Rick Atkinson digs into Revolutionary War

NEW YORK (AP) — As he researched the first volume of his planned American Revolution trilogy, Rick Atkinson traveled from the battlefields of Massachusetts to London’s Windsor Castle, where he looked through the papers of King George III.

Atkinson’s “The British are Coming” (Henry Holt & Co.) is his ninth book, and his first since completing his acclaimed “Liberation Trilogy” on World War II. He was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for The Washington Post and also won a Pulitzer in 2003 for the first of his World War II histories, “An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943.” He has been praised for combining deep research with a vivid writing style.

“The British are Coming,” adds to a surprisingly thin genre: A multivolume work centered on the Revolutionary War itself. Countless books have been written on the founders, and multivolume biographies date back to the early years of the country: John Marshall, the Supreme Court chief justice, wrote five volumes on George Washington that came out in the early 1800s. But the most acclaimed books on the Revolutionary War have been single-volume publications extending beyond the British surrender, from Robert Middlekauff’s “The Glorious Cause” to John Ferling’s “A Leap in the Dark.”

“Most people think of the revolution as just a series of well-known battles,” says Nathaniel Philbrick, whose books include “Bunker Hill” and “In the Hurricane’s Eye,” which covers the war’s conclusion. “They know about Lexington and Concord, and somehow things get to Valley Forge, then other stuff happens and the British surrender at Yorktown. But of course it didn’t happen that way and I don’t see a lot of multivolume treatments on it.”

And Atkinson acknowledges that the Revolutionary War, a means to separate from the English rather than a desire for conquest, differed from World War II “in magnitude, breadth, and consequence.

“The British are Coming” is more than 500 pages and covers the years 1775-77, from the first shots at Lexington and Concord to the aftermath of the battles of Trenton and Princeton, when George Washington’s battered army managed to push back against the British and revive the colonists’ hopes.