I first encountered the work of Don Higginbotham back in the early 1990’s when I read Daniel Morgan: Revolutionary Rifleman as an undergraduate. This was the start of a twenty-some-odd-year tutelage under a scholar whom I’ve never met, but whose work has had a profound influence upon my approach to the study of history.
It is a truism that as scholars we are indebted to the historians who have come before us – we stand on the shoulders of giants, as the saying goes. And within the field of the American Revolution and the War of Independence, Higginbotham is indeed one of the giants. Along with John Shy, Higginbotham can be considered one of the early pioneers and proponents of the “new military history” – the integration of social, intellectual, economic, political, and cultural aspects of warfare into the study of the American Revolution. For anyone interested in learning just what comprises this school of thought, there are few better starting points than Higginbotham’s essay, “The Early American Way of War: Reconnaissance and Appraisal.” The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., Vol 44, No. 2 (1987), 230-73, which will provide a comprehensive overview of the field up to the late 1980’s.
Higginbotham died in 2008, and as mentioned above, we never met. I would have liked to have contacted him to discuss a few topics I am exploring, especially my work with the Continental Army officer corps. Perhaps he might have even indulged me in reading some article drafts. In any event, I thought is appropriate to acknowledge the significance his scholarship has been in shaping my interests and pursuit in the field of American History.