<b>Day the Earth didn't stand still</b>On December 16, 1811, around 2:15 a.m., the ground below the frontier town of New Madrid, located in present-day Missouri, began to move. With a sound equated to cannon fire, the Earth heaved, starting a chain reaction of destruction and devastation that would alter not only the lives of those within its reach, but also the politics and landscape of the region. Like the Great Comet of 1811 that preceded it, the New Madrid Earthquakes which continued well into April 1812 would be interpreted by settler and native alike as a portent of great change. Among other repercussions, the earthquakes may have spurred the War of 1812, the destruction and relocation of the Native American tribes, and the eventual election of one of the most colorful presidents in American history Andrew Jackson.
Jay Feldman's <b>When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder and the New Madrid Earthquakes</b> is a fascinating narrative, offering just enough science to explain what happened without overwhelming the casual reader. The book examines the quakes not only for their remarkable physical power (the effects were felt as far away as New England, cracking the ice covering Chesapeake Bay in one instance), but for their impact on people. Among other things, the earthquakes uncovered a gruesome murder, encouraged the Creek nation to rise against the white settlers of present-day Alabama, and, eventually, exposed a modern-day earthquake expert as a vainglorious fraud.
Within these pages, you will meet characters both larger than life and seemingly cast out of time, from the charismatic Shawnee leader Tecumseh to the conniving governor of Ohio, William Henry Harrison, to the remarkably liberated Lydia Roosevelt, who defied convention to undertake two perilous journeys on the Mississippi both while pregnant to promote steamboat travel. You will meet traitors, heroes, swindlers, and saints and sometimes it's hard to decide which is which. <b>When the Mississippi Ran Backwards</b> is both a study of nature, in all her incomprehensible power, and the nature of man, and how we respond when our world turns suddenly chaotic. <i>Howard Shirley is a writer in Franklin, Tennessee.</i>