Edward Eggleston.

Tecumseh and the Shawnee prophet. including sketches of George Rogers Clark, Simon Kenton, William Henry Harrison, Cornstalk, Blackhoof, Bluejacket, the Shawnee Logan, and others famous in the frontier wars of Tecumsehs̕ time online

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Online LibraryEdward EgglestonTecumseh and the Shawnee prophet. including sketches of George Rogers Clark, Simon Kenton, William Henry Harrison, Cornstalk, Blackhoof, Bluejacket, the Shawnee Logan, and others famous in the frontier wars of Tecumsehs̕ time → online text (page 11 of 17)
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men, it would show him to be sincere in his profes-
sions of friendship to the United States and of desire
to preserve peace. Tecumseh replied that he had
been at great pains to induce all the Northern tribes
of Indians to unite and place themselves under him ;
that the whites were alarmed unnecessarily at his
measures, which meant peace. He said the United
States had set him the example of forming a union
among all the Fires. The Indians, he said, did not
complain of it, and Jtheir white brethren ought not to
complain of the Indians doing the same thing among
their tribes. As soon as the council was over, he
said he intended to set out on a visit to the Southern
tribes of Indians to prevail upon them to unite with
the Northern. He said the murderers were not at
his town, and if they were, he could not deliver them
up ; he had set the whites an example of forgiveness
of injuries, and they ought to imitate him. He said
he hoped that nothing would be done toward settling
the new purchase until his return the following spring.
A great number of Indians were coming, he said, to
settle at Tippecanoe, and would need the land for a
hunting ground ; and if they did no more injury, they


might at least kill the cattle and hogs of the white
people, and that this would make disturbances, and
he wished all to remain quiet until his return, when
he would visit the President and settle all difficulties
with him. It was now night, and the governor closed
tlie council, saying that the moon which they saw
would sooner fall to the ground than the President
would suffer his people to be murdered with impunity,
and that he would put petticoats on his warriors
sooner than give up a country which he had fairly
bought from its true owners. Harrison had ordered
a parade of the whole militia of the country on the
day of Tecumseh's arrival ; and by the maneuvering
of the garrison, in making frequent reliefs of one
company by another, he made it appear stronger
than it was, and he hoped to convince the chief that
Vincennes was guarded by a vigilance that defied

A Pottawatomie, called the Deaf Chief, from his
being hard of hearing, was present at this council.
He told the governor, in the presence of other In-
dians, after it was over, that if he had been called
upon he would have confronted Tecumseh when he
denied that his intentions were hostile. This was
quickly reported to Tecumseh, who calmly intimated
to the Prophet that on his return to Tippecanoe the
Deaf Chief must be put out of the way. He was


informed of his danger by a friend, but was not in
the least intimidated. He returned to his camp, put
on his war dress, painted himself elaborately, armed
himself with rifle, tomahawk, war-club, and scalping-
knife, and paddled in his canoe to the camp of Te-
cumseh. The interpreter, Mr. Baron, was there in
conversation with Tecumseh. The Deaf Chief re-
proached Tecumseh for having ordered his death,
saying it was an act unworthy of a warrior.

" Here I am now," said he ; " come and kill me."

Tecumseh made no answer.

" You, and your men," continued the Deaf Chief,
" can kill the white people's hogs and call them bears,
but you dare not face a warrior."

Tecumseh remained calmly silent. The Pottawat-
omie abused him in every way he could, in order to
rouse his anger and tempt him to fight, calling him
a slave of the red-coats, and finally using a term of
reproach that can never be forgotten by an Indian.
Tecumseh, however, did not for a moment lose his
calm dignity, and the Deaf Chief gave the war-
whoop of defiance and paddled off. There is rea-
son to suppose that Tecumseh's orders were not dis-
obeyed, however, for the Pottawatomie was never
again seen at Vincennes.

Tecumseh set off from Vincennes for the South in
a few days, attended by twenty warriors. He was


now neariiig the accomplishment of his great plan.
On his return from this visit he would have his con-
federacy formed and be ready to act. But Harrison
had determined not to await Tecumseh's readiness.



In a letter to the War Department with regard to
this council, Governor Harrison speaks of " the im-
plicit obedience and respect which the followers of
Tecilmseh pay to him," as wonderful. He says :
" 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 difficul-
ties deter him. For four years he has been in con-
stant 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 Mis-
sissippi ; and wherever he goes he makes an impres-
sion 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," says the general,
"that that part of the work which he considered
complete will be demolished, and even its founda-
tion rooted up."

It appears that though the power of Tecumseh
over most of his followers was founded on their af-
fection for him, some were subdued by fear alone,


and the moment Tecumseh had left Vincennes for
the South they took occasion to express their strong

We have only some fragments of the history of
Tecumseh's visit to the Southern Indians. One
traveler among the Creeks or Muskogees heard that
Tecumseh " came more than a thousand miles, from
the borders of Canada," to visit that nation and to
persuade them to go to war with the English against
the Americans whenever he gave notice. A mid-
night council of the chiefs was held,, an eloquent
speech was made by Tecumseh, and the Creeks
unanimously decided to " take up the hatchet " when
he should command.

From another writer we get an account of Tecum-
seh's work with the Seminoles and neighboring tribes
in Florida. Among them he was also successful.
He told them that on a particular day a certain ves-
sel of the "red-coats," filled with arms and supplies
for the Indians, would be off the coast of Florida.
Tecumseh prepared them a calendar, showing the
day on which they were to strike the white settle-
ments. This he did by making little bundles of
sticks which he painted red. Each bundle contained
sticks equal to the number of days that would pass
before the one arrived which he had indicated to
them. Every morning they were to throw away a


stick. Thus it came to pass that the Seminoles, in
the war which followed, became widely known under
the name of "Red Sticks." Tecumseh was very
cautious in his operations. He directed the Indians
to answer any inquiry that might be made as to why
he had come from so far, saying that he had told
them to till the ground, to abstain from the use of
" fire-water," and to live peaceably with the white

From Florida he journeyed to Alabama, where he
visited the Creeks of that region. Here we again
hear of Tecumseh working upon the superstitious
fears of the Indians. He was very successful until
he reached the town of Tuckabatchee, on the Talla-
poosa River. In this place he addressed the council
of the nation, and met a silent opponent in the prin-
cipal chief. Big Warrior. Tecumseh divined the feel-
ings of this chief. He angrily stamped his feet on
the ground, and looking into the eyes of Big War-
rior, said: —

" Your blood is white. You have taken my talk,
and the sticks, and the wampum, and the hatchet,
but you do not mean to fight. I know the reason.
You do not believe the Great Spirit has sent me.
You shall know. I leave Tuckabatchee directly and
shall go straight to Detroit; when I arrive there, I
will stamp on the ground with my foot, and shake


down all the houses in Tuckabatchee." Tecumseh
left them, and it chanced in a few weeks that the
famous earthquake of New Madrid, in which a large
tract of land on the Mississippi sank, occurred, and
demolished every house in Tuckabatchee. The In-
dians exclaimed, "Tecumseh has got to Detroit!"
How much fact there is in the story we do not
know, but such a story will grow, and the later ver-
sions of this one have it that the earthquake took
place on the very day of Tecumseh's arrival in De-
troit. Without this addition the coincidence was
sufficiently remarkable for Indian superstition. War-
riors took up their rifles and prepared for war ;
prophets and witches became numerous, and mur-
ders were committed on the frontier. A company
of Indians under Little Warrior, who had been on a
visit to Tecumseh, butcheYed several families in Ten-
nessee on the return journey.

Tecumseh was very successful in his Southern mis-
sion, and turned toward home with his plans at last
matured for the accomplishment of his great purpose.
He passed through the tribes in Missouri, and on the
Des Moines River, and crossed rapidly to the Wa-
bash to find his capital destroyed and his plans come
to naught.

Tecumseh had told Governor Harrison that he
would remain a year in the South. The governor


had information, however, that Tecumseh did not in-
tend to stay more than three months. A Pottawat-
omie chief, who still remained friendly to the United
States, said he was present when a message was de-
livered to the Prophet from the agent of the English
government to the effect that it was time to take up
the hatchet, and inviting him to send to Maiden for
the supplies that were needed.

The last council with Tecumseh was not at all sat-
isfactory to the inhabitants of Indiana. The great
chief had gone to the South to extend his hostile
confederacy, and every bit of tidings that reached
tlie settlements from the Indians tended to increase
the alarm. The citizens of Vincennes and its vicinity
met and sent memorials to the President, requesting
his protection, and saying that if this were not ac-
corded they would be obliged to defend themselves.

The President ordered the Fourth Regiment, un-
der Colonel Boyd, to service under the governor of
Indiana, but strongly impressed upon him the desira-
bility of maintaining peace if possible. The govern-
ment did not wish, however, that murder or robbery
should be committed by the Indians without punish-
ment, or that a confederacy should be allowed to
"avail itself of success," because of neglect in meeting
and defeating it. It would have been better to have
extinguished Tecumseh's empire even at an earlier


day. Every sign of weakness or tardiness is unfortu-
nate in dealing with savages. In August, Harrison
sent speeches to all the neighboring Indian tribes,
demanding that those who had murdered American
citizens should be delivered up, and that the Miamis
in particular should prove that they had no connec-
tion with the confederacy. He directed his agent to
use every influence to bring the Indians to a sense of
duty, and to warn them that those who took up the
tomahawk against the United States would be se-
verely punished. This brought a party of Indians
from the Prophet's Town, in September, with great
professions of peace.

About the same time, however, some horses were
stolen, and tracked to Tippecanoe. Here they were
returned to the pursuing party, but were again re-
captured by the Indians, who seemed to regret
having given them up.

On the 26th of September, Governor Harrison,
in command of a military expedition against the
Tippecanoe confederacy, left Vincennes. He en-
camped at a spot on the Wabash where, according
to Indian tradition, a battle had been fought between
the Illinois and Iroquois Indians. This place was
called by the French settlers "Bataille des Illinois."
Here a fort was built, and called Fort Harrison by
request of the soldiers.


The governor had sent to the Delawares asking
that some of their chiefs should meet his army upon
the Wabash, in order that they might act in missions
to the different tribes who were implicated in the
Prophet's confederacy. All the chiefs of this friendly
nation who were able to march set out to comply
with the governor's request. They had gone but a
few miles when they were met by a party from Tip-
pecanoe, asking " whether they would or would not
join them in the war against the United States,"
and saying " that they had taken up the tomahawk,
and would not lay it down but with their lives.
They had, however, positive assurances of victory,
and when they had beaten the Americans, those
tribes which refused to join them would have cause
to repent it." Sending a messenger to Harrison to
inform him of this, the Delaware chiefs set out to
visit the Prophet.

About this time a sentinel in Harrison's camp was
fired upon by the Indians and severely wounded.

The governor was now desirous of attacking the
Prophet immediately, knowing that Tecumseh might
soon return, and feeling no doubt that the Prophet
was determined on war. Harrison was delayed,
.however, by defective arrangements in regard to
provisions for the expedition, and by this delay he
was much annoyed.


The governor had hoped that the advance of his
army would frighten the Tippecanoe Indians into
submission. This, however, was not the case, though
it made a strong impression upon some of the tribes.
The Miami chiefs started to visit the governor, and
the Weas said that they would never return to the

On the 27th of October, the Delaware chiefs, who
had gone to make a visit to the Prophet, returned
They said that the Prophet had insulted them, mak-
ing contemptuous remarks upon them and scoffing at
the governor. The Prophet had received them with
bad grace, treated them ill, and finally dismissed
them. They left him practicing his " infernal rites,"
while he and his followers danced the war-dance
every night. While they were there the Indians
who had wounded the sentinel in Harrison's camp
returned. The Delawares said they were Shawnees
and near friends of the Prophet.

The Prophet had threatened to burn the first
prisoners he should take. The interpreters were so
frightened that it was almost impossible to get them
to the front of the army. The governor therefore
accepted an offer made by some of the Delawares
and the Miamis to carry a message to the Prophet's
Town. Governor Harrison demanded of them that
VVinncbrxgoes, Pottawatomies, and Kickapoos, who


were at Tippecanoe, should return to their tribes ;
that stolen horses should be restored, and murderers
of white people delivered up.

The deputation which bore this message never
returned. It is supposed that the Miamis took part
in the battle which followed, as they afterwards con-
fessed to having been near when the action took



On the 29th of October, 181 1, the army marched
out of Fort Harrison, leaving behind them a garrison
of invalid soldiers. Governor Harrison's force con-
sisted of about nine hundred men, including some
volunteers from Kentucky, who, with a love of con-
flict characteristic of Kentuckians, had requested the
privilege of joining in the expedition, and who met
him on the way. There were two routes used by
the Indians in journeying to Tippecanoe. The one
on the south-east side of the Wabash was the shorter,
but it was woody and very favorable to Indian am-
buscades. Harrison thought best, for this reason, to
take the route on the north-west bank of the river,
but in order to deceive the enemy, who were closely
watching him, he had the route on tlie south-east
side of the river reconnoitered and opened into a
wagon road. Upon this the army marched for a
short distance, when, suddenly crossing the Wabash,
they took the other route. No signs of Indians were
seen until the troops reached a very dangerous pass
at Pine Creek. This creek ran between high cliffs of


rock surmounted with pine and cedar trees. The
crossing of the trail on which the troops were rparch-
ing was very difficult, and afforded a chance for a
few. Indians to successfully oppose a large force. In
1786, and again in 1790, the Indians had availed
themselves of this bad crossing for the purpose of re-
sisting in the first instance an expedition under Gen-
eral Clark, and in the second a detachment of Gen-
eral Harmar's troops. The governor sent out a body
of men in the night to search for a better pass. They
returned the next day and reported tliat they had
found a good ford, which had evidently been used by
the Indians, where a prairie skirted the creek. The
army crossed at this place in safety, and were filled
with admiration at the beauty of the great prairie,
which stretched away nearly a hundred miles to the
Illinois River.

On the night of the Sth of November, the troops
encamped within ten miles of the Prophet's Town.
Still no Indians were seen, although there were every-
where traces of scouting parties. On the following
day, however, within five or six miles of the town,
some parties of Indians were seen, and the interpre-
ters in front of the army were directed to communi-
cate with them. The Indians gave them no answer
but threatening and insulting gestures.

When they arrived within a mile and a half of the


town, General Harrison resolved to encamp for the
night. He was urged to attack the town imme-
diately, but his instructions were to avoid war if pos-
sible ; and he also hoped for the return of the friendly
Indians whom he had sent to the Prophet's Town to
meet him. He decided to advance, however, send-
ing Captain Dubois forward with a flag of truce.
Dubois did not succeed in opening any negotiation
with the Indians, who refused to answer his inter-
preter, and tried to cut him off from the main army.
General Harrison now hesitated no longer about at-
tacking the Indians. They, however, had no thought
of fighting without a surprise. Harrison was soon
met by a deputation of three Indians, one of whom
was the Prophet's chief counselor. They innocently
inquired the reason of the army's advancing upon
them. The Prophet, they said, wished to keep peace
if possible, and had sent a specific message by the
chiefs who had come to him from the governor, but
that they had unfortunately returned on the south
side of the Wabash, and thus missed him. The gen-
eral readily agreed to suspend hostilities and to meet
the Indians the next day for the purpose of treating
for peace. He told the deputation that he would go
to the Wabash and encamp there for the night. The
army marched on toward the town in order to find a
good place for encampment. Wlien they neared the


town the order of troops was changed to suit the
uneven character of the country. This maneuver
alarmed the suspicious savages, who immediately
prepared for defence. The governor rode forward,
called some Indians to him, and assured them that he
had no intentions of attacking them. Some officers
were sent out to select a suitable place for the camp,
and this having been decided upon, the army settled
itself for the night in order of battle, the men sleeping
on their arms. They were much dissatisfied that
there was no prospect of fighting. Some of those
who were more experienced in Indian ways were not
so sure of this, however.

A strange and exciting night was this in the town
of the Indian Prophet. This place thus rudely in-
vaded was a sacred spot, the very centre and capital
of the new religious fanaticism, where all its mysteri-
ous rites were performed. It was, according to their
leader, a place chosen for them by the Great Spirit ;
like Jerusalem among the Jews, the peculiar home of
religion and of patriotism. The fortifications which
surrounded the town were impregnable to white
troops, so the Prophet told them. And now the
strength of their faith and of their arms was to be

Had Tecumseh been at home, matters might have
ended differently. He had left orders that war was


to be avoided during his absence at all hazards.
Whether or not there had sprung up a jealousy be-
tween the brothers, apparently so firmly united, we
shall never know. But it would have taken more
magnanimity than the Prophet possessed to have
seen with composure the rapid rise of Tecumseh's
fame and power, eclipsing and absorbing the glory of
his spiritual influence. He found himself surrounded
by impetuous warriors, among them the flower of the
Winnebago braves, and his force was in no way infe-
rior to that of the white troops under Governor Har-
rison, who were in an unfortified camp. H!is men
were worked up to the highest pitch of fanatical zeal,
and never were Indians known to be so fierce and
brave. Early in the evening the Indians held a coun-
cil and formed a plan. The Indian chiefs were to
meet the whites in council the next day. They were
to agree to all of Harrison's proposals. They were
then to retire a short distance to where: their warriors
were to be stationed. Two Indians were to remain
behind and assassinate the governor. To this pur-
pose some Winnebagoes had religiously devoted their
lives. The battle was then to begin. The night was
dark and cloudy ; the moon did not rise until late, and
a drizzling rain soon set in. The Indians probably
occupied the time in war preparations, and in the ob-
servance of the juggling ceremonies by which the


Prophet so well succeeded in exciting their savage
passions, while he, at the very summit of his import-
ance, doubtless prophesied and boasted as usual. It
is said that he concocted a composition, said incanta-
tions over, and then told his followers that one-half
of Harrison's army was now dead, and that the other
half was crazy, and it would be a small matter for the
Indians to finish their destruction with their toma-
hawks. During this dark night the plan was changed,
and before four o'clock the whole force of the
Prophet's braves were creeping through the grass
upon the sentinels around the American camp.

Governor Harrison was accustomed to arouse his
men an hour before daylight and keep them on their
guard until the sun rose. On the morning of the
7tli of November he had just risen and was pulling
on his boots before a camp-fire and conversing with
several of his officers, while the drummer was being
roused preparatory to calling up the men. Suddenly
a single shot was heard, followed by the wild Indian
yell which was the nightmare of all who slept in the
Indian country. A sentinel had discovered an In-
dian creeping upon him and had fired. Immedi-
ately the war-whoop sounded on all hands, and the
whole Tippecanoe force, commanded by White Loon,
Stone Eater, and Winnemac, the Pottawatomie chief
who had professed so much friendship for the governor.


was upon them in an instant. Tlie guard gave way at
the point of attack, but the men who had been sleep-
ing on their arms were immediately prepared to re-
ceive the Indians bravely, although the suddenness
of the charge was sufficient to have excited a panic.
The camp-fires were instantly put out, in order that
the Indians might not have the assistance of their
light. In two minutes every soldier was on his feet
prepared for action; officers hurried to their posts,
and the battle soon raged on all sides. The Prophet,
in virtue of his sacred office, and perhaps, as is sug-
gested, unwilling " to attest at once the rival powers
of a sham prophecy and a real American bullet," did
not take part in the battle, but stationed himself on a
small hill near at hand where he chanted a war-song,
and presided like an evil genius, as the Indians soon
had reason to think, over this battle in the darkness.
With characteristic fanaticism or infatuation, he had
prophesied that the American bullets would rebound
harmless from the bodies of the Indians, and that they
would be provided with light, while all would be
" thick darkness " to their enemies. He had evi-
dently heard of Moses and Pharaoh. Both parties
were embarrassed by the terrible darkness.

Messengers informed the Prophet soon after the
battle began that his followers were falling in the
most natural way. He sent back orders for them to


persevere, saying that his prophecy would soon be
fulfilled. His wild, inspiring war-song then rose
above the crack of firearms and the Indian war-

The Indians made use of deer hoofs instead of
drums to signal an advance or retreat ; making with

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Online LibraryEdward EgglestonTecumseh and the Shawnee prophet. including sketches of George Rogers Clark, Simon Kenton, William Henry Harrison, Cornstalk, Blackhoof, Bluejacket, the Shawnee Logan, and others famous in the frontier wars of Tecumsehs̕ time → online text (page 11 of 17)