The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, & Endurance in Early America

Scott Weidensaul, Author
Scott Weidensaul. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (480p) ISBN 978-0-151-01515-3
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In this charming and fascinating chronicle, historian Weidensaul points out that the earliest frontier in America stretched from the Atlantic coast inland to the high, rugged ranges of the Appalachians, and from the Maritimes to Florida. By telling the stories of the numerous inhabitants of this “first frontier,” Weidensaul uncovers the terrain of this lost world where Europeans and Native Americans were creating a new society and a new landscape that was by turns peaceful and violent, and linked by trade, intermarriage, religion, mutual dependence, and acts of both unimaginable barbarism and extraordinary tolerance and charity. For example, Weidensaul recounts numerous stories of Indian captivity. In 1689, Maliseet Indians captured and carried 10-year-old John Gyles from his village in Maine into Canada, where he endured severe winters and a case of frostbite that almost killed him. By the time he was 16, his Indian mistress traded him to a Frenchman, who put Gyles in charge of a store in his trading post. While he was with the Indians, the young Gyles learned loyalty and refused to try to escape; when he had the chance to escape his French masters during a battle between the English and the French, he remained loyal to his French owners, even helping them avoid possible capture by the English. Weidensaul’s delightful storytelling brings to life the terrors and hopes of the earliest days of America. (Feb.)
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