Author: Gene Procknow

Gene Procknow’s passion for the American War of Independence emanates from living among Revolutionary War sites in Boston, New Jersey, and Vermont. His research includes interpreting “the politics of command” among the Continental Army major generals, and in Ethan Allen and the creation of Vermont. He is the author of two books—William Hunter, Finding Free Speech: The Son of a British Soldier Who Became an Early American and the Mad River Gazetteer, which traces the naming of prominent Vermont place names after Revolutionary War patriots. Procknow’s website, Researching the American Revolution, aids students and researchers. Gene holds a Masters in American History from Norwich University. He is married with two historian sons and lives in Washington, DC.

Politics During the War (1775-1783) Posted on

A Revolutionary Friendship: Washington, Jefferson, and the American Republic

BOOK REVIEW: A Revolutionary Friendship: Washington, Jefferson, and the American Republic by Francis D. Cogliano (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2024. $37.95 Cloth) Comparative founder profiles are a crowded book genre with numerous volumes depicting any combination of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin as rivals, friends, or brothers. Professor […]

by Gene Procknow
Law Posted on

A Republic of Scoundrels: The Schemers, Intriguers, and Adventurers Who Created a New American Nation

BOOK REVIEW: A Republic of Scoundrels: The Schemers, Intriguers, and Adventurers Who Created a New American Nation edited by David Head and Timothy C. Hemmis (New York, NY: Pegasus Books, 2023) Many believe that books written with rigorous academic care are not enjoyable and appropriate only for wonkish readers. Editors and essayists David Head and Timothy C. […]

by Gene Procknow
Politics During the War (1775-1783) Posted on

George Washington Versus the Continental Army: Showdown at the New Windsor Cantonment, 1782–1783

BOOK REVIEW: George Washington Versus the Continental Army Showdown at the New Windsor Cantonment, 1782-1783 by Michael S. McGurty (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2023) Except for the dangerous Newburgh Conspiracy, historians overlook the Continental Army’s activities in the Hudson Valley during the last year of the American War for Independence. Michael S. McGurty […]

by Gene Procknow
Economics Posted on

Speculation Nation: Land Mania in the Revolutionary American Republic

BOOK REVIEW: Speculation Nation: Land Mania in the Revolutionary American Republic by Michael A. Blaakman (Early American Studies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2023) The mark of excellent historical analysis is a fresh point of view on highly contested, deeply entrenched issues, whether you fully agree or not with its arguments. This is the case with Michael A. […]

by Gene Procknow
Loyalists Posted on

Unfriendly to Liberty: Loyalist Networks and the Coming of the American Revolution in New York City

BOOK REVIEW: Unfriendly to Liberty: Loyalist Networks and the Coming of the American Revolution in New York City by Christopher F. Minty (Ithaca [New York]: Cornell University Press, 2023) Who were the New York Loyalists? Why did they retain British allegiance? What is their lasting impact on American society? Revolutionary War historian and digital documentary editor Christopher […]

by Gene Procknow
4
Critical Thinking Posted on

Charles Lee’s First Inklings of Fractious American Political Battles

Unique among the Continental Army generals, Charles Lee expressed prescient insights into the upcoming political issues dividing Americans during the Early Republic era. Born and educated in England, Lee espoused pre-Revolution British Whig views seeking to moderate the monarchy’s powers and engender a more representative government. As a recent immigrant, Lee brought his radical republican […]

by Gene Procknow
8
Crime and Justice Posted on

The Great New York Fire of 1776

BOOK REVIEW: The Great New York Fire of 1776: A Lost Story of the American Revolution by Benjamin L. Carp. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2023) Questioning long-held beliefs about historical events and their causes creates the most notable monographs among the bounteous publications concerning the Revolutionary-era each year. Prominent recent examples include adding women and […]

by Gene Procknow
10
Autobiography and Biography Posted on

The Highs and Lows of Ethan Allen’s Reputation as Reported by Revolutionary-Era Newspapers

Ethan Allen’s prevailing reputation among the general population remains that of a daring hero, but has suffered in the eyes of recent historians. Casual readers, aided by the embellishments of nineteenth-century biographers, remember Vermont’s Allen as the leader of the rebellious but honorable Green Mountain Boys and the conqueror of British-held Fort Ticonderoga. As a […]

by Gene Procknow
1
Books and Publications Posted on

Charles Lee—The Continental Army’s Most Prolific Essayist General

Maj. Gen. Charles Lee’s substantial literary contributions to the American independence movement have been overshadowed by his challenging Gen. George Washington for Continental Army leadership and the 1860 discovery of a potentially treasonous document.[1] Initially, Revolutionary Era Americans viewed Charles Lee as a highly accomplished military officer and a learned scholar and admired his ardently-argued […]

by Gene Procknow
1
Arts & Literature Posted on

Review: Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution

Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution by Michael D. Hattem (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2021) In his new book, Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution, Michael Hattem provocatively attempts to answer an age-old vexing question for the American Revolutionary Era. In the first half of […]

by Gene Procknow
Culture Posted on

A Moonlighting British Army Surgeon

During the American War of Independence, the British Army officer corps routinely relegated its surgeons and physicians to a secondary status among its ranks. A few regimental surgeons made contributions to medical science, but the vast majority were relatively unknown both in their time and today.[1] American military doctors fared a bit better, but are mostly […]

by Gene Procknow
1
Loyalists Posted on

Countervailing Colonial Perspectives on Quartering the British Army

In the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, as the British Army repositioned its forces from western frontier posts into American cities, many Americans seethed against quartering troops in urban centers. Animosity with the military occupation was rampant but was not the universal reaction in every location. In two cities, colonial anger ranged from vituperative […]

by Gene Procknow
6
Features Posted on

Washington’s Revolutionary War Generals

Washington’s Revolutionary War Generals by Stephen R. Taaffe. Campaigns and Commanders Series, Volume 68. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2019). Selection, promotion and performance of Revolutionary War generals is a critically under-researched aspect of the rebellion. In his second book on the Revolutionary War, Stephen R. Taaffe closes this gap in scholarship with his evaluation of […]

by Gene Procknow
Features Posted on

Revolutionary Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763–1789

Revolutionary Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763-1789  by Joseph M. Adelman (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019) An explosion of new media! News editors and writers under attack for their views! Increasing media polarization along partisan lines. Readers expecting the news to be free. Newspapers teetering on the edge of profitability. A […]

by Gene Procknow
7
People Posted on

Benedict Arnold and James Wemyss: Similar Experiences Contrasting Legacies

Often, a person’s legacy is defined by decisions made at pivotal moments rather than a lifetime of previous accomplishments. The is especially true for two aspiring, highly competent military officers in senior leadership positions during the fractious American Rebellion. Although initially on opposing sides, the wartime and personal experiences of the infamous Maj. Gen. Benedict […]

by Gene Procknow
11
Features Posted on

Unlocking the Mystery of Ten Revolutionary Generals’ Signatures

Documents that contain the original signatures of more than one Continental Army general are rare.  During the eight years of the Revolutionary War, generals penned thousands of pages of military orders, official correspondence, and private letters. The vast preponderance of these signed documents are in archives and museums, but some are cherished and preserved in […]

by Gene Procknow
4
Reviews Posted on

Unlikely General: Mad Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America

Book Review:  Unlikely General: Mad Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America by Mary Stockwell (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018). BUY THIS BOOK FROM AMAZON Typically, biographies of Continental Army generals are almost entirely devoted to the subject’s participation in Revolutionary War campaigns and battles with only nominal descriptions of their post-war lives. Contrary to […]

by Gene Procknow
4
Reviews Posted on

Victory or Death: The Battles of Trenton and Princeton, December 25, 1776-January 3, 1777

Book Review: Mark Maloy. Victory or Death: The Battles of Trenton and Princeton, December 25, 1776-January 3, 1777. Emerging Revolutionary War Series. (El Dorado Hills, California: Savas Beatie LLC, 2017). [BUY THIS BOOK FROM AMAZON] Almost entirely covered by modern development, urbanized Revolutionary War battle sites such as Brooklyn or Germantown are tough to locate […]

by Gene Procknow
3
Features Posted on

Revolutionary Rookies

Performing as a general atop an independent command is the most difficult military assignment and for which prior experience critically fosters improved strategic and tactical decision-making. Many people think that the Revolutionary War British generals were highly experienced while the Rebel generals, although possessing battle proficiency as junior officers, principally gained their military strategy and […]

by Gene Procknow
4
Features Posted on

Personal Honor and Promotion Among Revolutionary Generals and Congress

In the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the United States Congress ordered the Department of Defense to conduct a study aimed at wholesale overhaul of its military officer promotion policies.[1] Issues to be considered include reordering promotion lists so that officers “of particular merit” will be placed at the front of the line and modifying […]

by Gene Procknow
2
Reviews Posted on

Strong Ground: Mount Independence and the American Revolution

Book Review: Strong Ground: Mount Independence and the American Revolution by Donald H. Wickman and The Mount Independence Coalition (The Mount Independence Coalition, 2017) [BUY NOW] During colonial times, both British and French settlers perceived Fort Ticonderoga as the most strategic fortification protecting the Northern frontier. On the shores of Lake Champlain in upstate New York, Fort […]

by Gene Procknow
2
Reviews Posted on

Theaters of the American Revolution: Northern, Middle, Southern, Western, Naval

Book review: Theaters of the American Revolution: Northern, Middle, Southern, Western, Naval by James Kirby Martin, Mark Edward Lender, Edward G. Lengel, Charles Neimeyer, Jim Piecuch and David Preston (Westholme Publishing, 2017) [BUY NOW ON AMAZON] The concept of a global war divided into distinct geographic theaters, each with its own unique characteristics is well established […]

by Gene Procknow
4
People Posted on

Lafayette: An acerbic tongue or an incisive judge of character?

A truly French and American hero, Marquis de Lafayette, a nineteen-year-old nobleman without significant military or political experiences, joined the fledgling American Revolution at a low point. He distinguished himself from other French officers by volunteering to serve in the Continental Army without commission and pay. Worldly beyond his years, Lafayette rapidly sized up the […]

by Gene Procknow
2
Reviews Posted on

After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence

Book Review:  After Yorktown:  The Final Struggle for American Independence by Don Glickstein (Westholme Publishing, November 2015). Key tenets of America’s founding ethos are that rugged, independent minded farmers and tradesmen rose up in righteous rebellion to throw off the shackles of British tyranny and they succeeded by winning the last battle of the Revolution […]

by Gene Procknow
2
Reviews Posted on

Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution

Book Review:  Independence Lost:  Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution by Kathleen DuVal (New York:  Random House, 2015). Increasingly, historians are interpreting the American Revolution from two wider perspectives. First, it was a global war fought on five continents with major battles outside of the thirteen colonies critical to the war’s outcome. Second, […]

by Gene Procknow
14
Politics During the War (1775-1783) Posted on

Franklin’s Failed Diplomatic Mission

Benjamin Franklin’s Revolutionary War diplomatic successes have been well chronicled. He was instrumental in persuading King Louis XVI to enter into a military alliance with the fledgling United States and for negotiating the Treaty of Paris with the British ending the Revolutionary War. Less remembered is Franklin’s first diplomatic mission after the onset of hostilities. […]

by Gene Procknow