Cooper’s Use of American History

Kennedy Williams, Jr. (University of Kentucky)

Presented at the 1ˢᵗ Cooper Seminar, James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, July, 1978.

Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art, or Getting Under Way, Papers from the 1978 Conference at State University of New York College at Oneonta and Cooperstown, New York. Edited by George A. Test. (pp. 15-25).

Copyright © 1979 by State University of New York College at Oneonta.

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

America’s interest in history and in historical writing came alive between the turn of the eighteenth century and the Civil War. In 1800 only five historical societies existed in the United States, and the eldest of those, the Massachusetts Historical Society, was only nine years old. By 1860, however, the country had produced 111 such organizations, at least ninety of which published their proceedings. Both the writing and the reading of history were widespread. The Dictionary of American Biography cites 145 authors who published histories during the period, and thirty-six per cent of the period’s best-selling books (90 of 248) deal with history in some way. Historical journals proliferated, while historical articles flooded the pages of general periodicals. And perhaps most important, history as an independent subject, particularly American history, first entered the nation’s school curricula during these decades. 1

Cooper, of course, lived his entire adult life during that burst of historical activity. Moreover, his family and close friends brought him into direct contact with major figures and important events from his country’s formative years. Judge William Cooper introduced his son to such men as Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, and the novelist maintained ties with the Jay family throughout his life. As a young man Cooper almost certainly heard these men discuss such historical movements as the American Revolution and such political achievements as the framing of the Constitution. When he married Susan De Lancey in 1811, Cooper became fascinated with the distinguished role the De Lanceys had played on the losing side in the Revolution. While living in Europe between 1826 and 1833, he further bound himself to memories of the struggle for independence by developing a close friendship with Lafayette. Similarly, his long association with William Branford Shubrick kept the novelist in contact with the United States Navy during a time when the nation was becoming a major maritime power.

If Cooper’s personal life constantly reminded him of the past, the literary world he entered in 1820 was teeming with enthusiasm for historical fiction and ripe for books about America. Sir Waiter Scott published Waverley, usually considered the first historical novel, in 1814. By the appearance of Precaution, Cooper’s first book, six years later, Scott had produced the major Scottish novels and Ivanhoe. Indeed, between 1810 and 1820 no fewer than eight works by Scott achieved best-seller status in the United States, and his historical poems and novels were by far the most popular reading of the day. 2 At the same time, a demand for distinctively American forms of writing had arisen within the literary circles of the young nation. The idea was neither new nor universally accepted in 1820, and discussions of it were often isolated and fragmentary. However, most of the leading writers of the age, from Walter Channing to William Cullen Bryant, participated in the debate at one time or another, if only to comment on the scarcity of literary material in American life and history. 3

Given that intellectual environment, it is hardly surprising that Cooper’s career as a writer is permeated with historical works of both non-fiction and fiction. As early as June 1825, he mentioned a proposed “immortal history” to William Shubrick within a context suggesting even earlier discussions of the subject. 4 That project was finally published as The History of the Navy of the United States of America thirteen years later. The book went through three full-length revisions and an abridged edition by 1847, and Cooper seems to have done a considerable amount of research and some of the writing for a fourth, updated edition before his death. A year before The History of the Navy, the novelist published a short history of the village his father had founded, called The Chronicles of Cooperstown. In 1842 Rufus Griswold convinced Cooper to expand same of the long biographical footnotes from The History of the Navy into magazine pieces and they appeared in Graham’s Magazine between 1842 and 1845. 5 In 1846 nine of those sketches were collected in book form as Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers. When he died, Cooper was working on a history of New York City, to be called The Towns of Manhattan.

The subjects of his histories invited obvious personal interest from Cooper, but he usually tempered that emotional involvement with a formal, intellectual objectivity. Cooper approached the writing of history as a process of amassing, classifying, and logically analyzing statistical data and physical fact. In the Introduction to The Chronicles of Cooperstown he calls his work “authentic annals” and a “book of reference” filled with “leading facts.” 6 Those labels fit all of his histories. The progressive revisions of The History of the Navy, for example, produced no alteration in design, no shift in emphasis, few changes in interpretation, and no chronological extension of the book’s subject matter. Instead, they refine, clarify, and more fully document the facts. In Cooper’s histories we learn the dimensions of early houses in Cooperstown or the exact number of casualties in a naval engagement, and we find a careful evaluation of any variant information. Such details are often self-serving, existing more for the sake of factual completeness than to support a clearly defined reading of the past. Cooper’s strengths as a historian were his abilities to gather and to evaluate tremendous amounts of data and to maintain an accurate perspective on such matters as the direction ships must be sailing if the wind is from, say, the north-north-east. His weakness was a tendency to present that material in tedious, narrowly focused, and rather repetitive narratives.

Interpreting the broader implications of the past became a job for the novelist, and Cooper’s historical fiction is more extensive, more diverse, and, of course, more significant than his historical non-fiction. Of his thirty-two novels, twenty-four are set at least thirty years prior to their composition, and a twenty-fifth, The Prairie, might well be considered historical even though it deals with events occurring just over twenty years before its publication. These books span the course of the novelist’s career from his second novel, The Spy (1821), to his next to last finished work, The Sea Lions (1849). Likewise, the historical books embrace the full range of fictional Cooper used. Those twenty-five novels include border tales like the Leatherstocking series or The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, sea fiction like The Pilot and The Water-Witch, social novels like The Pioneers and Satanstoe, European romances like The Bravo and The Heidenmauer, philosophical-allegorical novels like The Crater and The Sea Lions.

Cooper’s major interest in history was, of course, his own nation’s development. Not only do the volumes of historical non-fiction all treat American history, but twenty of the works of historical fiction also deal with America. Even the three European novels of the 1830’s, The Bravo, The Heidenmauer, and The Headsman, picture America as a hazy but ever-present alternative to Europe as the next stage in the progress of western civilization. 7 Through those twenty novels set in the American past, Cooper traces the country’s advancement from its discovery in Mercedes of Castile to the War of 1812 in The Oak Openings. In between, he treats early settlement and King Philip’s War in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, devotes five different novels to the period of the French and Indian wars, and deals with the Revolution in four others. He also provides detailed descriptions of American life at selected moments from the colonial era of Satanstoe through the turn of the century in The Pioneers and the Miles Wallingford books to the sketch of Oyster Pond, Long Island, in The Sea Lions. The contemporary novels extend Cooper’s social history of America to 1850.

For his fiction Cooper employs historical data in a variety of forms. He may write a fictional version of socio-cultural history, recreating a localized past, as he does in The Pioneers and Satanstoe. He may introduce actual characters as he does in The Spy and The Pilot. Or he may dramatize actual events as inconsequential as the massacre at Fort William Henry in The Last of the Mohicans or as momentous as the discovery of America in Mercedes of Castile and the first shots of the Revolution in both Lionel Lincoln and Wyandotté.

The ways in which this information enters Cooper’s novels are even more diverse. Direct authorial comment may be as brief as the novelist’s innumerable comparisons between the past and the present or as long as the four-page summary of King Philip’s War in Ch. XXI of The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish. Footnotes, many of them added for British editions, may be simple assertions of historicity, indications of sources, descriptions of parallel situations such as we note about a real spy in Ch. VI of The Spy, or elaborations of extraneous material such as the note on the history of Haiti in Ch. XXIV of Mercedes of Castile. Characters may make brief comments about actual events, as when Duncan Middleton mentions Lewis and Clark’s expedition in The Prairie, or they may provide extended, substantive descriptions of such events, as when Pigeonswing reports the fall of Mackinac in Ch. II of The Oak Openings or when Wyandotté describes the Battle of Bunker Kill. Recently completed off-stage events may inform the action of a novel, as the Andre-Benedict Arnold incident does in The Spy, or such off-stage events may run parallel to Cooper’s fiction as does the Revolutionary in Wyandotté. Actual characters may make brief but open appearance, as when Miles Wallingford meets Richard Dale in Ch. VI of Afloat and Ashore; they may assume important roles in a novel while veiling their historical identities, as do George Washington in The Spy and John Paul Jones in The Pilot; or they may assume openly important roles in a novel, as Conanchet does in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish. Finally, dramatized historical events may appear as a single episode in an episodic sequence, as does the assault on Ticonderoga in Satanstoe, or they may dominate the action of a novel, as in Lionel Lincoln and Mercedes of Castile.

In general, the historical matter in the novels is accurate. While he slips without explanation on occasion — there is no apparent reason for misdating the Stamp Act in Ch. V of Lionel Lincoln, for instance — Cooper normally has good artistic reason for violating strict factual authenticity. He condenses a decade of life in Cooperstown to eleven months in The Pioneers, for example, in order to make Templeton a representative as well as a particularized frontier community. Similarly, he introduces Indians into the action of Wyandotté a year before their historical presence in the area would warrant in order to align the action of his novel with the important events such as Bunker Hill and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 8 Cooper’s success in introducing historical data varies from book to book, but he always tries to balance the integrity of factual history against the demands of imaginative fiction.

In most of Cooper’s historical fiction, however, the past provides much more than a mere stage on which the plot can develop. Both universal moral truths and particular social lessons could be gleaned from history. Cooper freely exploited that possibility by using historical data to construct a novel’s themes as well as its setting, its characters, and some of its episodes. Both the extent and the quality of that interaction between historical material and thematic purpose can be illustrated by examining two important novels, Lionel Lincoln (1825) and The Last of the Mohicans (1826).

Lionel Lincoln contains more documentary history than any other Cooper novel. Amid a meticulously particularized portrait of Boston just before and during the siege of 1775-1776, Cooper carefully contrasts the comforts of arrogant British officers with the bleak lives of patriotic colonists. Lionel, a Boston-born British officer and heir to a baronetcy, visits historical landmarks throughout the city: the Liberty Tree; Province House; the Old South Church turned into a stable; and the lookout tower on Beacon Hill. He meets or hears about the significant military leaders on both sides: Gage, Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne for the British; Prescott, Warren, Lee, Putnam, and Washington for the colonists. And the novel dramatizes three pivotal historical events: the disastrous British march to Lexington and Concord; the Battle of Bunker Hill; and the American occupation of Dorchester Heights. Such scenes are based on extensive research. In addition to examining eyewitness records, Cooper walked the ground over which his characters would pass and traced changes in the weather through almanacs from the world. 9 The result is an authentically detailed portrayal of the opening months of the Revolution.

The accounts of the three battles are distinctly different, however, and their differences reflect both the varying natures of the three events, as Cooper understood them, and a shifting center of consciousness within the third-person narration. 10 During the expedition to Lexington and Concord (Chs. IX-X), the forced night march, the unanticipated colonial resistance, and the painfully slow retreat appear as Lionel might have seen them from the midst of the British column. The running skirmish must have been incredibly confusing to its participants, so Cooper provides only enough authorial control to create the impression of a continuous action. When Lionel watches the opening of the Battle of Bunker Hill from Copp’s Hill (Chs. XV-XVI), the engagement assumes the character of military action in a conventionally splendid mode with troops across the battle ground like figures on a war-game board. 11 Even when Lionel enters the fight and can no longer see the entire field, the action continues to be heroic. Bunker Hill was, of course, the only traditional battle fought during the siege, so Cooper describes it in a traditional fashion. When attention shifts to the occupation of Dorchester Heights (Chs. XXIX- XXX), the heroine replaces the hero as the focal point of the narrative. while searching for Lionel, Cecil witnesses both British and colonial activity on the night of March 4, 1776. Those hurried movements appear even more chaotic and less comprehensible than the skirmishing around Lexington and Concord, because they are obscured both by darkness and by Cecil’s lack of military expertise. And just as the significance of the maneuver itself became clear only in the light of the following day, Cooper waits until the beginning of Ch. XXXIV to explain the importance of the incidents Cecil has witnessed.

But Lionel Lincoln is far more than an exercise in placing documentary history into a fictional context. Set against these historical episodes is a gothic plot in which Lionel attempts to unravel the baffling mystery of his family’s past and to explain the death of his mother. Though the contrast between Lionel’s search for family truth and the colonists’ struggle for independence has disturbed many readers, the two plots are thematically parallel. And that parallelism provides the substance of Cooper’s message in the hook. Both plots involve a painful transition from the past into the future, a transition which requires shedding the evil portions of the past in order to purify the future. The colonists must throw off the political yoke of the mother country, while Lionel and Cecil must purge their heritage of the machinations of Mrs. Lechmere and Ralph and of the Lincoln’s natural insanity in order to insure their own happiness. Only by witnessing the defeat of the British on the one hand and the death of the sordid elements of his own heritage on the other can the hero return to his life in England.

Cooper carefully establishes these parallels in the opening and closing episodes of the novel. When Lionel and Ralph, Lionel’s insane father and a pivotal character in the gothic plot, approach Boston in the first chapter, they gaze toward the city from the deck of their ship. As the sun sinks behind the heights of Dorchester, Lionel scans the sky line from those heights across the ships lying idle at the docks and the spires of the city’s churches to the black signal tower on Beacon Hill. As Lionel notices the British flags flying over the city, Ralph raises the question of when those flags will be lowered for the last time. The panorama which begins with Lionel’s glance at Dorchester Heights ends with a suggestion of the historical victory those heights will help to secure at the end of the novel.

Both Lionel and Boston must pass through depths of darkness before the two elements of Cooper’s plot can be resolved, however. The travelers take a small boat to the wharf where a concrete, human instance of British oppression greets Lionel: a group of soldiers is beating a young man for failing to drink the King’s health. As the chapter ends, Lionel pushes “aside the crowd of excited and deriding soldiers” and breaks “into the centre of the circle.” 12 He has, in fact, broken into the center of both Cooper’s thematic circles. Since the scene obviously embodies the “disorder and abuse” created by British military presence in Boston, it illustrates the historical plot. But it also introduces the gothic plot. The man being beaten is Job Pray, Ralph’s illegitimate son, who is a product of the past which Lionel must throw off. The montage initiates Lionel’s strange series of encounters with Job and Ralph, while pointing toward the day when he will preside over their funeral.

The resolutions of the two plots in the final chapter further cement the relationship between them. The Americans have occupied Dorchester Heights and demonstrated an intention to hold their position at all costs. Howe first threatens a counter-attack, but recalling the losses at Bunker Hill and facing inclement weather, he reverses that decision. Then, Cooper explains, “Howe sullenly commenced his arrangements to abandon a town, on which the English ministry had, for years, lavished their indignation, with all the acrimony, and, as it now seemed, with the impotency of a blind revenge” (p. 425). The evacuation marks the end of British control in Boston and heralds the end of British rule in the colonies as a whole. The colonial forces have opened the way for a new political and social order by purging themselves of the tyrannical powers of the past.

Lionel has also seen the destructive effects of “blind revenge” in his own family. Mrs. Lechmere, the aunt whose spiteful trickery drove Ralph insane, dies on the evening of Lionel’s marriage to Cecil. On that same night, Job is exposed to smallpox, while in the very act of preparing for the wedding, and he eventually dies from the disease. Later, Ralph is stabbed to death at Job’s bedside, and Abigail Pray, Job’s mother, dies in front of the Lincoln family tomb. With her death both the tomb and the painful family past are closed forever. Neither Lionel nor Cecil has been party to the schemes and counter-schemes which destroy the others. They have no further reason to stay in America, so they join the retreating army. Like the colonies, they have closed the door on their personal past and can live only in the future, which for Lionel lies in England. 13

The final paragraph of the novel completes Cooper’s statement of the need to purify the future by destroying unhealthy portions of the past, while it again associates the historical with the gothic plot:

Of all the principal actors in the foregoing tale, not one is now living. ... The Historical facts of our legend are beginning to be obscured by time; and it is more than probable that the prosperous and affluent English peer, who now enjoys the honors of the house of Lincoln, never knew the secret history of his family, while it sojourned in a remote province of the British empire. (p. 433)

Time, Cooper suggests, marches perpetually onward, thrusting the past into the future by destroying those elements of the past which can only retard human progress.

In Lionel Lincoln history and fiction are carefully distinguished so that we seldom confuse the two. The same appears to be true of The Last of the Mohicans. At the very center of the book stand three chapters (XV-XVII) dramatizing another specific historical event, the siege, capitulation, and subsequent massacre at Fort William Henry in 1757. Moreover, that historical incident lies at the heart of the novel’s structure. Through the first half of the book, Cora and Alice Munro struggle to join their father at the fort. The massacre then enables Magua, the villain, to recapture the sisters, so the second half of the adventure story grows out of the historical event. Cooper sets the three central chapters apart by framing them with two panoramic views of the fort and by illustrating the gap between history and fiction before beginning the second half of the novel. The opening paragraph of Ch. XVIII summarizes historians’ sympathetic attitudes toward Montcalm, the French commander at William Henry, a treatment influenced by later events at Quebec. The paragraph concludes: “Deeply regretting this weakness on the part of a sister muse, we shall at once retire from her sacred precincts, within the proper limits of our own humble vocation” (p. 214). The documentary history, it seems, has ended, and the adventure story can proceed.

Within those central chapters Cooper’s presentation of history appears reasonably sound, with only the normal, necessary alterations for artistic purposes. Cooper follows the available accounts of the incident in broad outline and in many specific details. The conventional order of the siege and negotiations are authentic, as is the gore of the massacre. Non-historical characters, like Natty, Uncas, Chingachgook, and Magua, fade into the background, and historical or semi-historical figures, like Colonel Munro, Duncan Heyward, and Montcalm, move forward to take their places. Cooper does condense the chronology of the siege for dramatic effect, and he manipulates the Indian-European alliances to assure that Natty and his companions are fighting on the right side. 14 But such changes arise from obvious aesthetic motives.

Treating the novel’s historical material as mere ornament or as simple relief from the intense adventure tale, however, ignores Cooper’s intentions in the work. The distinction between history and fiction is not as clear as a cursory reading might suggest, and history plays an important part in the novel’s thematic content. Imaginary elements repeatedly interrupt the documentary history, and the adventure story draws upon historical actuality frequently enough to obscure the line of demarcation between factual and fictional reality. In short, The Last of the Mohicans presents the most thorough blending of factual history with romantic fiction Cooper was to write.

Those three central chapters are only the most obvious repositories of historical information or images in the book. In the original Preface and again in the footnotes he added for Richard Bentley’s British edition, Cooper emphasized his concern with history by explaining “a few of the obscurities of the historical allusions.” 15 The text is filled with comparisons between the past and the present, and echoes of both the historical and the imaginary past dot the narrative like minor characters in a drama. The first chapter includes a long outline of the historical situation. Even the novel’s title claims a measure of historical import, while Uncas’s personification of that title lends a sense of symbolic history to the book.

Because his readers were probably unfamiliar with this particular incident and because his own sources were limited, Cooper elaborates upon his historical data far more in this novel than in Lionel Lincoln. Duncan Heyward, the story’s romantic hero, illustrates Cooper’s use of his sources. Heyward’s role in the William Henry episode projects a special relationship to history. An often helpless, secondary figure elsewhere in the book, he stands near center stage in the middle chapters, negotiating with Montcalm and courting Alice Munro. Indeed, as David P. French demonstrates, Heyward is based on Lieutenant Colonel John Young, an actual participant in the negotiations. 16 But Heyward is an amalgam of fact and fancy. Cooper violates or enlarges upon his information rather freely in the character, never claiming that his hero is, in fact, John Young. He expands, for example, the unconfirmed possibility that Young was a Virginian into an important element of the racial theme. He reduces Young’s rank, and he places Heyward in totally imaginary situations throughout the book. Heyward’s character ultimately owes as much to literary antecedents as to historical ones, and Cooper’s readers would be far more apt to identify the former than the latter. Though suggested by an actual figure, Heyward is a romantic creation in the mold of Peyton Dunwoodie of The Spy and Edward Griffith of The Pilot.

The contrast between the action in the central chapters and the rest of the novel reveals a similar confusion between fact and fiction. While some parts of that contrast come from the amount of authentic material in the middle chapters, many key differences lie in the nature of the action involved and not in its historicity. Action at the fort is generally static, in contrast to the rapid movement and intense excitement of the sequences in the forest. Forced marches and instinctive reactions are replaced by strolls along gun emplacements and carefully considered maneuvers. Much of the action in the fort is also domestic rather than adventurous, with Munro’s daughters bouncing on his knee before the family hearth and the old soldier outlining the family’s background for his future son-in-law. Several significant incidents do not involve history at all. The revelation of Cora’s mixed blood, Heyward’s engagement to Alice, and Magua’s abduction of the sisters are primarily fictional. And while such characters as Montcalm assumed larger roles in the middle chapters because of their historical identities, Alice replaces her sister as the principal female character simply because she is more fitted for the ordered world of the fort than she is for the wilderness.

The second half of the adventure story raises additional questions. Munro accompanies Natty, Heyward, and the Indians to search for his daughters, extending his participation in the novel well beyond his historical role in the incident at William Henry. Munro’s mental and physical decline, in fact, stems from the loss of his daughters, a mere speculation on Cooper’s part, and not from the actual downfall of his military command. Similarly, Tamenund, a partially authentic figure from Indian history, both judges the fictional question of Magua’s claim to Cora and voices the theme of the passage of time.

The two panoramic views of the fort provide an important key for understanding the role of history in the novel. As they near the fort, Natty leads his party to a mountain overlook in order to assess the situation and to draft strategy for entering the encampment (pp. 163-65). They seek a refuge from the threatening and chaotic world of the forest, and they are convinced that the fort offers such a haven. After recapturing the sisters, Magua passes the same spot, and he forces his prisoners to look at the plain around William Henry once again. Now the fog which had covered the earlier view is gone, and a bright sunshine spotlights the continuing massacre (p. 212). Behind the fog was a world no less threatening than the mysterious forest. If the first view marks an illusionary escape from the chaotic wilderness, the second asserts the futility of seeking such an escape.

Like the characters in the novel we are easily deceived by the nature of reality in the documentary chapters. Just as the fort proves to be both a refuge and a disaster area, both an ordered and a chaotic world, the central historical episodes are both fact and fiction. That mixture of history and imagination is quite intentional, of course; we are not meant to realize where one stops and the other begins. The book’s themes are complex, involving the rise and fall of civilizations, the conflict between Europe and America, the meaning of honor and justice, and the role of race in determining human relationships. 17 Behind all of these questions, however, lurks a sense of chaos and human helplessness, even in the world of civilized nations. The manner in which Cooper blends fact and fiction intensifies that sense of chaos and, thus, unites the novel’s diverse themes.

Novelists draw on innumerable sources for their material. Personal experience provide miscellaneous incidents; friends and casual acquaintances merge into fictional characters; elements from the work of other artists are distilled to meet new creative demands; and the individual genius of a particular writer unites those disconnected parts into a meaningful whole. The history of his country was an important source for Cooper’s fiction. In using that source he consistently respected the sanctity of history while struggling to reconcile fact with the requirements of fiction. That struggle produced a staggering variety of artistic devices ranging from simple footnotes to complex background tapestries, from isolated historical incidents to extensive documentary accounts, from characters drawn out of history to characters created specifically to enter into history. On occasion, the combination fails miserably — Mercedes of Castile is the best example. In other instances, as in Lionel Lincoln, it is only partially successful. But in novels like The Last of the Mohicans the union of fact and fiction succeeds brilliantly. The failures attest to Cooper’s willingness to experiment with his art as clearly as the successes demonstrate his skill in that art.


1 See George H. Callcott, History in the United States, 1800-1860: Its Practice and Purpose (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1970), pp. 27-72.

2 See Callcott, pp. 32-34, and James D. Hart, The Popular Book: A History of America’s Literary Taste (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961), pp. 73-78 and 304-05.

3 For a full account of the movement toward literary nationalism, see Benjamin T. Spencer, The Quest for Nationality: An American Literary Campaign (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1957).

4 Cooper to Shubrick, 15 June 1825, The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper, ed. James Franklin Beard (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960-68), I, pp. 120.

5 Beard, Letters and Journals, IV, p. 302n.

6 A History of Cooperstown (Cooperstown, N.Y.: New York State Historical Association, 1976), p. 1. Cooper’s Chronicles is reprinted here as the first segment of a three- part, progressive history of the town.

7 Cooper sets up the idea explicitly in his Introduction to The Heidenmauer, but it is implicit in all three novels.

8 See Cooper’s Preface to Wyandotté, and James H. Pickering, “New York in the Revolution: Cooper’s Wyandotté,” New York History, 49 (1968), pp. 130-32.

9 Cooper discusses his research in the Prefaces to early editions of the novel: (New York: Charles Wiley, 1825), I, xi-xii; and (London: Richard Bentley, 1832), pp. vi-vii. See also, James Franklin Beard, “Cooper and the Revolutionary Mythos,” Early American Literature, 11 (Spring 1976), pp. 93-94.

10 For a more complete discussion of the importance of the narration’s center of consciousness, see Donald A. Ringe, “Cooper’s Lionel Lincoln: The Problem of Genre,” American Transcendental Quarterly, 24 (1974), pp. 24-30.

11 James Grossman, James Fenimore Cooper (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1949), p. 175, calls the episode “a conventionally splendid scene of heroism and carnage.”

12 Cooper, Lionel Lincoln, The Works of James Fenimore Cooper, Mohawk Edition (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, [1895-1900]), p. 9. References to Cooper’s novels in the text refer to this edition.

13 The fact that Lionel is English bothers some readers. Cooper, however, assumed the moral soundness of the Revolution so completely that using a British hero in his novel would have in no way suggested a British bias to him. It also allowed him a kind of formal objectivity which would have been impossible with an American hero.

14 For detailed discussions of the historical material in The Last of the Mohicans, see David P. French, “James Fenimore Cooper and Fort William Henry,” American Literature, 32 (1960), pp. 28-38; Thomas Philbrick, “The Sources of Cooper’s Knowledge of Fort William Henry,” American Literature, 36 (1964), pp. 209-14; Marilyn G. Rose, “Time Discrepancy in Last of the Mohicans,” American Notes and Queries, 8 (1970), pp. 72-73; Warren S. Walker, James Fenimore Cooper: An Introduction and Interpretation (New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1962), pp. 56-57; and James H. Pickering, “James Fenimore Cooper and the History of New York,” Diss. Northwestern 1964, pp. 235-42.

15 Quoted by Arvid Shulenberger, Cooper’s Theory of Fiction: His Prefaces and Their Relation to His Novels (Lawrence, Kans.: University of Kansas Press, 1955), p. 28. The Bentley edition appeared in 1831.

16 French, pp. 33-35.

17 For intelligent, though quite different, discussions of the novel’s themes, see Terence Martin, “From the Ruins of History: The Last of the Mohicans,” Novel, 2 (1969), pp. 221-29; Thomas Philbrick, “The Last of the Mohicans and the Sounds of Discord,” American Literature, 43 (1971), pp. 25-41; and Michael D. Butler, “Narrative Structure and Historical Process in The Last of the Mohicans,” American Literature, 48 (1976), pp. 117-39.