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"Oliver Wiswell, by Kenneth Roberts" Topic


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521 hits since 5 Apr 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP05 Apr 2018 9:08 a.m. PST

I ran into this novel from a recommendation article in American Heritage magazine many years ago about historical novels that "got it right".
Or maybe it was some other magazine. grin old fart
It was recommended as a novel about the American Revolution, but told from a Loyalist point of view. I found it rather quickly in a used book establishment ran by a rather seedy individual living in the woods. Unless you knew exactly where it was, you would never find it.
Roberts was an ex journalist turned novelist. He has one cycle featuring a family in Upper Massachusetts, later Maine. They trace from before the French and Indian War, up to the War of 1812. Rousing stuff. Manly men, sinister but lovely French spies, a good word for Benedict Arnold, etc.
It's not really necessary to follow the books in order; they're stand alone.
It's a typical sprawling novel, as they did back in the 30s or 40s, cast of dozens, where you had to pay attention.

It starts out with the sidekick to the hero being tarred and feathered by a Patriot mob. Author picks sides early. They escape, have Loyalist adventures, take part in the siege of 96. At the end, our good guys and women go to Kaintuck.

Kenneth Roberts also wrote "Northwest Passage" the novel on which everyone's second favorite FIW movie was based.
He also wrote about Arnold's Quebec trek through Maine, Saratoga and privateering.

The late Allen Curtis, whose friendship I miss, and I had some good correspondence about Roberts. Allen was of course a Maine lad.

I recommend this novel highly. It would make a fine HBO miniseries with the plot and characters, but I'm afraid that even 250 years after the fact, a Loyalist miniseries could not fly in the USA. We still haven't forgiven the brutal Tabington for burning pretty patriots in churches.

One thing it did was to really encourage me to expand my Collection of Loyalist units. And it painted the seeds for another Bucket List game, 96.

link

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP05 Apr 2018 11:22 a.m. PST

I second these recommendations. Although I have yet to read Wiswell.

Rawdon05 Apr 2018 12:17 p.m. PST

I third this recommendation. My only quibble is that I got thoroughly sick and tired of Wiswell's sidekick, a character that I found to strain my belief.

Any half-decent public library should have a copy of this book (as did mine), but there are plenty of inexpensive on-line options in the used-book market.

I learned about this book only last year in an article in the on-line Journal Of The American Revolution. I am surprised and embarrassed that I'd never come across it before, especially since I've read a couple of Roberts' other works.

Liliburlero Supporting Member of TMP05 Apr 2018 1:42 p.m. PST

Any of Kenneth Roberts' books are a very good read. He was one of Dad's favorite authors because "he makes history enjoyable." I've not read Oliver Wiswell so will get a copy.

huron72505 Apr 2018 1:58 p.m. PST

I have had this book for a very long time. I may just give it a try shortly.

goragrad05 Apr 2018 10:20 p.m. PST

Read most of Roberts' novels back in high school that I could get my hands on (the first Arundel cycle was in my mother's collection).

Didn't read Wiswell because back in the day wasn't going to read about a Tory.

This came up a while back and at that time I put it on the list, need to get it done.

23rdFusilier Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 6:36 a.m. PST

Enjoyed it very much. Read it multiple times and yes, it effected how I view the Rev War. Had never thought of the Loyalist point of view before. Helped me to see it through different eyes.

Also gave me a life long interest in visiting the site of the siege of 96. Spent a most exciting day at the park.

Of Robert's other books this was my favorite. On his others books I cannot get through his hero worship of Arnold. A great turn off to me As i think Arnold is the most over rated commander during that war.

Virginia Tory06 Apr 2018 6:59 a.m. PST

Awesome book. Read it in the 9th Grade and it also dramatically affected how I viewed the AWI. This is a book they should assign to students.

And hey, no hating on Buell and his Perkins' Metallic Tractors! :)

Bill N06 Apr 2018 9:17 a.m. PST

Any half-decent public library should have a copy of this book

Sadly our local library has become less a book repository and more a meeting location and a place to go for free internet.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 11:13 a.m. PST

On his others books I cannot get through his hero worship of Arnold. A great turn off to me As i think Arnold is the most over rated commander during that war.

I quite agree – his only "tactic" seemed to consist of going blindly head-on at anything and everything; ok it worked a few times, but quite often it didn't. The action on Lake Champlain was a desperate waste of a scarce naval resource that did nothing more than provide a minor speed-bump against professional sailors. The real value of the Lake Champlain fleet was its very existence (much like Washington's army at that stage of the war) – and that was what held the British up for 2-3 months whilst they built their own "brown water" fleet to match it, not the few hours of the battle itself.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 11:47 a.m. PST

Every attempt to game Valcour Island with a popular board game was a deciding factor in my decision to not game it with miniatures.

pvernon Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 4:04 p.m. PST

Another recommendation. I read most of his works in high school. My grand father ran a book rental service during the Depression, to make ends meet. My father grabbed one each of the survivors when the excess books were sold off.
Also did you know that Kennith's notes went to the Smithsonian on his death. A great historian even if he did wright fiction.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2018 12:19 p.m. PST

Every attempt to game Valcour Island with a popular board game was a deciding factor in my decision to not game it with miniatures.

I'm going to guess a little one-sided?

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2018 1:35 p.m. PST

A tiny bit.

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