Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-ix

As large as this book is, it leaves me without space to thank all those who have helped me along the way. My memory, like legend, is unreliable. I apologize for leaving anyone out. For funding and fellowship opportunities, I thank the Smithsonian Institution’s Department of Anthropology, where I held, once upon a time, a fellowship and...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-14

The Mohawk Assaragóa understood that rumor had power. As he spoke in 1763, his distant western Seneca kinsmen were fighting the British Empire, and he derided their motives as the work of rumormongers: “You are too apt to listen to false News, and idle Stories.” Such stories—sometimes true, sometimes false, but always of uncertain origin—had flown across the...

Part One. Longitudes: Extraction, Domination, Extermination

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1. Gold: The Legend in Black

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pp. 17-37

The great lake disappeared. Nestled within the southern Appalachians, for more than a century it anchored vibrant Indian communities, where men and women wore ornaments of gold, silver, and pearls, easily found in a nearby stream that fell from the highlands and drained toward the Atlantic. By the seventeenth century, when England planted permanent colonies...

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2. Pox: The Blanket Truth

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pp. 38-62

Smallpox blankets. A brace of fighting words, it is both a sentence and an emblem. Warm and tortuously killing, the ultimate insidious gift, the microbial Trojan Horse, the broken treaty par excellence: for Americans of a certain persuasion, smallpox blankets perfectly embody colonialism. Yet their symbolic force is surprisingly new. And their message is a far cry from other surprisingly...

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3. Slaves: Colonial Fear

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pp. 63-78

The Black Legend of Spanish imperial power, tinged as it was with gold, outraged and encouraged the English, whose colonial enterprises would produce new dark tales. With some justice, as we have seen, Native Americans told their own stories of evil, holding colonists accountable for devastating epidemics. While Indians rumored that colonists sought to eliminate them...

Part Two. Episodes: Panic and Authority

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4. Panic: Rumors Deployed, 1751

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pp. 81-101

Looking backward, slavery and freedom constitute the most famous paradox of early American history.1 In yet another paradox, natives and settlers often needed one another, in part because of slavery. Cherokees, to take a major example, formed a strategic alliance with South Carolina, the colony that distilled slavery into its most potent North American form. Seeking arms, ammunition...

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5. Father: Rumors Unmanaged, 1757

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pp. 102-122

The young colonel, wary of false alarms, heard the ring of truth in the reports. Some two thousand enemy French and Indians had rendezvoused at Fort Duquesne on the Ohio River, and they now marched his way. The powerful expedition had already crossed the Monongahela River, passing the...

Part Three. Longitudes: Domination

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6. Bonds: Sexual Assault and Slavery

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pp. 125-143

The Reverend William Richardson, a Presbyterian Virginian, heard the rumor when he visited the Cherokee Overhills town of Chota in 1758. If Cherokee men departed northward for the British expedition against French Fort Duquesne, Carolinians and Virginians would attack in their absence and enslave...

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7. Solidarity: Fugitive Rumor, Modern Legend

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pp. 144-164

If rumors reveal social anxieties, what might the absence of a rumor reveal? Eighteenth-century British colonists surprisingly rarely rumored, indeed, they only occasionally imagined, hostile conspiracies of their slaves with neighboring Indian powers. They certainly imagined slaves poisoning their cups...

Part Four. Episodes: Revolutionary Violence

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8. Scalps: Charged Revolutionary Rumor

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pp. 167-186

The rumor first rose along the road between Lexington and Concord. The guns that had fired at Concord’s north bridge now fired to the east, and the battle still grew. Having accomplished much of their objective, several companies of British light infantry hustled in a disciplined retreat toward Boston...

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9. Hoax: Franklin’s Forgery

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pp. 187-202

The French village of Passy, a close suburb of Paris, lay on the north bank of the River Seine. Much later, but not long before the Eiffel Tower rose on the far bank, the metropolis would absorb Passy, leaving streets and parks behind as place-names. But in 1777, two springs after Lexington and Concord, Benjamin Franklin resided in Passy, and it was there that he read a letter...

Part Five. Longitudes: Domination, Extermination

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10. Slavery: South to Freedom

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pp. 205-227

The four cardinal directions, North, South, East, and West, carry popular symbolic associations in antebellum American history. East implies port cities and development; North, free labor and industry; West, freedom and frontier; South, slavery and staple agriculture. None of this would have made any sense to North Americans before the revolutionary era, especially...

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11. Extirpation: Disease and Removal

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pp. 228-248

The smallpox blanket acquired legendary power in the wake of Francis Parkman’s discovery and 1870 publication of eighteenth-century British officers’ plans to infect Ohio Country Indians. Several modern scholars confirmed that the garrison at Fort Pitt indeed attempted to infect an Indian delegation, and they identified those responsible. This well-grounded scholarship provided...

Part Six. Episodes: Jacksonian Removal

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12. Murder: Mystery, Rumor, and Removal

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pp. 251-276

He breathed well, his heart quickened, yet the obituary said he was dead. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft held in his hands the latest Albany Argus, a leading state paper for the Democratic Party to which he belonged. He read again: he had been murdered. Standing amazed on July 13, 1846, in the humid national capital, Schoolcraft wondered at this report of his assassination...

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Conclusion: “Tears of the Indians”

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pp. 277-294

As a story told about violence in Indian Country, legendary swinging infanticide predates actual English colonization, but with a twist. Long before Angie Gilbert falsely charged Shawnees with the dashing of babies’ heads, Bartolome de Las Casas’s Brief Relation of the Destruction of the Indies charged Christian...

Abbreviations

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pp. 295-298

Notes

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pp. 299-374

Essay on Sources

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pp. 375-380

Index

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pp. 381-392