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First Salute: View of the American Revolution Paperback – 15 Feb 1990


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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (15 Feb. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349110034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349110035
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 0.3 x 0.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,810,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989) was one of America¿s foremost popular historians since the war. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Guns of August and The Zimmermann Telegram. A master of detail with a powerful grasp of complex historical issues Tuchman¿s great style brings the past vividly to life. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 29 Dec. 2005
Format: Unbound
Beginning with the salute to the American Flag in the harbor of St. Eustatius on November 16, 1776, Barbara Tuchman tells a military history of the American Revolution from the perspective of the four, yes, four, countries most deeply involved, America, The Netherlands, Britain and France. The focus of “The First Salute” is on the military and naval aspects of the war, not the political or social. This book explains the role of the Dutch merchants of St. Eustatius in supplying the Continentals with supplies of war. The reader is introduced to the main characters, American, British and French who planned and executed the battles that decided the fate of a Continent. This book deals with the main flow of the war, rather than the tactics of individual battles. More attention is paid to naval matters than in most other histories of the war.
Although generally well written, through most of the book I was trying to discern its unifying theme. By the end, the theme of international cooperation and competition in the war shone through. “The First Salute” is not a good choice for a first history of the revolution, but will serve to broaden and deepen the understanding of one already familiar with the war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David C. Topping on 26 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fascinating insight into the complexities behind the American Revolution. The involvement of the main European powers is often overlooked and this view is well explored.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Obviously as a British schoolgirl barely touched on the American Revolution (and there were Americans in class!) so I've now very satisfactorily plugged the gap and discovered the American view - something I felt I ought to know with all the relevant characters. Many thanks and to be recommended. What does interest me and Barbara Tuchman conveyed this is what is going on in Europe at the same time.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paladin on 17 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
I concur that this book is a remarkably readible and entertaining story of American revolutionary supply by the Dutch and interdiction by the British. However, we must warn readers that the title is a bit misleading. The "First Salute" meant here is NOT to the Stars and Stripes, but to the American flag which preceded the Old Glory - the Grand Union Flag. This is the flag that flew on the Andrew Doria (USS is also a misnomer, there was no United States until 1789). The actual first salute to the Stars and Stripes was given by the French and received by John Paul Jones' flagship USS Ranger almost a year later when that vessel was leaving Quiberon harbor.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 73 reviews
61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Finally, the Real Revolutionary War 15 April 2002
By David M. Sapadin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'd like to say that Barbara Tuchman saved her best for last, and in many respects, she did. However there will be many out there who will not appreciate the slow build-up of The First Salute. Like a sailing schooner waiting for a breeze before finally being able to move, Ms. Tuchman's account of the American Revolution mirrors her main subjects - the French fleet, and that of the Englisman Sir George Brydges Rodney. More than once were they all stuck somewhere in their ships waiting (seemingly forever) for a wind so they could get underway. I felt like this book was waiting to get "under sail" too, mainly at the beginning. But I think you will find that not only is the wait worth it, but once you finish the book, you will realize just how brilliant the author really was in chosing this method to effectively drive home her points by clever use of point of view - Despite what Disney would have us belive, the Americans didn't rally to fighting or winning this war. Congress was as slow, and often made as little sense then as it seems to do from time to time now - Washington was a miracle worker for somehow keeping an army on the field at all. The American Revolution was won by French and Dutch money, and mainly the French military (yes it was fought by many brave Americans too, but there was too much apathy, too much self-interest, and there were too few in number to ever WIN it). Through the story of Rodney, the reader is given a unique perspective from which to witness the incredible mismanagement of the war by the British, insight into those self-destructive practices and entrenched egos that characterized monarchy, and just how close this war was to being lost and how easily it could have turned out differently. Tuchman also does not miss the chance to remind everyone just how far we still have to go to live up to those principles for which the war was supposedly fought - The end of her Epilogue will knock your socks off. All in all, another treasure from Barbara Tuchman.
47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
The First Salute 21 Jun. 2004
By Steven Hellerstedt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Some of the greatest works of history are those that ask the simplest questions. In The First Salute Barbara Tuchman asks one of the most obvious of questions: How did England manage to lose the Revolutionary War? To answer the question, Tuchman leads us through a welter of 17th & 18th century European history. By the end of the book we find Britain's loss, paradoxically, both inevitable and avoidable.
The `first salute' was given by the Dutch owned West Indian port of St. Eustatius on November 16, 1776 in response to a salute given by the American brigantine Andrew Doria. It was a momentous moment, the first formal recognition of American as an independent nation.
Our esteem for the brave merchants of Holland is sorely tested by an early digression to explore Holland's confused and confusing diplomatic and political history. In the bibliography Tuchman refers to it as a "Dutch excursion," but "Dutch shanghai" would work just as well. Rather than leave it at "the Dutch had a history of war with Britain" and "their confused form of Republic government didn't help things" Tuchman devotes about forty pages to the Dutch, to their relations with their European neighbors, and to their confounded political system. Decisions like this are death to narrative histories, and Tuchman's wit and skill just barely redeems it.
For instance, that pithy wit takes this swipe at William III, duke of Orange, who "died childless in 1702, in a fall when his horse stumbled over a molehill, an obstacle that seems as if it should have some philosophical significance but, as far as can be seen, does not."
In due course Holland's overt and covert sympathetic attitude to the American rebels leads to a declaration of war by Britain. France, with an acute nose for the smell of blood in the water, throws in with the rebels. To this American reader the greatest surprise The First Salute presented was the value France and England gave to their West Indian possessions. Apparently the sugar trade was more important than the American colonies, and disrupting the enemy's trade seemed to take precedence over the war in North America.
For a good part of the narrative Tuchman follows the career of English Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney. Rodney, who is painted by Tuchman as an energetic, able seaman bordering on genius, was thwarted by many factors - a moribund navy which employed obsolete tactics and suffered "a mental lethargy that underlay the general reluctance to change old habits", a fleet that was stronger on paper than on sea, and a poisoned military environment that led Tuchman to observe "everybody hated somebody in the course of conducting the American war." Tuchman's high regard for Rodney even leads her to speculate that he might have been the decisive factor averting colonial victory had illness not prevented his absence at the endgame.
Tuchman explains French intervention in the war rather prosaically. Rather than suffering a monarchical affinity to liberty, equality, and democracy, France intervened because of a centuries old, deep seated hostility to Britain, to disrupt the sugar trade and, more immediately, to redress losses suffered in the Seven Years' War. The irony of monarchy pitted against monarchy in the cause of democracy isn't lost on Tuchman. You would think regal intuition would have identified the greater enemy, an enemy that would consume it before the century was through.
Save for the unfortunate "Dutch excursion" I enjoyed The First Salute tremendously. As an American it was at first disorienting, and then refreshing, to view the American Revolution from a European perspective.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Broaden And Deepen Your Understanding Of The Revolution 29 Dec. 2005
By James Gallen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Unbound
Beginning with the salute to the American Flag in the harbor of St. Eustatius on November 16, 1776, Barbara Tuchman tells a military history of the American Revolution from the perspective of the four, yes, four, countries most deeply involved, America, The Netherlands, Britain and France. The focus of "The First Salute" is on the military and naval aspects of the war, not the political or social. This book explains the role of the Dutch merchants of St. Eustatius in supplying the Continentals with supplies of war. The reader is introduced to the main characters, American, British and French who planned and executed the battles that decided the fate of a Continent. This book deals with the main flow of the war, rather than the tactics of individual battles. More attention is paid to naval matters than in most other histories of the war.

Although generally well written, through most of the book I was trying to discern its unifying theme. By the end, the theme of international cooperation and competition in the war shone through. "The First Salute" is not a good choice for a first history of the revolution, but will serve to broaden and deepen the understanding of one already familiar with the war.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
"It is not necessary to hope, in order to persevere" 9 April 2005
By Amore Roberto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a history of the American Revolution focused on the sea war, one of its least known aspects, "The First Salute" is a very interesting analysis, but definitely not the best book by Barbara Tuchman.

The role of the sea in the unfolding events has been always considered marginal in the final outcome of the struggle. By describing the first official salute to the United States of America fired by the Dutch port of St.Eustatius in the west Indies in 1776, Mrs. Tuchman stresses the importance of smuggling in sustaining the first phases of the conflict, the role and importance of an American naval force and, in the end, the decisive weight of French naval supremacy in the siege of Yorktown.

A certain weakness can be perceived in the unevenness and disproportion in treating the matter at hands (the Dutch Rebellion takes about 3 chapters, the Seven Years War about 2, two chapters are dedicated to the creation of the Us navy, one to the biography of Admiral Rodney, while the last four chapters are a rather average description of the last stages of the war).

Actually what I liked most was the new fascinating perspective you can command from this approach.
By analyzing the similarities with the Dutch Rebellion (a remark shared with Benjamin Franklin), she can reconsider the American war in a full European context: not just a debate on "philosophical" principles (taxation and representation, freedom of conscience, free trade), but also a byproduct of the new precarious balance followed to the Seven Years War (the waning of French treat in Canada, the mortification and wish of revenge of the French monarchy), and the mark of the underground conflict in England between conservative Tories and progressive Whigs (implicit in England, made explicit in the Colonies), that would in the end turn back on the continent and initiate the age of democratic revolution in Europe.

So was the American a true Revolution?
Probably not. Better to be described as the American Rebellion, its successful outcome was decisive in spreading the great hopes of change nurtured by the European Enlightenment, but in the end - like the Dutch - it contented with the reaffirmation of offended rights never proposing officially a brave new man like the French, Russian and Chinese Revolutions.

Very interesting is also the glance cast on the parallel history of the two rebellions: the likeness of William the Silent with Washington, the nature of defensive war, the uneven weight of the forces (both Dutch and Colonies were forced to fight against the strongest superpower of their age), the intestine war (Flanders vs. Holland, American Tories vs. Rebels), the resemblance of the Dutch Act of Rejection and the Declaration of Independence, the actual outcome in the model of federal government.

As a reader, I'm more interested in the political debate than in the actual story of the American Revolution. If you kept reading up to here, maybe you can be interested in other essays directly related to the argument, I had the chance to read in the past:
- "The Long Affair : Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800" by Conor Cruise O'Brien, by far one of the best books on Jefferson (see review) -
- "A few Bloody Noses - The American War of Independence" by Robert Harvey (columnist, editor and former British MP ), an appraisal of the war from an all British point of view. Interesting but average.
- "Readcoats and Rebels. The war for America 1770-1781" by Christopher Hibbert, a popular historian. Average but extremely readable.

You are truly welcome if you can suggest other readings or just share ideas and comments!
Thanks for reading.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
America's Big Bang 17 Nov. 2007
By Slokes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The United States declared independence in July, 1776, but it wasn't until the following November that anyone recognized the new country. That was when the Dutch governor of St. Eustatius, Johannes de Graaff, allowed soldiers to fire a celebratory cannonade for the incoming American vessel Andrew Doria.

It was the opening blast in gathering allies for the war against Great Britain. It's also the opening incident in Barbara Tuchman's "The First Salute", a historical analysis of the American Revolution and its larger place in the rise of Western Civilization. Sprawling, ill-focused, often annoying in the way it passes off punditry as scholarship, Tuchman's last book gets by thanks largely to her storytelling skills.

As other reviewers here note, it's hard picking out the thesis of Tuchman's book. The American Revolution doesn't even come into view here until the last half of the book, by which time we have spent more time dealing with the liberation of Holland and the career of British Admiral George Rodney, who effected the course of the Revolutionary War more by his absence than his presence.

Tuchman died within a year of this book's 1988 publication, and as she mentions "failing eyesight" in her acknowledgments, perhaps the celebrated history writer was struggling with health issues that clouded her once-piercing focus. Also, her previous two books, "Practicing History" and "The March Of Folly", were essay collections on the theme of the wrongs men do, and she seems in the same sermonizing mode here, likening the Revolution to the Vietnam War and dovetailing a discussion of ancient Chinese court practices into her account of blinkered British attitudes regarding the rest of the world.

Even good Brits had a bad habit of selling individualism short, Tuchman notes. "The painful task of thinking belongs to me," Rodney declared to his subordinates. "You need only obey orders implicitly without question."

It's only when you get to the second half of the book, a solid if not special recap of the last years of the American Revolution, and of the final campaign that led to the French and American victory at Yorktown, that the point of Tuchman's earlier discursions becomes (somewhat) clear. The creation of America had roots extending much farther than the borders of the original 13 Colonies, stretching under the Atlantic to the Dutch war against the Spanish tyrant Philip. Tuchman offers color and detail, and an engaging vibrancy, in explaining everything from the creativity of Dutch art to the successful defense of the Netherlands against the attacking Spaniards.

But Tuchman doesn't bring these points together, or give the kind of context to help you better appreciate them on an initial reading. Her chronology is all over the place, and she repeats herself several times, occasionally in the same chapter. "The First Salute" would have benefited from more polishing. Alas, it was time Tuchman did not have to give.

Tuchman's book is perhaps best as a decent complement to David McCullough's "1776" and David Hackett Fischer's Revolution histories, books that cover the early years of the war and that from an almost wholly American context. But as a stand-alone, it's not anything close to Tuchman's great books of the 1950s and 1960s.
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