The chronological terrain over which this story moves is highly contested ground, littered with the dead bodies of historians who have preceded me. My effort to offer a fresh interpretation that brings together the political and military sides of the story has been aided by several distinguished historians who have scouted the same terrain and laid down their markers on the trail.
Five historians read all or most of the book in manuscript form and saved me from multiple blunders, but they are in no sense responsible for those that remain: Edmund S. Morgan, the acknowledged dean of early American historians, my mentor and friend for nearly fifty years; Gordon Wood, the reigning scholarly expert on the American Revolution and early republic; Pauline Maier, the leading scholar on the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, whose marginal comments (e.g., “Joe, you can’t say that!”) could not be ignored; Edward Lengel, editor in chief of the Washington Papers and ranking expert on Washington as commander in chief; and Robert Dalzell, that wise man of Williams College, who moves across great patches of the American past with such easy erudition.
Stephen Smith, editor of the Washington Examiner, is my long-standing critical eye in that crucial junction where substance meets style, a genius at noticing where a phrase, sentence, or paragraph does not quite say what it wants to say.
Dan Frank of Random House came aboard as editor of this book and ushered it through the corridors of power with an impressive combination of wisdom and grace. His able assistant, Jill Verrillo, never put my calls on hold.
Paul Staiti, my colleague at Mount Holyoke and one of the leading historians of the art and architecture of revolutionary America, helped with the selection of illustrations. Jeffrey Ward did a masterful job of making the maps both depict the battles and fit the text.
Ike Williams, my agent, handled all the contractual niceties, made sure the people at Knopf were paying attention, and routinely brought me back from the eighteenth century with gossip about the Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox.
Linda Chesky Fernandes, my assistant, did not do any of the research, but she did just about everything else, to include deciphering my scrawl, compensating for my technological incompetence, balancing my mood swings, and kissing me on the cheek.
My wife, Ellen Wilkins Ellis, did not edit my writing, but she did edit my psyche. I have a strong suspicion that this made a huge difference.
Most of the writing was done in longhand in my study at Amherst, surrounded by a feisty Jack Russell terrier, an earnest Labradoodle, and a very brave cat.
This book is dedicated to Ashbel Green, my editor at Knopf for twenty years and six books. Ash passed away just as I was finishing the manuscript. We always argued over adverbs, semicolons, and subtitles, conversations that invariably drifted to the pathetic state of his beloved Cleveland Indians. Ash was a legend in his own time at Knopf, the essence of editorial integrity, a dour Presbyterian with an aristocratic sense of honor. We shall not see his likes again.
JOSEPH J. ELLIS