Journal of Backcountry Studies

The Rhetoric of Revenge: Atrocity and Identity in the Revolutionary Carolinas

Ben Rubin


"The Rhetoric of Revenge" addresses the way that individual acts of brutality during the War for Independence in North and South Carolina were perceived and interpreted by both Whig and Tory participants. This paper looks at the processes of identity formation and contextualization, whereby individuals took the facts as they knew them and tried to make sense of both their own and their opponents’ place in the unfolding drama. It also examines the ways these events were incorporated into the rhetoric of each side and were used as tools in creating narratives of heroism on one side and brutality on the other. Through analysis of opposing accounts of the same event, this work is able to break through the facts of these events to understand the way individuals understood them. It is more interested in perception than reality, and in the choices that were made regarding the inclusion, exclusion, interpretation and exaggeration of individual factual elements. This work also use the journals of two young men, Thomas Young, a Whig, and Anthony Allaire, a Tory, throughout, as a common thread to tie together the many disparate and chaotic events that became a part of conflicting identities and ultimately created two opposing narratives of the events of the American Revolution, based on atrocity.

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