A Student of History

October 10, 2013

The Spreading Flames of War

Filed under: Early America,NC History,New books,Wars — John Maass @ 8:24 am

My new book will have a great cover. It will be available from the History Press in mid-November.

book cover

September 27, 2013

Defending a New Nation, 1783-1811

Filed under: Early America,New books,Wars — John Maass @ 8:16 am

Here is the link to my new publication on the US Army between the Revolutionary War and 1811: 




John R. Maass

U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812
CMH Pub 74-1, Paper
2013; 60 pages, maps, illustrations, further readings

GPO S/N: 008-029-00559-0

From the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783 to the beginning of the War of 1812, the nascent United States Army encountered significant challenges, both within its own ranks and in the field. The Army faced hostile American Indians in the west, domestic insurrections over taxation, threats of war from European powers, organizational changes, and budgetary constraints. It was also a time of growth and exploration, during which Army officers led expeditions to America’s west coast and founded a military academy. Defending a New Nation, 1783–1811, the first volume of the “U.S. Army Campaigns of the War of 1812” series, tells the story of several military campaigns against Indians in the Northwest Territory, the Army’s role in suppressing the Whiskey Rebellion (1794), the Quasi-War with France and confrontations with Spain, the influence of Jeffersonian politics on the Army’s structure, and the Lewis and Clark expedition.

June 4, 2013

July 1914, by Sean McMeekin

Filed under: New books,Wars — John Maass @ 5:53 am

The Washington Times has a double review of 2 new books about the coming of WWI. The centennial of that war is coming up, so we are seeing a rash of titles over the last year or more about this conflict.

The WT includes in its review “July 1914,” by Sean McMeekin. I have a copy and read it one month ago, and must say it is excellent. I am not a European historian so when I try to tackle a title like this, sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed with the names, background, etc., but this book avoided this completely. McMeekin does a great job helping the reader keep names and titles straight, and his style of jumping back and forth between Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Russia and GB was WELL done.

I heartily recommend this title.

The Ney York Times also reviewed both books in early May.

July 1914

July 1914

February 26, 2013

The Barbarous Years: The Shocking Savagery of America’s Early History

Filed under: Early America,New books — John Maass @ 6:50 am

The March 2013 edition of The Smithsonian Magazine has an article on “The Shocking Savagery of America’s Early History.”  The piece (on-line here) tells us that Bernard Bailyn is the “greatest historian of early America alive today.” How one measures that we are not told.  It goes on to report that he’s “now over 90 and ensconced at Harvard for more than six decades,” and “has recently published another one of his epoch-making grand narrative syntheses, The Barbarous Years, casting a light on the darkness, filling in the blank canvas with what he’s gleaned from what seems like every last scrap of crumbling diary page, every surviving chattel slave receipt and ship’s passenger manifest of the living and dead, every fearful sermon about the Antichrist that survived in the blackened embers of the burned-out churches.”  Yes that was a run-on sentence. 


In his new book Bailyn “has not painted a pretty picture. Little wonder he calls it The Barbarous Years and spares us no details of the terror, desperation, degradation and widespread torture—do you really know what being “flayed alive” means? (The skin is torn from the face and head and the prisoner is disemboweled while still alive.)”  Do we really need this breathless prose here?  No.

What has happened to reporting? Is it all about how smarmy/cute/egocentric the writer has to be these days, rather than tell readers what is going on?  But even more—-are any informed Americans really “shocked” at how savage early America was?  They should not be.



January 7, 2013

General Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution in the South

Filed under: Early America,New books,Wars — John Maass @ 11:43 am


Please note upcoming program in April in Washington, DC:

April 8: Free program with Dennis Conrad, John Maass and Jim Piecuch on “General Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution in the South,” the subject of a recent book from Univ. of South Carolina Press, in which each of these three historians have a chapter.

The speakers offer new perspectives on the character and military leadership of George Washington’s most trusted general, whose brilliance as a strategist and tactician reversed the course of the Southern Campaign.


The Society of the Cincinnati, 2118 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC  20008

Telephone: 202 785-2040

Time:  6:00 PM


Greene book


July 27, 2012

General Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution in the South

Filed under: Early America,NC History,New books,Wars — John Maass @ 7:38 am

I am pleased to announce the publication of General Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution in the South by the Univ. of South Carolina Press, a copy of which I received yesterday.  In it is my essay, “’With humanity, justice, and moderation’: Nathanael Greene and the Reconciliation of the Disaffected in the South, 1780-1783.”

Here are 2 blurbs:

“The Revolutionary War in the South increasingly absorbs the attention of historians and of the public. Nathanael Greene was central to that war’s outcome, and with the recent completion of the publication of his papers, we have gained more and more insight into his character and his role in the ultimate victory. The essays in this volume represent a major push forward. Here we begin to learn about Greene as a manager, as a manipulator, as a thinker, and as a fighter. Highly recommended!”—Wayne E. Lee, Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chair of the Curriculum in Peace, War, and Defense

“These chapters represent an insightful commentary on Nathanael Greene. It draws from a variety of authors who have studied Greene and his life. Each author brings depth to examining one aspect of Greene’s life. There is much food for thought here because the chapters examine not only Greene’s military expertise but his social and political acumen as he progresses from Northern merchant soldier to Southern general and planter. It is clear that Greene, the man, changed as the war progressed and his education received practical training in all facets of being a citizen soldier.”—Lawrence E. Babits, George Washington Distinguished Professor (ret) and author of A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens  

To order the book, click here.

June 26, 2012

Dunmore’s War, 1774

Filed under: Early America,New books,Wars — John Maass @ 3:51 pm

New book coming in December from Westholme Publishing:

Known to history as “Dunmore’s War,” the 1774 campaign against a Shawnee-led Indian confederacy in the Ohio Country marked the final time an American colonial militia took to the field in His Majesty’s service and under royal command. Led by John Murray, the fourth Earl of Dunmore and royal governor of Virginia, a force of colonials including George Rogers Clark, Daniel Morgan, Michael Cresap, Adam Stephen, and Andrew Lewis successfully drove the Indians from the territory south of the Ohio River in parts of present-day West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. Although it proved to be the last Indian conflict of America’s colonial era, it is often neglected in histories, despite its major influence on the conduct of the Revolutionary War that followed. In Dunmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era, award-winning historian Glenn F. Williams explains the course and importance of this fascinating event. Supported by primary source research, the author describes each military operation and illustrates the transition of the Virginia militia from a loyal instrument of the king to a weapon of revolution. In the process, he corrects much of the folklore concerning the war and frontier fighting in general, demonstrating that the Americans did not adopt Indian tactics for wilderness fighting as is popularly thought, but rather adapted European techniques to the woods.

As an immediate result of Dunmore’s War, the frontier remained quiet for two years, giving the colonies the critical time to debate and declare independence before Britain convinced its Indian allies to resume attacks on American backcountry settlements. Ironically, at the same time Virginia militiamen fought the biggest battle of Dunmore’s War under command of a king’s officer, delegates to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia decided on a united resistance to Parliament’s heavy-handed Coercive, or “Intolerable” Acts that threatened representative government in all the colonies. Before another nine months passed, Virginia became one of the leading colonies in the move toward American independence. Although he was hailed as a hero at the end of the Indian campaign, Lord Dunmore’s attempt to maintain royal authority put him in direct opposition to many of the subordinates who followed him on the frontier. Before being driven from Virginia in 1776, he notably organized the “Royal Ethiopian Regiment” composed of slaves who were promised freedom if they deserted their rebel masters and entered military service to the crown.

GLENN F. WILLIAMS is a historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C. He is author of U.S.S. Constellation: A Short History of the Last All-Sail Warship Built by the U.S. Navy and the awardwinning Year of the Hangman, about the 1778 Sullivan-Clinton campaign against the Iroquois, also available from Westholme Publishing.

February 10, 2012

Jeremey Black Lecture in Richmond, Va.

Filed under: Early America,New books,Wars — John Maass @ 12:17 pm

At the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, Va.:

Fighting for America: The Struggle for Mastery in North America, 1519–1871
Wednesday, March 28 (noon)
By Jeremy Black

In his latest book, prize-winning author Jeremy Black traces the competition for control of North America from the landing in 1519 of Spanish troops in what became Mexico to 1871 when, with the Treaty of Washington, Britain accepted American mastery in North America. The story Black tells is one of conflict, diplomacy, and geopolitics. The eventual result was the creation of a United States of America that stretched from Atlantic to Pacific and dominated the continent. The gradual withdrawal of France and Spain, the British accommodation to the expanding U.S. reality, the impact of the American Civil War, and the subjugation of native peoples are all carefully drawn out. Jeremy Black teaches history at Exeter University in the United Kingdom. This lecture is cosponsored with the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Virginia.

Battle of Eutaw Springs, SC, 1781

May 6, 2010

“The Military History of North Carolina”

Filed under: Early America,NC History,New books,Wars — John Maass @ 12:13 pm

Battle at Guilford Courthouse, 1781

I have been asked to co-author a new book, “The Military History of North Carolina,” part of a developing series by Westholme Publishing.  Not sure the title will remain as is, but it is OK for now.   I am handling the colonial and revolutionary period, Mark Bradley will handle the mid-19th century and beyond.  Looking at 2014 to be finished.

Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene

February 15, 2008

Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?

Filed under: New books,The world today — John Maass @ 7:29 pm

From Thursday’s NYT:

Patricia Cohen has written a brief article titled “Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?”  It describes  Susan Jacoby, author of “The Age of American Unreason,” which bemoans the state of American culture.

Ms. Jacoby feels there is a generalized “hostility to knowledge,”  a budding anti-intellectualism (the attitude that “too much learning can be a dangerous thing”) and anti-rationalism (“the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion”) have fused in a particularly insidious way.  “Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don’t think it matters.”

She first got the idea for this book back in 2001, on 9/11.

Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, she said, overwhelmed and confused, she stopped at a bar. As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day’s horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:

“This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said.

The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?”

“That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied.

At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, “I decided to write this book.”

The rest of the article is good, but too brief!

December 27, 2007

Was Bell a Phoney?

Filed under: New books — John Maass @ 3:28 pm

New book says so.

In “The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell’s Secret,” journalist Seth Shulman argues that Bell — aided by aggressive lawyers and a corrupt patent examiner — got an improper peek at patent documents Gray had filed, and that Bell was erroneously credited with filing first.

Shulman believes the smoking gun is Bell’s lab notebook, which was restricted by Bell’s family until 1976, then digitized and made widely available in 1999.

December 26, 2007

Nathanael Greene Essays

Filed under: Early America,New books,The strange place called the South,Wars — John Maass @ 2:48 pm


In 2006, I was involved with the planning and conducting of a symposium in Camden, SC on the subject of Nathanael Greene, which was well attended and featured speakers including Dennis Conrad and Larry Babits.  Two of the speakers, Jim Piecuch and Greg Massey, took the lead in collecting most of the papers and soliciting a few more (including on from me) from those who did not present at the symposium, in order to produce a book of collected essays on Nathanael Greene in the Southern Department.  Jim & Greg signed contract on it last week with a university press, and plan to have all the essays in by late February, then edit them, and have the contributors make any needed changes.  Prof.  Charles Royster of LSU will write the introduction.  Hopefully the manuscript will ready for submission by late fall. Then it will go to peer review. Everything after that depends on how long the reviewers take and what changes they recommend.  No title has been selected for the book, but hopefully we can give it a catchy name from a Greene quote.  It should have 7-8 essays, as well as the introduction.

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