In continuing my most recent kick on the American Revolutionary War, I look at New York Times bestselling author Jeff Shaara’s, The Glorious Cause. Piggybacking off his own, Rise to Rebellion, Shaara’s second and final novel of the two-part series begins about a month after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Although a robust 680 pages, The Glorious Cause is an addicting page turner that, despite my hectic lifestyle, only took me a couple of weeks to finish.
Shaara tells the story in chronological order from the point of view of several key players in the cause for American independence, with the four headliners consisting of George Washington, Nathaniel Greene, Benjamin Franklin, and even British General Charles Cornwallis. He brings life to these characters, depicting their strategies, frustrations, and fears. That the author can make a sympathetic figure out of Cornwallis speaks to Shaara’s ability to assist the reader in understanding that while the British general was in fact fighting for the “other side,” Cornwallis was simply a human being with the same feelings and problems in his personal life who was doing what his king wished for him to do.
Of course, the reader is enlightened on Washington’s feelings of despair and anguish, reeling from the losses at Long Island and New York City, as well his first-hand account of the defeat at Fort Washington. We ride along with the American general on his tour of redemption at Trenton and Princeton, victories that were crucial to building some sort of American morale. Shaara, in a stroke of finesse, weaves in Martha Washington, who’s tough, but motherly disposition perfectly complements the general and drastically brightens up the culture during a tough winter at Valley Forge.
Shaara brings us across the Atlantic with Benjamin Franklin to persuade the French to align with the colonies. We get to see inside Franklin’s brain, the methods he utilized to interact with King Louis’ right-hand men. Franklin’s ability to play the part of the elder spokesman of a startup (hopefully) nation with a ragtag army, despite his lofty status, as well as his zany sense of humor are in full display, as well.
The book provides firsthand accounts of some of those on the undercard, so to speak, those no less important to the outcome of the war. Some of these people include, the Marquis de Lafayette, Nathan Hale, Prussian General Frederich von Steuben, and even the traitor, Benedict Arnold. We are given a sense of understanding of how these and other characters play key supporting roles in how it all shaped out.
Shaara escorts us to all the key battles along the way: Trenton, Brandywine, Yorktown, as well as many lesser-known clashes. Battle scenes are vividly captured, the reader entrenched side by side with the combatants. We’re in both camps and tents, drinking their rum and writing letters home. All in all, The Glorious Cause checks off all the boxes a reader of the Revolutionary War could ask for, and then some.