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There’s an old proverb that says,
For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost,
for want of a horse the knight was lost,
for want of a knight the battle was lost,
for want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
So a kingdom was lost—all for want of a nail.
I thought of this proverb as I began reading Washington’s Immortals by Patrick K. O’Donnell, which recounts the history of a regiment from Maryland that not only turned the tide of a crucial battle in the American Revolutionary War, but who were at the center of nearly every vital battle throughout the war.
At the outset of the war, the British army and navy nearly overwhelmed George Washington’s forces in New York. One regiment from Maryland stood their ground, keeping the British bottled up for just one hour. But that one hour allowed General Washington precious time to get his retreating army to safety. Without the bravery and tenacity of these Marylanders, the war could have been over almost before it started. So to paraphrase the old proverb above, for want of the brave stand of the Marylanders, the American cause could have been lost!
As General Washington watched those brave men not only stand their ground, but repeatedly counterattack the far superior British forces, he said, “Good God! What brave fellows I must this day lose!”
If that were the only service to the American colonies that this elite group had supplied, it would have been enough. But time and time again, General Washington and General Nathaniel Green placed the Marylanders in the most vulnerable or the most crucial places on the battlefield, knowing that these men would not fail to come through.
O’Donnell follows the movements of the Marylanders from the beginning of the war all the way through to its conclusion in a very readable manner. He shares just enough of the details of the battle for us to get a feel for the gravity of the situation, but not so many details that it becomes laborious reading.
Any students of American history, military history, or leadership-under-fire will appreciate reading Washington’s Immortals.
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For any students of American history or of the role the Bible has played in affecting world affairs, Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers is an eye-opening book. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. Unless otherwise noted, quotes are from author Daniel Dreisbach.
“Following an extensive survey of American political literature from 1760 to 1805, political scientist Donald S. Lutz reported that the Bible was referenced more frequently than any European writer or even any European school of thought, such as the Enlightenment or Whig intellectual traditions. Indeed, the Bible accounted for about one-third of all citations in his sample. According to Lutz, ‘Deuteronomy is the most frequently cited book, followed by Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws.’ … Saint Paul is cited about as frequently as Montesquieu and [William] Blackstone, the two most-cited secular authors, and Deuteronomy is cited almost twice as often as all of [John] Locke’s writings put together.”
“The founders often quoted the Bible without the use of quotation marks or citations, which were not necessary for a biblically literate society but the absence of which fail to alert a biblically illiterate modern audience to the Bible’s invocation.”
“Increasing unfamiliarity with the Bible makes it harder and harder for Americans to understand their origins and their mores, or to put words to their experiences. … Lacking knowledge of the Bible, Americans are likely to be literally inarticulate, unable to relate themselves to American life and culture as a whole.” —Wilson Carey McWilliams
“Knowledge of the Bible and its place in the American experience, in short, helps Americans better understand themselves and their history.”
“In regard to this Great Book [the Bible], I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” —Abraham Lincoln
“[T]he Bible has had a literary influence not because it has been considered as literature, but because it has been considered as the report of the Word of God.” —T.S. Eliot
“[William] Tyndale, who was the first to translate the Bible into English from the original Hebrew and Greek, can be rightly called the father of the King James Bible. Approximately ‘eighty percent of his Old Testament and ninety percent of his New Testament’ were adopted by the King James translators. …
“There is much truth in the remark that ‘without Tyndale, no Shakespeare.’ It is also true that ‘without Tyndale, no King James Bible.’ ‘Without the King James Bible,’ Alister McGrath observed, ‘there would have been no Paradise Lost, no Pilgrim’s Progress, no Handel’s Messiah, no Negro spirituals, and no Gettysburg Address. … Without this Bible, the culture of the English-speaking world would have been immeasurably impoverished.’”
“The size of the vocabulary found in the King James Bible is not extensive. [William] Shakespeare, it is estimated, used between fifteen and twenty thousand different words. Milton’s verse draws on a lexicon of about thirteen thousand words. The Old Testament, in the Hebrew and Aramaic, has approximately fifty-six hundred words. The New Testament, in the Greek, has around forty-eight hundred words. In the entire King James Bible, by contrast, there are only about six thousand different words, according to one accounting.”
“The opinion that human reason, left without the constant control of divine laws and commands, will preserve a just administration, secure freedom and other rights, restrain men from violations of laws and constitutions, and give duration to a popular government, is as chimerical as the most extravagant ideas that enter the head of a maniac. … Where will you find any code of laws, among civilized men, in which the commands and prohibitions are not founded on Christian principles? I need not specify the prohibition of murder, robbery, theft, [and] trespass. … Every wise code of laws must embrace the main principles of the religion of Christ.” —John Adams
“Moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. These principles and precepts have truth, immutable truth, for their foundation; and they are adapted to the wants of men in every condition of life. They are the best principles and precepts, because they are exactly adapted to secure the practice of universal justice and kindness among men; and of course to prevent crimes, war and disorders in society. No human laws dictated by different principles from those in the gospel, can ever secure these objects. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. … For instruction then in social, religious and civil duties resort to the scriptures for the best precepts and most excellent examples of imitation.” —Noah Webster
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I find David McCullough to be one of the most thorough, impartial, comprehensive, and engaging historians that I have read. These attributes—and many others—are on full display in his biography of our second president John Adams.
Many have rightly called Thomas Jefferson the pen of the Declaration of Independence and John Adams the voice of the Declaration. But it’s not just this historic document for which Adams should be remembered, but the very form of government which we enjoy right now is a living tribute to his forceful and persuasive genius.
This biography is brilliantly told by McCullough through the first-person accounts of Adams’ vast quantity of letters, as well as the letters written to and about him, and the contemporary newspapers of the day. McCullough takes us back to Adams’ boyhood home to give us a good understanding of the upbringing and family heritage that fueled his quest for learning and leading. From his first elected office, through his time in Europe advocating for the newly created United States of America, into his presidency, and then through his long retirement, Adams was tireless in his efforts to make this country the best it could be.
For students of history or leadership, this is a remarkably insightful look into a man that was at the heart of so much of what characterizes our great nation today. I have other books about John Adams in my library, but David McCullough’s lengthy work is, in my opinion, the definitive source.
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You know how they say, “Never judge a book by its cover?” Well, I did that with Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers, and I judged incorrectly. My son gave me this book as a gift and I thought I would be reading passages of Scripture that our founding fathers had highlighted in their Bibles. Although that wasn’t the case at all, I was delighted to be wrong. What Daniel Dreisbach has given us in this book is a masterpiece of American history that I so thoroughly enjoyed devouring.
This book is about the Bible’s influence on not only the founders’ thought process as they contemplated independence from Great Britain, but also as they formed our own republican form of government. It’s also about the common lexicon that the colonists had with each other because the Bible was the most well-read book in the American colonies. This allowed our founding fathers to speak in figurative language that rang true to the hearts of their fellow Americans.
Mr. Dreisbach often takes us back to Europe and the Protestant Reformation era to help us understand how biblical thinking had coalesced and gained strength in the minds of the mid-eighteenth century Americans. Things like did the Bible sanction rebellion against the king of England, or could principles for a sound government structure be found in the pages of Scripture?
Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers is a fascinating and eye-opening read. Not only to help us understand the foundational thoughts of our great country but also to see the role that biblical literacy still plays in our governmental operations today. This book is extensively footnoted, so the curious reader can dig even deeper than Mr. Dreisbach has already taken these topics.
For Christians who want a better understanding of the Bible’s place in the republican form of government in these United States of America, I would recommend reading this book alongside your Bible so you may ponder for yourself how much of our civic framework is supported by a proper understanding of Scripture.
“This is another example of the many I’ve encountered in life where great disappointments have proven to be the road to future success.”
“Successful generals make plans to fit the circumstances, but do not try to create circumstances to fit plans.”
“The 8th of May, 1945, marked exactly two-and-a-half years since we had landed in Africa. During all that time we had been in practically continuous battle, and when not in battle had been under the strain of continuous criticism, which I believe is harder to bear.”
“It is unfortunate and to me a tragic fact, that in our attempts to prevent war we have taught our people to belittle the heroic qualities of the solider.”
“Wars are not won by defensive tactics. … The best armor and the best defense is a rapid and well-directed fire.”
“An army commander does what is necessary to accomplish his mission, and that nearly eighty percent of his mission is to arouse morale in his men.”
“Don’t delay. The best is the enemy of the good. By this, I mean that a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.”
Throughout my life, I’ve had the privilege of meeting World War II soldiers who fought in the Third Army in Europe. I’ve said to them, “Oh, so you were Patton’s man.” And the response is always the same, “Yes sir!” they proudly respond with a smile. General George Patton was a unique military leader, and his memoirs called War As I Knew It capture his uniqueness.
Patton’s Third Army was an unstoppable force! They covered more ground, took more territory, captured or killed more enemy combatants, liberated more cities, and destroyed more enemy material than any other army in US history! This was because of Patton’s drive, and because of his strenuous personal preparation before the war even started.
These memoirs record Patton’s successes, but he also is transparent enough to list where he miscalculated and where he was simply a beneficiary of good fortune.
For students of leadership, US history, or military history, War As I Knew It is a very insightful book.
I was first introduced to Jay Milbrandt through his book The Daring Heart Of David Livingston. I was so captivated by Jay’s writing style that I had to seek out more of his books. They Came For Freedom is the story of the first pilgrims that came to this land we now call the United States of America.
Jay uses his training as an attorney to sift through the voluminous historical documentation that was available for him to use in the writing of this book. Just as an attorney is trained to evaluate the evidence to be presented in court in light of the biases of a witness, Jay does the same thing with the many people who documented the story of the pilgrims.
What Jay really wanted to try to capture in this history was the reasons why people wanted to come to this new world. Were there religious motivations? Were there commercial considerations? Were they just adventurers or maybe malcontents? So Jay goes back further into history to set the stage and give us some of the motivations that went into the decision to make such an arduous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
In reading this book, undoubtedly you will hear some names of people and places that sound familiar to you. But I’ll bet you are going to see these people and places in a way that your school history books never presented. I found this book absolutely fascinating! I felt about They Came For Freedom the same way I did about Jay’s book on Dr. David Livingston: This is history that reads like a novel.
You may think the story of the first pilgrims coming to these shores is so well known that this book isn’t going to be worth your time, but I can assure you that you are guaranteed to learn something you never knew before. Well done, Jay!
Some of my favorite books to read are in the categories of history and leadership. Five Presidents by Clint Hill is a treasure-trove of both history and leadership, giving us a front-row seat to the leadership styles of five United States presidents.
Mr. Hill was on the presidential protection detail for Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford. During his time, America experienced several “firsts” and Mr. Hill was right there to see them firsthand. During this time in our country’s history, only one of these presidents was elected, reelected, and finished both of his terms as president: Dwight Eisenhower. President Kennedy was assassinated, President Johnson finished JFK’s term but withdrew from running for reelection, President Nixon resigned during his second term, and President Ford became the only president to serve as both president and vice president without being elected to either office and then was defeated in his reelection bid.
Five Presidents is not only an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at key historical events during the 1960s and ’70s, but it is also an informative study on the different leadership styles of these five unique men. Eisenhower ran the executive branch like a general, Kennedy was an idealist, Johnson used brute force, Nixon started off well and allowed his own insecurities to derail him, and Ford served as the “ordinary man” trying to clean up the mess left by his predecessor.
Mr. Hill also documents the changes in the operations of the Secret Service. When he began his assignment, there were no bullet-proof presidential vehicles, no protection for presidential candidates (only elected officials), no permanent residence for the vice president, and no Air Force Two. By the time he retired, all of these things—and many more—had been implemented.
Whether you enjoy history, leadership, or presidential biographies, Five Presidents will be a highly enjoyable and informative book for you.