Book Review: Foreign-Born American Patriots: Sixteen Volunteer Leaders in the Revolutionary War


by Reneé Critcher Lyons

Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013. Pp. viii, 216. Illus., biblio., index. $39.95 paper. ISBN: 0786471840

Immigrants and Foreign Volunteers in the Revolution

In her preface, Prof. Lyons (East Tennessee)  reminds us that the American Revolution, a crowing event of the Enlightenment, inspired men of many nations to voluntarily join what was widely viewed as a struggle for all mankind.  Some of these men had already been living in the colonies for varying numbers of years, while others arrived after the outbreak of the war.

Lyons then gives us profiles of sixteen of these men.  Some will be familiar, Thomas,  Paine, John Barry, and John Paul Jones, born abroad but already living in the colonies, and Friedrich von Steuben, Thaddeus Kosciuzko, Johann de Kalb, and Casimir Pulaski, who arrived from Europe, the last two of whom died in the war.  The rest are most likely to be known only to students of the Revolution, the Italian Philip Mazzei from New France, two Jewish men, Haym Salomon and Francis Salvador, the Irishmen Gustavus Conyngham and Pierce Butler, the Breton nobleman Charles Armand, the Hungarian Michael Kováts, and the rather mysterious Peter Francisco. 

For each of these men, Lyons gives a short sketch of his early life, some analysis of the causes that prompted him to volunteer, followed by a longer look at his services and experiences in the Patriot cause.  There follows a short account of his later life and a note on memorials or commemorations of the man’s service.  As was the case with the men themselves, most of the essays deal with heroics on land or sea, but some are concerned with other matters, such as politics, diplomacy, and organization. 

Foreign-Born American Patriots is a very useful book for anyone interested in learning more about the Revolution, especially since a number of these men are virtually invisible in standard accounts.   

Note: Foreign-Born American Patriots is also available as an e-pub 978-1-4766-1251-5

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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