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.