"Brethren—We are seated who heard you yesterday. You will get a true relation, as far as we and our connections can give it, who are as follows: Shawanoes, Wyandots, Potawatamies, Tawas, Chippewas, Winnepaus, Malominese, Malockese, Secawgoes, and one more from the north of the Chippewas. Brethren—you see all these men sitting before you, who now speak to you.
"About eleven days ago we had a council, at which the tribe of Wyandots, (the elder brother of the red people) spoke and said God had kindled a fire and all sat around it. In this council we talked over the treaties with the French and the Americans. The Wyandot said, the French formerly marked a line along the Alleghany mountains, southerly, to Charleston, (S.C.) No man was to pass it from either side. When the Americans came to settle over the line, the English told the Indians to unite and drive off the French, until the war came on between the British and the Americans, when it was told them that king George, by his officers, directed them to unite and drive the Americans back.
"After the treaty of peace between the English and Americans, the summer before Wayne's army came out, the English held a council with the Indians, and told them if they would turn out and unite as one man, they might surround the Americans like deer in a ring of fire and destroy them all. The Wyandot spoke further in the council. We see, said he, there is like to be war between the English and our white brethren, the Americans. Let us unite and consider the sufferings we have undergone, from interfering in the wars of the English. They have often promised to help us, and at last, when we could not withstand the army that came against us, and went to the English fort for refuge, the English told us, 'I cannot let you in; you are painted too much, my children.' It was then we saw the British dealt treacherously with us. We now see them going to war again. We do not know what they are going to fight for. Let us, my brethren, not interfere, was the speech of the Wyandot.
"Further, the Wyandot said, I speak to you, my little brother, the Shawanoes at Greenville, and to you, our little brothers all around. You appear to be at Greenville to serve the Supreme Ruler of the universe. Now send forth your speeches to all our brethren far around us, and let us unite to seek for that which shall be for our eternal welfare, and unite ourselves in a band of perpetual brotherhood. These, brethren, are the sentiments of all the men who sit around you: they all adhere to what the elder brother, the Wyandot, has said, and these are their sentiments. It is not that they are afraid of their white brethren, but that they desire peace and harmony, and not that their white brethren could put them to great necessity, for their former arms were bows and arrows, by which they got their living."
The commissioners made some explanations in reply, when they were told that the Prophet would assign the reasons why the Indians had settled at Greenville. "He then proceeded to inform us," says the report, "that about three years since, he became convinced of the error of his ways, and that he would be destroyed from the face of the earth, if he did not amend them; that it was soon after made known to him what he should do to be right; that from that time he constantly preached to his red brethren the miserable situation they were in by nature, and endeavored to convince them that they must change their lives, live honestly, and be just in all their dealings, kind towards one another, and their white brethren: affectionate towards their families, put away lying and slandering, and serve the Great Spirit in the way he had pointed out; never think of war again; that at first the Lord did not give them the tomahawk to go to war with one another. His red brethren, the chiefs of the Shawanoes at Tawa town, would not listen to him, but persecuted him. This produced a division in the nation; those who adhered to him, separated themselves from their brethren at Tawa town, removed with and settled where he now was, and where he had constantly preached the above doctrines to all the strangers who came to see them. They did not remove to this place because it was a pretty place, or very valuable, for it was neither; but because it was revealed to him that the place was a proper one to establish his doctrines; that he meant to adhere to them while he lived; they were not his own, nor were they taught him by man, but by the Supreme Ruler of the universe; that his future life should prove to his white brethren the sincerity of his professions. He then told us that six chiefs should go with us to Chillicothe."
The commissioners left Greenville entirely convinced of the sincerity of the Prophet in his declaration of pacific intentions towards the United States.[A] Four chiefs, Tecumseh, Blue Jacket, Sti-agh-ta, (or Roundhead) and Panther, accompanied them to the seat of government, for the purpose of holding a conference with the governor; and giving him assurances that the Indians were not assembling at Greenville for the purpose of making war upon the frontiers. These chiefs remained about a week in Chillicothe, in the course of which a public council was held between them and the governor. Stephen Ruddell acted as the interpreter. Tecumseh was the principal speaker; and in the course of the conference, made a speech which occupied three hours in the delivery.
[Footnote A: See Report of Commissioners to governor Kirker, 22d Sept. 1807, published in the United States Gazette, for that year.]
His great object was to prove the nullity of the treaties under which the whites claimed the country north and west of the Ohio. He seemed to have a familiar knowledge of all the treaties made with the western tribes; reviewed them in their order, and with the most intense bitterness and scorn, denounced them as null and void. This speech is described by one[A] who heard it, as possessing all the characteristics of a high effort of oratory. The utterance of the speaker was rapid and vehement; his manner bold and commanding; his gestures impassioned, quick and violent, and his countenance indicating that there was something more in his mind, struggling for utterance, than he deemed it prudent to express. While he fearlessly denied the validity of these pretended treaties, and openly avowed his intention to resist the further extension of the white settlements upon the Indian lands, he disclaimed all intention of making war upon the United States. The result was, a conviction on the part of the governor, that no immediate danger was to be apprehended from the Indians, at Greenville and fort Wayne; and, as a consequence, the militia which had been called into service were ordered to be disbanded, and the chiefs returned to their head quarters.
[Footnote A: John A. Fulton, formerly mayor of Chillicothe, communicated by general James T. Worthington.]
In the autumn of this year, a white man by the name of Myers, was killed a few miles west of where the town of Urbana now stands, by some straggling Indians. This murder, taken in connection with the assemblage of the Indians under Tecumseh and the Prophet, created a great alarm on the frontier, and actually induced many families to remove back to Kentucky, from whence they had emigrated. A demand was made by the whites upon these two brothers for the Indians who had committed the murder. They denied that it was done by their party, or with their knowledge, and declared that they did not even know who the murderers were. The alarm continued, and some companies of militia were called out. It was finally agreed, that a council should be held on the subject in Springfield, for the purpose of quieting the settlements. General Whiteman, major Moore, captain Ward and one or two others, acted as commissioners on the part of the whites. Two parties of Indians attended the council; one from the north, in charge of McPherson; the other, consisting of sixty or seventy, came from the neighborhood of fort Wayne, under the charge of Tecumseh. Roundhead, Blackfish, and several other chiefs, were also present. There was no friendly feeling between these two parties, and each was willing that the blame of the murder should be fixed upon the other. The party under McPherson, in compliance with the wishes of the commissioners, left their arms a few miles from Springfield. Tecumseh and his party refused to attend the council, unless permitted to retain their arms. After the conference was opened, it being held in a maple grove, a little north of where Werden's hotel now stands, the commissioners, fearing some violence, made another effort to induce Tecumseh to lay aside his arms. This he again refused, saying, in reply, that his tomahawk was also his pipe, and that he might wish to use it in that capacity before their business was closed. At this moment, a tall, lank-sided Pennsylvanian, who was standing among the spectators, and who, perhaps, had no love for the shining tomahawk of the self-willed chief, cautiously approached, and handed him an old, long stemmed, dirty looking earthen pipe, intimating, that if Tecumseh would deliver up the fearful tomahawk, he might smoke the aforesaid pipe. The chief took it between his thumb and finger, held it up, looked at it for a moment, then at the owner, who was gradually receding from the point of danger, and immediately threw it, with an indignant sneer, over his head, into the bushes. The commissioners yielded the point, and proceeded to business.
After a full and patient enquiry into the facts of the case, it appeared that the murder of Myers, was the act of an individual, and not justly chargeable upon either party of the Indians. Several speeches were made by the chiefs, but Tecumseh was the principal speaker. He gave a full explanation of the views of the Prophet and himself, in calling around them a band of Indians—disavowed all hostile intentions towards the United States, and denied that he or those under his control had committed any aggressions upon the whites. His manner, when speaking, was animated, fluent and rapid, and made a strong impression upon those present. The council terminated. In the course of it, the two hostile parties became reconciled to each other, and quiet was restored to the frontier.
The Indians remained in Springfield for three days, and on several occasions amused themselves by engaging in various games and other athletic exercises, in which Tecumseh generally proved himself victorious. His strength, and power of muscular action, were remarkably great, and in the opinion of those who attended the council, corresponded with the high order of his moral and intellectual character.[A]
[Footnote A: Dr. Hunt.]
Governor Harrison's address to the Shawanoe chiefs at Greenville—the Prophet's reply—his influence felt among the remote tribes—he is visited in 1808 by great numbers of Indians—Tecumseh and the Prophet remove to Tippecanoe—the latter sends a speech to governor Harrison—makes him a visit at Vincennes.
The alarm caused by the assembling of the Indians at Greenville, still continuing, governor Harrison, in the autumn of this year, sent to the head chiefs of the Shawanoe tribe, by John Conner, one of our Indian agents, the following address:—
"My Children—Listen to me, I speak in the name of your father, the great chief of the Seventeen Fires.
"My children, it is now twelve years since the tomahawk, which you had raised by the advice of your father, the king of Great Britain, was buried at Greenville, in the presence of that great warrior, general Wayne.
"My children, you then promised, and the Great Spirit heard it, that you would in future live in peace and friendship with your brothers, the Americans. You made a treaty with your father, and one that contained a number of good things, equally beneficial to all the tribes of red people, who were parties to it.
"My children, you promised in that treaty to acknowledge no other father than the chief of the Seventeen Fires; and never to listen to the proposition of any foreign nation. You promised never to lift up the tomahawk against any of your father's children, and to give him notice of any other tribe that intended it: your father also promised to do something for you, particularly to deliver to you, every year, a certain quantity of goods; to prevent any white man from settling on your lands without your consent, or to do you any personal injury. He promised to run a line between your land and his, so that you might know your own; and you were to be permitted to live and hunt upon your father's land, as long as you behaved yourselves well. My children, which of these articles has your father broken? You know that he has observed them all with the utmost good faith. But, my children, have you done so? Have you not always had your ears open to receive bad advice from the white people beyond the lakes?
"My children, let us look back to times that are past. It has been a long time since you called the king of Great Britain, father. You know that it is the duty of a father to watch over his children, to give them good advice, and to do every thing in his power to make them happy. What has this father of yours done for you, during the long time that you have looked up to him for protection and advice? Are you wiser and happier than you were before you knew him; or is your nation stronger or more respectable? No, my children, he took you by the hand when you were a powerful tribe; you held him fast, supposing he was your friend, and he conducted you through paths filled with thorns and briers, which tore your flesh and shed your blood. Your strength was exhausted, and you could no longer follow him. Did he stay by you in your distress, and assist and comfort you? No, he led you into danger, and then abandoned you. He saw your blood flowing and he would give you no bandage to tie up your wounds. This was the conduct of the man who called himself your father. The Great Spirit opened your eyes; you heard the voice of the chief of the Seventeen Fires, speaking the words of peace. He called to you to follow him; you came to him, and he once more put you on the right way, on the broad smooth road that would have led to happiness. But the voice of your deceiver is again heard; and forgetful of your former sufferings, you are again listening to him.
"My children, shut your ears, and mind him not, or he will lead you to ruin and misery.
"My children, I have heard bad news. The sacred spot where the great council fire was kindled, around which the Seventeen Fires and ten tribes of their children, smoked the pipe of peace—that very spot where the Great Spirit saw his red and white children encircle themselves with the chain of friendship—that place has been selected for dark and bloody councils.
"My children, this business must be stopped. You have called in a number of men from the most distant tribes, to listen to a fool, who speaks not the words of the Great Spirit, but those of the devil, and of the British agents. My children, your conduct has much alarmed the white settlers near you. They desire that you will send away those people, and if they wish to have the impostor with them, they can carry him. Let him go to the lakes; he can hear the British more distinctly."
At the time of the delivery of this speech, the head chiefs of the Shawanoes were absent from Greenville. The Prophet, after listening patiently to it, requested the interpreter to write down the following answer, which was transmitted to the governor.
"Father,—I am very sorry that you listen to the advice of bad birds. You have impeached me with having correspondence with the British; and with calling and sending for the Indians from the most distant part of the country, 'to listen to a fool that speaks not the words of the Great Spirit, but the words of the devil.' Father, those impeachments I deny, and say they are not true. I never had a word with the British, and I never sent for any Indians. They came here themselves to listen, and hear the words of the Great Spirit.
"Father, I wish you would not listen any more to the voice of bad birds; and you may rest assured that it is the least of our idea to make disturbance, and we will rather try to stop any such proceedings than to encourage them."
The appeal of the governor, as may be inferred from the evasive and cunning answer of the Prophet, produced no change in his measures, nor did it arrest the spread of the fanaticism among the Indians which his incantations had set afloat. The happiness of the Indians was the great idea which Tecumseh and his brother promulgated among their followers as being the object of their labors. This was to be attained by leading more virtuous lives, by retaining their lands, and in simply doing what the government of the United States had frequently urged upon them, effecting an extended and friendly union of the different tribes. These plausible reasons, backed by the superstitious belief of the Indians in the inspired character of the Prophet, and the insidious efforts of the British agents, in fomenting discontent among them, were sufficient to keep alive the excitement, and even extend the circle of its influence. Thus ended the year 1807.
The reader may learn the extraordinary success of the Prophet in spreading his influence among the remote tribes, by a reference to the narrative of Mr. John Tanner. This man had been taken captive in Boone county, Kentucky, when a boy; had been raised by the Indians, and was at this time, living among the Ojibbeways, who reside far up the lakes.
News reached that remote tribe that a great man had arisen among the Shawanoes, who had been favored by a revelation of the mind and will of the Great Spirit. The messenger bearing this information to them, seemed deeply penetrated with the sacred character of his mission. Upon his arrival among them, he announced himself after a mysterious silence, as the forerunner of the great Prophet, who was shortly to shake hands with the Ojibbeways, and explain to them more fully his inspired character, and the new mode of life and conduct which they were hereafter to pursue. He then gravely repeated to them the Prophet's system of morals; and in a very solemn manner, enjoined its observance. So strong was the impression made upon the principal men of the Ojibbeways, that a time was appointed and a lodge prepared for the public espousal of these doctrines. When the Indians were assembled in the new lodge, "we saw something," says Mr. Tanner, "carefully concealed under a blanket, in figure and dimensions bearing some resemblance to a man. This was accompanied by two young men, who, it was understood, attended constantly upon it, made its bed at night, as for a man, and slept near it. But while we remained, no one went near to it, or raised the blanket which was spread over its unknown contents. Four strings of mouldy and discolored beads were all the visible insignia of this important mission.
"After a long harangue, in which the prominent features of the new revelation were stated, and urged upon the attention of all, the four strings of beads, which we were told were made of the flesh of the Prophet, were carried with, much solemnity, to each man in the lodge, and he was expected to take hold of each string at the top, and draw them gently through his hand: This was called shaking hands with the Prophet, and was considered as solemnly engaging to obey his injunctions, and accept of his mission as from the Supreme. All the Indians who touched the beads had previously killed their dogs; they gave up their medicine bags, and showed a disposition to comply with all that should be required of them."
The excitement among the Ojibbeways continued for some time; they assembled in groups, their faces wearing an aspect of gloom and anxiety, while the active sunk into indolence, and the spirit of the bravest warriors was subdued. The influence of the Prophet, says Mr. Tanner, "was very sensibly and painfully felt by the remotest Ojibbeways of whom I had any knowledge: but it was not the common impression among them, that his doctrines had any tendency to unite them in the accomplishment of any human purpose. For two or three years drunkenness was much less frequent than formerly; war was less thought of; and the entire aspect of things among them was changed by the influence of this mission. But in time these new impressions were obliterated; medicine-bags, flints and steels, the use of which had been forbidden, were brought into use; dogs were reared, women and children beaten as before; and the Shawanoe Prophet was despised."
With the beginning of the year 1808, great numbers of Indians came down from the lakes, on a visit to the Prophet, where they remained until their means of subsistence were exhausted. The governor of Indiana, with the prudence and humanity which marked his administration, directed the agent at fort Wayne, to supply them with provisions from the public stores at that place. This was done, and from his intercourse with them he came to the conclusion that they had no hostile designs against the United States. About this time, Tecumseh made a visit to the Mississinaway towns, the immediate object of which could not be clearly ascertained. That it was connected with the grand scheme in which he was engaged, is probable from the fact that the Indians of that region agreed to meet him and the Prophet on the Wabash, in the following June, to which place he had at this time resolved to move his party. Mr. Jouett, one of the United States' Indian agents, apprehended that this meeting would result in some hostile action against the frontiers; and, as a means of preventing it, and putting an end to the influence of the Prophet, recommended to the governor that he should be seized and confined. The proposition, however, was not entertained.
In the spring of this year, 1808, Tecumseh and the Prophet removed to a tract of land granted them by the Potawatamies and Kickapoos, on Tippecanoe, one of the tributaries of the Wabash river. They had not been long at their new residence before it became apparent that the Prophet had established a strong influence over the minds of the surrounding Indians, and there was much reason for believing that his views were hostile to the United States. The governor still confided in the fidelity of the Delawares and the Miamis; but he apprehended, that although disbelievers in the Prophet's divine mission, they might be turned from the line of duty from a fear of his temporal power. When he had established himself upon the banks of the Tippecanoe, the Prophet drew around him a body of northern Indians, principally from the Potawatamies, Ottowas and Chippewas. To this, the Miamis and Delawares had strong objections; and a deputation of the latter was sent to the Prophet on the subject. He refused to see them himself, but Tecumseh met them; and after a solemn conference, they returned to their tribe with increased apprehensions of the combination at Tippecanoe, which was now uniting warlike sports with the performance of religious duties.[A] The Delawares decided in council to arrest the progress of this rising power, but in vain. Strong in the moral force with which they were armed, the two brothers were not to be driven from their purpose of planting the banner of union, which they were now holding out to the tribes, upon the waters of the Wabash. The sacred office which the Prophet had impiously assumed, enabled him to sway many minds, and in doing so, he was effectively sustained by the personal presence, tact and sagacity of his brother. From his youth, Tecumseh had been noted for the influence which he exercised over those by whom he was surrounded. Hence, when the chiefs of the Miamis and Delawares, who were disbelievers in the Prophet's holy character, set out to prevent his removal to the Wabash, Tecumseh boldly met them, and turned them from their purpose. This was done at a moment when the number of the Prophet's followers was greatly reduced, as we gather from the statement of the agent, John Conner, who in the month of June, of this year, visited his settlement on the Wabash to reclaim some horses which had been stolen from the whites. At this time, the Prophet had not more than forty of his own tribe with him; and less than a hundred from others, principally Potawatamies, Chippewas, Ottawas and Winebagoes. The Prophet announced his intention of making a visit to governor Harrison, for the purpose of explaining his conduct, and procuring a supply of provisions for his followers. This, he insisted, could not be consistently withheld from him, as the white people had always encouraged him to preach the word of God to the Indians: and in this holy work he was now engaged.
[Footnote A: Governor Harrison's Correspondence with the War Department.]
Some time in the month of July, the governor received a speech from the Prophet, sent to Vincennes by a special messenger. It was cautious, artful and pacific in its character. It deprecated in strong terms the misrepresentations which had been circulated in regard to the ulterior objects of the Prophet and his brother as to the whites; and renewed the promise of an early visit. This visit was made in the month following, and was continued for two weeks, during which time he and the governor had frequent interviews. In these, the Prophet, with his characteristic plausibility, denied that his course was the result of British influence. His sole object, he alleged, was a benevolent one towards his red brethren; to reclaim them from the degrading vices to which they were addicted, and induce them to cultivate a spirit of peace and friendship, not only with the white people, but their kindred tribes. To this sacred office, he insisted, with much earnestness, he had been specially called by the Great Spirit. That he might the more successfully enforce the sincerity of his views upon the mind of the governor, he took occasion several times during the visit, to address the Indians who had accompanied him to Vincennes, and dwelt upon the great evils resulting to them from wars, and the use of ardent spirits. It was apparent to the governor that the Prophet was a man of decided talents, of great tact, and admirably qualified to play successfully, the part he had assumed. In order to test the extent of his influence over his followers, the governor held conversations with them, and several times offered them whiskey, which they invariably refused. Looking to that amelioration of the condition of the Indians, which had long engaged his attention, the governor began to hope that the Prophet's power over them might be turned to advantage; and that the cause of humanity would be benefited by sustaining rather than trying to weaken the influence of the preacher. This impression was much strengthened by the following speech which the Prophet delivered to him, before the close of the visit.
"Father:—It is three years since I first began with that system of religion which I now practice. The white people and some of the Indians were against me; but I had no other intention but to introduce among the Indians, those good principles of religion which the white people profess. I was spoken badly of by the white people, who reproached me with misleading the Indians; but I defy them to say that I did any thing amiss.
"Father, I was told that you intended to hang me. When I heard this, I intended to remember it, and tell my father, when I went to see him, and relate to him the truth.
"I heard, when I settled on the Wabash, that my father, the governor, had declared that all the land between Vincennes and fort Wayne, was the property of the Seventeen Fires. I also heard that you wanted to know, my father, whether I was God or man; and that you said if I was the former, I should not steal horses. I heard this from Mr. Wells, but I believed it originated with himself.
"The Great Spirit told me to tell the Indians that he had made them, and made the world—that he had placed them on it to do good, and not evil.
"I told all the red skins, that the way they were in was not good, and that they ought to abandon it.
"That we ought to consider ourselves as one man; but we ought to live agreeably to our several customs, the red people after their mode, and the white people after theirs; particularly, that they should not drink whiskey; that it was not made for them, but the white people, who alone knew how to use it; and that it is the cause of all the mischiefs which the Indians suffer; and that they must always follow the directions of the Great Spirit, and we must listen to him, as it was he that made us: determine to listen to nothing that is bad: do not take up the tomahawk, should it be offered by the British, or by the long knives: do not meddle with any thing that does not belong to you, but mind your own business, and cultivate the ground, that your women and your children may have enough to live on.
"I now inform you, that it is our intention to live in peace with our father and his people forever.
"My father, I have informed you what we mean to do, and I call the Great Spirit to witness the truth of my declaration. The religion which I have established for the last three years, has been attended to by the different tribes of Indians in this part of the world. Those Indians were once different people; they are now but one: they are all determined to practice what I have communicated to them, that has come immediately from the Great Spirit through me.
"Brother, I speak to you as a warrior. You are one. But let us lay aside this character, and attend to the care of our children, that they may live in comfort and peace. We desire that you will join us for the preservation of both red and white people. Formerly, when we lived in ignorance, we were foolish; but now, since we listen to the voice of the Great Spirit, we are happy.
"I have listened to what you have said to us. You have promised to assist us: I now request you, in behalf of all the red people, to use your exertions to prevent the sale of liquor to us. We are all well pleased to hear you say that you will endeavor to promote our happiness. We give you every assurance that we will follow the dictates of the Great Spirit.
"We are all well pleased with the attention that you have showed us; also with the good intentions of our father, the President. If you give us a few articles, such as needles, flints, hoes, powder, &c., we will take the animals that afford us meat, with powder and ball."
Governor Harrison, if not deceived by the plausible pretences and apparently candid declarations of the Prophet, was left in doubt, whether he was really meditating hostile movements against the United States, or only laboring, with the energy of an enthusiast, in the good work of promoting the welfare of the Indians. Having received a supply of provisions, the Prophet and his followers, at the end of a fortnight, took leave of the governor and returned to their head quarters, on the banks of the Tippecanoe.
Tecumseh visits the Wyandots—governor Harrison's letter about the Prophet to the Secretary at War—British influence over the Indians—Tecumseh burns governor Harrison's letter to the chiefs—great alarm in Indiana, in consequence of the assemblage of the Indians at Tippecanoe—death of Leatherlips, a Wyandot chief on a charge of witchcraft.
During the autumn of this year, 1808, nothing material occurred with the Prophet and his brother, calculated to throw light upon their conduct. The former continued his efforts to induce the Indians to forsake their vicious habits. The latter was occupied in visiting the neighboring tribes, and quietly strengthening his own and the Prophet's influence over them. Early in the succeeding year, Tecumseh attended a council of Indians, at Sandusky, when he endeavored to prevail upon the Wyandots and Senecas to remove and join his establishment at Tippecanoe. Among other reasons presented in favor of this removal, he stated that the country on the Tippecanoe was better than that occupied by these tribes; that it was remote from the whites, and that in it they would have more game and be happier than where they now resided. In this mission he appears not to have been successful. The Crane, an old chief of the Wyandot tribe, replied, that he feared he, Tecumseh, was working for no good purpose at Tippecanoe; that they would wait a few years, and then, if they found their red brethren at that place contented and happy, they would probably join them.[A] In this visit to Sandusky, Tecumseh was accompanied by captain Lewis, a Shawanoe chief of some note, who then engaged to go with him to the Creeks and Cherokees, on a mission which he was contemplating, and which was subsequently accomplished. Lewis, however, did not finally make the visit, but permitted Jim Blue Jacket to make the tour in his place.
[Footnote A: Anthony Shane.]
In April of the year 1809, the agent of the United States at fort Wayne, informed governor Harrison, that it had been reported to him that the Chippewas, Potawatamies and Ottawas, were deserting the standard of the Prophet, because they had been required to take up arms against the whites, and to unite in an effort to exterminate all the inhabitants of Vincennes, and those living on the Ohio, between its mouth and Cincinnati—it being the order of the Great Spirit; and that their own destruction would be the consequence of a refusal. The agent did not think, however, that hostilities were likely to ensue, as he was informed there were not more than one hundred warriors remaining with the Prophet. The governor, however, had information from other sources, that although there might be but that number of warriors at the Prophet's village, there were, within fifty miles of his head-quarters, four or five times that number, who were devoted to him and to his cause. Under these circumstances, he decided to organize forthwith, under previous orders from the War department, two companies of volunteer militia, and with them to garrison fort Knox—a post about two miles from Vincennes—then the general depot of arms and ammunition, for the use of the neighboring militia. The agent at fort Wayne was accordingly directed by the governor to require the Delaware, Miami and Potawatamie tribes, to prevent any hostile parties of Indians from passing through their respective territories. This they were bound to do, by a stipulation in the treaty of Greenville. But no hostile movements, (if any had been meditated,) were made by the Prophet, and before the close of the month of May, most of his warriors had dispersed, and all apprehension of an attack from the Indians was dispelled.
In the month of July, in reply to a letter from the Secretary of War, on the subject of the defence of the north-western frontier, governor Harrison, in reference to the Prophet, says:
"The Shawanoe Prophet and about forty followers, arrived here about a week ago. He denies most strenuously, any participation in the late combination to attack our settlements, which he says was entirely confined to the tribes of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers; and he claims the merit of having prevailed upon them to relinquish their intentions.
"I must confess that my suspicions of his guilt have been rather strengthened than diminished at every interview I have had with him since his arrival. He acknowledges that he received an invitation to war against us, from the British, last fall; and that he was apprised of the intention of the Sacs and Foxes, &c. early in the spring, and was warmly solicited to join in their league. But he could give no satisfactory explanation of his neglecting to communicate to me, circumstances so extremely interesting to us; and towards which I had a few months before directed his attention, and received a solemn assurance of his cheerful compliance with the injunctions I had impressed upon him.
"The result of all my enquiries on the subject is, that the late combination was produced by British intrigue and influence, in anticipation of war between them and the United States. It was, however, premature and ill-judged, and the event sufficiently manifests a great decline in their influence, or in the talents and address, with which they have been accustomed to manage their Indian relations.
"The warlike and well armed tribes of the Potawatamies, Ottawas, Chippewas, Delawares, and Miamis, I believe, neither had, nor would have, joined in the combination; and although the Kickapoos, whose warriors are better them those of any other tribe, the remnant of the Wyandots excepted, are much under the influence of the Prophet, I am persuaded that they were never made acquainted with his intentions, if these were really hostile to the United States."
In the latter part of the year 1809, under instructions from the President of the United States, governor Harrison deemed the period a favorable one to extinguish the Indian title to the lands on the east of the Wabash, and adjoining south on the lines established by the former treaties of fort Wayne and Grousland. A council was accordingly held, in the latter part of September, at fort Wayne, with the Miami, Eel river, Delaware and Potawatamie tribes, which resulted in the purchase of the land above mentioned. A separate treaty was made with the Kickapoos, who confirmed the grants made at the above treaty, and also ceded another tract. In making these treaties, governor Harrison invited all those Indians to be present, who were considered as having any title to the lands embraced within them.
Throughout the remainder of the year 1809, things remained quiet with Tecumseh and the Prophet. The number of their followers was again on the increase; and, although no overt acts of hostility against the frontier settlements were committed, there was a prevalent suspicion in that quarter, that the Indians entertained sinister designs towards the whites. The events of the early part of the year 1810, were such as to leave little doubt of the hostile intentions of the brothers. In the latter part of April, governor Harrison was informed, upon credible authority, that the Prophet was really instigating the Indians to acts of hostility against the United States; and that he had under his immediate control about four hundred warriors, chiefly composed of Kickapoos and Winnebagoes, but embracing also some Shawanoes, Potawatamies, Chippewas, and Ottawas. The traders among them attributed this hostile feeling to British influence. That the followers of the Prophet had received a supply of powder and ball from the English agents, was generally admitted. They refused to buy ammunition from our traders, alleging that they were plentifully supplied from a quarter where it cost them nothing. About the middle of May, it was ascertained that the number of warriors with the Prophet, amounted to more than six hundred men, and there were reasons to apprehend that his influence had kindled a hostile feeling among several of the tribes to the west and north of his head quarters. A meeting of Indians having been appointed to take place about this time, on the St. Joseph's river, governor Harrison made an appeal to them through the Delawares, in which he forcibly pointed out the unhappy results that would certainly follow any attack upon the United States; and cautioned the friendly tribes, upon the dangers to which they would be subjected, in consequence of the difficulty of discriminating between friends and enemies, in case a war should occur. In July the governor was authorized by the Secretary of War, to take such steps as he might deem necessary for the protection of the frontier; and, at the same time was informed that some troops had been ordered to Vincennes to keep in check the hostile Indians of that quarter.
Fresh apprehensions were now felt for the safety of the frontiers. The Prophet, it appears, had gained over to his cause the Wyandot tribe, whose councils had always exerted a strong influence among the Indians. To this tribe had been committed the preservation of the Great Belt, the symbol of union among the tribes in their late war with the United States; and also the original duplicate of the Greenville treaty of 1795. The Prophet sent a deputation to the Wyandots requesting permission to examine the provisions of that treaty, and artfully expressing his astonishment that they, who had ever directed the councils of the Indians, and who were alike renowned for their talents and bravery, should remain passive, and see the lands of the red men usurped by a part of that race. The Wyandots, pleased with these flattering speeches, replied, that they had carefully preserved the former symbol of union among the tribes; but it had remained so long in their hands without being called for, they supposed it was forgotten. They further replied, that weary of their present situation, they felt desirous of seeing all the tribes united in one great confederacy: that they would join such a union, and labor to arrest the encroachments of the whites upon their lands, and if possible recover those which had been unjustly taken from them. This reply of the Wyandots was exactly suited to the objects of the Prophet; and he lost no time in sending his heralds with it, in every direction. The Wyandots soon afterwards made a visit to Tippecanoe; and in passing thither, had a conference with some of the Miami chiefs, to whom they showed the great belt, and charged them with having joined the whites in opposition to their red brethren. The Miamis at length concluded to join in a visit to the Prophet, and also invited the Weas to join with them.
About this time, the governor was informed by an aged Piankishaw, friendly to the United States, that the Prophet had actually formed a plan for destroying the citizens of Vincennes by a general massacre; and that he boasted that he would walk in the footsteps of the great Pontiac. From another source the governor learned that there were probably three hundred Indians within thirty miles of the Prophet's quarters; and that although their proceedings were conducted with great secrecy, it had been discovered that they were determined to stop the United States' surveyors from running any lines west of the Wabash. Other evidences of approaching hostilities were not wanting. The Prophet, and the Kickapoos who were at his village, refused to accept the salt which had been sent up to them as a part of their annuities, and after it had been put upon the shore, the carriers were not only required to replace it in their boat, but whilst doing so, were treated with rudeness, and ordered to take the salt back to Vincennes. They were Frenchmen, or in all probability they would have been treated still more harshly.[A]
[Footnote A: Governor Harrison's letters to the War Department.]
In the early part of July, governor Harrison received a letter from John Johnston, Indian agent at fort Wayne, in which he says:
"A person just arrived, who it appears has lost himself in his route to Vincennes, affords me an opportunity of announcing to you my return to this fort. I was delayed on my journey in attending to the transportation of the public goods; and on my arrival in the state of Ohio, I had learned that the Prophet's brother had lately been at work among the Shawanoes, on the Auglaize; and, among other things, had burned your letter delivered to the chiefs at this place last fall. I accordingly took Wapakonetta in my route home, assembled the chiefs, and demanded the reason why they had suffered such an improper act to be committed at their door. They disavowed all agency in the transaction, and their entire disapprobation of the Prophet's conduct; and concurring circumstances satisfied me that they were sincere. The white persons at the town informed me that not one of the chiefs would go into council with the Prophet's brother, and that it was a preacher named Riddle, who took the letter to have it interpreted, and that the brother of the Prophet took it from his hand, and threw it into the fire, declaring, that if governor Harrison were there, he would serve him so. He told the Indians that the white people and the government were deceiving them, and that for his part, he never would believe them, or put any confidence in them; that he never would be quiet until he effected his purpose; and that if he was dead, the cause would not die with him. He urged the Indians to move off to the Mississippi with him, saying, that there he would assemble his forces. All his arguments seemed to be bottomed on the prospect of hostilities against our people. He made no impression on the Shawanoes, and went away much dissatisfied at their not coming into his views. I consider them among our best friends. I indirectly encouraged their emigration westward, and told them their annuity should follow them. They appear determined to remain, and are much attached to the town and the improvements, which are considerable."
Notwithstanding the Prophet appears in all these recent transactions, to be the prominent individual, it is certain that a greater one was behind the scene. In the junction of the Wyandots with the Prophet, may be seen the result of Tecumseh's visit to that tribe, in the previous year, at Sandusky, an account of which has been already given. In regard to the salt annuity, the Prophet knew not what course to pursue, until he had consulted with his brother. Tecumseh, burning the governor's letter, and the threat, that if he were present he should meet the same fate, were acts in keeping with his bold character, and well calculated to maintain his ascendancy among the Indians. While the Prophet was nominally the head of the new party, and undoubtedly exercised much influence by means of his supposed supernatural power, he was but an agent, controlled and directed by a master spirit, whose energy, address and ceaseless activity, were all directed to the accomplishment of the grand plan to which he had solemnly devoted his life.
The information which flowed in upon governor Harrison, from different quarters, relative to the movements of Tecumseh and the Prophet, and the number of their followers, were such as to induce him to make the most active preparations to meet the impending storm. A meeting of the citizens of Vincennes was held on the subject, two companies of militia were called into active service, and the rest were directed to hold themselves in readiness for the field. Alarm-posts were established, and other measures adopted, especially for the preservation of Vincennes, which appeared to have been fixed upon as the first point of attack.
Toward the close of June, Winnemac, at the head of a deputation of Potawatamies, visited the governor at Vincennes, for the purpose of informing him of the decision of a council, held at the St. Joseph's of lake Michigan, which had been attended by all the tribes of that quarter, and by a delegation from the Delawares. This deputation was present for the purpose of dissuading the Indians from joining the Prophet. The duty appears to have been faithfully performed by them. They protested in strong terms, against the schemes of the Prophet and his brother, and induced, it is believed, these tribes to give up all idea of joining them. Winnemac was directed to inform the governor, of the determination to which they had come, and also, to lay before him the plans of the Prophet. According to the information before the council, Detroit, St. Louis, fort Wayne, Chicago and Vincennes, were all to be surprised. Efforts were making to persuade the tribes residing on the Mississippi, to unite in the confederacy. It further appeared, that the followers of the Prophet, drawn as they were from all the tribes, embraced but few, if any of the peace chiefs, while not a few of the war chiefs, or the leaders of small parties, were enrolling themselves under his standard. Winnemac stated to the governor, that the Prophet had actually suggested to his young men, the expediency of murdering all the leading chiefs of the surrounding tribes, on the plea that their own hands would never be untied until this was done. They, he said, were the men who sold their lands, and invited the encroachments of the whites.
About the period of Winnemac's visit, an Indian belonging to the Iowa tribe, told general Harrison, that two years before, a British agent visited the Prophet, and delivered a message to him. The object was to induce the Prophet to persevere in uniting the tribes against the United States, but not to make any hostile movement, until the signal was given him by the British authorities. From this Iowa, and others of his tribe, the governor ascertained that the Prophet had been soliciting them and other tribes on the Mississippi to join the confederacy. To these the Prophet stated, in his plausible manner, that the Americans were ceaselessly and silently invading the Indians, until those who had suffered most, had resolved to be driven back no farther; and that it was the duty of the remote tribes upon whose lands the march of civilization had not yet pressed, to assist those who had already lost theirs, or in turn a corresponding calamity would follow upon them. This, the Prophet declared, he was directed by the Great Spirit of the Indians to tell them, adding, that this Great Spirit would utterly destroy them, if they ventured to doubt the words of his chosen Prophet.[A]
[Footnote A: General Harrison's official correspondence—Dawson's Historical Narrative.]
On the first of June, a Wyandot chief, called Leatherlips, paid the forfeit of his life on a charge of witchcraft. General Harrison entertained the opinion that his death was the result of the Prophet's command, and that the party who acted as executioners went directly from Tippecanoe, to the banks of the Scioto, where the tragedy was enacted. Leatherlips was found encamped upon that stream, twelve miles above Columbus. The six Wyandots who put him to death, were headed, it is supposed, by the chief Roundhead. An effort was made by some white men who were present to save the life of the accused, but without success. A council of two or three hours took place: the accusing party spoke with warmth and bitterness of feeling: Leatherlips was calm and dispassionate in his replies. The sentence of death, which had been previously passed upon him, was reaffirmed. "The prisoner then walked slowly to his camp, partook of a dinner of jerked venison, washed and arrayed himself in his best apparel, and afterwards painted his face. His dress was very rich—his hair gray, and his whole appearance graceful and commanding." When the hour for the execution had arrived, Leatherlips shook hands in silence with the spectators. "He then turned from his wigwam, and with a voice of surpassing strength and melody commenced the chant of the death song. He was followed closely by the Wyandot warriors, all timing with their slow and measured march, the music of his wild and melancholy dirge. The white men were likewise all silent followers in that strange procession. At the distance of seventy or eighty yards from the camp, they came to a shallow grave, which, unknown to the white men, had been previously prepared by the Indians. Here the old man knelt down, and in an elevated but solemn tone of voice, addressed his prayer to the Great Spirit. As soon as he had finished, the captain of the Indians knelt beside him, and prayed in a similar manner. Their prayers of course were spoken in the Wyandot tongue. * * * * After a few moments delay, the prisoner again sank down upon his knees and prayed as he had done before. When he had ceased, he still continued in a kneeling position. All the rifles belonging to the party had been left at the wigwam. There was not a weapon of any kind to be seen at the place of execution, and the spectators were consequently unable to form any conjecture as to the mode of procedure, which the executioners had determined on, for the fulfilment of their purpose. Suddenly one of the warriors drew from beneath the skirts of his capote, a keen, bright tomahawk—walked rapidly up behind the chieftain—brandished the weapon on high, for a single moment, and then struck with his whole strength. The blow descended directly upon the crown of the head, and the victim immediately fell prostrate. After he had lain awhile in the agonies of death, the Indian captain directed the attention of the white men to the drops of sweat which were gathering upon his neck and face; remarked with much apparent exultation, that it was conclusive proof of the sufferer's guilt. Again the executioner advanced, and with the same weapon, inflicted two or three additional and heavy blows. As soon as life was entirely extinct, the body was hastily buried, with all its apparel and decorations; and the assemblage dispersed."[A]
[Footnote A: Mr. Otway Curry, in the Hesperian for May, 1838.]
One of Mr. Heckewelder's correspondents, as quoted in his Historical Account of the Indian Nations, makes Tarhe, better known by the name of Crane, the leader of this party. This has been denied; and, the letter[A] of general Harrison on the subject, proves quite conclusively that this celebrated chief had nothing to do with the execution of Leatherlips. Mr. Heckewelder's correspondent concurs in the opinion that the original order for the death of this old man, was issued from the head quarters of the Prophet and his brother.
[Footnote A: Published in the Hesperian for July, 1838.]
Governor Harrison makes another effort to ascertain the designs of Tecumseh and the Prophet—Tecumseh visits the governor at Vincennes, attended by four hundred warriors—a council is held—Tecumseh becomes deeply excited, and charges governor Harrison with falsehood—council broken up in disorder—renewed the next day.
For the purpose of ascertaining more fully the designs of the Prophet and his brother, governor Harrison now despatched two confidential agents to their head quarters at Tippecanoe. One of these agents, Mr. Dubois, was kindly received by the Prophet. He stated to him that he had been sent by governor Harrison to ascertain the reason of his hostile preparations, and of his enmity to the United States; that his conduct had created so much alarm, that warriors both in Kentucky and Indiana were arming for service, and that a detachment of regular troops was then actually on its way to Vincennes: that he was further authorized by the governor to say, that these preparations were only for defence; that no attempt would be made against him, until his intention to commence hostilities could be doubted no longer. The Prophet denied that he intended to make war, and declared that on this point he had been unjustly accused: that it was by the express commands of the Great Spirit that he had fixed himself there; and that he was ordered to assemble the Indians at that spot. When urged by the agent to state the grounds of his complaints against the United States, he replied, the Indians had been cheated of their lands; that no sale was valid unless sanctioned by all the tribes. He was assured that the government would listen to any complaints he might have to urge; and that it was expedient for him to go to Vincennes and see governor Harrison on the subject. This he declined doing, giving as a reason, that on his former visit to him, he had been badly treated. Mr. Dubois met at the Prophet's town with some Kickapoos, with whom he was acquainted. They seemed to regret having joined the Prophet, and admitted that they had long suspected that it was his wish to go to war with the United States. War was undoubtedly his intention, but whether against the United States or the Osage nation, they were unable to say with certainty. Mr. Dubois, on this trip, visited the Wea and Eel river tribes, and found them apprehensive that war would ensue, and that they would find themselves involved in it.
The letter of general Harrison to the Secretary of War, detailing the results of this mission, concludes with the following remarks upon the principles long and stoutly contended for by Tecumseh, that the Indian lands were the common property of all the tribes, and could not be sold without the consent of all.
"The subject of allowing the Indians of this country to consider all their lands as common property, has been frequently and largely discussed, in my communications with your predecessor, and in a personal interview with the late President. The treaties made by me last fall were concluded on principles as liberal towards the Indians, as my knowledge of the views and opinions of the government would allow. For although great latitude of discretion has always been given to me, I knew that the opinion of Mr. Jefferson on the subject went so far as to assert a claim of the United States, as lords paramount, to the lands of all extinguished or decayed tribes, to the exclusion of all recent settlers. Upon this principle, the Miami nation are the only rightful claimants of all the unpurchased lands from the Ohio to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. But, sir, the President may rest assured that the complaint of injury, with regard to the sale of lands, is a mere pretence suggested to the Prophet by British partisans and emissaries."
Early in July, some of the Prophet's followers descended the Wabash to a point below Terre Haute, and stole several horses. A few days afterwards, governor Harrison ascertained from a party of Indians who were on a visit to Vincennes, that the Sacs and Foxes had taken up the hatchet, and declared themselves ready to act with the Prophet, whenever it should be required. It was further stated, that a Miami chief, who had just returned from his annual visit to Malden, after receiving his usual stipend of goods, was addressed by the British agent, Elliot, in these words: "My son, keep your eyes fixed on me—my tomahawk is now up—be you ready, but do not strike till I give the signal."
About the same time, the governor, in the hope of staying the movements of the Prophet, or at least of ascertaining the amount of his forces, forwarded to him by a confidential interpreter, the following speech:
"William Henry Harrison, governor and commander-in-chief of the territory of Indiana, to the Shawanoe chief, and the Indians assembled at Tippecanoe:
"Notwithstanding the improper language which you have used towards me, I will endeavor to open your eyes to your true interests. Notwithstanding what white bad men have told you, I am not your personal enemy. You ought to know this from the manner in which I received and treated you, on your visit to this place.
"Although I must say, that you are an enemy to the Seventeen Fires, and that you have used the greatest exertions with other tribes to lead them astray. In this, you have been in some measure successful; as I am told they are ready to raise the tomahawk against their father; yet their father, notwithstanding his anger at their folly, is full of goodness, and is always ready to receive into his arms those of his children who are willing to repent, acknowledge their fault, and ask for his forgiveness.
"There is yet but little harm done, which may be easily repaired. The chain of friendship which united the whites with the Indians, may be renewed, and be as strong as ever. A great deal of that work depends on you—the destiny of those who are under your direction, depends upon the choice you may make of the two roads which are before you. The one is large, open and pleasant, and leads to peace, security and happiness; the other, on the contrary, is narrow and crooked, and leads to misery and ruin. Don't deceive yourselves; do not believe that all the nations of Indians united, are able to resist the force of the Seventeen Fires. I know your warriors are brave, but ours are not less so; but what can a few brave warriors do, against the innumerable warriors of the Seventeen Fires? Our blue coats are more numerous than you can count; our hunters are like the leaves of the forest, or the grains of sand on the Wabash.
"Do not think that the red coats can protect you; they are not able to protect themselves. They do not think of going to war with us. If they did, you would in a few moons see our flag wave over all the forts of Canada.
"What reason have you to complain of the Seventeen Fires? have they taken any thing from you—have they ever violated the treaties made with the red men? You say that they purchased lands from them who had no right to sell them: show that this is true, and the land will be instantly restored. Show us the rightful owners of those lands which have been purchased—let them present themselves. The ears of your father will be opened to your complaints, and if the lands have been purchased of those who did not own them, they will be restored to the rightful owners. I have full power to arrange this business; but if you would rather carry your complaints before your great father, the President, you shall be indulged. I will immediately take means to send you with those chiefs which you may choose, to the city where your father lives. Every thing necessary shall be prepared for your journey, and means taken for your safe return."
Tecumseh was present when the interpreter delivered this speech. The Prophet made no reply to it, but promised to send one by his brother, who intended, in a few weeks, to make a visit to governor Harrison. In conversation, however, with the interpreter, the Prophet strongly disavowed the idea that he had any hostile intentions; but at the same time declared, that it would not be practicable long to maintain peace with the United States, unless the government would recognize the principle, that the lands were the common property of all the Indians; and cease to make any further settlement to the north and west. "The Great Spirit" continued he, "gave this great island to his red children; he placed the whites on the other side of the big water; they were not contented with their own, but came to take ours from us. They have driven us from the sea to the lakes: we can go no further. They have taken upon them to say, this tract belongs to the Miamis, this to the Delawares, and so on; but the Great Spirit intended it as the common property of us all. Our father tells us, that we have no business upon the Wabash, the land belongs to other tribes; but the Great Spirit ordered us to come here, and here we will stay." He expressed himself, in the course of the conversation, gratified with the speech which the governor had sent him; saying, he recollected to have seen him, when a very young man, sitting by the side of general Wayne.
Some of the Indians, then at the Prophet's town, appeared to be alarmed at the arrival of the interpreter, and professed themselves dissatisfied with the conduct of their leaders. Tecumseh told him, that in making his promised visit to the governor, he should bring with him about thirty of his principal warriors; and as the young men were fond of attending on such occasions, the whole number might probably be one hundred. The Prophet added, that the governor might expect to see a still larger number than that named by his brother.
Upon the return of the interpreter to Vincennes, the governor, not wishing to be burthened with so large a body of Indians, despatched a messenger to Tecumseh, requesting that he would bring with him but a few of his followers. This request, however, was wholly disregarded; and on the 12th of August, the chief, attended by four hundred warriors, fully armed with tomahawks and war-clubs, descended the Wabash to Vincennes, for the purpose of holding the proposed conference. From a family letter written by captain Floyd, then commanding at fort Knox, three miles above Vincennes, under date of 14th of August, 1810, the following extract is made, referring to this visit of the chieftain and his war-like retinue.
"Nothing new has transpired since my last letter to you, except that the Shawanoe Indians have come; they passed this garrison, which is three miles above Vincennes, on Sunday last, in eighty canoes; they were all painted in the most terrific manner: they were stopped at the garrison by me, for a short time: I examined their canoes and found them well prepared for war, in case of an attack. They were headed by the brother of the Prophet, (Tecumseh) who, perhaps, is one of the finest looking men I ever saw—about six feet high, straight, with large, fine features, and altogether a daring, bold looking fellow. The governor's council with them will commence to-morrow morning. He has directed me to attend."
Governor Harrison had made arrangements for holding the council on the portico of his own house, which had been fitted up with seats for the occasion. Here, on the morning of the fifteenth, he awaited the arrival of the chief, being attended by the judges of the Supreme Court, some officers of the army, a sergeant and twelve men, from fort Knox, and a large number of citizens. At the appointed hour Tecumseh, supported by forty of his principal warriors, made his appearance, the remainder of his followers being encamped in the village and its environs. When the chief had approached within thirty or forty yards of the house, he suddenly stopped, as if awaiting some advances from the governor. An interpreter was sent requesting him and his followers to take seats on the portico. To this Tecumseh objected—he did not think the place a suitable one for holding the conference, but preferred that it should take place in a grove of trees,—to which he pointed,—standing a short distance from the house. The governor said he had no objection to the grove, except that there were no seats in it for their accommodation. Tecumseh replied, that constituted no objection to the grove, the earth being the most suitable place for the Indians, who loved to repose upon the bosom of their mother. The governor yielded the point, and the benches and chairs having been removed to the spot, the conference was begun, the Indians being seated on the grass.
Tecumseh opened the meeting by stating, at length, his objections to the treaty of fort Wayne, made by governor Harrison in the previous year; and in the course of his speech, boldly avowed the principle of his party to be, that of resistance to every cession of land, unless made by all the tribes, who, he contended, formed but one nation. He admitted that he had threatened to kill the chiefs who signed the treaty of fort Wayne; and that it was his fixed determination not to permit the village chiefs, in future, to manage their affairs, but to place the power with which they had been heretofore invested, in the hands of the war chiefs. The Americans, he said, had driven the Indians from the sea coast, and would soon push them into the lakes; and, while he disclaimed all intention of making war upon the United States, he declared it to be his unalterable resolution to take a stand, and resolutely oppose the further intrusion of the whites upon the Indian lands. He concluded, by making a brief but impassioned recital of the various wrongs and aggressions inflicted by the white men upon the Indians, from the commencement of the Revolutionary war down to the period of that council; all of which was calculated to arouse and inflame the minds of such of his followers as were present.
The governor rose in reply, and in examining the right of Tecumseh and his party to make objections to the treaty of fort Wayne, took occasion to say, that the Indians were not one nation, having a common property in the lands. The Miamis, he contended, were the real owners of the tract on the Wabash, ceded by the late treaty, and the Shawanoes had no right to interfere in the case; that upon the arrival of the whites on this continent, they had found the Miamis in possession of this land, the Shawanoes being then residents of Georgia, from which they had been driven by the Creeks, and that it was ridiculous to assert that the red men constituted but one nation; for, if such had been the intention of the Great Spirit, he would not have put different tongues in their heads, but have taught them all to speak the same language.
The governor having taken his seat, the interpreter commenced explaining the speech to Tecumseh, who, after listening to a portion of it, sprung to his feet and began to speak with great vehemence of manner.
The governor was surprised at his violent gestures, but as he did not understand him, thought he was making some explanation, and suffered his attention to be drawn towards Winnemac, a friendly Indian lying on the grass before him, who was renewing the priming of his pistol, which he had kept concealed from the other Indians, but in full view of the governor. His attention, however, was again directed towards Tecumseh, by hearing general Gibson, who was intimately acquainted with the Shawanoe language, say to lieutenant Jennings, "those fellows intend mischief; you had better bring up the guard." At that moment, the followers of Tecumseh seized their tomahawks and war clubs, and sprung upon their feet, their eyes turned upon the governor. As soon as he could disengage himself from the armed chair in which he sat, he rose, drew a small sword which he had by his side, and stood on the defensive. Captain G.R. Floyd, of the army, who stood near him, drew a dirk, and the chief Winnemac cocked his pistol. The citizens present, were more numerous than the Indians, but were unarmed; some of them procured clubs and brick-bats, and also stood on the defensive. The Rev. Mr. Winans, of the Methodist church, ran to the governor's house, got a gun, and posted himself at the door to defend the family. During this singular scene, no one spoke, until the guard came running up, and appearing to be in the act of firing, the governor ordered them not to do so. He then demanded of the interpreter, an explanation of what had happened, who replied that Tecumseh had interrupted him, declaring that all the governor had said was false; and that he and the Seventeen Fires had cheated and imposed on the Indians.[A]
[Footnote A: Dawson's Historical Narrative.]
The governor then told Tecumseh that he was a bad man, and that he would hold no further communication with him; that as he had come to Vincennes under the protection of a council-fire, he might return in safety, but that he must immediately leave the village. Here the council terminated. During the night, two companies of militia were brought in from the country, and that belonging to the town was also embodied. Next morning Tecumseh requested the governor to afford him an opportunity of explaining his conduct on the previous day—declaring, that he did not intend to attack the governor, and that he had acted under the advice of some of the white people. The governor consented to another interview, it being understood that each party should have the same armed force as on the previous day. On this occasion, the deportment of Tecumseh was respectful and dignified. He again denied having had any intention to make an attack upon the governor, and declared that he had been stimulated to the course he had taken, by two white men, who assured him that one half of the citizens were opposed to the governor, and willing to restore the land in question; that the governor would soon be put out of office, and a good man sent to fill his place, who would give up the land to the Indians. When asked by the governor whether he intended to resist the survey of these lands, Tecumseh replied that he and his followers were resolutely determined to insist upon the old boundary. When he had taken his seat, chiefs from the Wyandots, Kickapoos, Potawatamies, Ottawas, and Winnebagoes, spoke in succession, and distinctly avowed that they had entered into the Shawanoe confederacy, and were determined to support the principles laid down by their leader. The governor, in conclusion, stated that he would make known to the President, the claims of Tecumseh and his party, to the land in question; but that he was satisfied the government would never admit that the lands on the Wabash were the property of any other tribes than those who occupied them, when the white people first arrived in America; and, as the title to these lands had been derived by purchase from those tribes, he might rest assured that the right of the United States would be sustained by the sword. Here the council adjourned.
On the following day, governor Harrison visited Tecumseh in his camp, attended only by the interpreter, and was very politely received. A long conversation ensued, in which Tecumseh again declared that his intentions were really such as he had avowed them to be in the council; that the policy which the United States pursued, of purchasing lands from the Indians, he viewed as a mighty water, ready to overflow his people; and that the confederacy which he was forming among the tribes to prevent any individual tribe from selling without the consent of the others, was the dam he was erecting to resist this mighty water. He stated further, that he should be reluctantly drawn into a war with the United States; and that if he, the governor, would induce the President to give up the lands lately purchased, and agree never to make another treaty without the consent of all the tribes, he would be their faithful ally and assist them in the war, which he knew was about to take place with England; that he preferred being the ally of the Seventeen Fires, but if they did not comply with his request, he would be compelled to unite with the British. The governor replied, that he would make known his views to the President, but that there was no probability of their being agreed to. "Well," said Tecumseh, "as the great chief is to determine the matter, I hope the Great Spirit will put sense enough into his head to induce him to give up this land: it is true, he is so far off he will not be injured by the war; he may sit still in his town and drink his wine, whilst you and I will have to fight it out." This prophecy, it will be seen, was literally fulfilled; and the great chieftain who uttered it, attested that fulfilment with his blood. The governor, in conclusion, proposed to Tecumseh, that in the event of hostilities between the Indians and the United States, he should use his influence to put an end to the cruel mode of warfare which the Indians were accustomed to wage upon women and children, or upon prisoners. To this he cheerfully assented; and, it is due to the memory of Tecumseh to add, that he faithfully kept his promise down to the period of his death.[A]
[Footnote A: In Marshall's History of Kentucky, vol. 2. p. 482, there is a speech quoted as having been delivered by Tecumseh at this council. We are authorised, on the best authority, to say that it is a sheer fabrication. No such speech was delivered by him at the council.]
Whether in this council Tecumseh really meditated treachery or only intended to intimidate the governor, must remain a matter of conjecture. If the former, his force of four hundred well armed warriors was sufficient to have murdered the inhabitants and sacked the town, which at that time did not contain more than one thousand persons, including women and children. When in the progress of the conference, he and his forty followers sprung to their arms, there would have been, in all probability, a corresponding movement with the remainder of his warriors encamped in and around the village, had he seriously contemplated an, attack upon the governor and the inhabitants. But this does not appear to have been the case. It is probable, therefore, that Tecumseh, in visiting Vincennes with so large a body of followers, expected to make a strong impression upon the whites as to the extent of his influence among the Indians, and the strength of his party. His movement in the council may have been concerted for the purpose of intimidating the governor; but the more probable supposition is, that in the excitement of the moment, produced by the speech of the governor, he lost his self-possession, and involuntarily placed his hand upon his war-club, in which movement he was followed by the warriors around him, without any previous intention of proceeding to extremities. Whatever may have been the fact, the bold chieftain found in governor Harrison a firmness of purpose and an intrepidity of manner which must have convinced him that nothing was to be gained by an effort at intimidation, however daring.
Soon after the close of this memorable council, governor Harrison made arrangements for the survey of the land purchased at the treaty of fort Wayne, under the protection of a detachment of soldiers. About the same time, "a young Iowa chief, whom the governor had employed to go to the Prophet's town to gain information, reported, on his return; that he had been told by an old Winnebago chief, who was his relation, that the great Belt which had been sent round to all the tribes, for the purpose of uniting them, was returned; and he mentioned a considerable number who had acceded to the confederacy, the object of which was 'to confine the great water and prevent it from overflowing them.' That the belt since its return had been sent to the British agent, who danced for joy at seeing so many tribes had joined against the United States. That the Prophet had sent a speech to his confedrates not to be discouraged at the apparent defection of some of the tribes near him; for that it was all a sham, intended to deceive the white people; that these tribes hated the Seventeen Fires; and that though they gave them sweet words, they were like grass plucked up by the roots, they would soon wither and come to nothing. The old Winnebago chief told him with tears in his eyes, that he himself and all the village chiefs, had been divested of their power, and that everything was managed by the warriors, who breathed nothing but war against the United States.[A]"
[Footnote A: Dawson's Historical Narrative.]
Governor Harrison, in his address to the legislature of Indiana, in the month of November of this year, refers to the difficulties with the Indians at Tippecanoe; and bears testimony to the fact, that the Prophet and Tecumseh were instigated to assume a hostile attitude towards the United States, by British influence. He says,
"It is with regret that I have to inform you that the harmony and good understanding which it is so much our interest to cultivate with our neighbors, the aborigines, have for some time past experienced considerable interruption, and that we have indeed been threatened with hostilities, by a combination formed under the auspices of a bold adventurer, who pretends to act under the immediate inspiration of the Deity. His character as a Prophet would not, however, have given him any very dangerous influence, if he had not been assisted by the intrigues and advice of foreign agents, and other disaffected persons, who have for many years omitted no opportunity of counteracting the measures of the government with regard to the Indians, and filling their naturally jealous minds with suspicions of the justice and integrity of our views towards them."
That our government was sincerely desirous of preserving peace with these disaffected Indians, appears from the following extract of a letter from the Secretary of War, to governor Harrison, written in the autumn of this year. "It has occurred to me," said the Secretary, "that the surest means of securing good behavior from this conspicuous personage and his brother, [the Prophet and Tecumseh] would be to make them prisoners; but at this time, more particularly, it is desirable that peace with all the Indian tribes should be preserved; and I am instructed by the President to express to your excellency his expectations and confidence, that in all your arrangements, this may be considered, (as I am confident it ever has been) a primary object with you."
During the autumn, a Kickapoo chief visited Vincennes, and informed the governor that the pacific professions of the Prophet and Tecumseh were not to be relied on,—that their ultimate designs were hostile to the United States. At the same time governor Clark, of Missouri, forwarded to the governor of Indiana information that the Prophet had sent belts to the tribes west of the Mississippi, inviting them to join in a war against the United States; and, stating that he would commence the contest by an attack on Vincennes. Governor Clark further said, that the Sacs had at length joined the Tippecanoe confederacy, and that a party of them had gone to Maiden for arms and ammunition. The Indian interpreter, at Chicago, also stated to governor Harrison, that the tribes in that quarter were disaffected towards the United States, and seemed determined upon war. One of the surveyors, engaged to run the lines of the new purchase, was driven off the lands by a party of the Wea tribe, who took two of his men prisoners: thus closed the year 1810.
Alarm on the frontier continues—a Muskoe Indian killed at Vincennes—governor Harrison sends a pacific speech to Tecumseh and the Prophet—the former replies to it—in July Tecumseh visits governor Harrison at Vincennes—disavows any intention of making war upon the whites—explains his object in forming a union among the tribes—governor Harrison's opinion of Tecumseh and the Prophet—murder of the Deaf Chief—Tecumseh visits the southern Indians.
The spring of 1811 brought with it no abatement of these border difficulties. Early in the season, governor Harrison sent a boat up the Wabash, loaded with salt for the Indians,—that article constituting a part of their annuity. Five barrels were to be left with the Prophet, for the Kickapoos and Shawanoes. Upon the arrival of the boat at Tippecanoe, the Prophet called a council, by which it was decided to seize the whole of the salt, which was promptly done—word being sent back to the governor, not to be angry at this measure, as the Prophet had two thousand men to feed; and, had not received any salt for two years past. There were at this time about six hundred men at Tippecanoe; and, Tecumseh, who had been absent for some time, on a visit to the lakes, was expected daily, with large reinforcements. From appearances, it seemed probable that an attack was meditated on Vincennes by these brothers, with a force of eight hundred or one thousand warriors; a number far greater than the governor could collect, even if he embodied all the militia for some miles around that place. He accordingly wrote to the Secretary of War, recommending that the 4th regiment of U.S. troops, then at Pittsburg, under the command of colonel Boyd, should be ordered to Vincennes; at the same time asking for authority to act offensively against the Indians, so soon as it was found that the intentions of their leaders were decidedly hostile towards the United States.
Under date of June 6th, governor Harrison, in a letter to the war department, expresses the opinion that the disposition of the Indians is far from being pacific. Wells, the agent at fort Wayne, had visited the Prophet's town, relative to some stolen horses, and certain Potawatamies who had committed the murders on the Mississippi. Four of the horses were recovered, but Tecumseh disclaimed all agency in taking them, although he acknowledged that it was done by some of his party. Tecumseh openly avowed to the agent his resolute determination to resist the further encroachments of the white people. In this letter the governor remarks, "I wish I could say the Indians were treated with justice and propriety on all occasions by our citizens; but it is far otherwise. They are often abused and maltreated; and it is very rare that they obtain any satisfaction for the most unprovoked wrongs." He proceeds to relate the circumstance of a Muskoe Indian having been killed by an Italian innkeeper, in Vincennes, without any just cause. The murderer, under the orders of the governor, was apprehended, tried, but acquitted by the jury almost without deliberation. About the same time, within twenty miles of Vincennes, two Weas were badly wounded by a white man without the smallest provocation. Such aggressions tended greatly to exasperate the Indians, and to prevent them from delivering up such of their people as committed offences against the citizens of the United States. Such was the fact with the Delawares, upon a demand from the governor for White Turkey, who had robbed the house of a Mr. Vawter. The chiefs refused to surrender him, declaring that they would never deliver up another man until some of the whites were punished, who had murdered their people. They, however, punished White Turkey themselves, by putting him to death.
On the 24th of June, soon after the return of Tecumseh from his visit to the Iroquois and Wyandots, for the purpose of increasing his confederacy, governor Harrison transmitted to him and the Prophet, together with the other chiefs at Tippecanoe, the following speech:
"Brothers,—Listen to me. I speak to you about matters of importance, both to the white people and yourselves; open your ears, therefore, and attend to what I shall say.
"Brothers, this is the third year that all the white people in this country have been alarmed at your proceedings; you threaten us with war, you invite all the tribes to the north and west of you to join against us.
"Brothers, your warriors who have lately been here, deny this; but I have received the information from every direction; the tribes on the Mississippi have sent me word that you intended to murder me, and then to commence a war upon our people. I have also received the speech you sent to the Potawatamies and others, to join you for that purpose; but if I had no other evidence of your hostility to us, your seizing the salt I lately sent up the Wabash, is sufficient.
"Brothers, our citizens are alarmed, and my warriors are preparing themselves; not to strike you, but to defend themselves and their women and children. You shall not surprise us as you expect to do; you are about to undertake a very rash act; as a friend, I advise you to consider well of it; a little reflection may save us a great deal of trouble and prevent much mischief; it is not yet too late.
"Brothers, what can be the inducement for you to undertake an enterprise when there is so little probability of success; do you really think that the handful of men that you have about you, are able to contend with the Seventeen Fires, or even that the whole of the tribes united, could contend against the Kentucky Fire alone?
"Brothers, I am myself of the long knife fire; as soon as they hear my voice, you will see them pouring forth their swarms of hunting shirt men, as numerous as the musquetoes on the shores of the Wabash; brothers, take care of their stings.
"Brothers, it is not our wish to hurt you: if we did, we certainly have power to do it; look at the number of our warriors to the east of you, above and below the Great Miami,—to the south, on both sides of the Ohio, and below you also. You are brave men; but what could you do against such a multitude?—but we wish you to live in peace and happiness.
"Brothers, the citizens of this country are alarmed; they must be satisfied that you have no design to do them mischief, or they will not lay aside their arms. You have also insulted the government of the United States by seizing the salt that was intended for other tribes; satisfaction must be given for that also.
"Brothers, you talk of coming to see me, attended by all your young men; this, however, must not be so; if your intentions are good, you have no need to bring but a few of your young men with you. I must be plain with you; I will not suffer you to come into our settlements with such a force.
"Brothers, if you wish to satisfy us that your intentions are good, follow the advice that I have given you before; that is, that one or both of you should visit the President of the United States, and lay your grievances before him. He will treat you well, will listen to what you say, and if you can show him that you have been injured, you will receive justice. If you will follow my advice in this respect, it will convince the citizens of this country and myself that you have no design to attack them.
"Brothers, with respect to the lands that were purchased last fall, I can enter into no negotiations with you on that subject; the affair is in the hands of the President, if you wish to go and see him, I will supply you with the means.
"Brothers, the person who delivers this, is one of my war officers; he is a man in whom I have entire confidence: whatever he says to you, although it may not be contained in this paper, you may believe comes from me.
"My friend Tecumseh! the bearer is a good man and a brave warrior; I hope you will treat him well; you are yourself a warrior, and all such should have esteem for each other."
Tecumseh to the governor of Indiana, in reply:
"Brother, I give you a few words until I will be with you myself.
"Brother, at Vincennes, I wish you to listen to me whilst I send you a few words, and I hope they will ease your heart; I know you look on your young men and young women and children with pity, to see them so much alarmed.
"Brother, I wish you now to examine what you have from me; I hope that it will be a satisfaction to you, if your intentions are like mine, to wash away all these bad stories that have been circulated. I will be with you myself in eighteen days from this day.
"Brother, we cannot say what will become of us, as the Great Spirit has the management of us all at his will. I may be there before the time, and may not be there until the day. I hope that when we come together, all these bad tales will be settled; by this I hope your young men, women and children, will be easy. I wish you, brother, to let them know when I come to Vincennes and see you, all will be settled in peace and happiness.
"Brother, these are only a few words to let you know that I will be with you myself, and when I am with you I can inform you better.
"Brother, if I find that I can be with you in less time than eighteen days, I will send one of my young men before me, to let you know what time I will be with you."
On the second of July, governor Harrison received information from the executive of Illinois, that several murders had been committed in that territory; and that there were good grounds for believing these crimes had been perpetrated by a party of Shawanoes. The governor had been previously informed that it was the design of the Prophet to commence hostilities in Illinois, in order to cover his main object—the attack on Vincennes. Both territories were in a state of great alarm; and the Secretary of War was officially notified, that if the general government did not take measures to protect the inhabitants, they were determined to protect themselves.
In a letter under date of Vincennes, 10th July, 1811, governor Harrison writes as follows to the Secretary of War.
"Captain Wilson, the officer whom I sent to the Prophet's town, returned on Sunday last. He was well received, and treated with particular friendship by Tecumseh. He obtained, however, no satisfaction. The only answer given was, that in eighteen days Tecumseh would pay me a visit for the purpose of explaining his conduct. Upon being told that I would not suffer him to come with so large a force, he promised to bring with him a few men only. I shall not, however, depend upon this promise, but shall have the river well watched by a party of scouts after the descent of the chief, lest he should be followed by his warriors. I do not think that this will be the case. The detection of the hostile designs of an Indian is generally (for that time) to defeat them. The hopes of an expedition, conducted through many hundred miles of toil and difficulty, are abandoned frequently, upon the slightest suspicion; their painful steps retraced, and a more favorable moment expected. With them the surprise of an enemy bestows more eclat upon a warrior than the most brilliant success obtained by other means. Tecumseh has taken for his model the celebrated Pontiac, and I am persuaded he will bear a favorable comparison, in every respect, with that far famed warrior. If it is his object to begin with the surprise of this place, it is impossible that a more favorable situation could have been chosen, than the one he occupies: it is just so far off as to be removed from immediate observation, and yet so near as to enable him to strike us, when the water is high, in twenty-four hours, and even when it is low, their light canoes will come fully as fast as the journey could be performed on horseback. The situation is in other respects admirable for the purposes for which he has chosen it. It is nearly central with regard to the tribes which he wishes to unite. The water communication with lake Erie, by means of the Wabash and Miami—with lake Michigan and the Illinois, by the Tippecanoe, is a great convenience. It is immediately in the centre of the back line of that fine country which he wishes to prevent us from settling—and above all, he has immediately in his rear a country that has been but little explored, consisting principally of barren thickets, interspersed with swamps and lakes, into which our cavalry could not penetrate, and our infantry, only by slow, laborious efforts."
The promised visit of Tecumseh took place in the latter part of July. He reached Vincennes on the 27th, attended by about three hundred of his party, of whom thirty were women and children. The council was opened on the 30th, in an arbor erected for the purpose, and at the appointed time the chief made his appearance, attended by about one hundred and seventy warriors, without guns, but all of them having knives and tomahawks, or war clubs, and some armed with bows and arrows. The governor, in opening the council, made reference to the late murders in Illinois, and the alarm which the appearance of Tecumseh, with so large an armed force, had created among the people on the Wabash. He further informed Tecumseh that, whilst he listened to whatever himself or any of the chiefs had to say in regard to the late purchase of land, he would enter into no negociation on that subject, as it was now in the hands of the President. The governor, after telling Tecumseh that he was at liberty to visit the President, and hear his decision from his own mouth, adverted to the late seizure of the salt, and demanded an explanation of it. In reply, the chief admitted the seizure, but said he was not at home, either this spring or the year before, when the salt boats arrived; that it seemed impossible to please the governor: last year he was angry, because the salt was refused, and this year equally so, because it was taken. The council was then adjourned until the following day. When it was again opened, a Wea chief made a long speech, giving the history of all the treaties which had been made by the governor and the Indian tribes; and concluded with the remark, that he had been told that the Miami chiefs had been forced by the Potawatamies to accede to the treaty of fort Wayne; and that it would be proper to institute enquiries to find out the person who had held the tomahawk over their heads, and punish him. This statement was immediately contradicted by the governor, and also by the Miami chiefs who were present. Anxious to bring the conference to a close, the governor then told Tecumseh that by delivering up the two Potawatamies who had murdered the four white men on the Missouri, last fall, he would at once attest the sincerity of his professions of friendship to the United States, and his desire to preserve peace. His reply was evasive, but developed very clearly his designs. After much trouble and difficulty he had induced, he said, all the northern tribes to unite, and place themselves under his direction; that the white people were unnecessarily alarmed at his measures, which really meant nothing but peace; that the United States had set him the example of forming a strict union amongst all the Fires that compose their confederacy; that the Indians did not complain of it, nor should his white brothers complain of him for doing the same thing in regard to the Indian tribes; that so soon as the council was over, he was to set out on a visit to the southern tribes, to prevail upon them to unite with those of the north. As to the murderers, they were not at his town, and if they were, he could not deliver them up; that they ought to be forgiven, as well as those who had committed some murders in Illinois; that he had set the whites an example of the forgiveness of injuries which they ought to follow. In reply to an enquiry on the subject, he said he hoped no attempt would be made to settle the new purchase, before his return next spring; that a great number of Indians were coming to settle at Tippecanoe in the autumn, and they would need that tract as a hunting ground, and if they did no further injury, they might kill the cattle and hogs of the white people, which would create disturbances; that he wished every thing to remain in its present situation until his return, when he would visit the President, and settle all difficulties with him. The governor made a brief reply, saying, that the moon which they beheld (it was then night) would sooner fall to the earth, than the President would suffer his people to be murdered with impunity; and that he would put his warriors in petticoats, sooner than he would give up a country which he had fairly acquired from the rightful owners. Here the council terminated. In a day or two afterwards, attended by twenty warriors, Tecumseh set off for the south, on a visit to the Creeks and Choctaws. The governor was at a loss to determine the object of Tecumseh, in taking with him to Vincennes, so large a body of his followers. The spies said that he intended to demand a retrocession of the late purchase, and if it was not obtained, to seize some of the chiefs who were active in making the treaty, in presence of the governor, and put them to death; and in case of his interference, to have subjected him to the same fate. Many of the neutral Indians entertained the opinion that he meditated an attack upon Vincennes. If such was the case, his plan was probably changed by observing the vigilance of governor Harrison and the display of seven or eight hundred men under arms. It is questionable, however, we think, whether Tecumseh really meditated violence at this time. He probably wished to impress the whites with an idea of his strength, and at the same time gratify his ambition of moving, as a great chieftain, at the head of a numerous retinue of warriors.