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When thinking about the American Revolutionary War, the founding fathers, Paul Revere and militia men fighting for independence from Britain are first to come to mind. But an historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says there is much more to the story. In a new book, professor Kathleen DuVal explores how marginalized groups who lived outside of colonial society changed the outcome of the war. Slaves and Cajun exiles along the gulf coast fought against the British for their own reasons. And some Native Americans Indians chose not to assist the British at crucial moments. We hear a new take on the American Revolution.
- Kathleen DuVal History professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is author of "The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Petit Jean was a slave in Mobile, Alabama, during the American Revolution. He did not care about American independence, but Spanish invaders promised him his freedom if he helped fight the British. Petit Jean ended up playing a critical role organizing militias to defeat Britain. Petit Jean is just one of the real-life characters in a new book about lesser known marginalized people who changed the course of the war.
MS. DIANE REHMThe book is titled "Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution." Author Kathleen DuVal joins me in the studio. Throughout the hour, we'll take your calls, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Kathleen, it's good to meet you.
MS. KATHLEEN DUVALThank you, Diane. I'm so glad to be here.
REHMKathleen, your book focuses on the wars that took place around the Gulf of Mexico. Tell us about that.
DUVALWell, I thought -- I knew that when people think about the revolution and usually when historians usually write about the revolution, you would write about Boston, about Virginia, those are the stories we know and they're great stories about the American Revolution. But in the course of working on previous work, I found out about these battles that took place at Mobile and Pensacola and Baton Rouge along the Gulf Coast.
DUVALAnd I had never heard of these. And I started to ask people about them and see if I could read a little bit more about them in what other historians had written. And there really wasn't much.
REHMThere wasn't much.
DUVALExactly. And so I think people don't know about these battles that much because the main people fighting there were the British on one side, of course, but then it was the Spanish on the other side. It wasn't rebels and then I think that's why they aren't really part of our -- the stories we know about the revolution, but that's exactly what excited me about them.
DUVALI thought this is something that I didn't know about that I think other people might be interested in.
REHMSo the book really revolves around the siege of Pensacola. What was happening there?
DUVALSo the siege of Pensacola was when the Spanish besieged and tried to take and ultimately did take Pensacola from the British, so.
REHMWe're talking about the year 1781.
DUVALRight. The battle's in 1781. During the American Revolution, there were, you know, we think of there as being 13 British colonies, but there were actually about 26 British colonies in North America, counting the West Indies and Canada and West Florida, which is what Pensacola was part of. Spain entered the war to try to take advantage of this rebellion to Spain and eventually even to Britain.
DUVALThe rebellion wasn't really the big deal in the war. This became a global war, a world war.
REHMWhat was the population like in and around Pensacola at the time?
DUVALSo the population of Pensacola itself was fairly small. It was British and French because it had been French before the French and Indian War, before Britain won the French and Indian War. So they were clustered in Pensacola and then some plantations outside Pensacola worked by enslaved Africans and descendents of Africans. And then, the huge interior beyond Pensacola, still part of what Britain claimed as their colony was inhabited by Indians, by Creeks and Choctaws and beyond that Chickasaws as well as some smaller tribes.
REHMAnd how was the area governed, if at all?
DUVALSo when the British came to take over the post of Pensacola from the French who'd had it before, the Choctaws came to them and the Choctaws drew a line, literally, in the sand showing the British, you have jurisdiction about maybe 30 years from the Gulf. The rest of it is Indian territory, they said, Choctaw or Creek. So Pensacola, itself, was governed by the British in the same way that many of the other British colonies were.
DUVALAnd beyond that, Indian nations governed the land.
REHMAnd who were the Indians? How were they responding to the British?
DUVALSo in many ways, when they discussed what to do about this rebellion that lead into war, the British assumed that Indians would be on their side.
DUVALBecause most American Indians living east of the Mississippi, their greatest enemy was American settlers or British colonial settlers before the revolution who were moving onto their land, as these families really were seeking their own independence, land for themselves as part of the British empire, this was land belonging to Indians. And so the British empire, when this war broke out, thought, if settlers are your biggest problem, Indians, you will surely fight on the side of the empire.
DUVALAnd they promised Indians, we'll keep settlers off your land. What you need is an empire above settlers to tell them where they can go and where they can't go. But when Indians talked about what to do, many of them decided that it would actually be more in their interest to let the British and their own colonists fight it out and they were trying to keep both sides thinking they might enter the war, but keep out of it, not risk their lives and see what happened.
REHMSo you say that this battle that took place in Pensacola is very significant. Why?
DUVALSo one of the things that happens after the Spanish win this battle, they -- Bernard de Galvez, who is the Spanish general, takes the fleet, after they win, they're able to leave Pensacola and go to the West Indies and relieve the French fleet and Admiral De Grasse, who was there fighting battles against the British in the West Indies. When they freed that fleet, that French fleet is the one that went up to Yorktown and blockaded Yorktown, hemmed in Cornwallis, British General Cornwallis and lead to the victory of Washington and Lafayette over him, which, as we know, ultimately lead to the British surrendering to the rebels.
DUVALAnd also, another reason was the loss of Pensacola, the loss of British West Florida was the first colony in North America they'd lost that hadn't been a rebelling and so it looked like this rebellion might lead to losing other colonies the Spanish, including maybe Jamaica, which was the most valuable British colony.
REHMAnd you talk about Petit Jean as very significant in this whole operation. Tell us about him.
DUVALSo Petit Jean was a man of African descent, perhaps from Africa himself who had been -- who was a slave of the French, had a French master in Mobile. Mobile then became a British colony after the French and Indian War. And then, in one of these battles between the Spanish and the British during the American Revolution, the Spanish took Mobile and either recruited Petit Jean or he volunteered to start working for the Spanish.
DUVALNow, Petit Jean shows us all kinds of really interesting things, I think, about colonial era slavery. You know, we have this image of slavery as antebellum slavery, plantation slavery, the sort of slavery we see in "Twelve Years a Slave." This is before they actually, you know, one of the places that "Twelve Years a Slave" takes place, right there on the Gulf Coast, but in an earlier era and I think Petit Jean's life really can surprise us.
DUVALHe's a slave. Obviously, he doesn't have control over his own work and his own life and yet, his job was to take care of cattle outside Mobile so he basically spent most of his days independent, on his own, perhaps with another worker taking care of cattle, bringing them into the city to be use for meat when his master wanted him to.
DUVALAnd so Petit Jean was somebody who really understood the Gulf Coast. He knew its ins and outs and so he was extremely appealing to the Spanish. The Spanish were able to use him as a spy. He spied on the British for the Spanish. He spied on the Chickasaws for the Spanish.
REHMHow did he manage to do that and continue to do his work at the same time?
DUVALWell, one of the great things about the Spanish empire is if they want something, they can order people around. So they told his French master, we're going to use him instead of you and so he was freed from his other work. Not free, he was still a slave, but working for the Spanish and...
REHMBut they made -- the Spanish made a promise to him.
DUVALThat's exactly right. So at some point in his work, he was carrying messages back and forth, he got to know the Spanish general and they promised him his freedom, which he got at the end of the war.
REHMHe got it at the end of the war.
REHMHow old was he?
DUVALWell, it's hard to say. There's a census that he appears in and it doesn't show, but I -- he was probably in his 30s or 40s by then. He was married and he had earned some bounties along the way. He was able to earn some money and he was able to buy his wife's freedom with the help of the Spanish. There was a Spanish official who helped him negotiate a price to buy his wife.
REHMSo what was that something that the Spanish and the French commonly did was to offer slaves their freedom?
DUVALYes, it was. And, in fact, at the end of the revolution, after these battles on the Gulf Coast, General Galvez gave freedom to several -- we don’t know quite how many, but several really important slaves and to others, those who'd been wounded, he gave $80, which was a lot of money, enough for some of them to at least go a pretty long way toward buying their freedom.
DUVALAnd also the Spanish and French government, at least in theory, said that you had a right to work as a slave for money and you had a right to buy your own freedom so that if you and your master couldn't come up with a reasonable price or you thought your master was asking too much for your freedom, you could go before the court in the Spanish or the French systems and they would set a price.
REHMKathleen DuVal, she's professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her new book is titled "Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution." And why do you call it, "Independence Lost"?
DUVALWell, we think, you know, we celebrate on July 4th Independence Day, the independence of the colonies, the creation of the American Republic and tend to forget that there were people who saw things the other way, who felt that their independence was more threatened by the fact that the Americans won the American Revolution. And the most obvious people are Indian nations. In the colonial period, most Indian nations ruled themselves.
DUVALThey had their own independence and they lost that in the aftermath of the American Revolution.
REHMAll right. We do invite your calls, comments, questions, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio, Kathleen DuVal, professor of history at the University of North Carolina. We're talking about her brand new book. It's titled "Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution." She is talking about the slaves, the Native Americans, others who played a role in the American Revolutionary War that perhaps don't immediately come to mind when we think about that revolution. And Kathleen, you have a letter written by someone who had an interesting background. Tell us about him and about the letter he wrote.
DUVALSo this is written by Alexander McGillivray, and he's one of the people that I follow closely in the book.
DUVALSo I - this is a complicated story. I really wanted to tell why there are lots of different kinds of people involved, what brings them to the Revolution and what they do in the Revolution and what happens as a result of the Revolution, including the loss of independence for many of them. Alexander McGillivray, despite his Scottish name, was a Creek Indian, right.
DUVALSo his father was a Scottish merchant. The Creek Indians are matrilineal. So if your mother are Creek, you are Creek. You get a clan within the Creek Nation. And so he was Scottish from his father's side but fully Creek. The Creeks considered him completely one of them. He grew up, until he was about six years old, with the Creeks, with his mother's family, and then when he was about six, he went to Georgia with his father to learn how to run that side of the business, it was a fur-trading business, and learned how to read and write there.
DUVALAnd one of the reasons I chose him, he has a fascinating history that I'll talk a little bit more about, but one of the reasons I chose him is that he learned how to read and write. And in the 18th century, American Indians were oral cultures. They gave, you know, long and wonderful speeches that Europeans wrote down, but they usually didn't write, and so historians like historical, like, documents to read, right.
REHMOf course, of course.
DUVALSo he learned to read and write, and then when the American Revolution broke out, his father was a loyalist. So he and his sister got on their horses and fled back to Creek country in what's now sort of central Alabama. And when he got there, he had to, you know, learn again how to be a Creek, and he sort of used the fact that he had connections in the British world, as well as was important within -- his family was important in Creek country, to become a diplomat. He really was a Creek diplomat that during the Revolution conducted diplomacy with the British and tried to persuade other Creeks to fight on the side of the British against the Americans and the Spanish.
DUVALAnd then after the war, when the British lost, he started to negotiate for the Creeks with the Spanish and try to sort of heal things with the Spanish because he'd been on the other side during the war. But he realized that trade relations with Spain, particularly being able to get ammunition and guns from Spain, could be really important if they were going to end up in a fight with Georgia or other Americans for their land.
DUVALSo this is a -- oh, and another kind of diplomacy that he started to do after the American Revolution was to work with other Indians, not Creeks but other Indian tribes in the American Southeast and up into the Ohio Valley. As they -- in Indian country, there were tremendous conversations in this era about the American -- after the American Revolution about what are we going to do about settlers. If the British empire is gone, and they're the ones who were promising they would keep their settlers in check, we need to band together.
DUVALAnd so this letter that I want to share with you is something that he wrote down because he was the one who could write, but he writes it on behalf of the Creeks and also Chickasaws and Cherokees, who -- and they were all at a diplomatic meeting together. So we know that they worked together on this letter, even though he's the one who wrote it down.
DUVALSo what they're talking about in this letter is the Treaty of Paris has happened. The Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution in 1783, but it didn't settle the border between the United States and Indians, and it didn't settle the border between the United States and the Spanish colonies.
REHMAnd where were the borders at that time?
DUVALSo according to Spain, and it's hilarious when you look at maps because it looks so counterintuitive to what we know happens over the, you know, the first half of the 19th century, Spain at the end of the Revolution claims not only everything west of the Mississippi, California, New Mexico, all of that, everything south from Texas and Mexico on down to Tierra Del Fuego, but also, because of these victories on the Gulf Coast, they claimed, Spain claimed everything between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountains, as far up in some claims as the Great Lakes.
DUVALOf course to the United States this seemed ridiculous, these were exactly the lands that they wanted to be able to expand onto, and so this is a letter that Alexander McGillivray and these other Indian leaders wrote to the Spanish king in July of 1785 to talk about these border negotiations that they knew were about to happen between Spain and the United States. So John Jay was negotiating for the United States.
DUVALAnd if you like, I'll just -- shall I just read it to you?
DUVALAnd I can explain anything afterwards. So it's, we the chiefs and warriors of the Creek, Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations have reason to believe that the American Congress will endeavor to avail themselves of the late Treaty of Peace, as the Treaty of Paris, between them and the British nation, and that they will aim at getting his majesty the king of Spain to confirm to them that extensive territory, which includes the whole of our hunting grounds, to our great injury and ruin.
DUVALWe the chiefs and warriors of the Creek, Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations do hereby, in the most solemn manner, protest any title, claim or demand the American Congress may set up for or against our lands, settlements and hunting grounds in consequence of the Treaty of Peace between the king of Great Britain and the States of America, declaring that as we were not party, so that they hadn't been invited to Paris, as we were not parties, so we are determined to pay no attention to the manner in which the British negotiator has drawn out the lines of the lands in question, ceded to the States of America, it being a notorious fact known to the Americans, known to every person who is in any way conversant in or acquainted with American affairs that his Britannic majesty, so the king of England, was never possessed, either by session, purchase or by right of conquest of territories, and which the said treaty gives away.
DUVALThis is that the king didn't ever own our land, so he can't give our land away. On the contrary, it is well-known that from the first settlement of the English colonies of Carolina and Georgia, up to the date of the Treaty of Paris, no title has ever been made or even pretended to be made by his Britannic majesty to our lands except that what was obtained by free gift, so like that little strip that the Choctaws gave, by free gift or by purchase for good and valuable considerations. Nor did we nations of Creeks, Chickasaws and Cherokees do any act to forfeit our independence and natural rights to the said king of Great Britain that could invest him with the power of giving our property away unless fighting by the side of his soldiers in the day of battle and spilling our best blood in the service of his nation can be deemed so.
DUVALThe Americans, although sensible of the injustice done to us on this occasion, in consequence of this pretended claim, have divided our territories into counties and sat themselves down on our lands as if they were our own -- their own. We've repeatedly warned the states of Carolina and Georgia to desist from these encroachments, but we have received friendly talks and replies, it is true, but while they are addressing us by the flattering names of friends and brothers, they are stripping us of our natural rights by depriving of that inheritance which belonged to our ancestors and is descended from them to us since the beginning of time.
DUVALHe's pretty good, isn't he?
REHMWell, and the result was?
DUVALSo the Spanish king agreed, and he'd been prepped by this -- Alexander McGillivray had been writing to local Spanish officials to try to say, you know -- and then he says in other letters we're on the same side of this fight. Spain wants this region as a colony, but Spain doesn't have lots of people to send to it. The Spanish empire was huge. There was no pressure for lands in the way there was from the 13 colonies, now states.
DUVALAnd Alexander McGillivray and other Indian leaders really were able to persuade the Spanish to fund their wars, to work, you know, to speak on the same side in diplomacy. So as a result of this letter, the Spanish negotiator with John Jay does say exactly what McGillivray wants him to say. He says this is Indian land, and we're here to speak for them, as well. Now, the Spanish have interest in it. You know, McGillivray convinces Spain that this is in the interest of the Spanish empire. They wouldn’t -- Spain wouldn't do it if they didn't think it was.
DUVALBut they felt that the best way to hold off the United States was by acting together, and they came very close to doing it.
REHMAnd John Jay said what?
DUVALSo John Jay said yeah, that's probably right, and so he and the Spanish negotiator negotiated a treaty that the Creeks and other Indians were pretty happy with, but Congress was not happy with. So it dragged on for a long time without getting Congress to agree to anything, and in the meantime, these very lands that were contested were being filled up, as this letter suggests, being filled up by Georgians and Carolinians who, you know, for their very -- their own reasons wanted this land and thought it was theirs and believed they had won it in the American Revolution when they fought Britain.
REHMAnd thereby the title of the book, " Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution." Kathleen DuVal is the author and professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I mean, when you think about the rights that those Native Americans believed that they had because they had fought on the side or stayed out of it, stayed neutral, because they assumed that there would be a good outcome, I mean, it's total betrayal.
DUVALIt really is, and I think you're exactly right to get -- not only did things not work out the way they wanted, they were thoroughly surprised. It just, at the end of the Revolution, I mean, first of all it was surprising that the rebels won at all. Britain was the most powerful empire in the world. The chances of the rebels winning were -- was very small. They win, they persuade Britain to sort of cut their losses and pull out.
DUVALBut then it's not clear that the United States is even going to survive. It's operating under the Articles of Confederation until 1789. Nobody knows that the Constitution is coming and will solve some of these problems, but under the Articles of Confederation, Congress didn't have power to raise money at all, they could only ask the states for money. Congress was in huge debt to Spain, France, The Netherlands, had no way of paying back these debts. And some of these very Americans who started moving west, now they'd only been Americans for a few years, right, many of them actually went to the Spanish, the Spanish officials in west Florida, at Pensacola and New Orleans and others places, and said the United States is not able to protect us, they aren't able to negotiate well with Indians, they can't secure our right to land or to markets.
DUVALAll of these things the Spanish empire can do for us. And so there were many -- there were hundreds of -- we think of them as Americans, but they didn't have particular loyalty to the United States, were perfectly ready to become part of the Spanish empire if it could give them the things that they felt they had fought the American Revolution for.
REHMSo then you have a battle growing between these 13 colonies, the Native Americans standing in between, and the Spanish.
DUVALThat's right, that's right, and so -- and some of it does explode into war, both in the Ohio Valley and, in my book, on the border of Georgia. At the time, Georgia was really just a sliver, it's basically just Augusta and Savannah, and everything west of that was Creek Country, but Georgians started moving west onto Creek Country, and it became a war supplied by the Spanish and led in part by Alexander McGillivray.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. We're going to open the phones, 800-433-8850. Let's go to Jewel in Johnson City, Tennessee. You're on the air.
JEWELMs. DuVal, I would appreciate if you could speculate, and this may be a little off-subject, but about the reason why our leaders here in the United States, back during those times, and considering all the wars across the southern part of what was the United States, did not try to take over more or all of Mexico.
DUVALWell, I think in -- there were some people who talked about it, but at the time, if you sort of think about the geography, the 13 colonies really just hugged the seaboard. I mean, there were some claims to farther west, but only a few settlers had -- you know, some settlers had come west before the American Revolution, but many of them went fleeing back, back east to the Appalachians to escape the violence, and so it was only after the American Revolution they started coming in much larger numbers west.
DUVALAnd I think the lands to the west of the Appalachians just seemed limitless. Most couldn't even imagine that they would need to go as far as the Mississippi. In fact, when Napoleon offered -- Napoleon got Louisiana back from the Spanish in 1800, and then he sold it to Jefferson, of course, many Americans thought that was just crazy. What on Earth would we do with all that land?
DUVALNow of course as you, as the caller predicts, it's only going to be a generation before Americans desperately want Mexico.
REHMYeah, exactly, exactly.
DUVALAnd think it's part of their manifest destinies. I think that's one of the exciting stories about this period, that change.
REHMAll right, to Tony in St. Louis, Missouri, you're on the air.
TONYGood day. Good timing, also, because my question is -- relates to the French, English and Indian treaty of 1763, and if -- which limited colonial expansion west. And some historians have noted that this should not be underestimated as a rationale for revolution.
DUVALYeah, I'm really glad you pointed that out. It's -- the agreement in 1763, particularly the royal -- the British Royal Proclamation of 1763, was part of this promise to Indians in the wake of the French and Indian War and also Pontiac's War, that the British empire would keep settlers off of Indian lands, certain protected Indian lands, particularly in the Ohio Valley.
DUVALAnd I think you're exactly right. This could be sort of written off as, you know, a temporary promise, something that didn't really matter, but to the British, and this is one of the things that really bothers -- people end up rebelling against the British empire. To the British, Indians were their subjects, and so were colonials, and so, you know, Indians might say, well, we really rule ourselves, we're not British subjects, but in this way of thinking to the British crown, they had obligations to Indians, as well as to colonists.
DUVALAnd one of the things that the colonists fight the Revolution about is that view of things. They think they should be much more important than Indians are to the British empire.
REHMKathleen DuVal, she's professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her new book is titled "Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution." Short break here. Your emails, more of your calls when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. The book we're talking about, "Independence Lost: Lives On the Edge of the American Revolution," by Kathleen DuVal. She's professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Let's go right back to the phones to Steve in Cincinnati, Ohio. Go right ahead, sir.
STEVEMy first ancestor in this country was a glorious turncoat against the British Army. His name was Noel Malette. He differed with King George on the policies towards the colonies and as soon as his ship landed, he deserted the British Army, joined the Continental Army, and then after the war, was awarded a tract of land in part of what is now West Virginia.
REHMIsn't that interesting? And how many turncoats might there have been?
DUVALWell, it's hard to tell. Certainly, the British said there were a lot of them.
DUVALBut it's hard to know how many. And, remember, these are all British people at the beginning of the war. So, most of them, whichever side they end up on, they don't think of themselves as turncoats. Usually, they think of themselves as fighting for their liberties. I like the caller's point about a land grant in the West, and I think it's really important to remember that the people who went west, who to American Indians looked like the bad guys, were also just seeking their way in a complicated world, trying to do the best for themselves. Seek their own independence in this world.
REHMTell us about a Frenchman who also played a key role fighting the British. He was among the Cajun settlers Amand Broussard.
DUVALSo, Amand Broussard was born in Acadia, part of Canada, and was a child during the French and Indian War when Britain invaded Acadia, took it from the French and Amand's father was a freedom fighter, as they saw it, for the French. For the Acadians against the British. And the whole family, Broussard's whole family got expelled from Acadia, shipped out with all the Acadians, one of the real travesties of world history. Many of them ended up in Maryland and other British colonies where they were treated really terribly.
DUVALAmand's family made it to New Orleans, where they were taken in by the French, just as they were leaving at the end of the French and Indian War. They were very sorry to again see the French abandoning a colony. But fortunately, for Amand and his family, the Spanish were who took over Louisiana at the end of the French and Indian War instead of the British. And so, for a few years, the Broussards lived in Louisiana, trying to build their family back up. Amand grew to sort of young manhood, and then, to everyone's surprise, there was this chance to fight the British.
DUVALAnd so the Cajuns, the Acadians, including Amand Broussard, were some of those who were the first to sign up with Bernardo De Galvez as militiamen to fight against the British. So, he was part of the battles at Baton Rouge and Mobile and Pensacola.
REHMDid he survive?
DUVALHe did. He survived. And he's actually the one person I follow closely in the book that I say didn't see independence lost at the end of the revolution. So, he goes back home, the Spanish have won. Peace comes. He starts to buy land, starting with some of his cousins, and then he gets his own land. They're very helpful to each other. He starts to buy slaves because owning other human beings was a way to become wealthy in the colonies. He grows and grows this empire.
DUVALToday, his surviving house, his house still stands as one of the biggest plantation houses in Louisiana. And at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, he was able, like many Cajuns, wealthier French residents of Louisiana, to work himself in to the American system as well. And to find that the United States, by this point, by the early 19th century, could provide him the same things he wanted out of the Spanish. Security for his land, protection from Indians or other empires, and the security of a slave system.
REHMHow interesting. And George in Wilmington, North Carolina says, it's my understanding the British also offered freedom to the African American slaves. Is that true?
DUVALThat's right. And so, when we were talking about the French and the Spanish offering freedom, those were mostly to slaves who were enslaved -- people who were enslaved within the French and Spanish colonies. The British story is even more interesting, in this case. I think they offered freedom to slaves and indentured servants of people who were rebelling during the American Revolution. And said to slaves of rebels, if you are a man of military age and you can run away from your master and make your way to British lines, then you'll get your freedom, if you serve in the British military.
DUVALOne of the great things about this story is that slaves of all kinds came. Children, women, people who definitely were not supposed to -- you know, the British did not intend to come to them. Because they were looking for military men to fight on their side. But many, many of them came. Some served in the army, many, many served in the British Army. And after the American Revolution, after the British surrendered, those who survived made their way to other colonies around the British Empire. Australia, Canada, Britain itself.
REHMAll right, to Zealand, Michigan. Hi there, Mary.
MARYHi. I was -- as I was listening to the author talk about her book, I was wondering if she was going to mention Alexander McGillivray. I was born in Alabama. I was a McGillivray. And when we were growing up, my father would tell us stories. Some of those same stories she was telling about Alexander McGillivray. And I'm, when she started to read that lovely letter, I began to wonder where that letter is housed now.
DUVALSo, that letter and much, so this is written to the Spanish. So, the original of it is in Spain. In their archives, but there are microfilms of most his correspondence at the Library of Congress right here in Washington. And I don't know if you've seen, perhaps you've already seen it, but there's a wonderful volume of typescripts of his letters. So, his letters that have been typed up. It was edited by a man named John Caughey C-A-U-G-H-E-Y. And it's -- there's a wealth of information in there. All in letters, mostly letters written by him, a few that are to him. He's a wonderful, how exciting that you're part of that family.
MARYYes. Lovely. I'll have to look up that book as well as yours.
REHMIndeed. Thank you so much for calling. Isn't that exciting?
DUVALIt's really cool.
REHMThat there's one someone who is indeed, but the kind of research that you had to do for this, how long did this book take to write?
DUVALWell, Diane, I'm sorry to say, it took me about 10 years.
REHMDid it really?
DUVALAnd it's, you know, it's little pieces here and there. These are people who weren't -- some of them were known in their own time. Alexander McGillivray was certainly somebody that American and European leaders knew about. But many of these people were much less known, and so Petit Jean, for example, who we talked about earlier, the enslaved man who became a spy for the Spanish. I was doing research in Spanish documents -- the dispatches, basically, between the Spanish general and his subordinate officers, and I found one that mentioned Petit Jean.
DUVALAnd I think one of the -- the first one I found said something about him being enslaved and I thought, you know, I'm gonna put, I'm gonna make a note of that. And then, a few days later, I came across another mention of him, and so I just started to save up these documents.
REHMFollow the clues.
DUVALAnd follow the clues. And then, I mean, he's someone, I don't have that many -- I have references to him in these letters. He didn't write himself, so I don't have any letters from him. I don't even know his wife's name, but I was able to them in a census, or him in a census later on. In the late 1780s, in Mobile, as a free man. And I found the Spanish correspondents, after the war, giving him his freedom and helping him negotiate the freedom of his wife. So, but that's all I have about him. And everything else, I have to build around what I know about slavery in Mobile.
REHMBut what kinds of secrets was he able to pass back and forth?
DUVALSo, he brought any kind of information he could bring from the British and the Chickasaw, how many troops they had, when they might be coming. He was able to bring the very good news to the Spanish that the Chickasaw did not seem to be mustering lots of men and maybe weren't coming to the aid of the British, which was very good news for the Spanish. He also used his knowledge of the region to help the Spanish find paths -- I mean, you think about the Gulf coast. It is a confusing place.
DUVALMany waterways coming in and out. It's hard to even tell when you've gotten to the main rivers or the main bays. And he was able to lead them to mostly Indian paths, actually. North of Mobile and between Mobile and Pensacola. And in the other direction to the Mississippi and show them the right routes.
REHMBut putting together a narrative with all of these disparate groups, disparate personalities who only barely connect with each other, that had to be fairly difficult.
DUVALIt was, and I -- but, and it's one of the reasons why I focused on these eight people is that they have these background stories, they sort of stand in for large groups of people, but they help to humanize things. Like Pimataha (sp?) is another person I followed. He was a Chickasaw leader and he was a warrior before the -- in the French and Indian War and before that.
REHMAnd where was he?
DUVALSo, he was in what's now western Tennessee.
DUVALFighting mostly along the Mississippi River against the French. So, the Chickasaws were on the same side as the British in the French and Indian War. Unlike most Indians, which you can tell by the name French and Indian War. So, the Chickasaws, wholeheartedly, on the side of the British, they fought several, a couple of other wars against the French in the French colonial period. Pimataha, at the end of the French and Indian War, he was just growing out of the era of him being a warrior, growing into the period where he would be more of a leader, of a chief.
DUVALAnd he rose to the position of lead Chickasaw diplomat. And he saw this opportunity at the end of the French and Indian War that the French were leaving. And he thought, well, the Chickasaws have lost a huge number of people to disease, to smallpox, to war, and we have a chance to be a peaceful people in the future. And so, he turned Chickasaw history around. And the Chickasaws, for the next, during his lifetime, stayed out of the American Revolution, despite promises to the British to fight on the side of the British.
DUVALAnd made -- forged ties with the Spanish and really changed their -- the impression of Chickasaws in the region from being some of the most militaristic and most feared people to peacemakers. Bringing people together to make peace.
REHMTo James in Bloomington, Indiana. You're on the air.
JAMESI guess I wanted to call and here's my question. My mother's Native American and my grandfather, we're Mohawks. The government wrote letters back to my mother saying because of Mohawks left the country, although they still resided in the country, but they're trying to say that they left the country. We have no claim to our Native American status. And I'm just wondering, how can a European come over and take the land from the Native Americans, but we have to be on reservations in order to prove our status? Is there any other way of getting this cleared up, because we're losing a lot.
DUVALYeah. It's -- you know, I'm a historian, and but I know about the struggles of trying to establish nationhood and individual citizenship today. And it really is a sign of the ridiculousness of the border drawing that went on in the era just after the American Revolution. That these borders could be drawn between what becomes British Canada and the United States, but goes right across Mohawk land. It's -- it was a surprising thing to the people who lived through it, and it's a shocking thing, I think, still to us today. With repercussions, as you mentioned.
REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. And to Steve in Pell City, Alabama. You're on the air.
STEVEThank you. Great to hear that it's taken you 10 years to write the book, because I'm doing the same thing, and I'm chastising myself for the time it takes. But you mention Galvez, and I've been writing on the 13,000 Spanish surnamed Americans in the Civil War, which, as you peel everything back, I've had to go all the way back to the Revolution. And without Spanish influence and the people like Galvez, and the Spanish crown, I seriously doubt that America would have emerged as it did from the Revolution.
STEVEAnd I was just curious on your thoughts on Galvez holding down the British fleets and how that led to the victories with Washington and so much of the Spanish history.
DUVALYeah, I think that's exactly right. Bernardo De Galvez, the Spanish General coming out of New Orleans, was fighting, you know, on the same side as the United States, of course, as you know. And the evolvement of the Spanish, as well as of the French was critical. There's no way the United States, the rebels, would have won, would have defeated the British Empire without their help. Both their military help and their financial help. One of the exciting things that I think relates to your research is that the Sons of the American Revolution have started including descendants of Galvez's troops among their membership.
DUVALWhich, and have traveled to Spain and met with the King and I think this, what you're working on, on the Civil War, I don't know anything about that. That's really exciting. But this connection of Spanish speaking people, subjects of Spain, and their descendants in these wars not only is tremendously important at that time, but I think is a really important reminder to us today that Spanish speaking people have a long history in the history of our continent.
REHMI gather you grew up in Arkansas.
DUVALThat's right. That's right.
REHMSo, how did that affect your interest in this period of history?
DUVALWell, my first book is about the Arkansas River Valley, but I didn't really intend it to be. When I was in grad school in California, I wanted to write something about cross cultural encounters, what's always interested me in history is how do people who are quite different from themselves, from each other, or who think of themselves as quite different from each other, how do they get along? And I was sort of fishing around for a dissertation topic and the place that I came from, Arkansas.
DUVALI'd had really good history teachers. I learned a lot about, really the history of black and white in Arkansas and the South and in the United States. But very little, actually, about American Indian history. And yet, I grew up in a place where American Indian names are everywhere. And American Indians live in large numbers, still. And I thought, well, maybe there's something in the colonial period I could write about. There probably aren't any sources, because nobody's ever written about it. And I started looking, and there are huge numbers of sources.
DUVALBut they are in French and they are in Spanish, and most American historians, in the past, at least, have not been able to read or work in French and Spanish. And so, that's what brought me into my first book, "Native Ground." And then it was in the course of that research that I learned about these battles in Mobile and Pensacola.
REHMAnd the book we've been talking about is titled, "Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution." Kathleen DuVal is the author and Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Thank you so much.
DUVALThank you so much, Diane.
REHMGood to talk with you. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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