Book Review: The Campaign of 1776 around New York and Brooklyn by Henry Phelps Johnson (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Campaign of 1776 around New York and Brooklyn Including a new and circumstantial account of the battle of Long island and the loss of New York, with a review of events to the close of the year by Henry Phelps Johnson

Four Stars

“We may learn by defeat the power of becoming invincible.” Abigail Adams

Published in 1878, this is what a book of history should be, not the partisan politics, revisionist nonsense and political correctness that passes for “history” today. (Read almost any modern biography of a historic character if you doubt me.) The thesis is: the campaign in and around New York City in 1776 set the tone for the rest of the American War of Independence, even foreshadows eventual American victory.

“I … wish we could leave them alone to govern or misgovern themselves as they think proper. David Hume, 1775

Heavy dependence and exposition based on primary sources (diaries, letters, orders)—sources which are quoted, noted or indexed at length. Detailed discussion of the How and What, not just the Why as modern diatribes tend. When there are controversies—such as who was responsible for the debacle at Fort Washington—this book teaches the controversy, identifying the sides of the argument and outlining all positions.

“Whoever commands the sea commands the city.” Charles Lee

For the student of history, the sources are identified in detail. Since this narrative focused on one year’s military campaign, it delves into details of the units, commanders, motivations, limitations and even order of battle. Not a comic book depiction of war. Decidedly prejudiced toward the American (“our”) side, but even-handed in discussing the strengths, weakness, successes and failures of both sides.

“Necessity knows no law.” F. Rhinelander

This volume exemplifies the good side of Google-scanned library books. If it were not for their effort, rare and out-of-print books like this would not be accessible to serious students and scholars. On the other hand, Google’s pirating of the works of living authors is reprehensible and should be outlawed. This book also demonstrates the limitations of Optical Character Scanning without subsequent thorough proof reading. Many characters were transliterated, requiring the reader to stop and puzzle out the meaning.

“If it was a disaster, it was not a disgrace.” George Washington (of the Battle of Long Island)