John H. Light, An Infantryman Remembers World Wtzr II. Shippensburg PA: Beidel Printing House, Inc., 1997. vii, 157 pp. Paperback, $10.95.
Carlisle was abuzz when the little old lady hit town. But Carlisle was not that much of a back water place in 1828 to get so excited about the arrival of one frail, fifty-nine year old woman. Who was this woman who caused some of the town's leading citizens to either embrace her with enthusiasm or run and hide? She was Mrs. Anne Newport Royall, author of books detailing her travels through eastern and southern United States. Travel books were popular items among the nineteenth century reading public because most people depended on them to learn about life in other parts of this growing country. Travel among the cities and towns of the populated parts of the United States was uncomfortable at best for hardy souls of strong constitution, but it was difficult for a poor, frail woman of fifty-nine. However, her books contained more than just pen-pictures of the scenery she observed; her sharp comments and rantings against those things she considered evil made very interesting reading. She named names and pulled no punches. Carlisle citizens knew that one way or another, some of them would be in her next book.
The unusual quality of the Royal Americans, a most unorthodox regiment for those days, may be better appreciated after a brief digression to review the general situation in North America in the middle 1700s.
Britain had acquired a block of thirteen coastal colonies extending from Georgia to Maine. They were alike insomuch as they all had representative governments and a basis of English law. However, the difference among them was great. Some were purely English; others were made up of people of various national origins. Some had one prevailing religious creed; others had many. Some had charters; some not. In most cases the Governor was appointed by the Crown; in Pennsylvania and Maryland he was appointed by a feudal proprietor; in Connecticut and Rhode Island he was chosen by the people. Divided in government; divided in origins, feelings, and principles; jealous of each other; jealous of the Crown; the people were continually in dispute with their executive and, except on the actual frontier, blind to outward danger that seemed remote. Although the population of the colonies far exceeded the number of French, local jealousies and dissension prevented effective combination to crush, or even to recognize a common enemy, so that they were unwilling even to take adequate steps to defend themselves. Serious and narrow minded in nature, the colonists were primarily interested in permanent settlement rather than exploration, ever pressing westward for more land, progressively displacing the Indian and gaining his enmity.
The French had the advantage of having a single creed and of being under a single authoritarian government which commanded the loyalty of all. They enjoyed, moreover, the leadership of some very able and farsighted men. Interested not so much in settlement as in exploration and trade, they had early penetrated and mapped the Great lakes, and the Ohio, Wabash, Illinois, and other rivers. They lived with the Indians rat her than displacing them, and their gayer nature led them to drink, dance, and intermarry with the natives - even to dress, as Frontenac once did, in their war-paint and f eat her s- whereas the dour Briton had no thought of such familiarity. The result was that the French won the sympathy and often the terrible help of the "Forest Children" as the British never did - and the y learned the Indian ways of fighting in the densely forested wilderness.
With the knowledge gained through exploration and mapping, the French sought to secure the western territories and to restrict the British east of the Alleghenies by erecting chains of forts along the natural water routes radiating from Montreal. To the west there was the chain: