‘The Battle Of Fallen Timbers’ by Stephanie Vaughn

The Battle Of Fallen Timbers by Stephanie Vaughn, 1990

The magic trick:

Turning a personal story into a consideration of the way history is told and passed on

Vaughn already hinted in both “Sweet Talk” and “Kid MacArthur” at the notion that commonly believed American history is more than a little false. She makes that point even clearer in this story.

She takes what seems a simple story about a family member’s death and expands its reach to include all Americans and the way we process the past. Just popular teachings remember the white heroes of Fallen Timbers and not the merciless killing of Native Americans, so do Gemma’s family immediately cast Uncle Roofer’s apparently problematic life choices into the shadows behind a happy narrative. We’re all liars. And that’s quite a trick on Vaughn’s part.

The selection:

We were living in Oklahoma then and had to fly back to Ohio for the funeral. My grandmother was living alone in Killbuck, Ohio, at number 7 South Mad Anthony Street. The street was named for General Mad Anthony Wayne, who had won the Battle of Fallen Timbers and secured the Northwest Territory against the Indians so that white settlers could take the land. When the origin of the street name was explained to me as a child, I had always got the impression that Mad Anthony Wayne had fought that battle on behalf of our family as if the white frame house on South Mad Anthony were already standing above the brick street and awaiting the arrival of our people from the East.

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