George Upfold.

The life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames online

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Online LibraryGeorge UpfoldThe life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames → online text (page 3 of 9)
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mined to proceed on to the Prophet's town. And here it is
no more than justice that an incident should be related illus-
trative of the generous conduct of Governor Harrison, which
endeared him so much to his troops, and rendered him the
most popular commander ever engaged in the American service.
Finding that his flour was inadequate to supply the army for
any considerable period, he was compelled, in the early part of
October, to put them .on a half-allowance of that article. While
the soldier in the line, however, was subjected to this privation,
the Governor's table was not found supplied with luxuries.
He required all the officers rigidly to conform to the same regu-
lation, and he was himself the first to adopt it.

The Indians being perfect masters of ambuscading, every
precaution was necessary during the progress of the army, to
guard against surprise, and to prevent them from being attacked
in a disadvantageous position. Our limits forbid us to accom-
pany him on his dreary march through the wilderness, or to
recount the many perils and adventures of the route. Com-
pelled to ford streams, swollen by heavy rains, and in some
instances filled with floating ice, and this too, on foot — for fre-
quently did the Governor relinquish his horse to the sick or
infirm soldier — to lie at night on the snow-covered earth, with
his clothes and accoutrements on, or sit with his back against a
tree, sleeping, with the reins of his horse clenched in his hand,
momentarily expecting an attack; — these form but an imperfect
sketch of the toils and privations to which the chivalrous Har-
rison and his gallant army were exposed.


On the 6th of November he discovered the Prophet's town,
about five miles in advance of him. Captain Dubois was de-
spatched with a flag to the Indians, accompanied by an inter-
preter, to ascertain from the Prophet whether he would now
comply with the terms that had been so often proposed to him.
The army was moved slowly after,.in the order of battle. In
a few moments a messenger came from Captain Dubois, inform-
ing the Governor that the Indians were close to him, in great
numbers, but that they would return no answer to the inter-
preter, although they were sufficiently near to hear what was
said to them ; and that upon his advancing, they persisted in
their attempts to cut him off from the army. Governor Harri-
son, after this last effort to open a negotiation, which was suffi-
cient to show his wish for an accommodation, resolved to
hesitate no longer in treating the Indians as enemies. He
therefore recalled Captain Dubois, and moved on with a deter-
mination to attack them. He had not proceeded far, however,
before he was met by three Indians, one of them a principal
counsellor of the Prophet. They were sent, they said, to
know why the army was advancing upon them ; that the Pro-
phet wished, if possible, to avoid hostilities ; that he had sent
a pacific message by the Miami and Pottawatomie chiefs, who
had come to him on the part of the Governor ; and that those
chiefs had gone down on the south side of the Wabash, being
the opposite shore of that traversed by the Governor and his
army. A suspension of hostilities was accordingly agreed
upon ; and a council was to take place the next day between
Harrison and the chiefs, to concert terms of peace. The
Governor further informed them that he would go on to the
Wabash and encamp for the night.

As soon as they were gone, he told his officers that he knew,
from their language and behaviour, that they intended to at-
tack him before morning. Confident that this was the "council"
they meditated, he encamped his army, as we shall presently
see, in the order of battle, and directed his men to lie down
with their clothes on, and their arms by their sides. His predic-
tions soon became history.

After marching a short distance further, he came in view of
the town, which was seen at some distance up the river, upon



a commanding eminence. The ground below the town being
unfavourable for an encampment, the army marched on in the
direction of the town, with the view of obtaining a better situa-
tion beyond it. A halt was soon ordered, and some officers sent
to examine a creek that ran near the town, as well as the river
above it. In half an hour Brigade Major Clarke and Major
Taylor returned, and reported that they had found on the creek
" every thing that could be desirable in an encampment — an
elevated spot, nearly surrounded by an open prairie, with wa-
ter convenient, and a sufficiency of wood for fuel. This place,
with the concurrence of the Governor, was chosen by Majors
Taylor and Clarke, after examining all the environs of the
town ; and when the army of General Hopkins was there in
the following year, they all united in the opinion that a better
spot to resist Indians was not to be found in the whole country."*

The army now proceeded to the place selected, near the
mouth of the Tippecanoe, from which the subsequent battle
derived its title, and encamped, late in the evening, on a dry
piece of grouud which rose about ten feet above the level of a
marshy prairie. The two columns of infantry occupied the
front and rear. The right flank, being about eighty yards wide,
was covered by Captain Spenser's company, of eighty men.
The left flank was composed of three companies of mounted
riflemen, under Major Wells. The front was composed of one
battalion of United States Infantry, under the command of
Major Floyd, flanked on the right by two companies of militia
infantry ; and on the left, by one company of the same troops.
The rear consisted of a battalion of United States infantry, un-
der Captain Baen, commanding as Major, and four companies of
militia infantry under Colonel Decker. The cavalry, under
Daviess, were encamped in the rear of the front line. The en-
campment was not more than three-fourths of a mile from the

The order given to the army, in the event of a night atlack,
(which his intimate knowledge of the Indian mode of warfare
induced Governor Harrison to anticipate and provide against,)
was for "each corps to maintain its ground at all hazards until

* McAfee's History of the Late War.


relieved."* The dragoons were directed, in such a case, to
parade dismounted, with their swords on and their pistols in
their belts, and to wait for orders. The guard for the night
consisted of two Captain's commands of forty-two men and
four non-commissioned officers each; and two subaltern's
guards of twenty men and non-commissioned officers : the
whole under the command of a field officer of the day.

Before proceeding to a description of the celebrated battle
which followed, we will pause to relate an incident which
occurred the night before the victory that conferred so much
glory upon American arms, and which happily illustrates the,
humanity and benevolence of Harrison's heart.

Ben, a negro who belonged to the camp, deserted and went
over to the Indians, and entered into a conspiracy to assassinate
Governor Harrison, at the time the savages commenced their
attack. Being apprehended whilst lurking about the Govern-
or's marquee, waiting an opportunity to accomplish his fell pur-
pose, he was tried by a court martial and sentenced to be shot.
The execution of this sentence was delayed for a short time, in
consequence of the troops being engaged in fortifying the camp.
In the mean time, the negro was put into Indian stocks, that is,
a log split open, notches cut in it to fit the culprit's legs, the
upper piece then laid on, and the whole firmly staked into the
ground. The Governor interposed, and pardoned the culprit.
The reason assigned by the Governor for his clemency was as
follows: "The fact was, that I began to pity him, and could
not screw myself up to the point of giving the fatal order. If
he had been out of my sight, he would have been executed.
The poor wretch lay confined before my fire, his face receiving
the rain that occasionally fell, and his eyes constantly turned
upon me as if imploring mercy. I could not withstand the
appeal, and I determined to give him another chance for his
life." This act of magnanimous lenity displays, in bright
colours, the goodness of Harrison's heart ; and proves that no
elevation of rank can cause him to forget the feelings of his
fellow men : resentment, if it dwelt in his bosom, yielded to
the pleading of mercy.

* McAfee's History of the Late War, p. 28.


The men now busied themselves in fortifying "the camp.
This done, they retired to rest. Throughout the multitude
who had lately been so active and busy, not a sound was
heard save that of the sentinel as he paced his lonely round.

The night was dark and cloudy; the moon rose late,
and was overcast with clouds, which discharged a drizzling

* " It was the Governor's invariable practice to be ready to mount his horse at a
moment's warning. On the morning of the 7th, he arose at a quarter before four
o'clock, and sat by his fire conversing with the gentlemen of his mess, who were
reclining on their blankets, waiting for the signal which in a few moments would
have been given for the troops to turn out. The orderly drummer had been already
roused for the reveille. The moon had risen, but afforded little light in consequence
of being overshadowed by clouds. It was the uniform usage of Governor Harrison
to call up the troops an hour before day, and keep them under arms until it was light
After four o'clock, General Wells, Colonel Owen and Colonel Daviess had all risen
and joined the Governor, who was on the point of issuing his orders for raising the
army, when the treacherous Indians had crept up so near the sentries as to hear them
challenge when relieved. They intended to rush upon the sentries and kill them
before they could fire: but one of the sentries discovered an Indian creeping towards
him in the grass, and fired. This was immediately followed by the Indian yell, and
a desperate charge upon the left flank. The guard in that quarter gave way and
abandoned their officer, without making any resistance. Captain Barton's company
of regulars and Captain Keiger's company of mounted riflemen, forming the left angle
of the rear line, received the first onset. The fire there was excessive ; but the troops
who had lain on their arms, were immediately prepared to receive, and gallantly re-
sist the furious savage assailants. The manner of the attack was calculated to dis-
courage and terrify the men ; yet as soon as they could be formed and posted, they
maintained their ground with desperate valour, though but very few of them had
ever before been in battle. The fires in the camp were extinguished immediately, as
the light they afforded was more serviceable to the Indians than to our men.

" As soon as the Governor could mount his horse, he proceeded towards the point
of attack, and finding the fine much weakened there, he ordered two companies
from the centre of the rear line to march up and form across the angle in the rear
of Barton's and Keiger's companies. General Wells immediately proceeded to the
right of his command ; and Colonel Owen, who was with him, was proceeding di-
rectly to the point of attack, when he was shot on his horse near the lines, and thus
bravely fell among the first victims of savage perfidy. A heavy fire now commenced
all along the left flank, upon the whole of the front and right flank, and on a part of
the rear line.

" In passing through the camp, towards the left of the front line, the Governor
met with Colonel Daviess and the dragoons. The Colonel informed him that the
Indians, concealed behind some trees near the line, were annoying the troops very

* See McAfee's History of the Last War, published in 1816, from which this de-
scription is taken ; pp. 29 — 36.



severely in that quarter ; and he requested permission to dislodge them, which was
granted. He immediately called on the first division of his cavalry to follow him,
but the order was not distinctly heard, and but few of his men charged with him.
Among those who charged, were two young gentlemen who had gone with him
from Kentucky, Messrs. Mead and Sanders, who were afterwards distinguished as
captains in the United States' service. They had not proceeded far out of the Lines,
when Daviess was mortally wounded by several balls and fell. His men stood by
him, and repulsed the savages several times, till they succeeded in carrying him
into camp.

" In the mean time the attack on Spencer's and Warwick's companies on the right,
became very severe. Captain Spencer and his lieutenants were all killed, and Cap-
tain Warwick was mortally wounded. The Governor, in passing towards that flank,
found Captain Robb's company near the centre of the camp. They had been driven
from their post ; or rather, had fallen back without orders. He sent them to the aid
of Captain Spencer, where they fought very bravely, having seventeen men killed
during the battle. Captain Prescott's company of United States' infantry, had filled
up the vacancy caused hv the retreat of Robb's company. Soon after Colonel Da-
viess was wounded, Captain Snelling, p.t the head of his company, charged on the
same Indians and dislodged them with considerable loss. The battle was now main-
tained on all sides with desperate valour. The Indians advanced and retreated by a
rattling noise made with deer hoofs : they fought with enthusiasm, and seemed de-
termined on victory or death.

" As soon as daylight appeared, Captain Snelling's company, Captain Posey's,
under Lieutenant Albright, and Captain Scott's, were drawn from the front line, and
Wilson's from the rear, and formed on the left flank ; while Cook's and Baen's com-
panies were ordered to the right. General Wells took command of the corps formed
on the left, and with the aid of some dragoons, who were now mounted and com-
manded by Captain Park, made a successful charge on the enemy in that direction,
driving them into an adjoining swamp, through which the cavalry could not pursue
them. At the same time Cook's and Lieutenant Laribie's companies, with the aid
of the riflemen and militia on the right flank, charged on the Indians and put them
to flight in that quarter, which terminated the battle.

" During the time of this contest, the Prophet kept himself secure, on an adjacent
eminence, singing a war song. He had told his followers, that the Great Spirit
would render the army of the Americans unavailing, and that their bullets would not
hurt the Indians, who would have light, while their enemies were involved in thick
darkness. Soon after the battle commenced, he was informed that his men were
falling. He told them to fight on, it would soon be as he had predicted, and then began
to sing louder.

" Colonel Boyd commanded as a Brigadier General in this engagement; and the
Governor in his letter to the war department, speaks highly of him and his brigade,
and of Clarke and Croghan who were his aids. Colonel Decker is also commended
for the good order in which he kept his command : and of General Wells, it is said,
that he sustained the fame which he had acquired in almost every campaign since the
first settlement of Kentucky.

"The officers and soldiers generally, performed their duties well. They acted
with a degree of coolness, bravery, and good order, which was not to be expected
from men unused to carnage, and in a situation so well calculated to produce terror



and confusion. The fortune of war necessarily put it in the power of some officers
and their men, at the expense of danger, wounds, and death, to render more service,
and acquire more honour, than others : but to speak of their particular merits, would
be to detail again the operations of the conflict.

" Of Colonels Owen and Daviess, the Governor speaks in the highest term*.
Owen joined him as a private in Keiger's company at Fort Harrison, and accepted
the place of volunteer aid. He had been a representative in the legislature of Ken-
tucky. His character was that of a good citizen and a brave soldier. He left a wife
and a large family of children, to add the poignancy of domestic grief to the public
regret for his loss.

" Captain Baen, who fell early in the action, had the character of an able officer
and a brave soldier. Captain Spencer was wounded in the head — he exhorted his
men to fight on. He was then shot through both thighs and fell — still he continued to
encourage his men. He was then raised up, and received a ball through his body which
immediately killed him. His lieutenants, McMahan and Berry, fell bravely encou-
raging their men. Warwick was shot through the body, and was taken to the sur-
gery to be dressed : as soon as it was over, being a man of much bodily strength
and still able to walk, he insisted on going back to his post, though it was evident he
had but a few hours to live. Colonel White, formerly United States agent at the
Saline, was also killed in the action. The whole number killed, with those who
died soon of their wounds, was upwards of fifty : the wounded were about double
that number. Governor Harrison himself narrowly escaped, the hair on his head
being cut by a ball.

" The Indians left thirty-eight warriors dead on the field, and buried several others
in the town, which with those who must have died of their woundy, would make their
loss at least as great as that of the Americans. The troops under the command of
Governor Harrison of every description, amounted on the day before the battle, to
something more than eight hundred. The ordinary force, that had been at the Pro-
phet's town, through the preceding summer, was about four hundred and fifty. But
they were joined a few days before the action, by all the Kickapoos of the Prairie,
and by many bands of Pottawatamies from the Illinois river, and the St. Josephs of
Lake Michigan. They estimated their number after the battle, to have been eight
hundred; but the traders, who had a good opportunity of knowing, made them at
least fourteen hundred. However it is certain, that no victory was ever before ob-
tained over the Northern Indians, where the numbers were any thing like equal.
The number of killed too was greater than was ever before known. It is their cus-
tom always to avoid a close action, and from their dexterity in hiding themselves, but
few of them can be killed, even when they are pouring destruction into the ranks of
their enemy. It is believed that there were not ten of them killed at St. Clair's de-
feat, although one thousand Americans were massacred, and still fewer at Braddock's.
At Tippecanoe, they rushed up to the bayonets of our men, and in one instance, re-
lated by Captain Snelling, an Indian adroitly put the bayonet of a soldier aside, and
clove his head with his war-ciub — an instrument on which there is fixed a triangular
piece of iron, broad enough to project several inches from the wood. Their conduct
on this occasion, so different from what it usually is, was attributed to the confidence
of success, with which their Prophet had inspired them, and to the distinguished
bravery of the Winebago warriors.

" The Indians did nor determine to attack the American camp till late at night


The plan that was formed the evening before, was, to meet the Governor in council
the next day, and agree to the terms he proposed. At the close of the council, the
chiefs were to retire to the warriors, who were to be placed at a convenient distance.
The Governor was then to be killed by two Winebagoes, who had devoted themselves
to certain death to accomplish this object. They were to loiter about the camp after
the council had broken up ; and their killing the Governor and raising the war-whoop,
were to be the signal for a general attack. The Indians were commanded by White
Loon, Stone-eater, and Winemac, a Pottawatamie chief, who had been with the
Governor on his march, and at Fort Harrison, making great professions of friend-

"The 4th regiment was about two hundred and fifty strong; and there were about
sixty volunteers from Kentucky in the army. The rest of the troops were volunteers
from the Indiana militia. Those from the neighbourhood of Vinccnnes had been
trained for several years by the Governor, and had become very expert in the manoeu-
vres which he had adopted for fighting the Indians. The greater part of the territo-
rial troops followed him as well from personal attachment as from a sense of duty.
Indeed, a greater degree of confidence and personal attachment has
rarely been found in ant army towards its commander, than existed in
this; nor has there been many battles in which the dependence of the
army on its leader was more distinctly felt. During the whole action the
Governor was constantly on the lines, and always repaired to the point which was
most hardly pressed. The reinforcements drawn occasionally from the points most
secure, were conducted by himself, and formed on the spot where their services were
most wanted. The officers and men, who believed that their ultimate success
depended on his safety, warmly remonstrated against his so constantly exposing
himself. Upon one occasion, as he was approaching an angle of the line, against
which the Indians were advancing with horrible yells, Lieutenant Emerson of the
dragoons, seized the bridle of his horse, and earnestly entreated that he would not go
there ; but the Governor putting spurs to his horse, pushed on to the point of attach,
where the enemy were received with firmness and driven back.

" The army remained in the camp on the 7th and 8th of November, to bury the
dead and dress the wounded ; and to make preparations for returning. During this
time, General Wells was permitted with the mounted riflemen to visit the town,
which he found evacuated by all, except a chief whose leg was broken. The town
was well prepared for an attack, and no doubt but the Indians fully expected it; for
they had determined to agree to no terms which could be offered. The wounds of
the chief being dressed, and provision made for him, he was left with instructions to
tell his companions that if they would abandon the Prophet and return to their
respective tribes, they should be forgiven."

The victory of Tippecanoe was one of the most important
conflicts which ever occurred between the Indians and the
whites. The Indian forces far excelled the American army in
number; yet notwithstanding this, and their attempted surprise,
they were totally routed by the gallantry, courage and consum-
mate generalship of Harrison.

The high sense entertained by the government of the im


portance of this victory, is emphatically expressed in a message
from the President to Congress, dated December 18th, 1811.

" While it is deeply to be lamented," says Mr. Madison, " that so many valuable
lives have been lost in the action which took place on the 9th ult., Congress will see
with satisfaction the dauntless spirit and fortitude victoriously displayed by every
description of troops engaged, as well as the collected firmness which distinguished their
commander, on an occasion requiring the utmost exertion of valour and discipline."

Resolutions were also passed by the Legislatures of Indiana
and Kentucky of a similar import. The following is the reso-
lution of the latter body, on motion of the Hon. J. J. Crittenden,
now a distinguished member of the United States Senate.

"Resolved, That in the late campaign against the Indians on the Wabash, Governor
William Henry Harrison has, in the opinion of this Legislature, behaved like a hero,
a patriot and a "General; and that for his cool, deliberate, skilful and gallant con-
duct in the late battle of Tippecanoe, he deserves the warmest thanks of the nation."

The panegyric thus conferred was richly merited, as nothing
could exceed the daring with which he exposed his person, at
those points where the battle raged most hotly. Well known
to many of the Indians, and the object of their peculiar attack,
his fearlessness and unshrinking exposure, make it appear almost
a miracle that he should have escaped unwounded. In some
instances, as stated by McAfee in the extract we have before
made from his work, this exposure was so great as to demand
the urgent interference of his officers — a circumstance which
has occurred to no other officer of whom we have ever read,
except Washington, at Long Island. In referring to the per-
sonal intrepidity of Governor Harrison, we cannot refrain from

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Online LibraryGeorge UpfoldThe life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames → online text (page 3 of 9)