Here are a few excellent selections for those of us who do civilian impressions. Read a good one lately? Re-read an old favorite? Why not share it with us! Send in a review of your favorite title. Be sure to tell us the author, title and ISBN (if available).
The following review is excerpted from The Brigade Dispatch Vol. 27 No. 1. Thanks to Don Hagist for supplying this review.
Belonging to the Army: Camp Followers and Community during the American Revolution. Holly A. Mayer. University of South Carolina Press, 937 Assembly St., Carolina Plaza, 8th Floor, Columbia, SC 29208. 1996, 307 p., cloth. $39.95 + $4.00 shipping & handling.
In portraying the people involved with the armies of the American Revolution, it is in general much easier to portray a soldier than a civilian. Although much effort is required for each, the requirements for a soldier are usually well-defined, at least to the level of detail of the existing unit; this includes both the look to be achieved and the role to be played. Civilians have much less guidance from their units; although the Brigade of the American Revolution can provide substantial resources, the individual must first determine just who they shall portray. A role associated with the army is desirable, but literature devoted to the subject of civilians working with the army has been scarce and sometimes of questionable merit.
Holly Mayer's new book fills this literature gap, providing a superlative quantity of both data and analysis. Belonging to the Army studies every sort of civilian associated with the army, including wives and families of soldiers and officers, sutlers and contractors, nurses and other medical personnel, laborers, artificers, wagoners, post riders, spies, and others. Indeed, the focus is not strictly on civilians, but upon all non-combatant roles, including those which were sometimes filled by soldiers. Each is presented in terms of examples from primary sources, with discussion of their motivations, situations, and impact on the army.
Mayer examines "the Continental community," that is, the totality of the military society that was the American army during the Revolutionary War. This study includes detailed examination of the common practices of established armies of other nations, making the book a useful resource to those portraying any nationality. All of the diverse requirements and considerations of an army are presented, putting the army into perspective instead of addressing just the soldiers and the battles. Mayer also demonstrates how the American army was progressive in establishing military departments for some support functions that had traditionally been contracted to civilians.
This book is made even more valuable by it's extensive references. Hundreds of footnotes cite a wealth of primary and secondary sources, making the book an excellent starting place for anyone beginning their own research -- it is a sobering reminder of just how much information is available to those willing to search for it. It is also pleasing to notice that some Brigade members are mentioned in the references. The author does an excellent job of using examples from primary sources drive the analysis. Nothing is based on speculation, and the focus is on the realities of the Continental community, rather than on images or opinions of it. Belonging to the Army is essential reading for Brigade members, as it presents in amazing detail the very essence of what the Brigade portrays -- the cosmopolitan society that was the military during the American Revolution.
(Now available from Don Hagist, Bookseller).
NEW! Battle Weapons of the American Revolution.
A remarkable new book containing over 1600 illustrations of more than 500 arms -- the ultimate reference for the identification and background of the basic weapons employed in the colonies before and during the American War for Independence. Over 75% of the weapons shown are from private collections, never before published. 300+ pages, hardcover. Published at $65.00 -- $60.00 from Don Hagist, Bookseller.
Another good book to ask for at your local library is: Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America, by David S. Shields, University of N. C. Press, 1977. This book has good information about the growth of the coffee houses and how ladies teas grew from being family affairs to being just for ladies. I was especially intrigued by the fact that the teas occurred during the coffee houses busiest hours (about 6 p.m.) and according to the men who frequented the coffee houses, their talk was intelligent while the ladies talk was just gossip. It goes on to show how the women conspired to attract the men to their teas for want of spirited, political conversation. The book isn't an easy read but a person can just scan over the more scholarly parts.
Fred just finished another book: The Road to Guildford Courthouse, the American Revolution in the Carolinas, by John Buchanan. John Wiley & Sons 1997. Fred so enjoyed it that he didn't want to put it down!
-- Hazel Dickfoss