Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Liam Riordan

Second Committee Member

Richard Judd

Third Committee Member

Stephen Miller

Additional Committee Members

Jacques Ferland

Stephen Hornsby


This dissertation examines the evolving interactions of nature and humans during the major military campaigns in the northern theatre of the American War for Independence (1775 – 1783) as local people, local environments, and military personnel from outside the region interacted with one another in complex ways. Examining the American Revolution at the convergence of environmental, military, and borderlands history, it elucidates the agency of nature and culture in shaping how three military campaigns in the “wilderness” unfolded. The invasion of Canada in 1775, the expedition from Quebec to Albany in 1777, and the invasion of Iroquoia in 1779 are the interconnected comparative case studies that inform this project. As human and non-human actors alike utilized the chaos of war to further distinct goals and purposes, the levels of assistance or resistance that each provided to the large British and Continental forces that arrived from outside of the bioregion directly influenced the geopolitical and martial outcomes of campaigns.

The study argues that as European-style war machines groped forward, in unfamiliar territories, and navigated both ecological and cultural landscapes that the Northeast Borderlands exerted substantial causal force. This contiguous bioregion stretched from the District of Maine and Quebec in the east through northern New York and northwestern Pennsylvania, and from Montreal to Iroquoia and beyond during the latter half of the eighteenth century. South of this borderlands was the emergent Euro-American imperial power of the thirteen colonies that would become the United States, and to its north were the British colonies of Nova Scotia and Quebec. The Northeastern Borderlands was a mostly autonomous region in between colonial settlements that deployed military force as a principal means to expand. This dissertation examines the intertwined relationships among varied cultural and environmental landscapes in a large bioregion, on the one hand, and the process of waging war on the other. Careful attention to the distinct human ecology of the Northeastern Borderlands, its causal significance helps to transcend nationalistic interpretations of history that still dominates popular and scholarly understanding of the past, in general, and of the American Revolution, in particular.