Sunday, October 12, 2014

Colin G. Calloway's "The Victory with No Name"

Colin G. Calloway is Professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College. He is the author of many books, including Scratch of a Pen and Pen and Ink Witchcraft.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Building and sustaining the confederacy depended on the character and charisma of leaders whose reputation, war record, spiritual power, oratory, and sound counsel could attract warriors and keep them committed to the cause. Those individuals sometimes differed in their positions, advocated different strategies, or altered their stance....”
On November 4, 1791 a coalition of Indian nations destroyed an American army led by General Arthur St. Clair that was invading their Ohio homeland. The battle was the biggest victory Native Americans ever won. It caused alarm and repercussions in the United States. It aggravated the growing divisions that eventually led to the creation of the first political parties. It produced the first congressional investigation in American history and in the process saw the birth of the principle of executive privilege. It increased the federal government’s role in shaping western development. It increased the president’s power to raise troops. It changed how Americans viewed, raised, organized, and paid for their armies and it provided the impetus for creating a new army to expand the American republic.

But most Americans today have not even heard of the battle, and explanations of how supposedly savage Indians could destroy an American army have usually emphasized how the Americans lost rather than how the Indians won—so the battle is called “St. Clair’s Defeat.” In fact, it was a clash between two recently formed and fragile American confederations as well as between two American armies. The United States under the new Constitution was still finding its feet and the Indian nations northwest of the Ohio River had formed a confederation primarily to defend their lands against American expansion. As the passage from page 99 indicates, establishing and maintaining a coalition of different tribes required consensus, conciliation, and accommodation. The American defeat owed much to military failings and contractor fraud but the Indian victory was as much diplomatic as military, achieved by holding together an alliance that was subject to divisive strains and local agendas, and bringing a united force of warriors to bear at the decisive moment. A new U. S. army defeated the Indian confederacy three years later and St. Clair’s Defeat was set aside as an aberration and largely forgotten. But the battle was hugely important at the time and it deserves to be remembered as both an American disaster and a Native American victory.
Learn more about The Victory with No Name at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Pen and Ink Witchcraft.

--Marshal Zeringue