Redcoats and Rebels Review
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Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes is a unique twist on the history of the American Revolution. In this take, author Christopher Hibbert stays away from the traditional method of favoring the Americans when telling the story of the Revolution. Instead, he takes on the subject with the perspective of the British—but in doing so, he doesn’t slant the events in favor of the British to the point that the reader doesn’t recognize the basic story. I believe that Hibbert was trying to educate people in this book to the fact that the American Revolution was more than most of us have been taught since elementary school.

If this was indeed his goal then he does an excellent job. Redcoats and Rebels avoids the pitfalls of so many history books about the American Revolution, which treat the British army as being ineptly led and manned with nothing but mercenaries. He shows that the British army did have several competent officers leading it. His accounting of generals like Carleton and Clinton and their defense of Canada shows that the British officers did have a professional background and were well respected in their day and time.

  
 
Hibbert also shows the reader that the American generals were not really as good as they were lucky at times. By bringing out the tactics of the British and showing the internal political battles between the generals and their civilian leadership in London, Hibbert gives depth to the reader’s perspective of the war. Often he outlines how the British did have solid battle plans that should have prevailed on the battlefield, but some fluke occurred that gave the rebels just enough of a momentary advantage to get the win. Most versions of this period in history simply don’t include this type of information.

He makes the point that there were a great deal of people loyal to the crown when the war started. Again, the traditional approach to American history says that from the day that Bostonians threw tea into the harbor, every colonist was declaring independence. Most people don’t get that the people ready to revolt were in the minority for a long time, and that many colonists left the country instead of living in a new nation. Hibbert sets this up well across the course of his book. He shows that the rebel forces did as much evil towards those they were trying to liberate as did the British forces.

A reader coming to this book with only a limited exposure to American Revolution history will walk away with a new appreciation of how difficult a war it was for both sides. Readers will understand how Britain was not united on how to conduct the war—or even that it was the right thing to do. Hibbert shows how close George Washington came to losing the war and how cock-sure the British commanders were in fighting it.

This is a compelling story told from a fresh point of view. Hibbert raises the bar with his easy prose and compact storytelling. One of the biggest selling points of Redcoats and Rebels is that, despite knowing the outcome, I often caught myself rooting for British and wondering if they were going to subdue “those damned rebels.”

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