The Fall of Detroit

November 6, 2012

Tecumseh’s confederacy began to grow. Early successes against the Big Knives bolstered the First Nations around Detroit. Teyoninhokarawenor The Snipe whose English name was John Norton arrived with seventy warriors. He was a Mohawk from the Grand River. His war party consisted of Iroquois from the Grand and some Munsee Delaware he had recruited from the Thames. Miscocomon or Red Knife joined him with a party of Ojibway warriors from the Thames.

The young warriors Kayotang and Yahobance, in English Raccoon, from Bear Creek (Sydenham River) raised a war party and joined with war chief Waupugais and his party from the Sauble. They traveled down the eastern shore of Lake Huron to Aamjiwnaang at the mouth of the St. Clair River. They met Misquahwegezhigk or Red Sky at the mouth of the Black River. He was the war chief of the Black River band of Saulteaux Ojibwa. They were all joined by Quakegman also known as Feather a war chief of the St. Clair band across the river. The whole entourage made its way south down the St. Clair to the lake of the same name. They picked up Petahgegeeshig or Between Day as well as Quaquakebookgk or Revolution with a large group of Ojibwa warriors from the Swan Creek and Salt River bands. The whole group arrived at Amherstburg sometime in early August 1812.

Okemos, who was a nephew of Pontiac, was the chief of the Cedar River band near present day Lansing, Michigan. They were a mixed band of Ojibwa and Ottawa people. He also arrived about the same time as the Saulteaux Ojibwa. Manitocorbay also came leading a large party of Ojibwa from Saginaw. Tecumseh’s coalition grew to about 600 warriors.

On the 9th of August Captain Adam Muir crossed the Detroit with just over 100 Red Coats, most of them regulars and started down the road to Bluejacket’s village of Maguaga. They were joined by Tecumseh with 300 warriors.. Main Poc and Walk-In-The-Water led the Potawatomi and Wyandotte bands.. Just as they arrived some of their scouts came rushing down the road with news. They excitedly told their chiefs that a large party of Big Knives were arriving from Detroit.

Hull had sent out a force to re-take the road that was his supply line from Ohio. This time the size of the force he sent out was much larger and included a healthy contingent of battle hardened regulars. The allied forces picked a place conducive to the ambush style forest warfare. Muir’s men flattened themselves on the ground on each side of the road while Main Poc and Walk-In-The-Water took up position ahead of the British in the woods on one side while Tecumseh covered them from the other side. There they lay, still and silent, awaiting the Americans. They didn’t have to wait long.

The Big Knives appeared marching down the road in two columns one on each side of the road with a column of cavalry in between. They were led by an advance guard of infantrymen under Captain Josiah Snelling while Lieutenant-Colonel James Miller rode at the head of the cavalry. Behind them was their baggage and heavy armament, one six-pounder and one howitzer. These were flanked by a small rear guard of regulars from the 4th U.S. Infantry. The unsuspecting Americans marched right passed the hiding enemy.

The warriors opened up fire upon the advance guard and the main column. The Red Coats joined the fire and the Big Knives broke ranks. However, they were battle tested veterans and among Hull’s finest soldiers. They regrouped under Miller and quickly formed battle lines. They began to advance firing mainly upon the British as the bright red jackets made easier targets than the warriors. Their 6 pounder also joined the fray by spaying the wooded areas with grape-shot.

Then things began to go wrong for the allies. One report said that the American’s forced one of the body of warriors to fall back and Muir’s men mistook them for advancing Blue Coats and so fired upon their own allies. Another report said the Red Coats mistook a command to advance as one to retreat giving up ground to Miller’s troops. Later Proctor would only record that during the battle something went amiss.

The Red Coats retired from the battlefield and retreated back to Malden. The warriors fought on for a time but were overwhelmed by superior numbers and they gave up the road to the Americans. But they didn’t hold control of their supply line for very long.

Inexplicably on August the 12th the “Old Lady”, that’s what Hull’s officers had come to call him, ordered Miller to withdraw back to the safety of Fort Detroit. Tecumseh moved back across the river and took control of the road to Urbana once again.

Tecumseh lost two warriors killed and six wounded in the Battle of Maguaga. He was slightly wounded himself. Muir lost five killed including Lieutenant Charles Sutherland, fourteen wounded and two missing. The Americans fared much worse. Miller suffered eighty-two casualties including eighteen dead. Jim Bluejacket, son of the great Shawnee Chief was also killed scouting for Miller. Although the Canadians lost the battle in the end because of Hull’s trepidation the blockade of Fort Detroit remained intact.

The American’s also had planned an invasion of Upper Canada at Niagara to coincide with Hull’s arrival at Sandwich but it was delayed. This freed up the commander of the British forces Isaac Brock to personally survey the situation on the Detroit frontier. He left Long Point with 350 men skirting the north shore of Lake Erie and up the Detroit. When he arrived at Amherstburg, sometime after the sun had set on August 13th, he was greeted with a volley of gunfire. The rounds were not deadly but fired off into the air as a greeting by the warriors on Bois Blanc Island.

A meeting of the officers was hastily called. Mathew Elliot, the old Indian Agent, quickly left to fetch Tecumseh. When Tecumseh and the General met they immediately hit it off. Both men were bold warriors, decisive in deed and had the military acumen only great generals enjoy. In short they were made of the same mettle.

When Brock heard of the trembling fear General Hull had of Tecumseh’s warriors he wanted to exploit this weakness. He decided to go on the offensive by attacking Fort Detroit. Proctor was against the plan as were most of the officers except for two. Tecumseh on the hand was filled with affirmative excitement. When that meeting broke up the decision had been made to send Hull a letter giving him the chance to surrender the fort. If the offer was refused they would attack. Colonel Proctor had been sent to Amherstburg to replace St. George. Now Brock would replace him as commander of the forces on the Detroit front.

On August 15th the letter containing Brock’s offer was sent across the river to Hull. In it Brock reminded Hull that ”the numerous body of Indians that have attached themselves to my troops will be beyond control the moment the contest commences”. He was preying on Hull’s most paralyzing fear but the bluff didn’t work. Hull refused to surrender. The following day British cannon fire roared across the Detroit from Sandwich. Hull returned the fire The British cannonade proved more deadly than Hull’s. Several shots found their mark landing inside the fort killing several people.

Brock marched his men boldly up the road to within sight of the main gate and its gatehouse. He led 800 men which included 300 regulars and 400 Militia with some dressed in red coats to give the impression he had more regulars than he did. Norton and his seventy Mohawk and Munsee warriors also marched with Brock. When they arrived to within sight of the fort they realized they were about to be met with the deadly fire of two twenty-four-pounders and one 6 pounder load with grape and canister shot. Brock peeled off taking shelter in a small ravine.

Roundhead, Walk-In-The-Water, Main Poc and Splitlog led their warriors through woods in order to attack the fort from the left and rear. Tecumseh led the rest of the coalition and joined them as they faced off against Hull’s militia. One story relates that during the face off Tecumseh had the 530 warriors march out of a small wood lot across an open field and into the main woods, circle around to the starting point. They filed passed the Americans again all the time screeching blood curdling war hoops in full view of the enemy. Three times the warriors showed themselves deceiving the militia and General Hull into actually believing the warriors they feared so much were there in the thousands.

While Brock had his men stationed in the ravine trying to entice Hull out of the fort he received bad news from scouts who had been patrolling the road south of the fort. They reported that a force of 350 militiamen under McArthur and Cass were approaching from the south. They had been sent two days earlier skirting through the forest to meet a supply convoy at the River Raisin. Before they reached their goal they were urgently recalled by Hull when he received Brock’s letter. Now it seemed Hull had Brock and his allies hemmed in.

However, neither Brock nor the war chiefs would entertain retreat. It was a tactic only to be used as a last resort. Brock decided to abandon the ploy to entice the Americans out of the fort to fight in the open. About 10 o’clock in the morning as Brock was preparing his men for a frontal assault the big American guns stopped firing across the Detroit. To Brock’s utter amazement a white flag was hung over the fort’s wall. The militia facing the warriors withdrew.. Not a shot was fired by either side.

Hull had fretted all morning about unrelenting “savages” overrunning the fort and committing unspeakable atrocities on the civilian populace. He especially worried about the safety of his own daughter and grandchildren who were with him. He surrendered the fort, the American army and all armament and supplies with only a few cannonade exchanged across the river. Never before had First Nation warriors so overwhelmingly contributed to such an immense victory over a common enemy.

Hull’s men were utterly dismayed and humiliated at being denied the chance to give account of themselves. They are said to have piled their small arms in heaps along the fort’s palisade with tears in their eyes. Cass and McArthur’s men had stopped to roast an ox they had caught running through the woods and were never a factor in the almost battle.

The American colors were lowered and the Union Jack hoisted above Fort Detroit to the sound of volleys of gunfire shot in the air. They were returned by cannon fire from Sandwich all as a victory celebration. The British flag had been absent from the Territory of Michigan for seventeen years. Now it had returned..The Territory of Michigan would now be annexed into the Province of Upper Canada.

General Hull was taken prisoner along with 582 regulars and 1,606 militia. There was also 350 Michigan Militia taken into the British forces because they were not part of American federal forces. However, half of them had already defected when the engagement commenced. Hull also gave up thirty-nine guns including nine twenty-four pounders, 3,000 rifles, a huge quantity of ammunition and twenty-five days worth of supplies. The spoils also included the Adams, a new American war ship not yet quite finished.

When Hull was returned to the U.S. he faced a court-martial charged with treason, cowardice, neglect of duty and bad conduct. The trial took place in April of 1814 where he was found not guilty of the first two charges but guilty of neglect of duty and bad conduct. He was sentenced to be shot but mercy was recommended because of his age and his exemplary war record during the Revolution. President Madison remitted his sentence and William Hull spent the rest of his life trying to defend himself and explain his conduct. He died in 1825.

NEXT WEEK:  The Warrior’s Offensive Falters

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!


Another Round of Land Cessions – Part 3

September 16, 2012

On November 17, 1807 another cession treaty was signed between the United States and several First Nations at Detroit. It involved a huge tract of land mostly contained in the Territory of Michigan but dipping slightly into Ohio Territory. The Treaty of Detroit was negotiated by the Governor of Michigan Territory, William Hull, and the chiefs of the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Wyandotte nations including Little Thunder and Walk In the Water.

The tract of land ceded included all of the south-eastern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Reserved out of this tract were some eight reservations scattered between the Miami River of Ohio to just north of the Huron River above Detroit. It also included six tracts of one square mile each to be located at places chosen by the “said Indians…and subject to the approbation of the President of the United States”.

Although Hull managed to acquire a huge chunk of Michigan Territory he wasn’t very visionary. The reservations laid out which, by the way coincided with First Nation villages, prevented a straight road being built between the American communities of Ohio and Detroit. So he was back the following year to negotiate right-of-ways through the reservations that blocked the soon to be built road. He managed to negotiate the Treaty of Brownstown on November 25, 1808. This treaty also included the signature of Black Hoof for the  Shawnee.

However, William Hull was not as successful in dealing with the Chippewa of Saginaw. The chiefs from there had been attending conferences at Greenville with chiefs from the other nations and they formed the consensus that there should be no more land cessions. When he approached the Saginaw chiefs with a proposal they flatly refused and when he tried to insist they insisted he leave and never return.

The First Nations were becoming obstinate aggravated by the Americans gobbling up their hunting territories. Not only were they feeling cheated and abused they were angry that annuities promised from the 1805 treaty were over two years late. Of course there were still some that had always been adamant that the original boundary negotiated in 1768 between the United States and “Indian Country” should be adhered to. The premier chief of this group was of course Tecumseh. His brother Tenskwatawa was a leading holy man and strongest ally.

Tenskwatawa as a young man had become a drunk but after just a few years received a life-altering vision from the Master of Life. He abandoned his wanton ways and was received among his nation as a master shaman. He was a good orator and made a striking figure with the eye patch which he had worn since an accident had cause the loss of his right eye in his childhood. 

The Potawatomi War Chief and shaman Main Poc allied himself with Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa. Both Main Poc, who was noted for his spiritual powers and Tenskwatawa who was also called The Prophet were holy men. In late 1807 Main Poc suggested that The Prophet move his followers to Potawatomi territory. The following spring Tenskwatawa settled about one hundred of them near the junction of the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers.

Both Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh began to grow in stature. Between 1808 and 1811 The Prophet’s modest village grew to over one thousand followers and the American’s were calling it Prophetstown. The Prophet’s vision was one of a common lifestyle where all First Nations would reject the European ways and return to their traditional way of life. This applied especially to the abstinence of alcohol. To this end he would send out his disciples to preach his message. One such disciple was Trout who was recorded at Michilimacinac preaching a return to the Indian ways and teaching that the Americans, but not other whites, were the offspring of The Evil One.

Tecumseh’s vision was not as spiritual as his brother’s. He envisioned a pan Indian Confederacy from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Superior as the only way to stop American expansion. He worked tirelessly toward this goal building a coalition of warriors from various First Nations using Prophetstown as his base. Most of his warriors were from nations other than the Shawnee as most of them followed Black Hoof and his policy of assimilation acceptance.

Since 1798 the Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek and Chickasaw nations had held councils to discuss a united effort to protect their lands. They held one in 1810 and Tecumseh knew about it. There was another to be held at Tuckabatchee on the Tallapoosa River the following year. Tecumseh planned on attending to sell his vision of a pan Indian confederacy stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Superior. He headed south that summer well in advance of the scheduled conference at Tuckabatchee. Tecumseh wanted to visit chiefs throughout the south and the Choctaw were his first to receive him.

The Choctaw nation had three territories each with a principal chief. The first chief he visited was Moshulatubbee head chief of the northeast. Moshulatubbee listened to Tecumseh but showed no indication of his feelings on Tecumseh’s message. Instead he sent runners throughout Choctaw territory calling them to a grand council at he’s village of Moshulaville. While the runners were out calling the chiefs to convene Tecumseh visited many surrounding towns spreading his message.

Tecumseh’s final oratory was given at the grand council called by Moshulatubbee. Many attended including the principal chief of the southern territory Pushmataha. In fact all three principal chiefs attended the August grand council but it would be Pushmataha that would be Tecumseh’s nemisis.

Tecumseh passionately laid out his vision. On the second day Pushmataha spoke just as passionately against it. All three chiefs were receiving U.S. pensions and Pushmataha had recieved five hundred dollars for supporting the ceding of Choctaw lands in 1805. In the end Pushmataha’s message of peace and friendship with the United States won out. Tecumseh’s trip to Choctaw country had failed but he remained resolved to carry on. Leaving the land of the Choctaw he crossed the Tombigbee River into the country of the Creek Nation.

Next Week: Supernatural Support for Tecumseh

A New Round of Land Cessions – Part 1

November 6, 2011

First let me apologize again for being MIA. The month of August was extremely busy for me. I did a series of literary arts workshops that took most of my time up. In the month of September I was busy putting the finishing touches on my new novel 1300 Moons. It is now in the production phase and will be available in the next couple of weeks, but more on this later. To make things even more hectic I had to deal with three different medical emergencies in the family. Things have settled now and I can get back to posting to this blog regularly. Thanks for all your patience.

Well it’s now “later”. 1300 Moons has been released and last Friday I had a successful launch. I’m also involved in a 200th anniversary War of 1812 project as a consultant. It’s a graphic novel aimed at the education sector. It will also be on-line and available on DVD with hypertext links to video of various ‘experts’ of which I am one. The videographers are coming in a couple of weeks to Aamjiwnaang for taping. So it looks like my hectic life is to continue! However, I am determined to do a couple of posts a week if I can.

We left off with the First Nations Confederacy under Blue Jacket being defeated by General Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers in 1794. The following year chiefs of the various First Nations began arriving at Greenville, Ohio to negotiate a peace treaty with the United States. That summer over 1,000 First Nations people gathered around Fort Greenville. These included chiefs from the Wyandotte, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Miami and Kickapoo.

This treaty was primarily a peace treaty between George Washington, President of the United States, and chiefs representing the above mentioned First Nations. My great-great grandfather signed as one of the seven War Chiefs of the Chippewa. But not all former combatants were represented. Among those missing and vehemently against the peace were Shawnee chiefs Tecumseh and Kekewepellethe. Rather than deal the Americans Tecumseh with his followers migrated first to Deer Creek, then to the upper Miami valley and then to eastern Indiana.

Land cessation were also included as part of the terms for peace. Article 3 dealt with a new boundary line ‘between the lands of the United States and the lands of the said Indian tribes’. This effectively ceded all of eastern and southern present day Ohio and set the stage for future land grabs. Included in the United States’ ‘relinquishment’ of all ‘Indian lands northward of the River Ohio, eastward of the Mississippi, and westward and southward of the Great Lakes’ were cessations of sixteen other tracks of land, several miles square, located either were U.S. forts were already established or where they wished to build towns. However, the term ‘lands of the said Indian tribes’ had vastly different meanings to the two sides.

The First Nations wanted their own sovereign country but the United States dispelled any thought along these lines with Article 5. It defined relinquishment as meaning ‘The Indian tribes that have a right to those lands, are to enjoy them quietly…but when those tribes…shall be disposed to sell their lands…they are to be sold only to the United States’. In other words we had no sovereign country but only the right to use lands already belonging to the United States of America!

The Chippewa and Ottawa also ceded from their territories a strip of land along the Detroit River from the River Raisin to Lake St. Clair. It was six miles deep and included Fort Detroit. The Chippewa also ceded a strip of land on the north shore of the Straits of Mackinaw including the two islands of Mackinaw and De Bois Blanc. The stage was now set for further U.S. expansion.

As a footnote the metaphorical language changed at the conclusion of the peace agreement. First Nations had always used familial terms when referring to First Nations and European relationships. First the French and then the British were always referred to as father. The Americans, since their beginning, were referred to as brother. This continued through the negotiations at Greenville until its conclusion at which time the reference to Americans in the person of Washington changed from bother to father.

Unfortunately because of a clash of cultures this patriarchal term held different meanings to each side. To the First Nations a father was both a friend and a provider. The Wyandotte chief Tarhe spoke for all the assembly because the Wyandotte were considered an uncle to both the Delaware and Shawnee and he was the keeper of the council fire at Brownstown. He told his ‘brother Indians’ that they now acknowledge ‘the fifteen United States of America to now be our father and…you must call them brothers no more’. As children they were to be ‘obedient to our father; ever listen to him when he speaks to you, and follow his advice’. The Potawatomi chief New Corn spoke after Tarhe and addressed the Americans as both father and friend. Other chiefs spoke commending themselves to their father’s protection and asked him for aid. The Chippewa chief Massas admonished the assembly to ‘rejoice in acquiring a new, and so good, a father’.

Tarhe eloquently defined a father for the American emissaries: ‘Take care of your little ones and do not suffer them to be imposed upon. Don’t show favor to one to the injury of any. An impartial father equally regards all his children an impartial father equally regards all his children, as well as those who are ordinary as those who may be more handsome; therefore, should any of your children come to you crying and in distress, have pity on them, and relieve their wants.’

Of course American arrogance stopped up their ears and they could not hear Tarhe’s sage advice. Until this present day they continue to live out their understanding of the term father as a stern patriarch; one either to be obeyed or disciplined.

NEXT WEEK:  A New Round of Land Cessions – Part 2

The Indian War of 1790-95 – Part 3

August 2, 2011

The year following Red Jacket’s failed negotiations President George Washington appointed three Commissioners to try to effect a peace with the First Nations Confederacy. Benjamin Lincoln, Timothy Pickering and Beverly Randolph left Philadelphia travelling north to Niagara. John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, afforded them British hospitalities while they waited for word on a council with the First Nation chiefs. They hoped to meet with the Confederacy at Sandusky that spring.

The Americans thought the British would be useful as an intermediary, but the British’s interests were really making sure the Confederacy didn’t fall apart and long-term that an “Indian barrier state” would be formed. The United States also had ulterior motives. Although they would accept a peace as long as it was on their terms they would be just as happy with failure to use as an excuse for their “just war”. Simcoe had assessed the situation correctly when he wrote in his correspondence “It appears to me that there is little probability of effecting a Peace and I am inclined to believe that the Commissioners do not expect it; that General Wayne does not expect it; and that the Mission of the Commissioners is in general contemplated by the People of the United States as necessary to adjust the ceremonial of the destruction and pre-determined extirpation of the Indian Americans”. While all this was going on Wayne advanced his army to Fort Washington.

Meanwhile Washington asked the Mohawk chief Joseph Brant to travel to the Miami River where the Confederacy was in council. He was to try to persuade the Chiefs to meet the Commissioners at Sandusky. He was partially successful in that they sent a delegation of fifty to Niagara to speak to the American Commissioners in front of Simcoe.

The delegation demanded the Commissioners inform them of General Wayne’s movements and they also wanted to know if they were empowered to fix a permanent boundary line. The Commissioners must have answered satisfactorily because the delegation agreed that the Chiefs would meet them in council at Sandusky.

The Commissioners travelled with a British escort along the north shoreline of Lake Erie stopping just south of Detroit. Fort Detroit had yet to be handed over to the Americans and Simcoe refused to let them enter the fort so they were put up at the house of Mathew Elliott an Irishman who had been trading with the Shawnee for many years. While they were there another delegation arrived from the Miami. The Chiefs had felt that the first delegation had not spoken forcefully enough regarding their demands that the original boundary line of the Ohio River was to be adhered to and that any white squatters be removed to south of the Ohio. They also wanted to know why, if the United States was interested in peace, Wayne’s army was advancing? No answer was forthcoming. However, the Commissioners did informed this delegation that they were only authorized to offer compensation for lands and it was the United States’ position that those lands were already treated away. Besides, the United States felt that it would be impossible to remove any white settlers as they had been established there for many years. The delegation returned to the Miami with the Commissioners’ response which was totally unacceptable to the Chiefs.

A council was held at the foot of the Maumee rapids where Alexander McKee kept a storehouse. Both McKee and Elliott were there as British Indian Agents. Joseph Brant suggested they compromise by offering the Muskingum River as a new boundary line. The Chiefs were in no mood to compromise having just defeated the American Army not once but twice. Brant accused McKee of unduly influencing the Chiefs’ position. The Delaware chief Buckongahlas indicated that Brant was right. With the Confederacy unwilling to compromise and the United States, backed by Wayne’s army, standing firm things appeared to be at an impasse. The Chiefs crafted a new proposal. A third delegation carried it to the Commissioners on the Detroit.

The First Nations said money was of no value to them. Besides, they could never consider selling lands that provided sustenance to their families. Since there could be no peace as long as white squatters were living on their lands they proposed the following solution:

We know that these settlers are poor, or they would never have ventured to live in a country that has been in continual trouble ever since they crossed the Ohio. Divide, therefore, this large sum which you have offered us, among these people; give to each, also, a proportion of what you say you would give to us annually, over and above this very large sum of money, and we are persuaded they would most readily accept of it, in lieu of that lands you sold them. If you add, also, the great sums you must expend in raising and paying armies with a view to force us to yield you our country, you will certainly have more than sufficient for the purposes of repaying these settlers for all their labours and their improvements. You have talked to us about concessions. It appears strange that you expect any from us, who have only been defending our just rights against your invasions. We want peace. Restore to us our country and we shall be enemies no longer.

    The delegation also reminded the Commissioners that their only demand was “the peaceable possession of a small part of our once great country”. They could retreat no further since the country behind them could only provide enough food for its inhabitants so they were forced to stay and leave their bones in the small space to which they were now confined.

The Commissioners packed up their bags and left. There would be no council at Sandusky. They returned to Philadelphia and reported to the Secretary of War, “The Indians refuse to make peace.” Wayne’s invasion would be “just and lawful.”

Meanwhile, at the Maumee Rapids a War Feast was given and the War Song sung encouraging all the young warriors to come in defense of their country. “The whole white race is a monster who is always hungry and what he eats is land” declared Shawnee warrior Chicksika. Their English father would assist them and they pointed to Alexander McKee.

NEXT WEEK:  The Indian War of 1790-95 – Part 4

The American Revolution – Part 3

June 18, 2011

Hatred toward First Nations people by the rebels continued to be the norm among the general populace. Most, especially frontiersmen, failed to distinguish between their First Nation allies, their First Nation enemies and the First Nation communities that were neutral and wanting only to sit out the war in peace.

In the spring of 1782 the Moravian Delaware were living near their town of Gnadenhutten on the Muskingum River. They had been long converted to Christianity by the Moravian missionaries and had taken up western societies’ ways. They were farmers. They wore European dress and had their hair cropped in European style. They lived in houses rather than lodges. They worshipped in a Christian church on Sundays. Their community functioned under the auspices of their Moravian mentors.

The Muskingum had become a dangerous war zone. They realized the danger was particularly heightened for them being “Indians”. They had determined to abandon their farms and move the whole community further west to seek safe haven among the Wyandotte of Sandusky as many of their Delaware brothers who were not Christian had done already. 

Before they could leave they were approached by Colonel David Williamson and 160 of his Colonial Militia. They claimed to be on a peaceful mission to provide protection and to remove them to Fort Pitt where they could sit out the war in peace. The leaders of the Gnadenhutten community encouraged their farmers to come in from the fields around Salem and take advantage of the colonel’s good offer. When they arrived all were relieved of their guns and knives but told they would be returned at Fort Pitt.

As soon as they were defenseless they were all arrested and charged with being “murders, enemies and thieves” because they had in their possession dishes, tea cups, silverware and all the implements normally used by pioneers. Claims that the missionaries had purchased the items for them went unheeded. They were bound and imprisoned at Gnadenhutten where they spend the night in Christian prayer. The next day the militia massacred 29 men, 27 women and 34 children all bound and defenceless. Even pleas in excellent English on bended knees failed to save them. Two escaped by pretending to be dead and fled to Detroit where the story of the rebels’ atrocities were told.

The Virginians decided to continue the massacre at Gnadenhutten with a campaign of genocide. The plan was to take the Wyandotte and their allies at Sandusky by surprise and annihilate all of the inhabitants. They gathered a force of 478 men at Mingo Bottoms on the west side of the Ohio River. General Irvine, who had abhorred Williamson’s actions at Gnadenhutten, deferred command of the expeditionary force to Colonel William Crawford.

The force left Mingo Bottoms on May 25th avoiding the main trail by making a series of forced marches through the wilderness. On the third day they observed two First Nation scouts and chased them off. These were the only warriors they saw on their 10 day march. Just before they crossed the Little Sandusky River they came unwittingly close to the Delaware chief Wingenud’s camp.

Finally Crawford arrived at the Wyandotte’s main village near the mouth of the Sandusky River. He assumed his covert operation had been a success and they had arrived at their objective undetected. But he was dead wrong. His Virgina Militia had been closely shadowed by First Nation scouts and reports of their progress had been forwarded to the chiefs. 

War belts were sent out to neighboring Delaware, Shawnee and other Wyandotte towns and their warriors had gathered at the Half King Pomoacan’s town. Alexander McKee was also on his way with 140 Shawnee warriors.

An urgent call for help had been sent to the British commandant Major Arent S. De Peyster at Detroit. He responded by sending Captain William Caldwell with 70 of his rangers. One hundred and fifty Detroit Wyandotte joined Caldwell along with 44 “lake Indians”. Caldwell complained to De Peyster that “The lake Indians were very tardy but they did have 44 of them in action”.

These “lake Indians” were Chippewa warriors from Aamjiwnaang at the foot of Lake Huron. The Aamjiwnaang Chippewa were members of the Three Fires Confederacy and were at Vincennes when they withdrew support from the British in 1779. The fact that they only raised 44 warriors attest to the lack of their war chiefs’ support. They were probably young men incensed by the stories of Gnadenhutten and acting on their own.

Crawford was dumbfounded when he arrived at the Wyandotte village and found it deserted. He and his officers held council and decided to move up river hoping to still take the Wyandotte by surprise. They didn’t get far when they were met by the warriors from Pomoacan’s town. They were held in check until McKee and Caldwell arrived. The battle lasted from June 4th to the 6th and resulted in a complete First Nation’s victory. The rebel’s expedition to annihilate the Wyandotte ended in disaster for the Virginians. It cost them 250 dead or wounded. Caldwell’s Rangers suffered two killed and two wounded while the First Nations had four killed and eight wounded.

Colonel Williamson was able to lead the rebel survivors back to safety but Colonel Crawford was captured along with some of the perpetrators of the Gnadenhutten massacre. They were taken to one of the Delaware towns where they were tried and sentenced to death. Their punishment for Gnadenhutten atrocities was not an easy one.

NEXT WEEK:  The American Revolution – Part 4


The American Revolution – Part 2

June 12, 2011

In 1778 the British send 200 of Colonel John Butler’s Rangers into the Wyoming Valley to evict 6,000 illegal immigrants who were squatting on “Indian lands”. They had with them 300 of their First Nation allies mostly members of the Three Fires Confederacy. The Wyoming valley was situated in the middle of the Seneca’s best hunting grounds and land never ceded by them.

Most of the forts the illegals had built were quickly abandoned and the inhabitants fled. Fort Forty was the lone exception. When the warriors feigned a withdrawal the colonials foolishly poured out of their fort and into an ambush. This resulted in the killing of 227 of them. 

The Revolutionary government turned to propaganda releasing a series of outlandish stories of the “massacre””. One such story read that it was a “mere marauding, a cruel and murderous invasion of a peaceful settlement…the inhabitants, men women and children were indiscriminately butchered by the 1,100 men, 900 of them being their Indian allies”. In truth there was only 500 men, 300 of them being their First Nation allies. And according to an exhaustive study done by Egerton Ryerson only rebel soldiers were killed and the misinformation put out by the Congress Party was totally exaggerated and highly inflammatory.

Colonial propaganda was designed to inflame hatred among the populace toward the British’s First Nation allies. However, it had the effect of inflaming hatred toward all First Nation’s people due to the decades of violence along the frontier over land. The frontiersmen were convinced they had the right to push ever westward while harboring in their hearts the axiom “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”.

General Washington bought into his own government’s propaganda releases. In 1779 he decided to act. The Six Nation Iroquois League was divided on where their loyalties lay. Only the Oneida and Onondaga backed the rebel cause and even their loyalties were split. Washington charged General John Sullivan with a war of extermination against the Iroquois. Sullivan headed into Iroquois territory with an army of 6,500 men. His war of extermination was a failure but he did destroy forty Seneca and Cayuga towns along with burning all their crops. Although it is true that atrocities were committed by both sides those committed by the rebels were mostly forgotten. During this campaign the Iroquois dead were scalped and in one instance one was skinned from the waist down to make a pair of leggings!

The famished Iroquois fled to Niagara where they basically sat out the rest of the war. With their crops destroyed the British supplied them with the necessities putting a tremendous strain on their war effort. This expedition earned George Washington the infamous nickname of “Town Destroyer”. Now not only was any hope gone of assistance from the Shawnee but also the Iroquois.

Meanwhile, in Illinois country George Rogers Clark was determined to retake Fort Sackville at Vincennes. He had captured it the year before only to lose it to Colonel Hamilton who had marched immediately from Detroit. He left Kaskaskia on February 5th marching his 170 militiamen across flooded plains and waist deep, freezing water. When he arrived at Vincennes he used the old dodge of marching his men across a small patch of tableland visible to the fort. He repeatedly marched them across this plateau giving the enemy the impression that he had many more men than he actually had. The history books claim that this had such an alarming affect on the First Nations at the fort that they were “scared off” by the ruse and the fort fell immediately.

It is true that the British were abandoned by their First Nation allies. They were members of the Three Fires Confederacy. It is not true that they were “scared off”. Of the 170 militiamen with Clark some were Frenchmen from New Orleans. The French, like some of the First Nations, were also split in their allegiances. Captain Alexander McKee wrote to Captain R.B. Lernoult quite worried about news he had received regarding Three Fires support. In the letter he wrote that the Ottawa and Chippewa had sent a belt of peace to other surrounding nations saying they had been deceived by the British and the Six Nations into taking up the hatchet against the rebels. If they remained with the hatchet in their hands they would be forced to use it against their brothers the French. They reported seeing them coming with Clark and his Virginians and therefore withdrew as they still had great affection for the French. Old loyalties die hard. They were determined now to lay down the hatchet and remain quiet thus leaving the whites to fight among themselves. They were advising their brothers the Shawnee to do the same and that the tribes of the Wabash were also of like mind. This was not good news for the British.

The withdrawal of support from the Three Fires Confederacy and the sidelining of the Six Nations Iroquois that year left the British with only support from the Miami, Shawnee and some of the Delaware. There would be more atrocities to follow but still it would be another three years before the British would see any Three Fires’ support.

Next Week:  The American Revolution – Part 3