Elswyth Thane is best known for her Williamsburg series, seven novels published between 1943 and 1957 that follow several generations of two families from the American Revolution to World War II. Dawn's Early Light is the first novel in the series.
In it, Colonial Williamsburg comes alive. Thane centers her novel around four major characters: the Aristrocratic St. John Sprague, who becomes George Washington's aide; Regina Greensleeves, a Virginia beauty spoiled by a season in London; Julian Day, a young schoolmaster who arrives from England on the eve of the war and initially thinks of himself as a Tory; and Tibby Mawes, one of his less fortunate pupils, saddled with an alcoholic father and an indigent mother.
But we also see Washington, Jefferson, Lafayette, Greene, Patrick Henry, Francis Marion, and the rest of that brilliant galaxy playing their roles not as historical figures but as men. We see de Kalb's gallant death under a cavalry charge at Camden. We penetrate to the swamp-encircled camp which was Marion's stronghold on the Peedee. We watch the cat-and-mouse game between Cornwallis and Lafayette, which ended in Cornwallis's unlucky stand at Yorktown.
Dawn's Early Light is the human story behind our first war for liberty, and of the men and women loving and laughing through it to the dawn of a better world.