Our First Civil War: Patriots and Loyalists in the American Revolution

Doubleday. Nov. 2021. 496p. ISBN 9780385546515. $32.50. HIST
Award-winning historian Brands (The Zealot and the Emancipator) presents the American Revolution as not merely a conflict between colonials and Britain but a vicious civil war among various American groups who were divided between rebel and loyalist causes. Arguing that the internal struggle is essential to understanding the broader conflict, Brands excerpts correspondence and memoirs to explain why some rebelled while others remained loyal. The book’s Patriots include Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, surgeon James Thacher, enslaved Revolutionary War combatant Jeffrey Brace, and prisoners Thomas Andros and Thomas Dring; the Loyalists include defector Benedict Arnold, Pennsylvanian Joseph Galloway, Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchinson, Mohawk military leader Thayendanegea (also known as Joseph Brant), Quaker Sarah Logan Fisher, and Boston King, who escaped from slavery. Instead of discussing the Revolutionary War’s causes, political philosophies, or military details, Brand presents the motivations, relationships, and actions of its participants, in their own words, from the French and Indian War through the Treaty of Paris.
VERDICT This engaging book, which includes often-neglected Indigenous and Black perspectives of the war, reads like the story of a contentious extended family, as opposed to a traditional military history. It will appeal to a wide audience.
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