The First Salute: a View of the American Revolution (by Barbara Tuchman: Nonfiction) c.1988

Summary: In 1776, in the small but prosperous Dutch East Indies port of Saint Eustatius, an active trade in arms and munitions between the rebellious American colonies and the Dutch was already in full swing. When the brig Andrew Doria arrived, carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence for dissemination in Europe, she fired the traditional 11 gun salute to a foreign power when passing the harbor defenses. Unexpectedly, the islands governor, Johannes de Graaff, opted to fire a return salute, the first acknowledgement of the United States as a new nation. Through the lens of this incident, Tuchman unravels the American Revolution, its consequences in Europe and throughout the world.

Review: This is not, as a reader might first expect, truly a story of the Revolutionary War. In fact, it is much more a story of the consequential decisions made by France, The Netherlands, England, Spain and others in reaction to the American struggle for independence. The result is somewhat herky-jerky, and occasionally aimless, but very charming nonetheless. The end of the book manages to tie things together nicely, though, and Tuchman’s unique tale will reward those willing to stay the course.

Read-a-likes: For a fictional take on the American Revolution, and subsequent events, try Saratoga by David Garland or The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss. For further nonfiction, reader’s should consider 1776 by David McCullough or Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove.

Availability: This item is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as an eAudiobook. Click here to request other formats via Interlibrary Loan.

Review by Eric.

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