Thursday, December 28, 2023

Gallop Toward the Sun by Peter Stark

Gallop Toward the Sun by Peter Stark is a solid book subtitled Tecumseh and William Henry Harrison's Struggle for the Destiny of a Nation. Stark tells the story of the Indian leader and his efforts to prevent the encroachment of white settlers onto Indian lands, in opposition to Harrison who was attempting to expand American lands further and further west.

Harrison was appointed governor of the Indiana Territory, some 260,000 square miles, in 1800, briefly serving under John Adams as President, followed by Thomas Jefferson, then James Madison. Jefferson relentlessly pursued land acquisition, and was in office for the Louisiana Purchase, where France under Napoleon sold the Louisiana Territory for $15M, or half a billion acres at roughly three cents each. 

Harrison pushed to increase the U.S. footprint, wanting to get the Indiana Territory to 60,000 residents so it could get statehood, with he perhaps a Senator. James Madison became President in 1809 and wanted land acquisition done without conflict, but would rely on Harrison's promises of fairness in dealing with the tribes. Harrison would appease the White House with his statements, but then do whatever it took to get more land, getting tribes to sign agreements that harmed other tribes. 

Tecumseh was a Shawnee warrior and worked to bring together various tribes, attempting to unite them into an alliance against American expansion. There was first negotiations and then armed conflict between Americans and tribes led by Tecumseh. Eventually came the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Britain, with Harrison taking a military command and Tecumseh fighting on the side of the British in an effort to maintain Indian lands. Tecumseh was killed as he advanced on someone he believed to be Harrison, and the territory governor ultimately realized his goal of national office, becoming the (short-lived) ninth U.S. President.

The book is an interesting story of two opposing forces and Stark quotes historian Colin Calloway who described the contest between the leaders as "a war for America's heart and soul."