Books in the Field: Studying the Art of War in Revolutionary America
September 28, 2017 — March 4, 2018
The Continental Army of the American Revolution was largely a force of citizen-soldiers who brought to the cause more devotion than formal military training. Even the most senior commanders were primarily self-taught, adding theoretical knowledge learned from books to varying degrees of practical experience. Through their personal example, general orders, and circulated reading lists, leaders such as Washington, Knox, and Greene urged their men to read and study as a means of bringing unity and focus to their military training.
To meet the demand for more military texts, a flood of printings began to appear from the American presses, especially in Philadelphia, where more than thirty works on military subjects were published in the years 1775 and 1776 alone. Initially their texts were reprints or new editions of British or European standards, but publishers quickly turned to a new generation of American military authors whose works reflected the immediacy of the war. This exhibition will examine what the officers read and wrote, and how these books were published and circulated in America's War for Independence.