Tecumseh, and the War of 1812
In the year 1800 the Indiana Territory was established, and General William Henry Harrison appointed governor. Out of this territory the States of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin have since been formed. Harrison was popular, particularly with the Indians, but the latter were ill-treated by the settlers, and by speculators who defrauded them, encroached upon their reserved domain, and demoralized them with whiskey.
"You call us your children," said an old chief, bitterly, to Harrison, one day; "why do you not make us happy as our fathers the French did? They never took from us our lands; indeed they were common between us. They planted where they pleased, and they cut wood where they pleased, and so did we. But now if a poor Indian attempts to take a little bark from a. tree to cover him from rain, up comes a white man and threatens to shoot him, claiming the tree as his own."
The flames of discontent were fanned by British emissaries. The price of furs was so low, owing to commercial restrictions abroad, that Indian hunters found it difficult to procure their necessary supplies from the traders. At the beginning of 1811, the excellent provisions of Wayne's treaty in their behalf having been substantially obliterated, and vast bodies of their land assured by it having been transferred to the white man and the original proprietors dispossessed, the Indians were ripe for mischief.
Just at this time a great Indian orator and warrior came forward, who had for years earnestly and successfully advocated among the tribes the policy of leagueing themselves together, with the common object of driving back the white man from the fair land of their fathers. He told them that the treaties giving up the lands north of the Ohio were fraudulent,, and therefore void, and assured his auditors that he and his brother the Prophet would resist any further attempts at settlement in that direction by the white people. He also told their that the Indian's land belonged to all in common, and that no part of it could be sold without the consent of all.
Tecumseh, though a Shawnee, was born of a Creek mother, near the banks of Mad River, a few miles from Springfield, Ohio. His name in the Shawnee dialect signifies "a flying tiger," or "a wild-cat springing upon its prey." He was well formed and symmetrical, five feet ten inches in height, and of noble aspect. His carriage was erect and lofty, his motions quick, his eyes penetrating, his visage stern, and he wore an air of hauteur which arose from an elevated pride of soul. He had earned a high reputation by his exploits as a hunter and a warrior.
His brother, Elkswatawa ("the loud voice"), who, up to the year 1806, had been remarkable only for his dissipated habits, assumed at that time to be a prophet. He was a cunning, unprincipled man, and was disfigured by the loss of an eye.
Assuming to have had a vision, the "Prophet" everywhere harangued against drunkenness and witchcraft, and warned his people to have nothing to do with the pale-faces, their religion, their customs, their arms, or their arts, for every imitation of the intruders was offensive to the great Master of Life. The credulous whose number was legion, and who came long distances to see hint, believed that he worked wonders.
In declaiming against drunkenness he met with great success. He told the Indians that since he became a prophet he had gone up into the clouds; that the first place he came to was the abode of the devil, and that all who had died drunkards were there, with flames issuing out of their mouths. Many of his followers were alarmed, and ceased to drink the "fire-water" of the white man.
The great eclipse of the sun in the summer of 1806 enabled him to convince many that he possessed miraculous powers. Having learned when it was to occur, he boldly announced that on a certain day he would prove his miraculous powers by bringing darkness over the sun. At the appointed time the eclipse occurred as predicted. Pointing to the heavens, as he stood in the midst of his followers, he exclaimed, "Behold! darkness has shrouded the sun. Did I not prophesy truly?" Of course this striking phenomenon, thus adroitly used, produced a powerful effect on the Indians.
If not himself the author of this imposture, Tecumseh made great use of it to promote his grand scheme of uniting the North-western tribes, and he went from one to another of them, proclaiming the wonders of his brother's divine mission.
The white settlers were alarmed. As early as in 1807, Governor Harrison, in a speech to the chiefs and headmen of the Shawnees, denounced the Prophet as an impostor. He said to them:
"My children, this business must be stopped. Your conduct has much alarmed the white settlers near you. I will no longer suffer it. You have called 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 evil spirit and of the British agents. Let him go to the lakes; he can then hear the British more distinctly."
The tribe listened to the governor, and, in the spring of 1808, the Prophet and his followers took up their abode on the banks of the Wabash, near the mouth of the Tippecanoe River. Here the brothers continued their hostile intrigues, and succeeded in securing the warlike Wyandots as allies. Tecumseh fiercely denounced those who had taken part in the treaty made with Harrison at Fort Wayne, ceding nearly eight million acres on the Wabash, declared the treaty void, and threatened to kill every chief concerned in it. "Return those lands," he said to Harrison, "and Tecumseh will be the friend of the Americans."
As the influence of the Prophet increased, he used it for the gratification of his personal resentments, and caused the execution of several hostile Delaware chiefs, on a charge of witchcraft. One of these was Tarhe, the wise and venerable sachem of the Wyandots. Perceiving the approach of danger, Governor Harrison, who well knew the great ability and influence of Tecumseh, tried hard to conciliate him.
He told the chief that his principles and claims could not be allowed by the President, and advised him to relinquish them. "Well," said Tecumseh, "as the Great Chief is to determine the matter, I hope the Great Spirit will put sense enough into his head to induce him to direct you to give up this land. It is true he is so far off he will not be injured by the war. He may sit still in his town, and drink his wine, while you and I will have to fight it out." This prophecy, as will be seen, was literally fulfilled.
After a speech from Tecumseh, of great boldness, dignity, and eloquence, at Vincennes, Governor Harrison, through an interpreter, invited the orator to take a seat by the side of his white father. The chief drew his robe more closely about him, and standing erect said, with scornful tone:
"My father? The sun is my father, and the earth is my mother, on her bosom I will repose;" and then seated himself upon the ground in the Indian fashion.
The teachings and the active efforts of this great leader, the authority of the Prophet, and the open encouragement of the British in Canada, all had their effect. Early in 1811, the Indians in the Wabash region began stealing and plundering, and the signs of impending hostilities became more and more evident.
Harrison sent word to the brothers that if they slid not put a stop to these outrages, and cease their warlike preparations, he would attack them. He at once began a fort on the site of the present city of Terre Rapt, called Fort Harrison, and moved promptly forward with a force of nine hundred and ten men, mostly Indiana volunteers.
On arriving near the Prophet's town, the alarmed savages asked for a parley. It was granted. They assured Harrison that a friendly message had been sent him by the Prophet, which had missed him on the way, pointed out a suitable spot for his encampment, and exchanged promises that no hostilities should take place until an interview could be held on the following day.
Harrison's position afforded to the savages great facilities for approach, and for their peculiar mode of warfare. Knowing well the foe with whom he had to deal, the governor made such a disposition of his forces that, in the event of an attempt to surprise his camp, every man would be in his proper place to repel it with the least possible delay. The troops slept in their clothes, with their accoutrements on and their arms by their sides. The night was intensely dark, with a slight rain. Soon the whole camp, except the sentinels and guards, were sleeping soundly.
In the Indian camp, on the contrary, all was stir and activity. The Prophet, with his incantations and mystical movements, had wrought his followers up to a high pitch of excitement. "The time to attack the white man," said he, "has come. They are in your power. They sleep now and will never awake. The omens are all favorable. The Great Spirit will give light to us and darkness to the white man. Their bullets shall not harm us; your weapons shall be always fatal." By their war-songs and dances they worked themselves into a frenzy, and then rushed forth to the attack. Stealthily they crept through the tall grass, intending to surround the camp, kill the sentinels, and then rush in to massacre every soul.
At four o'clock on the following morning, just as Harrison was pulling on his boots, a single gun, fired by a watchful sentinel, followed immediately by the horrid yells of the savages, announced that the attack had begun. A heavy fire was opened upon the troops while they were forming in front, and some of the Indians, in their first fierce onslaught, even penetrated Harrison's lines. The horses of the officers, which had been fastened to stakes in the square, broke loose, and for a few moments all was confusion.
Most of the troops were in position before they were fired upon, but some were compelled to defend themselves at the doors of their tents. The camp-fires were immediately extinguished, as their light was an advantage to the Indian marksmen. Nineteen-twentieths of the troops had never before been in battle, but, notwithstanding the alarming situation in which they were placed, their conduct was cool and gallant, and after the first momentary surprise there was little noise or confusion.
Harrison, with his aid, Colonel Owen, hastened to the point first attacked, where the troops had bravely held their ground, though suffering severely, and at once ordered up a reinforcement. Called immediately to another quarter, he observed heavy firing from some trees in front, mud ordered Major Daviess, with some dragoons, to dislodge the enemy. This was gallantly attempted, but with too small a force. The gallant Daviess fell, and his men were driven back. Captain Snelling, with his company of regulars, then drove the savages from their advantageous position, Snelling himself making prisoner of a chief.
The battle then became general, the camp being assailed on all sides. The Indians advanced and retreated by the aid of a rattling noise made with deer hoofs, and fought with the utmost fury and determination. It was important to maintain the lines of the encampment unbroken till day-light, when the assailed mould be able to make a general charge upon a visible foe. To do this Harrison was compelled to be constantly in motion, riding from point to point, and keeping the assailed positions reinforced.
When day dawned, a charge was gallantly and effectively executed. The Indians were driven at the point of the bayonet, and were pursued by the horsemen until the wet prairie stopped their further progress, and enabled the fugitives, who scattered in all directions, to escape. The Prophet's town was reduced to ashes.
While the fight was going on, the Prophet, who kept out of harm's way, sung a war-song and performed some religions exercises. When told that his followers were falling under the fire of the white men, he said, "Fight on; it will soon be as I told you." When at last the beaten warriors assailed him bitterly for the failure, he cunningly told them that it was because, during his incantations, his wife had touched the sacred vessels and broke the charm. This was too much even for Indian credulity. "You are a liar!" said one of the warriors 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 devils." His followers deserted him, and he sought a refuge with a small band of Wyandots on Wildcat Creek.
In this severe and well-fought battle the victor acquired the title of "Old Tippecanoe." We shall again hear from Harrison in the war of 1812.
Tecumseh was absent among the Southern Indians when the battle of Tippecanoe was fought. He returned soon afterwards, only to learn that his great scheme had been totally ruined by his brother's precipitate folly. In his anger he seized the Prophet by the hair, shook him violently, and threatened to take his life. His zealous and patriotic labors, to which so much of his life had been devoted, had been thrown away, and his hopes for the future of his race had in a moment been destroyed. Failing to receive permission to visit the President with a deputation of chiefs, mortified and exasperated, he became thenceforward a firm ally of the British.
In July, 1812, a deputation from those Indians who were inclined to neutrality was sent to Malden to invite Tecumseh to attend their council at Brownstown.
"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."
Immediately after the battle of Tippecanoe, the inhabitants of Detroit, alarmed at the threatening aspect of our relations with England, petitioned Congress to strengthen their defences. The impressment of American seamen, and the depredations of British cruisers upon American commerce, caused war to be soon afterwards declared by the United States against England.
Michigan Territory was at this time sparsely populated, and greatly exposed to savage inroads. Preparations for war were going on, the invasion of Canada was talked of, and General William Hull, governor of the territory, while opposing this project, urged the President to increase the military force in the territory, and to place a small fleet on Lake Erie.
Hull knew that the British authorities in Canada had sent messengers to all the principal Indian tribes in the North-west with arms and presents, exhorting then to become the allies of Great Britain in the event of war. He knew that the savages could desolate the territory, and that the British had control of the lake, and that, with the small force at his disposal, the idea of a successful invasion of Canada was preposterous. It was ordered, nevertheless.
Detroit at that time stretched along the bank of the river. The present Jefferson Avenue was its principal street. It contained one hundred and sixty houses and about eight hundred inhabitants, principally of French origin. On a hill in the rear, about two hundred and fifty yards from the river, stood Fort Detroit, built by the English after the conquest of Canada. It was quadrangular in form, with bastions and barracks, and covered about two acres of ground. The embankments were nearly twenty feet in height, with a deep, dry ditch, and were surrounded by a double row of pickets. The town was surrounded by strong pickets, fourteen feet high, with loop-holes to shoot through. These pickets, which had been erected as defences against Indian incursions, were still in good condition. The fortifications which the British were erecting on the opposite side of the river would, if completed, not only command the town, but seriously menace the fort, and Hull prepared to cross, and drive the enemy towards Malden.
With about two thousand two hundred effective men he crossed the river at Detroit (July 12, 1812), and landed unopposed, just above the present town of Windsor.
By the unpardonable remissness of Eustis, Secretary of War, our officers on this exposed frontier were not notified of the declaration of war until after the intelligence had reached the enemy. One of the immediate consequences of this strange blunder was the capture by the British and Indians of the post and garrison of Mackinac, by which they gained the key to the fur-trade of a vast region, and the command of the upper lakes, and, above all, removed the bar that kept back the savages of that region, and secured their neutrality. To this cause may in part be attributed the disasters of the Canada campaign of 1812.
Opposed to the cautious and unenterprising Hull was a brave, sagacious, and energetic officer, General Isaac Brock, the same who soon afterwards fell gloriously at Queenstown Heights. Orders to move upon the British post at Malden had at last been issued by Hull, through the urgency of McArthur. Cass, and other officers, and the troops were preparing to execute them with alacrity when the intelligence came that Brock, with a large force of regulars, Canadians, and Indians, was approaching. The order to recross the river to Detroit and abandon Canada was given by the general, and most reluctantly obeyed.
A small party, under Major Van Horne, had been defeated and driven back by Tecumseh in an attempt to bring supplies to the many from Brownstown, twenty-five miles below. Lieutenant-colonel Miller was sent on the same errand, and at Maguaga defeated a large body of the enemy, with whom was Tecumseh. The Indians bore the brunt of this engagement, and fought with great obstinacy until finally routed, when they fled, leaving forty of their dead on the field. Brock, on reaching Sandwich, opposite Detroit, summoned Hull to surrender, intimating that in the event of a refusal, the blood-thirsty savages who accompanied him would be let loose upon the town and garrison.
Hull refused to surrender, but at the same time neglected to erect batteries or take other necessary steps to prevent the landing of the enemy, who at once opened a cannonade, which the Americans returned with spirit.
Next morning the enemy landed without molestation, the Indians, under Tecumseh, taking a position in the woods. The British column, seven hundred and seventy strong, moved towards the fort, their left flank covered by the Indians; their right rested on the river, and was covered by the guns of the Queen Charlotte. The American force was numerically larger than the British, and its position gave it decided superiority. It had plenty of ammunition, and was provisioned for eighteen days.
Just as the American artillerists were preparing to pour a deadly fire into the ranks of the advancing foe, a white flag was displayed from the walls of the fort, and Detroit, with its garrison of two thousand men, was surrendered without a shot being fired in its defence. This unfortunate event gave the British a large supply of arms, which Canada greatly needed, and also gave them time to secure the alliance of savage tribes ever ready to join the victorious party.
Hull was tried by a court-martial and condemned to be shot, but was pardoned by the President in consideration of his age and Revolutionary services. He was no coward, but, swayed too much by considerations of humanity, committed a grave error of judgment. He was wholly incompetent to meet and overcome obstacles which a younger and more energetic man would have successfully encountered.
After the surrender, Brock, who had a high opinion of the sagacity and gallantry of Tecumseh, took off his own rich crimson silk sash, and publicly placed it round the waist of the chief, who was much pleased at such a mark of respect, but who received it with dignity. With rare modesty he at once placed it upon Round head, a celebrated Wyandot warrior, saying, "I do not wish to wear such a mark of distinction when an older and alder warrior than myself is present." For his services at the battle of Maguaga he had been rewarded by the British Government with the commission of brigadier-general.
Tecumseh's appearance at this time was very prepossessing. His age was about forty, his complexion light copper, and his countenance oval, with bright hazel eyes, indicating cheerfulness, energy, and decision. Three small silver crosses or coronets were suspended from the lower cartilage of his aquiline nose, and a large silver medallion of George III., which an ancestor had received, was attached to a mixed-colored wampum string and hung round his neck. His dress consisted of a plain, neat uniform—tanned deerskin jacket, with long trousers of the same material, the seams of both being covered with neatly cut fringe. His moccasins were much ornamented with work made from the dyed quills of the porcupine. The cap was red, the band ornamented with colored porcupine quills. When in full dress, on gala occasions, he wore a cocked hat and plume.
The success of the British in this campaign was largely owing to the efficient co-operation of Tecumseh and his Indians, and to the fears with which they inspired the American commander.
In 1804 the United States had erected upon the site of a French trading post, at the mouth of the Chicago River, where the city of Chicago now stands, a small work called Fort Dearborn. It was garrisoned at this time by seventy-five men, under Captain Heald. While manifesting friendship for the garrison, the Potawatoinies in its vicinity were in alliance with Great Britain, and were annually receiving a large supply of presents at Fort Malden, on the Canada side.
In obedience to orders, but contrary to the advice of his officers and of Winnemeg, a friendly chief, the provisions and goods in the fort were distributed among the Indians in the vicinity, and on the morning of August 15th the garrison evacuated the fort, and took up the line of march for Fort Wayne. They were accompanied by about five hundred Potawatomies, who had pledged their word to escort them in safety to that post.
They had proceeded but a mile and a half when these treacherous savages attacked and surrounded them. After a short conflict, in which half his men were killed or wounded, Heald surrendered. A portion of the prisoners were taken to Detroit, the remainder were distributed among the Potawatomie villages. The wounded prisoners were not included in the stipulation, and many of them were put to death with savage barbarity.
The wife of Lieutenant Helm, one of Heald's officers, in describing this scene, says: "I felt that my hour was come, and endeavored to forget those that I loved, and prepare myself for my approaching fate. At this moment a young Indian raised his tomahawk at me. By springing aside I avoided the blow which was aimed at my head, but which alighted on my shoulder. I seized him around the neck, and while exerting my utmost efforts to get possession of his scalping-knife, which hung in a scabbard over his breast, I was dragged from his grasp by another and older Indian.
"The latter bore me, struggling and resisting, towards the lake. I was immediately plunged into the water, and held there with a forcible hand, notwithstanding my resistance. I soon perceived, however, that the object of my captor was not to drown me, as he held me in a position to place my head above the water. Looking at him attentively, I soon recognized, in spite of the paint with which he was disguised, 'The Black Partridge.'
"This was a chief of some distinction, who entertained a strong personal regard for many of the white families in the fort. The evening before the massacre he had entered Heald's room, and said, 'Father, I come to deliver up to you the medal I wear. It was given me by the Americans, and I have long worn it in token of mutual friendship. But our young men are resolved to imbrue their hands in the blood of the whites. I cannot restrain them, and I will not wear a token of peace while I am compelled to act as an enemy.'
"When the firing had somewhat subsided, my preserver bore me from the water and conducted me up the sand-banks. It was a burning August morning, and walking through the sand in my drenched condition was inexpressibly painful and fatiguing. I stopped, and took off my shoes to free them from the sand with which they were nearly filled, when a squaw seized and carried them off. . . . Supported partly by my kind conductor, and partly by another Indian, I dragged my fainting steps to one of the wigwams.
"Seeing my exhausted condition, the wife of a chief standing near dipped up some water from a stream close at hand, threw into it some maple-sugar, and, stirring it, gave it to inc to drink. This act of kindness, in the midst of so many atrocities of which I was witness, touched me most sensibly."
After passing through the scenes above described, Mrs. Helm was taken to Detroit; her husband, who had also been taken prisoner, was afterwards liberated. Fifteen years later the town, now the fourth city in population in the United States, was laid out near the scene of this massacre.
Zachary Taylor, a young captain in the army, afterwards President of the United States, commanded at Fort Harrison on the Wabash, a short distance above the site of the present city of Terre Haute. Friendly Miamis had warned him of the hostile disposition of the neighboring tribes, and he was on his guard. The garrison consisted of about fifty men, not more than a dozen of whom were, owing to a prevailing fever, fit for duty. Taylor himself was just recovering from an attack of bilious fever.
At midnight on September 4th he was aroused by the guns of his sentinels. Every man was ordered to his post, and some of the sick volunteered for the emergency. The lower block-house, containing all the supplies for the garrison, had been set on fire by the savages. It was soon consumed, thus making an opening for the foe, and for a time the destruction of the whole fortification seemed imminent. A smart fire was all the time kept up by the savages. The garrison, weakened by sickness and exhaustion, were dismayed, and for a moment regarded all as lost and gave way to despair. Two of the stoutest and most trusted of the soldiers leaped the palisades and attempted to escape. Everything depended upon the presence of mind, courage, and energy of the commander. The flames had reached the barracks when he shouted,
"Pull off the roofs nearest the block-house, pour on water, and all will be well!"
His voice reanimated the men; they put forth a degree of strength surprising to themselves, and that could only be supplied by the excitement and danger of the situation. Water was brought, in buckets, while some, climbing the roof, tore off the boards, and in the face of bullets and arrows extinguished the flames and saved the endangered buildings. Before daybreak the open space made by the fire was protected by a breast-work as high as a mans head, only a single man in the fort having been killed, in spite of the incessant firing of the foe.
Daylight enabled the garrison to return the fire of the enemy, with such effect that after a conflict of eight hours they withdrew. One of the two men who fled from the fort was killed, the other, though badly wounded, regained its walls.
Fortunately for the garrison, whose provisions had all been consumed in the block-house, the Indians had left the standing corn around the fort untouched, and upon this they subsisted several days.
The year 1813 opened with a sad disaster to the American arms, known as the massacre at the river Raisin. Frenchtown, now Monroe, Michigan, was then a flourishing settlement on this river. Since the surrender of Detroit it had been occupied by the British. On January 18th they had been driven out by the Americans, but immediately organized a large force for its recapture at Malden, eighteen miles distant. It was commanded by Colonel Proctor, who, with some large pieces of cannon and a numerous body of Indians, advanced to the attack early in the morning of the 22nd. The weather was intensely cold.
The Americans under General Winchester, who had neglected to send out pickets upon the roads leading to the town, were surprised, and after a brave defence were compelled to surrender. This they did upon the solemn promise of the British commander that private property should be respected, and that the sick and wounded, protected by a proper guard, should be removed to Amherstburg.
These conditions were shamefully violated, and, after the British and their prisoners had gone, the helpless sick and wounded prisoners were stripped of everything by the savages, who had just held a drunken revel, and then tomahawked and scalped. The loss of the Americans in this shocking affair, which threw Kentucky into mourning, was nine hundred and thirty-four. Of these, one hundred and ninety-seven were killed and missing; the remainder were made prisoners. The Indians were led by Round Head and Walk-in-the-Water.
Almost all the disasters to the American arms in this war were inflicted by the Indians, or through their active co-operation. The government or the United States, from motives of humanity, refused to employ them, and endeavored to secure their neutrality. By bribes and promises of plunder the British succeeded in inducing large numbers of them to take up the hatchet against the Americans. The capture of Detroit and of Chicago, the defeats of Van Horne and of Winchester, and that of Colonel Dudley, now to be related, were mostly or wholly their work.
In May, General Harrison was besieged by Proctor and his savage allies, fifteen hundred strong, under Tecumseh, in Fort Meigs, a post just established at the foot of the Maumee Rapids. After cannonading the fort for several days without result, Proctor sent Major Chambers with a demand for its surrender.
"Tell General Proctor," replied Harrison, "that if the fort should fall into his hands, it will be in a manner calculated to do him more honor than a thousand surrenders."
On the most active day of the investment as many as five hundred shots and bombs were aimed at the fort. For safety against the latter, each man had a hole dug underground, in the rear of the grand traverse, which, being covered over with plank and earth, fully protected them. The grand traverse was a wall of earth twelve feet in height, running lengthwise of the fort, and designed as a protection against the batteries on the opposite side of the river.
When the cry of "bomb" was heard, the soldiers either threw themselves upon the ground or ran to the holes for safety. A bomb is most destructive when it bursts in the air, but it rarely explodes in that way; it usually falls with such force as to penetrate the earth, and when it explodes, the pieces fly upward and in an angular direction, consequently, a person lying on the ground is comparatively safe. Forts are usually built with bomb-proofs.
General Green Clay had marched promptly to Harrison's relief with twelve hundred Kentuckians. Eight hundred of them, under Colonel Dudley, landed near the fort and captured the British batteries at that point, but disobeying Harrison's orders to spike the cannon and withdraw at once, they pursued the enemy into the forest. There they were drawn into an ambuscade, and attacked on all sides by Indians, and most of them killed or captured, one hundred and seventy only escaping to the fort. The remainder of Clay's command fought their way through the Indians, then joined the garrison in a sally upon them, drove them half a mile at the point of the bayonet, and utterly routed them. The siege was raised very soon afterwards. The prisoners from Colonel Dudley's command were murdered in cold blood. The butchery was finally ended by Tecumseh, who proved himself to be more humane than Proctor. Hastening to the scene of murder, and seeing that officer near, Tecumseh sternly inquired,
"Why did you not put a stop to this inhuman massacre?"
"Your Indians could not be controlled," replied Proctor, who trembled with fear.
"Begone!" retorted Tecumseh, in a manner that indicated his supreme contempt. "You are unfit to command; go and put on petticoats." This was the grossest insult an Indian could offer.
Another incident shows the low estimate of the chief for the British general, and his complete ascendency over him.
Captain Lecroix, an American for whom Tecumseh had a peculiar regard, had fallen into Proctor's hands, and was secreted on board a vessel until he could be sent to Montreal. Tecumseh peremptorily demanded of Proctor whether he knew anything of his friend, and threatened to abandon him with his Indians if he uttered a falsehood. Proctor was obliged to admit that Lecroix was in confinement. Tecumseh demanded his immediate release, and Proctor submissively wrote an order stating that "The King of the Woods" desired the release of Captain Lecroix, and that he must be set at liberty without delay.
The record of Proctor, whose "services" at the river Raisin were rewarded with the rank of brigadier-general, is unsurpassed for meanness, cowardice, and cruelty. We shall meet with him once more.
Another attack was soon afterwards made on Fort Meigs. On this occasion the enemy practised a hell-devised stratagem, for the purpose of drawing the troops from their post.
On the Sandusky road, in the afternoon of July 26th, a heavy discharge of rifles and muskets was heard. The Indian yell at the same time broke upon the ear, and the savages were seen attacking with great impetuosity a column of men, who were soon thrown into confusion. They, however; rallied, and the Indians in turn gave way. Supposing that this was a reinforcement for them, the garrison flew to arms, and were urgent in demanding to be led to the support of their friends. General Clay, the commander of the fort, who had just received intelligence from General Harrison, reasonably doubted the probability of so speedy a reinforcement, and prudently and firmly resisted the earnest importunities of the officers and men. A heavy shower of rain soon terminated the sham battle, and two days later the siege was abandoned.
It was subsequently ascertained that this stratagem was planned by Tecumseh, for the purpose of decoying out a part of the garrison, which was to have been attacked and cut off by the Indians, while the British were to carry the fort by storm. But for the cool judgment of the commander this cunningly devised manœuvre would probably have succeeded.
Commodore Perry's victory on Lake Erie had important consequences. Proctor's army, five thousand strong, including two thousand five hundred Indians under Tecumseh, was compelled to abandon its design of laying waste the entire northern frontier, through which the glad tidings sent a thrill of joy.
It also put a finishing blow to Tecumseh's Indian confederacy, and opened the way for Harrison's army to repossess the territory lost by the surrender of Detroit. The stigma of that disaster was wiped out, and the exposed frontier was henceforth to be absolutely secure from British invasion and Indian depredations.
At Harrison's request, Governor Shelby, the hero of King's Mountain, issued a call for mounted volunteers.
"I will lead you to the field of battle, and share with you the dangers and honors of the campaign," said the brave old veteran. There was a hearty response to his appeal.
"Come," said the gallant Kentuckians, "let us rally round the eagle of our country, for 'Old King's Mountain' will certainly lead us to victory and conquest." In a short time, at the head of three thousand five hundred mounted men, he was on the march to Lake Erie, but before reaching it received the news of Perry's victory.
At Seneca, Harrison was joined by some friendly Wyandots, Shawnees, and Senecas, under chiefs Lewis, Blackhoof, and Blacksnake. Blackhoof, a famous Shawnee chief, had fought against Braddock, and in all the wars with the Americans. Since the treaty of Greenville, in 1795, he had been their friend, resisting the influence of Tecumseh, and preventing many of the Shawnees from joining the British. Sagacious, energetic, and brave, he was also the orator of his tribe; graceful, natural, and with a happy faculty of expression. He died in 1831, at the great age of one hundred and ten years.
The defeat and capture of the British squadron had been concealed from Tecumseh. When he heard of it he addressed Proctor with great vehemence of manner, in these words:
"Father, listen to your children!
"The war before this our British father gave the hatchet to his red children, when our old chiefs were alive. They are now dead. In that war our father was thrown on his back by the Americans, and our father took them by the hand without our knowledge, and we are afraid that our father will do so again at this time.
"Father, listen! Our fleet has gone out. We know they have fought, we have heard the great guns; but we know nothing of what has happened to our father with one arm (Captain Barclay, commander of the British fleet in the battle of Lake Erie). Our ships have gone one way, and we are much astonished to see our father tying up everything and preparing to run the other way, without letting his red children know what his intentions are. You always told us you would never draw your foot off British ground, but now, father, we see 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 upon its back, but when affrighted, drops it between its legs and runs off.
"Father, listen If you have an idea of going away, give us the arms and ammunition which our great father the king sent for his red children. 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."
The effect of this speech was powerful. It brought all the Indians assembled in council with Proctor to their feet, and they brandished their tomahawks in a menacing manner. Proctor had resolved to flee to the Niagara frontier, but finally quieted Tecumseh and Iris followers by promising to make a stand at the Moravian towns on the Thames.
Before taking his flight northward he destroyed Malden, with its public buildings and stores. Harrison immediately pursued and overtook Proctor at the Moravian Town, a village on the right bank of the Thames River.
Here the American general gained the brilliant victory of the Thames. Proctor's ground was well chosen. The river was on his left, a marsh on his right, a small swamp was in the centre, to the right of which were Tecumseh and the Indians, while Proctor and his regulars were on the left. The British artillery was placed in the road along the margin of the river, near the left of their line.
The Indians were posted between the two swamps where the undergrowth was thickest. Their right was commanded by the brave Oshawalmah, a Chippewa chief. It extended some distance along, and just within the borders of the larger marsh, and was so disposed as to easily flank Harrison's left. Their left, commanded by Tecumseh, occupied the isthmus, or narrowest point between the two swamps. The chief, on taking his place in the line, laid aside his British uniform, and fought in his ordinary deerskin hunting-suit.
Harrison, whose army numbered two thousand five hundred men, formed his troops for the attack in three lines, concentrating them upon the British front. His mounted troops were to endeavor, by taking ground to the left, to turn the right flank of the Indians.
Just as the order was about to be given for the front line to advance, Harrison was informed by Colonel Wood, his chief engineer, that the British lines, instead of their usual close order, were drawn up in open order. This information at once determined him to adopt the novel expedient of charging their line of infantry with Johnson's mounted regiment. Its colonel was directed to form it in close column, with its right fifty yards from the road, its left upon the swamp, and to charge at full speed upon the enemy.
At the sound of the bugle, Colonel James Johnson, with the mounted riflemen, dashed upon the first British line among huge trees and over fallen timber. It broke, and scattered in all directions. The second line, thirty paces in its rear, was also broken and dispersed in the same manner. The horsemen now wheeled right and left upon the rear of the broken troops. In less than five minutes after the first shot was fired, the whole British force, eight hundred strong, was vanquished, and most of it made prisoners; only about fifty, Proctor among them, escaped. On the right the battle was over.
On the left a simultaneous attack was made by Johnson's second battalion of mounted men upon the Indians, who, under the immediate command of Tecumseh, reserved their fire until the Americans were within a few paces of them, when they poured in a destructive volley that emptied the saddles of the leading files and wounded Colonel Richard M. Johnson severely. The trees and bushes preventing the mounted men from acting with efficiency, they dismounted, and fought on foot at close quarters. It was now a hand-to-hand encounter.
"Remember the river Raisin!" was the cry of the Kentuckians.
For a while the result was doubtful. The veteran Shelby ordered up Colonel John Donaldson's regiment to the support of Johnson. Tecumseh, the great Indian leader, had fallen early in the fight, while animating his warriors by word and deed, and the Indians at length recoiled and fled. They scattered through the forest and were hotly pursued.
In this battle Colonel Richard M. Johnson, afterwards Vice-President of the United States, behaved with great gallantry. He was mounted on a white pony, which made him a conspicuous mark for the enemy. At the sound of the bugle he dashed forward at the head of the forlorn hope and attacked the Indian left, where Tecumseh was stationed. Their first volley wounded him in the hip and thigh. Another bullet penetrated his hand and traversed his arm, completely disabling him. Faint from loss of blood, he was taken from his horse and conveyed to a vessel a few miles below.
Among the spoils taken in this battle were six brass cannon, three of which, taken from the British in the war of the Revolution, had been retaken from Hull at Detroit. Six hundred prisoners and more than five thousand small-arms were taken in the battle and pursuit.
The loss in this short but severe battle was not great on either side. The Indians left thirty-three of their dead on the field. The disheartened warriors forsook their British allies, and sued humbly for peace and pardon at the feet of the Americans. Their prayers were heard, and they and their families were fed and clothed by the kind-hearted Harrison.
An armistice was concluded with the chiefs of several of the hostile tribes, among whom was Maipock, the fierce Potawatomie, and hostages were received for their keeping faith.
Harrison's victory, and the death of their great foe Tecumseh, produced great rejoicing throughout the country. It annihilated the allied forces west of the Ontario, recovered all that Hull had lost, and gave peace to the North-west.