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Chapter Forty. Early American Insurrections

William Hogeland

Subject History » Military History
Study of History » Historiography

Place Northern America » United States of America

Key-Topics natural hazards, violence, war

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405161497.2010.00042.x


The American insurrections that occurred before the Civil War raise provocative issues for military history. Many such insurrections were so brief and easily suppressed (or, in one case, so easily successful) that they involved little application of military theory and practice and engage only glancingly with larger themes of American military history. Others, however, connect in complex ways to a host of military issues, from the purposes and effectiveness of militias, to the strategies and tactics of slavery resisters, to the proper limits of executive force on a populace – issues to which historians have given a wide and often revealing range of responses. For purposes of this discussion, then, early American insurrections are divided in four groups. Those in the first group – Coode's, Culpeper's, Leisler's, and Bacon's rebellions – were led by white freemen in the period of instability that accompanied the economic and political reordering of the British empire in the late seventeenth-century. Those of the second group – episodes involving the so-called Paxton Boys and Black Boys of Pennsylvania and the North Carolina Regulators – reflected tensions between frontier settlers and their governments in the period between the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary crisis. These two groups embrace insurrections whose military significance is slight, as well as those involving ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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