Old Man River The Mississippi River in North American History

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-09-03
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

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A fascinating account of how the Mississippi River shaped America

In Old Man River, Paul Schneider tells the story of the river at the center of America's rich history—the Mississippi. Some fifteen thousand years ago, the majestic river provided Paleolithic humans with the routes by which early man began to explore the continent's interior. Since then, the river has been the site of historical significance, from the arrival of Spanish and French explorers in the 16th century to the Civil War. George Washington fought his first battle near the river, and Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman both came to President Lincoln's attention after their spectacular victories on the lower Mississippi.

In the 19th century, home-grown folk heroes such as Daniel Boone and the half-alligator, half-horse, Mike Fink, were creatures of the river. Mark Twain and Herman Melville led their characters down its stream in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Confidence-Man. A conduit of real-life American prowess, the Mississippi is also a river of stories and myth.

Schneider traces the history of the Mississippi from its origins in the deep geologic past to the present. Though the busiest waterway on the planet today, the Mississippi remains a paradox—a devastated product of American ingenuity, and a magnificent natural wonder.

Author Biography

Paul Schneider is the acclaimed author of Bonnie and Clyde, Brutal Journey, The Enduring Shore, and The Adirondacks, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book. He and his wife, the photographer Nina Bramhall, and their son, Nathaniel, divide their time between Bradenton, Florida, and West Tisbury, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

    The American Watershed 1

Book One: River of Giants
Continents Collide, Glaciers Recede, Mastodons Bellow, and Humans Arrive
    1. Ice on the Rocks         9
    2. The Missouri Leviathan         13
    3. Bones and Stones         20
    4. Broken Arrows         30
    5. Mammoth Season         35

Book Two: River of Mounds
The Rise and Fall, and Rise and Fall, and Rise of Native America
    6. Among the Effigies         43
    7. Poverty Point         54
    8. 60,000 Pearls         58
    9. The Mississippian Moment         64
    10. The Great Serpent         73

Book Three: River of Fortune
The Spanish Exit, the French Arrive, the Iroquois Take Action
    11. Bonjour Great Khan         81
    12. In the Iroquois Longhouse         88
    13. The American Bottom         98
    14. The Illinois Country         102
    15. Adrift         111
    16. The Incomparable La Salle         120
    17. Nous Sommes Tous Sauvages         129
    18. The Wrath         136
    19. If the River Don’t Rise         145

Book Four: River of Empires
The English Enter, the French Exit, the Iroquois Negotiate, and the Americans Take Over
    20. The Scramble for the Forks         153
    21. The Half King         159
    22. Adieu New France         171
    23. The American Watershed         180
    24. Allegheny Mornings         194

Book Five: Life on the Mississippi
Flatboats and Keelboats, Steamboats and Showboats, Songsters and Soul Drivers
    25. Down a Lazy River         205
    26. I Long to See You         223
    27. Up the Wicked River         236
    28. All Aboard         246
    29. Down Below         257

Book Six: River of blood
Lincoln and Davis, New Orleans and Vicksburg, Victory and Defeat
    30. Blood on the Tracks         267
    31. Anaconda         272
    32. Up in Flames         285

Book Seven: On the Lake of the Engineers
Floods Rise, Levees Rise, Dams Rise, while Mountains Fall and Grasses Sink
    33. The Mouth         305
    34. All the Lists of Clay         314
    35. Old Man River         331

Acknowledgments         335
Source Notes         337
Bibliography         353
Index         381

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