Book Review of “Revolutionary Princeton 1774-1783: The Biography of an American Town in the Heart of a Civil War”

September 9th, 2021 History,On Our Shelves

Reviewed by David Price, Washington Crossing Historic Park Historical Interpreter

Local author and historian Larry Kidder has once again crafted a thoroughly informed and meticulously researched narrative relating to America’s Revolutionary era. This new book continues the focus of his previous work on how the political and military turbulence of the 1770s impacted the lives of people living in the greater Delaware Valley, placing his study of their circumstances and challenges within the broader historical context of young America’s founding struggle. Kidder’s latest creation follows on the heels of his earlier accounts of this period, Ten Crucial Days: Washington’s Vision for Victory Unfolds; Crossroads of the Revolution: Trenton, 1774-1783; and A People Harassed and Exhausted: The Story of a New Jersey Militia Regiment in the American Revolution.

The story of Princeton in the Revolution is an integral part of the larger story behind the contest between Great Britain and her North American colonies that gave rise to a new nation, and the author is singularly qualified to tell that tale. In addition to his literary efforts, Kidder has a wealth of hands-on experience that reinforces his authoritative standing on this subject, as a former board member of the Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS) and a historical interpreter for PBS. In addition to giving guided tours of the Princeton battlefield throughout the year, he conducts the annual PBS-sponsored, real-time winter tour of this hallowed ground and its relevant environs.

The illuminating narrative presented in Revolutionary Princeton brings historical reality to life in a way that should resonate with both students of the War of Independence and those with a more casual interest in the period. Readers will find themselves immersed in the daily experiences of real people coping with the trials of eighteenth-century life and seeking to acclimate themselves to the harsh reality of America’s first civil war in which Patriots and Loyalists often exchanged violent rhetoric and actions. Larry Kidder has produced an impressive chronicle that is a worthy addition to the literature of our Revolutionary era and deserves a wide audience. I strongly recommend it.

David Price is the author of John Haslet’s World: An Ardent Patriot, the Delaware Blues, and the Spirit of 1776; The Road to Assunpink Creek: Liberty’s Desperate Hour and the Ten Crucial Days of the American Revolution; and Rescuing the Revolution: Unsung Patriot Heroes and the Ten Crucial Days of America’s War for Independence (Knox Press). Author-signed copies of each are available at the park bookstore.