Reviews for Gods of Prophetstown : The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier

Choice Reviews 2012 July
This occasionally contentious book by Auburn Univ. historian Jortner analyzes American Indian conflicts in the Ohio Valley from Independence through the War of 1812. As the title suggests, the author presents the events as a "holy war" based on conflicting religious beliefs that separated the tribes in the region and the invading pioneers. That view goes beyond Alfred Cave's Prophets of the Great Spirit (CH, May'07, 44-5227) and Robert Owens's Mr. Jefferson's Hammer (CH, Aug'08, 45-6994) to insist that the central events represented a new framework. In Jortner's view, the conflict resulted from Indian efforts to create an empire, not the last-ditch acts of desperation by a defeated people. He uses partially intertwined biographies of the Shawnee Prophet Tenskwatawa and Indiana governor William Henry Harrison to illustrate the religious underpinnings of the situation. The governor assumed that divine providence ensured US victory, while the Prophet's religious teachings provided assurances of Native triumph. These opposing views left no room for compromise or peace. This readable narrative uses the author's wide knowledge of events during the early republic as a base to present an interesting analysis that gives religious motivation more emphasis than have most other scholarly accounts. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. R. L. Nichols emeritus, University of Arizona Copyright 2012 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 October #1
A dual biography that also serves as a myth-busting history of Indian-Caucasian relationships within what became the continental United States. Jortner (History/Auburn Univ.) deeply into the lives of Tenskwatawa, a Shawnee Indian leader, and William Henry Harrison, a Virginia-bred aristocrat accumulating power as the governor of the Indiana Territory, leading all the way to the White House in 1840. Tenskwatawa had been seen as a relative non-entity among Indian tribal councils until 1806, when he seemed to conjure up a miracle by predicting a total eclipse of the sun. With a new following, Tenskwatawa and his eventually more famous brother Tecumseh persuaded Indians from numerous tribes to resist the encroaching Caucasians throughout the Midwest--which was considered the Western frontier in those days. Harrison expressed determination to expand the Caucasian dominion. The warriors fought with words for years; Jortner explains how those warring words were grounded in widely divergent beliefs about the nature and grand plan of the earth's creator. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cold war eventually went hot with the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, and indirectly caused the warrior wing of American government to fight British troops in what would become known as the War of 1812. When Harrison sought entry to the White House decades later, he cited Tippecanoe as confirmation of his role as a great battlefield general and patriot. Jortner convincingly demonstrates that nobody won the battle of Tippecanoe--both sides would have been stronger if they had avoided battle. A well-researched, skillfully written history. Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2011 December #1

Through a joint biography of Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Prophet, and William Henry Harrison, governor of the Indiana Territory, Jortner (history, Auburn Univ.) contextualizes the Battle of Tippecanoe within both the Indian wars of the Old Northwest and the War of 1812. The work's strength is that the author painstakingly demonstrates that Tenskwatawa was a true religious prophet and not a charlatan who used scientific knowledge gleaned from Euro-Americans to dupe his followers, as many historians have alleged. Because of the fervor of Tenskwatawa's religious adherents and the military acumen of Tenskwatawa's brother, Tecumseh, Jortner persuasively argues that the history of the United States would have been very different if Harrison had not taken advantage of Tecumseh's absence from Prophetstown and goaded Tenskwatawa into battle. The Battle of Tippecanoe marked the effective end of Tecumseh's multitribal confederacy and eventually justified Harrison's election to the presidency of the United States. VERDICT This highly recommended monograph is appropriate for academic audiences and should be read alongside Robert M. Owens's Mr. Jefferson's Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy.--John Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 October #2

Auburn University historian Jortner offers a stimulating perspective on the frontier war that culminated in 1811 against the Shawnee at Tippecanoe. His central Native American protagonist is Tecumseh's brother Tenskwatawa--"the Prophet." He rose to prominence among the Shawnee preaching "penance and sanctification" by returning to traditional ways. He purportedly "made the sun go dark at midday" in response to a taunting challenge issued by William Henry Harrison, territorial governor of Indiana (and future American president). How the prophet gained foreknowledge of a solar eclipse is less important to Jortner than the event's consequences. To the peoples of the Ohio frontier, the eclipse was a spiritual sign placing their resistance to white encroachment in a context of moral and social reform. That in turn presented a threat to Harrison, who had his own sense of a providential mission to fulfill America's destiny by expanding its power. Jortner makes a solid case that the outcome was not inevitable. The battle of Tippecanoe was indecisive; but Harrison's spin machine transformed it into a triumph of civilization over superstition. And Jortner's hypothesis that a different outcome could have led to an Indian state, underwritten by British Canada and shaped by the Prophet's doctrines, is a provocative might-have-been. Maps. (Dec.)

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