Essay about Jim Piecuch’s ‘Three Peoples, One King’

The American Revolution was a time of great fear and immense turmoil. Today, however, the war is seen by many Americans as honorable revolutionists (Whigs) battling an oppressive British regime while rooting out evil Tories (Loyalists) and befriending Indians. Though not entirely accurate, the accounts often brought forward by researchers tended to exaggerate the events that had transpired. One such exaggeration would be Great Britain’s implementation of the Southern Strategy. Jim Piecuch, author of “Three Peoples, One King”, sought to rectify these inconsistences through careful research and extensive historical sources.

Piecuch believed that while the strategy relied heavily on supporters of the crown, the roles of Loyalist and Indians were largely ignored or dismissed. Even more so the avoidance or down play of the accounts of slaves in the war showcased a severe lack of distinction between fact and fiction. Even though they lacked much deserved recognition, Piecuch argued that these peoples contribution to the British was far more than anyone could have realized. Loyalist were, in the simplest of terms, British and American citizens in the Americas who favored or heavily sympathized with British rule.

Loyalists were, in Piecuch’s view, habitually given unjust interpretations by many contemporary historians of today. Though it is true that many a Loyalist did take up arms against their neighbors, Piecuch understood that this act should not have discredited their valor in defending their beliefs. The general consensus viewed by many is that the Loyalists were a well-organized body composed of wealthy aristocratic individuals. Contrary to most beliefs, however, Loyalist were very much the same as Whigs. They were comprised of many different men from many different social and economic backgrounds.

These men, as Piecuch explained, were simple merchants, lawyers, day laborers, doctors, and nearly half being poor farmers. Just like the Whigs, Loyalists too had come from all over the Americas to gamble practically everything on their ideals and beliefs. It should come to no surprise to anyone that there was much disdain for Loyalist throughout the revolution. Nevertheless in Piecuch’s view, most historical interpretations of Loyalist neglected to mention that the disdain brought on to them was not solely from the Americans, but from other Loyalist, British Regulars, officers and generals.

For Loyalist, serving for the British was an immense ordeal riddle with disrespect and hostility, “In return for their exertions, the militia were maltreated, by abusive language, and even beaten by some officers in the quarter-master general’s department,” (235). Yet despite the hardships, enough Loyalist still remained faithful to the cause through small, but significant contributions during the Southern Strategy. One such feat was their effectiveness of both using and procuring intelligence, “Caswell’s fears were well founded, for Loyalist kept Lord Rawdon, the British commander at Camden, fully informed of rebel motives” (192).

Other important contributions they have made were their raiding parties, “From Drowning Creek, Continental officer Matthew Ramsey wrote that he was plagued by Loyalist partisans operating from swamps and who launched raids intended to prevent supplies from reaching Gates’s army,” (192). The American Revolution was a war that pitted family against family, neighbor against neighbor, and parent country against child. Nearly everyone in and near the States was involved at some point and the Indian tribes bordering the backcountry were no exception.

Piecuch explains that like the Loyalist, many Indian tribes were frightened over the emergence of a new nation no longer controlled by the British Empire. He stressed that most Indians viewed British occupation to be more favorable due to heavy reliance on British goods and trade. Unlike the Loyalist however, many Indian tribes feared that an absent British authority would leave American ambitious to the West unchecked. Though some tribes did support the American cause, the vast majority sought cooperation with the British.

Like the Loyalist, Pro-British Indian support was crucial to the success of the Southern Strategy. Piecuch explains that while the British understood that the Southern Strategy depended on Indian support, many in Parliament were hesitant to use them, “we must not be tender of calling upon the Savages,” (39). These hesitations would be further complicated due to relations between the Indians and Spanish near Florida, “preserved a strong attachment to the Spanish” (28) and severe lack of communication between the two parties.

Regardless of the hesitation, animosity, and sympathy towards Spain, Indians still contributed immensely to the war effort. One of their greatest contributions would be defending the Pensacola from Spanish invaders, halting their advancement and forcing the troops to build trenches, “being in the midst of woods surrounded by savages who hid in the forest and insulted us at all hours, this operation was indispensable” (264). Sporadic and abrasive at times, Pro-British Indian supporters also established themselves as a constant threat too large to be ignored by the revolutionist.

Despite their importance to the cause, however, they too would also be treated with a multitude of disapproval and resentment by the British. Throughout most of the American Revolution, slaves would find themselves in the most precarious of positons. For the American Whigs the notion of allowing slaves to serve in the army was a foolish endeavor. Yet, as Piecuch noted, the Whigs would ungenerously accept the valor and sacrifices of these men in their effort to combat the British. For the British, however, the concept was much more complicated.

Piecuch clarifies that though several British officers sought the use of slaves, many in Parliament quarreled over the prospect of arming one population (colored) that was much larger than the other (white). They feared, as Piecuch conveyed, that when armed the slaves would take it upon themselves to do justice against abusers and former masters. This was magnified by the British government’s decision to not give any official guideline on how to deal with slaves, “made it impossible for fugitives to predict whether they would be greeted as freed people or slaves, treated as allies or spoils of war” (10).

Of all the three peoples who were called upon to serve the British, slaves faced the most difficult and arduous task in the defense of British authority. Piecuch elaborates that unlike Loyalists and Indian allies, slaves in British regiments were confronted with the indignity of being recaptured and being sold as bounties, “will afford a good opportunity of bringing away my Negroes” (269). Piecuch notes that despite these facts, many slaves still supported the British cause. One such account of their courage was helping in the defense of Savanah, in which they helped in repealing Franco-American troops by guiding reinforcements nto the city.

Another immense contribution from slaves would come from the vast amounts of intelligence they would acquire and relay to the British’ “the Negroes from whom the enemy get all their best intelligence and who will be either more or less useful to them as they are treated well or ill by us” (311). Nonetheless, many slaves’ contributions to the British as cavalrymen and spies could not be understated. Great Briton’s Southern Strategy was, in theory, the perfect means to quickly and effectively acquire much needed support in the Southern states. Sadly, the execution of such a plan was meet with an outburst of problems.

Problems ranging from hesitant and uncertain leadership to disrespect spewing to and from all three peoples. The worst problem of all, however, was Briton’s inability to truly blend the three peoples into one central fighting force. Yet even with a litany of issues, these three peoples still believed enough in Britain that they were willing to make sacrifices. Sacrifices that told them that they could lose land, property, loved ones and their own lives. These three peoples decision to listen and answer to Briton’s cry for help should always be seen as one of the greatest contributions in the American Revolution.