The best books about Canada’s role in the American Revolution

Gavin K. Watt Author Of Treaties and Treacheries - The Early Years of the Revolutionary War on America's Western Frontiers, 1775-1778
By Gavin K. Watt

Who am I?

I grew up during the Second World War and had many relatives serving in Canada’s Armed Forces. I developed a deep interest in the military, which my High School history teacher – a veteran himself – encouraged. I made a zillion models of soldiers, aircraft, vessels, and tanks; then, when I reached the proper age, I began collecting military firearms. Long story short, I eventually took up military reenacting, and because the American bicentennial was imminent, I chose to recreate a United Empire Loyalist regiment, which had fought from Canadian bases. Our enthusiastic, very competitive group of men and women grew to be one of the largest and best drilled in the hobby.

I wrote...

Treaties and Treacheries - The Early Years of the Revolutionary War on America's Western Frontiers, 1775-1778

By Gavin K. Watt,

Book cover of Treaties and Treacheries - The Early Years of the Revolutionary War on America's Western Frontiers, 1775-1778

What is my book about?

In this new book, I have ventured west and south to examine the war out of Detroit across western Pennsylvania and the Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky territories, which were being overrun by settlers who self-righteously and relentlessly occupied Native lands. I have studied the conflict’s first four years when political control of the northwest region remained uncertain. Thereafter, the United States dominated, as Britain abandoned attempts to rule the region and withdrew support from her many Native allies. At the war’s end, many of the region’s anglo-loyalists settled in southern Ontario, while the Natives and the majority of the Canadiens  many of the latter had supported the Crown  accepted United States’ ascendancy and remained in their pre-war settlements.

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The books I picked & why

Simon Girty: Turncoat Hero

By Phillip W. Hoffman,

Book cover of Simon Girty: Turncoat Hero

Why did I love this book?

This superb book provides deep insights into the relationship between Indigenous peoples and encroaching European settlers and convincingly emphasizes that the striving of land developers, such as George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Patrick Henry, was a major cause of the American rebellion. He describes in detail the Native societies, their customs, interactions, and political alliances. The early chapters provide accounts of settlers of both sexes who were captured, adopted, nurtured, and trained by the Natives. In the case of the Girty brothers, their seizures led to their wartime careers as accomplished, multi-lingual interpreters and as fighting partisans in the British Indian Department. In addition to an amazing array of Native tribes, two companies of Butler’s Rangers operated out of Detroit assisted by the Girtys. 

By Phillip W. Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Simon Girty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Simon Girty Turncoat Hero: The Most Hated Man on the Early American Frontier by Phillip W. Hoffman

The subject of this panoramic biography is one of the most mysterious, misunderstood icons of early American history. Simon Girty was a sharp-witted, rascally, many-tongued frontiersman whose epic adventures span the French and Indian War, Dunmore's War, the American War for Independence, the Indian Wars, and the War of 1812.

After defecting from the Patriot cause to serve the British in March 1778, Girty achieved instant infamy. To understand his motivation one must discover, as he did, that the real, underlying cause of…

Book cover of A Man of Distinction Among: Alexander McKee and British-Indian Affairs Along the Ohio Country Frontier, 1754-1799

Why did I love this book?

This book features another extremely active British partisan of the mid-west war. Alexander McKee was of mixed blood, his mother Shawnee. He grew up in her people’s society and became a trader across the Ohio country. When war broke out, he was appointed a captain in the Detroit Indian Department and, over the ensuing years, campaigned throughout the Ohio region and Kentucky territory as a cultural mediator between the Natives and the British administration. Postwar, he settled in southern Ontario and became one of the settlement’s elite citizens with the rank of colonel in the Indian Department. Governor Carleton referred to him as “an old Servant universally spoken of for his merits.” In 1794, he was appointed deputy superintendent of Indian Affairs and inspector general for Upper and Lower Canada, positions he held until his death in 1799. 

By Larry L. Nelson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Man of Distinction Among as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Man of Distinction among Them represents an important step in under standing the complexities surrounding the early history of the Ohio Country and the Old Northwest and provides the clearest and most comprehensive portrait of a central figure in that history: Alexander McKee.

Fathered by a white trader and raised partly by his Shawnee mother, McKee was at home in either culture and played an active role in Great Lakes Indian affairs for nearly 50 years.

McKee served as a "cultural mediator"-a go-between who linked the native and European worlds. He exploited his familial affiliation and close economic ties…

Book cover of Matthew Elliot, British Indian Agent

Why did I love this book?

Here is an excellent biography of another British partisan who operated in the American midwest. Elliott emigrated from Ulster in 1760 and served under Bouquet at Fort Pitt two years later. He took up the Indian trade in the Shawnee country, married a Shawnee, and earned their nation’s confidence. After much prevarication, he joined the British resistance to the rebellion in the spring of 1778 and became a significant officer in the Indian Department. In 1778, he attended Governor Hamilton’s expedition against rebel-held Vincennes, and in 1780, supported Captain Henry Bird’s invasion of Kentucky, and fought in the battle of Blue Licks in 1782. 

Elliott’s notable career continued long after the war. Incredibly, the old veteran served in a senior Indian Department role in the early days of the War of 1812.

By Reginald Horsman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Matthew Elliot, British Indian Agent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I forsee two types of college courses in American history"

Book cover of Wilderness War on the Ohio: The Untold Story of the savage battle for British and Indian Control of the Ohio Country during the American Revolution

Why did I love this book?

This large, engaging book examines all facets of the Revolutionary War in the mid-western regions of America and opens with a detailed study of Indigenous/Settler conflict from its early days, which gives the reader an understanding of the warfare that later prevails  ̶  i.e. no formal opposing lines, no beating drums nor shrilling fifes, no boldly flying Colours – instead, a secretive, subtle warfare of sudden ambush and vicious, unforgiving combat without rules of engagement or safe non-combatants.

To embellish his text, Fitzpatrick employs a wealth of letters and reports from “The Hair Buyer” Governor Hamilton, Indian Department ranger Simon Girty, Captain Henry Bird, British 8th Regiment, Captain William Caldwell of Butler’s Rangers, and many other significant individuals.

By Alan Fitzpatrick, Anne Foreman (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wilderness War on the Ohio as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There is an untold side of the American Revolution; a forgotten, lost war fought within the context of that better known war for American independence from Great Britain. It is an untold story surrounded by mystery and misconception to this day because of the very nature of what happened. While Washington’s patriot armies were battling British redcoats in set-piece actions across the colonies in the East, a war of a far different nature was being conducted in the West to determine who was to control the frontier and Indian lands of the upper Ohio River Valley, and the Ohio Country…

Daniel Boone: An American Life

By Michael A. Lofaro,

Book cover of Daniel Boone: An American Life

Why did I love this book?

Lofaro portrays the other side of the coin, describing the amazing career of an American legend – the restless, fearless Daniel Boone, who took the settlers’ side during the relentless expansion westwards onto Native lands. After a personal exploration of Kentucky territory, Boone raised a large body of settlers, guided them to the territory, and created a community guarded by forts he helped to construct. Boone took the lead in fighting the Natives who objected to the intrusion.

To the American mind, this man is the epitome of the American frontiersman and Lofaro’s book reveals all sides of his complex personality while describing the Revolutionary War conflict in the mid-west. Notably, Boone was not without sympathy for the Natives’ plight. Of course, he crossed paths with many British partisans and their Native allies who vigorously attacked the Kentucky settlements. (Appropriately, this book was published in Kentucky.)

By Michael A. Lofaro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Daniel Boone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The embodiment of the American hero, the man of action, the pathfinder, Daniel Boone represents the great adventure of his age -- the westward movement of the American people. Daniel Boone: An American Life brings together over thirty years of research in an extraordinary biography of the quintessential pioneer. Based on primary sources, the book depicts Boone through the eyes of those who knew him and within the historical contexts of his eighty-six years. The story of Daniel Boone offers new insights into the turbulent birth and growth of the nation and demonstrates why the frontier forms such a significant…

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