Gavin K. Watt is the author of eleven books about loyalist military history, including Burning of the Valleys and Rebellion in the Mohawk Valley. He lives in King City, Ontario.
Fire and Desolation
How misrule and fraying alliances led to a ferocious campaign that changed the course of the American Revolution.
Following a disastrous campaign in 1777, the alliance between the Six Nations and the British Crown became seriously strained. Relations were made even more difficult by the hands-off stance of Quebec’s governor, General Guy Carleton, which led to the Native leaders developing their own strategies and employing traditional tactics, leading to a ferocious series of attacks on the frontiers of Vermont, New York, and Pennsylvania, supported by Loyalist and Regular troops. Among these were two infamous actions, referred to as “massacres” by American historians — attacks on the Wyoming and Cherry Valleys. This destructive campaign prompted the Continental Congress to mount three major retributive expeditions against the territories of the Six Nations and their allies the following year.
In Fire and Desolation, Gavin Watt details individual historical conflicts and illustrates the crushing tactical expertise of the Senecas and their Loyalist allies and provides a fresh perspective on Canada’s involvement in the American Revolution and the unfolding events of 1778.
Examined in light of modern principles of coalition warfare and low intensity conflict, Mr. Watt’s superb examination of British and First Nations diplomacy and military operations in the critical year of 1778 will interest any military historian. But it is also an essential background for any study of relations between the Crown and First Nations, in a campaign where Native allies were truly partners essential to the preservation of Canada. Watt’s appreciation of the role of First Nations, of women, of marginalized loyalists and even of the internecine politics inside the British, Rebel, and First Nations war efforts is an outstanding contribution to Canadian history and the history of the American Revolution.
Now renowned Canadian historian, Gavin K. Watt, gives us the new definitive history for our era: Building upon Simms’s pioneering interviews from 175 years ago, but also interrogating and integrating those oral histories with a vast array of military correspondence and bureaucratic records from archives that were essentially unavailable in Simms’s day. No one has told this “missing chapter” of the War for American Independence so vividly or so well. A splendid read. In Watt’s lively telling, the “forgotten year” of the Revolution in New York becomes a compulsive, all-night page-turner.