The Martyr and the Traitor
Two men from Connecticut, each embarked on a dangerous mission, slipped onto Long Island in September 1776. Only a few weeks earlier, British forces had routed the Continental Army and taken control of New York City. The future of the infant American republic, barely two months old, looked bleak. One of the men, a soldier disguised as a schoolmaster, made his way to the British fortifications on Manhattan and began furtively taking notes and making sketches to bring back to the beleaguered American general, George Washington. The second visitor had quite different plans. He had come to Long Island to accept a captain's commission in a loyalist regiment, an undertaking that obligated him to return to Connecticut and recruit more farmers to join the King's forces. As events turned out, neither man completed his mission. Instead, each met his death at the end of a hangman's rope, one executed as a spy for the American cause and the other as a traitor to it. In this book, Virginia Anderson traces the lives of these two men, Nathan Hale and Moses Dunbar, to explore how middle-class men made decisions on a daily basis amidst the uncertainties of war that determined not just their own fates but also the ways in which they have been remembered or forgotten in history. Hale uttered a line that has become famous ("I only regret, that I have but one life to lose for my country") and, after being captured and executed as a spy by the British, and the Americans winning the war, has been memorialized as a martyr to the Revolutionary cause. His life is neatly contrasted with Dunbar, a Loyalist who was captured and sentenced to death by the Connecticut Assembly. This braided narrative, intertwining the lives of Hale and Dunbar, offers a poignant snapshot of the political loyalties men forge in momentous times, how their families shaped and reacted to those decisions, and how difficult it is to judge individuals' decisionmaking in wartime without the benefit of hindsight, when the outcome is dependent on complex factors. This book bridges"great man" biographies about the American Revolution and the "bottom up" social histories of common men, and the histories of patriots and loyalists. Its accessible style makes it appropriate for anyone interested in Revolutionary America.

The Martyr and the Traitor Details

TitleThe Martyr and the Traitor
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJun 1st, 2017
PublisherOxford University Press, USA
ISBN0199916861
ISBN-139780199916863
Number of pages272 pages
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction

The Martyr and the Traitor Review

  • Gwen - Chew & Digest Books -
    June 24, 2017
    They say that history is written by the victors and the story of Nathan Hale and Moses Dunbar is proof. It's also interesting that, over time, society can rehabilitate just about anyone's reputation...or at least try to.Loved the look into a hidden story and the juxtaposition of the two men and their fates. The four stars is because it was a bit slow in the beginning, short on followup, which with the state of records kept at the time isn't the author's fault, and being history, it's not a book They say that history is written by the victors and the story of Nathan Hale and Moses Dunbar is proof. It's also interesting that, over time, society can rehabilitate just about anyone's reputation...or at least try to.Loved the look into a hidden story and the juxtaposition of the two men and their fates. The four stars is because it was a bit slow in the beginning, short on followup, which with the state of records kept at the time isn't the author's fault, and being history, it's not a book for everyone. Totally unimportant to the review, but it's so interesting that we glorify spies and spy fiction now (think Bond, James Bond), but during the revolution, spying was seen as ungentlemanly and dishonorable. My how times change.
    more
Write a review