Tecumseh was a Native American leader of the Shawnee and a member of the tribal confederacy that opposed the United States. He was born near Dayton, Ohio, to a minor war chief of the Kispoko branch of Shawnee, but his father was killed in Lord Dunmore’s War when Tecumseh was only six years old. At fifteen, the young warrior joined a band of Shawnees determined to halt white invasion, and he soon became the group’s leader, intercepting settlers on the Ohio River until water traffic virtually ceased. In 1789, Tecumseh traveled south with his older brother and twelve others to live among the Chickamauga Cherokee people, who were well-known for their resistance to U.S. invasion. His brother was soon killed in battle, and Tecumseh assumed leadership of the Shawnee group as well as several raiding parties. He returned to Ohio in 1790, and he later took part in several battles, including the failed endeavor at Fallen Timbers.

Eventually, Tecumseh settled in Greenville, Ohio, where his brother Tenskwatawa, a famous prophet, lived. Tenskwatawa predicted an apocalypse that would destroy the Europeans, and he urged the Shawnee to reject the customs of the immigrants, but soon disagreement arose and tension increased. Finally, Black Hoof, a Shawnee leader who sought peace with the Americans, demanded that Tenskwatawa and his men leave the area. They went north into Indiana, where Tecumseh began meetings to discuss plans against the settlers. Shortly thereafter, William Henry Harrison, Tecumseh’s adversary during the Battle of Fallen Timbers, obtained three million acres from tribes in the Indiana area. Although he had no claim to the land, Tecumseh opposed the agreement, effectively taking on the role of savior during the white invasion. In 1810, he led 400 warriors to confront Harrison at his home, demanding that the governor revoke the treaty. When the latter refused, Tecumseh tried to attack him, and he was only called off when the Potawatomie chief asked that the Indians leave peacefully. Tecumseh met again with Harrison a year later, a conference that convinced the governor of the imminent threat against him. Following the talk, Tecumseh went south, recruiting allies. Meanwhile, Harrison marched northward to his enemy’s village, in an attempt to initiate a forced peace and avoid battle. Tenskwatawa asked that the Army camp nearby overnight, and in the early dawn, the Indians launched a surprise attack. They were not, however, able to overwhelm the American soldiers, and the Battle of Tippecanoe was a large setback in Tecumseh’s plan. He soon began to rebuild his army, and when the New Madrid Earthquake shook the Midwest in December 1811, those who felt it took the phenomenon as a sign that Tecumseh ought to be supported.

Rather than continue to attack the Americans alone, Tecumseh took his men and joined with the British during the War of 1812. They sieged Detroit but lost it again a year later, following several American victories. The new British commander, Henry Proctor, disagreed with Tecumseh over tactics and failed to appear at multiple battle sites, allowing Harrison to cross into Canada. In 1813, U.S. soldiers won the Battle of the Thames, killing Tecumseh and forcing the surrender of his followers shortly thereafter.

Key events during the life of Tecumseh:

Father was killed at the Battle of Point Pleasant.
Joined a band of Shawnee warriors.
Travelled south with his brother to live with the Cherokee.
Returned to Ohio.
Northwest Indian War.
Tenskwatawa led a religious revival that predicted the downfall of the settlers.
Blackfoot demanded that Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa leave Ohio.
William Henry Harrison negotiated the Treaty of Fort Wayne.
Led an army to Harrison's home in Indiana.
Met again with Harrison at his home.
  Battle of Tippecanoe.
Seiged Detroit during the War of 1812.
Killed in the Battle of the Thames.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Tecumseh and the War of 1812  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
Tecumseh  in  America First—100 Stories from Our History  by  Lawton B. Evans
Early Years of the English Dominion  in  Canada: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
Madison—The Shooting Star and the Prophet  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
Tecumseh  in  Four American Indians  by  Frances M. Perry
Brigadier General Tecumseh  in  Boy's Book of Indian Warriors  by  Edwin L. Sabin

Image Links

He held himself like a conqueror
 in Conquest of the Old Northwest

'You have lied to us,' said they
 in Conquest of the Old Northwest

 in Indian History for Young Folks

Tecumseh's Speech
 in Indian History for Young Folks
 in Back Matter
Tecumseh Defends the Whites at Fort Meigs
Tecumseh Defends the Whites at Fort Meigs
 in Back Matter

General Harrison meets Tecumseh, the Indian
 in True Stories of Our Presidents

 in Four American Indians

Eclipse of the Sun
 in Four American Indians

Tecumseh inciting the Creeks
 in Four American Indians

Indians threatening the prophet
 in Four American Indians

Short Biography
Anthony Wayne Bold and popular Revolutionary War Hero. Well known for victory at Stony Point.
William Henry Harrison War hero of Tippecanoe and the War of 1812, and briefly, President of the United States.