Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812
On Tuesday this week, I received the Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812, by Mike Bunn and Clay Williams in the mail. It is published by The History Press.
I absolutely devoured this book. This is my kind of popular history. Bunn and Williams have written a book of a great history, but also backed it up with lots of detail on the historical ground where the war was fought. Their bibliographic essay is a dream for those of us who like to dig a little deeper. They even include some of the source documents and illustrations in the book itself. Finally, they include lots of maps, location descriptions and images of historical markers that help us saddled adventurers find the pertinent locations on our travels.
Bunn and Williams break the story up into 5 parts…the origins of the war, war from the south northwards, from Georgia westwards, from Tennessee southwards and finally the Gulf campaign against the British. Each section has the basic history told, but also the key locations described in detail, so you can find them even if they are long lost and/or unmarked. So much of this era is only told when discussing Andrew Jackson. It is refreshing to see a book that gives a little room to the important operations around Mobile and west Georgia/east Alabama.
Timelines and Dramatis Personae of the Creek War
The book also has two things that I love in any history book which is a good timeline to start the book and a list of short biographies of all the main players. In fact, I like to read the timeline and biographies first to give me good mental hooks to hang the story on as I read. These are both tight, stand-alone references for anyone who wants to start a deeper study of the conflict.
I’ve already mentioned the detailed and helpful bibliographic essay, but the selection of original documents are also a great read. Of special note are the accounts of the Canoe fight and Tecumseh’s speech to the Creek, which I have blogged about previously here. There is also a website to support the book that can be found here.
This book, by the author’s own admission, is not meant to add a lot of new scholarship to the history, but in my mind it does what it is meant to do admirably. In some ways, I think the authors do not give themselves enough credit when it comes to their photo documentation of the historical sites as original research. I have read many accounts of this war, but have yet been able to visualize several of the important geographic features. An example is Emuckfau Creek. There are creeks that can be crossed with a leap, or barely getting your feet wet, or wade-able or only swimmable. When imagining the battle, it is hard to determine whether it was hard or easy to cross in the midst of a battle. However, Bunn and Williams answer that for me by giving me a photo on Emuckfau on page 89. No other factual account has done that for me. There are far too few military histories with adequate maps, good directions to the key points for travelers, concise biographies of key players, original images and solid bibliographies written in a way that does not intimidate new readers nor insult those who already come to the subject with some knowledge. This one does all of these things and does them well.
Great book. Bunn and Williams get a coveted Battlefield Biker helmet nod.