H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

History of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: online

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against a purchase lately made from the Kickapoos and some
other tribes. In a strain of native eloquence, the orator in-
veighed against the encroachments of the Americans, gave a
history of the progress of the settlements, from the first com-
mencement on the Delaware, to the moment at which he spoke,
insisting that the lands were bestowed by the Great Spirit upon
all the Indians in common, and that no portion could be dis-
posed of without the consent of all. When Harrison replied
to this extravagant pretension, he grasped his tomahawk, in a
fit of phrensy, and boldly charged the American governor with
having uttered what was false, while the warriors who attended
him, twenty or thirty in number, followed his example : but
Harrison had fortunately posted a guard of soldiers near, who
put a stop to their fury. The council was, however, broken
up, and nothing short of war was expected to result.

Towards the close of the year, the frontier settlers had be-
come seriously alarmed ; every thing on tlie part of the Indians


General Harrison Battle of Tippecanoe.

appeared to indicate approaching hostilities. Governor Har-
rison resolved to move towards the Prophet's town, with a
body of Kentucky and Indiana militia, and the Fourth United
States regiment, under colonel Boyd, to demand satisfaction
of the Indians, and to put a stop to their hostile designs.

On the 6th of November 1811, the army approached the
Prophet's town ; the Indians during the day manifesting every
hostile disposition, excepting that of actually attacking, which
they were not likely to do without having a decided advantage.
Several attempts had been made, on the part of the governor,
to bring them to a parley, which they sullenly rejected, until he
approached within a mile of the town, when becoming alarmed
for their own safety, they at length sent a deputation to make
their excuse, and to profess their willingness to meet in council.
The governor, in obedience to his instructions to avoid hostili-
ties as long as it was possible, had been unwilling to attack
their town until compelled by necessity, and now acceded to
their proposals of holding a treaty the next morning. But dis-
trusting these savages, with whose wily arts he was well ac-
quainted, he cautiously looked out a place of encampment. He
chose an elevated piece of ground, in the open prairie, after a
careful reconnoissance by majors Taylor and Clark. The two
columns of infantry occupied the front and rear. The right flank
was occupied by captain Spencer's company ; the left flank by
three companies commanded by general Wells as major. The
front line was composed of one battalion of United States infantry
under major Floyd, and a regiment of Indiana militia under
colonel Bartholomew. The rear line consisted of a battalion
of United States infantry under captain Baen, commanding as
major, and four companies of Indiana volunteers under lieute-
nant colonel Decker. The right flank was composed of Spen-
cer's company of Indiana volunteer riflemen ; the left of Robb's
company of Indiana volunteers, and Guiger's, a mixed com-
pany of Kentucky and Indiana volunteers; a portion of United
States troops turning the left front and left rear angles respective-
ly. The cavalry under major Davies were encamped in the rear of
the front line and left flank, and held in reserve as a disposable
force. The army thus judiciously posted, was not more than
a mile from the town.

The order given to the army in the event of a night attack,
was for each corps to maintain its position until relieved. The
dragoons were directed in such case, to parade dismounted,
with their swords and pistols, and to wait for orders. The
guard for the night consisted of two captain's commands of
twenty-four men, and four non-commissioned oflicers ; and two


Battle of Tippecanoe.

subaltern's guards of twenty men and non-commissioned offi-
cers ; the whole under the command of a field officer of the

On the night of the Gth, the troops lay under arms, and
the commander-in-chief was ready to mount his horse at a mo-
ment's warning. On the morning of the 7th, about four
o'clock, he arose, and sat by the fire conversing with some of
his family ; orders had been given to beat the reveille ; the
moon had risen, but overshadowed with clouds, which occa-
sionally discharged a drizzling rain. At this moment the
attack commenced. The Indians, in their usual stealthy man-
ner, had crept up to the sentinels, intending to rush upon them,
and kill them before they could fire; but being discovered, and the
alarm given, they raised their yell, and made a furious charge
upon the left flank. The guard in that quarter, being struck with
panic, gave way, and the first onset received by captain
Barton's company of regulars, and captain Guiger's company
of mounted riflemen, forming the left angle of the rear line.
The fire there was severe ; but the troops being already prepared,
were soon formed, and gallantly opposed the fury of their as-
sailants. The fires of the camp were instantly extinguished,
excepting in front of Barton's and Guiger's companies, where
the suddenness of the attack prevented this from being done.
The governor, having no time to wait, mounted the first horse
that could be brought to him, a fortunate circumstance, as his
own, a fine grey, was known to the Indians, and became the
object of their search. Finding the line weakened at the first
point attacked, he ordered two companies from the centre of
the rear line, to march up, and form across the angle in the
rear of Barton and Guiger's companies. In passing througii
the camp, towards the left of the front line, he met major
Daviess, who informed him that the Indians, concealed behind
some trees near the line, were annoying the troops very
severely, and requested permission to dislodge them. In at-
tempting this, he fell mortally wounded, as did colonel White
of Indiana.

In the mean time, a fierce attack was made on Spencer's and
Warwick's companies on the right. Captain Spencer and his
lieutenants were all killed, and captain VVarwick 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.
He led them to the aid of captain Spencer, where they foug!u
bravely during the remainder of the action : while in this act,
his aid, colonel Owen, was killed at his side ; this officer \\ as


Battle of Tippecanoe.

mounted on a white horse, and as the governor had ridden a
grey the day before, it is probable that Owen was mistaken
for him, by one of those Indians who had devoted themselves
to certain destruction, in order to insure victory by killing the

Captain Prescott's company of United States infantry had
filled up the vacancy caused by the retreat of Robb's company.
Soon after Daviess was wounded, captain Snelling, by order
of the governor, charged upon the same Indians, and dislodged
them with considerable loss. The battle was now maintained
on all sides with desperate valour. The Indians advanced and
retreated, by a rattling noise made with deer hoofs, and fought
with a degree of desperation seldom equalled. When the day
dawned, captain Snelling's company, captain Posey's, under
lieutenant Albright, captain Scott's and captain Wilson's, were
drawn from the rear, and formed on the left flank; while
Cook's and Baen's companies were ordered to the right.
General AVells was ordered to take command of the corps
formed on the left, and with the aid of some dragoons, who
were now mounted, and commanded by lieutenant Wallace, to
charge the enemy in that direction, which he did successfully,
driving them into a sw^amp where the cavalry could not follow
them. At the same time. Cook's and Larrabee's companies,
with the aid of the riflemen and militia, on the right flank,
charged the Indians and put them to flight in that quarter,
which terminated the battle.

This is one of the most desperate battles ever fought with the
Indians, and but for the caution and eflficiency of the comman-
der-in-chief, might have terminated like the night attack on
general Sinclair. The army, with the exception of the regular
troops under general Boyd, was chiefly composed of militia
and volunteers, who had never been in battle before. Resolu-
tions were passed by the legislatures of Kentucky and Indiana,
highly complimentary of governor Harrison, and the ofl^cers
and troops under his command ; and the reputation of the com-
mander-in-chief, as an able and prudent general, was established
on the most solid foundation.

The batde of Tippecanoe contributed to inflame the temper
of the country, already calling for war. A naval incident which
occurred some time afterwards, did not serve to allay it. Ofl"
the American coast, commodore Rodgers, during the night, fell
in with a British frigate, which afterwards proved to be the
Little Belt; being hailed by the commodore, the commander
merely repeated the question, and, after some minutes, actually
flred several of his guns. On this, the commodore poured a


War with Great Britain inevitable.

broadside into her, and compelled her commander to beg for
mercy. This was the first check the British commandeis had
received from us on the ocean.

The conduct of Great Britain, which grew every day more
insupportable, can only be accounted for, by her belief tliat we
could not (to use tlie conlempiLious expressions of the day) ^'he
kicked into a war.'''' The experiment of war, on the part of
the United States, was an awful one; any administration might
be justly apprehensive of venturing upon an experiment, tlie
consequences of which no one could foresee. This forbear-
ance was construed into pusillanimity ; and the name and cha-
racter of the United States had sunk low, in consequence, with
every nation of Europe. We had become the butt and jest of
Napoleon and the English ministry, and who yet vainly essay-
ed to draw us into a ])articipation in their wars. A war with
Napoleon could not have been more than nominal, unless we
united in a close alliance with England; without this, we coulJ
inflict on him nothing more than a simple non-intercourse.
But a war with England would be a very diflerent matter;
without forming any alliance with Napoleon, we might assail
her commerce, her public ships, and her adjoining provinces.

But Great Britain was contending for her existence, she was
fighting the battles of tlie civilized world ; it was therefore cruel
and ungenerous to press our demands at such a moment. This
was by no means evident. If it had been true, wliy did she
continue, at such a time, to insult and abuse us in every possi-
ble shape ? Notwithstanding this appeal, there were many
amongst us who could see only a contest between two great
nations for the mastery of the world. Wc saw the stupendous
schemes of British aggrandisement, in every part of the globe,
which had little the aj)pearance of fighting for her existence.
We saw her already mistress of the seas; we regarded any
actual invasion of lier shores, as a thing too visionary, even for
Napoleon ; we saw, in the lawless and unbounded projects of
this despot, at wliich England affected to be alarmed, her best
security, as they kept alive the fears and jealousies of the sur-
rounding nations, and silently undermined his throne. We
have seen how inconsiderable were, in reality, all his conquests.
The existence of England was never in danger; Napoleon
could never have subdued Spain and Russia; two projects,
which all now admit to have been the extreme of folly. Eng-
land was not fighting the batUes of the world, but of her ambi-
tion ; she was not the bulwark of our religion, but the instigator
of the savages; she was not the world's last hope — That last
hope is America; not as the pretended champion in the cause


Declaration of War.

of Other nations, but as a living argument that tyranny is not
necessary to the safety of man ; that to be degraded and de-
based, is not the way to be great, prosperous and happy.


Declaration of War— General Hull reaches Detroit— Crosses into Canada— Skir-
mishes on the River Aux Canards— Taking of Michilimackinac— Battle of Browns-
town— Battle of Magagua— Taking of Chicago— Surrender of Hull.

An interesting period in the history of this youthful nation
was fast approaching. Our affairs with Great Britain had be-
come every day more and more embarrassed. The storm
already lowered, and there was little hope that the gathering
clouds would pass harmless over us. In consequence of this
state of things, the first session of the twelfth congress had
been protracted to an unusual length, and the eyes of America
were turned towards it in anxious expectation. On the 5th of
June 1812, the President laid before congress the correspond-
ence between our secretary of stale and the British minister
near our government, whicJi seemed to preclude all hope of
coming to an adjustment, in the two principal points in dispute,
— the orders in council, and the subject of impressment. But we
had so often been on the point of a rupture with Great Britain,
that even at this moment no certain conjecture could be formed
by the most intelligent, of the probable result. The public
voice called loudly for war, at least this was the sense of a
great majority of the nation. At length, on the 18th of June,
after sitting with closed doors, the solemn and important appeal
to arms was announced. The President had communicated
his message, in which all our complaints against Great Britain
were enumerated with great force, and an opinion expressed
that no remedy, no hope now remained, but in open war. The
committee of foreign relations, to whom the message was re-
ferred, concurred with the President, in recommending the
measure. An act of congress was accordingly passed, which
received the sanction of the President on the same day ; and on
the day following, the 19th of June 1812, war was publicly


Declaration of War.

This highly important and eventful act of the national legis-
lature was variously received. In some places it produced
demonstrations of joy, similar to that which followed our de-
claration of independence. War as a calamity, although una-
voidable in the present state of the world, where the strong
disregard the rights of the weak, should be received without
despondency, but not with gladness. Many, however, regarded
the war with England, as a second struggle in support of na-
tional independence ; and not in the course of ordinary wars,
waged for the sake of mere interest, or in pursuit of the plans
of state policy. On the sea board, and in the eastern states,
the sensations which it produced were far from being joyful.
Tlie sudden gloom by wliich their commercial prosperity was
overcast, caused an awful sadness, as from an eclipse of the
sun. The commerce of the cities, although for some years
greatly restricted by the depredations of the two great contend-
ing powers of Europe, still lingered in hopes of belter times :
it must now be totally at an end ; their ships must be laid up,
and business almost cease. In different ])arts of the United
States, the war would necessarily be more severely felt; in an
extensive country like tliis, it is impossible it should be otlier-
wise. Moreover, there were those wlio regarded this measure
as a most interesting and eventful experiment. An opinion
was prevalent that the form of our government was not adapted
to war, from the want of suflicient energy in the executive
branch, and from unavoidable divisions in the national councils.
But what was much more to be feared, the union of our states
had scarcely yet been perfectly cemented; and if the interests
of any extensive portion should be too deeply aflected, a disso-
lution of our compact, " the noblest fabric of human invention,"
miglit ensue. A powerful party was opposed to the measure,
on the grounds, that an accommodation with England might yet
be made, that war could not be otherwise than in subserviency
to the views of France, and that we were unprepared for so
serious a contest. The opposition of a great portion of the
population, of the talents and wealth of the country, was enti-
tled to respect, and would certainly tend to throw embarrass-
ments on its prosecution. Unanimity, in so important a mea-
sure, was not to be expected; yet the disadvantages of this
opposition would be greatly felt. It was foreseen that our
Atlantic cities would be much exposed ; that the coasts of the
southern states would be laid open to the incursions of maraud-
ing parties ; and that the western frontier would feel all the
horrors of a savage and murderous warfare. Many persons, on
the other hand, entertained the belief, that the Canadas would


Declaration of War.

fall, and that the Floridas, in case that Spain should be brought
into the contest on the side of England, would be ours. Thus
should we be freed from troublesome neighbours, and end for-
ever, that dreadful species of hostility in which we had been so
often engaged with the savages. These hopes were not ill
founded ; but we were not aware, at the time, of our deficiency
in experience, and want of a full knowledge of our resources —
the causes of many subsequent calamities.

For some years previous to the declaration of war, a mili-
tary spirit was gradually diffusing itself amongst the people.
Pains were taken in disciplining volunteer companies through-
out the country ; a degree of pride and emulation was every
where felt, to excel in military exercises. The general prepa-
rations for war seemed to be prompted by instinct of the ap-
proaching event. But the military establishments were ex-
ceedingly defective. Acts of congress had already authorized
the enlistment of twenty-five thousand men ; but it was found
impossible to fill the ranks of a regular army, from the small
number of individuals who were not in easy circumstances, and
therefore under no necessity of enlisting. The whole number
already enlisted, scarcely amounted to five thousand men, and
these scattered over an immense surface of country. The Pre-
sident was authorized to receive fifty thousand volunteers, and
to call out one hundred thousand militia. This force could not
be expected to be otherwise serviceable, than for the purpose
of defending the sea coast, or the frontier. A diflliculty of still
greater importance existed ; the best troops in the world are
ineflScient, unless they happen to be led by able and experi-
enced ofilicers. Our best revolutionary officers had paid the
debt to nature, and those who remained, were either far ad-
vanced in life, or had not been tried in other than subordinate
stations ; and besides, from long repose, had laid aside their mi-
litary habits. There prevailed, however, a disposition to place
a degree of reliance on the skill of the revolutionary soldier,
from the mere circumstance of having been such, which was
not corrected until we had been severely taught by after expe-
rience. Such was the situation of things, at the commence-
ment of hostilities.

Governor Hull, at the head of about two thousand men, was
on his march to Detroit, with a view of putting an end to the
Indian hostilities, when he received information of the decla-
ration of war. His force consisted of about one thousand
regulars, and twelve hundred volunteers from the state of
Ohio, who had rendezvoused on the 29th of April. In the begin-
ning of June they advanced to Urbanna, where they were join-


General Hull reaches Detroit.

ed by the Fourth regiment of United States infantry, and inmie-
diateiy commenced their march through the wilderness, still in
possession of the Indians, and which separated the inhabited
part of the state of Ohio, from the Michigan territory. From
the town of Urbanna to the Rapids, a distance of one hundred
and twenty miles, they had to pass through a country without
roads, and abounding with marshes. From the Rapids to De-
troit, along the Miami of the Lake, and along the Detroit river,
there were a few settlements chiefly of French Canadians, but
in general the territory was but thinly inhabited; the whole of
its scattered population scarcely exceeded five or six thousand
souls. It was near the last of June when this little army reach-
ed the Rapids, after having experienced considerable obstacles,
in passing through a gloomy, and almost trackless wilderness.
They now entered an open and romantic country, and proceeded
on their march, full of an ardent and adventurous spirit, which
sought only to encounter difficulties and dangers. The volun-
teers of Ohio consisted of some of the most enterprising and
active young men of the state; finer materials were never col-
lected. After taking some refreshment here, they loaded a
schooner with a part of their baggage, in order to lighten their
march. By some misfortune, intelligence of the existing war
did not reach the army, until it was on this march, and was
followed by the news of the capture of the schooner, and a
lieutenant and thirty men who had been put on board. On the
5th of July, they encamped at Spring Wells, opposite Sand-
wich, and within a few miles of Detroit. For some days the
army had been under the necessity of proceeding with great
caution, to guard against surprises from the Indians and their
allies, and who, but for this timely arrival, would have pos-
sessed themselves of Detroit : tliey, however, had thrown up
breast-works on the opposite side of the river, and had made
an attempt to fortify a position about three miles below. From
both these holds, they were soon compelled to retreat, by a
well directed fire from the American artillery.

This was the favourable moment for commencing active ope-
rations against the neighbouring province of Upper Canada;
and as governor Hull had received discretionary power to act
offensively, an immediate invasion was determined on. Pre-
parations for this purpose were directly made, and boats pro-
vided to effect the passage of the whole army at the same in-
stant. The British, aware of this design, attempted to throw
up a battery, for the purpose of opposing the landing. This was
twice rendered abortive ; on their attempting it a third time,
they were permitted to accomplish it unmolested, as our army


General Hull crosses into Canada.

could either land above or below it, and thus keep out of" the
reach of their guns, which consisted of seven small cannon, and
two mortars. On the 12lh, every thing being made ready,
the army embarked, and landed without molestation, some dis-
tance above the fort, and entered the village of Sandwich. The
inhabitants made no show of resistance, and were therefore re-
spected in their persons and property; the principal part, how-
ever, had been marched to Maiden, for the purpose of aiding in
its defence. A proclamation was immediately issued by Hull,
in which he declared his intention of invading Canada, but
gave every assurance of protection to the inhabitants, whom he
advised to take no part in the contest. The proclamation was
written in a spirited and energetic style, and had he been event-
ually successful, there is no doubt but that it would have been
regarded as an eloquent production. It has been censured by
the British, as intended to seduce her subjects from their alle-
giance, as if this were not justifiable in an invading army ; and
as violating tlie laws of civilized warfare, in the declaration that
no quarter would be given to any ^vhite man, found fighting by
the side of an Indian. When we consider, that Indians give
no quarter, there may be as much justice in retaliating, upon
those who are fighting by their sides, as upon the savages
themselves, for it may be presumed that both are actuated by
the same intentions. It is not to be supposed that Hull was
seriously resolved on carrying this threat into execution ; his
object was to prevent, if possible, the employment of savages.
It was altogether a suggestion of his own, unauthorized by the
government, and never acted upon by himself.

In a few days, possession was taken of the whole country
along the Trench, or Thames, a beautiful river, whose borders
are well settled. This service was performed by colonel
M'Arthur, of the Ohio militia, who returned to camp, after hav-

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 3 of 32)