Review: James Monroe: A Life by Tim McGrath (New York: Dutton, 2020)

Mcgrath Bio of MonroeTim McGrath has written two award-winning winning books about the early history of the United States Navy: Give Me a Fast Ship and John Barry.  For his third book, he switched gears to tackle an oft-overlooked soldier, lawyer, politician, and president: James Monroe.  In what will likely be the definitive Monroe biography, McGrath tackles the entirety of our fifth president’s life.  Born in 1758, Monroe joined the American army in the Revolution’s early days until he was sidelined with a serious wound at Trenton.

As McGrath tells it, the story of Monroe’s early life was a constant search for a mentor and sponsor, which eventually landed him on William “Lord Stirling” Alexander’s staff.  It was enough to bring him the attention and lukewarm friendship or support of many of the army’s leading lights and the country’s future leaders, but not enough to really launch his career.  Eventually, he landed a legal apprenticeship with Virginia’s Governor Thomas Jefferson.  It changed Monroe’s life, giving him a path forward professionally, politically, and intellectually.

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Book Review: Revolutionary: George Washington at War by Robert L. O’Connell


Robert L. O’Connell, Revolutionary: Washington at War, e-book, (New York: Random House, 2019), $32 in hardback.

O'Connell's Washington

Robert L. O’Connell is best known for asking “big” questions.  Armed with a PhD in history and a lengthy career in the intelligence community, his books Of Arms & Men: A History of War, Weapons, and Aggression (1989) and Ride of the Second Horseman: The Birth and Death of War (1995) tackled the origins, nature, and future of warfare. In the last decade, however, he has turned his sights on more specific targets: Hannibal at Cannae, William Tecumseh Sherman, and, most recently, George Washington.  Released earlier this year, O’Connell’s Revolutionary: George Washington at War is just the latest work to tackle the martial aspects of George Washington’s life and career.

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