by Stephen Zeoli
In Revolution Song, author Russell Shorto tells the story of the American Revolution through the viewpoint of six exceptional lives, ranging from political and military leaders to common, but extraordinary people. Through these six perspectives we see the social upheaval as it gained momentum in the years before the outbreak of war through to the Revolution’s aftermath.
Before reading the book, I was familiar to one extent or another with three of these people: George Washington, George Germain and the Seneca leader Cornplanter. The other three people were new to me. Margaret Moncrieffe Coghlan, was a remarkable young woman who tried and ultimately failed to determine her own destiny. Venture Smith was an African slave in Connecticut who freed himself and his family from bondage. And Abraham Yates was an Albany shoemaker who rose to become a forceful local politician — and nemesis to the patrician powers in Albany that included Philip Schuyler.
Shorto does a remarkable job of weaving these stories into a grand overview of the Revolutionary War, though these lives rarely directly touched one another in any way. The book can be enjoyed by anyone no matter their knowledge of the period.