Another American Disaster!

December 4, 2012

The Shawnee scouting for the Americans moved up the Maumee River ahead of General Winchester. They discovered that Roundhead and Muir had left the area and were headed back to Canada. However, the area was infested with pro-British warriors. On October 8th Captain Lewis, Logan and a few other scouts were attacked by Main Poc and a large party of Potawatomi. They escaped without injury beating a hasty retreat back to the American lines.

For the next two months Captain Lewis, Logan, Captain Johnny, Bright Horn, The Wolf and a few other Ohio Shawnee ranged across the region of northwestern Ohio sending intelligence back to the Big Knives. It was doubly dangerous work. They not only had to contend with roving enemy war parties but also roaming detachments of Big Knives who were carrying out Harrison’s orders to clear the area of First Nations people. The Big Knives were randomly destroying all First Nations’ towns they came across, burning them to the ground and destroying their winter supplies of corn. The Americans, especially the Militia, did not distinguish between enemy or friendly “Indians” but operated on the axiom “any dead Indian is a good Indian.”

In the third week of November Shawnee scouts were gathering intelligence on the rapids of the Maumee when they were attacked by an enemy war party. They all managed to escape but Captain Johnny, Logan and Bright Horn became separated from the others and spent the night eluding the enemy by hiding out in the thick Ohioan forest. The three made their way back to the main American camp but their late arrival cast suspicions on them. They were accused of being captured by the enemy and had secured their safe release by providing intelligence on American troop numbers and movements.

The three left the Big Knives camp on November 22nd moving up the Maumee on foot. They intended to prove their loyalty by bringing back either a prisoner or scalps. Some distance up the river on the north bank they encountered s a war party of Potawatomi and Ottawa travelling on horseback. It was led by Winamek and Alexander Elliott who was the son of the old British Indian Agent Matthew Elliott.

The American scouts tried a rouse. They pretended to be pro-British Shawnee trying to get back to Tecumseh’s forces on the Wabash. Winamek and Elliott were suspicious, especially Winamek because one of the three looked strangely familiar. However, they offered to escort them to the British camp. During the trip they kept them under close guard but did not take their guns.

Along the way it dawned on Winamek who the familiar looking Shawnee was. It was Logan so he suggested to Elliott in private that they be disarmed and bound. But he was overheard and the threesome suddenly opened fire killing Winamek,Elliott and one of the Ottawa warriors and wounding another. They seized the dead men’s horses and raced back down the Maumee to the Big Knives camp but they did not escape unharmed. Logan was shot in the abdomen and Bright Horn was wounded in the arm. Bright Horn would recover but on November 24th Logan succumbed to his injury.

By this time winter had set in. Winchester was inching his way down the Maumee to his ordered rendezvous point at the rapids. It was bitter cold and they were ill equipped. Many were suffering from various degrees of frost bite. Most of his Kentucky volunteers had arrived in the early fall with only summer clothing. The regulars were short of winter supplies as well. He had to deal with much complaining from the troops about the slow progress and lack of action as well as a high desertion rate. Even the threat of having to “ride the wooden horse”, a most barbaric punishment, failed to discourage defectors. Deserters who were caught were made to straddle a two-by-four or small log while two soldiers shook it violently up and down causing the prisoner extreme pain. This was not exactly what the men had signed up for!

Finally on January 10, 1813 they arrived at the rapids. Harrison had suggested to Winchester that he wait and not move forward but he did not order it. On June the 13th desperate appeals arrived for help from “marauding Indians” from Frenchtown a small village on the River Raisin some forty miles up the trail towards Detroit. The British had a small garrison of men there along with one hundred or so warriors.

Winchester held a council with his officers and all agreed to act on the calls for assistance. After all, the British only had a small force there which could easily be overwhelmed and any victory over the British after the disasters of Michilimackinac, Detroit and Queenston would instantly make national heroes out of those who claimed it. Besides, their supply line back to Amherstburg or Detroit was choked with deep snow. Frenchtown was the only community south of Detroit and would make the perfect site for launching an all out offensive across the frozen Detroit River to take Fort Malden. Winchester “seized the moment”.

On January 17th Winchester sent Colonel Will Lewis forward with 350 troops hastily followed by Colonel John Allen with 110 more. They reached the Raisin on January 18th and quickly dispatched the 200 British Militia and their 400 warrior allies but at a cost of thirteen killed and fifty-four wounded. They set up camp in the midst of the village, some twenty houses set out in rows on the north bank of the frozen river. Behind the row houses were garden plots protected on three sides by a row of pickets made of split logs sharpened on the top ends. The east side of the area was open leaving a large part of the American line vulnerable. They settled in to wait for Winchester to arrive with the rest of the western branch of Harrison’s army.

Winchester arrived on the 20th of January with another 350 soldiers raising the total to over 800 Kentucky Militia and 175 regulars. Winchester settled himself in at a house on the south side of the river about a quarter mile from the main bivouac and no one gave a second thought to a possible British response!

General Proctor received word that the Americans had taken Frenchtown and were amassing troops there. He had to make a decision and make it on his own. Communication lines were down because of the winter conditions. Proctor was a slow, plodding man not quick to make any hasty decisions. But this time he acted out of character. Perhaps he was inspired by his former commanding officer Isaac Brock. He called to muster every available man and crossed the frozen Detroit leaving the invitation for all First Nations warriors to join them. Roundhead sent war belts to the scattered encampments around Amherstburg. Many of the warriors that had been gathering there were Potawatomi who had been displaced by Winchester’s Kentucky marauders and Miami who had suffered the depredations at Mississinewa.

Trudging through the deep snow on the 21st of January Proctor’s force of 597 men and three six pounders were passed by Roundhead and Splitlog’s 700 warriors on snowshoes gliding over the deep snow drifts covering Hull’s road between Detroit and Frenchtown. Winchester got word of the advancing horde but chose to ignore it not believing they would attempt such a difficult trek.

The town was laid out on the east side of the road. The warriors arrived first in the early hours of January 22nd intent on retribution for the atrocities committed in the fall against their villages. Splitlog and Walk-In-The-Water left the roadway on the west side swinging around to attack from the west. Roundhead did the opposite. After positioning themselves they crouched waiting for Proctor to arrive which he did just before dawn.

The Essex Militia led by John Baptiste Askin joined Splitlog on the west side of the town. The old Shawnee war chief Bluejacket now in his sixties was with them. Proctor setup his battle line of regulars between Roundhead and Splitlog’s warriors and placed his six cannons in the front. The Big Knives were now surrounded on three sides with only the frozen Raisin to their backs. The attack began at the morning’s first light.

The sound of gunfire and the flash of muskets filled the air. The roar of Proctor’s cannons only added to the din. Winchester arrived disheveled his uniform had been quickly pulled over his nightshirt. The American right line had crumpled under Roundhead’s relentless fire. Winchester along with Allen and Lewis tried vainly to rally the troops and form a new line but they were forced back across the river’s slick ice.

Suddenly panic set in. The right line had devolved in a chaotic rush for the road to the west and escape. Many cast their arms aside as they bound through the deep snow pursued by Roundhead’s screeching warriors. Many of the Big Knives were caught and shot or tomahawked on the spot. Allen did not survive. Wounded in the leg he had limped off for a couple of miles but could go no further. A Potawatomi chief, probably Blackbird, also known as Le Tourneau, noticed his officer’s uniform and signaled to another warrior he wanted to take Allen prisoner but the other warrior moved in for the kill. Allen lunged at the wild eyed warrior with his sword running him through. The chief then shot Allen dead and took his scalp.

Winchester and Lewis fared better. They were captured and brought to Roundhead. The warriors demanding their payback wanted him to execute Winchester at once but Roundhead saw the value in keeping the American General alive and took both officers to Proctor.

The warriors were in a most foul mood exacting a take-no-prisoner policy. Unarmed prisoners were being shot or tomahawked then scalped one after the other in front of Winchester and Lewis. This prompted Winchester to sign a note ordering Major George Madison who was commanding the Kentucky Militia on the American left to surrender even though they were holding well and returning fire from behind the pickets. Madison would not comply unless Proctor personally agreed to protect them from the warrior’s fury. He did but later broke that promise.

The fighting ended and the tallies were done. Proctor suffered heavy casualties considering the advantage he held for the whole battle. He lost twenty-four killed and 158 wounded. The high rate was mostly attributable to his placement of his cannons. By placing them in front of his line he opened it up to Americans firing at the big guns and the gunners were left vulnerable to their own regulars who were behind them. For this he was censured but still promoted to Brigadier-General.

American casualties were worse at 300 killed and twenty-seven wounded. The balance of Winchester’s army except for thirty-three who escaped were taken prisoner including Winchester himself. One of the escapees, a Private John J. Brice, did so by discarding his shoes so that his tracks in the snow looked like a warrior’s wearing moccasins. He was the first to make it back to the Maumee and deliver the distressing news. Harrison was despondent. His entire left wing had been annihilated and his invasion plan stopped dead in its tracks.

Proctor feared an imagined approach of Harrison leading an overwhelming army. He bivouacked the American wounded in several of the town’s houses under a very light guard. When he began loading Canadian casualties on sleighs for the haul back to Amherstburg the American surgeon inquired as to why the American sick and wounded were being left behind. Proctor responded that there were not enough sleighs and he must take care of his own first. So the surgeon complained about the light guard given the number of warriors there and their mood. Proctor is said to have replied “the Indians make excellent doctors”.

The U.S. Army surgeon was right. Proctor should have left a reasonable guard for the Kentucky wounded. Part of the booty from the victory at Frenchtown was the town’s supply of liquor and a few of the young warriors drank more than their fair share. Angry and inebriated they began to go from house to house taking out their anger on the sick and wounded prisoners. Their chiefs tried to intervene but were unable to control the enraged young men.

Sometime during the night the light guard, a Major Reynolds plus three interpreters slipped away. A warrior appeared in the room of one of the wounded soldiers speaking fluent English. This could very well have been Wawanosh, a young Ojibwa from Aamjiwnaang, who was known to have an excellent command of the English language. He was asking for intelligence on Harrison’s movements and strength. When he left he made the off handed remark that he was sorry but some of the more mischievous young men would be doing some bad deeds that night. It was a prelude of things to  come.

By the morning the warriors were ransacking the homes for loot. They were looking especially for more whiskey. They begin to strip the sick and wounded of their clothing and in their excitement, fueled by liquor and their hatred for the Big Knives, began to shoot or tomahawk then scalp the helpless Kentuckians.

Captain Nathaniel Hart wounded, half dressed and barefoot was dragged from the home where he was being cared for. While awaiting his fate he recognized one of the warriors surrounding him as the English speaking one from the night before. He knew that he would recognize the name of William Elliott, Matthew Elliott’s son. William was a captain in the Essex Militia so Hart exclaimed that William had promised to send his personal sleigh remove him to  his home at Amherstburg. The bilingual warrior replied that Elliott had lied and there would be no rescue. Hart made him an offer. Take him to Amherstburg and he would give him a horse and one hundred dollars. The warrior replied that he could not because he was too badly wounded.  Then what were their intentions inquired Hart. The reply was chilling. You are all to be killed!

The massacre lasted most of the morning as the drunken, infuriated warriors moved from house to house looting and killing. When the macabre news reached the Americans it was another in a long line of interracial incidents that helped solidify their hatred of First Nations people. This particular incident gave rise to the battle call of the Kentucky Militia, “Remember the Raisin!”

NEXT WEEK:  Queenston Heights

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

Supernatural Support for Tecumseh

September 29, 2012

Tecumseh left the less than enthusiastic Choctaw with his Shawnee, Kickapoo and Winnebago delegation and crossed the Tombigbee River into Creek country. Here his message would find a much friendlier reception. The two nations were tied by intermarriage. Tecumseh even had relatives of his own living in Creek towns and villages.

Big Warrior, the leading civil chief of the Upper Creek nation, was attending a major conference at the Creek town of Tuckabatchee when Tecumseh arrived. There were delegates already there from the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee and Seminole nations.  Many were already familiar with The Prophet’s message of return to traditionalism having traveled north to Prophetstown to hear it. This along with a ready-made audience of various nations in a country so closely related to the Shawnee afforded Tecumseh the perfect forum to deliver his own message of a pan Indian confederacy.

Something else heralded Tecumseh’s coming that September. A comet appeared in the night sky. It was understood to be a sign from the spirit world pointing to the greatness of Tecumseh. After all, Tecumseh’s name meant Shooting Star.

There was also another delegation at the conference. It consisted of Americans led by the Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins. He was there to proposition the Creek with the government’s intention to build another road through their territory. Big Warrior was no friend of Hawkins and the Creek were still seething about a federal road being imposed upon them six years earlier. Hopoithle Mico or Tame King, the leading chief from the Upper Creek town of Tallassee, had sent a message of protest to President Madison and received the reply that his protest was unreasonable. They cut the road anyway.

Now Hawkins was here regarding a second road. The Creek resisted. Negotiations went nowhere for three weeks until finally Hawkins laid out in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t there to ask them for permission but to inform them that the cutting had already begun. He laid out the terms of payment and left.

Tecumseh let Hawkins make his presentation while remaining silent about his own mission to the Creek nation. He needed a good example of American arrogance and Hawkins provided it. Now it was his turn to address the council.

The delegation from the north mesmerized the conference first with their elaborate war dance followed by Tecumseh’s charismatic oratory. Many eagerly received his vision. This vision of a warrior confederacy and the Prophet’s vision of a total return to traditionalism gave rise to the Red Sticks. They were a warrior society that would go on to lead the most desperate First Nation rebellion the United States would ever see.

Tecumseh left Creek territory bolstered by his success. However, there was yet to be another even more dramatic supernatural sign of his stature and his power. Shortly after his departure a series of major earth tremors occurred. Labelled the New Madrid earthquakes they would be among the severest ever felt on the North American continent. The first arrived on the night of December 16, 1811. The epicenter was in Arkansas south of the town of New Madrid, Missouri. The town was destroyed.  The vibrations made steeple bells ring out in Charleston, South Carolina. They lasted until February of 1812 and for a time the Mississippi reversed course and ran backwards!

The First Nations of the south-east were terrified. A legend grew up that Tecumseh had predicted the collapse of the middle world and its recreation. Word spread that Tecumseh had prophesied that when he returned to Detroit he would stomp his foot and make the earth tremble. These great events fed warrior societies like the Red Sticks and they took ownership of the visions of Tecumseh and his brother The Prophet.

Tecumseh crossed the Mississippi in December and was in Osage country when the tremors began. The Osage were not so anti-American as some of the south-eastern First Nations. Therefore, they were not so quick to ascribe American aggression as the root cause of the quakes. Instead they believed the cause was their general falling away from traditionalism to accept American culture. It was the Prophet who would get credit for the proper interpretation of events.

Tecumseh moved on to spread his message among his own people the Missouri Shawnee as well as the Delaware but ran into the same roadblocks as he did with the Osage. When he returned to the Mississippi he headed north through Fox country to the territory of the Santee Dakota Sioux all the time sharing his vision of a pan Indian confederation to stop American aggression. He even hinted at military aid from the British. The Dakota sent red wampum to the Sauk and Winnebago indicating their approval of Tecumseh’s message and their willingness to go to war.

Tecumseh’s journey was coming to an end. He retraced his footsteps  down the Mississippi then turned east heading for home. He traveled through Illinois territory also speaking at Kickapoo, Ojibwa, Potawatomi, and Ottawa villages. Some chiefs were unwilling to receive his vision but many others joined the Confederacy. All in all the sojourn to gain adherents was a success. However, what would confront him when he arrived home at Prophetstown in late January turned satisfaction at his success to feelings of utter despair.

NEXT WEEK:  Disaster at Prophetstown


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

Another Round of Land Cessions – Part 2

November 10, 2011

The American ‘Northwest Territories’ began filling up with white settlers. The new republic clamoured for more and more land. Land speculators were greedy for profits. Legislation was being influenced by desires for statehood and statehood was dependent upon population requirements. Increases of American settlers degraded traditional hunting grounds thereby impoverishing its First Nation inhabitants. This poverty set off  a spiral of more land cessions and more poverty.

Between 1802 and 1805 the New Governor of Indiana Territory concluded no less than seven treaties by which the Delaware, Miami, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Shawnee, Sac and Fox ceded their rights to the southern part of Indiana, portions of Wisconsin and Missouri as well as most of Illinois. Huge tracts of land were dealt away for the paltry price of two cents or less per acre.

Not only was the land undervalued but it was secured by entirely fraudulent means. The Americans used such tactics as bribery, the supplying of huge amounts of liquor or the threat to withhold payments of annuities already agreed to. Treaties were negotiated with any First Nation individual that was willing to sign with no regard for his authority to speak for his people.

Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States at this time. He was a conflicted man as can be found in his writings on human rights versus his record of slavery. He admired the quality of character of the American Indian and of their culture but considered them inferior. He was of the belief that they could, however, be rehabilitated and ‘civilized’. However, during the revolution he relished the thought of displacing the Cherokee and taking their lands and during the Indian War for the Ohio he advocated the destruction of the Shawnee. During Harrison’s treaty negotiating spree Jefferson had written to him in private advising him to encourage the Indians to run up debts at the trading posts and then compel them to settle the debt by selling tribal lands. Although Jefferson tried to give the impression that America held no place for the Indian as Indian and he publicly advocated assimilation one wonders it privately he saw an America with no Indians at all. 

There was a population tsunami that was happening and it continuously overwhelmed First Nation territories.  In 1796 Ohio had a white population of 5,000. By 1810 it had jumped to more than 230,000. This overpowering agrarian culture would only make its way ever westward transforming pristine forests to barren farmlands. It appears the Shawnee warrior Chiksika was right, our land was being eaten up by a windigo!

The American success in their revolution put a tremendous strain for land resources on what was left of British North America. Approximately 4% of the population of the thirteen colonies were British Empire Loyalists and left America for other British territories. Some 5,000, which was the smallest of these groups of loyalists, came to Upper Canada. Governor Haldimand also had to deal with a large influx of Iroquois refuges who had been loyal to the Crown during the revolution.

During that war the Iroquois Six Nation Confederacy’s loyalties split the league. Many of the Oneida and Tuscarora backed the rebels while the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca backed the British. Chief John Deserontyon and 200 Mohawks sought refuse near Lachine in Lower Canada while Chief Joseph Brant crossed over at Niagara. The population of these Iroquois and their allies fluctuated between 2,000 and 5,000.

In the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, no mention was made of Iroquois lands in upstate New York. This angered the Iroquois who were now refugees from their homeland. Haldimand fearing they might take their frustrations out on the loyalist refugees ordered the Indian Agents to be extra generous in handing out supplies and presents to them. 

In 1783 the Mississauga ceded two large tracts of land to the British. One ran from  the Trent River to the Gananoque River. The other from the Gananoque to the Toniato River or present day Jones Creek near Brockville. Each tract was “as far as a man could walk in one day” deep. Out of these the British later  surveyed a township called Tyendiaga on the Bay of Quinte for Chief Deserontyon and his followers.

Chief Joseph Brant preferred the Grand River area of southwestern Ontario. The Mississauga also ceded to the British the whole of the Grand River valley from its headwaters to its mouth to a depth of six miles on each side. This tract was later transferred to Brant and his followers. At the same time the Mississauga ceded a large tract at the western end of Lake Ontario including the Niagara peninsula as well as a tract of land to the west of the Grand River as far as Catfish Creek. The aggregate acreage of these land surrenders came to over 1,000,000 hectares and the total cost to the British a mere 1,180 pounds sterling worth of trade goods.  

In 1790 the First Nations commonly known as the ‘Detroit Indians’, the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Wyandotte also ceded a large tract of land from the foot of the St. Clair River to Lake Erie, east along the north shore to Catfish Creek. Reserved out of this huge tract were two small tracts on the Detroit River for the Wyandotte. The balance included all the land between the Thames River and Lake Erie and was ceded for a mere  1,200 pounds sterling.

The British also expected an influx of First Nation refugees who were displaced from Ohio by the Treaty of Greenville. In 1796 the Chippewa ceded a tract of land on the St. Clair River to be used by the Chippewa as well as any American Indians. This tract is present day Sombra Township. At the same time they ceded a tract of land over 3,000 hectares at the forks on the Thames River and called it London. The British said they needed it to establish a new capital of Upper Canada replacing York as it would be easier to defend. Both tracts of land were not used for the purposes stated but nevertheless the Chippewa still lost the land.

NEXT WEEK: Another Round of Land Cessions – Part 3

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 2

July 24, 2011

St. Clair’s Shame left the fledging new nation in a precarious position. The First Nations had just destroyed the only army the United States had. President Washington put Major General Anthony Wayne in charge of building a new one and Congress appropriated one million dollars toward the project.

 Wayne’s nickname was “Mad Anthony” which he earned during the Revolution, but their was nothing “mad” about the man. He was methodical and extremely determined. Wayne set out to build the new army at Pittsburg. It would be an army well-trained, disciplined and large enough to take care of the “Indian problem”. And he would be sure to take enough time to ensure a successful campaign.

He began recruiting in June of 1792. His goal was an army of 5,120 officers, NCOs and privates whipped into the crack troops needed to defeat a formidable enemy. By the end of 1792 he had moved 22 miles south of Pittsburg to Legionville where he wintered. In the spring of 1793 he moved to Hobson’s Choice on the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Mill Creek. Finally, in October of 1793 he made his headquarters near Fort Hamilton.

Wayne received new recruits daily all the time relentlessly drilling them into the army he knew he needed. But all did not go well with the project. Desertion rates were extremely high. The First Nation’s stunning successes on the Wabash and in the Maumee Valley had instilled terror in the hearts of ordinary pioneers and moving further toward “Indian Country” only heightened their fear. Many new recruits would desert at the first sign of trouble.

The problem had become so chronic that Wayne posted a reward for the capture and return of any deserter. After a court-martial the guilty would be severely punished usually by 100 lashes or sometimes even executed. An entry in the Orderly Book Mss. dated August 9, 1792 reads, “Deserters have become very prevalent among our troops, at this place, particularly upon the least appearance, or rather apprehension of danger, that some men (for they are unworthy of the name of soldiers), have lost every sense of honor and duty as to desert their post as sentries, by which treacherous, base and cowardly conduct, the lives and safety of their brave companions and worthy citizens were committed to savage fury.”

Meanwhile, warriors from other First Nations joined the confederacy Little Turtle and Blue Jacket had forged. In October 1792 the Shawnee hosted a congress held at the Glaize, where the Auglaize River flows into the Maumee. Delegates from the nations whose territories were being defended attended. These were Wyandotte from Sandusky, Delaware, Shawnee, Mingo, Miami, Munsee, Cherokee and Nanticoke. Also attending were other First Nations from further away but all offering support for the war effort. Some of these were Fox and Sauk from the upper Mississippi, Six Nations and Mahican from New York, Iroquois from the St. Lawrence and Wyandotte from Detroit. There were also many warriors from the Three Fires Confederacy. They were Ottawa, Potawatomi and Chippewa from Detroit as well as Chippewa from Aamjiwnaang and Saginaw. There were even some Chippewa from Michilimackinac. This was the largest First Nation congress every brought together by First Nations alone.

Even though the United States had suffered two humiliating defeats at the hands of the First Nation Confederacy they still had little respect. Henry Knox characterized them as Miami and Wabash Indians together with “a banditti, formed of Shawanese and outcast Cherokees”.  However, because their military was in shambles and they had a deficiency in revenue peaceful negotiations were preferrable to another war.

Washington at first sent delegates to the Glaize from their First Nation allies with offers to negotiate. There were still some groups of individual First Nations friendly with the Americans despite the treatment received. The delegation of “U.S. Indians” arrived and the celebrated Seneca orator Red Jacket spoke for the U.S.

Red Jacket rose to speak to the nearly one thousand conferees at the Glaize. He spoke on two strings of wampum bringing the American message that even though they defeated the mighty British and now all Indian territories belonged to them by right of conquest they may be willing to compromise. They offered to consider accepting the Muskingum River as the new boundary between the United States and “Indian Country”. But the Confederacy saw no need to compromise. After all they had defeated American armies not once but twice in the last two years. They insisted the boundary agreed to in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 be adhered to. That boundary was the Ohio and they would accept no other. 

The Shawnee chief Painted Pole reminded Red Jacket that while his Seneca group was in Philadelphia cozying up to the Americans the Confederacy was busy defending their lands. Now he was at the Glaize doing the Americans dirty work. He accused Red Jacket of trying to divide the Confederacy and demanded that Red Jacket speak from his heart and not from his mouth. Painted Pole then took the wampum strings that Red Jacket had spoken on and threw them at the Seneca delegation’s feet. Red Jacket was sent back to the Americans with the Confederacy’s answer, “there would be no new boundary line”.

There was a tell-tale sign at that conference that Red Jacket’s task would be difficult if not impossible. In normal negotiations the Civil chiefs would sit in the front with the War Chiefs and warriors behind them. In this arrangement it would be the much easier Civil Chiefs that would negotiate. But at the Glaize the War Chiefs sat in front of the Civil Chiefs meaning that Red Jacket would be dealing with the War Chiefs.

The British sat in the wings waiting for the new republic’s experiment in democracy to fail and hoping at least for an “Indian boundary state” to be formed. The Spanish at New Orleans also sat by hoping for this new “Indian State” as it would serve as a buffer state preventing American expansion into Illinois country. The British even had observers at the Great Congress at the Glaize in the person of Indian Agent Alexander McKee and some of his men. Hendrick Aupaumut, a Mohican with Red Jacket’s emissaries, accused McKee of unduly influencing the conference’s outcome. But the Americans were not about to be deterred so easily.

NEXT WEEK:  The Indian War of 1790-95 – Part 3

The Indian War of 1790-95 – Part 1

July 9, 2011

United States’ Indian policy grew out of the idea that because First Nations fought on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War they lost the right of ownership to their lands when Britain ceded all territory east of the Mississippi. First Nations were told that the United States now owned their territories and they could expel them if they wished to do so. This right of land entitlement by reason of conquest stemmed from the hatred of “Indians” which had been seething for decades and the arrogance instilled by victory over the British. They needed First Nation’s lands northwest of the Ohio River to sell to settlers in order to raise much-needed revenue. But the impoverished new nation could not back up their new policy. So they took a different tact.

In March of 1785 Henry Knox was appointed Secretary of War and he began to institute a new policy. He proposed to Congress that there were two solutions in dealing with the First Nations. The first was to raise an army sufficient to extirpate them.

However, he reported to Washington and Congress that they didn’t have the money to fund such a project. The estimated population of the First Nations East of the Mississippi and south of the Great Lakes was 76,000. The Miami War Chief Little Turtle’s new “Confederation of Tribes” were quickly gaining numbers and strength and they were determined to stop American advancement at the Ohio. To try to beat them into submission not only seemed infeasible but immoral. He argued it was unethical for one people to gain by doing harm to another people and this could only harm America’s reputation internationally.

The second solution, which he favored, was to return to the pre-revolutionary policy of purchasing First Nation Lands through the cessation treaty process. In order to sell this idea to Washington and Congress he pointed out that the First Nations tenaciously held on to their territories and normally would not part with them for any reason. This was because being hunting societies the game on their lands supported their population. But, as proven in the past, time and again, when too many settlers moved into their territories game became scarce. Because the land was overrun by whites and ruined as a hunting territory they would always consider selling their territory and move their population further west

In 1785 an Ordinance was passed by Congress dividing the territory north and west of the Ohio River into states to be governed as a territory. In 1787 this Ordinance was improved upon by passing the Northwest Ordinance appointing Major General Arthur St. Clair governor of the new territory. The new Ordinance covered a huge tract of land encompassing the present-day states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Land would now be purchased and hostilities would cease unless “Indian” aggression were to provoke a “just war”. America was determined to expand westward as its very existence depended upon it. Clearly there would be “just wars”.

The first of these cession treaties was signed at Fort Harmar in 1789. This small cession did little to change the minds of the First Nations Confederacy. Hostilities continued provoking the first of the “just wars”. In 1790 President Washington authorized St. Clair to raise troops to punish Little Turtle’s  Confederacy of Miami, Shawnee, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Ojibwa nations. He raised an army of 1,200 militia and 320 regulars and set out from Fort Washington, Cincinnati, under the command of Brigadier General Josiah Harmar.

Little Turtle retreated before Harmar’s lumbering army. He led Harmar deep into enemy territory where he had set a trap in the Maumee River valley near present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana. Harmar’s army was strung out in one long column. The trap was sprung and Little Turtle attacked Harmar’s flank killing 183 and wounding 31. Panic set in. Harmar retreated in disarray. Little Turtle pursued intent on wiping out the American army.  However, an eclipse of the moon the next night was interpreted as a bad omen so the pursuit was called off.

General Harmar claimed a victory but had to face a board of inquiry. The defeat was whitewashed but Harmar was replaced by General St. Clair who was a hero of the Revolutionary War. Little Turtle’s stunning success bolstered the ranks of the Confederacy. In 1791 St. Clair raised another army of 1,400 militia and 600 regulars. He marched them out of Fort Washington and took up a position on high ground overlooking the Wabash River.

Little Turtle and his war council decided take the Americans head on. Not their usually tactic it took St. Clair by surprise. Confederacy warriors scattered the Kentucky Militia. Other militiamen shooting wildly killed or wounded some of their own men. Bayonet charges were mowed down by fire from the surrounding woodlands. St. Clair tried to rally his troops but could not. With General Richard Butler, his commanding officer, wounded on the battlefield he ordered a retreat. It was no orderly one. Most flung their rifles aside and fled in a panic.

The American army was completely destroyed. Suffering nearly 1,000 casualties it would be the worst defeat ever suffered by the United States at the hands of the First Nations. Washington was livid. He angrily cursed St. Clair for being “worse than a murderer” and the defeat on the Wabash became know as St. Clair’s Shame. On the other hand First Nations’ hopes and confidence soared. 

NEXT WEEK: The Indian War of 1790-95 – Part 2