delves into this first Middle America, digging for a glorious, heroic past in the urban, suburban, and sometimes even rural landscape of today.

Sullivan's history is personal, anecdotal, experiential. He visits the down-home reenactment of the crossing of the Delaware, which has taken place each year for the past half century, and uncovers the fact behind the myth. He camps in New Jersey backyards, hikes through lost "mountains," and wrecks his back―then evacuates illegally from Brooklyn to Manhattan by handmade boat. He recounts a Brooklyn historian's failed attempt to memorialize a colonial Maryland regiment; a tattoo artist's more successful use of a colonial submarine, which resulted in his 2007 arrest by the New York City police and the FBI; and the life of Philip Freneau, the first (and not great) poet of American independence, who died in a swamp in the snow.

Like an almanac, My American Revolution moves through the calendar of American independence with the eternally charming Robert Sullivan as our guide. This is a fiercely individual and often hilarious journey; in the process of making our revolution his, Sullivan shows us how alive our own history is, right under our noses.





















single mission in World War II, according to Time magazine. That Ludlum was one of the first weathermen in the United States comes from The Philadelphia Area Weather Book, by Jon Nese, Glenn Schwartz, and Edward G. Rendell (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002). In the two-volume Early American Winters, David Ludlum noted the appearance of arctic sea smoke in 1758, in Ipswich, Massachusetts—ice fog with tiny needles of frozen vapor, a result of arctic air racing down fast into New England.

year for violent storms. “Lightning strikes Gen. McDougall’s Camp, ‘near the Bull’s Head in the Bowry,’ and instantly kills Capt. Van Wyck and his two lieutenants, Versereau and Depyster,” reported the Connecticut Gazette at the time of the Battle of Brooklyn. The last time a tornado came to Brooklyn in a late summer storm, in 2010—with hail and eighty-mile-an-hour, tree-destroying winds, and torrential rain that linked the streets and subway tunnels to the old creeks and buried streams—I noticed

work is over, you won’t have aggressive competition anymore, and when there is no more aggressive competition, then people will think about history.” His cat was poking impatiently out of the knapsack now, making me nervous. “That’s when people will really start thinking about history,” he said. When I told him I was walking to Morristown along the path of the Continental Army in its march to Morristown, he said, “Why don’t you just rent a truck?” I turned around to watch him bike away,

Ohio he had never heard of the Battle of Brooklyn. When the World Trade Center towers were destroyed, people who lived near Fort Greene came to the martyrs’ memorial to watch the buildings burn. “On 9/11 it all started to snow on you, with ash and paper,” he said. Ron Schweiger, Brooklyn’s official historian, talked about how he never imagined he would be Brooklyn’s official historian, given that he was a high school science teacher who merely jotted down dates from history on the blackboard.

telling me about how he was once ordered to accompany a train to Alabama, escorting the remains of a soldier who had been missing in Korea, whose body was then recovered and sent home. I remembered, too, that my father had learned that his own father was going to die on the day he went off to the army. “I guess I won’t see you again,” my grandfather told my father. Sure enough, the next time my father came home was for his father’s wake. At least, that’s how I remember the story. Brian

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