From Bloody Beginnings: Richard Beasley’s Upper Canada is categorized by its author as “creative non-fiction,” the well-researched and historically accurate, but fictitious, memoirs of the author’s great-great-grandfather. The book focuses on the experiences of Richard Beasley, originally a resident of Albany, who eventually settled lands north of Lake Ontario, living through the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and settlement of Upper Canada. To that extent, the reader must be aware that Beasley and many of the other protagonists depicted were loyal to the British cause, and this book has a vital interest in showing that perspective on the events.
At times perhaps a bit too heavy-handedly, the author describes mass arrests of loyalist citizens, prisoners suffering in squalid jails, and others subjected to tarring and feathering. Bearing in mind that these fictionalized events were historic realities, the book offers a sympathetic perspective on the struggles of the loyalists, and presents the reader with a challenging new perspective on tumultuous events not common to the broader, largely Patriot, narrative. Yet within that narrative, this reader wished that the depiction of the main characters was a bit more complicated. Various main characters are removed from some of the harsher events of the Revolution, such as the Wyoming Massacre, by scapegoating the events upon the Native American allies.
One final point of confusion within the book is the perspective of the narrator. It presents a first-person account when relating events directly surrounding Richard Beasley, but in sections not directly involving him, it uses a third-person omnipresent narrator. However, accepting these issues, From Bloody Beginnings does contain a great deal of information about the lives of people in this time and presents it using an uncommon perspective. The author’s website includes a list of historic sources cited in researching the book as well as more conventional histories written about Richard Beasley and Upper Canada:
—Jason Schaaf, Dutchess Community College