The scouting parties are doing excellent work.
Captain Schwertfegger scouted up this tome on one of the wildest and most colorful Frontier Partisans of them all:
Murderer. Salesman. Pirate. Adventurer. Cannibal. Co-founder of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Known to some as the first European to explore the upper Mississippi, and widely as the namesake of ships and hotel chains, Pierre-Esprit Radisson is perhaps best described, writes Mark Bourrie, as “an eager hustler with no known scruples.” Kidnapped by Mohawk warriors at the age of fifteen, Radisson assimilated and was adopted by a powerful family, only to escape to New York City after less than a year. After being recaptured, he defected from a raiding party to the Dutch and crossed the Atlantic to Holland―thus beginning a lifetime of seized opportunities and frustrated ambitions.
A guest among First Nations communities, French fur traders, and royal courts; witness to London’s Great Plague and Great Fire; and unwitting agent of the Jesuits’ corporate espionage, Radisson double-crossed the English, French, Dutch, and his adoptive Mohawk family alike, found himself marooned by pirates in Spain, and lived through shipwreck on the reefs of Venezuela. His most lasting venture as an Artic fur trader led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which operates today, 350 years later, as North America’s oldest corporation.
Sourced from Radisson’s journals, which are the best first-hand accounts of 17th century Canada, Bush Runner tells the extraordinary true story of this protean 17th-century figure, a man more trading partner than colonizer, a peddler of goods and not worldview―and with it offers a fresh perspective on the world in which he lived.
The Washington Post put forth a review, which includes a nice synopsis of the rather sordid underlying causes of the conflict:
In 1713 Britain’s South Sea Company entered the slave trade, paying Spain a hefty sum for the right to transport African captives to the West Indies. However, the company quickly realized that various provisos in the contract made it impossible to rake in the riches it had counted on and without which the inflated market bubble for its stock would soon burst. Hoping to forestall that disaster, the SSC hustled to increase its profit margin by smuggling European goods to the Americas. To discourage this illicit trade, the Spanish retaliated by organizing offshore patrols for ruthless search-and-seizure operations. During one of these, Capt. Robert Jenkins, of the brig HMS Rebecca, was tortured, then had his ear sliced off with a saber.
Back in England, this atrocity caused an uproar of patriotic indignation before being slowly forgotten. A few years later, however, international politics — involving Habsburg bloodlines, a half-mad, sex-obsessed Spanish king, and a surge of British imperialist fervor — revived the memory of Jenkins’s severed appendage. Seizing its chance, the South Sea Company started beating the war drum, successfully lobbying for a concerted military intervention to wrest control of the West Indies and even South America from Spain. Think of all that Mexican gold and Peruvian silver!
The review is solid — and now I know a snobby French term for my favorite kind of reading and writing. I am a specialist in haute vulgarisation. Who knew?
Military tactics, financial shenanigans, political infighting, even an expedition into the Pacific — all these are splendidly described and orchestrated by Gaudi. He further salts an already exciting narrative with lurid gossip about the Spanish court, quotations from many secondary sources, including Charles Mackay’s classic “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” and detailed, You-Are-There accounts of land and sea battles. While Gaudi doesn’t hide his contempt for the popinjays and idiots who wasted the lives of good men, he is unstinting in his admiration for heroism and self-sacrifice.
In short, “The War of Jenkins’ Ear” is a superb example of what the French call haute vulgarisation, that is, a serious nonfiction work designed to be read for pleasure.
The Almighty Algorithm then kicked up another new book on a now-obscure — but very significant — European war that had major repercussions in the Colonies. That would be Queen Anne’s War.
Queen Anne’s War was very significant for North America — on the wilderness frontier of New England and New York, on the southern frontier, and on the maritime frontier of the Caribbean.
Told from the halls of power in North America and Europe, and through the eyes of the men and women who found themselves embroiled in this brutal realignment of colonial interests, Queen Anne’s War recreates the world of early North American expansion at the ground level, providing riveting accounts of the battles across settlements and wilderness as well as the motives, conditions, triumphs, and failures of the Europeans and their respective Native American allies. Based on extensive primary source research and command of English, French, and Spanish sources, the narrative not only describes the economic and geopolitical ramifications of the war that reshaped North America, but intriguingly reveals the sense of independence emerging in the colonies, from Puritan New England to plantation South Carolina, at the close of the war.
The Deerfield Raid of 1704, when French and Abenaki operators hit the Massachusetts settlement in winter and made off with many captives was part of the war, and the conflict also gave rise to a massive boom in maritime privateering. That cork couldn’t be forced back into the rum bottle, and when the war and its lucrative maritime contracting ended, there was an explosion of Caribbean and North American mayhem now known as The Golden Age of Piracy.
Queen Anne was the subject of the movie The Favourite:
The conflict also spawned one of the great British military songs, which would be readily repurposed a hundred years on — just change the name of the monarch, and it fit Wellington’s Army.
I’ve seen Laramie’s name, but haven’t read any of his books — which clearly has to change. He also wrote a tome on King William’s War:
While much has been written on the French and Indian War of 1754–1763, the colonial conflicts that preceded it have received comparatively little attention. Yet in King William’s War, the first clash between England and France for control of North America, the patterns of conflict for the next seventy years were laid, as were the goals and objectives of both sides, as well as the realization that the colonies of the two nations could not coexist.
King William’s War actually encompassed several proxy wars being fought by the English and the French through their native allies. The Beaver Wars was a long running feud between the Iroquois Confederacy, New France, and New France’s native allies over control of the lucrative fur trade. Fueled by English guns and money, the Iroquois attempted to divert the French fur trade towards their English trading partners in Albany, and in the process gain control over other Indian tribes. To the east the pro-French Wabanaki of Maine, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick had earlier fought a war with New England, but English expansion and French urgings, aided by foolish moves and political blunders on the part of New England, erupted into a second Wabanaki War on the eve of King William’s War. Thus, these two conflicts officially became one with the arrival of news of a declaration of war between France and England in 1689. The next nine years saw coordinated attacks, including French assaults on Schenectady, New York, and Massachusetts, and English attacks around Montreal and on Nova Scotia. The war ended diplomatically, but started again five years later in Queen Anne’s War.
And then there’s this:
From Champlain and Hudson’s initial voyages some 400 years ago, to the surrender of Montreal in 1760, The European Invasion of North America: Colonial Conflict Along the Hudson – Champlain Corridor, 1609–1760 offers unprecedented coverage of the 150-year struggle between New World rivals along this natural invasion route―a struggle which would ultimately determine the destiny of North America.
Unlike other volumes on this period, The European Invasion of North America includes extensive coverage from the French and Dutch as well as British perspectives, examining events in the context of larger colonial confrontations. Drawing on hundreds of firsthand accounts, it recaps political maneuvers and blunders, military successes and failures, and the remarkable people behind them all: cabinet ministers in Paris, Amsterdam, and London; colonial leaders such as Stuyvesant, Frontenac, and Montcalm; shrewd diplomats of the Iroquois Confederacy; and soldiers and families on all sides of the conflict. It also highlights the growing friction between Britain and her American colonies, which would soon lead to a different war.
Interlibrary loan is my only salvation sometimes…
Reese Crawford scouted up a new podcast from Black Barrel Media, producer of the Legends of the Old West Podcast. They also produce a podcast titled Infamous America, and their latest podcast is on Claude Dallas. Dallas was a buckaroo and trapper in the Idaho-Oregon-Nevada region. In 1981, he killed two game wardens and went on the run. After a long manhunt, he was caught and convicted of manslaughter. He escaped from prison and ran again, for a year-and-a-half. He was recaptured and served out the rest of his sentence. He’s out now.
This has been an important story for me for decades and I’ll be most interested to get the Infamous America take on it.