Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild

Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild
author: Lee Sandlin
name: Elaine
average rating: 3.60
book published: 2010
rating: 4
read at: 2011/12/12
date added: 2011/12/13
shelves: history, ebook, non-fiction
A semi-chronological narrative of life along the Mississippi River, primarily before the Civil War, when the river valley was still part of the frontier. It was a dangerous place, both from nature (storms, earthquakes, the river itself) and from other humans (lots of drunkenness and piracy). Includes the origin of the term “lynching”, which didn’t always mean hanging. Found myself unreasonably amused by the fact that the voyageurs (boatmen, somewhat expendable) were known for their red shirts. Tidbits that I want to use for future D&D games: the Crow’s Nest, an island of pirates in the middle of the river, which was destroyed by the New Madrid quakes; Natchez-Under-the-Hill, the sketchy/wild town down by the river, partially built into the bluffs, with the “respectable” town up above. Ends with Mark Twain’s last visit to the river, when few boats traveled it, the traffic all having gone to rail, and when the course of the river itself was being tamed; in the epilogue, he revisits the “panorama” paintings that were all the rage in the early 19th century, and how the last one disappeared. (Fittingly, part of it may still be hidden under a wall somewhere in South Dakota.) Very engaging; probably wouldn’t have read it if it hadn’t been one of the few non-fiction books available in Overdrive, but glad I did anyway.