Tories: Fighting for the King in America's First Civil War by Thomas B. Allen


Multiple-choice standards of learning tests are not concerned with the details that fill out American history. Who wants to know that those who disagreed with the Revolutionary patriots risked their lives and fortunes in a time of mob rule? What state examiner wants to hear tales of men of honor who refused to break their oaths of loyalty to the king and were whipped, tarred and feathered, or "smoked out" of their homes, as happened to 65-year-old Israel Williams, a respected Loyalist legislator, whose signature in support of the rebel cause was only gained after a night of gasping for air inside his smoky home? In Thomas B. Allen's Tories, many of these stories from across the colonies are well-preserved and well-told so that they might be well-remembered.

There's more here than a straight narrative with a hundred excruciating, well-documented details in support of a simple, central thesis. Allen casts his net wide and deep for the history. As an example: a curious history student might ask, what were the occupying British forces doing to amuse themselves whilst readying for battle? The usual run of parties and tavern meetings to be sure, but in honor of General Howe's departure, why not a medieval extravaganza that began with a garlanded flotilla and led to a joust between bands of knights, followed by an evening of dancing in a ballroom decorated with "festoons of flowers." One of the ladies for whom the champions fought was beautiful, teenage Peggy Shippen--soon to be Mrs. Benedict Arnold. The entire fête was designed and recorded by British officer John André, captured at Quebec, later exchanged, and later still hanged as a spy.

Allen's book is full of entertaining historic details that might be overlooked in textbooks but are important to understanding more of what was happening to those others who lived during the American Revolution but would not betray their King--and why so many colonists who had left England because their rights were abridged were eager to do so.