Sunday, March 9, 2014

"Oliver Wiswell"
by Kenneth Roberts
"Oliver Wiswell" by Kenneth Roberts is an excellent book. It is a unique Revolutionary War novel in that it presents very convincingly the injustices endured by Americans broadly described as loyalists. These people were both educated, successful professional people and simple country people content to continue to live their lives without being interfered with by others.

Two of the book's themes particularly impressed me. I was astounded at how savagely rebel Americans treated the loyalist population. No family holding beliefs that differed from their rebel neighbors was exempt from punishment. Houses and barns were burned, livestock klled, property seized, and individuals physically harmed or killed. Hatred was pervasive. At the war's end, no loyalist could remain in America. Loyalists emigrated to Kentucky, Nova Scotia, Bermunda and the Bahamas, and Gibraltar.

Equally impressive was the author's portrayal of British arrogance. Virtually every British officer from general to lieutenant and every British governmental official considered every American to be an inferior. Valuable advice given to them by knowledgeable loyalists was always rejected. Opportunities to vanquish the rebel army and end the war early were thrown away by British generals who would not heed such advice and act promptly and decisively. British protection of the loyalist population ranged from indifference to criminal negligence. Loyalists came to understand that the British were not their allies and that they had to fend for themselves.

I enjoyed the author's accounting of the major events of the war from the loyalist perspective. I was reminded of how incompetent Generals Howe and Clinton were and how obstinate the king and his ministers behaved in their waging of the war. The novel's main character and his faithful companion, Tom Buell, were witnesses or participants in just about every event. My interest in the author's accounting of each event allowed me to excuse this departure from reality. Helping also was the author's excellent characterization of all who appeared and his knowledgeable detail of how people at that period of time lived.