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Book Review

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The War has Begun
Book One: Duty In the Cause of Liberty Series


Author: Charles E. Frye
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
324 pages
RRP: £12.00
ISBN: 978 154307 374 4
Publication Date: 17 March 2017

What makes Charles E. Frye’s The War has Begun most significant is its foundational status in a four book series, Duty in the Cause of Liberty, a boots on the ground intimate portrait of America’s Revolutionary War. This Award Winning first volume is reviewed here because Book Two is on the way. Frye enters the mind of a direct ancestor, Isaac Frye, a husband and father tending a successful family farm in Wilton, New Hampshire. Isaac Frye’s experience of the Revolution begins with the message of Revere and Dawes on April 19, 1775 and will travel the tortuous route all the way to Independence. Some say that the revolution which swept up this rough hewn man of the earth and his family is a continuum. Never ending, to be laboured at by each generation. Others, that the quest for “a more perfect union” is an experiment that is over. For many, even now, this is a daily dialogue. Frye’s epic immerses the reader into the daily life of the Army of the Continental Congress’s battle to cease being a British colony and become some form of independent entity. Everyday life of the North American colonies’ war to be free has been treated many times but seldom as successfully as here drawing from the daily minds of those living the experience.

Frye relies on primary and secondary proven sources. Primary is an original document. Secondary is a digital copy or trustworthy photo transcription of a primary document judged with a rigorous protocol. Tertiary extrapolations are not used. The author is a respected geographer, cartographer and information scientist using his professional skills to accurize, not only descriptions of navigating terrain as it was then before freeways but also describing the weapons, tools, clothing and procedures of those who travelled that land and lived that life. But what of their minds? How do we know what drove them? Imposing our suppositions is far too easy. How could we outsiders know the thoughts of ordinary people in those times? Frye the author tells us. There are no elites in this narrative, they may be nearby or afar but never close enough to be on the receiving end of policy or military dictum, never on the marches through mud soaked bogs, writing reports in freezing tents, managing stench ridden hospital shelters or allocating soldiers into battle with three or less loads apiece. The existential detail is gruelling and fascinating.

And there’s more. No character is fictitious. Frye became a historical detective, searching out reports, proclamations, diaries, the Frye family oral history - and letters. Many letters. He reconstructs a chain of old letters, some of which hadn’t seen the light of day in two centuries. With this literature he enters the minds of Isaac Frye and his family. It is not hagiography when the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence is read and Isaac Frye and those with him are struck with an awe of realization: Liberty, a motivating word that occurs repeatedly, is the distillate. The ramifications of independence are still vague. Will every colony be a sovereign country? Will the southern colonies be a separate country from the northern colonies? The fractious future of the union to be, is foretold before the union is even born.

Realism is magnified by Frye’s dedication to writing in present tense. Dialogue is composed within the context of the supporting literature. Indeed it gives him the title of his book, The War has Begun. With much writing in their own words, Frye summons from Isaac, his wife and compatriots, dialogue always believable and existentially grounded. We forget that those centuries of letter writing were as astute, incisive and congruent as anything we produce in our day. Probably more so.

Love of family is as tangible as our own. The grief of death aches as if it was announced this morning. The bloodletting at the Battle of Bunker Hill and its ancillaries leaves a not surprising repulsion of the sights, sounds and smells.

The import of a book on the nation’s rise to independence (there is even talk of what this new nation will be called, Isaac’s wife suggests America) considered in the political situation of this present day when princelings and oligarchs are suggesting a reset and shredding of that archaic document the Constitution which followed the Declaration of Independence, is downright ironic. This is a book to be savoured. The author is to be cheered and showered with applause as we prepare to trek into the next chapter Honor and Valor: 2 (Duty in the Cause of Liberty). He is busy at work on Volumes 3 & 4 as we speak. May we see this entire saga sooner rather than later.


John Huff

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