I am on the mailing list for the Fort Plain Museum, which lies in the heart of Mohawk country. The museum has an outstanding online bookstore collection on the American Revolution, and proceeds from sales support the museum, which I like. Anyway, they sent me notice of a new book that has me intrigued:
The Spurgin family of North Carolina experienced the cataclysm of the American Revolution in the most dramatic ways—and from different sides. This engrossing book tells the story of Jane Welborn Spurgin, a patriot who welcomed General Nathanael Greene to her home and aided Continental forces while her loyalist husband was fighting for the king as an officer in the Tory militia. By focusing on the wife of a middling backcountry farmer, esteemed historian Cynthia Kierner shows how the Revolution not only toppled long-established political hierarchies but also strained family ties and drew women into the public sphere to claim both citizenship and rights—as Jane Spurgin did with a dramatic series of petitions to the North Carolina state legislature when she fought to reclaim her family’s lost property after the war was over.
While providing readers with stories of battles, horse-stealing, bigamy, and exile that bring the Revolutionary era vividly to life, this book also serves as an invaluable examination of the potentially transformative effects of war and revolution, both personally and politically.
They had me at battles, horse-stealing and bigamy.
Frontier Partisans is a masculine space — though we have some wonderful women who are readers and contributors. And I will stand the magnificent Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser in the company of any male hero of the frontier. The experience of women during the Revolutionary War, especially in the backcountry, is something worthy of more exploration, and I’m tempted by this book.
One reason is that it seems to get at one of the most important, yet often overlooked aspects of the Revolution: It was as much a civil war as the one that came in the 1860s — and perhaps a more useful example of one if we are to glean lessons from history that can inform our contemporary understanding. For if we are headed for a civil war in this country, it won’t look like the regional divide of the 1860s — it will look like the neighbor-vs.-neighbor, Loyalist-vs.-Rebel/Patriot ructions of the New York frontier or the Carolina backcountry.
The rending social and political conflict of 1775-1783 placed unique burdens on women — an aspect of the war that was nicely brought forth in TURN: Washington’s Spies (very much a mixed bag, but ultimately worth the time). I have no business adding to my reading list, but I’m gonna do it anyway.