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The Legend of Blue Jacket

A book for Kids

Duke Van Swearingen was only sixteen when a Shawnee war party took him from his home. In order to save the life of his younger brother, Duke made the Shawnee a deal. He would go with them willingly if they left his brother behind. They agreed and Duke was taken far from his Virginia home to the green valleys of Ohio.

But that was not the end of his story. Adopted into the tribe, Duke became Blue Jacket, a Shawnee warrior. For many years he fought against colonial encroachment on his people’s land and way of life. Eventually, he rose to the rank of War Chief, and twice in battle virtually destroyed the US Army that was sent to defeat him.

For the first time, young readers can learn his fascinating story in this beautifully illustrated book.


More About The Legend of Blue Jacket

I first discovered the Shawnee War Chief Blue Jacket while reading a history of the Ohio River Valley. His rise to prominence unfortunately coincided with the decimation of the Shawnee and he fought hard for the freedom of his people.

The more I learned about him and the story that surrounds him I became convinced that the story would make a great book for young readers. Not just because of his exploits but also because of the time period he lived in which is an often neglected period in the study of American History.

The Legend of Blue Jacket tells the story of 16-year-old Marmaduke Van Swearingen, a colonial boy captured by Shawnee Indians in the late 18th century. Adopted into their tribe, he lives the rest of his life as a Shawnee warrior and eventually becomes known to history as the war chief Blue Jacket.

So far the book has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. In fact, my study and research for The Legend of Blue Jacket led me directly to my picture book, Daniel Boone’s Great Escape. It’s amazing how that works sometimes.

The Legend of Blue Jacket, illustrated by award winning illustrator Ronald Himler, is an ideal book for history and social studies curriculums.

Download the Reading Guide for The Legend of Blue Jacket

A Reading Guide for The Legend of Blue Jacket

This 4+ page download is a great resource! An interview with Mike, some info about him and the book, questions for young readers to consider and discuss, and a list of projects that span the curriculum, including Language Arts, History, and Art.

The Guide for The Legend of Blue Jacket was created by was created by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a reading specialist and children’s author.


A well-researched labor of love, beautifully and accurately illustrated.

School Library Journal

Youngsters will be fascinated by this tale!

The Flint (Michigan) Journal


Throughout each year, teachers and media specialists across the state of Georgia are encouraged to present the nominees in appealing and meaningful ways, to read the books aloud, and to develop activities that will connect the literature to the curriculum. Students across the state vote on which books they think should win for the individual categories. The Legend of Blue Jacket was a 2007 Georgia State Book Award nominee.

Enjoy an Excerpt

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The Legend of Blue Jacket

Among the People I am called Blue Jacket, but that was not always my name. I came to live with the People when I was a young man. Before I became Blue Jacket, my name was Duke Van Swearingen.

My American family were soldiers and farmers. When I was a small boy, we moved to the western part or Virginia and farmed. I loved living near the forest, and my father taught my three brothers, my sister, and me the ways of the woods. Father spent many hours teaching us all he knew about the Indian tribes that lived nearby — the Delaware, Mingo, Miami, and Shawnee. From him we learned some Indian words, and he told us always to be careful and alert when we were in the forest.

The Legend of Blue Jacket

Life with my familiy on the frontier was hard and rugged. Whenever I could, I escaped to the woods near our farm to hunt and fish. As I walked the forest, I dreamed of exploring the vast wilderness that lay to the west of our land.

The Legend of Blue JacketWhen I was about to turn sixteen, I had the chance to live my dream. On a cold, clear spring day, I went with my younger brother, Charlie, to the wooded hills above our farm to help him look for herbs for our mother to use in cooking. I was wearing a blue linsey-woolsey jacket to keep warm. For a moment we stopped to rest beneath a tall maple tree. In less that three heartbeats, we were surrounded by a group of Indians. They did not wear war paint, yet they looked ferocious, and at first I was scared. Then I remembered that my father had told me that Indians admired courage above all else, and I tried not to show any fear. Quietly, I laid my walking stick on the ground and held out my empty palms.

end of excerpt

The Legend of Blue Jacket

by Michael P. Spradlin

is available in the following formats:

Oct 22, 2002


  • Sorry, this title is not available in digital formats

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