Americans often think of the Civil War as the conflict that consolidated the United States, including its military values and practices. But there was another, earlier, and more protracted struggle between “North” and “South,” beginning in the 1600s and lasting for more than two centuries, that shaped American geopolitics and military culture. Here, Eliot A. Cohen explains how the American way of war emerged from a lengthy struggle with an unlikely enemy: Canada.
In Conquered into Liberty, Cohen describes how five peoples—the British, French, Americans, Canadians, and Indians—fought over the key to the North American continent: the corridor running from Albany to Montreal dominated by the Champlain valley and known to Native Americans as the “Great Warpath.” He reveals how conflict along these two hundred miles of lake, river, and woodland shaped the country’s military values, practices, and institutions.
Through a vivid narration of a series of fights— woodland skirmishes and massacres, bloody frontal assaults and fleet actions, rear-guard battles and shadowy covert actions—Cohen explores how a distinctively American approach to war developed along the Great Warpath. He weaves together tactics and strategy, battle narratives, and statecraft, introducing readers to such fascinating but little-known figures as Justus Sherwood, loyalist spy; Jeduthan Baldwin, self-taught engineer; and La Corne St. Luc, ruthless partisan leader. And he reintroduces characters we thought we knew—an admirable Benedict Arnold, a traitorous Ethan Allen, and a devious George Washington. A gripping read grounded in serious scholarship, Conquered into Liberty will enchant and inform readers for decades to come.
Cohen, among America's leading defense analysts and military historians (Citizens and Soldiers: Dilemmas of Military Service), combines his skills in this comprehensively researched, well-written analysis of the international conflict that more than any other shaped the U.S. way of war. That conflict was between the colonies that eventually formed the U.S. and French, then British Canada. For a century and a half, through six global conflicts, the north-south axis between Albany, N.Y., and Montreal was the "great warpath": "ts battles fought with tomahawks and flintlock muskets, its supplies laboriously hauled by bateau and oxcart." Focusing on specific engagements, from the 1690 raid on Schenectady, N.Y., to the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814, Cohen describes lessons that endured. The warpath schooled Americans in a spectrum of combat, from skirmishes fought by irregulars to operations conducted along state-of-the-art European lines. The warpath taught pragmatism and flexibility. It demanded enterprise and ingenuity. It required concern for both logistics and operations. Even issues of contemporary concern, the problems of conventional forces facing irregular opponents and the belief that an adversary can be "conquered into liberty," were first confronted in these battles, as Cohen demonstrates in this original and illuminating study.
Enlightening. Removes the fog of American history as taught in school.