Book Review: Illinois in the War of 1812


by Gillum Ferguson

University of Illinois Press, 2012. Pp. xviii, 350. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0252036743

The surprisingly little-know story of the War of 1812 in the Illinois Territory.

Although some events in Illinois are always noted in histories of the War of 1812, such as the fall of Ft. Dearborn in the opening weeks, subsequent events in the far northwest are generally overlooked.  With Illinois in the War of 1812 sometime prosecutor and independent scholar of Illinois history, Gillum Ferguson fills this surprising gap in the historiography of the second war with Britain, giving us a much fuller account of the territory’s role in the conflict.  Major actions were rare in the territory, but the war went on nevertheless, right through to its end, and even beyond that.  This phase of the war in the territory (which then encompassed what are now the states of Illinois and Wisconsin as well as parts of Michigan and Minnesota) was characterized by numerous small affairs, raid and counter-raid, massacre and atrocity, and the like.  Ferguson covers these, from some well before the outbreak of the war, to those well after it.  He does this because to a great extent the War of 1812 in the Illinois territory was largely a chapter in the northwestern Indian wars.  Ferguson’s account has an excellent cast, including William Henry Harrison, Tecumseh and his brother The Prophet, William Clark, Zachary Taylor, Black Hawk, and many interesting if today lesser known people.

Illinois in the War of 1812 tells an often gripping tale, well worth reading by students of the War of 1812 or the Indian wars.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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