Conquering the American Wilderness: The Triumph of European Warfare in the Colonial Northeast

Conquering the American Wilderness: The Triumph of European Warfare in the Colonial Northeast

Conquering the American Wilderness: The Triumph of European Warfare in the Colonial Northeast

Conquering the American Wilderness: The Triumph of European Warfare in the Colonial Northeast

Synopsis

A study of military tactics and strategy before the War of Independence, this work re-examines the conquest of the North American wilderness and its native peoples by colonial settlers. It argues that the colonies' military and political leadership looked to Europe for guidance in art of combat.

Excerpt

When I began this project, my intent was to trace the process by which the settlers of New England were transformed from a collection of farmers into an “Americanized” military society. I saw it as a military and psychological transformation—competition with the Indians over territory and resources taught the colonists to free themselves from the rigid constraints of “civilized” warfare and acquaint themselves with the pragmatic and rational means by which to contend with the unique tactics of New England's native population. I was excited about the prospect of charting the gradual progress of colonial armed forces—how, through imitation and innovation they enhanced their potency and effectiveness against Indian forces.

This thesis, however, did not withstand the evidence. Like other scholars of early American history, I was struck by the trends of cultural continuity rather than the glimpses of an Atlantic cultural divide. The settlers— especially those of the New England colonies—are often presented as prophets of a new era and a uniquely American culture. Some military historians share this view, arguing that the colonial era saw the development of an “American way of war, ” setting the stage for the stunning victory of American forces over the British during the American War of Independence. By the nature of their profession, historians tend both to discern patterns and to impose them on the past. It is important, however, to keep in mind that not all pre-Revolutionary developments were precursors to the Revolution. An examination of the miitary accomplishments of colonial armed forces in the Northeast clearly demonstrates this point.

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