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Neither Nathan Hale nor Moses Dunbar deliberately set out to be a revolutionary or a loyalist, yet both suffered the same fate. They died when there was every indication that Britain would win the American Revolution. Had that been the outcome, Dunbar, convicted of treason and since forgotten, might well be celebrated as a martyr. And Hale, caught spying on the British, would likely be remembered as a traitor, rather than a Revolutionary hero.
In The Martyr and the Traitor, Virginia DeJohn Anderson offers an intertwined narrative of men from very similar backgrounds and reveals how their relationships within their families and communities became politicized as the imperial crisis with Britain erupted. She explores how these men forged their loyalties in perilous times and believed the causes for which they died to be honorable. Through their experiences, The Martyr and the Traitor illuminates the impact of the Revolution on ordinary lives and how the stories of patriots and loyalists were remembered and forgotten after independence.
Virginia DeJohn Anderson is Professor of History at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is the author of New England's Generation: The Great Migration and the Formation of Society and Culture in the Seventeenth Century, Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America, and American Journey: A History of the United States.
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