Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the U.S. Army and the Invasion That Opened the West

Written by William Hogeland
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Hogeland’s book is a finely researched entry about a war about which few Americans are aware—the war to eradicate the Native Americans from what was then considered the American West. Because of this conflict, the fledgling United States of America was forced to form a standing army, something of a war in itself as the pros and cons in Congress battled until Washington and Hamilton prevailed.

Filled with information about little-known Americans, this tome is clearly written with graceful prose. Hogeland brings to life such familiar figures as Jefferson, Washington, and “Mad” Anthony Wayne, a man so fierce that the young actor, Marion Morrison, took “Mad” Anthony’s last name, Wayne, to put with his other choice, John. The story centers around Wayne, a disgraced former war hero who had suffered financial ruin along with political scandal. Washington appoints this “loser” to lead the newly-formed American Army. Wayne does such a good job that his name becomes linked with the concept of valor.

A masterful historical exploration of an astonishing time in American history, this is a must read for those interested in colonial times and westward expansion.