Saturday, March 14, 2009


Theresa Sidel, a colleague in the American Indian Library Association, wrote to me, noting passages in Freedman's Washington at Valley Forge. In children's literature, Russell Freedman's books stand out for his style and research. When viewed for Native content, however, they fall short, as Theresa points out below.

We just got copies of "Washington at Valley Forge" by Russell Freedman, c. 2008, published by Holiday House ISBN: 978-0-8234-2069-8 (Hardcover)
The book only mentions American Indians on pages 33, 42, 47-48, 66, and 68.
No mention is made of Skenandoah, Chief of the Oneida Nation, who sent baskets of corn to the starving soldiers. One has to wonder why Freedman would fail to include that in a history book for children. I know it isn't the most well-known fact, but it is easily found on the internet.

The Oneida are mentioned as follows:

pg. 66:

"Lafayette's force included forty-seven Oneida Indian scouts, "Stout-looking fellows and remarkably neat," according to Private Joseph Plumb Martin, who was assigned to the expedition. The Oneidas had adopted Lafayette into their tribe and named him Kayweda, after one of their greatest warriors."
pg. 68:

"The Oneida scouts, bringing up the rear of the retreating American column, made their own contribution to Lafayette's escape. As British cavalrymen brandishing sabers galloped toward the retreating Americans, the Oneidas let loose with a hair-raising war whoop, startling the horsemen and frightening their steeds. The horses bolted and turned heel, giving the Americans time to reach the river safely. Later, when the British began their own retreat, the Oneidas rushed back across the river and harassed the enemy's flanks as the redcoats hurried toward Philadelphia."
Here is the one that bothers me the most though, pg. 47-48:

"A French interpreter at the camp was similarly moved while walking in the woods before breakfast one morning. From a distance he heard " a most powerful voice...yet melodious," singing a song from a popular French opera. He was astonished "when suddenly I saw...before me a tall American regimental and two large epaulets on his shoulders." The singer was a Canadian Abenaki who spoke French and English. Raised by Jesuit priests under French rule in Canada, he had joined the Americans at the beginning of the war; rising to the rank of colonel in the Continental army."
With everything he knew about this man why did he not include his name? Well, perhaps by some fluke it was never I went to the internet and found the piece with almost exact wording in less than five minutes: "Colonel Louis at Oriskany and Valley Forge" by Darren Bonaparte (Originally published in The People's Voice, September 30, 2005) the account of Peter Stephen Du Ponceau, a young French officer assigned to Baron von Steuben. If Freedman had gone to the next paragraph he would have known that the man was " Nia-man-rigounant,....Colonel Louis, it is the name which I received with the baptism."


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Debbie Reese said...

Just above you'll see "This post has been removed by a blog administrator."

This is what it said:

"I think this is good blog, but poor in its appearance. If you change the template with another, i think this blog will be better."

At first I thought it an ok comment, but when I clicked on the link of the person's name, I realized the comment is only a lure to get traffic to that person's site, which is about health. Not a bad, thing, sites about health, but I don't generally link to off-topic sites.

So.... I deleted the comment, but it was replaced by the note that said an administrator had deleted it.

THIS comment that you're now reading is to let you know that I didn't delete a comment that was challenging Seidel's points about Freedman's book.

If you've submitted a comment, you've likely seen it. Not all comments are approved, however! If you post a slew of obscene words, I won't approve that comment. If you use obscene words but they're part of your critique of a book, a post, a review, that will be approved.

[Note: The one exception to this rule took place a few months ago, when Beth Kanell wanted me to use my blog to promote her book. She has her own blog for that purpose. I found (and still find) her book to be one of the worst ones available.]

k8 said...

If you choose the delete forever option when you delete messages in Blogger, there should be no evidence that it ever existed on your comments page. You might still be able to do that.