Bettmann shows us a battle scene from the 1800s, depicting the brutality that American soldiers displayed towards Native Americans during westward expansion.
The print shows a scene from a war between American settlers and Native Americans living on the land. Viewers are drawn to the center of the picture where an American soldier is shown on top of a horse holding a gun in one hand and a sword in the other. Smoke around his gun shows us that it has just been fired. A bullet wound is visible on the Native American that the soldier is looking down upon. Tecumseh, a famous Native tribe leader, is represented by the Native that has just been shot by the American. The central focus of this piece is on Tecumseh being killed;however Bettmann includes several surrounding details that are crucial to the interpretation of the picture.
In the foreground of the picture we notice a Native American who appears to be dead holding a broken tomahawk. This man is being trampled by the horse that the American soldier is sitting upon. A look of despair lies upon the face of the other Native who is holding a wounded Tecumseh upright, while the American soldier appears to have a look of determination. Notice the discrepancy in the weapons that the Natives and the soldier use. All of the Natives are holding a tomahawk that appears to be made of wood while the soldier is using a powerful pistol and a sword. An important detail about the sword is that is raised above the soldiers head.
An usual feat of this print is the relatively calm demeanor of the American soldier. He appears as if he has no remorse for what he is doing to the Native Americans. He has just killed one of the Natives yet he is preparing to strike again, which is evident by the sword raised over his head. The emotional callous of the soldier makes it apparent that the Americans had no issue with attacking and even killing Native Americans.
Bettmann places the American soldier on a higher ground than the Native Americans in the picture to show the superiority that American soldiers had over the weaker Natives. Native Americans are shown merely defending themselves with wooden tomahawks while they are being fired upon by a much more powerful American on a horse. This depicts the innocence of the Native American’s compared to the relative malicious nature of the American soldier.
The man being trampled has a broken tomahawk and is showing no signs of movement. It can be concluded that this man is dead and the horse running him over represents the ruthlessness of the American soldiers. The soldier shows no sign of easing up on the Natives even though they have very little fight left in them.
This scence shows an important point in American history. American soldiers used vicious tactics to overtake the Native Americans that occupied the land in the west during the 1800s.
Bettmann, Otto. “Death of Tecumseh”.Painting. Corbis Images. Bettmann/CORBIS.n.d. Web. 29 October 2013.
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