Of Indian chief Tecumseh, U.S. president William Henry Harrison said, "If it were not for the vicinity of the United States, he would, perhaps, be the founder of an empire that would rival in glory that of Mexico or Peru." As it was, however, he was born just more than a decade shy of the discovery of the New World, and came of age in an era of violence and cultural decay in which Indian tribes across the continent expended all their energy to repulse the Europeans who were commandeering their land. By the end of the century, Tecumseh, a member of the Shawnee tribe, was an accomplished warrior; after losing his father and two older brothers to battle, he assumed the role of war chief. There seemed to be only two courses of action that might preserve his tribe: assimilation or war. After watching other tribes fail in their bids to mimic European society, the charismatic Tecumseh, aided by his brother (known as "the Prophet"), attempted a short-lived but inspired strategy of organizing a pan-Indian alliance to put down the European encroachers. It was while fighting alongside the British in the War of 1812 that Tecumseh was killed. His body was never found. Richard Johnson, the man who claimed to have taken the great chief down, went on to become Martin Van Buren's vice president.
With Tecumseh, biographer John Sugden expands the scope of his earlier book Tecumseh's Last Stand, which focused exclusively on the chief's final, fatal battle. In both books Sugden displays intimate knowledge of his subject; Tecumseh, however, takes a much more in-depth look at this complex man, his life, and the times that shaped him, and thus should appeal to American-history buffs as well as anyone interested in a carefully crafted biography of a fascinating character.
From Library Journal
Running a simple search in WorldCat, OCLC's vast bibliographic database, yields scores of titles concerned with "Tecumseh?Shawnee Chief?1768-1813." The biographical literature devoted to Tecumseh perhaps exceeds that given to any other American Indian. Now Sugden, whose previous title on the Shawnee leader, Tecumseh's Last Stand (LJ 1/86), focused primarily on Tecumseh's final major campaign and ensuing death, has come out with a full biography of this great leader. This intelligent study of Tecumseh's life relates a great deal as well about the history of the Shawnee, especially in the Ohio region, and the wider context of Tecumseh's attempt to create a Pan Indian resistance, including a history of earlier such attempts. A very competent addition to the literature on this remarkable man; recommended for most academic and larger public libraries.?Charlie Cowling, SUNY at Brockport
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