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Monday, April 19, 2010

32. Old Chicago: the Fort, When Chicago was the Frontier by Mary Hastings Bradley



Title: Old Chicago: the Fort, When Chicago was the Frontier
Related Series: Old Chicago
Authors: Mary Hastings Bradley
Copyright: 1933
Pages: 96
Publisher: D. Appleton and Company
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 4-19-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, TIOLI (Book with a city name in the title)

This was quite a find for me; at our first biannual antiquarian book show this year, I stumbled upon a 4-volume set of historical fiction novels by Mary Hastings Bradley about the city of Chicago. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a love affair with the city of Chicago. I'm usually down there about every other month or sooner, and can never get enough of it. I try to find what books I can about literary Chicago, too, so this was a real treat for me.

I haven't gotten around to reading the other 3 in the series yet so I don't know if they follow the same format, but I felt that we are more or less dropped into the middle of the story in The Fort, where we meet Barry John at Fort Dearborn, a mere few days before the Fort Dearborn Massacre of 1812. The evacuation has been announced and the soldiers and their families are getting ready to leave the Fort. Barry John is not an American soldier, but rather an English soldier who is helping the Americans. He is being courted by a squaw of one of the local Indian tribes, who is trying to get him to marry her and escape the battle. This is where, for one quick moment, I was afraid the story was roaming in romance territory. I was wrong. He decides to hold his ground with the Americans and evacuates with them, only to be ambushed with the others, just barely surviving the attack, when he is rescued by the squaw.

Mary Hastings Bradley actually does an admirable job of describing the ambush and subsequent massacre, not really holding back at all in the bloody descriptions of the battle and the treatment by the Indians of the survivors of the attack. I'm not entirely familiar with all of the historical facts surrounding the Fort Dearborn Massacre, but it would seem that Bradley did her research before writing this short novel, and I'm interested to see how well the other three volumes hold up.

Recommended if you're interested in the history of Chicago; otherwise, it may not hold much interest for you.

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