Copyright
Samuel Gardner Drake.

The aboriginal races of North America; comprising biographical sketches of eminent individuals, and an historical account of the different tribes, from the first discovery of the continent to the present period ... and a copious analytical index online

. (page 100 of 131)
Online LibrarySamuel Gardner DrakeThe aboriginal races of North America; comprising biographical sketches of eminent individuals, and an historical account of the different tribes, from the first discovery of the continent to the present period ... and a copious analytical index → online text (page 100 of 131)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


arms to oppose General Wayne; but in the last war against England, he
fought for the Americans, and is supposed to have died three or four years
after its close. He was one of the signers of Waynes famous treaty at Fort
Greenville, and several others.

We now pass to a chief by far more prominent in Indian history than
many who have received much greater notice from historians. This was
M1SHIKINAKWA, (a name by no means settled in orthography,) which, inter-
preted, is said to mean the Little-turtle. To the different treaties bearing his
name, we find these spellings: Meshekunnoghquoh, Greenville, 3 Aug. 1795:
Meshekunnoghquoh, Fort Wayne, 7 June, 1803 : Mashekanahquah, Vincennes,
21 August, 1805; Meshekenoghqua, Fort Wayne, 30 September, 1809; and
were we disposed to look into the various authors who have used the name,
we might nearly finish out our page with its variations.

LITTLE-TURTLE was chief of the Miamis, and the scenes of his warlike
achievements were upon the country of his birth. He had, in conjunction
with the tribes of that region, successfully fought the armies of Hartner and
St. Clair ; and in the fight with the latter, he is said to have had the chief
command ; hence a detailed account of that affair belongs to his life.

It is well known that the Americans inveighed loudly against the English
of Canada, in most instances, charging them with all the guilt of the enormi-
ties committed on their frontiers by the Indians. It is equally well known,
at this day, by every judicious inquirer, that they were not so blamable as
the Americans reported, nor so innocent as themselves and friends, even
long after, pretended. That the British government encouraged depredations
upon the frontiers in times of peace, should not too easily be received for
truth ; still, there is reason to believe that some who held inferior offices
under it, were secret abettors of barbarities. In the attack upon General St.
Glair's army, now about to be related, there was much cause of suspicion
against the Canadians, as it was known that many of them even exceeded
in that bloody affair the Indians themselves. Mr. Weld, the intelligent
traveller, says,* " A great many young Canadians, and in particular many that
were born of Indian women, fought on the side of the Indians in this action ;
a circumstance which confirmed the people of the States in the opinion they
had previously formed, that the Indians were encouraged and abetted in
their attacks upon them by the British. I can safely affirm, however, from
having conversed with many of these young men who fought against St.
Clair, that it was with the utmost secrecy they left their homes to join the
[ndians, fearful lest the government should censure their conduct."

The western Indians were only imboldened by the battles between them
and detachments of General Harmer's army, in 1790, and, under such a lead-
er as Mishikinakwa, entertained sanguine hopes of bringing the Americans to
their own terms. One murder followed another, in rapid succession, attend-
ed by all the horrors peculiar to their warfare, which caused President
Washington to take the earliest opportunity of recommending Congress to
adopt prompt and efficient measures for checking those calamities ; and 2000
men were immediately raised and put under the command of General St.
Clair, then governor of the North- Western Territory. He received his ap-
pointment the 4th of March, 1791, and proceeded to Fort Washington, by
way of Kentucky, with all possible despatch, where he arrived 15 May.f
There was much time lost in getting the troops imbodied at this place ; Gen-
eral Butler, with the residue, not arriving until the middle of September.
There were various circumstances to account for the delays, which it is un-
necessary to recount here.

* Travels in Canada. 4367, 8vo. London, (4 ed.) 1800. t St. Clair' s Narrative, p. 4,

48*



>70 LITTLE-TI RTLE. ST. ('LAIR'S DEFEAT. [SnoK V



Colonel Darkc proceeded immediately on his arrival, \\liicji uas about flic
. ..d of .\niMi>t, and liilt Fort Hamilton, on the Miami, in the country of
Litt!r-tiirt!v ; and soon alter Ton Jefferson was built, ibrty miles farther on-
ward. The>e two lorts being left inanned, about the end of October the
arm\ advanced, being about 2000 strong, militia included, whose number.-.
were not inconsiderable, as will appear by the miserable manner in which
they not only confused themselves, but the regular soldiers also.

General St. Clair bad advanced but about six miles in front of Fort Jeffer-
son, when 6'0 of his militia, from pretended disaffection, commenced a retreat :
and it was discovered that the evil had spread considerably among the re>t
of the army. Being fearful they would seize upon the convoy of provisions,
the general ordered Colonel Hamtramk to pursue them with his regiment, and
force them to return. The armv now consisted of but 1400 effective men,

,

and this was the number attacked by Little-turtle and his warriors, ]5 miles
from the Miami villages.

Colonel Butler commanded the right wing, and Colonel Darkc the left.
The militia were posted a quarter of a mile in advance, and were encamped
in two lines. They had not finished securing their baggage, when they
were attacked in their camp. It was their intention to have inarched imme-
diately to the destruction of the Miami villages. Of this their movements
apprized the Indians, who acted with great wisdom and firmness. The}
tell upon the militia before sunrise, 4 November, who at once fled into the main
camp, in the most disorderly and tumultuous manner : many of them, having
thrown away their guns, were pursued and slaughtered. At the main camp
the fight was sustained some time, by the great exertions of the officers, but
with great inequality ; the Indians under Little-turtle amounting to about 1500
warriors. Colonels Darke and Butler, and Major Clark, made several suc-
cessful charges, which enabled them to save some of their numbers by
checking the enemy while flight was more practicable.

Of the Americans, 593 were killed and missing, beside thirty-eight officers ;
and 242 soldiers and twenty-one officers were wounded, many of whom died.
Colonel Butler was among the slain. The account of his fall is shocking.
He was severely wounded, and left on the ground. The well-known and
infamous Simon Girty came up to him, and observed him writhing under
severe pain from his wounds. Girt?/ knew and spoke to him. Knowing that
he could not live, the colonel begged of Girty to put an end to his misery.
This he refused to do, but turned to an Indian, whom he told that the officer
was the commander of the army ; upon which he drove his tomahawk into
his head. A number of others then came around, and after taking off his
scalp, they took out his heart, and cut it into as many pieces as there were
tribes in the action, and divided it among them. All manner of brutal acts
were committed on the bodies of the slain. It need not be mentioned for the
information of the observer of Indian affairs, that land was the main cause
of this as well as most other wars between the Indians and whites; and
hence it was very easy to account for the Indians filling the mouths of the
slain with earth after this battle. It was actually the case, as reported by
those who shortly after visited the scene of action and buried the dead.

General St. Clair was called to an account for the disastrous issue of this
campaign, and was honorably acquitted. He published a narrative in vindi-
cation of his conduct, which, at this day, few will think it required. What
he says of his retreat we will give in his own words.* " The retreat was, you
may be sure, a precipitate one ; it was in fact a flight. The camp and the
artillery were abandoned ; but that was unavoidable, for not a horse was left
alive to have drawn it off, had it otherwise been practicable. But the most
disgraceful part of the business is, that the greatest part of the men threw
aw r ay their arms and accoutrements, even after the pursuit, which continued
about four miles, had ceased. I found the road strewed with them for many
miles, but was not able to remedy it ; for, having had all my horses killed,
and being mounted upon one that could not be pricked out of a walk, I
could not get forward myself, and the orders I sent forward, either to halt

* Penn. Gazette, of that year



CHAP. IV.] LITTLE-TURTLE. ST. CLAIR'S DEFEAT. 57 i

the front, or prevent the men from parting with their arms, were unatterid
ed to."

The remnant of the army arrived at Fort Jefferson the same day, just
before sunset, the place from which they fled being 29 miles distant. Gene-
ral St. Clair did every thing that a brave general could do. He exposed him-
self to every danger, having, during the action, eight bullets shot through his
clothes. In no attack related in our records, did the Indians discover greater
bravery and determination. After giving the first fire, they rushed forward
with tomahawk in hand. Their loss was inconsiderable ; but the traders
afterwards learned among them that Little-turtle had 150 killed and many
wounded.* " They rushed on the artillery, heedless of their fire, and took
two pieces in an instant. They were again retaken by our troops: and
whenever the army charged them, they were seen to give way, and advance
again as soon as they began to retreat, doing great execution, both in the
retreat and advance. They are very dextrous in covering themselves with
trees ; many of them however fell, both of the infantry and artillery." " Six
or eight pieces of artillery fell into their hands, with about 400 horses, all the
baggage, ammunition, and provisions." f

Whether the battle-ground of General St. Clair were visited by the whites
previous to 1793 I do not learn ; but in December of that year a detachment
of General Wayne's army went to the place, and the account given of its ap-
pearance is most truly melancholy. This detachment was ordered to build
a fort there, which having done, it was called Fort Recovery. Within a space
of about 350 yards were found 500 skull bones, the most of which were
gathered up and buried. For about five miles in the direction of the retreat
of the army the woods was strewed with skeletons and muskets. Ihe two
brass cannon, which composed St. Glair's artillery, one a three, and the other
a six-pounder, were found in a creek adjacent.];

The following song has been often reprinted, and although not the best of
poetry, is considered a valuable relic of those days. It is headed thus :

SAINCLAIRE'S DEFEAT.

'Twas November the fourth, in the year of ninety-one,!]
We had a sore engagement near to Fort Jefferson ;
Sinclaire was our commander, which may remembered be,
For there we left nine hundred men in t' West'n Ter'tory.

At Bunker's Hill and Quebeck. where many a hero fell,
Likewise at Long Island, (it is I the truth can tell,)
But such a dreadful carnage may 1 never see again
As hap'ned near St. Mary's, upon the river plain.

Our army was attacked just as the day did dawn,
And soon were overpowered and driven from the lawn.
They killed Major Ouldham, Levin and Briggs likewise,
And horrid yells of sav'ges resounded thro 7 the skies.

Major Butler^ was wounded the very second fire ;
His manly bosom swell'd with rage when forc'd to retire j
And as he lay in anguish, nor scarcely could he see,
Exclaim'd, " Ye hounds of hell, Ol revenged I will be."

We had not been long broken when General Butler found
Himself so badly wounded, was forced to quit the ground.



* Penn. Gazette, of that year.

f Letter from Fort Hamilton, dated six Havs after the battle.

j Massachusetts Magazine for 1794, p. 191.

\ Wnen I began to copy these lines, I did not intend to change a word in them, but soon
found my resolution shaken ; the lines were of such unequal lengths, and the rhyme so bad, I
could not endure it, and, therefore, when the syllables were too many, some were dropped,
and when too few, some were added ; but the sense is in no wise impaired. The copy I use,
I found in Baltimore in 1817. They were printed in 1815.

jj That is, 1791.

IT Richard Butler was of Nottingham, in New Hampshire, where some of his relatives yet
remain.



572 LITTLE-TURTLE. ST. CLAIR'S DEFEAT. [Bjni; V

' Mv God ! " savs lie, " what shall we do ; we're wounded every man ;
Go charge them, valiant heroes, and bcal ihem if you can."

lie leaned his back against a tree, and there resigned his breath,*
And like a valiant soldier sunk in the arms of death ;
When blessed angels did await, his spirit to convey ;
And unto the celestial fields he quickly bent his way.

We charg'd again with courage firm, but soon again gave grouno,
The war-whoop then redoubled, as did the foes around.
They killed Major Ferguson, which caused his men to cry,
" Our only safety is in flight ; or fighting here to die."

" Stand to your guns," says valiant Ford, " let's die upon them here
Before we let the sav'ges know we ever harbored fear."
Our cannon-balls exhausted, and artill'ry-men all slain,
Obliged were our musketmen the en'my to sustain.

Yet three hours t more we fought them, and then were forc'd to yield,
When three hundred bloody warriors lay stretch'd upon the field.
Says Colonel Gibson to his men, "My boys, be not dismay'd ;
I'm sure that true Virginians were never yet afraid.

" Ten thousand deaths I'd rather die, than they should gain the field j"
With that he got a fatal shot, which caused him to yield.
Says Major Clark, " My heroes, I can here no longer stand,
We'll strive to form in order, and retreat the best we can."

The word, Retreat, being past around, there was a dismal cry,
Then heller skelter through the woods, like wolves and sheep they fly.
This well-appointed army, who but a day before,
Defied and braved all danger, had like a cloud pass'd o'er.

Alas ! the dying and wounded, how dreadful was the thought,
To the tomahawk and scalping-knife, in mis'ry are brought.
Some had a ihigh and some an arm broke on the field that day,
Who writhed in torments at the stake, to close the dire affray.

To mention our brave officers, is what I wish to do ;
No sons of 31ars e'er fought more brave, or with more courage true.
To Captain Bradford 1 belonged, in his artillery,
| He fell that day amongst the slain, a valiant man was he.

It has been generally said, that had the advice of Little-turtle been taken
at the disastrous fight afterwards with General Wayne, there is very little
doubt but he had met as ill success as General St. Clair || did before him.
He was not for fighting General Wayne at Presque-Isle, and inclined rather
to peace than fighting him at all. In a council held the night before the
battle, he argued as follows : " We have beaten the enemy twice under separate
commanders. We cannot expect the same good fortune always to attend us. The
Americans are now led by a chief who never sleeps : the night and the day are
alike to him. Jlnd during all the time that he has been marching upon
our villages, notwithstanding the watchfulness of our young men, we have
never been able to surprise him. Think well of it. There is something whis-
pers me, it would be prudent to listen to his offers of peace" For holding this
language he was reproached by another chief with cowardice, which put an
end to all further discourse. Nothing wounds the feelings of a warrior like
the reproach of cowardice ; but Little-turtle stifled his resentment, did his
duty in the battle, and its issue proved him a truer prophet than his accuser



* This was probably a report, but is doubtless incorrect.

f This is not fact.

j It would have been agreeable if our poet had given us a kind of catalogue of all such as
were killed at this time, of any note. Captain A/ewman was among the number. Elliot's
Works, 135.

Little-turtle told Mr. Volney circumstances which gave him that opinion. See his
Travels in America, ed. Loud. 1804.

|| General Arthur St. Clair was of Edinburgh, Scotland. He came to America in the
leet which brought over Admiral ttoscawen, in 1755, and having served through the revolu-
tionary and Indian wars, died at his farm near Greensburgh, 1'a. 31 Aug. 1818. Amer. Men
J/u-'. 'ii. 4C9, (N. Y. 1818.)



CHAP. IV.l LITTLE-TURTLE AT PHILADELPHIA. 573

believed.* His residence was upon Eel River, aboutSQ miles from Fort Wayne,
where our government built him a house, and furnished him with means of
living, much to the envy of his countrymen. Therefore what had been bestowed
upon him,to induce others to a like mode of life by their own exertions, proved
not only prejudicial to the cause, but engendered hatred against him in the minds
of all the Indians. He was not a chief by birth, but was raised to that
standing by his superior talents. This was the cause of so much jealousy
and envy at this time, as also a neglect of his counsel heretofore. The same
author,f from whom we get the facts in the preceding part of this paragraph,
says, " Meshtcunnaqua, or the Littlt-turtle, was the son of a Miami chief, by a
Mohecan woman. As the Indian maxim, with regard to descents, is precisely
that of the civil law in relation to slaves, that the condition of the woman
adheres to the offspring, he was not a chief by birth," &c.

Little-turtle was alike courageous and humane, possessing great wisdom.
'And," says my author, "there have been few individuals among aborigines who
have done so much to abolish the rites of human sacrifice. The grave of
this noted warrior is shown to visitors, near Fort Wayne. It is frequently
\isited by the Indians in that part of the country, by whom his memory is
cherished with the greatest respect and veneration."!

The grave of his great opponent was also in the same region ; but his
jemains were not long since removed to the seat of his lamily. Ever after
Lis successful expedition, the Indians called him the Big- wind ; or Tor-
t'ado ; some, however, on particular occasions, called him Sukach-gook,
which signified, in Delaware, a black-snake ; because, they said, he pos-
sessed all the art and cunning of that reptile. |j We hear yet of another
name, which, though it may not have been his litult that acquired it, is less
complimentary than the two just named. It is well known that the British
bestowed a great many more presents upon the Indians than the Americans
did; but some of the latter made large pretensions about what they ivould
do. General Wayne, the Indians said, made great promises to them of
goods, but never got ready to fulfil them, (probably from being disappointed
himself by the failure of his government in not forwarding what was
promised ; ) therefore they called him General Wabangfk which signified
General To-morrow**

When the philosopher and famous traveller Volney was in America, in
the winter of 1797, Little-turtle came to Philadelphia, where he then was.
Volney sought immediate acquaintance with the celebrated chief, for highly
valuable purposes, which in some measure he effected. He made a vocabu-
lary of his language, which he printed in the appendix to his Travels. A
copy in manuscript, more extensive than the printed one, is said to be in the
library of the Philosophical Society of Pennsylvania.

Having become convinced that all resistance to the whites was vain, Little-
turtle brought his nation to consent to peace, and to adopt agricultural pur-
suits. And it was with the view of soliciting Congress, and the benevolent
society of Friends, for assistance to effect this latter purpose, that he now
visited Philadelphia. While here, he was inoculated for the small-pox, and
was also afflicted with the gout and: rheumatism.

At the time of Mr. Volneifs interview with him for information, he took
no notice of the conversation while the interpreter was communicating with
Mr. Volney, for he did not understand English, but walked about, plucking
out his beard and eyebrows. He was dressed now in English clothes. His
skin, where not exposed, Mr. Volney says, was as white as his ; and on
speaking upon the subject, Little-turtle said, " I have seen Spaniards in Louis-
iana, and found no difference of color between them and me. And why
should there be any? In them, as in us, it is the work of the Father of colors.
the Sun, that burns us. You white people compare the color of your face
with that of your bodies." Mr. Volney explained to him the notion of many

* Schooler a/Cs Travels. t Dan-son, Mems. Harrison. t Sehooleraft's Travels.

$ Pa. Gazette. || Heckeirelder's Narrative.

l r Or, according to Mr. \V. J. Snelling, it should he written Wahuiik.
** Weld's Travels, 424.



574 LITTLE-TURTLE. HIS DEATH AM) CHARACTER. [RooK V.

that Ins race was descended from the 'Tartars, and liy a map showed him the
-upposed rnnmmniraiion between Asi;i and America. To this Little-turtle
replied. " It'lii/ should not these Tartars, irho resemble us, have come from .7//ierica?
Are, tlure am/ reasons to the contrary 1 Or why should we not both have been
born in our o\vn countn ': ' It is a fart that the Indians give themselves a
name which is equivalent to our word indigene, that is, one sprung from the soil,
or natural to it.*

ilaron LahonlanJ alter describing the different dances, or dances for differ-
ent occasions, uiiong the Indians of Canada, adds the following in a note :
" Tonics ces danses pewuent etre compares alapyrrhique de.Mhiervc, car les sau-
vagcs observe nt, en eiansant d'une gravite singuliire, les cadences de certaines
chansons, que les milices Grecques rfV?c/ii/ie, apelloient hyporchematiques. 11 ii'estpas
facile de sceivoir si les sauvages les ont apriscs dcs Grccs, ou si les Grccs les ont apriws
dcs sauvages." It is, perhaps, from such passages that Lahontan has been
branded whh the name of infidel ;{ but truly there can be nothing irreligious
in such deductions, inasmuch as it is conceded on all hands that the geolog-
ical formations of the new world have required as much time for their per-
fection as those of the old. Mr. Volney comes within the same pale, when
he compares the Spartans to the Five Nations. In contrasting the states of
Lacedcemon with modern France, he says, " Maintenant que fai vu les sau-
vages d'Jhnerique, je pcrsiste de plus en plus dans cette comparaison, d jc
trouve que le premiere lime, de Tliucydidc, et tout ce qidl dit des mceiirs des
Lacedemoniens, convienent tdlement aux cinq nations, que fappellerais volontiers
les Spartiates, les Iroquois de Vancien monde."

When Mr. V&lney asked Little-turtle what prevented him from living
among the whites, and if he were not more comfortable in Philadelphia than
upon the banks of the Wabash, he said, " Taking all things together, you have
the advantage over us ; but here I am deaf and dumb. I do not talk your lan-
guage ; I can neither hear, nor make myself heard. When I walk through the
streets, I see every person in his shop employed about something: one makes shoes,
another hats, a third sells cloth, and every one lives by his labor. I say to myself,
Which of all these things can you do ? A"o one. I can make a bow or an
arrow, catch jish, kill game, and go to war : but none of these is of any use here.
To learn what is done here would require a long time." " Old age comes on."
" / should be a piece of furniture useless to my nation, useless to the whites, and
useless to myself." " I must return to my own count j-y."

At the same time, (1797,) among other eminent personages to whom this chief
became attached in Philadelphia, was the renowned Kosldusko. This old
Polish chief was so well pleased with Little-turtle, that when the latter went
to take his final leave of him, the old "war-worn soldier" and patriot pre-
sented him with a beautiful pair of pistols, and an elegant robe made of sea-
otter's skin, of the value of "several" hundred dollars.

Little-turtle died in the summer of 1812, at his residence, but a short time
after the declaration of war against England by the United States. His pur-
trait, by Stewart, graces the Avails of the war-office of our nation. The
following notice appeared in the public prints at the time of his death :
"Fort Wayne, 21 July, 1812. On the 14 inst. the celebrated Miami chief,
the Little-turtle, died at this place, at the age of 65 years. || Perhaps there is
not left on this continent, one of his color so distinguished in council and in
war. His disorder was the gout. He died in a camp, because he chose to
be in the open air. He met death with great firmness. The agent for In-
dian affairs had him buried with the honors of war, and other marks of dis-

* See Volneifs Travels, ut supra. } Memoires de L' Amerique, ii. 109.



Online LibrarySamuel Gardner DrakeThe aboriginal races of North America; comprising biographical sketches of eminent individuals, and an historical account of the different tribes, from the first discovery of the continent to the present period ... and a copious analytical index → online text (page 100 of 131)