One of the things to admire about Gillum Ferguson’s new book, Illinois in the War of 1812, which I wrote about recently, is his depiction of the native peoples caught up in that conflict. He portrays leaders such as Main Poc as complex individuals with contradictory ambitions and ambivalent loyalties of the sort so often stirred in wartime.
For example, he correctly praises Gomo, a chief of the Illinois River valley Potawatomi, because he is Gomo, not because he is Potowatomi. He writes, “Gomo was one of the most notable men, red or white, of his generation in Illinois, and it is sad to reflect that there is no memorial to him in the state except the name of a single short street in Peoria.” Sad indeed. In addition to statues honoring constituent groups, lawmakers in Springfield might wish to consider adding to the galleries of honor at the statehouse the likenesses of men and women such as Gomo. Ferguson’s book alone will provide nominees aplenty.
One last thing: I mentioned an interview the author did with Mark Laughlin of Smiling Politely, Champaign-Urbana’s online magazine. Readers interested in Ferguson, the book, the war or history in general will find it worth a few minutes.