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The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  238 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Frontier: the word carries the inevitable scent of the West. But before Custer or Lewis and Clark, before the first Conestoga wagons rumbled across the Plains, it was the East that marked the frontier—the boundary between complex Native cultures and the first colonizing Europeans.

Here is the older, wilder, darker history of a time when the land between the Atlantic and the
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Hardcover, 496 pages
Published February 8th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2012)
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Holly Weiss
Scott Weidensaul takes us back to the true frontier, The First Frontier, where lands east of the Hudson and Delaware were hotly contested for two centuries before the American Revolution. People who laid claim to the eastern seaboard came with ambiguous motives from unimaginably different cultures and lands. Although cohabiting the land, they communicated poorly and remained estranged. This peerlessly researched book opens our eyes to a violent time in the history of America of which most of us ...more
Steven Peterson
This book is the story (Page xiv) "that harks back to the days when the East was contested ground--fought over by empires and bled for by people who, regardless of their language, color, or birthplace, saw it as their own and worth dying for."

This is a well told story of the contest among settlers of different European lands and native Americans. It is a story of bravery and treachery, a battle over land, efforts at reconciliation--and betrayal. The subtitle speaks to a central theme of the book
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Dale

I have had Scott Weidensaul's The First Frontier for longer than a year, buried in my legendary pile of books (actually, I am more organized than that, they are all in 4 milk crates) but when I heard an interview with Wiedensaul on the John Batchelor radio show I was reminded to dig it out.

Weidensaul is to be commended for a very thorough job of researching the history of the relationship between the natives and the European colonists. The records are scant, the spelling is haphazard and so mu
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Linda
Winter quarter I tutored a young man in American history from "discovery" to 1800. I learned a few new things and when I saw this book covered much of the same time period, I thought I'd try it out. Fantastic choice!!! First of all, the writer is a writer. His nonfiction is as smooth to read as fiction usually is. He tells the tale of America's beginnings through the eyes of as many of its participants as he can. Of course, not all events are covered by written sources. However, the earliest exp ...more
Chris
Here are a good collection of stories that present a compiled history of various struggles in early American history. It showcases some interesting characters that are often ignored, and goes deep into the history with what seems to be a pretty balanced view of each civilization and the struggles of each.

I found the 17th century stories to be the most fascinating, because these are the stories about which I don't often hear. Scott brings forth a lot of terrific characters about which I hope I ca
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Jean-Paul Adriaansen
I should have given this book a 5-star rating for the thorough investigating by the author. This monumental work is overflowing with tons of historical details, names, and dates.
The clash between civilizations was probably nowhere that intense as in the Americas. 2 cultures, completely strange to each other, have to manage to coexist together, without understanding the languages and the habits of the others. It is the epic struggle for survival of the Indian tribes, driven away west and northwar
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Jo Stafford
Lenape, Pequot, Yamasee, Narragansett - these are not the names that usually come to mind when we think of Native American nations that resisted white encroachment. But that's because we're used to thinking of the frontier as western, and the nations I mentioned are eastern peoples. Weidensaul's engagingly written book recounts the history of Native American-European contact in the east - America's first frontier - until just after the end of the French and Indian War. I knew some of this histor ...more
Hunter McCleary
76 Extreme use of fire by Indians to clear forests.
78 Did Indians ever travel the Gulf stream to pre-Colombian Europe.
126 Indians went from subsistence to trade based with arrival of Europeans.
135 Pequot War basically wiped out New England Indians.
149 The Pequot War rewrote the rules of war on both sides.
149 English told them leave the land or lose everything.
153 There were twenty-three thousand colonists by 1650.
218 Indians enslaved Indians for profit in the southeast.
225 Good background on the
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Todd Price
Weidensaul recounts the history of the American frontier, from a time it was only vaguely understood to be another realm when the Vikings landed at "Vinland", through the Spanish/English/French exploration, and until the era between the French and Indian War and The American Revolution. In some areas of the book, Weidensaul's writing is reminiscent of Allan Eckert, another naturalist who also delved into historical writing. It was a refreshingly insightful account, and filled in the gaps between ...more
Don  Kent
I have greatly enjoyed this author's previous books but this was a really tough read. His summary of what is known about the migration of peoples to America was excelllent, but the intricracies of his rhetoric regarding the indian wars was a bore.
Jim
The jacket cover mentions that the word "frontier" carries the "scent of the West". However, Weidensaul reminds us that what is now the eastern part of the U.S was the original frontier. The book provides a good synopsis of a vast subject -- that touches lightly on numerous events that occurred prior to the Revolutionary War. Most of the events deal with the relationships and warfare between the Indians and the Colonists. I found to be well-written and engaging.

If there is a criticism it is tha
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Tom

I have read better books on the subject. Look at any written by Fred Anderson.
J.
When Americans think of the "frontier" we usually think of the West. But before European immigrants began to quickly expand across the North American continent, the frontier was in the east and remained so for hundreds of years. Scott Weidensaul looks at the history of relations between the Native Americans and European on this first frontier starting long before Columbus and going up to just before the American Revolution.

Mr. Weidensaul states that atrocities were committed by both sides and hi
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Jaylia3
For hundreds of years before the thirteen colonies were established, Native Americans and Europeans interacted along the east coast of what is now the United States, and The First Frontier: the Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America tells that fascinating but for me largely unknown story. The First Frontier covers some of the same ground as Charles Mann's books 1491 and 1493, but with a tight and detailed focus on the tribes, settlements, varied goals and shiftin ...more
Ishmael Seaward
The time and location of The First Frontier is from about 1600 to 1760, beginning with the first European settlements in America and ending with the French and Indian War, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains. It really focuses on the clash of cultures between the Native Americans and the Europeans. It is probably as even-handed as any book on this topic and reads like a novel, full of anecdotes and first person quotes, and some fascinating maps. But then I like history and h ...more
Lisa
Scott Weidensaul's writing makes history come alive in an exciting and spellbinding fashion. This book covers pre-contact history up through the end of the French-Indian War. All those gaps left by history books that invariably started with Columbus and the Spanish explorers, jumped to Jamestown then the Pilgrims and right to the Boston Tea Party, are filled in by this book. As someone who has lived most of my life in Pennsylvania, meaning I took the requisite Pennsylvania history course in 8th ...more
Greg
I'm stuck as to what to rate this book. I hate giving everything 4s, but I think this book really deserves it and I've been overrating other books to this point.

In reading non-fiction, I tend to let interesting information influence my rating over the writing itself. I certainly thought the writing here was well-done, but I have to admit that I felt myself dragged mostly along by the fascinating story (which is largely ignored in our numerous American History classes in school). The author does
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Cheryl
This is history writing at its finest. Much of the material has been covered in other books I have read, such as Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann, so in some ways, not original material, but the storytelling was the thing. It looks more closely at the eastern seaboard, and the tribes that were living there even dipping into the latest theories of when and who and how humans came to spread across the globe.

“The s
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David
I've known Scott for nearly 20 years. I've read his work on the art of Ned Smith and outdoor subjects, but I did not know of his interest in colonial history until the publication of this book. I was pleasantly surprised at his skillful use of sources to tell a story that covers more than two centuries during which the frontier of North America was mostly a sliver of land along the Atlantic coast which gradually and with many conflicts grew beyond the Allegheny mountains. The story is told throu ...more
Kathleen
This is a book that reminds us the "Wild West" was once what we think of today as decidedly "East." The struggles between the native population of the American continent and European settlers began when the first trader set foot on this foreign land. Relationships among these groups were complex and not always at odds. Basic cultural miscommunications and linguistic misunderstandings sometimes had wide-spread and tragic consequences.

There were many fascinating stories in here I had never read,
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David Bird
I was a bit hesitant when this book started with an author's note on transcriptions "I modernized the use of u and v, which in the sixteenth century were often reversed...as well as the use i instead of j...likewise I modernized the use of fs for the double s in words such as addrefs." The phrasing suggests an author not familiar with the practices of the sixteenth-eighteenth century, that it was not a reversal of letters but that the distinction between consonant and vowel hadn't become standar ...more
Mike
Ever drive along Route 78 in the middle of Pennsylvania and wonder who Conrad Weiser was and why his homestead gets a sign on the side of a highway? Well my friend, this book is for you!

Turns out Mr. Weiser was an eminent translator and go-between for colonial powers and the Indian tribes during the first half of the 18th century. A contemporary and sometime colleague of George Washington during the French and Indian War, Weiser also led construction, along with Benjamin Franklin, of a line of
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Ronad L Roberts
A real look at the rape of the American Native American lands.

The book seems to be a somewhat honest look at both sides of the taking of land not belonging to the Europeans. The violence on both sides is brutal. I must say on behalf of Native Americans there lies some justification. If you wish to read a real view of the horrible times leading up to the slow extermination of a civilization, I would recommend this book highly.
Mommymac10
Very readable history -- both the big picture and individual lives (some of whom deserve books or movies of their own) -- of the eastern pre- colonial seaboard in the 16th-18th centuries. These times were barely covered in school, fascinating though they were. I had no idea that, in the 1500's, there were many ships from Europe putting in to eastern shores. There were small settlements all along the eastern seaboard, with accompanying Indian skirmishes and disagreements. Somehow (!), the perfidy ...more
Mary
The author is not a profession historian and this is not an academic history. There doesn't seem to be any theory the author is trying to promote or prove. Instead, there are nearly 400 pages of well told stories about life at the edge of European settlement in North America through the end of the French & Indian Wars. The author does tend to swirl around topics, which can make it a bit difficult to fit the timeline together, but generally the survey proceeds chronologically from Viking cont ...more
Bryn Dunham
By far this book exceeded my expectations and renewed my interest in the early colonial period and European and Indian relations. What makes this book unique is that the author not only discusses the initial contact with Europeans but the theories regarding the origins of the Indians in North America. The book chronicles in detail how dangerous life in the backwoods could be and how various rivalries and relations were formed not just between the Indians and settlers but between the various Indi ...more
Naomi
I found this book absolutely fascinating. However, prepare yourself for a very slow read. The author packed a ton of information into this book which I found I had to go back and recheck information to ensure I was learning it correctly. I found myself even learning things from the footnotes! Plus, I found it pulled together information which I have learned in other books, so it "stitched" together pieces of information I had in my head. My only criticism of this book was that it did have moment ...more
Painting
Every new book about early American history that I read fills in a little bit about what happened in a more realistic way. This isn't just about guts and glory, but more about the unjust and gory treatment of groups of people in a struggle for dominance over the land we all know and love now. The clash of attitudes and values early in the European settlement of the Western Hemisphere has been presented mostly from the conquering and triumphant side rather than from the losing side. I feel this b ...more
Michael Loder
Mostly known for his fine natural history writing, Here Weidensaul ventures into a part of the history of North America that is largely ignored or forgotten today. The interaction of North American Indians and the English, French and Spanish settlers was a long struggle that saw almost constant warfare for over three hundred years all along North America's east coast. I must give high praise to Weidensaul for his ability to shape a narrative, cover this much time, yet cover so many personal stor ...more
Marlene
This non-fiction work seems thoroughly researched and gives a good picture of what life was like in pre-Revolutionary North America. This part of our history mostly has to do with settlers (homesteaders and traders) and their relations with the various Indian tribes. There's a lot about the general area in Pennsylvania where I live, and I've learned of the origins of a number of place names hereabouts. It does not stint on describing white treachery against the Indians in the
matter of land treat
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Born in 1959, Scott Weidensaul (pronounced "Why-densaul") has lived almost all of his life among the long ridges and endless valleys of eastern Pennsylvania, in the heart of the central Appalachians, a landscape that has defined much of his work.

His writing career began in 1978 with a weekly natural history column in the local newspaper, the Pottsville Republican in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
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More about Scott Weidensaul...
Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding Return to Wild America: A Yearlong Search for the Continent's Natural Soul Mountains of the Heart: A Natural History of the Appalachians

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“Wherever you set foot—on a street in Manhattan as you dodge traffic; on the soft, freshly turned earth of a Hudson Valley farm; on the kelpy tide line below a Maine cottage; or in the pine woods and palmetto thickets of the Carolina Low Country—do not forget that this was once frontier.” 0 likes
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