A People’s History of the U.S. Military

Ordinary Soldiers Reflect on Their Experience of War, from the American Revolution to Afghanistan

A new installment in The New Press’s People’s History Series, with compelling first-person accounts of the experience of common soldiers in the U.S. military

“You can always tell an old battlefield where many men have lost their lives. The next Spring the grass comes up greener and more luxuriant than on the surrounding countryside; the poppies are redder, the corn-flowers more blue. . . . To me it has always seemed that God is so sickened with men, and their unending cruelty to each other, that he covers the place where they have been as quickly as possible.” —Sergeant Wiliam E. Campbell, World War I

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In A People’s History of the U.S. Military, historian Michael A. Bellesiles draws from three centuries of soldiers’ personal encounters with combat—through fascinating excerpts from letters, diaries, and memoirs, as well as audio recordings, film, and blogs—to capture the essence of the American military experience firsthand, from the American Revolution to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Military service can shatter and give meaning to lives; it is rarely a neutral encounter, and has contributed to a rich outpouring of personal testimony from the men and women who have literally placed their lives on the line. The often dramatic and always richly textured first-person accounts collected in this book cover a wide range of perspectives, from ardent patriots to disillusioned cynics; barely literate farm boys to urbane college graduates; scions of founding families to recent immigrants, enthusiasts, and dissenters; women disguising themselves as men in order to serve their country to African Americans fighting for their freedom through military service.

A work of great relevance and immediacy—as the nation grapples with the return of thousands of men and women from active military duty—A People’s History of the U.S. Military will become a major new touchstone for our understanding of American military service.



“Bellesiles’ most recent book explores the American army from the Revolution through Iraq and Afghanistan, using excerpts from letters, diaries and memoirs, recordings, and videos and blogs of soldiers in combat. . . . This history is compact yet complete, and its narrative is excellent.”

Books by Michael A. Bellesiles

America’s Year of Living Violently

Michael A. Bellesiles

Goodreads Reviews