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Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution

by Kathleen DuVal

Pub Date: July 7th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6895-1
Publisher: Random House

An informative and disturbing account of a little-known campaign during the Colonial rebellion.

Invited to the First Continental Congress in 1774, the British colony of West Florida declined, remaining loyal until conquered by Spanish forces in 1781. “The American Revolution on the Gulf coast is a story without minutemen, without ‘founding fathers,’ without rebels,” writes DuVal (Early American History and American Indian History/Univ. of North Carolina; The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent, 2006). “It reveals a different war with unexpected participants, forgotten outcomes, and surprising winners and losers….On the Gulf Coast…the Revolution seemed to be just another imperial war, another war fought for territory and treasure.” The author builds her story around a handful of participants. Revolutionary leaders dealt with Oliver Pollock, a wealthy New Orleans businessman who bankrupted himself supporting the revolution, as well as Payamataha and Alexander McGillivray, spokesmen for Chickasaw and Creek tribes. Less well-known are Petit Jean, a slave, and Amand Broussard, a refugee from French Canada. Both helped Spain (who ruled New Orleans) when it joined France to aid the Colonies. Representing Britain was James Bruce, an official in Pensacola, the capital of West Florida. Popular histories trumpet American rage at taxation, but more probably raged at Britain’s proclamation forbidding settlers west of the Appalachians. Despite ongoing incursions into their territory, Indians continued to focus on tribal rivalries and trade. Readers will share DuVal’s frustration at their leaders’ futile efforts to deal with whites. The colonies won, but few readers will feel patriotic pride as the author describes how, over the next generation, the U.S. harassed Spain until it ceded Florida and brutally expelled the Indians from their lands.

An illuminating history of events, many barely mentioned in history books and none, unlike our Revolution, with happy endings.