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Liberty's Fallen Generals: Leadership and Sacrifice in the American War of Independence

Liberty’s Fallen Generals: Leadership and Sacrifice in the American War of Independence by Steven E. Siry. Potomac Books, 2012, 184 pp.

Liberty’s Fallen Generals is a detailed historical look at a group of generals who gave their lives to the cause of independence during the American Revolutionary War, a conflict laced with stories of the Founding Fathers and other larger-than-life figures. Author Steven Siry paints a picture of these lesser-known martyrs to the cause and shines the light of history onto the significance of their actions and sacrifice. He outlines his purpose in the preface as “a study of generalship, valor, and death” (p. xi) of the 10 men who died in combat from 1775 to 1781, introducing the reader to each general’s military background, personal information, and the action that led to his death. Such a method may seem rather mundane, but Siry uses it artfully and masterfully.

His study represents an excellent resource for any serious student of America’s foundations. This diverse, interesting group of generals spans the demographic spectrum of the colonies at the time. By presenting each man in chronological order of his death, Siry effectively clarifies the timeline of events—much more so than would a condensation of their lives into an overall history. The index makes the book a useful desk reference while the notes and bibliography lend it authority as they elaborate on general points. Clear citations and the academic source material add to the study’s appeal as an important part of any library on the Revolutionary War.

Unfortunately, one finds a significant amount of overlap in the background material for Siry’s 10 subjects. Initially, he points out that many of these men were present at the same actions or came from similar origins. Given the set structure used for each of the chapters, reoccurring events appear in multiple sections, increasing the probability of confusing the subjects with each other or, worse, of becoming boring. This practice creates irregularity in the book and abruptness between chapters, making it seem more like a collection of essays on a single subject than an organized study. Nevertheless, Liberty’s Fallen Generals is a well-done examination of an overlooked but fascinating topic.

Jason P. Smock, MLIS

Saint Paul, Minnesota

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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