You are here

Becoming Men of Some Consequence

Youth and Military Service in the Revolutionary War
John A. Ruddiman

BUY Cloth · 288 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813936178 · $39.50 · Dec 2014
BUY Ebook · 288 pp. · ISBN 9780813936185 · $39.50 · Dec 2014
BUY Paper · 288 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813941936 · $25.00 · Jul 2018

Young Continental soldiers carried a heavy burden in the American Revolution. Their experiences of coming of age during the upheavals of war provide a novel perspective on the Revolutionary era, eliciting questions of gender, family life, economic goals, and politics. "Going for a soldier" forced young men to confront profound uncertainty, and even coercion, but also offered them novel opportunities. Although the war imposed obligations on youths, military service promised young men in their teens and early twenties alternate paths forward in life. Continental soldiers’ own youthful expectations about respectable manhood and their goals of economic competence and marriage not only ordered their experience of military service; they also shaped the fighting capacities of George Washington’s army and the course of the war.

Becoming Men of Some Consequence examines how young soldiers and officers joined the army, their experiences in the ranks, their relationships with civilians, their choices about quitting long-term military service, and their attempts to rejoin the flow of civilian life after the war. The book recovers young soldiers’ perspectives and stories from military records, wartime letters and journals, and postwar memoirs and pension applications, revealing how revolutionary political ideology intertwined with rational calculations and youthful ambitions. Its focus on soldiers as young men offers a new understanding of the Revolutionary War, showing how these soldiers’ generational struggle for their own independence was a profound force within America’s struggle for its independence.


John Ruddiman puts the history of manhood at the center of his well-written, fresh look at the American Revolution. He presents the challenges and opportunities that the war offered the young men serving under General George Washington. In addition, he persuasively argues that the consequences for these soldiers resonate with the problems modern veterans still face today.

Lisa Wilson, Connecticut College, author of Ye Heart of a Man: The Domestic Life of Men in Colonial New England

By reading the journals, letters, pension narratives, and memoirs of Continental soldiers in light of the life-course expectations and strategies of eighteenth-century men, John Ruddiman brilliantly illuminates the hopes, experiences, and disappointments of the Revolutionary generation. Anyone interested in learning what American Independence meant to the men who risked their lives to achieve it could do no better than to start with this eloquent, moving book.

Fred Anderson, University of Colorado at Boulder, author of Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766

John A. Ruddiman makes a significant contribution to the new military history pioneered by John Shy and Charles Royster, among others. This genre has deepened our understanding of race, gender, class, ideology, community,public policy, and veterans’ lives in the revolutionary era; Ruddiman adds young men to this list.... Overall, Ruddiman has added an important voice to the conversation about the Continental Army and the revolutionary era.

Journal of American History

[A] deeply researched and very fine book... [Ruddiman's] central claim is that an emphasis on soldiers’ relative youth and unsettled life circumstances yield a new perspective on the conflict. In particular, Becoming Men of Some Consequence aims to show how soldiers approached military service as a means to establish the social relationships and economic competence that would allow them to attain manly independence.

The Journal for the History of Childhood and Youth

[Ruddiman] actually provides an important reminder about the men who committed to fight directly for Washington in the War for Independence…Making excellent use of primary documents, Ruddiman allows the soldiers themselves to tell most of the story.

Steven C Eames, Mount Ida College · The Historian

Interested in this topic?
Stay updated with our newsletters:

Related Books