Book Review: Special Operations during the American Revolution


by Robert L. Tonsetic.

Philadelphia: Casemate, 2020. Pp. 272+. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 1612001653

Washington’s Special Forces

Former Special Operations colonel and Special Operations Hall of Fame honoree, the late Dr. Tonsetic followed his army career with one in academia. In this work, originally published in 2013, he argues that special operations played an important role in the Revolutionary War, laying the foundation for America’s modern special warfare forces.

Tonsetic rather stretches the concept of “special operations”, however, as most of the actions examined were more or less commonplace aspects of eighteenth century warfare; pitched battles were not the only way armies of those times knew how to fight. So while some of the actions described perhaps merit the term “special operations”, most were well known practices in frontier warfare or “petit guerre” even in Europe, that is small operations supporting the movements and actions of the armies.

That’s not to say that Special Operations during the American Revolution isn’t a useful work. Many of the operations Tonsetic touches upon are often overlooked in the literature of the war. While Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion’s adventures in the marshes of the Carolinas or Ethan Allen’s capture of Ticonderoga are well known, Tonsetic does an excellent job of examining “The Whaleboat Wars”, water borne raids in the Hudson Valley, Long Island Sound, and Rhode Island littorals, almost always ignored in accounts of the war, and he also touches on some of the many small actions by Washington’s army in the Hudson Valley and New Jersey.

Special Operations during the American Revolution is an amusing read for those with an interest in the Revolutionary War, but is based entirely on secondary sources. 




Note: Special Operations during the American Revolution is also available in hard cover and e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close