What I took away from this was, however, a far better sense of how European 18th century armies were organized -- and of what rebelling colonials had to achieve to create their Continental Army.
These highly disciplined forces, impressed or mercenary, fired from highly disciplined close order ranks and did their greatest damage to enemies in hand to hand bayonet charges. Colonials came to the struggle unprepared for this kind of warfare. Middlekauff describes General George Washington's task when Congress asked him to lead:
This was a long struggle. Congress had allowed state militias to sign up men for 90-day periods; many "soldiers" simply wandered in and out of camp. Though colonials were hardy men, they had no training in combat. Two years into the war Washington gratefully accepted the assistance of a German soldier who pretended to a title, the "Baron" Steuben. Steuben proved adept at whipping the disheveled troops encamped at Valley Forge through a terrible winter into some sort of military order, explaining to a European friend:
The sort of questions the history of the American Revolution raises for me are caught in that; this is perhaps the true "American exceptionalism" --the moderation or incompleteness of our founding "revolution," depending on your point of view. These questions deserve more attention than they get in this volume.
This post was queued up before I left for Bhutan.