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Gateway to Empire: A Narrative
Gateway to Empire: A Narrative


 
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Pages: 688
Trim: 6 x 9
Format: Paperback
ISBN-10: 1-931672-28-8
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by Allan Eckert

Volume 5 in the "Winning of America" series.

The fifth volume in the acclaimed series The Winning of America, this story traces the settling of the Illinois region from 1763 to 1816 and focuses on the Chicago Portage, a vital link between the East and the untapped riches of the West. When Pontiac, Chief of the Ottawas, was murdered in 1769, his tribe, as well as the Potawatomi and others, swept into the territory of the Illinois Confederacy, virtually eradicated its members, and claimed the land for themselves. Faced with encroachment, first from the British, then more forcibly from the American, many Indian chiefs signed away their land in exchange for relative peace, liquor, and trade goods. But Tecumseh, a Shawnee saw that unless they banded together to stop the white man, they would have no lands at all. The Indians would have no choice but to fight alongside the British against the Americans in the War of 1812.

In Gateway to Empire, the fifth volume in the acclaimed series The Winning of America, Allan Eckert continues to re-create the relentless and tragic wresting of the North American continent from the Indians.

As in The Frontiersmen, Wilderness Empire, The Conquerors, and The Wilderness War, this latest volume is irrefutable history made excitingly immediate through the lives of memorable individuals. The story traces the settling of the Illinois region from 1763 to 1816 and focuses on the "gateway to empire"-the Chicago Portage, a vital link between the East and the untapped riches of the West.

When Pontiac, Chief of the Ottawas, was murdered in 1769, his tribe, as well as the Potawatomi and others, swept into the territory of the Illinois Confederacy, virtually eradicated its members, and claimed the land for themselves. These Indians in turn faced encroachment, first from the British, then even more forcibly from the Americans. In exchange for relative peace, liquor, and trade goods, more and more Indian chiefs signed away their land. But one Indian looked ahead and saw that his people would have no land at all unless they banded together to stop the white man. Tecumseh, a Shawnee of unparalleled wisdom and gift for prophecy, began to build his dream of a united Indian nation. A devastating treachery would undermine the plan at the last moment, and the Indians would have no choice but to fight alongside the British against the Americans in the War of 1812.

At the war's outset, John Kinzie was a highly successful trader at Chicago, where he had established his post eight years earlier. What enabled him to survive this harsh environment-apart from his passion for new frontiers and for the stunning Eleanor McKillip-was the mutual respect and affection he shared with the Indians. Although Kinzie was an American and therefore an enemy in the War of 1812, not one Indian in any tribe would raise a weapon against him.

Around these two pivotal and completely factual characters a rich and highly readable story unfolds. There is honor and treachery on both sides, as Tecumseh's ten-year effort is destroyed overnight by the greedy caprice of his brother The Prophet, and as the cowardly U.S. Brigadier General William Hull surrenders Detroit without a fight. The climax is the Chicago Massacre, reenacted here minute by minute, as the unsuspecting settlers walk from the safety of Fort Dearborn into certain slaughter by their Indian escorts. But only briefly is the white man stopped.

Allan Eckert has gathered the fragments of his history from letters, diaries, journals, military records, and tribal histories. He has walked every mile of the area he writes about. As The Cincinnati Post noted, "even the conversations are careful restorations, crafted out of phrasing truly used by the historical characters to whom they are credited. . . . There is a tone of believability no amount of contrived history can deliver." Allan Eckert has molded these raw facts into a moving, perceptive, and penetrating narrative. This is history at its most absorbing, filled with the suspense and immediacy we expect of first-rate fiction.

Allan Eckert is a noted historian and five-time Pulitzer Prize nominee. He also wrote scripts for the very successful television series Wild Kingdom for ten years.