William Bartram and the American Revolution on the Southern Frontier

Article excerpt

William Bartram and the American Revolution on the Southern Frontier. By Edward J. Cashin. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, c. 2000. Pp. xvi, 319. $39.95, ISBN 1-57003-325-0.)

Edward J. Cashin has written a fascinating narrative account of and commentary on the journeys of William Bartram, a Philadelphia naturalist who traveled through present-day North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi from the spring of 1773 until December 1776. Cashin uses all of Bartram's writings in addition to other sources, thus correcting Bartram's sometimes confusing chronology, and he succeeds admirably in putting Bartram's work in the context of the time. He emphasizes Bartram's valuable ethnographic information and gives a thorough analysis of the troubles with the southern tribes at that time and the colonists' reaction thereto as determinants of many white southerners' attitudes toward the Revolutionary movement.

With the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Britain acquired territories that it knew little about. The Crown obviously had an interest in learning about the new lands, but so did private gentlemen of education and fortune. Some were especially interested in exotic plants for both their curative powers and ornamental uses. Consequently, Bartram secured the patronage of Dr. John Fothergill, a Quaker who possessed a large and excellent garden near London. His sponsor subsidized Bartram in the exploration of the southeast to collect and draw plants. Bartram's field notes were the basis of his reports on natural history to Dr. …


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