The most recommended books on the Continental Army

Who picked these books? Meet our 16 experts.

16 authors created a book list connected to the Continental Army, and here are their favorite Continental Army books.
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Book cover of Revolutionary

Kathleen DuVal Author Of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution

From my list on the American Revolution beyond the Founding Fathers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professional historian and life-long lover of early American history. My fascination with the American Revolution began during the bicentennial in 1976, when my family traveled across the country for celebrations in Williamsburg and Philadelphia. That history, though, seemed disconnected to the place I grew up—Arkansas—so when I went to graduate school in history, I researched in French and Spanish archives to learn about their eighteenth-century interactions with Arkansas’s Native nations, the Osages and Quapaws. Now I teach early American history and Native American history at UNC-Chapel Hill and have written several books on how Native American, European, and African people interacted across North America.

Kathleen's book list on the American Revolution beyond the Founding Fathers

Kathleen DuVal Why did Kathleen love this book?

Alex Myers’s Revolutionary is a novel that conveys the feel of being a soldier in the Continental Army: its hope, its horror, its boredom.

I like to assign novels in my classes, and this is the one I use in my class on the American Revolution. Its central character is Deborah Sampson, a Massachusetts indentured servant who decided to disguise herself as a man and enlist in the Continental Army. The young soldier trained, marched, fought, and made friends, all while pretending to be (and sort of becoming) “Robert Shurtliff.”

As a historian, I’m a fairly harsh judge of historical fiction that misrepresents the past, so I particularly love to find a book like Revolutionary, which is deeply researched and written in a straight-forward prose that fits the eighteenth century.

By Alex Myers,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Revolutionary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A remarkable novel” (The New York Times) about America’s first female soldier, Deborah Sampson Gannett, who ran away from home in 1782, successfully disguised herself as a man, and fought valiantly in the Revolutionary War.

At a time when rigid societal norms seemed absolute, Deborah Sampson risked everything in search of something better. Revolutionary, Alex Myers’s richly imagined and carefully researched debut novel, tells the story of a fierce-tempered young woman turned celebrated solider and the remarkable courage, hope, fear, and heartbreak that shaped her odyssey during the birth of a nation.

After years of indentured servitude in a sleepy…

Book cover of Washington's General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution

Jack Kelly Author Of Valcour: The 1776 Campaign That Saved the Cause of Liberty

From my list on the American Revolutionary War from five different perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jack Kelly is a prize-winning historian who has written two acclaimed books about the Revolutionary War. Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America’s Independence provides one of the best short accounts of the entire war. Valcour: The 1776 Campaign That Saved the Cause of Liberty is a suspense-filled account of the crucial northern theater during that decisive year.

Jack's book list on the American Revolutionary War from five different perspectives

Jack Kelly Why did Jack love this book?

The Revolution was an affair of people. Golway does a masterful job of bringing to life one of the most important, and often most neglected, of the American officers. Nathanael Greene was the epitome of the amateur soldiers who led the patriot effort. He was the man Washington selected to take over the Continental Army if Washington himself was killed. The book offers important insights into logistics (Greene for a time served as Quartermaster General). It also illuminates the war in the South, where Greene confounded British plans and set the scene for the patriot victory at Yorktown.

By Terry Golway,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Washington's General as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The overlooked Quaker from Rhode Island who won the American Revolution's crucial southern campaign and helped to set up the final victory of American independence at Yorktown

Nathanael Greene is a revolutionary hero who has been lost to history. Although places named in his honor dot city and country, few people know his quintessentially American story as a self-made, self-educated military genius who renounced his Quaker upbringing-horrifying his large family-to take up arms against the British. Untrained in military matters when he joined the Rhode Island militia in 1774, he quickly rose to become Washington's right-hand man and heir apparent.…

Book cover of A Revolutionary People At War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783

David Head Author Of A Crisis of Peace: George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy, and the Fate of the American Revolution

From my list on what made American Revolution soldiers tick.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian who loves watching the Founding Fathers do not-so-Founding-Fatherish things, like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson bonding over how awful Alexander Hamilton was, James Madison reporting how the king of Spain liked to relieve himself daily by the same oak tree, and George Washington losing his temper, asking his cousin to look for the teeth he just knew he’d left in his desk drawer, or spinning out a conspiracy theory. It’s details like this that reveal that even the most revealed figures were real people, like us but often very different. Figuring out how it all makes sense is a challenge I enjoy. 

David's book list on what made American Revolution soldiers tick

David Head Why did David love this book?

A classic statement of the mentality of the men who fought the American Revolution, A Revolutionary People at War documents how the enthusiasm of the war’s early days, the “rage militaire” in Royster’s memorable phrase, waxed and waned during the brutal conflict as soldiers and civilians settled into an uneasy relationship often in danger of collapsing into anarchy or a military despotism as everyone feared. Royster seems to have read every scrap a soldier or officer produced across the war’s 8 years, and researching the book in the 1970s, he someone kept track of everything, deploying a deft quote time after time, without the aid of a computer. How?

By Charles Royster,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Revolutionary People At War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this highly acclaimed book, Charles Royster explores the mental processes and emotional crises that Americans faced in their first national war. He ranges imaginatively outside the traditional techniques of analytical historical exposition to build his portrait of how individuals and a populace at large faced the Revolution and its implications. The book was originally published by UNC Press in 1980.

Book cover of Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution

Beth Anderson Author Of Cloaked in Courage: Uncovering Deborah Sampson, Patriot Soldier

From my list on children’s stories on the American Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an educator, I’ve experienced the power of true stories to engage readers, widen their world, spur thinking, and support content areas. I’ve learned plenty from these books, too! As an author, I’m fascinated with many aspects of the American Revolution that I never learned about as a student. Researching this time period has revealed much more than men at war. The revolution affected every aspect of life—a “world turned upside-down.” Today, we’re fortunate to have a range of stories that help kids understand that history is about people much like them facing the challenges of their time and place. 

Beth's book list on children’s stories on the American Revolution

Beth Anderson Why did Beth love this book?

A gingerbread baker had a role in the American Revolution? I had to know more!

I love stories of people behind the scenes, everyday people like us, so often overlooked. These stories let us know that we’re all a part of history. In this book, a German immigrant uses his baking talents to support George Washington’s troops.

Recently, I’ve learned with my research for an upcoming book about how difficult it was to supply the Continental Army with food. Starving soldiers had to go out and forage for food—one of the many everyday struggles of the time that brings history home. I also love that it’s a story of generosity. Rockliff’s lively books never fail to engage me as a reader. 

By Mara Rockliff, Vincent X Kirsch (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gingerbread for Liberty! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Christopher Ludwick was a German-born American patriot with a big heart and a talent for baking. When cries of “Revolution!” began, Christopher was determined to help General George Washington and his hungry troops. Not with muskets or cannons, but with gingerbread!     Cheerfully told by Mara Rockliff and brought to life by Vincent Kirsch’s inventive cut-paper illustrations, Gingerbread for Liberty is the story of an unsung hero of the Revolutionary War who changed the course of history one loaf at a time.

Book cover of Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America

Michael Barone Author Of Mental Maps of the Founders: How Geographic Imagination Guided America's Revolutionary Leaders

From my list on the struggles of the early America republic.

Why am I passionate about this?

My friend Lou Cannon, the great reporter and Reagan biographer, once told me, “if you want to really learn about a subject, write a book about it.” As a political journalist and author of several books about current and past politics,  wanted to learn more about the Founding Fathers, and as a map buff I tried to understand how they understood a continent most of which was not accurately mapped and how they envisioned the geographic limits and reach of a new republic more extensive in size than most nations in Europe. The book is my attempt to share what I learned with readers, and to invite them to read more about these extraordinary leaders.

Michael's book list on the struggles of the early America republic

Michael Barone Why did Michael love this book?

In recent years we have often heard it said that the United States is, for the first time in history, a diverse society.

David Hackett Fischer’s classic Albion’s Seed illustrates how not only the United States but the British seaboard colonies had enormous cultural diversity, based on the different regional origins in the British Isles of the bulk of their settlers.

The Founders knew this already: John Adams of Massachusetts nominated George Washington of Virginia to be commander of the Continental Army, because he understood that the Revolution needed support beyond New England, and Washington as commander soon learned that leading prickly Yankee New Englanders required different tactics than leading deferential Anglican Virginians. 

By David Hackett Fischer,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Albion's Seed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Eighty percent of Americans have no British ancestors. According to David Hackett Fischer, however, their day-to-day lives are profoundly influenced by folkways transplanted from Britain to the New World with the first settlers. Residual, yet persistent, aspects of these 17th Century folkways are indentifiable, Fischer argues, in areas as divers as politics, education, and attitudes towards gender, sexuality, age, and child-raising. Making use of both traditional
and revisionist scholarship, this ground-breaking work documents how each successive wave of early emigration-Puritans to the North-East; Royalist aristocrats to the South; the Friends to the Delaware Valley; Irish and North Britons to the…

Book cover of A Girl Called Samson

C.A. Gray Author Of Caves of Glass

From C.A.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Naturopathic doctor Science nerd World traveler Multi-tasker Coffee lover

C.A.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

C.A. Gray Why did C.A. love this book?

A fantastic, engaging read! I loved it even more when I got to the afterword and found that it was based on a true story.

It’s the story of a woman named Deborah, nicknamed Rob, who dresses as a boy to join the Revolutionary War because she’s passionate about the cause and has nothing else left in her life to live for. While there, she encounters the widower of her best friend, who never met her and so doesn’t know what she looks like. She falls in love with him, but of course, he doesn’t know she’s a woman.  

Rob’s mishaps, adventures, and triumphs are exquisitely written. The love story is a slow burn but extremely well done.

By Amy Harmon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Girl Called Samson as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From New York Times bestselling author Amy Harmon comes the saga of a young woman who dares to chart her own destiny in life and love during the American Revolutionary War.

In 1760, Deborah Samson is born to Puritan parents in Plympton, Massachusetts. When her father abandons the family and her mother is unable to support them, Deborah is bound out as an indentured servant. From that moment on, she yearns for a life of liberation and adventure.

Twenty years later, as the American colonies begin to buckle in their battle for independence, Deborah, impassioned by the cause, disguises herself…

Book cover of The First American Army: The Untold Story of George Washington and the Men Behind America's First Fight for Freedom

Dean Snow Author Of 1777: Tipping Point at Saratoga

From my list on the 1777 Saratoga campaign.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an archaeologist and ethnohistorian who has carried out major projects in American Indian and Revolutionary War archaeology and history. I have taught at three universities over the course of more than five decades and have authored or edited 17 books.

Dean's book list on the 1777 Saratoga campaign

Dean Snow Why did Dean love this book?

The new national Congress of the United States had to invent both a government and a military to defend it on the fly in 1776. Militias had been around for decades, encouraged and supported to varying degrees by colonial, later state, governments. Before and after the creation of a regular “Continental” army, militia units were chartered by the thirteen states. The soon-to-be self-declared fourteenth state of Vermont also had militia regiments, and these also played important roles at Saratoga.

Some members of Congress thought that the creation of a regular army was dangerous and unnecessary, but Washington and his supporters prevailed, and the Continental Army was founded. Chadwick’s book is important not just for the story of the first American army, but for the individual stories of the soldiers who served in it.

By Bruce Chadwick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The First American Army as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first book that offers a you-are-there look at the American Revolution through the eyes of the enlisted men. Through searing portraits of individual soldiers, Bruce Chadwick, author of George Washington's War, brings alive what it was like to serve then in the American army.

With interlocking stories of ordinary Americans, he evokes what it meant to face brutal winters, starvation, terrible homesickness and to go into battle against the much-vaunted British regulars and their deadly Hessian mercenaries.

The reader lives through the experiences of those terrible and heroic times when a fifteen-year-old fifer survived the Battle of…

Book cover of Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine

Robert Krenzel Author Of A Nest of Hornets

From my list on revolutionary reads.

Why am I passionate about this?

While I grew up in New Jersey, the “Crossroads of the Revolution,” with a passion for history, I was ignorant to the amount of fighting that happened in my home state. My decision to write coincided with a renewed interest in the American Revolution: when I realized how many stories of the Revolution remained untold, the die was cast. My passion for history, love for soldiering, wartime experiences, and understanding of tactics and terrain came together to produce something special. Now I can often be found, map, compass, and notebook in hand, prowling a Revolutionary battlefield so I can better tell the story of those who were there.

Robert's book list on revolutionary reads

Robert Krenzel Why did Robert love this book?

If you want to know what motivated ordinary British colonists to pick up a musket, spear, or sword and take on the most powerful military in the world, read Thomas Paine’s essays Common Sense and The Crisis. Common Sense was the ideological underpinning of the movement toward independence. Paine’s experiences with the Continental Army during the dark days of late 1776 inspired The Crisis, and Washington ordered it read to the troops to encourage them to stay by the Colors for one last great gamble at Trenton. In my research, I found that the average American soldier truly believed in the cause of Independence; that belief has much to do with the writings of Thomas Paine.

By Thomas Paine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A special gift edition of one of the most important and influential documents in our nation's history-featured in Lin-Manuel Miranda's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Hamilton: An American Musical-stylishly packaged for twenty-first-century readers. According to John Adams, "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain." With Common Sense, Thomas Paine energized colonial support for the armed rebellion that would make the American experiment a reality, using common sense to argue for colonial independence. Today, this cornerstone of the American Revolution has once again been rediscovered by ardent fans of…

Book cover of The Indispensables: The Diverse Soldier-Mariners Who Shaped the Country, Formed the Navy, and Rowed Washington Across the Delaware

Eliot Pattison Author Of Freedom's Ghost: A Mystery of the American Revolution

From my list on inside the hearts and minds of the American Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I found my first arrowhead at age seven and have been hooked on history ever since. My Bone Rattler series—Freedom’s Ghost is the seventh installment—builds on many years of research and field trips, supplemented by intense investigation of specific aspects leading up to and during the writing of each novel. The volatile 18th century was one of the most important periods in all of history, and I immerse myself in it when writing these books—by, among other things, reading newspapers of the day, which are often stacked on my desk. 

Eliot's book list on inside the hearts and minds of the American Revolution

Eliot Pattison Why did Eliot love this book?

Marblehead, Massachusetts, played a remarkably disproportionate role in the fight for independence, and O’Donnell explains why.

The seaport produced a cadre of extraordinary patriots who figured prominently in the struggles before and during the Revolution. O’Donnell’s deeply researched book provides another perspective on the rugged, self-reliant, daring men and women who laid the groundwork for independence, and then played a critical role in winning the war.

This motley, very diverse cast joined to provide the origin of the American navy, smuggle in vital goods for the rebel cause, roam the sea as privateers, and ultimately become both Washington’s elite personal Guard and his special operations force.

This highly readable, often entertaining, book is a great way to visit the underbelly of revolutionary New England. 

By Patrick K O'Donnell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Indispensables as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the bestselling author of Washington’s Immortals and The Unknowns, an important new chronicle of the American Revolution heralding the heroism of the men from Marblehead, Massachusetts

On the stormy night of August 29, 1776, the Continental Army faced capture or annihilation after losing the Battle of Brooklyn. The British had trapped George Washington’s forces against the East River, and the fate of the Revolution rested upon the shoulders of the soldier-mariners from Marblehead, Massachusetts. Serving side by side in one of the country’s first diverse units, they pulled off an “American Dunkirk” and saved the army by transporting it…

Book cover of A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: Some Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin

Ray Raphael Author Of Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past

From my list on deepening your view of the American Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

When writing my first of my ten books on the Founding Era, A People’s History of the American Revolution, I came across an amazing uprising not celebrated in the traditional saga of our nation’s birth: the people of Massachusetts, everywhere outside of Boston, actually cast off British authority in 1774, the year before Lexington and Concord. How could this critical episode have been so neglected? Who’s the gatekeeper here, anyway? That’s when I began to explore how events of those times morphed into stories, and how those stories mask what actually happened—the theme of Founding Myths.  

Ray's book list on deepening your view of the American Revolution

Ray Raphael Why did Ray love this book?

If, perchance, you have yet to encounter Private Joseph Plumb Martin’s classic memoir, stop right now and get hold of a copy. With wit, charm, and telling detail, this common soldier from the Continental Army will take you on a personal journey through the Revolutionary War. Lest we forget, “history” is composed of individual experiences, and JPMs are memorable. “Great men get great praise; little men, nothing,” he wrote. “It always was so and always will be.” No, not always. This “little man” earns praise not only for himself, but for all those men and boys who put their lives on the line in the Revolutionary War.

By Joseph Plumb Martin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a new afterword by William Chad Stanley

Here a private in the Continental Army of the Revolutionary War narrates his adventures in the army of a newborn country.