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Possible Combination Gift: A Book and a Trip to the Battlefield

October 27, 2012 by Reader's Connection

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

When he was governor of the Indiana Territory, William Henry Harrison had two big priorities. One was slavery, which had unfortunately been banned north of the Ohio River by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

. . . Harrison pursued the legalization of slavery in Indiana with vigor . . . [he] simply banned the ban . . . He called for a state convention . . . On Christmas day, 1802, the convention met and commemorated the birth of their Savior by voting to extend slavery in Indiana for ten years.

His other priority was the acquisition of land from the Indians. One of his principal problems on that score was a Shawnee who had come to be called Tenskwatawa (“The Open Door”), and was sometimes referred to as “the Prophet.” Tenskwatawa’s communications with the Great Spirit led him to believe that all the tribes should unite and shield their land and their customs from the white man; and the Prophet was responsible for the building of a city called Prophetstown, near the meeting of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers.

Harrison’s “deist” God, on the other hand, felt that land owned by “savages” was being wasted, was crying out to be put to good Christian use. Adam Jortner’s 2012 book The Gods of Prophetstown : The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier offers a twin biography and, as its title indicates, takes the  religious views of Harrison and Tenskwatata seriously. Tecumseh was the Prophet’s older brother, and some writers have treated the Prophet as an incidental figure, always in the famous warrior’s shadow. Not Mr. Jortner.

The Battle of Tippecanoe occurred when Harrison became worried about the Prophet’s power; and Prophetstown was burned to the ground at the end of the battle.

I’m putting the book on my gift suggestion list. lf some history buff on your list hasn’t already read it, you might combine it with a trip to see the battleground and Prophetstown State Park, up near Lafayette. The battleground isn’t in the park, but of course it’s close at hand. 


This map detail is used by permission of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Click on the image for information about Prophetstown State Park. Click here for information about the Tippecanoe Battlefield. They haven’t tried to rebuild the Prophet’s city in the park, but I’m curious and hoping to make the trip.

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