The Invasion Stalls

October 27, 2012

Hull worried about his supply line from Ohio. He was also convinced he was outnumbered by fierce, unrelenting warriors. Anxious to keep “his friendly Indians” in Michigan Territory neutral he called for an all native conference to renew their pledges of neutrality. Captain Lewis, Logan and The Wolf acted as scouts for Hull when he hacked his way through the bogs of northwestern Ohio and dense forests of Michigan to Detroit. Black Hoof joined them just after their arrival. Hull assigned them the task of calling the friendly chiefs to a council at Walk-In-The-Water’s Wyandotte village near Brownstown. Tecumseh, Roundhead and Main Poc were invited but declined.

On July 15th Black Hoof spoke to the council of nine nations. Chiefs from the Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Wyandotte, Kickapoo, Delaware, Munsee, Sac and Six Nations of the Grand attended. He brought them a message from the great American war chief who was at Detroit explaining that the Americans were obliged to go to War with Great Britianir because they would not permit the them to enjoy their neutral rights. Further, it was not of interest to the First Nations to concern themselves with the two government’s differences. And because the British were too weak to contend with them they were enticing all the nations around to join them in their fight. It was the desire of their Great Father in Washington that they not do so but remain neutral and enjoy their peace.

Lewis and Logan followed with reminders of how the British treated them at the end of the War of Independence and how they were abandoned at Fallen Timbers. They argued that they all should let the Red Coats and the Big Knives fight their own battles and if they did they could be assured their Great Father in Washington wanted no more of their land and he would always care for needs.

The chiefs still believing the British were fighting an unwinnable war professed their continued neutrality and July 20th the conference ended. Black Hoof, Logan, Lewis and The Wolf left immediately for Piqua and the Conference called for on August 1st.

A week later Major James Denny moved down the Canadian shore of the Detroit to just short of the Aux Canard. He was at the head of 120 Ohio Militiamen when they came upon a small party of warriors who were out of range. They traded shots to no avail while the warriors sent for reinforcements. Denny also sent one of his men back up the road to Sandwich and their main camp. Unfortunately, he ran into another small war party of thirteen at Turkey Creek where he was tomahawked. He would be the first American soldier killed in the war.

Tecumseh and Main Poc rushed from Malden with 150 Shawnee, Ottawa and Potawatomi warriors. They skirted the road to a tall grass prairie called Petite Cote just beyond the bridge and set up an ambush. The small war party who killed the militiaman at Turkey Creek appeared and twenty militiamen gave chase down the road and past the ambush. The main body of warriors emerged from the tall sunflowers and wild carrots amid screeching war hoops and gunfire directed at Denny. He saw that he had a disaster on his hands. His troops were scattered so he broke with the main body for a wood lot on his left to set up a defensive line. The line held but the warriors moved to take possession of the road to his right. When they saw their only escape route was about to be cut off and they would be surrounded they panicked. They rushed for the road, every man for himself, with the warriors hot on their flank. They managed to reach the road safely but were in full retreat, running pell-mell back to Sandwich. The warriors hounded them all the way stopping along fence lines, orchards and behind homesteads to take pot shots at the fleeing Americans. They finally broke off the chase at Turkey Creek. Denny lost five killed, two wounded and one taken prisoner. The warriors lost one killed and three wounded.

The American captive was treated very badly because one of his comrades, William McColloch, found time during the skirmish to scalp the dead warrior. He was bound and whipped with ramrods but he did live and was ransomed by British Indian Agent Matthew Elliott.

The warriors now shifted their efforts to the other side of the Detroit. On August 3rd Tecumseh, Roundhead and Captain Adam Muir led a large force of warriors along with 100 Red Coats across the Detroit to Brownstown. They surrounded the towns of Maguaga and Brownstown and rounded up the inhabitants. Maguaga, Blue Jacket’s town, was inhabited by a mix of Shawnee and Wyandotte while Walk-In-The-Water’s town were all Wyandotte. The total population was approximately 300 all remaining neutral in the war.

The whole population was spirited back across the boarder to Bois Blanc Island where a council was held. Tecumseh and Roundhead pleaded for the Confederacy’s cause. Miere or Walk-In-The-Water retorted with his intention of keeping his word to remain neutral. In the end Tecumseh won out convincing the neutral First Nations to capitulate and join his cause. This added about eighty warriors to his force.

Two days later Tecumseh left Amherstburg again. This time he crossed the river with a much smaller force of just twenty-five. Their scouts made them aware of a mail run making its way north from Frenchtown with communications from Ohio. They ambushed the unsuspecting column killing eighteen of the French volunteers and capturing the mail. Of the seven that made it back to Frenchtown two were wounded.

Tecumseh’s scouts returned with more news. They had run across William McColloch, the same man that scalped the dead warrior at Petite Cote, who was with a scouting party of a mail run moving south. After learning that Major Thomas Van Horne was moving down the road from Detroit with 200 militiamen they killed all of the advance party including McColloch. Van Horne was intending to meet with the northbound mail to exchange communications. Tecumseh prepared an ambush at a most suitable spot and waited.

Van Horne approached with his mail pouches protected in the center of his column. It was preceded and flanked first by infantry then mounted militiamen. As they passed the point of ambush the trap was sprung. Mounted men and officers fell first. The militia panicked and fled. Over the next two days they straggled into Fort Detroit in a state of shock. They had lost twenty-five killed and twelve wounded. Tecumseh lost one dead and two wounded but captured both north and southbound communications. One letter from Hull to Eustis pleading for reinforcements revealed his belief that there were 2,000 unrepentant warriors about to descend on Detroit from the north country. A most valuable piece of information indeed.

Hull was fraught with anxiety. His most vulnerable asset was now breached. His supplies were cut off. He failed to take the bridge on the Aux Canard or Fort Malden. He seemed to see Tecumseh’s warriors everywhere. He withdrew his small advance stationed at Sandwich back to the fort and he sent a dispatch to Fort Dearborn to abandon their post and retreat either to Fort Wayne, Detroit or Michilimackinac. Now Hull gave up any notion of advancing and he assumed a defensive position inside the fort. The American invasion was over!

NEXT WEEK:  The Fall of Detroit


Hull Invades Canada!

October 23, 2012

General Hull finally arrived at Detroit on July 6, 1812. He was in overall command of his forces while Lieutenant-Colonel James Miller commanded the veterans of Tippecanoe, the 4th Regiment of United States Infantry. Also with  him was the 1,200 strong Ohio Militia under Lewis Cass, Duncan McArthur and James Findlay. The Michigan Militia joined him there raising his total force to over 2,000 fighting men.

This impressive show of American strength had the Canadian side of the Detroit in a panic.Canadian militiamen began deserting in droves. Their rolls quickly dropped from 600 to less than 400. Townspeople began to flee inland taking what they could with them. Some communities such as Delaware sent overtures to Hull on their own. Canadian civilians were not the only citizens to be apprehensive about the prospects of war in their own environs. Six months earlier the settlers of Michigan Territory sent a memorial to Congress pleading for protection from perceived threats from the surrounding First Nations. In it they claimed it was not the British army they feared, however they did not trust them for protection against attacks by “the savages”.

The invasion came on July 12th. American troops crossed the Detroit and occupied Sandwich. The few British regulars and what was left of the Essex Militia defending the border quickly scrambled back to Fort Malden. On the 13th Hull crossed over to make his proclamation to the Canadians. He entered Canada presenting himself as a glorious liberator. All citizens who remained neutral would be treated kindly and their property respected. However, anyone found to be fighting beside and “Indian” would receive no quarter but “instant destruction would be his lot”.

In an area of wetlands and tall grass prairie lay the only defensible position between Amherstburg and Sandwich. About five miles north of Fort Malden a fairly wide, slow moving stream meandered toward the Detroit. There was a single bridge which crossed the Aux Canard connecting the only road between the two villages. On July 16th it was protected by a few regulars with two pieces of artillery and about fifty warriors.

Suddenly, Lewis Cass and his Militia along with a few American regulars appeared at the bridge. Cass positioned a few marksmen on the north side of the river while he took the rest of his 280 men upstream to find a ford to cross over. Meanwhile, his riflemen picked off two British soldiers killing one. When he arrived back at the bridge on the south side of the Aux Canard he overwhelmed the warriors and their British counterparts. Shots were fired by both sides but there were few casualties. The warriors and their contingent of British regulars wheeled their artillery away and retreated back to Malden.

The Americans had tasted their first real military success at the Aux Canard as Sandwich was given up without a fight. But this victory was short lived. That night the warriors preformed a loud, boisterous war dance on Amherstburg’s wharf to prepare for the expected upcoming battle. The next day Roundhead led his Wyandotte warriors north up the road to the bridge. Main Poc followed with his Potawatomi while the rest placed themselves under Tecumseh’s command. To their utter amazement the Americans had abandoned the bridge and were retreating back up the road to Sandwich. They retook the bridge and moved the Queen Charlotte upstream to the mouth of the Aux Canard to provide cannon cover. While the soldiers ripped up the bridge except for a few planks and built a rampart on the south side of the stream the warriors hounded the Americans with wasp like sorties until they withdrew from Canada to the safety of Fort Detroit.

General Hull was a much older soldier that he had been in the American Revolution Then he had been daring and far more decisive. He had grown much more cautious and vacillating in his old age. Not only was he indecisive but he had developed an extraordinary fear of native warfare. In fact the warriors terrified him. It was him that ordered Cass to retreat much to the chagrin of his men. Now he sat day after day in war council trying to determine what to do next. But nothing was ever decided. He fretted about the security of his supply line from Ohio and he imagined far more warriors surrounding him than the few that were at Amherstburg. His men, including his officers, began to complain bitterly behind his back.

On the day after the American Invasion while Lewis Cass retreat to Detroit the small American post, Fort Michilimackinac,  at head of Lake Huron fell. It had come under attack by the British Captain Charles Roberts who had 393 warriors with him. They included 280 Ojibwa and Ottawa  warriors from Superior country as well as 113 Sioux, Menominee and Winnebago braves recruited by Robert Dickson from those who had been loyal to Tecumseh and Main Poc. That most northerly fort was lightly garrisoned and ill equipped so it capitulated with a shot being fired. The warriors were on their best behavior that day attested to by Mr. Askin Jr. who wrote, “I never saw a so determined people as the Chippewas and Ottawas were. Since the capitulation they have not drunk a single drop of Liquor, nor even Killed a Fowl belonging to any person (a thing never Known before) for they generally destroy everything they meet with”.

When Hull received word of the fall of Michilimackinac it only added to his anxiety. He envisioned hordes of “savages” descending on Detroit from the north. He sent dispatches back to Eustis begging for more reinforcements to be send to provide protection from the 2,000 war-whooping, painted, feathered warriors he imagined approaching from the north.

While Hull fretted and vacillated back and forth Duncan McArthur moved his men back down the dusty road to the Aux Canard. As he advanced he kept encountering pesky bands of warriors. The warriors were so determined that they forced the Americans back. In one skirmish Main Poc was shot in the neck and had to be helped from the field. He later recovered. In another skirmish McArthur who was retreating had his men turn and fire upon the pursuing warriors. A story later sprang up that when the volley was fired the warriors all hit the ground face first except one who remained defiantly on his feet. That one was reportedly Tecumseh!

NEXT WEEK:  The Invasion Stalls


The War of 1812: The Detroit Theater

October 20, 2012

Tecumseh arrived at Fort Wayne on June 17, 1812. He met with the new Indian Agent  Benjamin Stickney and stayed three days discussing their relations with the Americans. He laid the blame for all the unrest in the spring at the feet of the Potawatomi and informed Stickney he would travel north to Amherstburg to preach peace to the Wyandotte, Ottawa, Potawatomi there as well as the Ojibwa of Michigan. Stickney was new but no fool. He did not believe him so he told Tecumseh that a visit to Amherstburg could only be considered an act of war considering the two colonizers were so close to going to war themselves. Tecumseh left Fort Wayne on June 21st not knowing that the United States of America had declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812.

Earlier that spring General Hull assembled an army in Cincinnati. In May he marched them to Dayton where he added to his forces before continuing on to Urbana. Meanwhile, Governor Meigs also called for a conference at Urbana with chiefs friendly to the U.S. The purpose was to secure permission for Hull to hack a road through First Nations’ land to Fort Detroit. This new road would also serve as a supply line for the American invasion force.

Tarhe spoke for the Wyandotte and Black Hoof for the Ohio Shawnee. Their speeches were followed by harangues by other chiefs including the Seneca chief Mathame and the Shawnee Captain Lewis. Captain Lewis had just returned from Washington and like the others declared their undying fidelity to Americans. They not only gained permission for the road but permission also to build blockhouses at strategic places along the way. Captain Lewis and Logan also agreed to act as interpreters and scouts for General Hull. The long and arduous trek to Michigan began.

While Hull slowly trudged through the dense forests of Ohio and Michigan the other governors of the Northwest Territories arranged for another conference at Piqua with friendly First Nations. I was planned for August 1st and included groups of Miami, Potawatomi, Ottawa and Wyandotte. The Americans assumed a demographic like the Shawnee and that when war broke out a few groups might flee to Canada and join Tecumseh’s forces but the majority would remain neutral. They were expecting 3,000 First Nations people. The conference was designed to keep them neutral with the combination of presents and supplies along with an expectation that the size of Hull’s forces and its reinforcement of Detroit would overawe them. But, Hull’s over-extended journey left supplies short and the presents failed to arrive on schedule so the conference was postponed to August 15th. Meanwhile British agents spread the rumor that the conference was a ploy designed to get the warriors away from their villages where American militia would fall upon them killing their women and children.

Tecumseh took ten of his warriors and left for Amherstburg on June 21st. He planned to join the warriors already sent on ahead. They skirted Hull’s lumbering army arriving at Fort Malden at the end of the month.

Amherstburg was a small village some seventeen miles south of the village of Sandwich on the Canadian side of the Detroit River. Located at the north end of the village was a small, dilapidated outpost called Fort Malden. It was poorly maintained and under garrisoned. Although over the previous two months it had been tripled it still only amounted to 300 regulars from the 41st Regiment of Foot and one detachment of Royal Artillery. There were also 600 Essex Militia available but they were insufficiently armed and most were without uniforms. They were mostly farm boys from the surrounding homesteads who had no real interest in fighting but only joined the militia for a Saturday night out.

The infantry was commanded by the able Scot Captain Adam Muir. Lieutenant Felix Troughton had command of the artillery. Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Bligh St. George, who had overall command, stationed 460 militiamen along with a few regulars directly across the river from Detroit to protect the border. They settled in at the village of Sandwich to meet the invasion.

Directly in front of Amherstburg was a large heavily wooded island called Bois Blanc. There had been Wyandotte and Ottawa villages there since the founding of Detroit over 100 years earlier. The Island provided a place for the numerous encampments of other warriors who had began to gather in the area. A large main council lodge was erected opposite the island on the mainland near the village’s small dock yard. The dockyard provided slips for the three British ships that commanded Lake Erie; the brig Queen Charlotte, the schooner Lady Prevost and the small ship General Hunter.

When Tecumseh arrived he found his warriors joining in war dances with the others. Near the council lodge warriors would give long harangues detailing their exploits in previous battles striking the war post with their war clubs and working themselves into a frenzy. The drums would begin their loud rhythmic pounding and the dancing warriors would circle their sacred fire all the while yelling their blood curdling war whoops. The garrison would respond with cannon salutes. Soldiers would shout out cheers while they fired their rifles into the air from the rigging of the three ships.

Although the din of the warrior’s preparation for war was impressive their numbers were not. They were mostly Wyandotte from the Canadian side under Roundhead, his brother Splitlog and Warrow. Tecumseh was present with his thirty Shawnee. War Chief Main Poc was there with a war party of Potawatomi. The contingent of warriors also included thirty Menominee, a few Winnebago and Sioux, sent by the red headed Scottish trader Robert Dickson from Green Bay. The Munsee Philip Ignatius was also present with a few from the Goshen mission at Sandusky. The number was rounded out by a sprinkling of Ottawa, Ojibwa and Kickapoo. On July 4th a large war party of Sac arrived to bring the total warrior contingent to 350.

Canada was looking decidedly the underdog. Only 300 British regulars, 600 ill equipped militia and 350 First Nation warriors protected the Detroit frontier. Hull was approaching with an army of 2,000 and the Americans were raising another large invasion force in the east to attack at Niagara. And there would be no help arriving from England because of the war in Europe.

The general population of Upper Canada was a mere 77,000 with many of them recent American immigrants. Their loyalty was questionable. The population of the U.S. Northwest Territories was 677,000. The American Congress had approved a total allotment of over 180,000 fighting men. General Brock was looking at a war on two fronts with only 1,600 regulars and 11,000 militia at his disposal. Tecumseh had sent out many war belts as a call to arms but the large and powerful Three Fires Confederacy’s feelings were that they should remain neutral. They saw no reason to get involved in a war with the Americans that did not look winnable  Only a few young hotheads such as Ojibwa warriors Wawanosh, Waboose or The Rabbit, Old Salt and Black Duck from the St. Clair had joined Tecumseh at Amherstburg. Canada’s prospects were looking very grim!

NEXT WEEK:  Hull Invades Canada!

 


War Clouds on the Horizon

October 16, 2012

When the Prophetstown warriors retreated from the battlefield they carried some of their fallen with them. They quickly buried them at their town and withdrew to see what Harrison would do next.

Although the American held their ground during the surprise attack they were bruised and stunned. Harrison ordered them to stand at the ready expecting the warriors to mount another frontal assault. He waited all through November 7th and part way through the 8th. That attack never came. Little did he know the warriors had withdrew due to lack of ammunition.

When the warriors failed to materialize he marched on Prophetstown burning it to the ground destroying everything that was there. The warriors watched from afar. They could see the large billows of black smoke rising from the valley. The next day their scouts informed them the Big Knives had left so they returned to see what the enemy had done. They were horrified at the sight that greeted them. Debased American soldiers had dug up the fresh graves of their brave fallen warriors and left the bodies strewn about to rot in the sun. They were livid. The re-interned their dead and left for their hunting grounds short of enough ammunition to get them through the winter.

Tecumseh’s confederacy had been dealt a serious setback. Warriors from the several nations that had been at Prophetstown left viewing the Prophet with disdain  They declared him to be a false prophet because of the outcome of the battle. Tenskwatawa claimed the spirits deserted them because his menstruating wife had defiled the holy ground that he was drumming and chanting on during the battle. Often a reason such as this would be accepted for a failed prophecy. But not this time. The nations from the western Great Lakes that supported Tecumseh and his vision now rejected the Prophet which left them disenchanted with Tecumseh’s vision as well. He had a lot of work ahead of him rebuilding the confederacy.

Harrison was basking in the glory of self-proclaimed total victory. He confidently claimed the Indians had been dispersed in total humiliation and this would put an end to their depredations upon white settlers up and down the frontier. The American press lionized him and President Madison endorsed the message in an address to  congress on the 18th of December. The “Indian problem” had bee dealt with or so they thought.

That congress was bristling with war hawks enraged at Great Britain mostly for impressing American merchant sailors at sea into British service in their war with France. They thought that a declaration of war on Great Britain and an attack on its colony of Upper Canada would give them an easy victory and the whole of the continent as a prize. Upper Canada was weakly defended and Great Britain’s military might was stretched thin as all its resources were being used in Europe.

In 1808 Congress tripled the number of authorized enlisted men from 3,068 to 9,311. In 1811 Secretary of War, William Eustis, asked for 10,000 more regulars. Virginia Democratic Senator William Branch Giles proposed 25,000 new men. Democrats for the most part held anti-war sentiments. It was thought he upped the ante to embarrass the administration because it was generally thought that 25,000 could not be raised. However, Federalists William Henry Clay from Kentucky and Peter B. Porter of New York pushed through a bill enacting Giles’ augmentation into law on the 11th of January 1812. By late spring authorized military forces had been further pushed to overwhelming numbers: 35,925 regulars, 50,000 volunteers and 100,000 militia.

When Tecumseh had visited Amherstburg in 1810 he made the British authorities there aware just how close the First Nations were to rebellion. Upon realizing this they adjusted their Indian Policy. Because of their weakened position they did not want to be drawn into a war the the Americans. So they informed their First Nation allies that the new policy stated that they would receive no help from the British if they attacked the United States. If they were attacked by the U.S. they should withdraw and not retaliate. Indian Agents were ordered to maintain friendly relations with First Nations and supply them with necessities but if hostilities arose then they were to do all in their power to dissuade them from war. This policy was continued by the new administrators of Upper Canada. Sir James Craig was replaced as governor-general by Sir George Prevost and Francis Gore with Isaac Brock as lieutenant-governor.

However, all the admonition to encourage peace by the British and Harrison’s claim that peace on the frontier had already been achieved by his victory at Tippecanoe was for nought. The British lacked the necessary influence with the war chiefs and Harrison’s proclamation was a myth. The Kickapoo and Winnebago suffered through a particularly hard winter. The snow had been unusually deep and game was scarce. The Shawnee suffered even more due to the destruction of their granary. They were forced to survive by the good charity of their Wyandotte brothers at Sandusky.

When spring arrived they were still seething at the desecration of their graves at Prophetstown. Tecumseh was travelling throughout the northwest rebuilding his confederacy. Although he preached a pan-Indian confederacy to stop American aggression his message was tempered with a plea to hold back until the time was right. But the war chiefs had trouble holding back some of their young warriors.

The melting snows turned into the worst outbreak of violence the frontier had seen in fifteen years. Thanks to governor Harrison First Nation warriors were no longer congregated in one place. Now they were spread out in a wide arc from Fort Dearborn (Chicago) to Lake Erie. They were striking everywhere at once. In January the Winnebago attacked the Mississippi lead mines. In February and March they assaulted Fort Madison killing five and blockading it for a time. In April they killed two homesteaders working their fields north of Fort Dearborn. That same month five more settlers were killed along the Maumee and Sandusky Rivers with one more on Greenville Creek in what is now Darke County.

The Kickapoo were just as busy. On the 10th of February a family by the name of O’Neil were slain at St. Charles (Missouri). Settlers in Louisiana Territory were in a state of panic. Potawatomi warriors joined in. April saw several attacks in Ohio and Indiana Territory. Near Fort Defiance three traders were tomahawked to death while they slept in their beds while other raids were made on the White River and Driftwood Creek.

On the 11th of April two young warriors named Kichekemit and Mad Sturgeon led a war party south burning a house just north of Vincennes. Six members of a family named Hutson along with their hired hand were killed.   Eleven days later it is believed that the same Potawatomi party raided a homesteader’s farm on the Embarras River west of Vincennes. All of the Harryman family including five children lost their lives.

The frontier was ablaze with retribution for Prophetstown and settlers were leaving the territories in droves. Governor Edwards complained that by June men available for his militia had fallen from 2,000 to 1,700. A militia was raised by each of the Northwest Territories for protection. At times American First Nation allies were caught in the middle. Two friendly Potawatomi hunters were killed near Greenville and their horses confiscated. Both Governors Edwards and Louisiana Governor Benjamin Howard called for a new campaign against their antagonizers  But the Secretary of War was occupied with the clamoring for war with Great Britain and its accompanying invasion of Upper Canada.

The raids on settlers stopped as quickly as they started. By May the warriors committing the atrocities declared their anger over grave degradation at Prophetstown spent. Tecumseh’s coalition had gelled in the Northwest. In the south the Red Sticks had taken ownership of his vision and had become extremists acting on their own and not really part of his confederacy. The stage was now set for a major war. In June of 1812, while General Hull and his army of 2,000 hacked their way through the wilderness to Detroit Tecumseh sent a small party of his followers, mostly Shawnee, to Amherstburg while he traveled south to visit Fort Wayne.

NEXT WEEK:  The War of 1812: The Detroit Theater


Disaster at Prophetstown

October 9, 2012

Tecumseh arrived back at Prophetstown in late January 1812 but there was no warm welcome awaiting him. To his bitter amazement the Shawnee town at the junction of the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers lay in ruins. When told the details of the disaster he was furious. He had left specific orders with his brother not to engage the Big Knives but to appease them at all cost. He had told Tenskwatawa, the Prophet, that time would come, but not now. It was too early. It is reported that he was so enraged that he grabbed his brother by the hair, shook him and threatened to kill him.

The summer of 1811 was one of fear and apprehension all along the frontier. The summer of unrest was caused by a few young warriors loyal to Prophetstown but nevertheless hotheads acting on their own. They had been raiding settlers farms, stealing their horses and a few had been killed.

William Henry Harrison, the governor of Indiana, met with Tecumseh at Vincennes in July. Tecumseh tried to convince him that the confederacy he was building was not for war but for peace. He was not successful. They had met in council before and although they had respect for each other they disagreed strenuously. The year before their council almost ended violently.

Winamek, a Potawatomi chief loyal to the Big Knives suggested the warriors at Vincennes raise a large war party and attack Prophetstown but Black Hoof convinced him otherwise. Black Hoof and The Wolf two Shawnee chiefs loyal to the Americans attended several councils with settlers in Ohio convincing them that they and their three hundred warriors were peaceful. Black Hoof took this opportunity to set all the blame for all the troubles at the foot of Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa.

Meanwhile, in June some of Tecumseh’s entourage were busy recruiting followers from the Wyandotte of Sandusky. They encountered some resistance so they handled it by preying on the Wyandotte’s fear of witchcraft. They accused their opposition of it and three were burned alive as sorcerers including the old village chief Leather Lips. American officials called for conferences with their First Nation allies at Fort Wayne and Brownstown on the Detroit River. They came from eastern Michigan, Ohio and Indiana and all denounced the Shawnee brothers. The  Shawnee delegation to Brownstown was led by George Bluejacket and Tachnedorus or Captain Logan the Mingo chief. Although the affirmed their loyalty to the Big Knives they took the opportunity to visit British Agents across the river at Amherstburg.

Harrison was convinced that all the turmoil on the frontier emanated from Prophetstown. There was more trouble perpetrated by the young hot head warriors. Three of these warriors believed to be Potawatomi had stolen horses on the White and Wabash Rivers terrorizing the settlers there. While Tecumseh was on his three thousand mile sojourn building the confederacy Harrison began to assemble a large army at Vincennes. He was determined to disperse the First Nations who had congregated at Prophetstown.

Harrison made his plans public telling Black Hoof to keep his Shawnee followers in Ohio so they would not be connected to the coming conflict. He also gave the same advice to the Miami and Eel River Wea but his words did not sit well with some of the Miami. Prophetstown was situated across the boundary in Miami territory and they did not appreciate having their sovereignty impinged upon. Word of the military buildup quickly traveled up the Wabash to Prophetstown.

Tenskwatawa hurriedly call a council to decide what to do. The decision was made to send a Kickapoo delegation to Vincennes. Probably led by Pamawatam the war chief of the Illinois River Kickapoo the delegation was not successful. They had tried to negotiate that a settlement of the troubles with the settlers be sorted out in the spring.

The news they returned with was not good. Harrison had assemble an army of one thousand soldiers and they were about to march up the Wabash. The only thing that would deter them was the return of stolen horses and for those who had committed murders along the frontier be handed over for punishment. Harrison also demanded the dispersal of Prophetstown.

The Prophet had to decide whether to comply or fight. They were not in good shape for a major battle. The little lead and powder they had they needed to get them through the upcoming winter. They were outnumbered. The congregation at Prophetstown consisted of mostly Kickapoo and Winnebago warriors that had camped there to hear Tenskwatawa preach along with a sprinkling of Potawatomi, Ottawa, Ojibwa, Piankeshaw, Wyandotte and Iroquois. There were also a small number of Shawnee followers that lived there permanently. In total they could only muster four to five hundred warriors. Tecumseh was right. The time for a fight with the Big Knives had not yet arrived.

Harrison started the long, lumbering 180 mile journey up the Wabash on the 29th of October. One third of the army he commanded were regulars from the 4th Regiment of the U.S. Infantry. The rest was made up by 400 Indiana Militia, 120 mounted Kentucky volunteers and 80 mounted Indiana riflemen. Harrison had hoped that his show of American military might would force Prophetstown to capitulate but he underestimated First Nations tenacity. The Prophet decided to disregard Tecumseh’s orders and stand and fight.

Prophetstown scouts monitored Harrison’s progress up the eastern side of the Wabash while the warriors prepared spiritually for the upcoming battle. Tenskwatawa pronounce the Master of Life was with them and the spirits would assist in the battle by making them invisible. He prophesied that he had the power to turn the American’s powder to sand and their bullets to mud.

When Harrison’s army arrived the warriors had worked themselves into a frenzy. The Americans made camp about a mile north of Prophetstown on a patch of high ground at Burnett’s Creek. They sent a delegation to give The Prophet one last chance to sue for peace but the three chiefs they met with refused the offer. Harrison planned to attack the next day.

The Prophet and his council of war chiefs determined that being outnumbered 2 to 1 and low on ammunition the only real chance for success was to take the fight to Harrison that night. Before dawn about 4 a.m. on the 7th of November 1811 the warriors surrounded the American encampment. They could see the silhouettes of the sentries outlined by their campfires. Harrison and his officers were just being aroused for morning muster. The surprise attack began.

The Winnebago led by Waweapakoosa would attack from one side while Mengoatowa and his Kickapoo would strike from the other. The warriors crept stealthily into position and just as they were about to commence the assault an American sentry saw movement in the underbrush that surrounded the encampment. He raised his rifle and fired and the battle was on!

Blood curdling shrieks and war whoops filled the air accompanied by volleys of gunfire from the darkness all around. The warriors rushed forward and the American line buckled. Others scrambled to form battle lines. The volleys of musketry from the warriors was intense and some of the new recruits as well as the riflemen protecting the far left flank broke for the center. However, the main line of regulars held and the warriors were unable to break through.  The right flank now came under a tremendous assault of gunfire from a grove nearby. Officer after officer, soldier after soldier was felled. The line was about to collapse when a company of mounted riflemen reinforced it.

The warrior’s surprise attack was now in trouble. The American army was badly mauled but managed to hold. Ammunition was running low and daylight was breaking. The war party that had been so successful from the grove were now uprooted by a company of riflemen and were in retreat. Harrison turned from defense to offense routing the warriors who were out of ammunition. They began a full retreat back to an empty Prophetstown. When they arrived there with ammunition spent they decided to disperse.

Harrison spent the rest of the 7th and some of the 8th of November waiting for the warriors to commence a second assault. When they didn’t he marched to Prophetstown  only to find the towns inhabitants consisted of one wounded man and one old woman who had been left behind. They were taken prisoner but treated well. Harrison burned Prophetstown to the ground including the granary. It was going to be a long, hard winter.

Harrison and his army limped back to Vincennes where he would claim a great victory. But his badly mauled forces told another story. American casualties amounted to 188 including 68 killed. First Nation estimates range from 25 to 40 killed. The warriors had given a good account of themselves having assailed a superior force on its chosen ground and inflicting higher casualties on them.

NEXT WEEK:  War Clouds on the Horizon