If Sitting Bull is the most famous Indian, Tecumseh, the legendary Shawnee chieftain, is the most revered. In the early years of the nineteenth century he dreamed of welding the diverse North American Tribes into a vast confederacy stretching from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, strong enough to defend the cultures and lands of the Indians from the aggression of the United States. A charismatic leader with outstanding military and political talents, Tecumseh created a powerful pan-Indian alliance to replace intertribal conflict and indifference. A major figure in the War of 1812, he helped defeat American attempts to invade Canada, and his followers engaged U.S. armies across the entire frontier.
Although Tecumseh died in battle at the height of his fame with his vision of a great Indian confederacy in shreds, his reputation is secure. Unlike most Indian leaders, who operated locally or participated in intertribal warfare, Tecumseh does not stand for one tribe or nation but for all Native Americans. Tecumseh emerges as a man of unusual integrity, generosity, and compassion.
"A richly detailed, utterly scrupulous account that is as poignant as it is informative."—Barry Gewen, The New York Times Book Review
"Sugden has mined previously ignored British regimental histories that are scattered all over the English countryside—an approach that indicates the breadth of his scholarship and the thoroughness of his analysis . . . Intricate
. . . Insightful."—Jennifer Veech, The Washington Post Book World
"This biography of America's greatest and most famous Indian leader is definitive [and] unlikely ever to be surpassed."—Robert M. Utley, author of The Lance and the Shield
"There have been numerous biographies of Tecumseh. But [this] heroic work of research and scholarship is by far the best one ever written."—Alvin M. Josephy
"This biography demythologizes the legendary Shawnee chief while still according him mythic stature. In popular culture, Tecumseh is a tragic symbol of the American Indian: a brilliant and charismatic leader who tried against impossible odds in the early 1800s to unite dozens of tribes against the steady march of American settlement into their historic lands. British Historian Sugden has spent 30 years searching for the real Tecumseh . . . Sugden's Tecumseh was a remarkable man who rose to eminence at the precise historical moment when a thousand years of Native American life east of the Mississippi were coming to an end. Tecumseh did nothing to change what happened to the Indians. Indians who rallied to his defiant cause and those who decided instead to do whatever the Americans asked shared precisely the same fate: loss of lands and culture and eventual forced removal. But even by the time of Tecumseh's death in 1813 in battle against future US president William Henry Harrison, his enemies were describing Tecumseh as the noble embodiment of the best of the American Indian and as the tragic embodiment of the Indians' fate. Cowed by Tecumseh's already mythic stature, an American general chose not to take him and his British allies on in the early days of the War of 1812, when an American victory might have led to the fall of Canada. To make Tecumseh's story read even more like a Hollywood script, his brother was the Prophet, leader of a religious reform movement among the Shawnee that was another desperate, and ultimately futile, expression of Indian resistance. Sugden has written that rare biography that documents and justifies its worshipfulness. Tecumseh was not well served by history, but history is well served by him."—Kirkus Reviews