The American Revolution that is.
I live in Boston. Birthplace of American Independence. (I mean, I guess you could say Philly has that distinction too, but whatevs.) Home of the REAL Tea Party (not those political lunatics around now). I’ll be honest….I know the big stories from years of school history, but I never really thought about it too much. This past winter/spring, I was introduced to a show on A&E called “Turn”. The show is about the first American Intelligence group (spies if you will) and how they were used in the initial part of the American Revolution.
Okay, I know that sounds sort of boring. I mean, Yay America! But Intelligence operations during that time period? Well, the show convinced me it was interesting. So then I turned my attention to reading more about the Revolution itself and how people lived during that time. I started with a series of fiction books by Christine Blevins involving a widow during the New York occupation by the British. The first book, The Tory Widow, centers on Ann Merrick, a woman married off to a British citizen, but fascinated by a young man with decidedly rebel tendencies. The story follows their journey both in and around New York City. The story continues in The Turning of Anne Merrick. Now it follows Anne embedded in the British march, but sending coded messages to Jack and the American forces. This ramps up the action quite a bit, but at it’s heart is a romance story.
For a more factual take (but still labeled as Fiction) I started Jeff Shaara’s Rise to Rebellion. This book laid out the facts and how contentious the decision to declare Independence really was. I started the second book in this series, but haven’t had a chance to finish it yet. The second book is basically a war story from both the American and British perspectives.
Reading these stories after learning a sanitized version in old History classes provides a level of detail that I never knew before. Even while reading fiction, one can find a level of truth. The show and the books showed me that Benedict Arnold, while a traitor, was still human. His choices not withstanding, he believed in the cause before becoming disillusioned by leadership. That happens to this day. You can believe in what you’re fighting for without believing in those who lead you. Granted, most don’t abandon their principles, but the revolution was a different time. When you grow up surrounded by British people and considering yourself a British citizen, it can be hard to turn the switch.
This type of work fascinates me, and I enjoy reading things that help put a human face on the distant past. I have a few non-fiction books about the revolution that I want to start, because I don’t think it’s a bad thing to learn about our (American) history.