Simon Girty Turncoat Hero
The Most Hated Man on the Early American Frontier
Phillip W. Hoffman
The subject of this masterful, panoramic biography is one of the most mysterious and misunderstood icons of early American history. Simon Girty was a sharp-witted, rascally, many-tongued frontiersman whose epic adventures span the French and Indian War, Dunmore’s War, the American War for Independence, the Indian Wars, and, finally, the War of 1812.
When he defected from the Patriot cause to serve the British in March 1778, Girty achieved instant infamy – becoming one of young America’s most notorious characters. To understand his motivation one must discover, as he did, that the real, underlying cause of the American Revolution was the unquenchable thirst for Indian land of many of our so-called founding fathers – including George Washington – and their unrelenting dissatisfaction with the restrictions imposed upon their land speculation ambitions by the King’s Proclamation of 1763.
Like a detective doggedly combing through old evidence, author Phillip Hoffman spent seventeen years studying every detail of Girty’s life and times, amassing more than 4,000 computer windows of research. By exploring microfilm, ledgers, military records, congressional records, newspaper and magazine articles, and dozens of early American and Canadian fiction and non-fiction works, Hoffman was able to peel away the mythic legend that has hidden Girty’s real persona for two and a half centuries.
Little in Simon Girty’s life was conventional or predictable. One of four sons raised by an Irish Indian trader settled near Harrisburg in eastern Pennsylvania, Simon’s earliest experiences quickly isolate him from the majority of the colonists in his region, most of whom were German immigrants. To these people, the Girtys are Indian lovers, and the Indians are all savages and spawn of the devil. When he is nine, the untimely murder of his father ushers in a new, increasingly violent stage in young Girty’s life. During the French and Indian War, when he is fifteen, Simon and his family are captured by hostile Shawnee and Delaware warriors led by French officers. Given away to a war party of Senecas, Simon is carried north and adopted, emerging eight years later at age twenty-three, a gifted linguist and a trained interpreter fluent in eleven native languages.
Brought by a Seneca chief to Alexander McKee of the British Indian Department at Fort Pitt, Girty begins his career as a spy-interpreter-intermediary serving both English and Native American leaders. Girty’s contacts include the great Seneca sachem Guyasuta, Sir William Johnson, merchant George Morgan, businessman John Connolly, William Crawford, Matthew Elliott, John Murray (Lord Dunmore), Simon Kenton, George Rogers Clark, Mingo chief John Logan, Mohawk chief Joseph Brant, Half King of the Wyandots, Captain Pipe of the Delawares, Moravian missionaries David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder, Shawnee chiefs Blue Jacket and Tecumseh, and Miami war chief Little Turtle, Detroit Governor Henry Hamilton, U.S. general Anthony Wayne, and even Daniel Boone. Land speculators George Washington and Ben Franklin are also woven through Girty’s story.
Through Girty’s eyes we re-live the ill-fated Squaw Campaign, his rescue of Simon Kenton whom the Shawnees were about to torture and burn, the deadly ambush of Rogers’ Flotilla, the Battle of Sandusky, William Crawford’s trial and death by fire, the conquest of Martin’s and Ruddle’s Stations, the disastrous American defeat at Blue Licks (where Daniel Boone’s son Israel was killed), and the incredible victories over Harmar and St. Clair by a confederation of Western and Northern Tribes. Finally, with Girty and his companions Alex McKee and Matthew Elliott, we witness the climactic defeat of the Indians by “Mad” Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers.
In the early nineteenth century, the most feared and hated man on the American frontier spends his last years in Canada, blind, crippled and a shadow of his former self. Even so, there remains a $1,000 American bounty on his head, and even then, there are frontiersmen and warriors on both sides of the Canadian border who respect and remember him fondly. To the Mohawks, Simon Girty will become an “Indian Patriot.”
Hoffman’s dedication to detail, combined with his superb talent as a storyteller, brings us an intimate view of the full sweep of early American frontier conflicts, as experienced by a devoted adventurer whose heart was as much Indian as it was white. The author's erudite, yet accessible style makes this book a pleasure to read and savor. Simon Girty Turncoat Hero is American history at its best.
Format: 6" x 9" perfect bound paperback on acid-free creme paper with gloss laminate cover. Cover image was created by well-known graphic designer and historical artist Tim Truman.
Pages: 490, including dedication, table of contents, cast of characters, appendix (includes extensive genealogy of the Girty family), acknowledgments, and index
Illustrations: maps of areas that Girty frequented
ISBN 13: 978-09842256-3-7
Published: November 2009
About the Author
Phillip W. Hoffman scripted shows for Combat! and other dramatic TV series in the 1960s. In addition to writing, he taught a writing class at the late Jay Silverheel’s Indian Actor’s Workshop in Los Angeles for nine years.
Hoffman is also an award winning, world renowned cutlery designer whose original Lakota knives were accepted into the Permanent Design Collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He lives with his wife Mary Ann and two Labrador Retrievers near Pensacola, Florida.
"Hoffman casts a clarifying light on one of the most misunderstood men in American history."
- John Mack Faragher, Yale University, Author of Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer
"At Last! Hoffman has done what the vast majority who have written about Simon Girty have failed to do: he has shown this very remarkable individual as neither renegade nor traitor; rather as the man of principle and courage that he truly was. Bravo!"
- Allan W. Eckert, author of Wilderness Empire, The Frontiersman, Dark Journey - The Tragedy of the Donner Party and many other books about the early American frontier.
"This is a terrific book, very well grounded in the primary source material, well organized, and well written. Simon Girty Turncoat Hero does for Girty what Faragher did for Boone, namely carefully examines a mythic American figure, strips away the layers of legend, and allows a crisply drawn historic figure to emerge."
- Larry L. Nelson, Ph.D., author of A Man of Distinction Among Them: Alexander McKee and British Indian Affairs Along the Ohio Country Frontier
"Simon Girty Turncoat Hero is a scrupulously researched, fascinating account of the events surrounding the Frontier war in general and an exoneration of Simon Girty in particular. Phillip Hoffman has managed to take a mountain of raw data (battles, treaties made and broken, both sides floundering through the woods with short supplies, runners routinely sent on 100-mile foot-journeys to deliver messages) and turn it into a very readable account of "how the West was lost."
- Susan F. Lum, Aspen Times, Aspen, Colorado
“I have read almost all of the books and articles about Uncle Simon and I must say this book by Phil Hoffman is the most accurate in-depth account of Simon Girty, his life and the Girty family of the 1700s that I have had the pleasure to read. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Early America and its heroes.”
- Kenneth E Girty, Renfrew, Pennsylvania
“This is a much-needed reappraisal of a central figure of the colonial and revolutionary period of American history. As part of a total war against the native peoples, which included biological and ecological warfare, systematic treaty-breaking, and the vilification of any whites who resisted or objected to this policy, Girty was made a scapegoat and object of derision and fear.”
- Eric Marchbein, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“After years of anticipation, Phillip Hoffman's book Simon Girty Turncoat Hero has finally made it to press and into my hands. Phillip Hoffman has spent 19 years in meticulous research and turned it into a fascinating, and probably the truest account of one of the most ‘misunderstood’ historical figures on the American frontier, Simon Girty.
Mr. Hoffman gives us great insight into the British, American, and Indian politics, Simon's contemporaries, and life and war on the frontier. Mr. Hoffman's adept writing skills have taken a much vilified and hated individual and given us another side of Simon's complicated personality; a side of Simon Girty that other writers either ignored or never understood.”
- Stephanie Thalman [Simon Girty's fourth great granddaughter]
“Hoffman gives us a clear and detailed picture of the negotiations, battles, deceptions, Indian alliances and follies during the Indian conflicts with the implacable Americans following the Revolution that only many years of research could have attained. ‘Thousands of acres,’ he wrote, ‘were needed to fulfill the enlistment promises of land that had been made to officers and men. If there was no other way, America would clear the Indians off by force.’ To do this the Americans had to demonize the Indians. Hoffman gives us the tragic human nature of this struggle for land and power in which Simon Girty played a major role. The book will be a valuable addition to those written on the men and women who shaped this period of our history.”
- As reviewed by author David Beasley, United Empire Loyalists of Canada
“I finished reading the book last night, and to say I am impressed would be an understatement. It belongs on the shelf of every person with an interest in North American frontier history, and it ought to be at the top of libraries' order list.
"Phil Hoffman brings to light minute details from the life of Canadian folk hero, Simon Girty. In his own style, augmented with multiple source materials, Hoffman provides an unbiased and detailed account of the man, important to his British associates and his native "brothers." Hoffman humanizes the man by revealing details from Girty's private family life.
- As reviewed by author Ed Butts, Guelph, Canada
"Simon Girty Turncoat Hero is an authoritative text for scholars at all levels. Descendants may now experience well-deserved pride in their ancestor, Simon Girty. Thank You, Phil!"
- As reviewed by the late Madeline Malott, author and historian, of Kingsville, Ontario, Canada
"I just finished reading your book, and had to write. As my hispanohablante friends would say, ¡Que cuentista!
Thank you, for your diligence, your scholarship, and your great way of telling an important story. Credibility plus.
I can't help thinking that if Simon Girty could read, and learned how you told his story, he'd say:
'Fair enough. That's what it was like. That's me.'
And he wouldn't ask for anything more."
Very respectfully yours,
David A. Herrelko, Brig. Gen., USAF (Ret.)
This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 08 June, 2011.