Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Other Side of the American Revolution

By happenstance I've recently been reading about two Loyalists.  One is David Fanning of North Carolina; the other is Simon Girty of Pennsylvania.  Both went to Canada after the Revolutionary War.

Fanning left an autobiography, called the Narrative of David Fanning.  There isn't a real Pennsylvania connection here, though quite a few Pennsylvanians are mentioned in his narrative, people who went back and forth between the two colonies.  One fascinating aspect of his story is the number of times he escaped from the Rebels, as he called the soon-to-be-Americans.  His captors increasingly escalated their methods of restraining him.  He was hogtied, tied to a soldier, tied to a horse, tied under a horse, locked in a house, chained up in a jail, chained to a post in the middle of the room in a jail.  Each time he escaped.  Of course, one reason he escaped so often is that he was captured so often, and that may have been because he most  often went back home after each escape, which would make him relatively easy to find. 

Girty left no writings of his own but I skimmed through a couple of books about him, just out of curiosity.  We don't hear much about him these days but was considered an evil villain of the Revolution and appeared in American popular culture into the mid-1800s.  There is a lot of contradictory information out there so if you're interested in reading up on him, look for some of the more recently scholarly books for a more evenhanded view.  On the face of it he doesn't seem to have been a particularly loveable fellow. 

Both were familiar with local Native Americans.  Girty's father died when he was very young and his mother remarried.  The new familiar was taken captive and the stepfather killed.  Girty's continuing relations with the Indians was sometimes problematic but he often served as a go between or translator between the British and the Indians.  Some people think he also negotiated for the release of Americans held hostage.  Fanning mentions living for a time with tribes in his area. 

As I was returning all the books to the library it occurred to me that this might be unusual reading around July 4th. 

No comments: