The day after the close of this council, the governor wrote to the War Department. The following is a part of his communication.
"My letter of yesterday will inform you of the arrival and departure of Tecumseh from this place, and of the route which he has taken. There can be no doubt his object is to excite the southern Indians to war against us. His mother was of the Creek nation, and he builds much upon that circumstance towards forwarding his views. I do not think there is any danger of further hostility until he returns: and his absence affords a most favorable opportunity for breaking up his confederacy, and I have some expectations of being able to accomplish it without a recourse to actual hostility. Tecumseh assigned the next spring as the period of his return. I am informed, however, that he will be back in three months. There is a Potawatamie chief here, who says he was present when the message from the British agent was delivered to the Prophet, telling him that the time had arrived for taking up arms, and inviting him to send a party to Malden, to receive the necessary supplies. This man is one of the few who preserve their independence.
"The implicit obedience and respect which the followers of Tecumseh pay to him, is really astonishing, and more than any other circumstance bespeaks him one of those uncommon geniuses which spring up occasionally to produce revolutions, and overturn the established order of things. If it were not for the vicinity of the United States, he would, perhaps, be the founder of an empire that would rival in glory Mexico or Peru. No difficulties deter him. For four years he has been in constant motion. You see him to-day on the Wabash, and in a short time hear of him on the shores of lake Erie or Michigan, or on the banks of the Mississippi; and wherever he goes he makes an impression favorable to his purposes. He is now upon the last round to put a finishing stroke to his work. I hope, however, before his return that that part of the fabric which he considered complete, will be demolished, and even its foundations rooted up. Although the greater part of his followers are attached to him from principle and affection, there are many others who follow him through fear; and he was scarcely a mile from town, before they indulged in the most virulent invectives against him. The Prophet is impudent and audacious, but is deficient in judgment, talents and firmness."
The following anecdote illustrates the coolness and self-possession of Tecumseh, not less than the implicit obedience that was paid to his commands by his followers.
A Potawatamie, called the Deaf Chief, was present at the late council. After it was closed, he stated to the governor, that had he been called upon during the conference he would have confronted Tecumseh, when he denied that his intentions towards the United States were hostile. This declaration having been repeated to Tecumseh, he calmly intimated to the Prophet, that upon their return to Tippecanoe, the Deaf Chief must be disposed of. A friend of the latter informed him of his danger, but the chief, not at all intimidated, returned to his camp, put on his war-dress, and equipping himself with his rifle, tomahawk and scalping knife, returned and presented himself before Tecumseh, who was then in company with Mr. Baron, the governor's interpreter. The Deaf Chief there reproached Tecumseh for having ordered him to be killed, declaring that it was an act unworthy of a warrior. "But here I am now," said he, "come and kill me." Tecumseh making no answer, the Potawatamie heaped upon him every term of abuse and contumely, and finally charged him with being the slave of the red-coats, (the British.) Tecumseh, perfectly unmoved, made no reply, but continued his conversation with Mr. Baron, until the Deaf Chief, wearied with the effort to provoke his antagonist to action, returned to his camp. There is some reason for believing that the Prophet did not disobey his orders: the Deaf Chief was never seen again at Vincennes.
Of the result of the mission of Tecumseh to the southern tribes, we have no detailed information. Hodgson, who subsequently travelled through this country, in his "Letters from North America," says:
"Our host told me that he was living with his Indian wife among the Creeks, when the celebrated Indian warrior Tecumseh, came more than one thousand miles, from the borders of Canada, to induce the lower Creeks, to promise to take up the hatchet in behalf of the British, against the Americans, and the upper Creeks whenever he should require it: that he was present at the midnight convocation of the chiefs, which was held on that occasion, and which terminated after a most impressive speech from Tecumseh with a unanimous determination to take up the hatchet whenever he should call upon them. This was at least a year before the declaration of the last war."
In the "History of the Tribes of North America," there is an interesting notice of this visit of Tecumseh.
"The following remarkable circumstance may serve to illustrate the penetration, decision and boldness of this warrior chief. He had been south, to Florida, and succeeded in instigating the Seminoles in particular, and portions of other tribes, to unite in the war on the side of the British. He gave out that a vessel, on a certain day, commanded by red-coats, would be off Florida, filled with guns and ammunition, and supplies for the use of the Indians. That no mistake might happen in regard to the day on which the Indians were to strike, he prepared bundles of sticks, each bundle containing the number of sticks corresponding to the number of days that were to intervene between the day on which they were received, and the day of the general onset. The Indian practice is to throw away a stick every morning; they make, therefore, no mistake in the time. These sticks Tecumseh caused to be painted red. It was from this circumstance that in the former Seminole war, these Indians were called 'Red Sticks.' In all this business of mustering the tribes, he used great caution; he supposed enquiry would be made as to the object of his visit; that his plans might not be suspected, he directed the Indians to reply to any questions that might be asked about him, by saying, that he had counselled them to cultivate the ground, abstain from ardent spirits, and live in peace with the white people. On his return from Florida, he went among the Creeks in Alabama, urging them to unite with the Seminoles. Arriving at Tuckhabatchee, a Creek town on the Tallapoosa river, he made his way to the lodge of the chief called the Big Warrior. He explained his object, delivered his war-talk, presented a bundle of sticks, gave a piece of wampum and a hatchet; all which the Big Warrior took. When Tecumseh, reading the intentions and spirit of the Big Warrior, looked him in the eye, and pointing his finger towards his face, said: 'Your blood is white: you have taken my talk, and the sticks, and the wampum, and the hatchet, but you do not mean to fight: I know the reason: you do not believe the Great Spirit has sent me: you shall know: I leave Tuckhabatchee directly, and shall go straight to Detroit: when I arrive there, I will stamp on the ground with my foot, and shake down every house in Tuckhabatchee.' So saying, he turned and left the Big Warrior in utter amazement, at both his manner and his threat, and pursued his journey. The Indians were struck no less with his conduct than was the Big Warrior, and began to dread the arrival of the day when the threatened calamity would befal them. They met often and talked over this matter, and counted the days carefully, to know the time when Tecumseh would reach Detroit. The morning they had fixed upon, as the period of his arrival, at last came. A mighty rumbling was heard—the Indians all ran out of their houses—the earth began to shake; when at last, sure enough, every house in Tuckhabatchee was shaken down! The exclamation was in every mouth, 'Tecumseh has got to Detroit!' The effect was electrical. The message he had delivered to the Big Warrior was believed, and many of the Indians took their rifles and prepared for the war.
"The reader will not be surprised to learn, that an earthquake had produced all this; but he will be, doubtless, that it should happen on the very day on which Tecumseh arrived at Detroit; and, in exact fulfilment of his threat. It was the famous earthquake of New Madrid, on the Mississippi. We received the foregoing from the lips of the Indians, when we were at Tuckhabatchee, in 1827, and near the residence of the Big Warrior. The anecdote may therefore be relied on. Tecumseh's object, doubtless was, on seeing that he had failed, by the usual appeal to the passions, and hopes, and war spirit of the Indians, to alarm their fears, little dreaming, himself, that on the day named, his threat would be executed with such punctuality and terrible fidelity."
Governor Harrison applies to the War Department for troops to maintain peace on the frontiers—battle of Tippecanoe on the 7th of November—its influence on the Prophet and his followers.
The late council at Vincennes having failed in producing any satisfactory results, and Tecumseh having gone to the south for the avowed purpose of extending his confederacy, the alarm among the inhabitants of Indiana continued to increase. Public meetings were held, and memorials forwarded to the President, invoking protection, and requesting the removal of the Indians from the Prophet's town; the memorialists being "fully convinced that the formation of this combination, headed by the Shawanoe Prophet, was a British scheme, and that the agents of that power were constantly exciting the Indians to hostility against the United States." The President accordingly placed the 4th regiment U.S. infantry, commanded by colonel Boyd, and a company of riflemen, at the disposal of governor Harrison. The Secretary of War, under date of 20th October, 1811, in a letter to him, says: "I have been particularly instructed by the President to communicate to your excellency, his earnest desire that peace may, if possible, be preserved with the Indians; and that to this end, every proper means may be adopted. By this, it is not intended that murder or robberies committed by them, should not meet with the punishment due to those crimes; that the settlements should be unprotected, or that any hostile combination should avail itself of success, in consequence of a neglect to provide the means of resisting and defeating it; or that the banditti under the Prophet should not be attacked and vanquished, provided such a measure should be rendered absolutely necessary. Circumstances conspire, at this particular juncture, to render it peculiarly desirable that hostilities of any kind, or to any degree, not indispensably required, should be avoided."
On the seventh of August the governor informed the secretary that he should call, in a peremptory manner, on all the tribes, to deliver up such of their people as had been concerned in the murder of our citizens; that from the Miamis he should require an absolute disavowal of all connection with the Prophet; and that to all the tribes he would repeat the declaration, that the United States have manifested through a series of years, the utmost justice and generosity towards their Indian neighbors; and have not only fulfilled all the engagements which they entered into with them, but have spent considerable sums to civilize them and promote their happiness; but if, under those circumstances, any tribe should dare to take up the tomahawk against their fathers, they must not expect the same lenity that had been shown them at the close of the former war, but that they would either be exterminated or driven beyond the Mississippi.
In furtherance of this plan, the governor forwarded speeches to the different tribes, and instructed the Indian agents to use all possible means to recall them to a sense of duty. He also wrote to the governors of Illinois and Missouri, on the subject of the border difficulties, in the hope that a general and simultaneous effort might avert an appeal to arms.
In the month of September, the Prophet sent assurances to governor Harrison of his pacific intentions, and that his demands should be complied with; but about the same time some horses were stolen in the neighborhood of his town, and the whites who went in pursuit of them were fired upon by the Indians. Early in October the governor moved, with a considerable body of troops, towards the Prophet's town, with the expectation that a show of hostile measures would bring about an accommodation with the Indians of that place. On the 10th of October, one of the sentinels around his camp was fired on by the Indians, and severely wounded. About the same time the Prophet sent a messenger to the chiefs of the Delaware tribe, who were friendly to the United States, requiring, them to say whether they would or would not join him in the war against them; that he had taken up the tomahawk and would not lay it down but with his life, unless their wrongs were redressed. The Delaware chiefs immediately visited the Prophet, for the purpose of dissuading him from commencing hostilities. Under these circumstances there seemed to be no alternative for governor Harrison, but to break up the Prophet's establishment. On the 27th, the Delaware chiefs returned to the camp of the governor, and reported that the Prophet would not listen to their council, and had grossly insulted them. While at the Prophet's town, the Indians who had wounded the sentinel, returned. They were Shawanoes and near friends of the Prophet; who was daily practising certain pretended rites, by means of which he played upon the superstitious feelings of his followers, and kept them in a state of feverish excitement. On the 29th, a body of twenty-four Miami chiefs were sent by governor Harrison, to make another effort with the Prophet. They were instructed, to require that the Winnebagoes, Potawatamies and Kickapoos, should leave him and return to their respective tribes; that all the stolen horses in their possession should be delivered up; that the murderers of the whites should either be surrendered or satisfactory proof offered that they were not under his control. These chiefs, however, did not return, and there is reason to believe that they were induced to join the confederacy at Tippecanoe.
On the 5th of November, 1811, governor Harrison, with about nine hundred effective troops, composed of two hundred and fifty of the 4th regiment U.S. infantry, one hundred and thirty volunteers, and a body of militia, encamped within ten miles of the Prophet's town. On the next day, when the army was within five miles of the village, reconnoitering parties of the Indians were seen, but they refused to hold any conversation with the interpreters sent forward by the governor to open a communication with them. When within a mile and a half of the town a halt was made, for the purpose of encamping for the night. Several of the field officers urged the governor to make an immediate assault on the village; but this he declined, as his instructions from the President were positive, not to attack the Indians, as long as there was a probability of their complying with the demands of government. Upon ascertaining, however, that the ground continued favorable for the disposition of his troops, quite up to the town, he determined to approach still nearer to it. In the mean time, captain Dubois, with an interpreter, was sent forward to ascertain whether the Prophet would comply with the terms proposed by the governor. The Indians, however, would make no reply to these enquiries, but endeavored to cut off the messengers from the army. When this fact was reported to the governor, he determined to consider the Indians as enemies, and at once march upon their town. He had proceeded but a short distance, however, before he was met by three Indians, one of them a principal counsellor to the Prophet, who stated that they were sent to know why the army was marching upon their town—that the Prophet was desirous of avoiding hostilities—that he had sent a pacific message to governor Harrison by the Miami and Potawatamie chiefs, but that those chiefs had unfortunately gone down on the south side of the Wabash, and had thus failed to meet him. Accordingly, a suspension of hostilities was agreed upon, and the terms of peace were to be settled on the following morning by the governor and the chiefs. In moving the army towards the Wabash, to encamp for the night, the Indians became again alarmed, supposing that an attack was about to be made on the town, notwithstanding the armistice which had just been concluded. They accordingly began to prepare for defence, and some of them sallied out, calling upon the advanced corps, to halt. The governor immediately rode forward, and assured the Indians that it was not his intention to attack them, but that he was only in search of a suitable piece of ground on which to encamp his troops. He enquired if there was any other water convenient besides that which the river afforded; and an Indian, with whom he was well acquainted, answered, that the creek which had been crossed two miles back, ran through the prairie to the north of the village. A halt was then ordered, and majors Piatt, Clark and Taylor, were sent to examine this creek, as well as the river above the town, to ascertain the correctness of the information, and decide on the best ground for an encampment. In the course of half an hour, the two latter reported that they had found on the creek; every thing that could be desirable in an encampment—an elevated spot, nearly surrounded by an open prairie, with water convenient, and a sufficiency of wood for fuel.[A] The army was now marched to this spot, and encamped "on a dry piece of ground, which rose about ten feet above the level of a marshy prairie in front towards the town; and, about twice as high above a similar prairie in the rear; through which, near the foot of the hill, ran a small stream clothed with willows and brush-wood. On the left of the encampment, this bench of land became wider; on the right, it gradually narrowed, and terminated in an abrupt point, about one hundred and fifty yards from the right bank."[B]
[Footnote A: M'Afee's History of the Late War.]
[Footnote B: Ibid.]
The encampment was about three-fourths of a mile from the Prophet's town; and orders were given, in the event of a night attack, for each corps to maintain its position, at all hazards, until relieved or further orders were given to it. The whole army was kept during the night, in the military position which is called, lying on their arms. The regular troops lay in their tents, with their accoutrements on, and their arms by their sides. The militia had no tents, but slept with their clothes and pouches on, and their guns under them, to keep them dry. The order of the encampment was the order of battle, for a night attack; and as every man slept opposite to his post in the line, there was nothing for the troops to do, in case of an assault, but to rise and take their position a few steps in the rear of the fires around which they had reposed. The guard of the night consisted of two captain's commands of forty-two men, and four non-commissioned officers each; and two subaltern's guards of twenty men and non-commissioned officers each—the whole amounting to about one hundred and thirty men, under the command of a field officer of the day. The night was dark and cloudy, and after midnight there was a drizzling rain. It was not anticipated by the governor or his officers, that an attack would be made during the night: it was supposed that if the Indians had intended to act offensively, it would have been done on the march of the army, where situations presented themselves that would have given the Indians a great advantage. Indeed, within three miles of the town, the army had passed over ground so broken and unfavorable to its march, that the position of the troops was necessarily changed, several times, in the course of a mile. The enemy, moreover, had fortified their town with care and great labor, as if they intended to act alone on the defensive. It was a favorite spot with the Indians, having long been the scene of those mysterious rites, performed by their Prophet, and by which they had been taught to believe that it was impregnable to the assaults of the white man.
At four o'clock in the morning of the 7th, governor Harrison, according to his practice, had risen, preparatory to the calling up the troops; and was engaged, while drawing on his boots by the fire, in conversation with general Wells, colonel Owen, and majors Taylor and Hurst. The orderly-drum had been roused for the purpose of giving the signal for the troops to turn out, when the attack of the Indians suddenly commenced upon the left flank of the camp. The whole army was instantly on its feet; the camp-fires were extinguished; the governor mounted his horse and proceeded to the point of attack. Several of the companies had taken their places in the line within forty seconds from the report of the first gun; and the whole of the troops were prepared for action in the course of two minutes; a fact as creditable to their own activity and bravery, as to the skill and energy of their officers. The battle soon became general, and was maintained on both sides with signal and even desperate valor. The Indians advanced and retreated by the aid of a rattling noise, made with deer hoofs, and persevered in their treacherous attack with an apparent determination to conquer or die upon the spot. The battle raged with unabated fury and mutual slaughter, until daylight, when a gallant and successful charge by our troops, drove the enemy into the swamp, and put an end to the conflict.
Prior to the assault, the Prophet had given assurances to his followers, that in the coming contest, the Great Spirit would render the arms of the Americans unavailing; that their bullets would fall harmless at the feet of the Indians; that the latter should have light in abundance, while the former would be involved in thick darkness. Availing himself of the privilege conferred by his peculiar office, and, perhaps, unwilling in his own person to attest at once the rival powers of a sham prophecy and a real American bullet, he prudently took a position on an adjacent eminence; and, when the action began, he entered upon the performance of certain mystic rites, at the same time singing a war-song. In the course of the engagement, he was informed that his men were falling: he told them to fight on,—it would soon be as he had predicted; and then, in louder and wilder strains, his inspiring battle-song was heard commingling with the sharp crack of the rifle and the shrill war-whoop of his brave but deluded followers.
Throughout the action, the Indians manifested more boldness and perseverance than had, perhaps, ever been exhibited by them on any former occasion. This was owing, it is supposd, to the influence of the Prophet, who by the aid of his incantations had inspired them with a belief that they would certainly overcome their enemy: the supposition, likewise, that they had taken the governor's army by surprise, doubtless contributed to the desperate character of their assaults. They were commanded by some daring chiefs, and although their spiritual leader was not actually in the battle, he did much to encourage his followers in their gallant attack. Of the force of the Indians engaged, there is no certain account. The ordinary number at the Prophet's town during the preceding summer, was four hundred and fifty; but a few days before the action, they had been joined by all the Kickapoos of the prairie, and by several bands of the Potawatamies, from the Illinois river, and the St. Joseph's of lake Michigan. Their number on the night of the engagement was probably between eight hundred and one thousand. Some of the Indians who were in the action, subsequently informed the agent at fort Wayne, that there were more than a thousand warriors in the battle, and that the number of wounded was unusually great. In the precipitation of their retreat, they left thirty-eight on the field; some were buried during the engagement in their town, others no doubt died subsequently of their wounds. The whole number of their killed, was probably not less than fifty.
Of the army under governor Harrison, thirty-five were killed in the action, and twenty-five died subsequently of their wounds: the total number of killed and wounded was one hundred and eighty-eight. Among the former were the lamented colonel Abraham Owen and major Joseph Hamilton Davies, of Kentucky.
Both officers and men behaved with much coolness and bravery,—qualities which, in an eminent degree, marked the conduct of governor Harrison throughout the engagement. The peril to which he was subjected may be inferred from the fact that a ball passed through his stock, slightly bruising his neck; another struck his saddle, and glancing hit his thigh; and a third wounded the horse on which he was riding.
Peace on the frontiers was one of the happy results of this severe and brilliant action. The tribes which had already joined in the confederacy were dismayed; and those which had remained neutral now decided against it.
Tecumseh returns from the south—proposes to visit the President, but declines, because not permitted to go to Washington at the head of a party—attends a council at fort Wayne—proceeds to Malden and joins the British—governor Harrison's letter to the War Department relative to the north-west tribes.
During the two succeeding days, the victorious army remained in camp, for the purpose of burying the dead and taking care of the wounded. In the mean time, colonel Wells, with the mounted riflemen, visited the Prophet's town, and found it deserted by all the Indians except one, whose leg had been broken in the action. The houses were mostly burnt, and the corn around the village destroyed. On the ninth the army commenced its return to Vincennes, having broken up or committed to the flames all their unnecessary baggage, in order that the wagons might be used for the transportation of the wounded.
The defeated Indians were greatly exasperated with the Prophet: they reproached him in bitter terms for the calamity he had brought upon them, and accused him of the murder of their friends who had fallen in the action. It seems, that after pronouncing some incantations over a certain composition, which he had prepared on the night preceding the action, he assured his followers, that by the power of his art, half of the invading army was already dead, and the other half in a state of distraction; and that the Indians would have little to do but rush into their camp, and complete the work of destruction with their tomahawks. "You are a liar," said one of the surviving Winnebagoes to him, after the action, "for you told us that the white people were dead or crazy, when they were all in their senses and fought like the devil." The Prophet appeared dejected, and sought to excuse himself on the plea that the virtue of his composition had been lost by a circumstance of which he had no knowledge until after the battle was over. His sacred character, however, was so far forfeited, that the Indians actually bound him with cords, and threatened to put him to death. After leaving the Prophet's town, they marched about twenty miles and encamped on the bank of Wild Cat creek.
In a letter to the war department, dated fourth of December, governor Harrison writes:
"I have the honor to inform you that two principal chiefs of the Kickapoos of the prairie, arrived here, bearing a flag, on the evening before last. The account which they give of the late confederacy under the Prophet, is as follows: The Prophet, with his Shawanoes, is at a small Huron village, about twelve miles from his former residence, on this side of the Wabash, where also were twelve or fifteen Hurons. The Kickapoos are encamped near the Tippecanoe, the Potawatamies have scattered and gone to different villages of that tribe. The Winnebagoes had all set out on their return to their own country, excepting one chief and nine men, who remained at their former villages. The Prophet had sent a messenger to the Kickapoos of the prairie to request that he might be permitted to retire to their town. This was positively refused, and a warning sent to him not to come there. These chiefs say that the whole of the tribes who lost warriors in the late action, attribute their misfortune to the Prophet alone; that they constantly reproach him with their misfortunes, and threaten him with death; that they are all desirous of making their peace with the United States, and will send deputations to me for that purpose, as soon as they are informed that they will be well received. They further say, that the Prophet's followers were fully impressed with a belief that they could defeat us with ease; that it was their intention to have attacked us at fort Harrison, if we had gone no higher; that Racoon creek was then fixed on, and finally Pine creek, and that the latter would probably have been the place, if the usual route had not been abandoned, and a crossing made higher up; that the attack made on our sentinels at fort Harrison was intended to shut the door against accommodation; that the Winnebagoes had forty warriors killed in the action, and the Kickapoos eleven, and ten wounded. They have never heard how many of the Potawatamies and other tribes were killed."
With the battle of Tippecanoe, the Prophet lost his popularity and power among the Indians. His magic wand was broken, and the mysterious charm by means of which he had for years, played upon the superstitious minds of this wild people, scattered through a vast extent of country, was dissipated forever. It was not alone to the character of his prophetic office that he was indebted for his influence over his followers. The position which he maintained in regard to the Indian lands, and the encroachments of the white people upon their hunting grounds, increased his popularity, which was likewise greatly strengthened by the respect and deference with which the politic Tecumseh—the master spirit of his day—uniformly treated him. He had, moreover, nimble wit, quickness of apprehension, much cunning and a captivating eloquence of speech. These qualities fitted him for playing his part with great success; and sustaining for a series of years, the character of one inspired by the Great Spirit. He was, however, rash, presumptuous and deficient in judgment. And no sooner was he left without the sagacious counsel and positive control of Tecumseh, than he foolishly annihilated his own power, and suddenly crashed the grand confederacy upon which he and his brother had expended years of labor, and in the organization of which they had incurred much personal peril and endured great privation.
Tecumseh returned from the south through Missouri, visited the tribes on the Des Moins, and crossing the head waters of the Illinois, reached the Wabash a few days after the disastrous battle of Tippecanoe. It is believed that he made a strong impression upon all the tribes visited by him in his extended mission; and that he had laid the foundation of numerous accessions to his confederacy. He reached the banks of the Tippecanoe, just in time to witness the dispersion of his followers, the disgrace of his brother, and the final overthrow of the great object of his ambition, a union of all the Indian tribes against the United States: and all this, the result of a disregard to his positive commands. His mortification was extreme; and it is related on good authority, that when he first met the Prophet, he reproached him in bitter terms for having departed from his instructions to preserve peace with the United States at all hazards. The attempt of the Prophet to palliate his own conduct, excited the haughty chieftain still more, and seizing him by the hair and shaking him violently, he threatened to take his life.
During the ensuing winter, there was peace on the frontiers. In the month of January, 1812, Little Turtle, the celebrated Miami chief, wrote to governor Harrison, that all the Prophet's followers had left him, except two camps of his own tribe, and that Tecumseh had just joined him with only eight men; from which he concluded there was no present danger to be apprehended from them. Shortly afterwards, Tecumseh sent a message to governor Harrison informing him of his return from the south; and that he was now ready to make the promised visit to the President. The governor replied, giving his permission for Tecumseh to go to Washington, but not as the leader of any party of Indians. The chieftain, who had been accustomed to make his visits to Vincennes, attended by three or four hundred warriors, all completely armed, did not choose to present himself to his great father, the President, shorn of his power and without his retinue. The visit was declined, and here terminated the intercourse between him and governor Harrison.
Early in March, the peace of the frontiers was again disturbed by Indian depredations; and in the course of this and the following month, several families were murdered on the Wabash and Ohio rivers. On the 15th of May, there was a grand council held at Mississiniway, which was attended by twelve tribes of Indians. They all professed to be in favor of peace, and condemned the disturbances which had occurred between the Indians and the settlers, since the battle of Tippecanoe. Tecumseh was present at this council and spoke several times. He defied any living creature to say that he had ever advised any one, directly or indirectly, to make war upon the whites: it had constantly been his misfortune, he said, to have his views misrepresented to his white brethren, and this had been done by pretended chiefs of the Potawatamies, who had been in the habit of selling land to the white people, which did not belong to them. "Governor Harrison," he continued, "made war on my people in my absence: it was the will of God that he should do so. We hope it will please God that the white people will let us live in peace. We will not disturb them, neither have we done it, except when they came to our village with the intention of destroying us. We are happy to state to our brothers present, that the unfortunate transaction that took place between the white people and a few of our young men at our village, has been settled between us and governor Harrison; and I will further state, that had I been at home, there would have been no bloodshed at that time."
In the month of June, following this council, Tecumseh made a visit to fort Wayne, and sought an interview with the Indian agent at that place. Misfortune had not subdued his haughty spirit nor silenced the fearless expression of his feelings and opinions. He still maintained the justice of his position in regard to the ownership of the Indian lands, disavowed any intention of making war upon the United States, and reproached governor Harrison for having marched against his people during his absence. The agent made a long speech to him, presenting reasons why he should now become the friend and ally of the United States. To this harangue, Tecumseh listened with frigid indifference, made a few general remarks in reply, and then with a haughty air, left the council-house, and took his departure for Malden, where he joined the British standard.
In taking leave of that part of our subject which relates to the confederacy of Tecumseh and the Prophet, and the principle on which it was established, we quote, as relevant to the case, and as an interesting piece of general history, the following letter from governor Harrison to the Secretary of War:
"Cincinnati, March 22, 1814.
"Sir,—The tribes of Indians on this frontier and east of the Mississippi, with whom the United States have been connected by treaty, are the Wyandots, Delawares, Shawanoes, Miamis, Potawatamies, Ottawas, Chippewas, Piankashaws, Kaskaskias and Sacs. All but the two last were in the confederacy which carried on the former Indian war against the United States, that was terminated by the treaty of Greenville. The Kaskaskias were parties to the treaty, but they had not been in the war. The Wyandots are admitted by the others to be the leading tribe. They hold the grand calumet which unites them and kindles the council fire. This tribe is nearly equally divided between the Crane, at Sandusky, who is the grand sachem of the nation, and Walk-in-the-Water, at Brownstown, near Detroit. They claim the lands bounded by the settlements of this state, southwardly and eastwardly; and by lake Erie, the Miami river, and the claim of the Shawanoes upon the Auglaize, a branch of the latter. They also claim the lands they live on near Detroit, but I am ignorant to what extent.
"The Wyandots of Sahdusky have adhered to us through the war. Their chief, the Crane, is a venerable, intelligent and upright man. Within the tract of land claimed by the Wyandots, a number of Senecas are settled. They broke off from their own tribe six or eight years ago, but received a part of the annuity granted that tribe by the United States, by sending a deputation for it to Buffalo. The claim of the Wyandots to the lands they occupy, is not disputed, that I know of, by any other tribe. Their residence on it, however, is not of long standing, and the country was certainly once the property of the Miamis.
"Passing westwardly from the Wyandots, we meet with the Shawanoe settlement at Stony creek, a branch of the Great Miami, and at Wapauckanata, on the Auglaize. These settlements were made immediately after the treaty of Greenville, and with the consent of the Miamis, whom I consider the real owners of these lands. The chiefs of this band of Shawanoes, Blackhoof, Wolf and Lewis, are attached to us from principle as well as interest—they are all honest men.
"The Miamis have their principal settlement at the forks of the Wabash, thirty miles from fort Wayne; and at Mississinaway, thirty miles lower down. A band of them under the name of Weas, have resided on the Wabash, sixty miles above Vincennes; and another under the Turtle on Eel river, a branch of the Wabash, twenty miles north-west of fort Wayne. By an artifice of Little Turtle, these three bands were passed on general Wayne as distinct tribes, and an annuity granted to each. The Eel river and Weas, however, to this day call themselves Miamis, and are recognized as such by the Mississinaway band. The Miamis, Maumees or Tewicktowes, are the undoubted proprietors of all that beautiful country which is watered by the Wabash and its branches; and there is as little doubt that their claim extended at least as far east as the Scioto. They have no tradition of removing from any other quarter of the country; whereas all the neighboring tribes, the Piankishaws excepted, who are a branch of the Miamis, are either intruders upon them, or have been permitted to settle in their country. The Wyandots emigrated first from lake Ontario, and subsequently from lake Huron—the Delawares from Pennsylvania and Maryland—the Shawanoes from Georgia—the Kickapoos and Potawatamies from the country between lake Michigan and the Mississippi—and the Ottawas and Chippewas from the peninsula formed by lakes Michigan, Huron and St Clair, and the strait connecting the latter with Erie. The claims of the Miamis were bounded on the north and west by those of the Illinois confederacy, consisting originally of five tribes, called Kaskaskias, Cahokias, Peorians, Michiganians, and Temorais, speaking the Miami language, and no doubt branches of that nation.
"When I was first appointed governor of Indiana territory, these once powerful tribes were reduced to about thirty warriors, of whom twenty-five were Kaskaskias, four Peorians, and a single Michiganian. There was an individual lately alive at St. Louis, who saw the enumeration made of them by the Jesuits in the year 1745, making the number of their warriors four thousand. A furious war between them and the Sacs and Kickapoos, reduced them to that miserable remnant, which had taken refuge amongst the white people of the towns of Kaskaskias and St. Genevieve. The Kickapoos had fixed their principal village at Peoria, upon the south bank of the Illinois river, while the Sacs remained masters of the country to the north.
"During the war of our Revolution, the Miamis had invited the Kickapoos into their country to assist them against the whites, and a considerable village was formed by that tribe on Vermillion river, near its junction with the Wabash. After the treaty of Greenville, the Delawares had, with the approbation of the Miamis, removed from the mouth of the Auglaize to the head waters of White river, a large branch of the Wabash—and the Potawatamies, without their consent, had formed two villages upon the latter river, one at Tippecanoe, and the other at Chippoy, twenty-five miles below.
"The Piankishaws lived in the neighborhood of Vincennes, which was their ancient village, and claimed the lands to the mouth of the Wabash, and to the north and west as far as the Kaskaskias claimed. Such was the situation of the tribes, when I received instructions from President Jefferson, shortly after his first election, to make efforts for extinguishing the Indian claims upon the Ohio, below the mouth of the Kentucky river, and to such other tracts as were necessary to connect and consolidate our settlements. It was at once determined, that the community of interests in the lands amongst the Indian tribes, which seemed to be recognized by the treaty of Greenville, should be objected to; and that each individual tribe should be protected in every claim that should appear to be founded in reason and justice. But it was also determined, that as a measure of policy and liberality, such tribes as lived upon any tract of land which it would be desirable to purchase, should receive a portion of the compensation, although the title might be exclusively in another tribe. Upon this principle the Delawares, Shawanoes, Potawatamies, and Kickapoos, were admitted as parties to several of the treaties. Care was taken, however, to place the title to such tracts as might be desirable to purchase hereafter, upon a footing that would facilitate the procuring of them, by getting the tribes who had no claim themselves, and who might probably interfere, to recognize the titles of those who were ascertained to possess them.
"This was particularly the case with regard to the lands watered by the Wabash, which were declared to be the property of the Miamis, with the exception of the tract occupied by the Delawares on White river, which was to be considered the joint property of them and the Miamis. This arrangement was very much disliked by Tecumseh, and the banditti that he had assembled at Tippecanoe. He complained loudly, as well of the sales that had been made, as of the principle of considering a particular tribe as the exclusive proprietors of any part of the country, which he said the Great Spirit had given to all his red children. Besides the disaffected amongst the neighboring tribes, he had brought together a considerable number of Winnebagoes and Folsovoins, from the neighborhood of Green Bay, Sacs from the Mississippi, and some Ottawas and Chippewas from Abercrosh on lake Michigan. These people were better pleased with the climate and country of the Wabash, than with that they had left.
"The Miamis resisted the pretensions of Tecumseh and his followers for some time; but a system of terror was adopted, and the young men were seduced by eternally placing before them a picture of labor, and restriction as to hunting, to which the system adopted would inevitably lead. The Potawatamies and other tribes inhabiting the Illinois river and south of lake Michigan, had been for a long time approaching gradually towards the Wabash. Their country, which was never abundantly stocked with game, was latterly almost exhausted of it. The fertile regions of the Wabash still afforded it. It was represented, that the progressive settlements of the whites upon that river, would soon deprive them of their only resource, and indeed would force the Indians of that river upon them who were already half starved.
"It is a fact, that for many years the current of emigration, as to the tribes east of the Mississippi, has been from north to south. This is owing to two causes; the diminution of those animals from which the Indians procure their support; and the pressure of the two great tribes, the Chippewas and Sioux, to the north and west. So long ago as the treaty of Greenville, the Potawatamies gave notice to the Miamis, that they intended to settle upon the Wabash. They made no pretensions to the country, and their only excuse for the intended aggression was, that they were 'tired of eating fish and wanted meat.' It has already been observed that the Sacs had extended themselves to the Illinois river, and that the settlements of the Kickapoos at the Peorias was of modern date. Previously to the commencement of the present war, a considerable number had joined their brethren on the Wabash. The Tawas from the Des Moins river, have twice made attempts to get a footing there.
* * * * *
"The question of the title to the lands south of the Wabash, has been thoroughly examined; every opportunity was afforded to Tecumseh and his party to exhibit their pretensions, and they were found to rest upon no other basis than that of their being the common property of all the Indians. The Potawatamies and Kickapoos have unequivocally acknowledged the Miami and Delaware titles."
Tecumseh participates in the battle of Brownstown—commands the Indians in the action near Maguaga—present at Hull's surrender—general Brock presents him his military sash—attack on Chicago brought about by Tecumseh.
On the 18th of June, 1812, the congress of the United States made a formal declaration of war against Great Britain. This gave a new aspect to affairs on the north-western frontier; and at the first commencement of hostilities between these two powers, Tecumseh was in the field, prepared for the conflict. In the month of July, when general Hull crossed over from Detroit into Canada, this chief, with a party of thirty Potawatamies and Shawanoes, was at Malden. About the same time there was an assemblage at Brownstown, opposite to Malden, of those Indians who were inclined to neutrality in the war. A deputation was sent to the latter place, inviting Tecumseh to attend this council. "No," said he, indignantly, "I have taken sides with the King, my father, and I will suffer my bones to bleach upon this shore, before I will recross that stream to join in any council of neutrality." In a few days he gave evidence of the sincerity of this declaration, by personally commanding the Indians in the first action that ensued after the declaration of war.[A]
[Footnote A: Anthony Shane.]
Early in August, general Hull, then in Detroit, was notified by express that a company of Ohio volunteers, under the command of captain Henry Brush, with provisions for the army, were near the river Raisin, and needed an escort, as it had been ascertained that some British and a considerable body of Indians, under the command of Tecumseh, had crossed from Malden to Brownstown, with a view to intercept this convoy. General Hull, after some delay, gave a reluctant consent to the colonels of the Ohio militia, that a detachment of troops might march to the relief of colonel Brush. Major Van Horne, with a small body of men, started as an escort to the mail, with orders to join captain Brush at the river Raisin. He set off on the fourth of August, marching that evening as far as the river De Corce. On the next day, captain McCullough of the spies, was killed by some Indians. In the course of the succeeding one, near Brownstown, the detachment under major Van Horne was suddenly attacked by the Indians, who were lying in ambush. Apprehensive of being surrounded and entirely cut off, the major ordered a retreat, which was continued to the river De Corce, the enemy pursuing them to that point. Our loss was seventeen killed, besides several wounded, who were left behind. Among the former were captains Ulry, Gilchrist, Boersler, lieutenant Pents, and ensign Ruby. The loss of so many officers resulted from their attempts to rally the men. The loss of the enemy was supposed to be equal to that sustained by major Van Horne. There were about forty British soldiers and seventy Indians in this engagement, the latter being commanded by Tecumseh in person.
After general Hull had ingloriously retreated from Canada, he detached colonel Miller, with majors Van Horne and Morrison, and a body of troops, amounting to six hundred, to make a second effort to reach captain Brush. They were attended by some artillerists with one six pounder and a howitzer. The detachment marched from Detroit on the eighth, and in the afternoon of the ninth the front guard, commanded by captain Snelling, was fired upon by a line of British and Indians, about two miles below the village of Maguaga. At the moment of the attack, the main body was marching in two lines, and captain Snelling maintained his position in a gallant manner, until the line was formed and marched to the ground he occupied, where the whole, except the rear guard, was brought into action. The British were entrenched behind a breast-work of logs, with the Indians on the left covered by a thick wood. Colonel Miller ordered his whole line to advance, and when within a short distance of the enemy, fired upon them, and immediately followed it up by a charge with fixed bayonets, when the whole British line and the Indians commenced a retreat. They were vigorously pursued for near two miles. The Indians on the left were commanded by Tecumseh, and fought with great bravery, but were forced to retreat. Our loss in this severe and well fought action was ten killed and thirty-two wounded of the regular troops, and eight killed and twenty-eight wounded of the Ohio and Michigan militia. The full extent of the force of the enemy is not known. There were four hundred regulars and Canadian militia, under command of major Muir, and a considerable body of Indians under Tecumseh. Forty of the latter were found dead on the field: fifteen of the British regulars were killed and wounded, and four taken prisoners. The loss of the Canadian militia and volunteers, was never ascertained, but is supposed, from the position which they occupied in the action, to have been considerable. Both major Muir and Tecumseh were wounded. The bravery and good conduct of the latter, in this engagement, are supposed to have led to his being shortly afterwards appointed a brigadier general, in the service of the British king.
When Detroit was captured, on the 16th of August, Tecumseh was at the head of the Indians. After the surrender, general Brock requested him not to allow his men to ill-treat the prisoners, to which he replied, "no! I despise them too much to meddle with them."[A]
[Footnote A: Book of the Indians, by S.G. Drake.]
"Tecumseh was an excellent judge of position; and not only knew, but could point out the localities of the whole country through which he passed. His facility of communicating the information he had acquired, was thus displayed before a concourse of spectators. Previously to general Brock's crossing over to Detroit, he asked him what sort of a country he should have to pass through, in case of his proceeding farther. Tecumseh, taking a roll of elm bark, and extending it on the ground by means of four stones, drew forth his scalping knife, and with the point presently etched upon the bark a plan of the country, its hills, rivers, woods, morasses and roads; a plan which, if not as neat, was for the purpose required, fully as intelligible as if Arrowsmith himself had prepared it. Pleased with this unexpected talent in Tecumseh, also by his having, with his characteristic boldness, induced the Indians, not of his immediate party, to cross the Detroit, prior to the embarkation of the regulars and militia, general Brock, as soon as the business was over, publicly took off his sash, and placed it round the body of the chief. Tecumseh received the honor with evident gratification; but was next day seen without his sash. General Brock fearing something had displeased the Indian, sent his interpreter for an explanation. The latter soon returned with an account, that Tecumseh, not wishing to wear such a mark of distinction, when an older, and as he said, abler warrior than himself, was present, had transferred the sash to the Wyandot chief, Roundhead."[A]
[Footnote A: James' Military Occurrences of the Late War.]
On the 15th of August, the garrison of Chicago, situated in the south-western bend of lake Michigan,—consisting of about seventy men, with some women and children,—were attacked by a large body of Indians, who had been lying around the fort for some time, professing neutrality. The whole were either murdered or taken prisoners. The garrison, under the direction of captains Heald and Wells, having destroyed the fort and distributed the public stores among the Indians, was about to retreat towards fort Wayne. As the Indians around Chicago had not yet taken sides in the war, the garrison would probably have escaped, had not Tecumseh, immediately after the attack upon major Vanhorn, at Brownstown, sent a runner to these Indians, claiming the victory over that officer; and conveying to them information that general Hull had returned to Detroit; and that there was every prospect of success over him. This intelligence reached the Indians the night previous the evacuation of Chicago, and led them at once, as Tecumseh had anticipated, to become the allies of the British army.
At the period of colonel Campbell's expedition against the Mississinaway towns, in the month of December, Tecumseh was in that neighborhood, with about six hundred Indians, whose services he had engaged as allies of Great Britian. He was not in the battle of the river Raisin on the 22d of January. Had he been present on that occasion, the known magnanimity of his character, justifies the belief that the horrible massacre of prisoners, which followed that action, would not have taken place. Not only the savages, but their savage leaders, Proctor and Elliott, would have been held in check, by a chief who, however daring and dreadful in the hour of battle, was never known to ill-treat or murder a prisoner.
Siege of fort Meigs—Tecumseh commands the Indians—acts with intrepidity—rescues the American prisoners from the tomahawk and scalping knife, after Dudley's defeat—reported agreement between Proctor and Tecumseh, that general Harrison, if taken prisoner, should be delivered to the latter to be burned.
Fort Meigs, situated on the south-east side of the Miami of the lakes, and at the foot of the rapids of that stream, was an octagonal enclosure, with eight block houses, picketed with timber, and surrounded by ditches. It was two thousand five hundred yards in circumference, and required, to garrison it with efficiency, about two thousand men. It was constructed under the immediate superintendence of colonel E. D. Wood, of the corps of engineers, one of the most scientific and gallant officers of the late war. This post, which was established in the spring of 1813, was important not only for the protection of the frontiers, but as the depot for the artillery, military stores and provisions, necessary for the prosecution of the ensuing campaign. These circumstances could not fail to attract the attention of the enemy; and the commander of the American army was not disappointed in supposing that fort Meigs would be the first point of attack, upon the opening of the spring, by the combined forces of Proctor and Tecumseh.
In the latter part of March, intelligence reached this post that Proctor had issued a general order for assembling the Canadian militia at Sandwich, on the 7th of April, to unite in an expedition against fort Meigs. This information gave a fresh impulse to the efforts then making to render the fort, which was still in an unfinished state, as strong as possible. On the 8th of April, colonel Ball arrived with two hundred dragoons; and on the 12th general Harrison reached the fort with three hundred men from the posts on the Auglaize and St. Mary's. Vigorous preparations were now made for the anticipated siege. On the 19th, a scouting party returned from the river Raisin, with three Frenchmen, who stated that the British were still making arrangements for an attack on this post; and were assembling a very large Indian force. They informed general Harrison that Tecumseh and the Prophet had reached Sandwich, with about six hundred Indians, collected in the country between lake Michigan and the Wabash. This intelligence removed the apprehension entertained by the general, that the Indians intended to fall upon the posts in his rear, while Proctor should attack fort Meigs. On the 26th, the advance of the enemy was discovered at the mouth of the bay; and on the 28th, the British and Indian forces were found to be within a few miles of the fort. At this time, only a part of the troops destined for the defence of the place, had arrived; but the remainder, under the command of general Green Clay, of Kentucky, were daily expected. So soon as the fort was actually invested by the Indians, an express was sent by the commander-in-chief, to inform general Clay of the fact, and direct his subsequent movements. This dangerous enterprise—for the Indians were already in considerable numbers around the fort—was undertaken and successfully executed by captain William Oliver,[A] a gallant young officer belonging to the commissary's department, who, to a familiar acquaintance with the geography of the country, united much knowledge of Indian warfare. Attended by a white man and a Delaware Indian, Oliver traversed the country to fort Findlay, thence to fort Amanda, and finally met with general Clay at fort Winchester, on the 2d of May, and communicated to him general Harrison's instructions.
[Footnote A: Now Major William Oliver, of Cincinnati. It is but an act of justice to this gentleman to state that, for the voluntary performance of this service, he refused all pecuniary compensation. General Harrison subsequently, in a letter to major Oliver, in relation to this service, says, "To prevent the possibility of these orders coming to the knowledge of the enemy, they could not be committed to writing, but must be communicated verbally, by a confidential officer. The selection of one suited to the performance of this important trust was a matter of no little difficulty. To the qualities of undoubted patriotism, moral firmness, as well as active courage, sagacity and prudence, it was necessary that he should unite a thorough knowledge of the country through which the troops were to pass, and of all the localities of the position upon which they were advancing. Without the latter, the possession of the former would be useless, and the absence of either of the former might render the latter not only useless, but in the highest degree mischievous. Although there was no coincidence between the performance of this duty and those which appertained to the department of the staff in which you held an appointment, [the commissariat] I did not long hesitate in fixing on you for this service."]
Soon after Oliver had started on this enterprise, the gunboats of the enemy approached the site of old fort Miami, on the opposite side of the river, about two miles below fort Meigs. In the course of the ensuing night they commenced the erection of three batteries, opposite the fort on a high bank, about three hundred yards from the river, the intermediate space of ground being open and partly covered with water. Two of them were gun batteries, with four embrasures, and were situated higher up the river than the fort; the third was a bomb battery, placed a short distance below. Early the next morning, a fire was opened upon them from the fort, which, to some extent, impeded the progress of the works. On the morning of the 30th, the enemy, under a heavy and somewhat fatal fire from the guns of the fort, raised and adjusted their cannon, while at the same time, a number of boats filled with Indians were seen crossing to the south-eastern side of the river.
On the morning of the first of May, the British batteries were completed; and about ten o'clock, the enemy appeared to be adjusting their guns on certain objects in the fort. "By this time our troops had completed a grand traverse, about twelve feet high, upon a base of twenty feet, three hundred yards long, on the most elevated ground through the middle of the camp, calculated to ward off the shot of the enemy's batteries. Orders were given for all the tents in front to be instantly removed into its rear, which was effected in a few minutes, and that beautiful prospect of cannonading and bombarding our lines, which but a few moments before had excited the skill and energy of the British engineer, was now entirely fled; and in its place nothing was to be seen but an immense shield of earth, which entirely obscured the whole army. Not a tent nor a single person was to be seen. Those canvas houses, which had concealed the growth of the traverse from the view of the enemy, were now protected and hid in their turn. The prospect of smoking us out, was now at best but very faint. But as neither general Proctor nor his officers were yet convinced of the folly and futility of their laborious preparations, their batteries were opened, and five days were spent in arduous cannonading and bombarding, to bring them to this salutary conviction. A tremendous cannonading was kept up all the rest of the day, and shells were thrown until 11 o'clock at night. Very little damage, however, was done in the camp; one or two were killed, and three or four wounded; among the latter was major Amos Stoddard, of the first regiment of artillery, a survivor of the revolution, and an officer of much merit. He was wounded slightly with a piece of shell, and about ten days afterwards died with the lock-jaw.
"The fire of the enemy was returned from the fort with one eighteen pounder with some effect, though but sparingly, for the stock of eighteen pound shot was but small, there being but three hundred and sixty of that size in the fort when the siege commenced; and about the same number for the twelve pounders."[A]
[Footnote A: M'Affee.]
Throughout the whole of the second day the firing was continued with great spirit, but without doing much damage on either side. General Harrison, in anticipation of a transfer of the enemy's guns to the other side of the river, and the establishment of batteries to play upon the centre or flanks of the camp, had directed the construction of works calculated to resist such an attack; and they were in a state of considerable forwardness on the morning of the third, when, from the bushes on the left of the fort, three field pieces and a howitzer were suddenly opened upon the camp by the enemy. The fire was returned with such effect, that general Proctor was soon compelled to change his position. His batteries were again opened on the camp from another point, but without doing much injury. On the fourth, the fire of the enemy was renewed, but with less energy than on the previous days, the result, it is supposed, of a belief that their efforts to reduce the fort would fail. General Harrison was waiting the arrival of general Clay with his reinforcements. Late in the night of the fourth, captain Oliver, accompanied by majors David Trimble and —— Taylor, with fifteen Ohio militia, having left general Clay above the rapids, started in a boat for the fort, that the commanding general, by knowing the position of the reinforcements, might form his plans for the ensuing day. The effort to reach the fort under the existing circumstances was extremely dangerous. Captain Leslie Combs had already attempted it, and failed. He had been sent by colonel Dudley, upon his arrival at Defiance, to inform general Harrison of the fact. With five men, the captain approached within a mile of the fort, when he was attacked by the Indians, and compelled to retreat after a gallant resistance, in which nearly all his companions were killed. When Oliver drew near the fort, the night was extremely dark, and he was only enabled to discover the spot by the spreading branches of a solitary oak tree, standing within the fortification. The boat was fired upon by the sentinels of the fort, but on their being hailed by captain Oliver, no further alarm was given. After landing and wading over a ravine filled with water, the party groped their way to one of the gates, and were admitted. Tecumseh and his Indians were extremely vigilant, and, at night, usually came close to the ramparts for the purpose of annoying our troops, as opportunity might offer. So soon as general Harrison had received the information brought by captain Oliver and his companions, he made his arrangements for the ensuing day. Captain Hamilton, attended by a subaltern, was immediately despatched up the river in a canoe with orders to general Clay. The captain met him at daylight five miles above the fort, the boats conveying the reinforcements having been delayed by the darkness of the night. Captain Hamilton delivered the following order to general Clay. "You must detach about eight hundred men from your brigade, and land them at a point I will show you about a mile or a mile and a half above camp Meigs. I will then conduct the detachment to the British batteries on the left bank of the river. The batteries must be taken, the cannon spiked, and the carriages cut down; and the troops must then return to their boats and cross over to the fort. The balance of your men must land on the fort-side of the river, opposite the first landing, and fight their way into the fort through the Indians. The route they must take will be pointed out by a subaltern officer how with me, who will land the canoe on the right bank of the river to point out the landing for the boats."[A] As soon as these orders were received by general Clay, who was in the thirteenth boat from the front, he directed captain Hamilton to go to colonel Dudley, with orders to take the twelve front boats and execute the plan of the commanding general on the left bank of the river; and to post the subaltern with the canoe on the right bank, at the point where the remainder of the reinforcement was directed to land. It was the design of general Harrison while the troops under Dudley were destroying the enemy's batteries on the north-west side of the river, and general Clay was fighting the Indians above the fort on the south-east side, to send out a detachment to take and spike the British guns on the south side.
[Footnote A: M'Affee.]
General Clay ordered the five remaining boats to fall behind the one occupied by him; but in attempting to do so, they were driven on shore, and thus thrown half a mile into the rear. The general kept close to the right bank, intending to land opposite to the detachment under Dudley, but finding no guide there, and the Indians having commenced a brisk fire on his boat, he attempted to cross to the detachment. The current, however, was so swift, that it soon carried him too far down for that project; he therefore turned back, and landed on the right bank further down. Captain Peter Dudley, with a part of his company, was in this boat, making in the whole upwards of fifty men, who now marched into camp without loss, amidst a shower of grape from the British batteries and the fire of some Indians. The boat with their baggage and four sick soldiers, was left, as the general supposed, in the care of two men who met him at his landing, and by whom he expected she would be brought down under the guns of the fort. In a few minutes, however, she fell into the hands of the Indians. The attempt which he had made to cross the river, induced colonel Boswell, with the rear boats, to land on the opposite side; but as soon as captain Hamilton discovered the error under which he was acting, he instructed him to cross over and fight his way into camp. When he arrived at the south side, he was annoyed on landing by the Indians; and as soon as his men were on shore, he formed them and returned the fire of the enemy; at the same time he was directed by captain Shaw, from the commanding general, to march in open order, through the plain, to the fort. As there was now a large body of Indians on his flank, general Harrison determined to send out a reinforcement from the garrison to enable him to beat them. Accordingly, Alexander's brigade, a part of Johnson's battalion, and the companies of captains Nearing and Dudley, were ordered to prepare for this duty. When the Kentuckians reached the gates of the fort, these troops were ready to join them. Having formed in order—colonel Boswell being on the right,—they marched against the Indians, who were superior to them in numbers, and at the point of the bayonet, forced them into the woods to the distance of half a mile or more. Such was the ardor of our troops, in the pursuit, that it was difficult, especially for the Kentucky officers, to induce their men to return.
General Harrison had now taken a position on one of the batteries of the fort, that he might see the various movements which at this moment claimed his attention. He soon perceived a detachment of British and Indians passing along the edge of the woods, with a view to reach the left and rear of the corps under Boswell: he forthwith despatched his volunteer aid, John T. Johnston, to recall the troops under Boswell from the pursuit. Johnston's horse having been killed before he delivered this order, it was repeated through major Graham, and a retreat was commenced: the Indians promptly rallied and boldly pursued them for some distance, killing and wounding a number of our troops. So soon as the commanding general perceived that colonel Dudley and his detachment had reached the batteries on the northern bank of the river, and entered successfully upon the execution of the duty assigned them, he ordered colonel John Miller of the regulars to make a sortie from the fort, against the batteries which the enemy had erected on the south side of the river. The detachment assigned to colonel Miller, amounted to about three hundred and fifty men, composed of the companies and parts of companies of captains Langham, Croghan, Bradford, Nearing, Elliott, and lieutenants Gwynne and Campbell of the regular troops; the volunteers of Alexander's battalion; and captain Sebree's company of Kentucky militia. Colonel Miller and his men charged upon, the enemy, and drove them from their position; spiked the cannon at their batteries, and secured forty-one prisoners. The force of the enemy, thus driven and defeated, consisted of two hundred British regulars, one hundred and fifty Canadians and about five hundred Indians, under the immediate command of Tecumseh, in all more than double the force of the detachment under colonel Miller. In this sortie, captain Sebree's company of militia, was particularly distinguished. With the intrepid bravery and reckless ardor for which the Kentucky troops are noted, they plunged into the thickest ranks of the enemy, and were for a time surrounded by the Indians, who gallantly pressed upon them; but they maintained their ground, until lieutenant Gwynne,[A] of the 19th regiment, perceiving their imminent peril, boldly charged upon the Indians, with a portion of captain Elliott's company, and released captain Sebree and his men from their dangerous situation. Had the force of colonel Miller been something stronger, he would probably have captured the whole of the enemy, then on the south side of the river. The British and Indians suffered severely, being finally driven back and thrown into confusion. As colonel Miller commenced his return to the fort, the enemy rallied and pressed with great bravery upon his rear, until he arrived near the breast-works. A considerable number of our soldiers were left dead on the field, and several officers were wounded.
[Footnote A: Major David Gwynne, now of Cincinnati.]
Colonel Dudley's movements on the north side of the river, are now to be noticed. A landing was effected by his detachment, which was immediately marched off, through an open plain, to a hill clothed with timber. Here the troops were formed into three columns, colonel Dudley placing himself at the head of the right, major Shelby leading the left, and captain Morrison, acting as major, the centre. The distance from the place where the detachment was formed in order, to the point to be attacked, was near two miles. The batteries were engaged in cannonading camp Meigs, when the column led by major Shelby, being a few hundred yards in advance of the others, rushed at full speed upon those having charge of the guns, and carried them without the loss of a single man. When the British flag was cut down, the garrison of fort Meigs shouted for joy. The grand object of the enterprise having been achieved, the general, who was watching the movements of the detachment, made signs to them to retreat to their boats; but to his great surprise, and in express disobedience of the orders transmitted through colonel Hamilton, our troops remained at the batteries, quietly looking around, without spiking the cannon, cutting down the carriages or destroying the magazines. This delay proved fatal to them. The general, alarmed for their safety, now offered a very high reward to any individual who would bear fresh orders to colonel Dudley and his men, to return to their boats and cross over the river to the fort. The service was undertaken by lieutenant Campbell. "About the time when the batteries were taken a body of Indians, lying in ambush, had fired on a party of spies under captain Combs, who had marched down on the extreme left of the detachment. Presently colonel Dudley gave orders to reinforce the spies, and the greater part of the right and centre columns rushed into the woods in confusion, with their colonel among them—to fight the Indians, whom they routed and pursued near two miles. The left column remained in possession of the batteries, till the fugitive artillerists returned with a reinforcement from the main British camp, and attacked them. Some of them were then made prisoners, others fled to the boats, and a part, who were rallied by the exertions of their major, marched to the aid of colonel Dudley. The Indians had also been reinforced, and the confusion in which major Shelby found the men under Dudley, was so great as to amount to a cessation of resistance; while the savages, skulking around them, continued the work of destruction in safety. At last a retreat commenced in disorder, but the greater part of the men were captured by the Indians, or surrendered to the British at the batteries. The gallant but unfortunate colonel Dudley, after being wounded, was overtaken and despatched with the tomahawk. The number of those who escaped and got into the fort, out of the whole detachment, was considerably below two hundred. Had the orders which colonel Dudley received, been duly regarded, or a proper degree of judgment exercised on the occasion, the day would certainly have been an important one for the country, and a glorious one for the army. Every thing might have been accomplished agreeably to the wishes and intentions of the general, with the loss of but few men. When the approach of the detachment under Dudley was reported to Proctor, he supposed it to be the main force of the American army, from which he was apprehensive that he might sustain a total defeat: he therefore recalled a large portion of his British and Indians from the opposite shore. They did not arrive, however, in time to partake in the contest on the north side."[A]
[Footnote A: M'Affee.]
After the fighting had ceased on the fifth, the British general sent a flag to the fort by major Chambers, and his introduction to general Harrison was succeeded by the following significant dialogue:
"Major Chambers. General Proctor has directed me to demand the surrender of this post. He wishes to spare the effusion of blood.
"General Harrison. The demand, under present circumstances, is a most extraordinary one. As general Proctor did not send me a summons to surrender on his first arrival, I had supposed that he believed me determined to do my duty. His present message indicates an opinion of me that I am at a loss to account for.
"Major Chambers. General Proctor could never think of saying anything to wound your feelings, sir. The character of general Harrison, as an officer, is well known. General Proctor's force is very respectable, and there is with him a larger body of Indians than has ever before been embodied.
"General Harrison. I believe I have a very correct idea of general Proctor's force; it is not such as to create the least apprehension for the result of the contest, whatever shape he may be pleased hereafter to give it. Assure the general, however, that he will never have this post surrendered to him upon any terms. Should it fall into his hands, it will be in a manner calculated to do him more honor, and to give him larger claims upon the gratitude of his government than any capitulation could possibly do."
The siege was continued, but without any very active efforts against the fort, until the morning of the 9th of May, when the enemy retreated down the bay, leaving behind them a quantity of cannon balls, and other valuable articles.
The force under general Proctor amounted, as nearly as could be ascertained, to six hundred regulars, eight hundred Canadian militia, and about eighteen hundred Indians. The number of troops under general Harrison, including those which arrived on the morning of the fifth, under general Clay, was about twelve hundred in all. The number fit for duty did not, perhaps, equal eleven hundred.
The number of the American troops killed and massacred on the north side of the river, was upwards of seventy. One hundred and eighty-nine were wounded, and eighty-one killed, in the two sorties from the fort. The loss of the British and Indians, in killed and wounded, could never be satisfactorily ascertained. That it was very considerable, there can be no doubt.
The enemy brought against fort Meigs a combined army of near three thousand men, under Proctor, Elliott and Tecumseh, and prepared, by a train of artillery, for vigorous operations. These were prosecuted with skill and energy. The Indians, led on by the daring Tecumseh, fought with uncommon bravery, and contributed largely to swell the list of our killed and wounded. It is said, that the sagacious leader of the Indian forces did not enter upon this siege with any strong hopes of ultimate success; but having embarked in it, he stood manfully in the post of danger, and took an active, if not a leading part, in planning and executing the various movements which were made against the fort. The spirit with which these were prosecuted may be in part inferred from the fact, that during the first five days of the siege, the enemy fired upon the fort with their cannon, fifteen hundred times,[A] many of their balls and bombs being red-hot, and directed specially at the two block houses containing the ammunition. These shots made no decided impression upon the picketing of the fort, but killed or wounded about eighty of the garrison.
[Footnote A: Brown's History of the Late War.]
It has been already stated that the distinguished leader of the Indians, in this assault upon camp Meigs, entered upon it with no sanguine hopes of success. His associate, general Proctor, however, is said to have entertained a different opinion, and flattered himself and his troops with the prospect of splendid success and rich rewards. In case of the reduction of the fort and the capture of its garrison, the British general intended to assign the Michigan territory to the Prophet and his followers, as a compensation for their services; and general Harrison was to have been delivered into the hands of Tecumseh, to be disposed of at the pleasure of that chief.[A]
[Footnote A: M'Affee.]
One of the public journals of the day[A] states that this proposition originated with Proctor, and was held out as an inducement to Tecumseh, to join in the siege. General Harrison subsequently understood, that in case he had fallen into Proctor's hands, he was to have been delivered to Tecumseh, to be treated as that warrior might think proper: and in a note to Dawson's Historical Narrative, the author of that work says, "There is no doubt that when Proctor made the arrangement for the attack on fort Meigs with Tecumseh, the latter insisted and the former agreed, that general Harrison and all who fought at Tippecanoe, should be given up to the Indians to be burned. Major Ball of the dragoons ascertained this fact from prisoners, deserters and Indians, all of whom agreed to its truth." Whatever may have been the actual agreement between Proctor and Tecumseh in regard to general Harrison and those who fought with him at Tippecanoe, it is hardly credible that this chief had any intention of participating in an outrage of this kind, upon the prisoners. Tecumseh may possibly have made such an arrangement with Proctor, and announced it to the Indians, for the purpose of exciting them to activity and perseverance, in carrying on the siege; but that this chief seriously meditated any such outrage, either against general Harrison or his associates, is not to be credited but on the best authority. It will be recollected that Tecumseh, when but a youth, succeeded by his personal influence, in putting an end to the custom of burning prisoners, then common among a branch of the Shawanoes. In 1810, at a conference with general Harrison, in Vincennes, he made an agreement that prisoners and women and children, in the event of hostilities between the whites and the Indians, should be protected; and there is no evidence that this compact was ever violated by him; or indeed, that through the whole course of his eventful life, he ever committed violence upon a prisoner, or suffered others to do so without promptly interfering for the captive. To suppose, then, that he really intended to permit general Harrison, or those who fought with him on the Wabash, to be burned, would have been at variance with the whole tenor of his life; and particularly with his manly and magnanimous conduct at the close of the assault upon fort Meigs.
[Footnote A: The Chillicothe Fredonian.]
The prisoners captured on the fifth, were, taken down to Proctor's head-quarters and confined in fort Miami, where the Indians were permitted to amuse, themselves by firing at the crowd, or at any particular individual. Those whose taste led them to inflict a more cruel and savage death, led their victims to the gateway, where, under the eye of general Proctor and his officers, they were coolly tomahawked and scalped. Upwards of twenty prisoners were thus, in the course of two hours, massacred in cold blood, by those to whom they had voluntarily surrendered. At the same time, the chiefs of the different tribe were holding a council to determine the fate of the remaining captives, when Tecumseh and colonel Elliott came down from the batteries to the scene of carnage.
A detailed account of the noble conduct of the former in regard to these captives is contained in the following extract from a letter,[A] upon the accuracy of which reliance may be placed. The writer, after contrasting the brave and humane Tecumseh with the cruel and reckless Proctor, says:
"The most unfortunate event of that contest, I presume you will admit to have been the defeat of colonel Dudley. I will give you a statement made to me by a British officer who was present. He states, that when colonel Dudley landed his troops, Tecumseh, the brave but unfortunate commander, was on the south side of the river, annoying the American garrison with his Indians; and that Proctor, with a part of his troops and a few Indians, remained on the opposite side at the batteries. Dudley attacked him, and pursued him two miles. During this time, Harrison had sent out a detachment to engage Tecumseh; and that the contest with him continued a considerable length of time, before he was informed of what was doing on the opposite side. He immediately retreated, swam over the river and fell in the rear of Dudley, and attacked him with great fury. Being thus surrounded and their commander killed, the troops marched up to the British line and surrendered. Shortly afterwards, commenced the scene of horrors which I dare say is yet fresh in your memory; but I shall recall it to your recollection for reasons I will hereafter state. They (the American troops) were huddled together in an old British garrison, with the Indians around them, selecting such as their fancy dictated, to glut their savage thirst for murder. And although they had surrendered themselves prisoners of war, yet, in violation of the customs of war, the inhuman Proctor did not yield them the least protection, nor attempt to screen them from the tomahawk of the Indians. Whilst this blood-thirsty carnage was raging, a thundering voice was heard in the rear, in the Indian tongue, when, turning round, he saw Tecumseh coming with all the rapidity his horse could carry him, until he drew near to where two Indians had an American, and were in the act of killing him. He sprang from his horse, caught one by the throat and the other by the breast, and threw them to the ground; drawing his tomahawk and scalping knife, he ran in between the Americans and Indians, brandishing them with the fury of a mad man, and daring any one of the hundreds that surrounded him, to attempt to murder another American. They all appeared confounded, and immediately desisted. His mind appeared rent with passion, and he exclaimed almost with tears in his eyes, 'Oh! what will become of my Indians.' He then demanded in an authoritative tone, where Proctor was; but casting his eye upon him at a small distance, sternly enquired why he had not put a stop to the inhuman massacre. 'Sir,' said Proctor, 'your Indians cannot be commanded.' 'Begone' retorted Tecumseh, with the greatest disdain, 'you are unfit to command; go and put on petticoats.'"
[Footnote A: This letter is from Mr. Wm. G. Ewing, formerly of Piqua, O., and is addressed, under date of May 2d, 1818, to John H. James, Esq. now of Urbana.]
This was not the only occasion on which Tecumseh openly manifested the contempt which he felt for the character and conduct of general Proctor. Among other instances, it is stated by an officer of the United States' army, in a letter, under date of 28th September, 1813,[A] that in a conversation between these two commanders of the allied British army, Tecumseh said to Proctor, "I conquer to save, and you to murder;"—an expression founded in truth, and worthy of the magnanimous hero from whose lips it fell.