Another Good Trade Review for “Autumn of the Black Snake”

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2017:

The history of the founding of the U.S. Army in response to indigenous push back against the takeover of their territory.

According to this tightly focused account by Hogeland (Founding Finance: How Debt, Speculation, Foreclosures, Protests, and Crackdowns Made Us a Nation, 2012, etc.), American “existence, purpose, and future” were first clarified by the need to make military incursions into hostile Indian territory. The state-supported militias that had sustained the early republic and largely won the War of Independence against the British were no longer enough in conquering new territory westward. George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and other nationalists fervently believed that this land belonged to Americans by native right and indeed had been ceded as a “gigantic mishmash” by Britain in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. However, the Indian confederation, made up of the Miami, Shawnee, Delaware, and other western tribes who lived and hunted west of the Ohio River and led by Blue Jacket and Little Turtle, successfully resisted American incursion into their territory, climaxing in the utter rout of Gen. Arthur St. Clair’s troops in the Battle of the Wabash in November 1791. Hogeland points to this battle, which resulted in the deaths of some 650 American troops, including Gen. Richard Butler and many civilians, as the moment that galvanized “Americans’ real emergence as a national people.” The author also highlights Washington’s efforts to use St. Clair’s ignominious defeat to gain support for a standing army; this was not an easy task in the face of popular resistance led by “state sovereigntists” like Patrick Henry, in spite of the newly ratified Constitution’s assertion that Congress had the power to create an army. Hogeland vividly delineates these seminal personalities, such as the first commander of Washington’s Western army, “Mad Anthony” Wayne; the Indian leaders Blue Jacket and Little Turtle as well as the half-white Indian ally, Alexander McKee, angling for British aid in the next American-Indian clash.

An enlightening history of American westward expansion.


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