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William Henry Harrison and the Conquest of the Ohio Country

, 328 pages

1 b&w illus, 1 halftone, 12 maps

March 2014



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William Henry Harrison and the Conquest of the Ohio Country

Frontier Fighting in the War of 1812

In his study of William Henry Harrison, David Curtis Skaggs sheds light on the role of citizen-soldiers in taming the wilderness of the old Northwest. Perhaps best known for the Whig slogan in 1840—"Tippecanoe and Tyler Too"—Harrison used his efforts to pacify Native Americans and defeat the British in the War of 1812 to promote a political career that eventually elevated him to the presidency.

Harrison exemplified the citizen-soldier on the Ohio frontier in the days when white men settled on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains at their peril. Punctuated by almost continuous small-scale operations and sporadic larger engagements, warfare in this region revolved around a shifting system of alliances among various Indian tribes, government figures, white settlers, and business leaders.

Skaggs focuses on Harrison’s early life and military exploits, especially his role on Major General Anthony Wayne's staff during the Fallen Timbers campaign and Harrison's leadership of the Tippecanoe campaign. He explores how the military and its leaders performed in the age of a small standing army and part-time, Cincinnatus-like forces. This richly detailed work reveals how the military and Indian policies of the early republic played out on the frontier, freshly revisiting a subject central to American history: how white settlers tamed the west—and at what cost.

David Curtis Skaggs is a professor emeritus of history at Bowling Green State University. He is author or coauthor of twelve books, including Oliver Hazard Perry: Honor, Courage, and Patriotism in the Early U.S. Navy; Thomas Macdonough: Master of Command in the Early U.S. Navy; and A Signal to Victory: The Lake Erie Campaign, 1812–1814.

"Skaggs has an impressive command of his sources and control over a welter of details. I know of no other book that rivals this blow-by-blow account of the tactics and logistics of the War of 1812. So many current books focus on the cultural, political, global, and diplomatic dimensions of war that it is refreshing to read a straightforward military narrative."

"Dave Skaggs, a lifelong student of the politics and wars of the Northwest Territory, has rescued Harrison from relative obscurity in this biography, researched in depth and written with grace... A worthy contribution to Donald Hickey's War of 1812 Bicentennial publication project, William Henry Harrison and the Conquest of the Ohio Country: Frontier Fighting in the War of 1812 reflects the author's deep understanding of the history of the Northwest Territory and its most memorable politic-military leader."

"Skaggs's book is a great read. It was thoroughly research and is filled with new insights about Harrison, and the editors at Johns Hopkins University Press did a wonderful job editing the book... An excellent contribution to the literature on Harrison and the army during the War of 1812. I recommend Skaggs's book without reservation as a must read for anyone who wants to understand Harrison's contributions to American victory during the War of 1812."

"Tracing William Henry Harrison's career from his service as aide-de-camp to General Anthony Wayne during the Fallen Timbers campaign through his resignation of his Major-General's commission in May 1814, Skaggs has produced a fine study... Skaggs offers valuable insight into the military history of Harrison's campaigns in the Ohio Country, a project which was long overdue."

"In William Henry Harrison and the Conquest of the Ohio Country, David Curtis Skaggs sets out to craft a definitive assessment of the military career of Harrison from his initiation into the American army as an ensign in the summer of 1791 up to the resignation of his appointment as a Major General in May 1814... In the end this book succeeds in providing both a detailed analysis of Harrison's military career and an effective military history that explains well the successes and failures of the American military efforts in the northwestern theater in the War of 1812... Indeed, for any reader unfamiliar with the on the ground realities of logistics, military strategy, and wartime outcomes on land and lake in the War of 1812 in the Old Northwest, this book is an important read."

"Scholars and general readers alike will benefit from his impressive knowledge of military operations. William Henry Harrison and the Conquest of the Ohio Country is a long overdue and insightful reinterpretation of an important chapter in the history of the Midwest."

"Skaggs’s narrative is engaging, well researched, and remarkably detailed. The author makes effective use of William Henry Harrison’s published papers, something no military biographer of Harrison has had access to before. He also engages well with the enormous body of secondary literature. The volume also includes numerous helpful maps."

"William Henry Harrison and the Conquest of the Ohio Country stands as a worthy addition to any military historian’s library, whether one is a specialist in the War of 1812, the army of the Early Republic period, or simply curious about this under-studied aspect of an under- studied war. Skaggs has included multiple maps, and a bibliographical essay which will benefit any scholar interested in beginning their own study of the period."

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