How the Scots-Irish Shaped America
By Jim Webb
Broadway Books, Paperback, 9780767916899, 369pp.
Publication Date: October 11, 2005
Born Fighting is the first book to chronicle the full journey of this remarkable cultural group, and the profound, but unrecognized, role ithas played in the shaping of America. Written with the storytelling verve that has earned his works such acclaim as captivating . . . unforgettable (the Wall Street Journal on Lost Soliders), Scots-Irishman James Webb, Vietnam combat veteran and former Naval Secretary, traces the history of his people, beginning nearly two thousand years ago at Hadrian's Wall, when the nation of Scotland was formed north of the Wall through armed conflict in contrast to England's formation to the south through commerce and trade. Webb recounts the Scots odyssey their clashes with the English in Scotland and then in Ulster, their retreat from one war-ravaged land to another. Through engrossing chronicles of the challenges the Scots-Irish faced, Webb vividly portrays how they developed the qualities that helped settle the American frontier and define the American character.
Born Fighting shows that the Scots-Irish were 40 percent of the Revolutionary War army; they included the pioneers Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, Davy Crockett, and Sam Houston; they were the writers Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain; and they have given America numerous great military leaders, including Stonewall Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Audie Murphy, and George S. Patton, as well as most of the soldiers of the Confederacy (only 5 percent of whom owned slaves, and who fought against what they viewed as an invading army). It illustrates how the Scots-Irish redefined American politics, creating the populist movement and giving the country a dozen presidents, including Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. And it explores how the Scots-Irish culture of isolation, hard luck, stubbornness, and mistrust of the nation's elite formed and still dominates blue-collar America, the military services, the Bible Belt, and country music.
Both a distinguished work of cultural history and a human drama that speaks straight to the heart of contemporary America, Born Fighting reintroduces America to its most powerful, patriotic, and individualistic cultural group one too often ignored or taken for granted.
“Born Fighting is a bombshell—or else the most brilliant battle flare ever launched by a book. James Webb reveals the all-but-invisible ethnic group that has created the core beliefs of democracy American-style: our rights come from God, not the Government; all of us are born equal, and “born aristocrats” don’t exist; and tread on either of those two truths, and we’ll fight you down to the last unbroken hyoid bone. The Scots-Irish, for such is their name, have fought all our wars for us, including Vietnam. James Webb was there, and he can count. He has written not only an engrossing story but also an important work of sociological history in the tradition of the great James Graham Leyburn.”