Friday, August 03, 2007

The Battle of Tippecanoe

Seeing as William Henry Harrison was listed as one of our obscure Presidents, I decided to feature the battle he was known for today (since he had such a short tenure as President that I really had little to choose from there). Harrison ran for President on his fame from this battle – hence the slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.”

The battlefield now has a museum and a monument, as well as an interesting website that offers a nice synopsis of the battle:
The Protagonists
Tecumseh and the Prophet planned to unite many tribes into an organized defense against the growing number of western settlers. Through this union they could defend the lands they had lived on for thousands of years.

In addition to being a seat of diplomacy, Prophet's Town became a training center for the warriors, with a rigorous spiritual and athletic regimen. As many as one thousand warriors were based in the capitol at its peak.

The white settlers of the Indiana territory were disturbed by the increasing activities and power of Tecumseh's followers. In the late summer of 1811, the governor of the territory, Gen. William Henry Harrison, organized a small army of 1,000 men, hoping to destroy the town while Tecumseh was on a southern recruitment drive. The regiment arrived on Nov. 6, 1811, and upon meeting with representatives of the Prophet, it was mutually agreed that there would be no hostilities until a meeting could be held on the following day. Harrison's scouts then guided the troops to a suitable campsite on a wooded hill about a mile west of Prophet's Town.
The Battle
Upon arriving at the site, Harrison warned his men of the possible treachery of the Prophet. The troops were placed in a quadrangular formation; each man was to sleep fully clothed. Fires were lit to combat the cold, rainy night, and a large detail was assigned to sentinel the outposts.
Although Tecumseh had warned his brother not to attack the white men until the confederation was strong and completely unified, the incensed Prophet lashed his men with fiery oratory. Claiming the white man's bullets could not harm them, the Prophet led his men near the army campsite. From a high rock ledge west of the camp, he gave an order to attack just before daybreak on the following day.

The sentinels were ready, and the first gunshot was fired when the yells of the warriors were heard. Many of the men awoke to find the Indians upon them. Although only a handful of the soldiers had had previous battle experience, the army bloodily fought off the reckless, determined Indian attack. Two hours later, thirty-seven soldiers were dead, twenty-five others were to die of injuries, and over 126 were wounded. The Indian casualties were unknown, but their spirit was crushed. Angered by his deceit, the weary warriors stripped the Prophet of his power and threatened to kill him.

Harrison, expecting Tecumseh to return with a large band of Indians, fortified his camp soon after the battle. No man was permitted to sleep the following night.

Taking care of their dead and wounded, the demoralized Indians left Prophet's Town, abandoning most of their food and belongings. When Harrison's men arrived at the village on November 8, they found only an aged squaw, whom they left with a wounded chief found not far from the battlefield. After burning the town, the army began their painful return to Vincennes.

The Aftermath
Tecumseh returned three months later to find his dream in ashes. Believing the reconstruction of the confederation to be too risky and the chance of Indian survival under the United States government to be dim, he gathered his remaining followers and allied himself with the British forces. Tecumseh played a key role in the War of 1812, being active in the fall of Detroit, but he was killed at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, at the age of forty-five.

Scorned by the Indians and renounced by Tecumseh, the Prophet took refuge along nearby Wildcat Creek. Although remaining in disgrace, the Prophet retained a small band of followers, who roamed with him through the Northwest and Canada during the War of 1812. He died in Wyandotte County, Kansas, in November, 1834.

Gen. Harrison remained governor of Indiana Territory until September, 1812, when he was assigned command of the Northwestern frontier in the War of 1812. He was in command at the capture of Detroit and the Battle of the Thames, where Tecumseh was killed. At the close of the war, Harrison returned to public life at his old home in North Bend, Ohio. He served in the Ohio state senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate.

The Battle of Tippecanoe is considered by many to be one of the opening battles of the War of 1812.


Braveheart said...

It's all very interesting, However, you fail to mention that the Battle of Tippecanoe took place on what is now day Lafayette, Indiana (Arguably the 2nd most important city in Indiana). An interesting side note: the Lafayette mall is called the "Tippecanoe Mall"; right across the street is "Tyler Too Plaza", thus a modern day homage to "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too."

Jennie W said...

If you click on the link to the battlefield page, it does tell you where it is located. Thanks for the great fact about the Mall and Plaza - I love the word play! Unfortunately, I bet there are many people who pass through town without even noticing it!