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

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  54 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
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 Ameri ...more
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published December 12th 2011 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published October 23rd 2011)
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John
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Subtitle attracted my interest when I noticed it on the new book shelf at the local public library. I’d lived for 34 years only seven miles from the site of the Battle of Tippecanoe. I’d visited the area a few times and vaguely knew that an Indian called “The Prophet” was involved and that Americans had claimed to have won the battle. I didn’t realize, though, that the Prophet was such a powerful, uniting and charismatic figure among Indians and of his attempt to form a comprehensive Indian city ...more
Mark Lawry
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to me by the lady at the gift shop of the battle site of Tippecanoe. Well worth it. As usual I read a book months after visiting a historical site to learn I should have read the book first so I could more fully appreciate where I was. I did not visit Prophetstown just down the road as I knew nothing of it and didn't want to spend the pennies on the entry fee. Now I need to head back to Indiana to correct that mistake.

Gordon
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time. I think one of the things that is hardest to comprehend as someone who grew up as an American but a non-native is the idea that Manifest Destiny wasn't actually destiny. Though the term "Manifest Destiny" originated after the time period concerned in this book, the concept is so engrained in every way most of us think about our history that it acts as a misplaced foundation onto which we build much of our political thought. Jort ...more
Gregg Sapp
Jul 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Growing up in Ohio, I learned in my state history classes that William Henry Harrison was one of a total of eight – count ‘em – presidents from my the Buckeye State. That made him one of my favorites. After reading Jortner’s “The Gods of Prophetstown,” though, I consider the man to have been a bit of a power-hungry narcissistic bigot. And, it turns out, it is only by a tremendous stretch that he can even be considered from Ohio.

I also learned about the great Battle of Tippecanoe in those Ohio h
...more
Brian Andersen
I was most intrigued by the religious aspect of the story that is generally left out when examining this time period. There was a religious struggle occurring in the US in this era between spiritualist Christians and Deists which in turn influenced Harrison's decision making and the religion taught by the Prophet.

This book also re-examines much of the original writings and letters from that time period (which is well sourced) to make a good case for the idea that it was the Prophet and not his b
...more
Brent McGregor
May 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Disappointing revisionsim. Paints a distorted picture of the frontier conflict between various Indian nations that would just as soon sell each other out.
Really enjoyed the historical piecing together of what early missionaries and visitors were able to get out of them, but the commentary that 'fills in the gaps' is biased.
Sadly, the Indian side of the story is mostly word of mouth. Few posessed the ability to directly transmit their thoughts to record.
The American side of the narrative always
...more
AdultNonFiction Teton County Library
TCL Call #: WA 973.5 JORTNER A

Joe's review: 3 stars

This is one of those books that throws objective history out the window. Jortner definitely had an agenda while writing this book (hint it wasn't to flatter William Henry Harrison). Jortner does do a good job of explaining the conflict between the white settlers and the Indian tribes, however his commentary on the facts is undisguised bias. Still he is able to draw some compelling comparisons in a dual biography of the Indian prophet/chief Tensk
...more
Vicki
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book took awhile to get into mostly because of the author's use of extensive vocabulary most of the general public would never use or know. He is a professor of history and it shows. A cross between a scholarly article and a regular history book. He also uses a lot of flashbacks which hinder the progression of the story. Any history buff would love this book and once involved in the situations described,there is fascinating information no history book in school ever taught. You finally real ...more
Rebecca
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is a fascinating look into the history of the American frontier. The author tries to approach it from a more Native American perspective, trying to turn around the traditional way that the story of the American frontier is told. The author challenges the commonly accepted notion that defeat of the Native Americans was inevitable. He also examines religion of both the Indians and the Americans, and how that affected the events of the time period. He also delves into the character of bot ...more
Brett
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it


Growing up and living in west central Ohio Tecumseh and Blue Jacket have achieved near mythic status. This book turns A. Ekert's novel The Frontiersman on its head by placing the Prophet at the center of the native American wars in the early 19th century. It is near sacrosanct in Ohio history that Tecumseh was the brilliant leader and his brother a pagan fanatic that destroyed the Indian coalition. This book should be be used to challenge or at least add depth to what we thought was settled Ohi
...more
Scott
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An interesting and informative book about 2 notables in the American west at the time, William Henry Harrison and Tenskatawa, the Prophet and Tecumse'h brother. The book provides a detailed portrayal of both individuals and their fight for what they feel is right for their Individual nations. I learned a lot about both men and the people that ssurrounded them.
Bryan Woerner
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was more than just a bio on Harrison or a description of the Battle of Tippecanoe, it was a treatise on the chaotic politics of the early US government as well as the culture and politics of the Native Americans at the time.

It's worth reading if you're into American history and cultural knowledge!
Camden Goetz
A+ stuff, lots of good info and ideas here, and he stops to contextualize info all the time in interesting ways. Not perfect by any means of course but definitely worth your time if you want to read about any of the issues it deals with.
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Adam Jortner studies the transformation of religious and political life in the early United States. His book, The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier, examines the rise of the Shawnee Prophet Tenskwatawa and his new religion on the Indiana frontier in the 1800s. Jortner argues that Tenskwatawa’s religious vision created a new definition of comm ...more