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There are two kinds of white men. There are the Americans, and there are the others. You may give your hand in friendship to the French, or the Spaniards, or the British. But the Americans are not like those. The Americans come from the slime of the sea, with mud and weeds in their claws, and they are a kind of crayfish serpent whose claws grab in our earth and take it from us… Tenskwatawa

Print shows Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Prophet, and Tecumseh, with other Natives and tipis in the background.

Print shows Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Prophet, and Tecumseh, with other Natives and tipis in the background.

The gods of Prophetstown : the Battle of Tippecanoe and the holy war for the American frontier Adam Jortner Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, c 2012 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. x, 310 p. : ill., map ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [285]-299) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Print shows American troops under the leadership of General William Henry Harrison fighting the Indian forces of The Prophet, Tenskwatawa (the brother of Tecumseh) in a forest. Tenskwatawa was part of Tecumseh's Indian confederation.

Print shows American troops under the leadership of General William Henry Harrison fighting the Indian forces of The Prophet, Tenskwatawa (the brother of Tecumseh) in a forest. Tenskwatawa was part of Tecumseh’s Indian confederation.

It began with an eclipse. In 1806, the Shawnee leader Tenskwatawa (“The Open Door”) declared himself to be in direct contact with the Master of Life, and therefore, the supreme religious authority for all Native Americans. Those who disbelieved him, he warned, “would see darkness come over the sun.” William Henry Harrison, governor of the Indiana Territory and future American president, scoffed at Tenskwatawa. If he was truly a prophet, Harrison taunted, let him perform a miracle. And Tenskwatawa did just that, making the sun go dark at midday.

Print shows Tecumseh, full-length portrait, standing, facing slightly right, holding rifle.

Print shows Tecumseh, full-length portrait, standing, facing slightly right, holding rifle.

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, their rivalry determined the future of westward expansion and shaped the War of 1812. Jortner weaves together dual biographies of the opposing leaders.

Print shows Col. R. M. Johnson shooting Tecumseh during the Battle of the Thames.

Print shows Col. R. M. Johnson shooting Tecumseh during the Battle of the Thames.

In the five years between the eclipse and the battle, Tenskwatawa used his spiritual leadership to forge a political pseudo-state with his 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.

Print shows a campaign banner with Harrison on horseback; surrounded by 12 vignettes of his home, military service, and political activity.

Print shows a campaign banner with Harrison on horseback; surrounded by 12 vignettes of his home, military service, and political activity.

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