Tag Archives: American Revolution

I’m So Bored With The Founding Fathers

I have been thinking the past two days about the juxtaposition of Native American Heritage Month, something that has been commemorated for almost thirty years now, and the President’s recently proclaimed “National American History and Founders Month.” I am teaching courses this semester on the American Revolution and Native American History. Linking the two stories is easy. Native peoples, after all, did not refer to the American founders as patriots, heroes or freedom fighters. No. They called them “Butchers,” “Killers,” and “Long Knives.” George Washington, the most fatherly of the founders, native peoples called “Town Destroyer,” and they worried that his countrymen would exterminate them. Words and deeds. The American patriots gave native peoples reason to fear for their lives, and to worry about genocide.

Whichever West Wing flunky who wrote the President’s stupid proclamation ignored all of this, and claimed aloud that in 1776, “our Founders gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Independence Hall to sign the Declaration of Independence, enshrining in the heart of every American a bedrock principle that all men are ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.'” Indeed, he or she claimed that “the United States will always remain steadfast in our dedication to promoting liberty and justice over the evil forces of oppression and indignity.” 

“During National American History and Founders Month,” the President’s Proclaimer proclaimed, “we celebrate the vibrant American spirit that drives our Nation to remarkable heights.” American patriots and heroes, the proclamation continues, “have always been guided by the belief that America must shine brightly out into the world,” and that “this conviction has been at the forefront of the American experiment since our founding.”

It is impossible for me to disagree with the claim “that our democracy’s survival is dependent upon a well-informed electorate,” though that probably means something very different to me than it does to the President’s supporters, but the rest of that is patriotic nonsense. Nevertheless, onward we must go. “To continue safeguarding our freedom,”

we must develop a deeper understanding of our American story.  Studying our country’s founding documents and exploring our unique history — both the achievements and challenges — is indispensable to the future success of our great Nation.  For more than two centuries, the American experiment in self-government has been the antithesis to tyranny, and our Constitution has secured the blessings of liberty.  From the triumphs of war to the victories of the Civil Rights Movement to placing the first ever man on the moon 50 years ago, our Nation has time and again exhibited an unparalleled ability to achieve extraordinary feats.  To continue to advance liberty and prosperity, we must ensure the next generation of leaders is steeped in the proud history of our country.

Of course I have read many of these documents. And it no longer surprises me that I hear similar rhetoric about the founders from both sides of the political spectrum. Progress. Striving. Constantly moving closer to the ideals enshrined in the nation’s founding documents. That is what we are told, what we are all supposed to believe. It is as if the Founders set a standard that we unworthy heirs will find just around the next bend, if only we continue pushing on. We are not perfect, we are told, and there have been a few bumps in the road. The trend is upward, however, always getting better, always becoming a bit more perfect. We are Whigs and at times we sound pathetic.

And here’s the thing. There may have been a time when I believed this, but I do not believe it anymore. I have traveled. People who have not experienced our Revolution live in societies that celebrate individual freedom, and that are at least as equally free and just as the United States.

Let’s be honest, America. We have been at this for two hundred and fifty years. The Semiquincentennial of the Declaration of Independence is only seven years away. And if after twelve score years and ten we have yet to attain these ideals, isn’t it possible, and even likely, that we never really embraced them at all? You can admit that, can’t you? These truths, they’re not so transparently self-evident as they may once have seemed after all. Is it possible, and even likely, that this country is racist and rotten at its core? The sins we forget can never be forgiven.

I grew up on land seized from native peoples along the California Coast before the United States, through war, diplomacy, and armed robbery, stole it from Mexico. I live now on land taken through fraudulent transactions by the state of New York from the Haudenosaunee, the People of the Iroquois Longhouse. I look around me and I see a nation fattened on slavery and racism, exploitation and greed, dispossession and violence. Despite the slaughter of 600,000 in the Civil War the nation has yet to do penance for its original sin. A majority of white people still fight to uphold structures of white supremacy, still support efforts to deprive people of color of their right to vote, still support a President who cages thousands of children far from their parents. And that President wastes no opportunity

to rub the noses of native peoples in the fact that what was once theirs belongs to them no longer. With untold numbers of indigenous women and girls missing or murdered, with indigenous lands opened to corporate exploitation and degradation, with indigenous sovereignty and nationhood ignored, and at times with their very existence erased and denied, the President will take that commemoration of Native American Heritage Month, too. What was yours is ours, and if you challenge us you will be destroyed. With his actions, every single day, he screams at peoples of color, “Get the hell out” or “Shut Up” or “disappear.”

That is the America I see. So why do I not leave? Why not find someplace better if it is so miserable here. I have had people ask me that question, but it really was more of an accusation: If I really believe this, after all, how can I possibly teach American history without poisoning young minds?

Tell me where I am wrong, I might say. This is home.

Many, many years ago, I saw a concert by Midnight Oil, one of my all-time favorite bands. I’ve seen them three or four times over the years. Peter Garrett, the band’s lead singer, said once during a break between songs that he would never leave his native Australia until he made it as great as it could be. I think I feel the same way, but I no longer look to the Revolution for the ideals I want to see realized. The founders left me little to celebrate, other than a flawed framework for government that has endured for more than two centuries, despite the fact that nobody in the President’s administration seems to know what it says. For millions of people, the American Revolution unleashed a force that has done far more evil than good. Perhaps someday we will live in a society where all people are truly equal. Perhaps, and on the other hand, along side our proclamations of liberty and justice for all, our racism and our violence, and our exploitation, erasure, and injustice, we are closer to the Founders, warts and all, than we care to admit.


What’s So Great about the American Revolution?

Recently I attended a planning meeting for New York’s commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution. National, state, and local organizations are planning events. Although I am all for public engagement with history and its consequences, discussions like these sometimes fill me with dread.

New York’s state historian Devin Lander convened this meeting at the Ganondagan State Historic Site, where French forces attacked and destroyed a Seneca town late in the seventeenth century. His goal is to create a commemoration that is inclusive and that incorporates the state’s history in all of its complexity and diversity. Hence the meeting at Ganondagan: the state historian agrees whole-heartedly that Native American history is New York State history. That’s a laudable and important goal, but it is going to be enormously challenging to pull it off. When it comes to commemorations, sometimes the desire to celebrate can cast out those who look at events with a critical eye.

Shawn McBurney, from the United States Semiquincentennial Commission, laid out his vision for the commemoration at the national level. America has never been perfect, McBurney said, but the commemoration effort should remind Americans that the nation has always tried to do better. McBurney emphasized “contributions” made by different groups to the American story. He spoke of emphasizing “the continued vitality of American institutions,” and the “shared ideals and values” embraced by Americans. The tone struck me as celebratory, as in “we” have accomplished something special, unique, and valuable in world history over the course of the past two and a half centuries. I am not always sure that “we” have worked to make things better: some us, to be sure, but hardly all of us. And that part of McBurney’s job is to raise funds from corporate donors makes me wonder how critical a reassessment of our shared past might result from these efforts. McBurney, too, has a difficult job.

Other speakers pointed out that the American Revolution is the source of ideals that we as a nation have not completely realized. They spoke of the Revolution as something that is “continuing” and “unfinished.” So Whiggish, I thought. Onward and upward. Always progressing. Always getting better. Our failures are not failures because we have not completely had a chance to fail yet.

The American Revolution, no doubt, is an important event. Obviously it led to the creation of the United States. Like a child, however unlovable it becomes as it matures, this birth of a new nation we view almost automatically as cause for celebration.

But was the Revolution a good thing? I asked the question at this meeting. The answers, to me, seemed fumbling. It is not the job of historians to describe events as good or bad, I was told. But we do that all the time. Hitler? He was bad. Penicillin? That was a good thing. See? It’s easy. So I ask again, was the Revolution a good thing? Did it make the world a better place? Seriously. We assume so, but was it objectively, demonstrably so?

Was it something more than a chapter in the long story of vicious frontier warfare that began fifteen years before the Revolution and continued for another fifteen afterwards? It was a nightmare for many native peoples in the eastern half of the continent. For enslaved peoples? A handful found freedom as a result of the Revolution, but the vast, vast majority remained enslaved and confronted hardening racial attitudes in the new republic. Women? Nope. The Revolution did nothing for them, and the Founders made no effort to “remember the ladies.” Revolution, war, and the economic dislocation that accompanied these ruined many people.

Well, of course, the promoters of commemoration might reply. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. You have overlooked the liberating forces set free, the “transforming hand of Revolution.” Those “self-evident truths” described by Thomas Jefferson in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence included the “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Revolution was about freedom, liberty, and maybe a bit of equality. We began a journey in 1776, and we are getting closer to completing it every day.

Never mind that Jefferson never came close to living up to those ideals in his own life. If after the passage of two and a half centuries we have not yet fully lived up to those revolutionary ideals, isn’t it possible that we really do not value them much at all? America’s commitment to liberty and equality has been ambivalent at best. Great Britain, America’s opponent during (and after) the Revolution, abolished slavery before the United States without five years of fratricidal warfare, and it recognized the rights of women to cast ballots earlier as well. Certainly it is true that revolutionary movements in other parts of the world have borrowed the language of the American Revolution, but they seem more into its rhetoric than its substance. If after two-and-a-half centuries we continue to live in communities where inequality is so readily apparent, perhaps it is not unreasonable to ask whether we really do cherish liberty, freedom, equality, and democracy.

Perhaps we claim too much for the Revolution. Though historians have produced important scholarship, my students are shocked by revolutionary violence, saddened by the disruptions it caused, disappointed by its promises unfulfilled. Changes–at the local, continental, and global level–that are sometimes attributed to the Revolution may have occurred without it.

So what do we do, then, as part of a commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution? I hope we can leave behind uncritical stories of patriotism and heroism, of great leaders and Founders’ Chic. I hope we can avoid a repeat of the orgy of self-congratulatory nonsense that accompanied the bicentennial celebration forty-three years ago. When the American Battlefield Trust, for instance, states that the semiquincentennial “provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to celebrate the democratic ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence – principles that continue to guide us as a country and inspire people throughout the world,” I am skeptical. Can anyone honestly look at the conduct of our Bronze Creon, or Moscow Mitch McConnell, or the Republican party generally, and see any semblance of “democratic ideals” at all?

I hope that this commemoration looks instead at the different revolutionary experiences of people living on this continent to assess what the Revolution was, what it changed, and why it mattered. It is the sort of work that historians like Kathleen DuVal and Maya Jasanoff are doing, both in books my students are reading this semester in their course on the American Revolution. Different people experienced different Revolutions, and for many there was little in their story to celebrate.

Perhaps it is a function of commemorations to invoke patriotism, but that is not the job of historians. If commemorations there shall be, whether at the local, state, or national level, we historians must cast a critical eye on the troubling events of these violent years. History can be a brutal business. We historians tolerate myths poorly. We hold nothing sacred, save the critical methods we have learned over years of training. It is not our responsibility to help Americans feel good about their past. It is our job to point out to Americans their inattention and lack of interest in values and ideals for which their attachment to is hardly self-evident.

Don’t Call Me A Taxpayer

You have heard it before. I am not sure how long political leaders have been doing it, but it has increasingly come to bother me.  A representative in Congress, asked about this or another issue, will make reference to “the American Taxpayer,” as in, “we can’t waste the taxpayers’ money,” or the “American taxpayers did not send us to Congress” for whatever thing it is that representative opposed.

            I find myself bringing this up in my classes. I am teaching my department’s course on the American Revolution right now, and of course, taxation played a huge role in the breakdown of the imperial relationship between Great Britain and its American colonies.  Those English subjects in America conceived of taxation as an act of the people, which is why they believed that tax bills could only originate among their chosen representatives.  The entire body politic could not gather in one place, so they chose representatives to voice and protect their interests.  Only those chosen representatives could bestow the people’s property upon the government.  Any appropriation of the people’s property without the consent of their chosen representatives was, in essence, theft.

            The revolutionary generation believed that the purpose of government was to pursue the good of the whole, a concept they identified with the word “Commonwealth.”  In order to secure the common wealth, citizens needed to exercise virtue, which meant the capacity to sacrifice one’s own private interest for the good of the whole.  In order to act in a manner that was virtuous, citizens needed to be independent, subject to the control of no one else. Citizens also needed to be active, alert, and informed, for the founding generation believed that a supine and ignorant citizenry made fit tools for tyrants.

            That was a much more robust conception of citizenship than so many of our political leaders embrace today.  We are, in the view of too many of them, mere taxpayers.  We pay our money to the government and, in their view, we ought to expect something in return.  It is a transactional relationship. More than we let on, a large number of political leaders run government like a business, in that they view us as customers.  Too few of us complain about that.

            Because this is an interpretation that I suspect would horrify not only the founders but many writers on politics, government, and justice over several thousand years in the western tradition. In our constitutional system, we are the government. We formed a more perfect union, and as sovereign people, placed power in the hands of state and federal governments.  Speaking of Americans as “taxpayers” diminishes the importance of courageous and informed citizenship, something that is obviously in too short supply these days.

            Citizenship is not always easy.  It is not supposed to be.  Plato expected the men most suited to lead to be reviled by the people. Cicero warned that government service came with insults and the possibility of injury.  But, still, the obligation to serve remained.  “Both alone and with many, we will unceasingly seek to quicken the sense of public duty.”  Thus reads the Oath of the Athenian City State, etched into the walls of Maxwell Hall at Syracuse University, where I went to Graduate School.  Citizens must carry the obligation to “transmit this city not only less, but greater, better, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.” Considerably more is asked of us than merely paying taxes.  The city, its government, are ours.  Our political leaders are happier when we are passive, when we do not question them, when we do not hold them to account.  They want us to pay our bills and be quiet.  Maybe it has always been that way. Our leaders, for instance, seldom make themselves available to the press or people. They seldom appear in venues where they can be asked an unfriendly or critical question. The leading networks no longer investigate, because it is cheaper and easier to bring on pundits to debate each other. They seldom have the opportunity to hold our leaders to account and when they do they all too often fumble.

            So, Citizens, it is on us.  We have to engage. We have to stay informed and active because we are the government.  We need to engage actively, critically, energetically, in pursuit of the common good.  Doing so requires information and courage.  Those who participate in public life, or who speak truth to power, will be shouted at and reviled.  They will take their lumps.  But doing so is the obligation of a citizen.

            Now, perhaps, more than ever.  Corporate power in our political system increases every day. Campaigns and candidates are awash in dark money. Those who challenge the President are shouted down, as he engages in grift and graft to a degree unprecedented in American history. Sixty-two million Americans voted for a petty and small-minded bigot to become arguably the most powerful person on earth, and if we do not do our job, he may well be reelected.

            We are not mere taxpayers.  We are, and must be, citizens.  We must engage in the pursuit of the common good.  We are not consumers of government services.  WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT.  We must let our leaders know, through petition, appeal and, if necessary, protest, that it was “the people” who as sovereigns bestowed the powers they exercise on our behalf.  If we fail, that common good will become ever more elusive.

How Does a Story End?

Driving from Rochester to Washington a couple of weeks ago, I saw this historical marker on Route 15, just north of the Pennsylvania state line. It commemorated the “final episode” of the Sullivan-Clinton campaign in 1779. American forces invaded the western Iroquois homelands and burned towns throughout the “Finger Lakes” region of western New York. I tell the story of the Sullivan-Clinton campaign in Native America. I have also written about it on this blog here and here. Because I cross the paths Sullivan’s army traveled frequently, I am familiar with many of the historical markers identifying key sites in the campaign.

But his one was new to me. The people who wrote it believed that the Sullivan-Clinton campaign ended near this spot. The soldiers completed their mission. The story began, and it ended.

I find myself these days spending a lot of time talking history with what some might call “amateurs”–people who are interested in the past, who enjoy reading history, even if they do not study it systematically. One of the things that strikes me about these conversations is that we have not been as effective as we might have been in describing what it is that we do, and why we do it. We have not, among other things, explained how much choice is involved in the historical enterprise. We choose the stories that we want to tell. We determine what questions we want to answer, how we can best answer them, and how best to present the results of our research. We determine the scope of our work geographically–how much space we are going to cover, and chronologically. He have to decide where in time our stories begin and end.

According to this marker, the story of the Sullivan Campaign, ended “with the advance of Col. Van Cortland’s brigade up the Canisteo River to this area two miles beyond the Tory-Indian town of Painted Post burned by Capt. Simon Spaulding’s riflemen, September 28, 1779.” Joseph Fischer, in the most thoroughly-researched military history of the invasion, says it began in July and ended in September.

But did it?

The soldiers went home. Or they went to fight elsewhere. Some of them later returned to New York, settling on lands seized from the Iroquois. But the expedition was, as Fischer calls it, a “well-executed failure.” That apt title implies that despite the invasion, the Indians remained. They resisted. Their towns burned, the fields destroyed, the orchards cut down, they settled at the refugee haven around British-controlled Fort Niagara, or along Buffalo Creek. They suffered through a brutal winter. They fought on. And when the British abandoned them, they faced the onslaught of settlement encouraged by private land companies, the state, and the United States. They signed treaties and formal deeds of cession. New York’s rise as the “Empire State” could not have occurred without Iroquois dispossession.

But after the campaign the Senecas remained in New York. That much is obvious. They resisted their complete dispossession. They obtained security for some of their lands at Canandaigua in 1794, sold much of their homeland in 1797, and in 1802, 1815, 1826 and 1838 as well. But they are force still in western New York. Their gaming enterprises in Niagara Falls, Salamanca, and Buffalo are significant. They have survived, even though they continue to contend with the obtrusive power of the state. Perhaps the story of the Sullivan-Clinton campaign, which its planners hoped would lead to “civilization or death” to the American “savages,” has yet to end.

Indigenizing the American Revolution

This past weekend, I flew to Atlanta to participate in the conference hosted by the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era. It was, as I indicated in an earlier post, the first time I presented any of the research from my current project to an academic audience.

I was part of a round table discussion called “Indigenizing the American Revolution.” While some of the panelists presented rather straight-forward papers, my goal was to suggest some changes in thinking about how we approach the Revolution, and to provoke some discussion. What follows is a distillation of what I said.

I spend a lot of time talking about the American Revolution with students who know less about it than they should, or whose understanding of the Revolution is ensnared in so much myth and legend that, despite their considerable interest, and infectious enthusiasm, they sometimes have trouble separating fact from fiction. In New York schools, if they learn anything at all about native peoples and the Revolution, it is the long-since discredited “Iroquois Influence Thesis,” which like all things from the ‘80s, still has a few remaining adherents. 

When I have a class in front of me, and I will be teaching the Revolution again in the fall for the first time in what seems like a long time, I begin by asking the students a number of questions: What was the Revolution? When was it? Where was it? Why was it a thing? And Who was it?

Let me be clear: I teach in western New York, in a picturesque village built over the burned remains of the Seneca town of Chenussio destroyed during the Sullivan-Clinton campaign of 1779. The Groveland Ambuscade, the site of an actual battle involving Tories and Senecas attempting to pick off an advance party sent by Sullivan, sits near the campus, as do grisly and myth-encrusted sites associated with violence committed upon whites like the Boyd-Parker torture tree. There, the story goes, two of Sullivan’s scouts were tied with their own intestines by “savage” Senecas. The sites we commemorate in the vicinity of Geneseo, then, are sites of indigenous violence where white people play the starring role. Meanwhile, the sites of the burned Seneca towns are less well-known, their stories seldom told. As a result, even at a college that sits near the site of Chenussio, the answers students provide to my questions almost always do not include native peoples. 

   So to fix this problem, to indigenize the American Revolution, we need to construct from the surprisingly rich and abundant sources new narratives about the Revolution.  Despite the fantastic work being done by so many of our colleagues, this won’t be easy to do, and those of us who work with educators and local historians can expect some push-back and resistance. We must, after all, ask them to redefine and replace in important ways a story that has become comforting and familiar for one that is unsettling and disturbing.

          Still, if you will allow me, very briefly, I will try to provide some answers to these questions, inspired by this idea of indigenizing the American Revolution. These answers I base upon my current research project, a history of the Onondagas from the time when that young woman fell through a hole in the sky to land on Turtle’s back to something very closely approaching the present. It’s a big project, of which this is a small but important part.

For the Onondagas, there were no grand constitutional questions at stake in the Revolution. For them, it did not reduce to tidy dualisms like the questions of “home rule” or “who shall rule at home?” A conflict between Tories and British Regulars, American militiamen and Continental soldiers, that they hoped to avoid became for them a fight for survival, a nightmarish series of raids and counterraids that resulted in the burning of their town in the spring of 1779 by Goose Van Schaick, the death of Onondaga soldiers, and the rape and murder of Onondaga women and children. It marked the beginnings of a diaspora, the effects of which native peoples still feel today, and that the forces of colonialism have in very meaningful ways inscribed on the very geography of New York and two Canadian provinces.

When was it? Obviously that question becomes more complicated when we attempt to indigenize the Revolution. The Onondagas’ revolution does not fold easily into the time frames familiar to most historians.  The Revolution unleashed upon the Onondagas’ territory hordes of land-hungry settlers, avaricious speculators, and government agents determined to gobble up and seize control of their estate, their lands, and the valuable Onondaga salt springs. The same people who encroached upon, speculated in, and obtained through fraudulent means the Onondagas’ lands were the same men who called for the burning of their town and the destruction of its people during the war. The Onondagas’ revolution continued long after the fighting stopped. Onondagas moved between the British post at Niagara, and then Buffalo Creek, Grand River, and Onondaga, and other places still, struggling to hold together their communities in the aftermath of revolution, warfare, disease and dispossession, and they continued that struggle long after the “Miracle at Philadelphia” or other conventional signposts that mark the end of the revolutionary era. Indigenizing the Revolution requires us to step outside from Anglo-Centric and nationalist chronologies.

          And geographically, too, when we consider “where” was the Revolution.  The Revolution, after all, did not occur solely in the Urban Crucible, or simply break into the backcountry, or follow the marches of Redcoats and Continentals. No, the Revolution occurred as well in the settled towns and villages of what imperial map-makers, even on the eve of the Revolution, knew to be Iroquoia, the “Land of the Six Nations.” That geographic entity that today we call “New York” took shape through a process of Revolution, and New York quite simply could not have become the “Empire State” without a systematic program of Iroquois dispossession unleashed by Revolution. Transforming indigenous land into American states was a critical part of America’s “revolution settlement,” and the Onondagas paid enormously the price of American freedom in 1788, 1793, and 1795, to name just their eighteenth-century cessions, all of which can justly be considered rife with fraud

          Viewed in this manner, the cast of characters expands dramatically.  If we give to Onondaga, this Native American capital city, the same level of analysis historians like Robert Gross have given to Concord, or Benjamin Carp gave to the seaports, we naturally begin to see the Revolution as something other than a constitutional struggle, a military conflict, or the story of the creation of the American Republic.  The Revolution came to different communities in different ways, and Native American communities deserve the level of treatment non-native communities have received. That is what I will attempt to do in my book. As in Gross’s Concord, the Revolution at this local level becomes something larger and smaller at the same time, something greater and lesser. It includes the story of a war fought from the Niagara to the Catskills, of families that fled to the cold fields and mass graves outside British Niagara, and on to Buffalo Creek, who only returned to Onondaga proper after 1838 and perhaps the most corrupt Indian treaty in the history of the United States. It included Onondaga refugees and Onondagas who stayed behind, Onondagas who fought to avenge the destruction of their town, the capital of Iroquoia, and those shattered by the weight of total war. When we indigenize the Revolution, the patriots remain in the story. Of course, but they look less like men of principle and more like schemers who will say and do anything to get their hands on Iroquois land.

That leaves us with “Who.” Who shall we include in the story of the Revolution? Haudenosaunee leaders like Joseph Brant obviously dominate those narratives that examine the Iroquois experience during the Revolution. Stories of Native American elites can serve as a reversal of the all-too-common “Founders Chic” genre. No Onondaga, however, left even a fraction of the documents Brant, or Red Jacket, Cornplanter, Good Peter or other well-known figures left behind. But the stories are still there, scattered across the archives and collections. Ordinary Onondagas, like the ordinary people of Concord who watched British imperial policy, who watched British soldiers search their town, and who marched own to meet them at that famous bridge, literally made history with the decisions they made during these challenging years. The documents exist. We can know the names of those Onondagas who remained at Onondaga after Van Schaick’s raid, and we know the names of many of those who fled to Fort Niagara, and then went on to Buffalo Creek and Grand River, both locations that saw rekindled Iroquois League council fires. At a fine level of detail, and with the patience that archival work requires, we can reconstruct the lives of some of the people who spent time in these communities, men and women whose lives were shaped and altered by Revolution, and whose stories ought ot be as central to that history of those whose stories have been told many times before.