Maps are critical to understanding any battle. Distance, positions & maneuver of opposing forces, obstacles, and maneuver corridors all have an impact on how armies fight. Reading battle narratives without accompanying maps can be a frustrating experience. Graphics can be expensive to produce and often books on military history contain only cursory maps, or worse, no maps at all. A Battlefield Atlas of the American Revolution by author Craig L. Symonds and illustrated by William J. Clipson goes a very long way to rectifying this problem. Symonds provides concise yet detailed narratives of Revolutionary War battles, accompanied by 41 of Clipson’s maps. The maps are simple, but no way simplistic and greatly enhance a reader’s understanding of how the fighting unfolded.
Symond’s biggest achievement is including almost every significant action in all North American theaters between 1775 and 1781. Major battles such as Saratoga and Monmouth are included, as even casual students of the war might expect; however, Symonds does neglect the southern theater, focusing almost of quarter of the book on fighting taking place in Virginia, North & South Carolina and Georgia. Nor does he neglect actions in the west, including George Rogers Clark’s frontier campaign, and Sullivan’s expedition against the Iroquois.
Symonds does a masterful job of providing readers with background information on each campaign and an overall narrative that orients them to Clipson’s maps. Symonds discussions of each battle are only a few paragraphs in length, and thus do not delve into tactical details or the actions of subordinate commanders and soldiers. Instead, he provides a broad analysis of each action and its outcome, and then suggestions for further reading tailored to each map in the book for those who wish to learn more. Additionally, the text contains specific map references that assist the reader in following where on the battlefield a specific event took place, and in what sequence the fighting and maneuvering occurred. Symonds eschews discussing politics, except for a three-page summary at the beginning of the book addressing colonial grievances against British rule, and a two-page epilogue discussing events after Yorktown. The result is a highly readable, well-illustrated volume that covers wars major theaters in a comprehensive, if high-level, manner in just over 100 pages.
Craig L. Symonds is a highly respected historian and academician, and Professor Emeritus at the United States Naval Academy. He brings his talent for research and writing to A Battlefield Atlas of the American Revolution. William J. Clipson’s maps are a joy to explore and the star of the book. I recommend that anyone interested in the American Revolution obtain a copy and keep it handy whenever reading about a campaign from that war.
This book is available at Savas Beatie and from a variety of retailers.