Chains Across the River - A Novel of the American Revolution
Reviewed By: Susan Keefe
Susan Keefe reviews and promotes poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and is also author of the Toby's Tails series of children's books.

This powerful and historically accurate book by retired international lawyer Bevis Longstreth tells the story of the incredible Machin Chains. Bevis Longstreth has previously authored three books of historical fiction, Spindle and Bow, Return of the Shade, and Boats Against the Current. Father to three children, and grandfather to nine, he lives in New York with his wife Clara, and dog McKenzie.

The protagonist, British born Captain Thomas Machin, was a brilliant engineer, enlisted in the British Foot, and posted to Boston, Massachusetts. However, disgruntled and disillusioned, the redcoat deserted, and like many others joined the patriots of the Continental Army.

Hearing of Thomas Machin, and impressed, in 1776 General George Washington summoned him and instructed him to design and install obstructions to stop the British Armada gathering in New York Harbour. This was an important commission because the Hudson River was an essential transportation route for the British. The waterway enabled the New England colonies to receive essential supplies, and therefore its obstruction would disunite them from their other colonies.

Thomas Machin, rose to the challenge, and the Machin Chains were conceived. However, their construction and installation proved to be a mammoth task. It is through the transportation and installation of these, and other events, that the readers learn a lot about the hardships and life of the Continental Army soldiers. Notwithstanding the adversity and obstacles involved, ‘The Great Chain’ at West Point, was never breached, and remained in place until the end of the American Revolution.

Thomas Machin had two important women in his life, Elizabeth Van Horne (Lisa,) and Caroline Filippante. It is through his relationships with these women that the readers discover more about the women of this era. Certainly these two add spice to the story, and definitely dissolve the image of demure young ladies. They were strong, scheming, fearless females, and their antics and those of their families provide interesting insights as to how the upper classes ‘survived’ the revolution.

‘Chains Across the River,’ is the exciting tale of how a British deserters engineering accomplishments were an important contribution towards the American War of Independence. It will appeal to lovers of historical fiction. Highly recommended.

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