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The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America' [Kindle Edition]

Scott Weidensaul
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Frontier: the word carries the inevitable scent of the West. But before Custer or Lewis and Clark, before the first Conestoga wagons rumbled across the Plains, it was the East that marked the frontier—the boundary between complex Native cultures and the first colonizing Europeans.

Here is the older, wilder, darker history of a time when the land between the Atlantic and the Appalachians was contested ground—when radically different societies adopted and adapted the ways of the other, while struggling for control of what all considered to be their land.

The First Frontier traces two and a half centuries of history through poignant, mostly unheralded personal stories—like that of a Harvard-educated Indian caught up in seventeenth-century civil warfare, a mixed-blood interpreter trying to straddle his white and Native heritage, and a Puritan woman wielding a scalping knife whose bloody deeds still resonate uneasily today. It is the first book in years to paint a sweeping picture of the Eastern frontier, combining vivid storytelling with the latest research to bring to life modern America’s tumultuous, uncertain beginnings.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The paired terms of frontier and Indian often conjure up images of cavalry troops and eagle-feather-bonneted Sioux or Cheyenne warriors struggling across buffalo-laden plains. As this exciting and revealing chronicle shows, the original frontier was in the East, stretching from the tidewater to the foothills of the Appalachians, and from Maine to Florida. Weidensaul, an author and naturalist, provides a stirring panorama of the land and the peoples who made their mark on it from the late sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. The land is described, in detail, as lush and enticing, but it was a lushness that could kill when it turned harsh and violent. Across this landscape, Weidensaul tracks the diverse and complicated mix of humanity who cooperated, fought, and transformed it, including various Huron, Iroquoian, and Algonquian Native American groupings and French-, English-, and German-speaking Europeans. This is a rich tableau that both excites and informs about the forging of early American society. --Jay Freeman


“With a novelist's flair, he conveys the experiences of ordinary people pitted against powerful and unpredictable nature. . . Mr. Weidensaul invites readers to imagine the bloody ground beneath modern America's apparently tame landscape.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“Exhaustively researched and entertainingly written. . . Credit Weidensaul with proving once again that history does not have to be dull in order to be comprehensive. It would be difficult to find a work of either fact or fiction more filled with excitement and suspense than The First Frontier.”
—The Seattle Times

“With a novelist's flair, he conveys the experiences of ordinary people pitted against powerful and unpredictable nature. . . Mr. Weidensaul invites readers to imagine the bloody ground beneath modern America's apparently tame landscape.”
—The Wall Street Journal

Product Details

  • File Size: 6247 KB
  • Print Length: 501 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (February 8, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005LVR7FE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,609 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
102 of 109 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative February 8, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a very well-written, highly readable, and very informative book. The author is a very skillful writer who makes many different, complex, subjects come alive. The book is mostly narrative in form and is far from dry history. The book is part anthropology, part sociology, part geology, and part (the largest part) history. It book discusses the earliest interactions between the American Indians and the colonizers from Europe, and also discuses the conflicts between various Indian tribes, between the English, French and Spanish colonies, and between different groups within each colony.

The first part of the book deals with the question of how the original settlers, the Indians, came to the new world. It describes the newest evidence that challenges the view that they all came across on a land bridge from Asia. It also challenges the idea that Columbus was the first European to reach the New World and that the colonies in the Southern part of the US and in the Caribbean were the first places where the significant interactions between Europeans and Indians took place. The book supports the idea that the Portuguese were fishing for Cod and drying them on the shores of North America long before the first Spanish and English colonies were established. The first part of the book contains a lot of geology and anthropology, as well as history and it was my favorite part of the book.

The next two sections deal with the interactions between the colonies and the Indians, as well as inter-colony and inter-tribal conflicts. A reader should be forewarned that much of this material is disturbing, involving murder, rape and torture. The first of these two parts deals with the Southern Frontier and the second with the Northern Frontier.
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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Was America's True Frontier? February 8, 2012
Scott Weidensaul takes us back to the true frontier, The First Frontier, where lands east of the Hudson and Delaware were hotly contested for two centuries before the American Revolution. People who laid claim to the eastern seaboard came with ambiguous motives from unimaginably different cultures and lands. Although cohabiting the land, they communicated poorly and remained estranged. This peerlessly researched book opens our eyes to a violent time in the history of America of which most of us are uninformed. One would think that as time went by, civil co-habitation would occur, but the author tells us, "Far from being a cordial melting pot, the frontier was becoming an increasingly fractious mishmash."

Part One entrenches us in the various cultures of these early inhabitants of eastern America. Part Two describes the 17th century expansion of the American colonies around Chesapeake Bay and New England, resulting in hatred, fear and bloodshed. Part Three is the story of the farther frontier, the Pennsylvania backcountry, where today a marker proclaiming the site of the first Amish settlement reminds us of the ghosts of that time.

Interesting details from the book include:

- 90% of America's native people lost their lives from foreign disease not long after European colonists arrived.

- A white woman released from Native American captivity returned home to write the first American bestseller. Mary Rowlandson was the first female writer to publish in North America.

- Brickmaker, Thomas Duston, had to choose between saving his bedridden wife or his children from the Indians.

- Commercial slave trading boomed on both sides in the 1700s.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures a Vibrant Period of History January 25, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
History should be written so a reader can gain knowledge of the realities that shaped the lives of the men and women in past societies. In "The First Frontier" this was achieved by Scott Weidensaul's presentation of the rich diversity of cultures, Native Americans and early Europeans, and their interactions on the eastern portion of North America in an informative and understandable way.

Being a resident of New Jersey and having traveled many times to Texas and New Mexico I found Weidensaul statement in his introduction "In the West, the frontier still seems close to the surface" indisputably true. Here on the eastern seaboard one can find and visit many historical sites that mainly deal with the Revolution and the Civil War that overshadow the struggle of the cultures that clashed in early America. In the western states much of the culture, architect (Mesa Verde, etc), and descendants are quite visible.

Weidensaul brilliantly chronicles the heroes and villains of both sides as their interactions at times results in horrific bloody conflict. Also, Weidensaul describes the sometimes peaceful and many times greedy motives and desires of the Spanish, English, Dutch and French in the early years of contact before expansion and settlement pressures promoted unfair dealings with Native Americans.

In addition, Weidensaul describes how Native American tribes and confederations sought to take advantage of the Europeans coming to their shores. They sought alliances to help them with the never ending conflicts they had with one another. Many of the items they sought as they traded animal pelts and food to acquire, such as metal knives, hatchets and muskets would be used against the colonists.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars and it is not a pretty story–-although it was probably inevitable
Scott Weidensaul has given us a harrowing account of the way the first British settlements in North America took land from the Native American who lived there. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Don Brophy
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
good book
Published 23 days ago by Tim Moe
4.0 out of 5 stars I read a lot of history for enjoyment and rarely read a novel or a...
I read a lot of history for enjoyment and rarely read a novel or a work of fiction. Colonial history is a constant theme in my selections, and, but for different authors the events... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jeff
4.0 out of 5 stars ... resulted in a wealth of information wrapped in some good...
Much research resulted in a wealth of information wrapped in some good storytelling. No anti - anything bias in any direction, just some 'tell it like it wa s' factual writing. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Frank Ott
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and well researched
Beautifully written and well researched. Even handed. Shows clearly how both sides were trying to get a leg up on the other within the limitations of their own world view.
Published 1 month ago by Douglas C. Brownlie
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great book
Published 2 months ago by David
3.0 out of 5 stars Same old, same old
Coming from Schoenbrunn, Ohio I am always looking for books which have to do with the period of Schoenbrunn' s emergence and history. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Unknown
4.0 out of 5 stars A good in depth look at OHIO...
A good read BUT it delves into too much political activity. It s NOT a adventure novel. If you are a resident of OHIO and want to know its HISTORY, buy this book..
Published 3 months ago by dennis h wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars a very good overall view of Native American and European relations.
A systematic study of how the diverse Native American groups related with the various European powers, each with differing agendas and for differing ends.
Published 4 months ago by john miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book
Published 4 months ago by ems78243
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