The American Revolution was neither inevitable nor a unanimous cause. It pitted neighbors against each other, as loyalists and colonial rebels faced off for their lives and futures. These were the times that tried men's souls: no one was on stable ground and few could be trusted. Through the fascinating tales of the first Americans, Legends and Lies: The Patriots reveals the contentious arguments that turned friends into foes and the country into a warzone.
From the riots over a child's murder that led to the Boston Massacre to the suspicious return of Ben Franklin, the "First American;" from the Continental Army's first victory under George Washington's leadership to the little known southern Guerilla campaign of "Swamp Fox" Francis Marion, and the celebration of America's first Christmas, The Patriots recreates the amazing combination of resourcefulness, perseverance, strategy, and luck that led to this country's creation.
Heavily illustrated with spectacular artwork that brings this important history to vivid life, and told in the same fast-paced, immersive narrative as the first Legends and Lies, The Patriots is an irresistible, adventure-packed journey back into one of the most storied moments of our nation's rich history.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
David Fisher is the author of more than twenty New York Times bestsellers and coauthor of Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies series. He is the only writer ever to have a novel, a work of non-fiction, and a reference book offered simultaneously by the Book-of-the-Month club.
Read an Excerpt
Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Lies
By David Fisher
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2016 Warm Springs Productions, LLC and Life of O'Reilly
All rights reserved.
Samuel Adams and Paul Revere
THE REBELLION BEGINS
The flame that would ignite the American Revolution was lit on a Thursday morning, February 22, 1770, when, according to the Boston Gazette, "a barbarous murder ... was committed on the body of a young lad of about eleven years of age."
Earlier that morning Christopher Seider and a crowd of young men had marched defiantly through Boston's cobblestone streets to the merchant Theophilus Lillie's shop. In addition to a cart overflowing with rotten fruit, they carried painted papier-mâché figures of Lillie and three other importers who refused to respect the colonists' boycott on all British goods. As the protesters stained the shop windows with rubbish, the greatly despised customs collector Ebenezer Richardson tried to stop them. Richardson, described by the Gazette as "a person of a most abandoned character," had been forced to leave the Massachusetts town of Woburn after impregnating his sister-in-law and blaming the local minister. Richardson tried to knock down the rioters' papier-mâché figures. When his attempt was thwarted, he threatened to "blow a lane through this mob" until finally retreating the hundred paces to his own home.
The growing crowd, numbering as many as sixty boys, turned its whole attention to him. The morning was dark. More nasty words were exchanged. "By the eternal God," Richardson swore, "I will make it too hot for some of you before night." At first only rubbish was thrown into Richardson's yard and was thrown back by Richardson and his wife, Kezia, but soon rocks were being hurled and the Richardsons retreated into their secure home. Windows were shattered as the barrage grew in intensity. Seconds after an egg or a stone struck his wife, Ebenezer Richardson appeared defiantly at a second-story window, holding high a musket loaded with swan shot.
He fired once. It was intended to be a warning, he later swore, but two boys were struck. Sammy Gore was wounded in both thighs and his hand but would survive. Christopher Seider was hit in his breast and abdomen by eleven pieces of shot "the bigness of large peas."
"The child fell," reported the Boston Evening-Post, "but was taken up and carried into a neighboring house, where all the surgeons within call were assembled, and speedily determined the wounds mortal, as they indeed proved about 9 o'clock that evening."
Richardson and his alleged accomplice, George Wilmot, were taken to Faneuil Hall. As more than a thousand people stood watching, they told their story to three magistrates. Richardson was charged with murder. The crowd pressed forward, its intentions clear, and, as the newspapers reported, "had not gentlemen of influence interposed, they would never have reached the prison." There is reason to believe one of those gentlemen may well have been Samuel Adams, who by then was well established as a leader of the protests.
The whole of Boston was invited to attend the boy's funeral, "when all the friends of Liberty may have an opportunity of paying their last respects to the remains of this little hero and first martyr to the noble cause." More than two thousand of the city's approximately twenty thousand citizens marched in an extraordinary procession, which caused John Adams to write in amazement, "My eyes never beheld such a funeral. The procession extended further than can be well imagined."
The fervor in the city continued to grow until a few days later it finally exploded in battle between the colonists and British soldiers. To the English this was called the Incident on King Street, but Americans have always known it simply as the Boston Massacre.
The names and events of the American Revolution are the foundation on which this great nation is built. But contrary to what is often believed, it did not begin as a quest for freedom but rather as a protest to ensure that colonists enjoyed their rights as citizens of the British Empire. How had relations between Great Britain and the colonists come to this kind of violence? Until the early 1760s, the estimated two million free white men and women living in America — or "the best poor man's country," as it was known to Europeans — enjoyed a mostly peaceful and prosperous relationship with Great Britain. While each of the thirteen colonies was mostly self-governed by elected assemblies that made and enforced laws, controlled land ownership, and levied taxes, the cultural, economic, and political ties to the empire remained strong. While some colonists had risked their lives crossing the ocean for personal or religious freedom, many more of them had come for the economic opportunity; the colonies were known as a place where a hardworking man could eventually lay claim to his own piece of land or establish a business.
While colonists proudly called themselves Americans, even those people born in North America remained loyal to the Crown. Their goal was not to become an independent nation. The first sign of trouble came on November 16, 1742, when riots erupted in the streets of Boston after Royal Navy sailors impressed, or kidnapped, forty-six men, intending to force them to serve aboard British naval ships in the long war against France. While impressment was common in other parts of the world, until that night both tradition and the law had protected Massachusetts's men. The riots lasted three days; the city was paralyzed and colonists took several British naval officers hostage, then attempted to storm the State House.
The commodore of the British fleet anchored in Boston Harbor ordered his ships to load twenty-four cannons and threatened to bombard the city. He never had to make good on his threat, as Governor William Shirley soon arranged a trade of the impressed men for hostages held by the rioters. A day later the fleet sailed.
But the seeds of discontent had taken root. A pamphlet signed by "Amicus Patriae," an anonymous American patriot, was distributed during the crisis. This "Address of the Inhabitants of the Province of Massachusetts" defended the "natural right" of the people to be free in the streets and band together for defense against impressment if necessary. Evidence suggests that the author of that pamphlet was a young brewer named Samuel Adams.
By that point in his life, Samuel Adams had proved to be a remarkably unsuccessful businessman. After being dismissed from his first job at a countinghouse, he borrowed a small fortune from his father to open his own merchant business, which failed. He then began working in the family's successful malt business, becoming known somewhat derisively as "Sam the maltster." His problem, according to historian Pauline Maier, was that he was "a man utterly uninterested in either making or possessing money." His true passion was politics, and that perhaps was his greatest inheritance: his father, Samuel Adams Sr., was a wealthy merchant, church deacon, and a leader in Boston politics, eventually being elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Samuel Adams Jr. entered politics in 1747, being elected to the post of clerk in the Boston market. He also served as the local tax collector — and failed miserably at that job, too. According to British law, he was personally responsible for taxes he failed to collect. To settle that debt, the sheriff announced an auction of Adams's property, including the family brewery. Adams's reputation, and perhaps the fact that he threatened to sue any purchaser, allowed him to keep his property. In 1748 Adams joined several men to found a newspaper, the Independent Advertiser, and wrote in its first issue, "Liberty can never exist without equality." It was an attack on both the wealthy mercantile class and the growing threats on individual freedom from England.
By 1760, 130 years after being founded by the Puritans, Boston was a thriving, growing seaport. While in theory its commerce was regulated by British navigation and trade laws called the Navigation Acts, in fact those laws were rarely strictly enforced. Instead, a system of common laws had developed based on the local practices that had served to encourage business. That changed in 1761, when London ordered its customs officials in Boston to begin aggressively cracking down on smugglers who were depriving the government of taxes needed to finance the Seven Years' War or, as it was known in America, the French and Indian War. Suddenly the Navigation Acts, so long ignored, were to be enforced. It seemed only fair that the Americans should help pay for the ten thousand British troops who were protecting them from the French. But rather than reducing the flow of smuggled goods, these duties had the opposite effect, enticing more people to take risks.
To assist the tax collectors, the newly appointed chief justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court, Thomas Hutchinson, issued writs of assistance, warrants that allowed the taxmen to enter any premises in the city without cause in order to search for smuggled goods and seize whatever they found. Years later Samuel Adams would write that it was in Hutchinson's courtroom that "the child independence was then and there born" as the men of Boston were "ready to take up arms against writs of assistance."
Behind the power of these laws, English customs agents ransacked homes and businesses searching for smuggled goods. Angry colonists joined together and formed raucous political parties to fight these new laws. They didn't demand independence from Great Britain; the colonists simply wanted to be treated with respect and have a voice in their own government. As Samuel Adams wrote, "If taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal representation ... are we not reduced ... to the miserable state of tributary slaves? ... We claim British rights, not by charter only; we are born to them."
Several leaders emerged from this turmoil, among them John Adams and John Hancock. John Adams was the wealthy second cousin of Samuel Adams, who had drawn him into the cause. He and his cousin were said to be a curious sight when walking together, the wealthy John Adams turned out as a proper gentleman while his admittedly poorer cousin reflecting the manners of a lesser class. By all accounts John was arrogant and cantankerous; he was also respected for his powerful intellect and was happy to lecture at length about his opinions. A fifth-generation descendant of Puritans who had settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1632, he was the first member of his family not to join the militia, instead becoming a lawyer. Under the pseudonym Humphrey Ploughjogger, in 1763 he began publishing essays supporting the legal rights of Americans.
John Hancock was only seven years old when his father died and he was sent to live with his wealthy uncle, the revered shipping tycoon Thomas Hancock. John was raised a child of great privilege, and after graduating from Harvard he traveled to Britain to attend the coronation of twenty-two-year-old King George III. When his uncle died, the then twenty-six-year-old Hancock took control of his import-export empire and became the second-richest man in the colonies. He was known as a generous man who gave easily and often to causes and friends, among them Samuel Adams — and would eventually become one of the primary financiers of the freedom movement. But he also was impossibly vain with the expected arrogance of the very wealthy, and at times his ambition seemed to extend farther than his capabilities. But like the other towering figures who would join with him to found the United States of America, he also had the extraordinary courage to risk his life and his fortune for a cause in which he deeply believed.
These men were brought into the fight in the early 1760s, when the British Parliament began passing new and more onerous trade laws. The British victory in the Seven Years' War had been costly; England's national debt had almost doubled to 145 million pounds, and the government was desperate for increased revenue. In 1764, the Sugar Act modified an existing but rarely enforced law and added new goods — including sugar, certain wines, coffee, and calico — to the growing list of taxable items, as well as limiting exports of lumber and iron. The Currency Act completely banned the New England colonies from issuing their own paper currency. These new restrictions crippled the colonial economies. But it was the widely vilified Stamp Act that finally led to rebellion.
The Stamp Act imposed a duty on all legal and commercial documents, newspapers, almanacs, liquor licenses, college diplomas, playing cards, and even pairs of dice. Essentially every printed document, except books, was taxed. Harsh penalties were in store for those who defied this act; in addition to large fines, people caught counterfeiting stamps "shall be adjudged a felon, and shall suffer death as in cases of felony without the benefit of clergy." This was the first attempt by Parliament to impose a direct tax on all of the colonies. And it was not at all prepared for the reaction.
For the first time, colonists began actively resisting British rule. In Boston the group that eventually became known as the Sons of Liberty was formed. Led by shoemaker Ebenezer McIntosh, it consisted of shopkeepers, workingmen, students, and artisans, including the noted silversmith Paul Revere — every one of them affected by this tax — and eventually numbered as many as two thousand people.
It was not long before their peaceful protests erupted into violence. Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson had arranged for his brother-in-law, Andrew Oliver, to be appointed to the lucrative post of stamp tax collector. On the morning of August 14, 1765, these Sons of Liberty hung an effigy of Oliver from "the Liberty Tree," a large elm tree at the corner of Essex and Washington Streets, steps from the Boston Common. Hutchinson ordered the sheriff to cut it down, but a crowd gathered in front of the tree to prevent him from doing so. This was among the very first public acts of defiance against the king. The day grew into a celebration as the colonists felt the first surge of their power. When night fell, the mob cut down the effigy and marched with it to the South End wharves, where they destroyed a brick building that had been built to distribute the stamps. They marched with timbers from that building to Oliver's grand home. In a bonfire fueled by those timbers they beheaded Oliver's effigy, then ransacked his home and stable house. The next day Oliver resigned his post.
Twelve days later a group of emboldened colonists attacked Hutchinson's home, venting years of frustration at being casually dismissed by the wealthy classes as "rabble," and within hours they had reduced the mansion to rubble. Hutchinson offered a $300 reward, several years' income for many of these people, to anyone providing information that would help convict the leaders of the attack. Although their identities were well known, no one stepped forward to claim that reward. McIntosh and several other rioters were indicted and jailed, but they were quickly released when angry crowds gathered in front of the jail.
The spirit of protest spread rapidly to the other colonies, from Newport, Rhode Island, to "Charlestown," South Carolina (as it was then spelled). A rudimentary communications network developed, creating new, stronger links among the colonies. Crowds marched through cities along the Eastern Seaboard shouting, "Liberty and no stamps!" In Virginia's House of Burgesses Patrick Henry introduced seven resolutions demanding repeal of the Stamp Act. Sons of Liberty groups were formed; the specter of what happened in Boston caused stamp agents to resign, convinced local tradesmen to ignore the Stamp Act, and led to an effective boycott of British goods. Four days after Hutchinson's house was destroyed, New York City's stamp distributor, merchant James McEvers, also resigned, fearing his "house would have been pillaged, my person abused and His Majesty's revenue impaired."
Smugglers flourished throughout the colonies; among those men accused of that crime was the New Haven merchant Benedict Arnold, who was accused by a hired deckhand of failing to pay duty on goods brought in from the West Indies. There was little sympathy for informers. Arnold responded by organizing a mob that tied his accuser to a whipping post and gave him forty lashes. After being fined 40 shillings for disturbing the peace, Arnold hanged the judge in effigy! Parliament, caught off guard, did not know how to respond. But something had to be done — the colonial boycott of imported English goods had rippled through the British economy, causing considerable unemployment and unrest. British citizens were demanding an end to this disruption. Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania sailed to London and warned the House of Commons that any attempt to use troops to enforce the Stamp Act would lead to a violent rebellion. England saw no sense in sending troops across the Atlantic, as the act had been passed to pay for the troops already there. Repealing the act seemingly would reward the protesters and encourage increased defiance in the future. But there was little alternative. In March 1766 Parliament repealed the Stamp Act.
Excerpted from Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Lies by David Fisher. Copyright © 2016 Warm Springs Productions, LLC and Life of O'Reilly. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsIntroduction by Bill O’Reilly 1
A GRAVE BEGINNING
John Brown Stirs America’s Passions 7
THE SOUTH RISES
The Union Is Ripped Asunder 41
A MARCH TO GREATNESS
Robert E. Lee Takes Command 79
UNBOUND FOR GLORY
Frederick Douglass on the Road to Freedom 113
THE COMMANDING PRESENCE
The Genius of Stonewall Jackson 137
The Battle of Gettysburg 171
INTOXICATED BY WAR
U.S. Grant Battles for Respect 195
THE STATES OF WAR
The War Comes Home 225
THE LEADING MAN
Abraham Lincoln Runs into History 255
General Sherman Marches Through Georgia 283
THE LAST SHOTS ARE FIRED
The War Ends and Lincoln is Assassinated 317