Four American Indians - Frances Perry

The Story of Tecumseh

Early Years

The great Indian leader, Pontiac, died in 1769, disappointed in his attempt to unite the Indians in a confederacy strong enough to withstand the white race. But the struggle between the red man and the white was not ended.

At about the time of the old chief's death a child was born among the Shawnee Indians who was to take up the cause of his people with equally great courage and intelligence. This child was called Tecumseh, which means shooting-star.

The tribe to which Tecumseh belonged had not yielded to the temptations offered by the white man. Although many of the tribes north of the Ohio River, through the influence of alms and whisky, were fast losing their savage virtues and becoming spiritless beggars, idle, drunken, quarrelsome, the Shawnees were still strong and warlike.

Several of the Shawnee tribes lived together in a large village on Mad River, not far from the place where Springfield, Ohio, now stands. There they had built for themselves rude huts made of sapling logs. Around these lodges, on the fertile land along the river were corn fields, where the Indian women worked while the men hunted or went to war.

In this village, on a bluff near the river, stood Tecumseh's first home. His father was chief of a small tribe and was highly respected for his courage and good sense. His mother, the daughter of a chief, was a woman of strong character.

As Tecumseh was the son of such worthy parents, and as he was one of three brothers born on the same day, he was regarded even in babyhood with uncommon interest. The superstitious Indians believed that the three little boys would become extraordinary men. Two of them, Tecumseh and his brother, Laulewasikaw, fulfilled the largest expectations of their friends.

The child, Tecumseh, was a bright-eyed, handsome little fellow, at once winning and masterful in manner. His favorite pastime was playing war. The boys he played with always made him chief and were as devoted to him as ever Indians were to a real chief.

It is no wonder that at this time the Shawnee children played war; for their elders were almost constantly fighting with the settlers.

Tecumseh's childhood was far from a peaceful, happy one. He learned early the oppressive gloom and the wild excitement that accompany war. He was called upon, now to take part in the fierce rejoicing that followed an Indian victory; again, to join in the mournful wailing of the women when the dead warriors were brought from the battlefield.

But his experience of war was not limited to celebrating and mourning distant victories and defeats. The enemy did not spare the village in which he lived. He knew that when the braves were on the warpath the children must stay near their mother's lodge. For, several times runners had come in hot haste bidding the squaws flee with their pappooses to the forest and hide there till the palefaces had passed. It made little Tecumseh's heart beat hard to think of the excitement and terror of those days.

[Illustration] from Four American Indians by Frances Perry


Even in time of peace Tecumseh was accustomed to suffering and discontent. Food and clothing were so scarce that the Indians were often in want of enough to eat and wear. Children died from the effects of hunger and cold, and men and women grew gaunt and stern. Frequently the hunters came home empty-handed or bringing only small game.

They attributed all their troubles to the "Long Knives," as they called the white men, who, they said, had stolen their hunting grounds. So when Tecumseh was but a child he hated the palefaces, and was glad when his tribe made war against them.

In 1774 the Ohio Indians learned that the Virginians were coming into their country to destroy their villages. Accordingly, all able-bodied warriors took up their weapons and went with the proud chief, Cornstalk, to meet the enemy. Tecumseh's father and eldest brother, Cheeseekau, were among the number.

After anxious waiting, those who had stayed behind were gladdened by the good news that for the present their homes were safe. But many of those homes had been made desolate by the battles waged in their defense. Cheeseekau came home from the war alone. His father had fallen in battle.

The mother and her children ceased their wailing and for the time forgot their loss, as they sat by the fire with Cheeseekau and heard the young warrior talk of his first battle. He said that he wished to die on the battlefield, as his father had done, for an Indian could hope for no better end. He told what a good fight the Indians had made and how brave their leader had been.

"All over the field," he said, "you could hear Cornstalk shout to his men 'Be strong! Be brave!' The warriors had more fear of Cornstalk's hatchet than of the Long Knives' guns. They did not dare to run. Some tried it. But Cornstalk buried his tomahawk in the head of the first, and the rest turned back to fight the palefaces. When the battle was over Cornstalk called a council and said: 'The palefaces are coming against us in great numbers. We can not drive them back. What shall we do? Shall we fight a while longer, kill a few more of them, and then yield? Shall we put to death our women and children and fight till we die?' No one spoke. Then he said: 'I see you will not fight. I will go and make peace with the white men.' And he made us a good peace. Cornstalk is the greatest chief we have had since Pontiac."

Then followed stories of the great Pontiac, who had tried to make the Indian tribes stop fighting with one another and unite their strength against the white man. Thus, before Tecumseh could talk plainly, he heard about the heroes of his race, and learned what was expected of a good Indian.

From this time the youthful warrior Cheeseekau took his father's place as head of the family. He not only provided the family with food and clothing, but also looked after the education of his younger brothers. Tecumseh was his favorite, and he strove to teach him all that was needful to make him a brave warrior and a good man.


During Tecumseh's boyhood the Revolutionary war was being fought. The Indians took the part of the British. It was natural that they should feel a more bitter hatred for the colonists who had actually taken their lands and fought against them, than they had for the distant mysterious "king," whom they had been taught to call "father," and to regard as a superior being. Besides, they little doubted that the king who had already beaten the French could subdue his own rebellious subjects. And they looked forward to the reward he would give them for their aid when the war was over.

The victories of the colonists were familiar topics of discussion among the Indians. They spoke with increasing uneasiness of the deeds of Washington, Putnam, and Greene. But the name to them more terrible than all the rest was that of George Rogers Clark. With sinking hearts they heard of his victories on the frontier.

In the summer of 1780 scouts brought word to the Shawnees on Mad River that this dreaded soldier was approaching with his army. Though alarmed, the Indians determined to do what they could to save the cabins and fort which they had built with much toil, and the growing corn upon which they depended for their winter food.

Three hundred warriors assembled in the village. They held a hurried council and decided to advance to meet Clark's army and surprise it with an attack at daybreak. But if there was a surprise where Gen. Clark was concerned, he was usually the man to give it. Accordingly, the Indians learned with dismay that their plan could not be carried out, for General Clark's army by forced marches had reached and was already surrounding their village. The Indians had built a fort, but now they were afraid to use it and took refuge in their log huts. They began to cut holes in the walls, so that they might fire on the enemy.

When General Clark heard this, he said: "Hold on a minute, and I'll make holes enough for them." With that he ordered up his cannon and caused it to be fired into the village.

The Indians were so terrified that all who could do so fled into the woods and swamps. The rest fell an easy prey to the soldiers, who killed many warriors, made prisoners of the women and children, burned the houses, and cut down the corn.

Clark, George Rodgers


Tecumseh and his brothers were among those who escaped the sword of Clark, but they could not forget the distress of their kindred. Tecumseh was too young to take part in this battle. Although he spent much time in fighting sham battles, it was not until six years later that he had an opportunity to fight in a real one. In 1786 he and his elder brother went out with a band of warriors to check or drive back Captain Logan, who was advancing toward Mad River.

In an encounter near Dayton the boy was forced for the first time to face a cavalry charge. He had never imagined anything so terrifying. He saw those great, rushing horses, the cruel flash of steel. He forgot his hatred of the white man, his dreams of glory. His only thought was to save his life. He threw down his gun and ran.

As soon as he recovered from his fright he felt very much ashamed of his cowardly conduct. He was eager for another opportunity to test his courage. Fortunately for him he did not have to wait long.

Tecumseh was with a party of Indians who attacked some flatboats on the Ohio River. The boats were taken and all the men in charge of them were killed except one, who was made prisoner.

This was an important occasion in the life of Tecumseh. He acted with such daring and bravery that the old warriors of the party were astonished. From that night the Shawnees spoke of Tecumseh as a brave. Besides winning the good opinion of others, he regained his self-respect and conquered fear.

The memory of this victory was not pleasant to Tecumseh. It was followed by the burning of the prisoner. Although the burning of prisoners was not rare among the Shawnee Indians this was the first time Tecumseh had seen a man put to death in that barbarous manner, and he grew sick and faint with horror at the sight. But this time he was terrified not for himself but for another, and he was not ashamed of his feelings.

Boy though he was, he stood before the older Indians and told them plainly what he thought of their cruel act. He spoke with so much power that he made all who heard him feel as he did about it. And they all agreed never again to take part in so inhuman a practice.

On this night Tecumseh gave glimpses of the man he was to be. He proved his valor; he showed mercy; he influenced warriors by his words.

Adventures of the Young Brave

A short time after Tecumseh had proved himself worthy to be considered an Indian brave, he started with his brother Cheeseekau on a journey across the woods and prairies of Indiana and Illinois. The brothers were accompanied by a band of Kickapoo Indians. Such a journey was an important part of the training of young warriors.

The party tramped through the country, courting hardships and adventure, getting acquainted with the wilderness, hunting buffaloes, visiting friendly tribes, learning many languages, breaking bread with strangers, and visiting vengeance on enemies. To fall upon the defenseless cabin of some sleeping frontiersman and murder him and his family was in their eyes a feat to boast of.

But their warlike exploits were not confined to attacks on the white settlers. If they found friendly tribes at war with other tribes they joined them. In one of these battles Cheeseekau met his death, singing and rejoicing that it was his lot to fall like a warrior on the field of battle. This young man is said to have had a vision that he should die. Before going into battle he made a formal speech, telling his friends that he would be shot in the forehead in the thick of the fight, and his prophecy was fulfilled.

After Cheeseekau's death Tecumseh took his place as leader of the company and continued his wanderings to the South. There he made many friends and had numerous stirring adventures. One evening just as he and his eight followers were about to go to bed their camp was attacked by thirty white men. Tecumseh ordered his frightened comrades to follow him and rushed upon the enemy with such spirit and force that his little company killed two of the assailants and frightened the rest away.

Tecumseh returned to Ohio after an absence of three years. He discovered that it is not always necessary to go away from home to find adventures. His friends and neighbors were greatly excited about a victory which they had just gained over the United States troops under General Harmer.

The next year, 1791, the new republic sent General St. Clair with a large army into the Indian country. Tecumseh's recent expedition had fitted him to be a good scout, and he was therefore sent out to watch the movements of St. Clair's troops. While he was employed scouting, the main body of Indians fell suddenly upon St. Clair's troops and completely routed them. During the next few years there was no lack of opportunity for the Shawnees to indulge their love of battle; for General Wayne, "Mad Anthony Wayne," as he was called, proved a more formidable foe than had General St. Clair. Tecumseh's reputation as a warrior was soon firmly established.

He was equally noted as a hunter. Though he had long been pointed out as one of the best Shawnee hunters, many young men had claimed as great success as he. At length some one suggested a way to decide who was the ablest hunter.

"Let us," said he, "each go alone into the forest, for three days, to hunt the deer, and the one who brings home the largest number of deer skins shall be considered the greatest hunter."

All agreed to this test, and several noted hunters started out. After three days each returned bearing the evidence of his skill as a hunter. Some proudly displayed ten skins, some twelve. Last of all came Tecumseh with thirty-five deer skins. Then the other Indians stopped boasting, and declared Tecumseh the greatest hunter of the Shawnee nation. Tecumseh was a generous hunter as well as a skillful one. He made it his business to provide many who were old or sick with meat and skins.

Among the Indians the hero was the man who could do most to help his tribe. He could do that by hunting, to supply its members with food and clothing, by speaking wisely in council, to lead them to act for their highest welfare, and by fighting to defend their rights or avenge their wrongs. A brave who could do all this was worthy of being a chief, even if he was not the eldest son of a chief.

Tecumseh had shown that he could hunt, that he could speak in council, that he could fight. He had therefore all the requirements for a chief. Moreover, he had great influence with the young men of the neighboring tribes.

Tecumseh Dissatisfied

The suffering among the Indians was so great because of the ceaseless war they had carried on against the white people, that in 1795 many of the tribes were ready to accept the terms of peace offered by the United States government.

Accordingly, in June a treaty was made at Greenville, Ohio. The Indians promised to give up all claim to many thousand acres of land in the Northwest Territory, to live at peace with the white settlers occupying the land, to notify them of the hostile plans of other tribes, to surrender whatever prisoners they had, to give up evil doers for trial, to protect travelers and traders, and to recognize no "father" but the President of the United States.

In return for all this the national government pledged itself to give the Indians a yearly "present" of food, blankets, powder, and other necessities, to respect the boundary lines and prevent settlers from hunting or intruding on Indian lands, and to punish white men who were found guilty of robbing or murdering Indians.

Tecumseh would not attend the council at which the treaty was made. Much as he felt the need of peace he was unwilling to pay for it a price which he thought the white man had no right to ask. He was unwilling to give up the lands which the Great Spirit had allotted to the Indians, and which were necessary to their very existence.

He foresaw that in the years of peace to which the Indians had pledged themselves, white men without number would come to make their homes in the fertile lands secured by the treaty. He foresaw that while the settlements flourished the tribes would become more and more dependent and submissive to the will of their civilized neighbors.

The injurious effect of civilization upon the Indian tribes was only too evident to all. The Superintendent of Indian Affairs later wrote to President Jefferson: "I can tell at once upon looking at an Indian whom I may chance to meet whether he belongs to a neighboring or to a more distant tribe. The latter is generally well-clothed, healthy, and vigorous; the former, half-naked, filthy, and enfeebled by intoxication, and many of them are without arms excepting a knife, which they carry for the most villainous purposes."

What wonder that the patriotic Tecumseh refused to sanction a treaty which he considered a step toward the downfall of his race! He remembered the dead hero Pontiac, and wished that the red men had such a chieftain to unite them and rouse their manhood. He determined henceforth to take Pontiac for his model and to do what he could to unite his people and prepare them to resist the next attempt of the palefaces to take the land of the redskins. With this idea in view he used his influence to collect from various tribes a band of followers, who made him their chief.

The new chief was not an unworthy successor of the great Pontiac. Though living at a time when the Indians were beginning to lose much of their native vigor and virtue, Tecumseh had grown to be one of the most princely red men we know anything about.



His appearance was dignified and pleasing. Colonel W. S. Hatch gave the following picturesque description of him: "His height was about five feet nine inches; his face, oval rather than angular; his mouth, beautifully formed, like that of Napoleon I., as represented in his portraits; his eyes, clear, transparent hazel, with a mild, pleasant expression when in repose, or in conversation; but when excited in his orations or by the enthusiasm of conflict, or when in anger, they appeared like balls of fire; his teeth, beautifully white, and his complexion more of a light brown or tan than red; his whole tribe, as well as their kindred, the Ottawas, had light complexions; his arms and hands were finely formed; his limbs straight; he always stood very erect, and walked with a brisk, elastic, vigorous step. He invariably dressed in Indian tanned buckskin; a perfectly well-fitting hunting frock descending to the knee was over his underclothes of the same material; the usual cape with finish of leather fringe about the neck, cape, edges of the front opening, and bottom of the frock; a belt of the same material, in which were his sidearms (an elegant silver-mounted tomahawk and a knife in a strong leather case); short pantaloons, connected with neatly fitting leggings and moccasins, with a mantle of the same material thrown over his left shoulder, used as a blanket in camp, and as a protection in storms."

Tecumseh's character was not that of the typical Indian, because it was broader. The virtues that most Indians exercise only in the family, or, at best, in the tribe, he practised toward his entire race, and, to some extent, toward all mankind. He once said: "My tribe is nothing to me; my race, everything." His hatred of the white man was general, not personal. Able, brave men, whether red or white, he respected and admired. While most Indians thought it necessary to be truthful to friends only, Tecumseh was honest in his dealings with his enemies. He often set white men an example of mercy.

An amusing story is told of him, which shows how kindly tolerant he was where he could feel nothing but contempt for a man: One evening on entering the house of a white man with whom he was acquainted, Tecumseh found a gigantic stranger there, who was so badly frightened at sight of him that he took refuge behind the other men in the room, begging them to save him. Tecumseh stood a moment sternly watching the great fellow. Then he went up and patted the cowering creature on the shoulder, saying good naturedly, "Big baby; big baby!"

In 1804 and 1805, before the new chief was ready for decided action, Governor Harrison, of Indiana Territory, made additional treaties with a few weak and submissive tribes, by which he laid claim to more land. This measure aroused such general indignation among the more hardy and warlike Indians that Tecumseh felt the time had come when he might win them to support his cherished plan of united opposition to the whites.

Tecumseh's Brother, the Prophet

Tecumseh had not been alone in his anxiety for the future of his race. After the death of his elder brother he had made his twin brother, Laulewasikaw, his trusted comrade. Together they had talked over the decay in power and manliness that was swiftly overtaking the tribes, and the wrongs the red men suffered at the hands of the white. They had not spent their strength in useless murmurings, but had analyzed the causes of trouble and decided how they might be removed.

One day after brooding deeply over these matters Laulewasikaw fell upon the earth in a swoon. For a long time he lay quite stiff and rigid, and those who saw him thought he was dead. But by and by he gave a deep moan and opened his eyes. For a moment he looked about as if he did not know where he was. On coming to his senses he explained to his friends that he had had a vision in which he had seen the Great Spirit, who had told him what to do to save the Indian people from destruction.

From that time he styled himself "Prophet" and claimed to act under the direction of the Great Spirit. He changed his name to Tenskwatawa to signify that he was the "Open Door," through which all might learn the will of the Great Spirit.

Though professing to have supernatural power himself, Tenskwatawa realized the degrading effect of petty superstition and the terror and injury the medicine men were able to bring upon the simple-minded Indians who believed in their charms and spells. He denounced the practice of sorcery and witchcraft as against the will of the Great Spirit.

Many of the Prophet's teachings were such as we should all approve of. Wishing to purify the individual and family life of the Indians, he forbade men to marry more than one wife, and commanded them to take care of their families and to provide for those who were old and sick. He required them to work, to till the ground and raise corn, and to hunt.

Some of his teachings were intended to make the Indians as a people independent of the white race. The Great Spirit, said Tenskwatawa, had made the Indians to be a single people, quite distinct from the white men and for different purposes. The tribes must therefore stop fighting with one another and must unite and live peaceably together as one tribe. They must not fight with the white men, either Americans or British. Neither must they intermarry with them or adopt their customs. The Great Spirit wished his red children to throw aside the garments of cotton and wool they had borrowed from the whites and clothe themselves in the skins of wild animals; he wished them to stop feeding on pork and beef, and bread made from wheat, and instead to eat the flesh of the wild deer and the bison, which he had provided for them, and bread made from Indian corn. Above all, they must let alone whisky which might do well enough for white men, but was never intended for Indians.

Furthermore, Tenskwatawa taught the Indians that a tribe had no right to sell the land it lived on. The Great Spirit had given the red people the land that they might enjoy it in common, just as they did the light and the air. He did not wish them to measure it off and build fences around it. Since no one chief or tribe owned the land, no single chief or tribe could sell it. No Indian territory therefore could be sold to the white men without the consent of all tribes and all Indians.

The words of the Prophet were eagerly listened to. Indians came from far and near to hear him. Some were so excited by what he said against witchcraft that they put to death those who persisted in using charms and pronouncing incantations.

Eclipse of the Sun


The sayings and doings of the Shawnee Prophet soon attracted the attention of the Governor of Indiana Territory. Pity for the victims of the Prophet's misguided zeal, and alarm because of the influence Tenskwatawa seemed to be gaining, led Governor William Henry Harrison to take measures to check the popularity of a man who seemed to be a fraud and a mischief-maker. He sent to the Delaware Indians the following "speech":

"My Children: My heart is filled with grief, and my eyes are dissolved in tears at the news which has reached me. . . Who is this pretended prophet who dares to speak in the name of the Great Creator? Examine him. Is he more wise and virtuous than you are yourselves, that he should be selected to convey to you the orders of your God? Demand of him some proofs at least of his being the messenger of the Deity. If God has really employed him, He has doubtless authorized him to perform miracles, that he may be known and received as a prophet. If he is really a prophet, ask him to cause the sun to stand still, the moon to alter its course, the rivers to cease to flow, or the dead to rise from their graves. If he does these things you may believe that he has been sent from God. He tells you that the Great Spirit commands you to punish with death those who deal in magic, and that he is authorized to point them out. Wretched delusion! Is, then, the Master of Life obliged to employ mortal man to punish those who offend Him? . . . Clear your eyes, I beseech you, from the mist which surrounds them. No longer be imposed on by the arts of the impostor. Drive him from your town and let peace and harmony prevail amongst you."

This letter increased rather than diminished the influence of the Prophet. He met the Governor's doubt of his power with fine scorn and named a day on which he would "put the sun under his feet." Strange to say, on the day named an eclipse of the sun occurred, and the affrighted savages quaked with fear and thought it was all the work of Tenskwatawa.


Tenskwatawa met with strong opposition from some of the Indians. The small chiefs especially were displeased with the idea that the tribes should unite to form one people, as that would take away their own power. They, therefore, heard the Prophet with anger, and carried away an evil report of him.

Still, many believed all that he said, and wished to gain the good will of the Great Spirit by doing his bidding. They were willing to leave their tribes to follow the Prophet. So it happened that in 1806 Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh with their followers established a town at Greenville, Ohio. There all lived in accordance with the Prophet's teachings. They strengthened their bodies by running and swimming and wrestling. They lived at peace without drunkenness. They minded their own affairs. Now, all this was just what President Jefferson, the Indians' friend, had often advised the red men to do.

Yet the white neighbors were greatly disturbed and wished to break up the Prophet's town. In the first place the town was on land that had been ceded to the United States, or the Seventeen Fires (as the Indians picturesquely named the new nation), by the treaty of Greenville. Then, the visiting Indians who came from all parts of the country to hear the words of the Prophet were a constant source of alarm to the border settlers. And, although he professed to preach peace, the Prophet was believed by many to be preparing secretly for war.

Besides, innocent as most of his teachings appeared, those regarding property rights were hostile to the white race and decidedly annoying to the men who coveted the hunting grounds of the savages. The United States government in acquiring land from the Indians had usually proceeded as if it were the property of the tribe that camped or hunted upon it. The Indian Commissioners had had little difficulty in gaining rich tracts of land from weak tribes, at comparatively little expense, by this method. When it came to a question of land, even Jefferson had little sympathy for the Indians. He had not scrupled to advise his agent to encourage chiefs to get into debt at the trading posts, so that when hard pressed for money they might be persuaded to part with the lands of their tribes.

Now Tecumseh had seen that the whole struggle between the red men and the white was a question of land. If the white men were kind to the Indians and came among them with fair promises and goodly presents, their object was to get land. If they came with threats and the sword, their object was, still, to get land. They needed the land. They could not grow and prosper without it. But if the white men needed land in order to live how much more did the Indians need it! Where a few acres of farm land would give a white family comfortable support, many acres were needed to support an Indian family by the chase. Tecumseh argued in this way: The Seventeen Fires unite to get our lands from us. Let us follow their example. Let us unite to hold our lands. Let us keep at peace with them and do them no harm. Let us give them no reason to fight with us and take our land in battle. When they offer to buy we will refuse to sell. If they try to force us to part with our lands we will stand together and resist them like men.

He heartily agreed with his brother's teachings concerning property rights, and possibly suggested many ideas that Tenskwatawa fancied he received from the Great Spirit. Certain it is that Tecumseh had long held similar views and had done his best to spread them. Although Tenskwatawa was more conspicuous than Tecumseh, the latter had the stronger character. For a time he kept in the background and let his brother do the talking, but his personal influence had much to do with giving weight to the Prophet's words.

The brothers had not been at Greenville long before they were summoned to Fort Wayne by the commandant there to hear a letter from their "father," the President of the Seventeen Fires. Tecumseh refused to go. He demanded that the letter be brought to him. This put the officer in a trying position, but there was nothing left for him to do but send the letter to Greenville. It proved to be a request that the Prophet move his town beyond the boundaries of the territory owned by the United States. The letter was courteous, and offered the Indians assistance to move and build new homes.

To the President's request Tecumseh sent a decided refusal. He said: "These lands are ours; we were the first owners; no one has the right to move us. The Great Spirit appointed this place for us to light our fires and here we will stay."

The settlement continued to be a source of annoyance to the government. Indians kept coming from distant regions to visit the Prophet. Rumor said that the brothers were working under the direction of British agents, who were trying to rouse the Indians to make war on the United States.

To counteract the British influence the Governor of Ohio sent a message to Greenville. At a council called to consider the Governor's letter, the chief, Blue Jacket, and the Prophet made speeches in which they declared their wish to remain at peace with the British and the Long Knives, as they called the settlers.

Tecumseh accompanied the commissioners on their return and held a conference with the Governor of Ohio. He spoke plainly, saying the Indians had little cause for friendliness to either the British or the people of the United States, both of whom had robbed them of their lands by making unjust treaties. But he assured the governor that for their own sake the Indians wished to remain at peace with both nations.

The Governor, like all who heard Tecumseh speak, was impressed with his sense and honesty, and believed that the Indians were not planning war.

A little later Tecumseh was again called to Springfield to attend a large council of Indians and white men. The council was held to determine who was responsible for the murder of a white man, who had been found dead not far from Springfield. On this occasion Tecumseh attracted much attention. In the first place he refused to give up his arms, and entered the council with the dignity of manner and the arms of a warrior.

He made a speech of such passion and eloquence that the interpreter was unable to keep up with him or translate his ideas. The white men were left to guess his meaning by watching his wrathful face and the excitement of his hearers. The Indians, however, understood him perfectly, and when the council was over and they went to their homes all repeated what they could remember of the wonderful speech.

The influence of Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh increased. The excitement among the Indians became more general. Governor Harrison again wrote to the Shawnee tribes. He began by reminding them of the treaties between the Indians and the people of the United States:

"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 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 from doing 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?"

Although Governor Harrison writes in this letter as if he thought the white men had kept their part of the treaty, he had written quite differently to President Jefferson, telling him how the settlers were continually violating the treaty by hunting on Indian territory and reporting that it was impossible for the Indians to get justice when their kinsmen were murdered by white men; for even if a murderer was brought to trial no jury of white men would pronounce the murderer of an Indian guilty. "All these injuries the Indians have hitherto borne with astonishing patience." Thus Mr. Harrison had written to the President, but it was evidently his policy to try to make the Indians think they had no cause for complaint. In his letter to the Shawnees he went on to say:

"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."

To this letter the Prophet sent a dignified answer, denying the charges the Governor had made. He spoke with regret rather than anger, and said that "his father (the Governor) had been listening to evil birds."

The Prophet's Town

In 1808 Tecumseh and the Prophet moved with their followers to the Wabash Valley, and established on the Tippecanoe River a village known as the Prophet's Town.

Several advantages were to be gained by moving from Greenville to Tippecanoe, all of which probably had their weight in influencing the brothers to make this change. In the first place, there seems to be little doubt that Tecumseh wanted peace, at least until he had built up a confederacy strong enough to fight the Americans with some hope of success. At Greenville the Indians were so near the settlers that there was constant danger of trouble between them. And Tecumseh realized that any wrong done by his people might be made an excuse for the government to take more lands from the Indians.

Then, too, this redskinned statesman realized in his way that the best way to prevent war was to be ready for it. He wished his people to be independent of the whites for their livelihood. The Wabash Valley offered the richest hunting grounds between the Lakes and the Ohio. Here they need not starve should they be denied aid by the United States government.

The location of the new village had further political value. It was in the center of a district where many tribes camped, over which the brothers wished to extend their influence. From the new town communication with the British could be more easily carried on. This was important in view of the troubled relations existing between the United States and Great Britain. Tecumseh was shrewd enough to see that though under ordinary circumstances the Indians were not sufficiently strong to be very formidable to the United States government, their friendship or enmity would be an important consideration in the war that threatened. And he hoped that the Long Knives' anxiety lest they should join the British would prevent their doing anything to gain the ill will of the Indians.

The brothers wished Governor Harrison to understand that their desire was for peace, and that they did not intend to make war unless driven to do so. Accordingly, in August, Tenskwatawa, with a band of followers, made the Governor a visit. The Indians stayed at Vincennes for about two weeks. Harrison was surprised to find the Prophet an intelligent and gifted man. He tested the sincerity of the Prophet's followers by questions as to their belief and by putting in their way opportunities to drink whisky. He was again surprised to find them very earnest in their faith and able to resist the fire water. In Tenskwatawa's farewell speech to Harrison, he said:

"Father: It is three years since I first began 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 anything amiss. . .

"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 redskins that the way they were in was not good and they ought to abandon it; that we ought to consider ourselves as one man, but we ought to live according to our customs, the red people after their fashion and the white people after theirs; particularly that they should not drink whisky; that it was not made for them, but for the white people who knew how to use it, and that it is the cause of all the mischiefs which the Indians suffer, and that we must follow the directions of the Great Spirit, and listen to Him, as it was He who 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 anything that does not belong to you, but mind your own business and cultivate the ground, that your women and 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 by all the different tribes of Indians in this part of the world. Those Indians were once different people; they are now but one; they are determined to practise what I have communicated to them, that has come directly from the Great Spirit through me."

The Prophet made a favorable impression on the Governor, and after his visit affairs went smoothly for a time. The Prophet preached and his followers worked. Tecumseh traveled about north and south, east and west, talking with the Indians and trying to unite the tribes and to persuade them to follow his brother's teachings.

In the meantime, settlers came steadily from the south and the east, and the governor felt the need of more land. Since he saw no prospect of immediate trouble with the British and was convinced that the Prophet had not been preparing the Indians for war, he determined to attempt to extend the United States territory.

On the thirtieth of September, 1809, Governor Harrison called all the tribes that claimed certain lands between the White and Wabash rivers to a council. Only a few of the weak and degenerate tribes answered the summons. Nevertheless, he went through the ceremony of making a treaty by which the United States government claimed three million acres of Indian land.

This act of Harrison's lighted a hundred council fires. Everywhere the Indians denounced this treaty. Soon word reached Vincennes that tribes that had before stood apart cherishing their independence had declared their willingness to join the brothers at Tippecanoe. At the Prophet's town the voice of the warrior, Tecumseh, sounded above that of the preacher, Tenskwatawa; and running and wrestling were said to have given place to the practice of shooting and wielding the tomahawk.

When the annual supply of salt was sent to Tippecanoe, the Prophet refused to accept it, and sent word to the Governor that the Americans had dealt unfairly with the Indians, and that friendly relations could be renewed only by the nullification of the treaty of 1809.

The Indians were evidently ready for war, and repeated rumors of plots to attack the settlements caused great anxiety among the frontiersmen. The Indians now recognized Tecumseh as their leader, and looked to him for the word of command. Realizing how much loss of life and land a defeat would bring to the Indians, he worked tirelessly to make his people ready for war, but resolved not to hazard a battle unless driven to do so.

The Council Between Harrison and Tecumseh

Governor Harrison sent agents to Tippecanoe, who brought back word that the Indians were preparing for war; that Tecumseh had gathered about him five thousand warriors, and that the British were encouraging them to go to war, and promising them aid. He therefore sent a letter to the Prophet telling him of the reports he had received, and warning him not to make an enemy of the Seventeen Fires. He wrote:

"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 anything from you? Have they ever violated the treaties made with the red men? You say they have purchased lands from those who had no right to sell them. Show that this is true and the land will be instantly restored. Show us 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 that you may choose, to the city where your father lives. Everything necessary shall be prepared for your journey, and means taken for your safe return."

Harrison and Tecumseh


Instead of answering this letter, Tenskwatawa said he would send his brother, Tecumseh, to Vincennes to confer with the Governor. Early in August a fleet of eighty canoes started down the Wabash for the capital. Tecumseh, with four hundred warriors at his back, all armed and painted as if for battle, was on his way to meet in council for the first time the man who was responsible for the treaty of 1809.

The party encamped just outside of Vincennes, and on the morning appointed for the council Tecumseh appeared attended by forty warriors. He refused to meet the Governor and his officers in council on the porch of the Governor's house, saying he preferred to hold the conference under a clump of trees not far off. The Governor consented and ordered benches and chairs to be taken to the grove. When Tecumseh was asked to take a chair he replied pompously: "The sun is my father; the earth is my mother; on her bosom I will repose," and seated himself on the ground. His warriors followed his example. In his speech Tecumseh stated plainly the grievances of the Indians. He said:

"Brother, since the peace was made, you have killed some Shawnees, Winnebagoes, Delawares, and Miamis, and you have taken our land from us, and I do not see how we can remain at peace if you continue to do so. You try to force the red people to do some injury. It is you that are pushing them on to do mischief. You endeavor to make distinctions. You wish to prevent the Indians doing as we wish them—to unite, and let them consider their lands as the common property of the whole; you take tribes aside and advise them not to come into this measure; and until our plan is accomplished we do not wish to accept your invitation to go to see the President. You want by your distinctions of Indian tribes in allotting to each a particular tract of land, to make them to war with each other. You never see an Indian come and endeavor to make the white people do so. You are continually driving the red people; when, at last, you will drive them into the Great Lake, where they can neither stand nor walk.

"Brother, you ought to know what you are doing with the Indians. Perhaps it is by direction of the President to make these distinctions. It is a very bad thing and we do not like it. Since my residence at Tippecanoe we have endeavored to level all distinctions—to destroy village chiefs, by whom all mischief is done. It is they who sell our lands to the Americans. Our object is to let our affairs be transacted by warriors.

"Brother, only a few had part in the selling of this land and the goods that were given for it. The treaty was afterwards brought here, and the Weas were induced to give their consent because of their small numbers. The treaty at Fort Wayne was made through the threats of Winnemac; but in future we are prepared to punish those chiefs who may come forward to propose to sell the land. If you continue to purchase of them it will produce war among the different tribes, and, at last, I do not know what will be the consequence to the white people.

"Brother, I was glad to hear your speech. You said that if we could show that the land was sold by people that had no right to sell, you would restore it. Those that did sell it did not own it. It was me. Those tribes set up a claim, but the tribes with me will not agree to their claim. If the land is not restored to us you will see when we return to our homes how it will be settled. We shall have a great council, at which all the tribes will be present, when we shall show to those who sold that they had no right to the claim they set up; and we will see what will be done to those chiefs that did sell the land to you. I am not alone in this determination; it is the determination of all the warriors and red people that listen to me. I now wish you to listen to me. If you do not, it will appear as if you wished me to kill all the chiefs that sold you the land. I tell you so because I am authorized by all the tribes to do so. I am the head of them all; I am a warrior, and all the warriors will meet together in two or three moons from this; then I will call for those chiefs that sold you the land and shall know what to do with them. If you do not restore the land, you will have a hand in killing them."

Governor Harrison began his reply by saying that the Indian tribes were and always had been independent of one another, and had a right to sell their own lands, without interference from others.

Tecumseh might have answered that the Seventeen Fires had already recognized that the land was the common property of the tribes by treating with ten of them in making the Greenville purchase. But instead he and his followers lost their temper and jumped to their feet in a rage, as if to attack the Governor. And the council ended in an undignified row.

Tecumseh regretted this very much. He sent an apology to Governor Harrison and requested another meeting. Another council was called and this time the Indians controlled their anger; but Tecumseh maintained till the last that the Indians would never allow the white people to take possession of the land they claimed by the treaty of 1809.

The next day Governor Harrison, accompanied only by an interpreter, courageously visited Tecumseh's encampment and had a long talk with him. Tecumseh said the Indians had no wish for war, and would gladly be at peace with the Long Knives if the Governor could persuade the President to give back the disputed land. He said he had no wish to join the British, who were not the true friends of the Indians, but were always urging them to fight against the Americans for their own advantage.

Governor Harrison said he would report to the President all that Tecumseh had said, but that he knew the President would not give up the land he had purchased.

"Well," said Tecumseh, bluntly, "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 direct you to give up this land. It is true, he is so far off he will not be hurt by the war; he may sit in his town and drink his wine, while you and I will have to fight it out."

Preparations for War

A year of unrest and anxiety followed the council at Vincennes. The United States government made an attempt to survey the new purchase, but the surveyors were driven off by the Indians.

Occasional outrages were committed on both sides. Horses were stolen. Several white men were murdered by Indians, and several Indians were murdered by white men.

In the spring of 1811, when the usual supply of salt was sent up the Wabash to be distributed among the tribes, the Indians at the Prophet's town, instead of again rejecting it, seized it all. This was done in the absence of Tecumseh, who seemed in every way to seek to avoid bringing about war.

Governor Harrison knew the treacherous nature of Indians and feared that Tecumseh's desire for peace might be feigned in order to throw him off his guard. He reasoned that it was scarcely to be expected and little to be wished that the United States should relinquish the territory for which the Indians were contending. The Indians would hardly give up the land without war. Delay only gave Tecumseh time to strengthen his band. Harrison thought it wise to force the brothers to open war or to give assurance of peace. Accordingly, he wrote them a letter or speech, in which he said:

"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 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 Pottawottomies 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, if you wish to satisfy us that your intentions are good, follow the advice 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."

If either of the brothers should act upon the Governor's advice and go to Washington he would be virtually a hostage in the hands of the government, and the Indians would not dare to do the settlers any harm lest their leader should come to grief because of their misdoing.

Tecumseh sent the Governor a brief, friendly reply, in which he promised to go to Vincennes himself in a short time. Governor Harrison did not know just what to expect from the proposed visit, but he remembered Pontiac's attempt to capture Detroit by surprise and he prepared to give his guest a warlike reception if need be.

Late in July the chief arrived, attended by about three hundred Indians. A council was held which the Governor opened by recounting the injuries the white men had suffered at the hands of the Indians, and by again making the charge that the Indians were preparing for war. Tecumseh replied with a counter enumeration of injuries, and said again that the Indians would never give up the land in dispute, but that it was his wish and hope that the matter could be settled peaceably. He said that he was trying to build up a strong nation of red men, after the model of the Seventeen Fires, and that he was on his way to visit the southern tribes to invite them to join his league. He assured Governor Harrison that he had given the strictest orders that the northern Indians should remain at peace during his absence, and that as soon as he returned he would go to Washington to settle the land question.

Tecumseh and the Creeks


Tecumseh then hastened to the South, where he worked to good effect among the Creeks and Seminoles, persuading them to join his confederacy. It is said that where he could not persuade he threatened. One story illustrating his manner of dealing with those that resisted him is as follows: Visiting a tribe which listened coldly to his words and seemed unwilling to take part in his plans he suddenly lost all patience. With fierce gestures and a terrible look he shouted: "You do not think what I say is true. You do not believe this is the wish of the Great Spirit. I will show you. When I reach Detroit I will stamp my foot on the earth and the earth will tremble and shake your houses down about your ears." The tale goes on to say that after due time had elapsed for Tecumseh to reach Detroit an earthquake shook down all the dwellings of the village he had left in anger. Whether this is true or not, Tecumseh certainly had wonderful influence over all tribes. Governor Harrison wrote to the Secretary of War about him: "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 purpose. 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 work which he considered complete will be demolished, and even its foundation rooted up."

In the meantime Tecumseh trusted Governor Harrison with child-like simplicity. It seems not to have occurred to him that the Governor would not remain inactive until he had completed his arrangements and opened the war. Indeed, there were those at Washington who also thought this was what Harrison would and ought to do; that is, keep on the defensive until the Indians made some outbreak.

This was not the feeling on the frontier, however. The frontiersmen were in no humor to sit still and wait for the Indians to scalp them at their plows or burn them in their beds. Their cry was, "On to Tippecanoe!"

This spirit was in accord with the Governor's inclination. A man of action, and bred to military life, Harrison favored prompt, vigorous measures. He believed this a favorable time for an attack on the Prophet's town. Tecumseh was well out of the way, and had left orders for the tribes to remain at peace during his absence. As many would hesitate to disobey his command, there would be no united resistance. Besides, the Prophet had been left in charge, and a victory over him would destroy the Indians' faith in his supernatural power. This faith Harrison had come to regard as the backbone of the Indian alliance. Moreover, the British were not in a position to give the Indians open assistance and they would learn from a few battles fought without their aid how little trust was to be put in British promises.

For these reasons, Harrison wrote to the War Department urging immediate action and asking for troops and authority to march against Tippecanoe. The troops were granted, but with the instruction that President Madison wished peace with the Indians preserved if possible.

The Battle of Tippecanoe

In August, in the year 1811, Governor Harrison sent stern "speeches" to the Indian tribes, threatening them with punishment if they did not cease their preparations for war and comply with his demands.

On September the twenty-fifth the Prophet's reply arrived at Vincennes. He gave repeated assurances that the Indians had no intention of making war on the settlers, and he promised to comply with whatever demands the Governor might make. To this message Harrison sent no answer.

The Governor was now ready for action. He had a force of about a thousand fighting men. The militia were reinforced by three hundred regulars, and one hundred and thirty mounted men, under a brave Kentuckian, J. H. Daveiss, who wanted a share in the glory of an encounter with the Indians. Later two companies of mounted riflemen were added to this force. Harrison sent a detachment of men up the river to build a fort on the new land. By this act he took formal possession of it.

He felt his hands tied by the President's instructions to avoid war with the Indians if possible, and awaited developments with impatience. He expected the Indians to oppose in some way the building of the fort—and his expectations were at length realized. One of the sentinels who kept guard while the soldiers worked on the fort was shot and severely wounded. Harrison thought this might be regarded as the opening of hostilities, and determined to march upon the Prophet's town. A letter from the War Department received at about this time left him free to carry out his plans.

It was late in October before the new fort, named Fort Harrison in honor of the Governor, was finished, and the force ready to leave. Then Harrison sent messengers to the Prophet demanding that the Indians should return stolen horses to their owners, and surrender Indians who had murdered white men. He also demanded that the Winnebagoes, Pottawottomies and Kickapoos who were at Tippecanoe should return to their tribes. Without waiting for a reply or appointing a time or place where the Prophet's answer might find him, Harrison began his march on Tippecanoe. Through the disputed land the armed forces marched; on, on, into the undisputed territory of the Indians.

Still they met with no opposition. Not an Indian was seen until November the sixth, when the troops were within eleven miles of Tippecanoe. And although many of them were seen from that time on, they could not be tempted to any greater indiscretion than the making of threatening signs in response to the provoking remarks of the interpreters. When within two miles of Tippecanoe, Harrison found himself and his army in a dangerous pass that offered the Indians a most inviting chance for an ambush. But he was not molested.

When the troops were safe in the open country once more, Harrison held a conference with his officers. All were eager to advance at once and attack the town. They held that if there was any question about the right or the necessity of an attack it should have been decided before they started; now that they had arrived at the stronghold of the Indians there was only one safe course, and that was immediate attack.

Perhaps the circumstances of the march had persuaded Harrison of the sincerity of the Indians' plan for peace, and he felt that after all the affair might be settled without bloodshed. At any rate, he was most reluctant to comply with the wishes of his aids. But at last yielding to their urgency he gave the order to advance and storm the town. Scarcely had he done so, however, before he was turned from his purpose by the arrival of messengers from the Prophet begging that the difficulties be settled without a battle. Harrison sent back word that he had no intention of making an attack unless the Prophet refused to concede to his demands. He consented to suspend hostilities for the night and give Tenskwatawa a hearing in the morning.

Greatly against the will of his officers, who had no faith in the Indians' professions of friendliness and saw that every hour of delay might be put to good use by the Prophet, Harrison encamped for the night. He seems to have had little fear of an attack, as he did not even fortify his camp with intrenchments. But his men slept on their arms that night, and, although no sound from the Indian village disturbed the stillness, there was a general feeling of restlessness.

Between four and five in the morning, in the dark that comes before the dawn, a sentinel's shot followed by the Indian yell brought every man to his feet. As the soldiers stood in the light of the camp fires, peering into the blackness with cocked muskets, they were shot down by savages, who rushed upon them with such force that they broke the line of guards and made an entrance into the camp. Had the number of assailants been greater, or had Harrison been less alert, they would doubtless have created a panic. But Harrison was already up and on the point of rousing his soldiers when the alarm sounded. With perfect self-possession he rode about where bullets were flying thickest, giving orders and encouraging his men.

The brave Daveiss, having gained Harrison's consent, recklessly plunged with only a few followers into a thicket to dislodge some Indians who were firing upon the troops at close range. He was soon surrounded and shot down.

The Indians fought with great persistence and kept up the attack for two hours, during which the troops held their ground with admirable firmness. As day dawned the Indians gradually withdrew.

Harrison's situation was perilous. Counting killed and wounded he had already lost one hundred and fifty fighting men. The Indians might return at any moment in larger numbers to attack his exhausted force. Provisions were low and it was cold and raining. The men stood at their posts through the day without food or fire. All day and all night the soldiers kept watch. The second day, the horsemen cautiously advanced to the town. To their relief they found it empty. The Indians had evidently fled in haste, leaving behind large stores of provisions. Harrison's troops helped themselves to what they wanted, burned the deserted town, and returned to Vincennes with rapid marches.



As a result of the battle of Tippecanoe, Harrison was the hero of the hour. News of the destruction of the Prophet's town carried cheer into every white man's cabin on the frontier.

Reorganization of the Indians

Of the six hundred Indians that Harrison estimated had taken part in the battle of Tippecanoe, thirty-eight were found dead on the field. Though that was not a large number from a white man's point of view, the Indians regarded the loss of thirty-eight of their warriors as no light matter.

But that was not the heaviest blow to the confederation that Tecumseh and the Prophet had worked so hard to establish. Tippecanoe had been regarded with superstitious veneration as the Prophet's town, a sort of holy city, under the special protection of the Great Spirit. The destruction of the town, therefore, seriously affected the reputation of the Prophet.

It is hard to tell what part the Prophet played in the attack on Governor Harrison's forces. In their anxiety to escape punishment from the United States government many Indians who were known to have taken part in the battle excused their conduct by saying they had acted in obedience to the Prophet's directions. They told strange stories of his urging them to battle with promises that the Great Spirit would protect them from the bullets of the enemy.

On the other hand, the Prophet said the young men who would not listen to his commands were to blame for the trouble.

The fact that the Indians did not follow up their advantage over Harrison, and instead of renewing the attack with their full force, fled from him, would indicate that there certainly was a large party in favor of peace. It seems probable that that party was made up of the Prophet and his most faithful followers, rather than of those Indians who, while pretending to be the friends of the United States and accusing the Prophet, admitted that they had done the fighting. Tenskwatawa had had advice from the British, and strict orders from Tecumseh to remain at peace, and he had shown in many ways his anxiety to appease Harrison and keep the Indians from doing violence. For some time the influence of Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh had been more to restrain and direct than to excite the anger of the Indians which had been kindled by the treaty of 1809, and was ready to break out at any instant. It is hard, too, to believe that young warriors who had never been trained to act on the defensive could be constrained to wait until they were attacked, and so lose the advantage to be gained by surprising the enemy, or that they could be made to withdraw without striking a blow.

But however blameless the Prophet may have been, he suffered for a time, as Harrison had supposed he would. He was the scapegoat on whom all placed the responsibility for the battle of Tippecanoe. Even Tecumseh is said to have rebuked him bitterly for not holding the young men in check.

That Tecumseh disapproved of the affair is evident from the answer he sent the British, who advised him to avoid further encounters with the Americans:

"You tell us to retreat or turn to one side should the Big Knives come against us. Had I been at home in the late unfortunate affair I should have done so; but those I left at home were—I cannot call them men—a poor set of people, and their scuffle with the Big Knives I compared to a struggle between little children who only scratch each other's faces."

Tecumseh Brother


In the spring, Tecumseh presented himself at Vincennes saying that he was now ready to go to Washington to visit the President. The Governor, however, gave him a cold welcome, telling him that if he went he must go alone. Tecumseh's pride was hurt and he refused to go unless he could travel in a style suited to the dignity of a great chief, the leader of the red men.

Harrison soon learned that the brothers were again at Tippecanoe, with their loyal followers, rebuilding the village and strengthening their forces.

In April, 1812, a succession of horrible murders on the frontier alarmed the settlers. A general uprising of the Indians was expected daily. The militiamen refused to leave their families unprotected. The Governor was unable to secure the protection of the United States troops. Panic spread along the border; whole districts were unpeopled. Men, women, and children hastened to the forts or even to Kentucky for safety. There was fear that Vincennes would be overpowered.

Had the Indians chosen this time to strike, they could have done terrible mischief. But Tecumseh's voice was still for peace. At a council held in May, he said:

"Governor Harrison made war on my people in my absence; it was the will of God that he should do so. We hope it will please the Great Spirit that the white people may let us live in peace. We will not disturb them, neither have we done it, except when they come 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. . . .

"It is true, we have endeavored to give all our brothers good advice, and if they have not listened to it we are sorry for it. We defy a living creature to say we ever advised any one, directly or indirectly, to make war on our white brothers. It has constantly been our misfortune to have our view misrepresented to our white brothers. This has been done by the Pottawottomies and others who sell to the white people land that does not belong to them."

Tecumseh and the British

Greatly as Tecumseh wished the Indians to remain at peace with the citizens of the United States, he saw that it was impossible for them to do so unless they were willing to give up their lands. The British, meanwhile, promised to regain for the Indians all the land north of the Ohio River and east of the Alleghany Mountains. They roused in the heart of Tecumseh the hope that the old boundaries between the territory of the Indians and the territory of the white man would be re?stablished. When war broke out in 1812, between Great Britain and the United States, Tecumseh joined the British at Malden. In making this alliance he was not influenced by any kindly feeling toward the British. He simply did what seemed to him for the best interests of the Indians.

At the outset, fortune favored the British flag. Fort Mackinac, in northern Michigan, fell into the hands of a force of British and Indians. Detroit was surrendered to General Brock without resistance. Fort Dearborn, at Chicago, was burned and its garrison was massacred by the Indians. The English seemed in a fair way to fulfill their promise of driving the American settlers from the Northwest. Fort Harrison and Fort Wayne were the only strongholds of importance left to guard the frontier. These forts Tecumseh planned to take by stratagem.

Fort Detroit


The victories of the British won to their side the tribes that had hesitated, and hundreds of warriors flocked to the standard of Tecumseh. He became an important and conspicuous figure in the war. His bravery, his knowledge of the country, and his large following made it possible for him to give his allies invaluable aid. Without Tecumseh and his Indians the British war in the West would have been a slight affair.

The Americans fitted out a large military force to retake Detroit, and overthrow the Indians who threatened the settlements. General Harrison was put in command of the expedition. He set out with his army in grand array, but was unable to reach Detroit because of the swampy condition of the land over which he must march. He was forced to camp on the Maumee River. His advance into the territory of the Indians thwarted the enterprise that Tecumseh had set on foot against Fort Wayne.

While Harrison was encamped at Fort Meigs there were several encounters between the hostile forces. A division of Harrison's army, under General Winchester, having allowed itself to become separated from the main army, was attacked on the River Raisin by a party of British and Indians. After a fierce struggle the remnant of General Winchester's force surrendered to the British. In the absence of Tecumseh many of the prisoners were cruelly massacred by the Indian victors.

Major Richardson's description of General Winchester's men gives us a good idea of the hardihood of the frontier soldiers, and shows us how they came to be called "Long Knives" by the Indians:

"It was the depth of winter; but scarcely an individual was in possession of a great coat or cloak, and few of them wore garments of wool of any description. They still retained their summer dress, consisting of cotton stuff of various colors shaped into frocks, and descending to the knee. Their trousers were of the same material. They were covered with slouched hats, worn bare by constant use, beneath which their long hair fell matted and uncombed over their cheeks; and these, together with the dirty blankets wrapped round their loins to protect them against the inclemency of the season, and fastened by broad leathern belts, into which were thrust axes and knives of an enormous length, gave them an air of wildness and savageness."

[Illustration] from Four American Indians by Frances Perry


Later, General Proctor, who had succeeded General Brock in command of the British forces at Detroit, laid siege to Fort Meigs. Tecumseh, who took part in the siege, was anxious to meet the enemy in open country. He sent the following unceremonious challenge to his old acquaintance:

"General Harrison: I have with me eight hundred braves. You have an equal number in your hiding place. Come out with them and give me battle. You talked like a brave when we met at Vincennes, and I respected you; but now you hide behind logs and in the earth, like a ground-hog. Give me answer.


When Harrison did venture to send out a detachment it was beaten by the Indians, and many of the Americans were made prisoners. For all the effort General Proctor made to prevent it, a terrible massacre might have followed this victory. Just as the Indians had begun to murder the prisoners, Tecumseh rode upon the scene of slaughter. When he saw what was going on he exclaimed in a passion of regret and indignation, "Oh, what will become of my Indians!" He rushed into the midst of the savages, rescued the man they were beginning to torture, and, with uplifted tomahawk, dared the whole horde to touch another prisoner. They cowered before him, deeply ashamed of their conduct.

On discovering that General Proctor was present, Tecumseh demanded impatiently why he had not interfered to prevent the massacre. General Proctor answered that Tecumseh's Indians could not be controlled. To this Tecumseh responded with scorn: "Say, rather, you are unable to command. Go put on petticoats."

In September, 1813, Commodore Perry's splendid victories on Lake Erie gave to the Americans control of the Lakes, and this made it impossible for the British to hold Detroit and Malden. Harrison was advancing with a land force to take these towns and General Proctor was eager to get out of his way. He began to prepare for retreat, but tried to conceal his purpose from Tecumseh. The latter's suspicions were aroused, however, and he demanded a council, in which he made his last formal speech. He spoke boldly and bitterly against General Proctor's course. He said:

"You always told us you would never draw your foot off British ground; but now, father, we see that you are drawing back, and we are sorry to see our father doing so without seeing the enemy. We must compare our father's conduct to a fat dog that carries its tail on its back, but when affrighted it drops it between its legs and runs off. Father, listen! The Americans have not yet defeated us by land; neither are we sure they have done so by water; we therefore wish to remain here and fight our enemy, should they make their appearance. If they defeat us we will retreat with our father. . . . We now see our British father preparing to march out of his stronghold. Father, you have the arms and ammunition which our great father sent to his red children. If you have an idea of going away, give them to us and you may go and welcome. For us, our lives are in the hands of the Great Spirit. We are determined to defend our lands, and if it be His will, we wish to leave our bones upon them."

Notwithstanding the wish of Tecumseh, General Proctor kept his purpose to retreat. He promised, however, that if they were pursued by the Americans he would turn at the first favorable site and give them battle. Accordingly, Tecumseh accompanied the retreating General. He repeatedly urged Proctor to keep his promise and face the enemy. On the fifth of October, Proctor learned that the American forces were at his heels. Valor, therefore, seemed the better part of discretion, and, choosing a ridge between the Thames River and a swamp, he arranged his forces for battle.

Colonel Richard M. Johnson managed the charge of the Americans. One division of his regiment, under command of his brother, attacked and quickly routed the British regulars under General Proctor. The other division he himself led against Tecumseh's Indians.

The Indians waited under protection of the thick brush until the horsemen were within close range; then in response to Tecumseh's war cry all fired. Johnson's advance guard was nearly cut down. The horses could not advance. Johnson ordered his men to dismount and a terrible struggle followed. Soon Tecumseh was shot, and, the Indians missing him, gave up the battle and fled. One of them afterwards described the defeat in a few words: "Tecumseh fell and we all ran."

The war was now ended in the Northwest. The Americans had regained the posts taken by the British; they had subdued the Indians, and gained possession of the lands in the Wabash Valley. The power of the Prophet was destroyed. Tecumseh was dead. The Long Knives had crushed forever the Confederacy of Tecumseh, but it had taken upward of five million dollars and an army of twenty thousand men to do it.