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Reflecting upon Revolutionary America

By Ana Brazil
September 13, 2022

Old Stone House, Washington

Long before I heard the unbelievably insane soundtrack of Lin-Manual Miranda’s Hamilton, I’d been a big fan of the men and women of the American Revolution (AR). Although I’ve never set any of my historical fiction in the AR, I wish I could find the time to do so.

The AR, just to be clear, was a sweep of time beginning in 1765 (when American Colonists reacted forcefully to England’s economically-crushing Stamp Act) and ending in 1783 (when the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war). And just to be super-clear, the American Revolution and the American Revolutionary War (fought from 1776 to 1781), are not the same thing.

The American Revolution was so much more than a decade-plus of escalating tension between England and her American colonies, five years of brutal warfare, and resulting years of treaty negotiations. It was a once-in-a-civilization movement toward a different, more egalitarian type of government.

Colonial Williamsburg interpreters, ca 2008

My fascination with the AR began when I was a pre-teen living in Northern Virginia and had the opportunity to tour sites and buildings, see artifacts, and hear stories associated with the AR. I saw where the Continental Congress sat, where Thomas Jefferson slept, and how people lived in Colonial Williamsburg.

My introduction to the AR was very visual, and I’m sure that’s why is captured my imagination and has stuck with me all these years.

As I walked through the Old Stone House or visited Kenmore Plantation, I was hooked on learning more about these people. I wanted to know how they thought and fought; how they loved and lived, and started by reading Irving Stone’s THOSE WHO LOVE, a fictionalized biography about John and Abigail Adams.

Portrait of Abigail Adams, 1766

And so began my life-long crush on John and Abigail.

Then I discovered the soundtrack of the Broadway musical 1776. I not only got to fuel my John and Abigail fascination, I got to meet most members of the 2nd Continental Congress. John Hancock; Edward Rutledge; Tom Jefferson; Martha Jefferson; they all seemed so real, and they all fascinated me. Each of them argued, romanced, disagreed (cordially), embarrassed, and irritated each other constantly. Just like people do.

1776 was made into a movie (which I saw four times in two days), and the musical has been produced multiple times around America. It’s also being revived again, this time with a racially diverse cast of women, nonbinary and trans actors, something I’m sure we have Hamilton’s diverse casting approach to thank for.

So why, if I’ve been enchanted by Revolutionary America, have I never written about it? Why do I set my stories in the Gilded Age, Progressive Era, and the beginning of the Roaring Twenties?

Assembly Room, Independence Hall

I’m guessing that it was out of sight; out of mind. When I moved to Florida for high school, it was Good-Bye Mount Vernon, Hello Mickey Mouse (aka DisneyWorld). And when I went to college in Tallahassee, New Orleans became the historical mecca for me.

Still, the American Revolution was the first historical era to come alive right before me—through buildings and historic village interpretations and museum exhibits and books and Broadway—and I don’t think it will ever let me go.

Ana Brazil

Written by Ana Brazil

Ana Brazil writes historical crime fiction celebrating bodacious American heroines. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Historical Novel Society, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers.
Ana’s latest historical mystery is THE RED-HOT BLUES CHANTEUSE, which features murder, mayhem, and music in 1919 San Francisco. Her award-winning historical mystery FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER is set in Gilded Age New Orleans.

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