Northern Armageddon: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Making of the American Revolution

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A huge, ambitious re-creation of the eighteenth-century Battle of the Plains of Abraham, the pivotal battle in the Seven Years’ War (1754–1763) to win control of the trans-Appalachian region of North America, a battle consisting of the British and American colonists on one side and the French and the Iroquois Confederacy on the other, and leading directly to the colonial War of Independence and the creation of Canada.

It took five years of warfare fought on three continents—Europe, Asia, and North America—to bring the forces arrayed against one another—Britain, Prussia, and Hanover against France, Austria, Sweden, Saxony, Russia, and Spain (Churchill called it “the first world war”)—to the plateau outside Quebec City, on September 13, 1759, on fields owned a century before by a fisherman named Abraham Martin . . . It was the final battle of a three-month siege by the British Army and Navy of Quebec, the walled city that controlled access to the St. Lawrence River and the continent’s entire network of waterways; a battle with the British utilizing 15,000 soldiers, employing 186 ships, with hundreds of colonists aboard British warships and transports from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, with France sending in a mere 400 reinforcements in addition to its 3,500 soldiers.  

The battle on the Plains of Abraham lasted twenty minutes, and at its finish the course of a continent was changed forever . . . New military tactics were used for the first time against standard European formations . . . Generals Wolfe and Montcalm each died of gunshot wounds . . . France surrendered Quebec to the British, setting the course for the future of Canada, paving the way for the signing of the Treaty of Paris that gave the British control of North America east of the Mississippi, and forcing France to relinquish its claims on New Orleans and to give the lands west of the Mississippi to Spain for surrendering Florida to the British.
           
After the decisive battle, Britain’s maritime and colonial supremacy was assured, its hold on the thirteen American colonies tightened. The American participation in ousting the French as a North American power spurred the confidence of the people of New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, who began to agitate for independence from Great Britain. Sixteen years later, France, still bitter over the loss of most of its colonial empire, intervened on behalf of the patriots in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).
           
In Northern Armageddon, Peter MacLeod, using original research—diaries, journals, letters, and firsthand accounts—and bringing to bear all of his extensive knowledge and grasp of warfare and colonial North American history, tells the epic story on a human scale. He writes of the British at Quebec through the eyes of a master’s mate on one of the ships embroiled in the battle. And from the French perspective, as the British bombarded Quebec, of four residents of the city—a priest, a clerk, a nun, and a notary—caught in the crossfire.

MacLeod gives us as well the large-scale ramifications of this clash of armies, not only on the shape of North America, but on the history of Europe itself.

A stunning work of military history.
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About the author

D. Peter MacLeod is Director of Research at the Canadian War Museum. He is the author of The Canadian Iroquois and the Seven Years’ War. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Mar 22, 2016
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Pages
448
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ISBN
9781101946954
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / Military / Canada
History / United States / Colonial Period (1600-1775)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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From “one of the most wide-ranging and imaginative historians in America today; there is no one else quite like him in the profession” (Gordon S. Wood)—a dazzling and original work of history. 

A. Roger Ekirch’s American Sanctuary begins in 1797 with the bloodiest mutiny ever suffered by the Royal Navy—on the British frigate HMS Hermione, four thousand miles from England’s shores, off the western coast of Puerto Rico. In the midst of the most storied epoch in British seafaring history, the mutiny struck at the very heart of military authority and at Britain’s hierarchical social order. Revolution was in the air: America had won its War of Independence, the French Revolution was still unfolding, and a ferocious rebellion loomed in Ireland, with countless dissidents already arrested. 

Most of the Hermione mutineers had scattered throughout the North Atlantic; one of them, Jonathan Robbins, had made his way to American shores, and the British were asking for his extradition. Robbins let it be known that he was an American citizen from Danbury, Connecticut, and that he had been impressed into service by the British. 

John Adams, the Federalist successor to Washington as president, in one of the most catastrophic blunders of his administration, sanctioned Robbins’s extradition, according to the terms of the Jay Treaty of 1794. Convicted of murder and piracy by a court-martial in Jamaica, Robbins was sentenced by the British to death, hauled up on the fore yardarm of the frigate Acasta, blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back, and hanged. 

Adams’s miscalculation ignited a political firestorm, only to be fanned by news of Robbins’s execution without his constitutional rights of due process and trial by jury. Thomas Jefferson, then vice president and leader of the emergent Republican Party, said, “No one circumstance since the establishment of our government has affected the popular mind more.” Congressional Republicans tried to censure Adams, and the Federalist majority, in a bitter blow to the president, were unable to muster a vote of confidence condoning Robbins’s surrender. 

American Sanctuary brilliantly lays out in full detail the story of how the Robbins affair and the presidential campaign of 1800 inflamed the new nation and set in motion a constitutional crisis, resulting in Adams’s defeat and Jefferson’s election as the third president of the United States. 

Ekirch writes that the aftershocks of Robbins’s martyrdom helped to shape the infant republic’s identity in the way Americans envisioned themselves. We see how the Hermione crisis led directly to the country’s historic decision to grant political asylum to refugees from foreign governments—a major achievement in fulfilling the resonant promise of American independence, as voiced by Tom Paine, to provide “an asylum for mankind
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