Thursday, January 2, 2014

Review: Bill Potter's Bayonets! Heroes, Villians and Character Lessons from the American War of Independence

Audiobook Cover
Dear Readers,

For Christmas, my wonderful fiancee purchased a copy Vision Forum historian Bill Potter's Bayonets! Heroes, Villians, and Character Lessons from the American War of Independence. This audio book is a series of lectures about the American War of Independence, using specific scenarios to impart lessons to homeschooling children. The audio book- no longer in production due to the collapse of Vision Forum- is still available on Amazon. 

First of all- let me say how surprised I was by the good quality of Potter's lectures. His discussion of the military aspects of the American War of Independence is quite excellent. I was expecting 1776-style propaganda concerning the Subsidientruppen ("Hessians") who were involved, but Mr. Potter demonstrates that they were competent professionals, even if he does make glaring generalities about, "the German mindset," throughout, and compares Hessian tactics with those of the Germans in World War 2.

Mr. Potter often describes the role of, "providence," in his lectures. He asserts that God ordained the various facets of the American War of Independence. This leads to an age old question- does God pick sides in war? Mr. Potter sites the wounding of James Monroe, and the presence of an able surgeon to the will of God. However, this begs the question- if God wanted to spare Monroe, could he not have directed the bullet some place else? Many nations throughout history have attempted state that God was on their side- even the German soldiers during World War 2  had the inscription, "Gott Mit Uns," (God with Us) on their belt buckles. As a historian, regardless of my personal beliefs, I would be extremely wary of making the claim that God supported or caused an event.

Women do not seem to figure into Mr. Potter's calculations, with the exception of Benedict Arnold's second wife, apparently a, "Jezebel," who according to Potter, led him away from God and the American cause. White men are featured prominently- and this product could be seen as an attempt to teach history as it was in the late 19th century. G.A. Henty would be most pleased, my dear lads.

Their are other minor, more humorous mistakes, such as the claim that Freiherr von Steuben died in the Battle of Camden (or Brandywine, I can't remember). Contrary to this, Steuben lived to a ripe old age, and George Washington's last act as commander and chief  was to grant him a pension.

I would hesitantly recommend this product for ages 10-15, with the caveats that I have mentioned above. If used in conjunction with a more modern textbook, it could be very useful as a fun anecdotal supplement.

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns

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