The title of My American Revolution: A Journey Through History’s Forgotten Battlegrounds is a bit misleading. It is not a journey through history’s forgotten battlegrounds in general but just those that took place in New York, New Jersey and a bit of Pennsylvania.
While it may be true, as the author asserts, that many of these battles are much less well known than those that took place in Massachusetts, certainly they are not the only less famous battles that were fought in the American Revolution and it would have been better to either call the book New York and New Jersey’s Forgotten Battlefields or to include rambles through other part of the country, such as Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. in fact, the title could even have referred to The Forgotten Battlefields of the North and it would have been more accurate.
However, after you accept that these battlefields are all located within an area that can almost be seen from atop the Empire State Building, the book is often interesting and entertaining. Robert Sullivan not only recounts his adventures rambling in the footsteps of Washington and his troops, camping in New Jersey backyards, attempting to signal with mirrors from behind dumpsters, and slogging through mountains in the snow. He also shares stories of oddball characters from the area throughout the country’s history, from farmers who doubled as spies for Washington to those who have sponsored and participated in reenactments through the years, as well as poets and artists who have used the Revolution as a subject.
Like his investigations, Sullivan’s narrative wanders all over the place. The footnotes are sometimes extremely long and can be distracting. Still, where else can you learn about a wooden colonial submarine and the tattoo artist who attempted to recreate it, meet the famous mediocre poet Philip Freneau, or take a detailed look at how the weather affected the Revolution and other important events in American history?
Sullivan seems to often be attempting to live in the past and the present simultaneously and the book certainly captures that sense of layers of history one atop the other. It’s a unique look at American history that is definitely worth the attention of history buffs.