Using firsthand accounts--journals, letters from British officers in the field, reports from colonial governors in the colonies--Michael Pearson has provided a contemporary report of the Revolution as the British witnessed it. Seen from this perspective, some of the major events of the war are given startling interpretations: For example, the British considered their defeat at Bunker Hill nothing more than a minor setback, especially in light of their capture of New York and Philadelphia. Only at the very end of the conflict did they realize that the Yankees had lost the battles but won the war. From the Boston Tea Party to that day in 1785 when the first U.S. ambassador presented his credentials to a grudging George III, here is the full account of "those damned rebels" who somehow managed to found a new nation.
This study reconstructs the British view of the War of Independence in two ways: as factual narrative, it concentrates on British military actions, deliberations, and personnel; as interpretation it relays British attitudes, such as contempt for Sam Adams as a self-seeking rabblerouser. These attitudes are not analyzed, but chiefly presented as stage-effects or matter-of-fact interpolations. Pearson tunes in on the war as viewed in England, too, principally in the councils of state, and reproduces speeches by the Whig opposition to the war, indications of the City merchants' vigorous dissent, and maneuvers by the King and his advisors to either pacify or shout them down. George is depicted as a very sane and indeed an able administrator. Apart from the surface course of relations with France and the rebels' failure to spread their cause to Canada, one gets too little sense of how this conflict meshed with the broader concerns of Empire at this juncture - e.g. British plans for India, which affected their American policy. Pearson hints at contemporary parallels: Burke and Fox pleading in Parliament that the war is unwinnable since the colonists' hearts and minds have been alienated, the graft and supply problems of the counterinsurgent army, and so forth. Both specialists and general readers will enjoy this book, but its perspective opens up few new conceptions about the counter-revolutionaries' actions or their self-justifications. (Kirkus Reviews)