Our First Civil War: Patriots and Loyalists in the American Revolution (Hardcover)
From best-selling historian and Pulitzer Prize finalist H. W. Brands comes a gripping, page-turning narrative of the American Revolution that shows it to be more than a fight against the British: it was also a violent battle among neighbors forced to choose sides, Loyalist or Patriot.
What causes people to forsake their country and take arms against it? What prompts their neighbors, hardly distinguishable in station or success, to defend that country against the rebels? That is the question H. W. Brands answers in his powerful new history of the American Revolution.
George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were the unlikeliest of rebels. Washington in the 1770s stood at the apex of Virginia society. Franklin was more successful still, having risen from humble origins to world fame. John Adams might have seemed a more obvious candidate for rebellion, being of cantankerous temperament. Even so, he revered the law. Yet all three men became rebels against the British Empire that fostered their success.
Others in the same circle of family and friends chose differently. William Franklin might have been expected to join his father, Benjamin, in rebellion but remained loyal to the British. So did Thomas Hutchinson, a royal governor and friend of the Franklins, and Joseph Galloway, an early challenger to the Crown. They soon heard themselves denounced as traitors--for not having betrayed the country where they grew up. Native Americans and the enslaved were also forced to choose sides as civil war broke out around them.
After the Revolution, the Patriots were cast as heroes and founding fathers while the Loyalists were relegated to bit parts best forgotten. Our First Civil War reminds us that before America could win its revolution against Britain, the Patriots had to win a bitter civil war against family, neighbors, and friends.
About the Author
H. W. BRANDS holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written more than a dozen biographies and histories, including the The General vs. the President, a New York Times bestseller, and The Zealot and the Emancipator, his most recent book. Two of his biographies, The First American and Traitor to His Class, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.
“Americans tend to forget that we have always been at war with one another—even in the beginning. In this splendid new book, H. W. Brands tells the story of the American Revolution as it really unfolded—as a civil war between colonial patriots and those loyal to the British Crown and Parliament. Division, Brands reminds us, is as American as unity.”
--Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope
“H.W. Brands’ Our First Civil War is a sleek, riveting one-volume account of the American Revolution that speaks compellingly to our current age of division and discord. A bravura performance by one of our great historical storytellers.”
--Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy and In the Heart of the Sea, winner of the National Book Award
“Brands delivers a page-turning account of the [Revolutionary War]. . . Gripping prose and lucid explanations of the period’s complex politics make this an essential reconsideration of the Revolutionary era."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"An expert account . . . A skillful traditional history of the American Revolution that pays more than the usual attention to its American opponents."
“Brands is known for histories that are timely, fascinating and beautifully written. . . This slice of American history will especially resonate at a time when the United States is locked in another ideological struggle over which is the best path forward.”