When I was a bit younger, on some of my trips up the East Coast my family would stop at various battlefields from either the Civil War or the American Revolution. I tend to remember the Revolutionary War battlefields better because they seemed more dramatic, perhaps as a result of being part of a somewhat less complex war (it is telling that there are very few single volume histories of the Civil War). As a result, it's a period of history I have a certain fondness for, even if I don't know all that much about it. Which is where Ferling's superb Almost a Miracle comes in.
Almost a Miracle is a single-volume history that traces the war through all its major conflicts and explores all the major players, be they on the rebel side (Washington, Gates, Lee) or the British (Tarleton, Howe, Cornwallis). It is extremely well-written, the narrative becoming downright gripping in parts as he takes us from battle to battle. Of course, of perhaps even greater interest is his analysis of the people involved. As he points out, on both sides of the conflict you had seasoned military men. The Americans and quite a few British had cut their teeth in constant Indian wars, while many of the European officers and soldiers were vets of continental wars. He also drives home that the Army will always be the Army, and that all its problems (indecisiveness, men grumbling about pay and long hours, public opinion) have been its problems since inception.
Of course, Ferling has a particular fascination with Washington (he even wrote a biography of him). His portrayal of Washington is somewhat startling, as a picture of a keen, manipulative politician, prone to egotism, who nonetheless possessed almost perfect poise. He also was consistently outsmarted or saved by chance on the battlefield. Ferling's title comes from the odd reality that Britain and America were the only two countries that could have done something like this. Another continental power, perhaps even just another British general, and America would have been crushed before it got off the ground. A different set of a rebels, and the British would have swept them up and disposed of them within a year. Instead, it was a perfectly matched battle of skill and complete folly, brilliant tactical maneuvres, and potentially devastating mistakes.
All in all, I highly recommend this, not to just to history and military buffs, but to anyone who wants to understand America and how it came to be.