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The American Revolution is often portrayed as an orderly, restrained rebellion, with brave patriots defending their noble ideals against an oppressive empire. It's a stirring narrative, and one the founders did their best to encourage after the war. But as historian Holger Hoock shows in this deeply researched and elegantly written account of America’s founding, the Revolution was not only a high-minded battle over principles, but also a profoundly violent civil war—one that shaped the nation, and the British Empire, in ways we have only begun to understand.
In Scars of Independence, Hoock writes the violence back into the story of the Revolution. American Patriots persecuted and tortured Loyalists. British troops massacred enemy soldiers and raped colonial women. Prisoners were starved on disease-ridden ships and in subterranean cells. African-Americans fighting for or against independence suffered disproportionately, and Washington's army waged a genocidal campaign against the Iroquois. In vivid, authoritative prose, Hoock's new reckoning also examines the moral dilemmas posed by this all-pervasive violence, as the British found themselves torn between unlimited war and restraint toward fellow subjects, while the Patriots documented war crimes in an ingenious effort to unify the fledgling nation.
For two centuries we have whitewashed this history of the Revolution. Scars of Independence forces a more honest appraisal, revealing the inherent tensions between moral purpose and violent tendencies in America's past. In so doing, it offers a new origins story that is both relevant and necessary—an important reminder that forging a nation is rarely bloodless.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Andrea on 07-04-18
Engaging, Unusual Perspective on The Revolution
Holger Hoock, as a German "outsider," presents a highly-nuanced view of "America's First Civil War," as he terms it, that avoids the biased narratives that often accompany both American and British histories of the war. While you may not agree with all of his conclusions, his research is impeccable.
By Mike Weiss on 04-03-18
William Tecumseh Sherman
As an American and amateur history buff I greatly enjoyed the information contained within Holger’s book. I had heard or read bits and pieces of how violent our Revolutionary War had been. I think he was right on when he called this our first civil war. What I didn’t like was Holger’s implication that it was uniquely violent. William Tecumseh Sherman put it best when he said that “war is hell.”
One thing that did surprise me was how inhumanely the British prosecuted the war. For 50% of American causalities to have occurred as POWs is eye opening. I got the impression that the theme of Mel Gibson’s movie “Patriot” was entirely possible given what Holger reported.
I would suggest that Holger delete his epilogue with his pontifications, that added absolute nothing to his book. If anything it was a distraction.