H.W. Brands

Author of Our First Civil War

Author Talks

Wednesday, Nov 17 @ 7pm

  • Virtual Event

What causes a man to forsake his country and take arms against it? What prompts others, hardly distinguishable in station or success, to defend that country against the rebels? That is the question New York Times bestselling historian and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist H. W. Brands answers in his next thrilling, narrative-driven American history.

Our First Civil War is a fresh and dramatic recasting of the American Revolution, not just as a war between the American colonists and the British redcoats, but also as a violent battle between neighbors, friends, and family members—forced to make the terrifying choice between staying loyal to the Crown or joining the rebellion—where those committing sedition were ultimately remembered as heroes and Founding Fathers.

George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were the unlikeliest of rebels. Washington in the 1770s stood at the apex of Virginia society. Franklin was more successful still, having risen from humble origins to world fame. John Adams might have seemed a more obvious candidate for rebellion, being of cantankerous temperament. Even so, he revered the law. Yet all three men became rebels against the British Empire that fostered their success. William Franklin might have been expected to join his father, Benjamin, in rebellion, but he remained loyal to the British. So did Thomas Hutchinson, a royal governor and friend of the Franklins, and Joseph Galloway, an early challenger to the Crown. They soon heard themselves denounced as traitors—for not having betrayed the country where they grew up. Native Americans and the enslaved had daunting choices to make, too, as civil war broke out around them.

Ringing with contemporary resonance to today’s polarized nation—particularly in light of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol—master of character-driven narrative H. W. Brands tells the story of the Founding Fathers as it has never been told before: a drama that explores who will rebel and who will stay loyal as every colonist is forced to calculate the risks and consequences of their choices. He takes the Spirit of 1776 and strips away the inevitability, giving it new tension and excitement, from Washington’s days as a scout in the French and Indian Wars through the nail-biting battles of the Revolution. And he reminds us that before America could win its revolution against Britain, the Patriots had to win a bitter civil war against their sons and neighbors.

About the Author

H. W. BRANDS holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written more than a dozen biographies and histories, two of which, The First American and Traitor to His Class, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. The General vs. the President was a New York Times bestseller.

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