Newtown

One advantage of a stay-at-home order: the first draft of A Bitter Harvest is almost complete!

At the moment I am working on one of the climactic chapters: the Battle of Newtown. On

Newtown 4 British line

Location of breastworks.

August 29th, 1779, Thayendanegea, a.k.a Joseph Brant, led a force of about 1,000 Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) warriors and 200-250 British/Loyalist troops. Having built a well-camouflaged defensive breastwork behind a creek bed, with its flanks tied into difficult terrain, Thayendanegea intended to lure Major General John Sullivan’s Western Army of just over 3,000 troops (almost entirely Continental soldiers) into a trap. By ambushing Sullivan’s vanguard, the Haudenosaunee hoped to cause Sullivan to rush into a disastrous headlong charge. By inflicting heavy casualties, Thayendanegea might be able to turn back Sullivan’s invasion of the Haudenosaunee homeland.

Newtown 2 Hand's line

Rifle Corps position.

It did not work. Morgan’s Rifle Corps, the vanguard of Sullivan’s force, spotted the enemy positions. Brigadier General Edward Hand engaged with long range rifle fire, and Sullivan sent up his artillery regiment to help fix the enemy in place. Meanwhile, he sent two brigades in a wide movement around Thayendanegea’s eastern flank. Only by a desperate counterattack at the last moment was Thayendanegea able to prevent his defeat from becoming a massacre. The Haudenosaunee and their allies escaped, but their spirit was broken. There would be further bloody incidents in the campaign, but never again would so many Haudenosaunee take to the field to defend their land. The sun was setting on the League of Six Nations and the Haudenosaunee way of life.

Newtown 6 view from British line

The creek bed, from the breastwork.

In November I had the opportunity to retrace Sullivan’s route, from Wilke-Barre, Pennsylvania up to Seneca Lake. It was humbling to see the terrain Sullivan’s Army overcame, and the beautiful land for which the Haudenosaunee were fighting.

I hope I do justice to dramatic events which unfolded in this rugged, stunning corner of our country many years ago!

Happy reading!

Robert Krenzel Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor/

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook Page: https://m.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

The Great Law of Peace

As I have discussed before, there are significant challenges to studying the history of a people who committed their stories to the spoken, not the written, word. The biggest challenge for someone from my background is to let go of my preconceptions listen to that spoken word. I believe that when we do so, we can learn more than the story: we can learn about the culture and values that drove the story.

I recently happened upon a re-telling of the founding of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Great Law of Peace. Not only does it explain how the Haudenosaunee formed their Confederacy, but it also goes a long way to explain the role of gender in the culture. I did not expect a simply animated YouTube video to be so informative! I’m glad I put my preconceptions aside!

I how you enjoy!

Hiawatha – The Great Law of Peace – Extra History – #1

Hiawatha – Government for the People – Extra History – #2

Happy Reading!

Robert Krenzel Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor/

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook Page: https://m.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

Research Challenges

decl and hawkResearch is a critical part of writing historical fiction. I consider it critical to “get it right” when it comes to things big and small: weather, terrain, the sequence of events, language, uniform and clothing, and so on. For the first five books in the Gideon Hawke Series, research was mostly a matter of finding information.

Occasionally sources would conflict, and I would have to use my judgment to decide what really happened. Sometimes this meant going to the scene of the action. My favorite example was my one-man reenactment of the assault on the Breymann Redoubt at the Saratoga Battlefield, which answered for me how Morgan’s Rifle Corps approached and assaulted this defensive position. Other times, however, I would just have to compare notes and go with what made sense.

Research for Gideon Hawke #6, A Bitter Harvest, has proven far more complicated. While there is a tremendous amount of information on the Sullivan Campaign of 1779, including a wealth of first-hand accounts, for this novel I am endeavoring to dive deep into the society and culture of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) People. That is easier said than done.

It turns out the Haudenosaunee did not leave a written record. What written accounts they left were by isolated individuals, through intermediaries, several decades after the fact. What remains are second-hand accounts and tradition.

The second-hand accounts are plagued by racial and cultural bias. Few European observers (to include pro- and anti-Crown Americans) understood native culture or approached their observations without an agenda.

Modern Haudenosaunee society and culture has evolved considerably since the 1770s. While there is a cadre of people striving to keep the ancient ways and languages alive, I would be in error if I relied too heavily on modern interpretations of culture.

This leaves me with a great deal of interpretation to do. I must take what sources I have and make an outline of Haudenosaunee life and color in the details as best I can. Mercifully, I am writing this story through the eyes of Gideon Hawke, and outsider. I have the humility to know I could never do justice to a Haudenosaunee point of view. Perhaps, just perhaps, I can use Gideon’s tongue to tell the tale of a great people for whom American victory in the War of Independence meant the end of a way of life.

Happy Reading!

Robert Krenzel Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor/

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook Page: https://m.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/