Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the U.S. Army and the Invasion That Opened the West

For non-subscribers, here is a 20+ minute preview of Radio War Nerd episode 85 with author William Hogeland on his new book “Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the US Army and the Invasion that Opened the West” about America’s first and most forgotten war.


Advance Praise and Trade Reviews

cover“Like all great non-fiction, Autumn of the Black Snake takes the familiar and turns it upside-down and inside-out. With clear, muscular prose, Mr. Hogeland sets the record straight on badly neglected early American history. He knows his stuff and his point of view is fresh and sure-footed. My notion of the Republic’s narrative has been forever altered.” ―Eric Bogosian, actor, Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright, and author of Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide

“William Hogeland is one of the best historians of early America. His books are pulsating and thought provoking, and in Autumn of the Black Snake he marshals his skills to recount the sweeping story of frontier turbulence that culminated in Mad Anthony Wayne’s victory over the Indians at Fallen Timbers. Relating this saga would have been sufficient for some historians, but Hogeland goes further and lays bare President Washington’s hidden motives behind this military campaign. This is history at its best. The gripping account Hogeland provides is must reading.” ―John Ferling, author of Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It and Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged A Nation

Autumn of the Black Snake is an elegantly written and scrupulously balanced account of what is sometimes called President George Washington’s Indian War, enhanced with a nuanced and intriguing recounting of the often dirty politics behind the formation of the United States Army. I highly recommend this important―and thoroughly enjoyable―book on these overlooked but crucial episodes in the early days of the American Republic.” ―Peter Cozzens, author of The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West

“Some wars America remembers, some wars we work to forget. William Hogeland gives a dramatic telling of the war that we have never really talked about, despite being the war that made us the global military power we are today. The Shawnee, Miami, and Delaware communities were robbed and devastated by a conflict they in no way provoked―and defeated by an American general named Mad Anthony, conquering land that President George Washington had long coveted. It’s a harrowing story, brilliantly told, and a radical re-look at the ragged collective of colonies who fought for their own liberty and then, once getting it, set out on the warpath, an empire bent on taking its neighbors’ liberty away.” ―Robert Sullivan, author of My American Revolution and Rats

“In this page-turner, the bigger-than-life characters of Little Turtle, George Washington, Blue Jacket, and ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne clash over the future of the continent, at a time when any of them might have prevailed. A rich and important book.” ―Kathleen DuVal, author of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution

“History as if it just happened, written by someone who saw everything and missed nothing. Hogeland’s rare talent is turning books into conversation, and bloodless, impenetrable histories into compelling and strange narratives. Icons become flawed people who did all sorts of things for contradictory reasons. The author is a skeptic, political analyst, and truth teller. Which is all fine, but not nearly as important as being a brilliant and amusing story teller.” ―Paul Chaat Smith, author of Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong

“If you think Custer’s Last Stand was the biggest defeat inflicted on an American army by Native American forces, you should read William Hogeland’s Autumn of the Black Snake. This book describes one of America’s least-known but most important conflicts: the so-called Northwest Indian War. Hogeland shows how the annihilation of a large American force by a confederation of tribes caused the stoic George Washington to cry out in rage and led to the formation of the Legion of the United States which became the foundation of the American Army. He argues that this struggle is an ominous prequel to Imperial America, as greed, nationalism, and ambition swirl through a cast of amazing characters. In Autumn of the Black Snake, Hogeland once again manages to write rigorous, original history in wonderfully colloquial prose.” ―John Dolan, aka Gary Brecher, The War Nerd

Publishers Weekly, week of March 13:

Writing with dual purposes in mind, historian Hogeland (Founding Finance) grippingly relates the battles over the Ohio Valley between the fledgling U.S. and a coalition of the Shawnee, Miami, and Delaware nations. Hogeland’s principal aim is to relate the circumstances under which the fledging U.S. created a national army after the American Revolution in the face of deep apprehension about a standing military force. Well-known Revolutionary characters (Washington and Hamilton, for instance) fill Hogeland’s pages; so too do colorful, little-known, and impressively skilled British military figures and Native Americans. Hogeland’s second aim is to rescue an American general, “Mad Anthony” Wayne, and his Native American adversaries from undeserved obscurity. In this he succeeds fully, though Wayne, Blue Jacket, and Little Turtle are unlikely to become household names. The story’s outcome, ending in a treaty after the Army’s victory in the critical 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers in Ohio, secured the Old Northwest for American settlers and accelerated the epochal, tragic eviction of native tribes from their original lands across the continent. Stuffed with detail, Hogeland’s solid and distinctive book fills a significant gap in the narrative history of the United States. Maps. (May)

Kirkus Reviews, March 15:

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.

Stauffenberg was Right!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s