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Wild YankeesWild Yankees

The Struggle for Independence along Pennsylvania's Revolutionary Frontier

Paul B. Moyer

Narrated by Chris Chappell

Available from Audible

Book published by Cornell University Press

Northeast Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley was truly a dark and bloody ground, the site of murders, massacres, and pitched battles. The valley's turbulent history was the product of a bitter contest over property and power known as the Wyoming controversy. This dispute, which raged between the mid-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, intersected with conflicts between whites and native peoples over land, a jurisdictional contest between Pennsylvania and Connecticut, violent contention over property among settlers and land speculators, and the social tumult of the American Revolution. In its later stages, the controversy pitted Pennsylvania and its settlers and speculators against "Wild Yankees"—frontier insurgents from New England who contested the state's authority and soil rights.

In Wild Yankees, Paul B. Moyer argues that a struggle for personal independence waged by thousands of ordinary settlers lay at the root of conflict in northeast Pennsylvania and across the revolutionary-era frontier. The concept and pursuit of independence was not limited to actual war or high politics; it also resonated with ordinary people, such as the Wild Yankees, who pursued their own struggles for autonomy. This battle for independence drew settlers into contention with native peoples, wealthy speculators, governments, and each other over land, the shape of America's postindependence social order, and the meaning of the Revolution. With vivid descriptions of the various levels of this conflict, Moyer shows that the Wyoming controversy illuminates settlement, the daily lives of settlers, and agrarian unrest along the early American frontier.

Paul B. Moyer is Associate Professor of History at The College at Brockport (SUNY). He is the author of The Public Universal Friend: Jemima Wilkinson and Religious Enthusiasm in Revolutionary America.


“The concept and pursuit of independence was not limited to actual war of high politics; it also resonated with ordinary people, such as the Wild Yankees, who pursued their own struggle for autonomy. With vivid descriptions of the various levels of the conflict, the author shows that the Wyoming controversy illuminates the process of settlement, the daily lives of settlers, and agrarian unrest along the early American frontier.”

Pennsylvania Heritage

“Moyer can hold his head high, having written for the northeastern Pennyslvania frontier a history comparable to Alan Taylor's Liberty Men and the Great Proprietors and Reeve Huston's Land and Freedom for Upstate New York.

American Historical Review

“In Wild Yankees, Paul B. Moyer provides more than a fresh take on the sad history of the rural insurgency in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley. At the same time that Moyer unpacks the story of how Anglo-Americans competed violently with Native Americans and with each other, making his book a useful study for historians of Pennyslvania, he uses the fight for land to provide an alternative framework for understanding the American Revolution.”

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Wild Yankees is a highly readable account of the turmoil in Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley from the 1750s to the early 1800s. Paul B. Moyer characterizes the events as a farmers' revolution, and his key argument is that the contest over control of northeastern Pennsylvania (commonly referred to as the Yankee-Pennamite Wars) was part of a larger pattern of agrarian unrest that paralleled the Regulator Movement in North Carolina in the 1770s, Shays' Rebellion in western Massachusetts in the mid-1780s, and the Whiskey Rebellion in southwestern Pennsylvania in the 1790s.... It is a vivid account of the turmoil along Pennsylvania's northeastern frontier from the mid-eighteenth century into the early nineteenth century.... Wild Yankees certainly is an important contribution to the literature of the American Revolution in Pennsylvania, and it is a volume that anyone interested in frontier settlement, ethnic conflict, and Pennsylvania history should read.”

Pennsylvania History

“Paul B. Moyer casts the struggles between Connecticut claimants and Pennsylvania settlers at the center of a new view of the American Revolutionary period. Moyer's emphasis on the farmers' revolution and the struggles over property and power on the Pennsylvania frontier significantly adds to the growing scholarship focusing on the lives of ordinary folk. Wild Yankees clearly illustrates how the everyday experiences of those living on the frontier shaped the American Revolution.”

—Jeffrey A. Davis, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

“Paul B. Moyer's evocation of the day-to-day interests of Pennamites and Connecticut claimants is vivid; Wild Yankees shows that the American Revolution and its immediate aftermath were part of a larger internal struggle over the future of America. Moyer helps to demolish the notion of a single group of 'settlers' by showing the vehement animosity among Anglo-Americans in the region as they struggled with each other over subsistence and land rights.”

—Gregory Knouff, Keene State College

“In Wild Yankees, Paul B. Moyer recaptures the violence and uncertainty of the Susquehanna backcountry during the Revolutionary Era. This book skillfully reconstructs the mental and social world of the Yankees and Pennamites who clashed over these lands and connects them to the wider currents of private ambition and agrarian protest that transformed the new nation's frontier.”

—Timothy J. Shannon, Gettysburg College

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