The Summer book stack

History Book Stack
Normally I’d probably have three more in this stack. I’ll go back later.

One of my very favorite parts of the Williamsburg experience is being given a sum of money, pointed to their excellent book store, and told, “OK, go play.” Each time we head down I come back with a stack of books to enjoy over the long month in-between our visit. This time, as we were taking the train, I was more limited in what I could purchase. Of course the kid in me is stopping on the ground shouting, “I want it!” But I was still able to pick up some excellent pieces.

I am fascinated by the interplay between religion and American history, and the Williamsburg book store has an excellent section for people such as myself. This year I picked up Sacred Scripture, Sacred War, which explores how Colonial preachers used Scripture to whip up the populace in favor of the Revolution using Scripture. This will, no doubt, be an uncomfortable book to read. “Comfort” is not a reason I explore history, however, and it should be a engaging read.

I grew up in Philadelphia, so I know much of the fabled Philadelphia campaign, which ended with the British in the city and the Continental Army camped in Valley Forge. I have never, unfortunately, taken the time to read more detailed history of these important events. I’m going to partly rectify this omission through a book which came highly recommended to me Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777. Sadly, there is no companion book about the second half of the campaign, which passed through my home and ended in the Battle of Germantown. There are some books I’ll be looking at on this topic in the future.

Signing Their Lives Away tells the stories of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. It will be good to get beyond the few we know about and deeper into this interesting group of people. Next time down I will have to pick p the companion book Signing Their Rights Away, which deals with those who were at the Constitutional Convention1.

Madison and Jefferson was on remainder for $9, which obviously meant I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve been wanting to read some more on Jefferson because I personally can’t stand the guy. It’s time to give him a fair shake 2. Madison is an enigma to me so it will be good to see how their partnership shaped the early Republic.

I Am Murdered is about the scandalous case of George Wythe’s murder at the hands of his great nephew. I’ve been told this book is a bit sensationalized, but that it does concern real events and grapples with serious issues of race and family. One of Wythe’s slaves survived the murder attempt, and could even testify as to who murdered her master, but her testimony was invalid. Not only was she a woman, she was a slave. This country has never been pristine, it’s best we face up to that.

Thankfully, I’ll be heading down later this year, so I’ll be able to pick up the rest of my compliment of yearly reading. There is a volume on the origins of pro-slavery Christianity I feel I should read 3. I would also like to read a book on the Drillmaster of Valley Forge, and pick up one on the makeshift fleet Benedict Arnold created to context the British on Lake Champlain.

One of these days I’m just going to have to go out and teach all this stuff.


  1. Also a title Patrick Henry would have been proud of, but man it would have rankled Madison. 
  2. I probably still won’t care for him, but at least I’ll be reading some more details as to why
  3. Again, it will be uncomfortable, but that’s the point
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