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Each week at In The Past Lane, the American history podcast, host and Historian-at-Large, Edward T. O’Donnell, brings you news, stories, interviews, and special features on all things U.S. history. His aim is to be both engaging and thought-provoking, inspired by the notion that history explains the world we live in and provides insights into how to achieve a more prosperous, peaceful, and just future. So come along with us as we journey In The Past Lane.  

May 31, 2019

This week at In The Past Lane, the American History podcast, I speak with Pulitzer Prize winning military historian, Rick Atkinson, who’s just published the first of a 3-volume history of the American Revolution: The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775–1777. This project represents a new focus for Atkinson, as it follows a prize-winning trilogy on the history of World War II. This new book examines the first two years of the American war for independence. It’s a fascinating conversation that I’m sure you’re going to love.

In the course of our conversation, Rick Atkinson explains:

How George Washington had to learn on the job how to organize, manage, and command the Continental Army.

How one of George Washington’s key leadership insights was his awareness that American soldiers could not simply be driven. Rather they needed to be led.

How George Washington was not only effective on the field of battle, but also in managing the politics surrounding the American revolutionary effort.

How vital but unlikely figures emerged during the war, like Henry Knox,  Benedict Arnold, and Nathaniel Greene.

How the British both overestimated the percentage of colonists who remained remain loyal to the Crown,

and underestimated the fighting effectiveness of the Continental Army.

How and why the Continental Army enjoyed a lot of success in 1775, but then nearly lost the war in the summer and fall of 1776.

How George Washington’s bold decision to cross the Delaware River into New Jersey to surprise attack the British at Trenton and later at Princeton in late December 1776 and early January 1777, stopped British momentum and boosted American morale.

Recommended reading

Rick Atkinson, The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775–1777 (Holt, 2019)

Andrew O’Shaughnessy, The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire

Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789

Dean Snow, 1777: Tipping Point at Saratoga

Alan Taylor, American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804

Related ITPL podcast episodes:
017 Alan Taylor, American Revolutions

023 Stephen Knott on the relationship between Alexander Hamilton and George Washington
028 Carol Berkin on the Crisis of the 1790s

041 Dean Snow on the pivotal Battle of Saratoga

049 Gordon Wood on the relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

065 Andrew O’Shaughnessy on “The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire.”

More info about Rick Atkinson - website

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Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Andy Cohen, “Trophy Endorphins” (Free Music Archive)

Andy Cohen, “Bathed in Finest Light” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits 

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson 

Podcasting Consultant: Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting

Podcast Editing: Wildstyle Media

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© In The Past Lane, 2019

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