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Reviewed by:
  • George Washington’s War on Native America
  • Walter Dunn
George Washington’s War on Native America. By Barbara Alice Mann. Westport, Conn.; Praeger, 2005. ISBN 0-275-98177-0. Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xi, 295. $49.95.

The author has portrayed the genocide inflicted on native Americans during the American Revolution under the guise of protecting the frontier from the British and their allies. She has concentrated on this aspect of the war and described in excruciating detail the massacres by colonial militia units. Much of the detail was gained by extensive research in native American [End Page 501] sources, including oral histories, as well as a wide-ranging search of contemporary newspapers, manuscript collections, and published documents. Chapters are devoted to detailed, gruesome descriptions of Gen. Joseph Sullivan's campaign in New York, George Rogers Clark's various expeditions, and other forays designed primarily to kill unarmed natives. The incompetence of many of the colonial leaders on the frontier is identified as a factor in some of the tragedies. The role of the British is mentioned briefly, for example Captain Bird's raid in 1780 on Kentucky settlements is described in three lines even though it was the major frontier incursion made by the British during the war.

The book serves as a powerful statement of the native side of a conflict which has been sugar coated for two centuries. As the book makes very clear, the motivation of the colonists was to remove the natives from their land in New York and Ohio to make way for the land speculators who would make enormous profits selling the land to the steady stream of immigrants coming to America. The leading figure was George Washington, who ordered the expeditions and who was also a leading member of the Ohio Company, a Virginia land company with claims in Ohio.

The book is clearly written in twenty-first-century English with frequent use of modifying adjectives to assist the reader in understanding the motivation behind many of the activities. Many readers will have difficulty initially with the use of native names of the characters but the better-known English name is often included in parenthesis.

The most tragic aspect of the murder of these thousands of people was that the motive was not land for colonial settlers, but profits to be made from selling land. There was adequate land available to sustain the early American economy long after the natives were driven out or eradicated. Decades of intensive recruitment in Europe in the nineteenth century were required to find buyers for the new land. Peaceful assimilation would have achieved the same end although at a slower pace.

The book should be required reading for all students seeking to understand the conflict on the frontier that lasted until the late nineteenth century. Given the extensive documentation provided, it will serve as an extremely valuable reference for college students and authors.

Walter Dunn
Elkhorn, Wisconsin


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 501-502
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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