Independence Lost-Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution by Kathleen DuVal - 2015
Journal of the American Revolution Book of the Year for 2015
Essential Reading for those into American history
An Autodidactic Corner Selection
The American Revolution was not just an event in the 13 original states but part of a world wide conflict between empires. With Spain hoping to regain what it lost to England during the Seven Years War and France fighting to keep her North American interests. Indian societies were very involved in the struggle, either picking a side or seeing it as a “white war” and remaining neutral. Kathleen DuVal in Independence Lost-Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution opened up my eyes to the complexities of the war in British controlled West Florida as well as New Orleans, already fought over by the French and Spanish. The cities most involved besides New Orleans were the West Florida Capital Pensacola and Mobile Alabama. From the perspective of American leaders, any thing that spread the English forces out was to their advantage. Spanish and French support was ultimately very important in the victory of the Americans.
Spain and France, both wanted the English to lose though they did have
concerns about colonial wars and monarchies being overturned.
DuVul structures her book around the lives of seven residents of the now Southeastern United States as their destinies collide in constant warfare in the lands adjacent to the tribal areas of Creeks, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Choctaws. Tribal people
outnumbered European and enslaved residents.
Included is an Acadian(with much reason to hate the British for driving them from their homeland) in Louisiana, a Chickasaw tribal leader, a British bureaurcrat, a Whig profiteer in New Orleans, a Creek-Scot Tory, a Spanish governor/general and an African slave. All are introduced in the 1760s when Spanish, French and British monarchies control the futures of the land and the people.
Tribal societies are very well covered. We learn how they are organized and relate to other social groups. Traditionally Indian expected gifts for help.
Each tribal group has their own priorities. They weighed what would be most to their advantage,an American victory, the continuing of the Spanish imperial control or a British victory. There were extensive attempts to buy the loyalty of tribal groups. The Indians were very effective in warfare in heavily wooded areas.
We also follow the business interests of a Whig living in New Orleans who hoped a British victory would make him rich. Enslaved and Free Black people played a significant part in the combat. All sides promised freedom to slaves who fought for them. We learn a lot about how the conflict impacted the life of a slave. (There is a good bit of space devoted to slave holding practices among Indian tribes.). The slave was very valuable to both sides as he had a great knowledge of the trails and woods in Alabama. He was paid to spy for the Spanish. Slaves knew their fates would be impacted.
A dominant theme of the book is that people had their own, tied to their material and family needs,reasons for picking a side or staying neutral.
We learn about the extensive fighting over control of Pensacola and methods of warfare.
The war was very much both an economic opportunity or a disaster, depending on which side you bet on.
DuVal shows us after the war the steady expansion of American land areas, the taking of Indian territorial areas. She also very interestingly tells us how the lives of enslaved people became generally worse as small farms were replaced by cotton plantations. We learn of the doubling of the size of American territory through the Louisiana purchase made possible by Napoleon’s war costs.
There is much more in this book. The lead characters are well developed, we learn about their marriages and business interests.
We additionally spend time in Havana, Charleston, and Savanah. George Washington, generals on all three sides, tribal leaders and British politicians all are brought on stage.
“Kathleen DuVal is Bowman & Gordon Gray Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her field of expertise is early American history, particularly interactions among American Indians, Europeans, and Africans on the borderlands of North America. She is currently writing a book on Native dominance of North America from the eleventh to nineteenth centuries.
DuVal’s awards include the Guggenheim Fellowship in the Humanities, a National Humanities Center Fellowship, a postdoctoral fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, the 2008 best article in the William and Mary Quarterly, the best article in southern women’s history from the Southern Association for Women Historians, and book prizes from the Journal of the American Revolution and the Frances S. Summersell Center for the Study of the South. She is an Elected Fellow of the American Antiquarian Society and the Society of American Historians.
Visit Kathleen DuVal’s official website at the History Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill here.”
I highly endorse this book to anyone interested in early American history.