Saturday, July 14, 2018

Brothers at Arms by Larrie D. Ferreiro

Brothers at Arms by Larrie D. Ferreiro was first published in 2016. It is a chronicle of French and Spanish involvement in the American Revolution. I found the book to be well written, informative as well as very interesting. 


Both France and Spain provided a great deal of aid to the American rebels during the revolution. Later, both declared war on Great Britain. Land and sea battles, some of them fairly large, were fought throughout the world between these world powers. This work is primarily a political, social and military history. 

I would only recommend this book to those who already have at least a basic understanding of the American Revolution. The subject matter here is a little esoteric.  However, I think for those who do have such knowledge and are interested in the subject will get a lot out of this book. 

For me, as someone who has read about the revolutionary period throughout my life, the book covered a combination of material that I have some familiarity with as well as material that was new to me. Early American diplomatic efforts aimed at France are covered. The massive aid that France provided to the United States is detailed. 

France and Spain eventually declared war on Great Britain. Later, The Dutch Republic and the Indian Kingdom of Mysore also went to war.  Thi conflict involved fighting throughout North America, the West Indies, Central and South America, Europe and India, as well as on the oceans of the world.  I have been reading about the American Revolution for most of my life. Information about the conflict throughout North America and, to some extent, the West Indies is easy to come by, but beyond this geographic area, not so much. In India, the conflict was called Second Anglo-Mysore War. 

Calling all of this part of the American Revolution strains logic a bit. I think that it would make more sense if this worldwide conflict had a single name like the Seven Years War does. However, there is no real nomenclature that encompasses it all. 

Ferreiro covers all sorts of angles in this book. For instance, he argues that the Declaration of Independence was aimed, at least in part, at France and Spain in order to persuade those nations that American Independence was a cause worth supporting.  The author writes,

"The document that emerged from under Jefferson’s hand, clearly stating that “these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States,” was in fact an engraved invitation to France and Spain asking them to go to war alongside the Americans. The document that was agreed to by the Second Continental Congress on July 4 became known, of course, as the Declaration of Independence, but it was also in a sense a “Declaration That We Depend on France (and Spain, Too)…"

Another one of the intriguing subjects covered was the Battle of Yorktown, which ultimately convinced the British that the war in North America was lost. Ferreiro details how the Yorktown Victory was the result of French strategic planning and was only possible with French ground and navel support.

Marquis de Lafayette, the young Frenchman who volunteered to assist Washington and become one of his most important generals, is covered extensively here, as are many other notable French and Spanish citizens who were involved in the conflict.

The above are just a few examples of the many intriguing subjects that this work covers. This is a chronicle of history that is too often not told. I think that anyone who is interested in the American Revolution will get a lot out of this book. I found it fascinating and well written. I found it to be a treasure trove of hard to find material. For those interested in these I subjects, I highly recommend this one. 

28 comments:

Stephen said...

A timely read, given the recent anniversary of Independence Day. Was that deliberate?

This book sounds less like a history of part of the revolution, and more like a history of Britain/France/Spain's on-going powerplays with one another, in which the American rebellion was just a part..

Mudpuddle said...

interesting... i've not delved into the innards of Revolutionary events to much extent, but, like many subjects, it seems more complex the deeper one digs... and many of the ramifications at the time were probably not understood by the participants... as is true today: hindsight is found at a different level than foresight and many of the modern-day excavators are digging in the wrong place anyway...

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Stephen - The American Revolution is sort of my thing so I usually read about six or so books a year on the subject.

Without a doubt this was all a part of the centuries conflict between Great Britain, France and Spain. But, to a degree, so was The American Revolution.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Mudpuddle- The American Revolution was indeed a complex event. I find that when it comes to the Event, like many other things, the road to truth comes with reading many sources and many points of view.

Marian H said...

I rewatched the first few episodes of HBO's John Adams recently, and one thing I'd forgotten was that additional European nations beyond France were approached for support. This sounds like a really interesting look at that side of things.

Is there a specific book(s) you'd recommend for an overall introduction to the Revolution? I'm of your opinion, that multiple sources are necessary for a good understanding. That said, for this subject, I'm not even sure where to start.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Brian,

This sounds like an excellent read. I did not realize how much the success of the Americans depended on the help of France, much less Spain. I think this is a book I will definitely put on my TBR pile.

Kathy's Corner said...

Hi Brian, I find that I am more interested in the lead up to tne American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, the Stamp Act etc then the Revolutionary War itself. Have you read Jeff Shara's Rise To Rebellion? Excellent historical fiction.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sharon- I think that you would like this. Several of the Lafeyette biographies also get into a lot of detail about French involvement in The Revolution.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Marian - The Revolution is really a big subject. I think a great overall introduction is Robert Middlekauff‘s The Glorious Cause. Gordon Wood’s Radicalism If The American Revolution is incredibly informative, however, it is all political and social philosophy so some might find it dry. I also think that biographies of many of the founders are a good source to read. If you liked HBO’s John Adams it is based on The David McCullough biography that I thought was excellent. This is also a great resource on books about the Revolution:

https://allthingsliberty.com/2017/03/100-best-american-revolution-books-time/

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Kathy - The period leading up to The Revolution is indeed fascinating. Thanks for The recamendtion on Shara’s book. I Googled it. The book looks great.

James said...

This sounds like a great history of a less well-known aspect of the American Revolution. I appreciate your fine commentary and would consider this for my future reading.

Suko said...

Very interesting, thoughtful commentary, Brian Joseph. I learned a few things about the American Revolution in your post. I'm sure I'd learn a great deal if I read Brothers at Arms.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi James - Indeed, this is, this is an angle to The American Revolution that is so little known, but so important to understanding it.

Brian Joseph said...

Thanks Suko - The American Revolution is a fascinating subject for me. I still also have a lot to learn.

Caroline said...

As you say, this is rather a specialized book, nonetheless, you make it sound worthwhile.
I'm always surprised to see how many books on one particular topic have been written. There are so many angles to explore. I'm sure it's exciting to find a new one on a topic you're already so familiar with.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Caroline- At lease on this side of The Atlantic, there are tens of thousands of books on The American Revolutionary era available. Many of them are worthwhile. As such, it is easy to maintain a lifetime interest.

Whispering Gums said...

It never ceases to amaze me how many new angles historians can find to explore past events that have already been well written about - and yet, more often than not, the new angles are valid (whether or not you think they belong to the specific event in question!!)

I was intrigued to discover some American Revolution history in the Toronto region when we visited there - but that's not surprising given how close it was/is to the border. And it's probably history that's well known in the US, but not necessarily to us Aussies only broadly versed in US history.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi WG - The American Revolution is such a big topic that I think there will be an endless supply of new books. Some of them will be original. I am not sure how much the average American knows about Canada and The American Revolution. Wither way, The Americans invaded Canada early on. Needless to say, it was then a key region for the remainder of the war.

thecuecard said...

It's quite fascinating to find out how much France & Spain helped America during their fight for independence. When I was in France I saw quite a few statues to those who were our Founding Fathers. France is surely America's oldest ally as they always say. No wonder the U.S. had to come to the aid of the French big time during WWII -- as well as the Allies in WWI. I just really hope we don't lose sight of our history together & lose these Allies under such a president as we have now. hmm ruff !!

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Susan - There really were fascinating connections between The American and French Revolutions. I am also concerned about where we might be heading now. It seems that the entire democratic alliance of nations is at risk.

HKatz said...

This looks like a great book. I've recently been reading about Lafayette, and he was fascinating (including his involvement in the French Revolution).

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Hila - Lafayette is an paticular interest of mine. It is during The French Revolution that he really got interesting.

Maria Behar said...

ANOTHER BRILLIANT POST, BRIAN!! :)

I think that, by now, you can call yourself an expert on the American Revolution, since you've read so many books about it. I really have to start reading about this topic myself, as this conflict is the very basis of our great country!

I am therefore asking you to recommend a basic text for someone who has not read anything at all about the American Revolution since high school. Lol.

Another reason I'd like to start reading about the Revolution is that I tutor adult ESOL students at my school, and some of them are preparing for their citizenship test. Of course, they need to know the answers to a LOT of civics questions -- 100 of them, in fact. And in English, too.

Some of the questions they need to answer are: "What did the Declaration of Independence do?" One of the answers to this question is: "Announced our independence from Great Britain." Other questions are: "What is one reason colonists came to America?" There are several possible answers: "Freedom" and "Political Liberty" are just two of them. Here's another question: "Why did the colonists fight the British?" Again, there are several possible answers. Here are two: "Because of high taxes." "Because they didn't have self government."

So, as I have been coaching these students to help them study all of these questions, I have become more interested in the American Revolution.

Of course, the 100 civics questions don't all focus on this topic. There are other types of questions, too. But this important conflict is certainly mentioned more than once.

From my high school classes, I remember that France was a HUGE help to the American colonists. However, I had no idea that Spain was involved, as well (or at least, I don't remember this), nor that the conflict actually extended into so many areas.

I want to read this book, but it does sound daunting, given that I need to refresh my high school memories. Lol. So please do send me a beginner's recommendation! :)

Thanks for your insightful thoughts, Brian! Hope you're having a great Saturday!! <3 :)

Brian Joseph said...

Thanks Maria. Though I have read a lot about The American Revolution, my interest is that of an amateur only. As i mentioned to Marian, I think a great overall introduction is Robert Middlekauff‘s The Glorious Cause. Gordon Wood’s Radicalism If The American Revolution is incredibly informative, however, it is all political and social philosophy so some might find it dry. I also think that biographies of many of the founders are a good source to read. In terms of biographies, Washington is a good place to start. I thought that Joseph Ellis’s His excellency was a great book.

Have a great weekend!

Violet said...

I like books that place historical events into a wider political context. I've only read a bit about the American Revolution, mostly from the British perspective. I'm glad you found a book that offered some new insights - sometimes it can feel repetitive reading the same thing over and over in different books on the same topic.

Maria Behar said...

Thanks so much for the recs, Brian! I'm starting a new TBR on Goodreads specifically for the American Revolution, and I'm adding these books to it!

Hope you have a nice Sunday!! <3 :)

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Violet- The American Revolution is such a big topic and there are many controversies still stirring over it. Thus I am OK going over similar ground with different authors. To some degree, they all have different perspectives.

Brian Joseph said...

Very welcome Maria. I look forward to reading about what you think about the books.