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Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution Paperback – April 12, 2016
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“[DuVal] has produced a richly documented and compelling account . . . to form a layered history of connected, sometimes shared, experiences.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A remarkable, necessary—and entirely new—book about the American Revolution. DuVal’s history reminds us that if we celebrate a more inclusive vision of the United States this Fourth of July, one that seems ascendant these days, it is not the one the founding generation had in mind.”—The Daily Beast
“Declaring that the American Revolution was fought in the name of empire almost seems blasphemous. However, DuVal excellently details how the event was actually a war for empire along the Gulf Coast of the United States. . . . Highly recommended for students and scholars of the revolution, American South, borderlands, and forgotten theaters of war; along with those looking for a solid read in history.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“With deep research and lively writing, Kathleen DuVal musters a compelling cast to recover the dramatic story of the American Revolution in borderlands uneasily shared by rival empires, enslaved people, and defiant natives. She deftly reveals powerful but long-hidden dimensions of a revolution rich with many possible alternatives to the triumph of the United States.”—Alan Taylor, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Internal Enemy
“In a completely new take on the American Revolution and a riveting contribution to history, Kathleen DuVal explains how an unexpected cast of Gulf Coast characters fought for their own version of self-determination. The story is gripping, rife with pathos, double-dealing, and intrigue. The outcome is compelling, reverberating through American history to the present.”—Elizabeth A. Fenn, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Encounters at the Heart of the World
“Independence Lost is an extraordinary achievement. Rooting compelling personal stories in deep original research, Kathleen DuVal brings to life a war for American independence that will be utterly new to most readers.”—Daniel K. Richter, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of Before the Revolution
“Kathleen DuVal has found an exciting and accessible way to convey this history without sacrificing the richness and intricacy of a part of North America where multiple Indian nations—as well as Britain, France, Spain, and the emerging United States—competed with one another for power.”—Andrés Reséndez, author of A Land So Strange
“A superb example of how the familiar becomes unfamiliar when viewed from a fresh angle, Independence Lost is a work of stunning scholarship with which anyone interested in the origins of the United States will have to contend.”—Andrew Cayton, co-author of The Dominion of War
“With stirring prose and through inventive, indefatigable research, Kathleen DuVal recovers a place in time and a cast of compelling characters that seldom feature in our accounts of the wars that created the United States. The result is an important, original, and entirely unforgettable book.”—Jane Kamensky, author of The Exchange Artist
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Now, along comes Anne Hyde (Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800–1860) and Kathleen Duval and they have found the solution to my dilemma. A country-full of restless people for whom anything was possible, but nothing certain, the world De Tocqueville characterized so well, did exist on the frontier in the shape of various entrepreneurs who attempted, as Duval and Hyde see it, to build trading empires in difficult cultural, social and political circumstances. But the entrepreneurs they describe did not do this acting as "atoms of self-interest", but rather by developing social and kinship networks with Native Americans, their tribes and empires and Spanish colonists and their empires that helped to adapt their economic endeavors to difficult circumstances. It reminded me, in some ways, of the situation in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, where as Mike Martin Describes it in his book, An Intimate War, An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict, tribal connections and economic competition for land, roads, water and drugs, had more to do with how key Afghan figures behaved during the western occupations than jihadist rhetoric. All of the three places and times about which these three authors write were, to say the least, difficult. But those who survived best, for a while at least, made the best of difficult circumstances by playing off different political and economic sides against each other. However, in Duval's and Hyde's work at least, very few of them were able to adjust to the westward movement of Americans and the US government that protected them and were simply overwhelmed. I don't know how the key figures in Martin's book are doing these days.
So, the American frontier, it turns out, did help to develop what De Toqueville wrote about the American character, but not by means of rugged individualism and self-reliance. Entrepreneurial capitalism was the driver, adjusting to the situation on the ground, socially and culturally, not self-reliance was the means...and it mostly ended in disappointment, overtaken by railroad kings and land tycoons...just as I had always believed.
This is a great book.
In the next 40+ years, territorial interests remain constant but who can enforce them changes. By the end of the book, Spanish control of New Orleans and the Mississippi is lost, France (Napoleon) sells its vast holdings to the US, British colonies remain in Canada and the Caribbean but are separated by the new continental power. The greatest loss is with the Native Americans were are destined to be removed from the eastern side of the Mississippi River having succumbed to the greed of the European and American pursuits.
As the political maneuvers play out, more recognizable players (Washington, Anthony Wayne, George III) come and go but the steady erosion continues for Spain, Britain, France and Native Americans while only the colonies/United States keeps advancing in its insatiable need for more land.
What I enjoyed most was the strategic importance that West Florida and the lower Mississippi River played during the 5 decades covered by the book. Pensacola, Mobile, Natchez and New Orleans were locations that rivaled more recognizable names like Savannah, Charlestown and Havana. Who are allies and who are enemies becomes a senseless label as each competing player plays off the selfish desires of the other powers. Likewise for the winners and losers among the seven individuals who carry us through the history.