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Partisans and Redcoats: The Southern Conflict That Turned the Tide of the American Revolution Hardcover – October 23, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

Though sometimes underestimated in standard histories, the American South was of critical importance as a theater of battle in the Revolutionary War. When the revolution broke out, historian Walter Edgar writes, South Carolina was far and away the richest of the American colonies. Charleston's wealth was more than six times that of Philadelphia, and its sparsely settled interior was a seemingly inexhaustible source of timber, cotton, and other prized goods. The war came early to this valuable terrain, first in the form of open combat between Whigs and Tories, then with the arrival of a large British task force that seized Charleston and other ports. As Edgar writes, the British and their loyalist allies then set about trying to tame the rebellious backcountry through a campaign of terror and atrocity so severe that, he maintains, leaders such as Lord Cornwallis and Banastre Tarleton deserve to be considered war criminals in the modern sense. Under their orders, civilians were assassinated and military prisoners summarily executed, farms and villages put to the torch, crops destroyed, and livestock slaughtered.

That campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, for instead of terrorizing the Scots- Irish settlers into submission, it galvanized resistance against British rule. That resistance, Walter Edgar concludes in this useful study, helped assure colonial independence. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Violence, endemic in a frontier society, was even more deadly in the Carolina back country. University of South Carolina historian Edgar, who has produced the well-regarded South Carolina: A History among eight other books, presents a quickly reconstructed account of the fratricidal civil war that took place in South Carolina during the American Revolution. Years before the Revolution, writes Edgar, patterns of terrible violence had already been set, as white settlers tried to maintain their hold on their lands, fighting among themselves and with the Indians they had displaced. But when the British captured Charleston in 1780 and set out on a policy of subduing the southern colonies, their efforts were doomed by the colonists' siege mentality. Lord Cornwallis, the British commander, misjudged the situation and tried to intimidate the population by repressive measures. His policy failed miserably and only enraged the rebels even more, Edgar shows. Partisan bands such as those led by Thomas Sumter and Francis Marion kept the enemy guessing, while Tories and rebels alike battled each other, killed family members, dispersed slaves, burned crops and houses, and generally kept South Carolina in a state of anarchy. Edgar's lucid, unflinching account shows the American Revolution in the south was truly the nation's first civil war. 8 pages of illus. and maps not seen by PW. (Nov.)Forecast: Regional sales of this title should be relatively strong, but without a compelling hook outside the Carolinas, national sales should be confined to buffs.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380977605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380977604
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,460,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on January 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book attempts to cover the part of the American Revolution in South Carolina (and by extension the South in general) that general history books overlook or at least partially ignore. This portion of the war (the partisan war that occurred between Loyalist and Rebel forces in the state) is often overlooked because what battles were fought between these forces were generally small. Those that were larger (King's Mountain and the Cowpens, primarily) are often treated as if they were isolated incidents, related only to one another and the battles of Camden and Guilford Court House. By contrast, Edgar weaves the account of the war in South Carolina into the overall history of the Revolution, and recounts various smaller fights in the state that he believes changed the course of the war. Chiefly, he beleives that the Partisan victory referred to as Huck's Defeat was crucial in turning the tide of public opinion in the Backcountry part of the state, which in turn was crucial in preventing the British from pacifying the whole region. He therefore ascribes a considerable importance to this minor battle, in which several hudred partisans ambushed about 115 Tories, killing or capturing most of them, including their commander, Captain Christian Huck.

This is interesting, and the author does a good job of depicting the war in the South in 1780. The civil nature of the conflict (brother against brother, etc.) is highlighted, and also the atrocities and violence of the war and its practitioners. The author doesn't spend much time on the conventional war in the state: King's Mountain and Guilford Courthouse are only briefly discussed, and the Cowpens isn't even really discussed at all, except in its consequences.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on December 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Partisans and Redcoats: The Southern Conflict That Turned the Tide of the American Revolution," by Walter Edgar, is a fascinating history of a crucial chapter in United States history. Edgar tells the story of the Revolutionary War in South Carolina.
Edgar paints an interesting portrait of the people and culture of that region before and during the war. The book recounts the key battles and personalities that shaped the southern campaign. I was particularly fascinated by Edgar's analysis of the British failure "to win the hearts and minds of the people of South Carolina." Edgar offers tantalizing glimpses at the roles played by women and African-Americans in the ongoing struggle. And the book is full of down-to-earth details, such as how uncooked meat caused illness among the revolutionary troops.
Edgar tells a good story. He writes in a clear, engaging style. The book is also packed full of useful supplemental elements: a chronology spanning 1756 to 1783; a glossary of terms, places, and battles; biographical sketches of significant figures; extensive endnotes with bibliographic references; maps; historic illustrations; and an index. This relatively short, but substantial book is an excellent choice for those with an interest in 18th century American history.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jason G on April 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
Few South Carolinians understand the importance of their state in the Revolutionary War. Walter Edgar, a history professor at the University of South Carolina, has attempted to place the war, and South Carolina's role in it, in context and make it accessible to the present day, but with mixed results.

This book is strongest in its non military sections, as Edgar is not a military historian. The description of the South Carolina backcountry, and the growth in immigrants who did not pass through Charleston, in the mid 1700's, specifically the Scotch Irish coming southward down the Catawba valley, is particularly well done. Yet significant military engagements in the new state, such as Kings Mountain, Cowpens and Ninety Six are barely covered. Instead, minor insurgent engagements, like Huck's defeat are covered in much greater detail.

King George III was quoted to call the war in its later half, "that damned Presbyterian War", echoing English conflicts in Scotland that had only been recently settled during the King's grandfather's reign. And Edgar does a fine job of showing some similarities between English conflicts with Scotland and the British Army's conflict with backcountry Carolina settlers.

Yet this book has its weaknesses, mostly from a lack of direction. It would have been better to have written a history of the effect of the war from a social perspective, with the material here, rather than a hybrid military history. A book such as the Road to Guilford Courthouse would be much better for a military history. This is a short and at times uneven book, which does not go into as much depth as needed to explain the strain between the South Carolina backcountry and the Coastal establishment near Charleston. It is a decent overview of the conflict in the South Carolina backcountry, but there are better sources of the social and military conflict.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R. Setliff on April 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
~Partisans and Redcoats: The Southern Conflict That Turned the Tide of the American Revolution~ is a succinct and readable narrative history of the American War for Independence with a focus on the Carolinas and the Southern theater. The cast of characters includes patriots like Martha Bratton, Horatio Gates, Joseph Kershaw, and Francis Marion. "The American Revolution was won in the South by determined backcountry patriots," notes Edgar. "Some, such as Andrew Pickens and Thomas Sumter, became American folk heroes." I really like Edgar's book, because it is short and sweet. The body of the text is just one-hundred and forty-five pages. What makes this succinct book so remarkable is that Edgar tells the story and puts you in the shoes of the backcountry frontiersmen. The backdrop he paints of colonial South Carolina prior to the war shows how fragile civilization and civil society was on the frontier. He astutely explains the rigors of frontier life in the Carolina backcountry. He captures the essence of the tempestuous and rugged individualism of the Scotch-Irish settlers which were predominant in the region. Edgar tells of the sectarian animosities and strife that ensued. In one case, the tale of feuding Ulster Scot Presbyterians and Anglicans was rather humorous.** Law and order was hard to come by on the frontier, and criminal gangs of thieves and extortionists were rampant. Blood feuds and social strife ensued as a general rule. This gave rise to vigilante and posse groups like the Regulators who were eventually deputized by the state assembly. Eventually, the forces of ordered liberty quelled the forces of anarchy. The vigilante groups after some abuses were obliged to check one another at the behest of the State legislature.Read more ›
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