The Hatchet and the Plow
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The Hatchet and the Plow
The Life and Times of Chief Cornplanter
Published:
12/7/2010
Format:
Perfect Bound Softcover
Pages:
444
Size:
6x9
ISBN:
978-1-45026-713-7
Print Type:
B/W

The Seneca war-chief Cornplanter was one of the most prominent and influential of all Native Americans during colonial times and throughout the American Revolution. The son of a Dutch trader and an Indian woman, he lived a long and intensely active life. Drama attended him everywhere.

Chief Cornplanter’s exciting life unfolds in The Hatchet and the Plow, which follows the chief on his wilderness rivers, as a warrior for the British, as tireless diplomat, and as the devoted leader of his people. Author William W. Betts studies Cornplanter, also known as Gaiantwaka, closely, including his turbulent relationships with the leading figures of two worlds: George Washington, Henry Knox, Anthony Wayne, Timothy Pickering, Thomas Mifflin, John Graves Simcoe, David Mead, Timothy Alden, his uncle Kayahsotha, Handsome Lake, Red Jacket, Joseph Brant, Blacksnake, Little Beard, Blue Jacket, and Little Turtle.

Some years after his death on his beloved Allegheny, a grateful Pennsylvania installed a marble monument at his gravesite—the first such monument ever erected to the memory of a Native American. Though it was moved up the river a short distance, it still stands today.

I once saw the aged and venerable chief, and . . . thought of many things when seated near him, beneath the wide-spreading shade of an old sycamore, on the banks of the Allegheny,—many things to ask him . . . . He was constitutionally sedate, was never observed to smile, much less to indulge in the luxury of a laugh. . . . His person was stooped, and his stature was far short of what it once had been . . . .Time and hardship had made dreadful impressions upon that ancient form. The chest was sunken and his shoulders were drawn forward, making the upper part of his body resemble a trough. His limbs had lost size and become crooked. His feet (for he had taken off his moccasins) were deformed and haggard . . . I would say that most of his fingers on one hand were useless; the sinews had been severed by the blow of a tomahawk or scalping-knife. How I longed to ask him what scene of blood and strife had thus stamped the enduring evidence of its existence upon his person! . . . He had but one eye, and even the socket of the lost organ was hid by the overhanging brow resting upon the high cheek-bone. His remaining eye was of the brightest and blackest hue. Never have I seen one, in young or old, that equalled it in brilliancy. Perhaps it had borrowed lustre from the eternal darkness that rested on its neighboring orbit. . . .He had a full head of hair, white as the driven snow . . . . As he stood before me—the ancient chief in ruins—how forcibly I was struck with the truth of that beautiful figure of the old aboriginal chieftain, who, in describing himself, said he was “like an aged hemlock, dead at the top, and whose branches alone were green.”
William (Bill) Betts, Jr., is an English professor emeritus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of nine other books, including Lincoln and the Poets, The Evergreen Farm, Bombardier John Harris and the Rivers of the Revolution, and Rank and Gravity,The Life of General John Armstrong of Carlisle. He and his wife Jane are at home in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Boynton Beach, Florida, and Nobel, Ontario.
 
 


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