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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A WW 2 Army Ranger Returns to Saratoga

Each publishing company exists for different reasons. One of my "prime directives" has been to find gems in the rough--unpublished original manuscripts on important topics that deserve a good book--and craft them into books people want to purchase, read, and own a lifetime.

The Road to Saratoga: A good example of the execution of this directive occurred a few years ago when I discovered Jerome Greene's spiral-bound unpublished work on Yorktown. It was produced for park insiders during the bi-centennial years, and so never intended for public consumption. Greene's work was built on a mountain of archival and firsthand knowledge. There was something damn near definitive on those yellowing pages. One need only manipulate, write, add, design, and envision the big picture to produce something worthwhile for general readers and scholars alike. And so I connected with Mr. Greene, and together we collaborated to produce The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781 (2005). This title was a book club selection and has been a strong seller. We are pleased to announce our distributor has effectively sold out in hardcover (we have perhaps two cases left--hurry if you want one). It will be reprinted in paperback in Spring 2009.

Discovering Saratoga: John Luzader, a WWII Army Ranger served as the staff historian at Saratoga National Historic Park in the 1960s. During his tenure he scoured archives on both sides of Atlantic, he walked every yard of Saratoga's expansive battlefield (and its related satellite engagements at Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Stanwix, Oriskany, Bennington, and others), and decided that many of the pivotal issues we had been spoon fed by other writers and historians through the years were simply wrong.

John began writing what would become his opus magnum decades ago. His style might be termed "old school"; it drips with charm, verve, authority, and insight. John kept writing, year after year, tinkering, putting it aside, writing, tinkering . . . As bestselling author and former chief historian for the NPS Robert Utley told me, "John just could not let go."

With some prodding from friends and fellow historians (including Jerry Greene), John "let go" of his manuscript to Savas Beatie. A finished copy sits in front of me as I type these words.

Returning to Saratoga: The 87-year-old Veteran of D-Day--still sharp as a tack with a dry wit that is contagious--is on his way back to Saratoga today. He will speak and sign books there and at Forts Ticonderoga and Stanwix over the next few days, and has already been interviewed by several talk radio stations.

John's deep insight into the campaign and its personalities opens windows into the American Revolution in general, and Saratoga in particular, that no other historians have explored as well or as deeply. The book is a treat to read, from the opening chapter exploring the halls of British power and the roots of the 1777 invasion to the final chapter explaining the ramifications of the campaign.

I particularly enjoyed Luzader's ability to peel back the sources and call a spade a spade: he identifies which officers had trouble with the truth, which were conspiring to create problems between Benedict Arnold and Horatio Gates (a long fascinating appendix covers this topic), why Burgoyne ended up where he did, when he did, and why he did, and lets the major participants, whenever possible, speak through their own pens. Luzader offers a fresh, invigorating assessment of Horatio Gates that surely must be closer to the truth than what popular history and glib writers have offered us.

All of us here at Savas Beatie are honored to finally make John Luzader's lifetime of work available to the general reading public. We hope you enjoy it.


Jim Schmidt said...


Just got back from a business trip visiting my colleagues in Princeton, NJ. Oh - how I'd love to live there! Had actually just got past Trenton/Princeton in "Almost a Miracle" and would like to read a more in-depth narrative of the Battle of Princeton? Any advice? I had heard that David Hackett Fischer's "Washington's Crossing" was too dry despite being an award-winner...how about Ketchum's "Winter Soldiers" or Dwyer's "the Day is Ours"?

Many Thanks,

Jim Schmidt

TPS said...

Hi Jim

Thanks for stopping by. I asked this question of Arthur Lefkowitz, author of our recent and excellent "Benedict Arnold's Army." I am sure he won't mind if I reproduce his response below:

Ted: The classic account of the Battle of Princeton is William S. Stryker, The Battles of Trenton and Princeton (Boston & New York, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1898). However, this volume is dated and flawed and Stryker bashing is now common.

A better account is Samuel Steele Smith, The Battle of Princeton, (Monmouth Beach, NJ, Philip Freneau Press, 1967).

After these two texts, there is no creditable book on the subject in my humble opinion. However, a number of other tomes include valuable accounts of the battle. They include John Ferling, "Almost a Miracle" (New York, Oxford University Press, 2007); David Hackett Fischer, "Washington's Crossing"(New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); John S. Pancake, "1777: The Year of the Hangman" (University, Alabama, The University of Alabama Press, 1977) and John Buchanan, "The Road to Valley Forge" (New York, John Wiley & Sons, 2004).

Two of my humble books, "The Long Retreat" and "Washington's Indispensable Men" include brief accounts of the battle and some related details.

I suggest you avoid using Mark Boatner's "Encyclopedia of the American Revolution." While it has an extensive entry about Princeton, the information is not always reliable and any reference to this popular source is shunned by serious scholars of the American Revolution.

You can also read important correspondence concerning the battle in "The Papers of George Washington," "The Papers of General Nathanael Greene," and "The Spirit of 76."

An important relatively new source for details about the battle is Captain Johann Ewald, "Diary of the American War" (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1979).


Jim, hope that helps.


Jim Schmidt said...


"Hope it helps..." Yikes! I should say so! How wonderful to get an expert bibliographic essay in response to a blog post! Thanks SO MUCH to you and Arthur for taking the time to answer my question.

Next time I'm in Princeton I'm definitely taking an extra day to explore some of the sights (and sites) there...and hopefully on the heels of reading one of these recommended books.

Best Regards,

Jim Schmidt