That Ever Loyal Island: Staten Island and the American Revolution

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NYU Press, May 1, 2007 - History - 185 pages
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Of crucial strategic importance to both the British and the Continental Army, Staten Island was, for a good part of the American Revolution, a bastion of Loyalist support. With its military and political significance, Staten Island provides rich terrain for Phillip Papas's illuminating case study of the local dimensions of the Revolutionary War.

Papas traces Staten Island's political sympathies not to strong ties with Britain, but instead to local conditions that favored the status quo instead of revolutionary change. With a thriving agricultural economy, stable political structure, and strong allegiance to the Anglican Church, on the eve of war it was in Staten Island's self-interest to throw its support behind the British, in order to maintain its favorable economic, social, and political climate.

Over the course of the conflict, continual occupation and attack by invading armies deeply eroded Staten Island's natural and other resources, and these pressures, combined with general war weariness, created fissures among the residents of “that ever loyal island,” with Loyalist neighbors fighting against Patriot neighbors in a civil war. Papas’s thoughtful study reminds us that the Revolution was both a civil war and a war for independence—a duality that is best viewed from a local perspective.


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This is a wonderful summary of the main events and personalities that were connected to Staten Island during the British occupation during the American Revolution from 1776 to 1783. Although much of the ground that the author covers in his present book has already been covered in other books about Staten Island during the American Revolution, the author focuses on the political alliances and the ramifications of Loyalist and Povincial Staten Islanders. This abbreviated history could have been written a bit more clearly, in that the author continues to go back and forth in describing certain events, rather than laying out a more cogent and chronological timeline for the history. There are certainly some very colorful anecdotal histories about the so-called loyalist Islanders and their fence-sitting during the war, and there are some humorous descriptions of the interactions between the British and the neutral Islanders. What I think would have strengthened the history would have been a much better and more detailed map of Staten Island during the Revolutionary War years depicting the major houses and taverns that the personalities resided in. Also, some colorful pictures of the beauty of the Island during the 18th century would have added to the clarity and aesthetics of the book. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this history. I am writing about Revolutionary War sites on Staten Island presenly, so this book is very helpful.  



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Page 10 - Dutchmen, or such as came hither whilst the Dutch were yet in possession of this place. But at present they were scattered among the English and other European inhabitants, and spoke English for the greatest part. The prospect of the country here is extremely pleasing, as it is not so much intercepted by woods, but offers more cultivated fields to view.

About the author (2007)

Philip Papas is an assistant professor of history at Union County College in Cranford, New Jersey and is a native of Staten Island.

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