Tecumseh Essay - Critical Essays

Tecumseh

In the preface to TECUMSEH: A LIFE, John Sugden writes that while Tecumseh may be one of the most famous of all Native Americans, his life is one shrouded in mystery. Through careful research and thorough evaluation of his sources, Sugden attempts to remove some of the mystery surrounding Tecumseh. Writing in a style that is at once accessible, academic, and interesting, Sugden follows the life of Tecumseh from his birth, c. 1768, to his death at the Battle of Moraviantown in 1813.

Sugden succinctly identifies the three major threads that joined together to create Tecumseh’s moment in history. First, the ongoing encroachment of Indian lands by white settlers incited fear and resistance among Native Americans. Second, catastrophic epidemics sweeping Indian communities pushed Native Americans toward a religious revival led by Tecumseh’s brother. Finally, the growing tensions between the governments of the young United States and Great Britain offered Tecumseh the chance to lead an inter-tribal group of Indians against the Americans in an effort to rid Indian lands of white settlers.

Sugden argues that Tecumseh’s negotiation of the pan-tribal confederation of Indians was as great a diplomatic feat as any undertaken by a European leader. Unfortunately, Tecumseh’s death while shielding a British retreat in 1813 marked the end of the confederacy, and for nearly the next century, Native Americans found themselves pushed out of their homelands by white settlers.

John Sugden is a writer who combines careful scholarship with riveting prose. Consequently, TECUMSEH: A LIFE is a worthwhile book for students and general readers alike.

Sources for Further Study

Beaver. LXXXVIII, August, 1998, p. 48.

Booklist. XCIV, April 15, 1998, p. 1424.

Kirkus Reviews. LXVI, February 15, 1998, p. 255.

Library Journal. CXXIII, March 1, 1998, p. 100.

The New Republic. CCXIX, August 31, 1998, p. 41.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, April 19, 1998, p. 11.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, January 26, 1998, p. 75.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVIII, July 12, 1998, p. 11.