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The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier
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The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier (Hardback)

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Synopsis

It began with a total eclipse of the sun. In 1806, a Shawnee known as Lalawauthika (roughly meaning "Loudmouth"), proclaimed himself Tenskwatawa ("The Open Door"), a spiritual leader in direct contact with the Master of Life. Those who disbelieved him, he warned, "would see darkness come over the sun." Not long after, the sun went black. Ironically, Tenskwatawa's resulting prestige was greatly enhanced by his mortal enemy, governor of the Indiana Territory and future

American president William Henry Harrison. If he truly is a prophet, Harrison publicly taunted, then let him produce a miracle. And Tenskwatawa did just that.



In The Gods of Prophetstown, Adam Jortner provides a gripping account of the conflict between Tenskwatawa and Harrison, who finally collided in 1811 at a place called Tippecanoe. Though largely forgotten today, he writes, it determined the future of westward expansion and influenced the impending War of 1812. Jortner weaves together dual biographies of the opposing leaders. In the five years between the eclipse and the battle, Tenskwatawa used his spiritual leadership to forge a

political pseudo-state with his twin brother Tecumseh. Harrison, meanwhile, built a power base in Indiana, rigging elections and maneuvering for higher position. Rejecting received wisdom, Jortner sees nothing as preordained-Native Americans were not inexorably falling toward dispossession and destruction. Deeply

rooting his account in a generation of scholarship that has revolutionized Indian history, Jortner places the religious dimension of the struggle at the fore, recreating the spiritual landscapes trod by each side. The climactic battle, he writes, was as much a clash of gods as of men.



Written with profound insight and narrative verve, The Gods of Prophetstown recaptures a forgotten turning point in American history in time for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Tippecanoe.

Adam Jortner teaches history at Auburn University. His essays have appeared in The Journal of the Early Republic and Early American Studies.

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