Memory Wars


Memory Wars

Settlers and Natives Remember Washington’s Sullivan Expedition of 1779

A.  Lynn Smith

454 pages
44 photographs, 4 maps, 1 table, index


July 2023


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2023


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2023


$65.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Memory Wars explores how commemorative sites and patriotic fanfare marking the mission of General John Sullivan into Iroquois territory during the Revolutionary War continue to shape historical understandings today. Sullivan’s expedition was ordered by General George Washington at a tenuous moment of the Revolutionary War. It was a massive enterprise involving thousands of men who marched across northeastern Pennsylvania into what is now New York state, to eliminate any present or future threat from the British-allied Iroquois Confederacy. Sullivan and his men carried out a scorched-earth campaign, obliterating more than forty Iroquois villages, including homes, fields, and crops. For Indigenous residents it was a catastrophic invasion. For many others the expedition yielded untold bounty: American victory over the British along with land and fortunes beyond measure for settlers who soon moved onto the razed village sites.

The Sullivan Expedition has long been fixed on the landscape of Pennsylvania and New York by a cast of characters, including amateur historians, newly formed historical societies, and local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Asking how it is that people continue to “celebrate Sullivan” in the present day, Memory Wars underscores the symbolic value of the past as well as the dilemmas posed to contemporary Americans by the national commemorative landscape.

Author Bio

A. Lynn Smith is a professor of anthropology and sociology at Lafayette College. She is a coauthor of Rebuilding Shattered Worlds: Creating Community by Voicing the Past (Nebraska, 2016) and author of Colonial Memory and Postcolonial Europe: Maltese Settlers in Algeria and France.


"Beginning with the question of how settlers dealt with the knowledge that their presence on particular lands resulted from others' dispossession, Smith examines an array of diverse, often overlooked primary sources and places them into conversation with theoretical studies on memory work and historical consciousness. The result is a much-needed intervention in early American studies."—J. W. Parmenter, Choice

“A. Lynn Smith demonstrates the power of combining history and ethnography in the study of historical consciousness. At once a history of commemoration and an ethnography of remembrance, the book illuminates long, tangled histories of both settler and Native understandings of events at the heart of the American origin story.”—Geoffrey M. White, author of Memorializing Pearl Harbor: Unfinished Histories and the Work of Remembrance

“Important and timely. Memory Wars is relevant to public historians, museum professionals, and others who study, create, and dismantle narratives consumed by the public at interpretive sites. It makes a contribution to early American history by challenging the interpretations of the Sullivan Expedition and its commemoration and the erasure of intra-settler conflicts. Finally, the research makes a significant contribution to Native American history.”—Dawn G. Marsh, author of A Lenape among the Quakers: The Life of Hannah Freeman

“An excellent case study of historical memory formation that is relevant to contemporary debates over commemorations and the legacy of settler colonialism grounded in especially fascinating fieldwork. This is a very engaging read.”—Andrew Newman, author of On Records: Delaware Indians, Colonists, and the Media of History and Memory

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Maps
Introduction: The Stories We Tell
Part I: Origins: Settler Colonial Public Memory
            Pennsylvania: In the Shadow of Wyoming
            1.         Yankee Insurgency and the Battle of Wyoming
2.         Patriotic Women Celebrate Sullivan
            3.         Pennsylvania’s 1929 Sullivan Series
            New York: Replacement through Just Warfare
            4.         Ambivalent Festivities and the Newtown Centennial of 1879
            5.         Inventing “Sullivan-Clinton” for New York
            6.         Celebrating Sullivan in Indian Country
7.         The 1929 “Pageant of Decision”
            8.         A Tale of Two States
Part 2: Reverberations: The Revolutionary Past in Contemporary America
            9.         Dueling Celebrations
10.       Pennsylvania
            11.       New York
            12.       Changing the Narrative
Part 3: Interventions:  Indigenous Histories of Settler Colonialism
13.       Haudenosaunee Historical Consciousness

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