When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes

When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes

by Jay Feldman
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Overview

When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes by Jay Feldman

On December 15, 1811, two of Thomas Jefferson's nephews murdered a slave in cold blood and put his body parts into a roaring fire. The evidence would have been destroyed but for a rare act of God -- or, as some believed, of the Indian chief Tecumseh.
That same day, the Mississippi River's first steamboat, piloted by Nicholas Roosevelt, powered itself toward New Orleans on its maiden voyage. The sky grew hazy and red, and jolts of electricity flashed in the air. A prophecy by Tecumseh was about to be fulfilled.
He had warned reluctant warrior-tribes that he would stamp his feet and bring down their houses. Sure enough, between December 16, 1811, and late April 1812, a catastrophic series of earthquakes shook the Mississippi River Valley. Of the more than 2,000 tremors that rumbled across the land during this time, three would have measured nearly or greater than 8.0 on the not-yet-devised Richter Scale. Centered in what is now the bootheel region of Missouri, the New Madrid earthquakes were felt as far away as Canada; New York; New Orleans; Washington, D.C.; and the western part of the Missouri River. A million and a half square miles were affected as the earth's surface remained in a state of constant motion for nearly four months. Towns were destroyed, an eighteen-mile-long by five-mile-wide lake was created, and even the Mississippi River temporarily ran backwards.
The quakes uncovered Jefferson's nephews' cruelty and changed the course of the War of 1812 as well as the future of the new republic. In When the Mississippi Ran Backwards, Jay Feldman expertly weaves together the story of the slave murder, the steamboat, Tecumseh, and the war, and brings a forgotten period back to vivid life. Tecumseh's widely believed prophecy, seemingly fulfilled, hastened an unprecedented alliance among southern and northern tribes, who joined the British in a disastrous fight against the U.S. government. By the end of the war, the continental United States was secure against Britain, France, and Spain; the Indians had lost many lives and much land; and Jefferson's nephews were exposed as murderers. The steamboat, which survived the earthquake, was sunk.
When the Mississippi Ran Backwards sheds light on this now-obscure yet pivotal period between the Revolutionary and Civil wars, uncovering the era's dramatic geophysical, political, and military upheavals. Feldman paints a vivid picture of how these powerful earthquakes made an impact on every aspect of frontier life -- and why similar catastrophic quakes are guaranteed to recur. When the Mississippi Ran Backwards is popular history at its best.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416583103
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 11/01/2007
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 760,572
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Jay Feldman's writings have appeared in Smithsonian magazine, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Gourmet, Whole Earth Review, and a wide variety of other national, regional, and local publications. A number of his pieces have been anthologized. He has also written for television, film, and the stage. He lives in Davis, California. For more information, visit www.jfeldman.com.

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When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent information, Easy read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fabulous read that weaves together a half dozen stories centered around the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes. The book discusses the unique geologic conditions of the Mississippi River Valley that lead to the earthquakes and how the early settlers in the region lived through it all. The United States in its infancy was profoundly affected by the seismic events yet it was something I never heard about in other history books. Sobering to read about the effects it had in 1811-1812 and makes one wonder what would happen if the New Madrid fault zone became active again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Historically fascinating. Perfectly correlated so all can understand,admire and never forget. Bravo
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