The battle of Tippecanoe
Two Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and The Prophet gathered an Indian force in an effort
to stop white
settlement in the Indiana Territory. Indians from several tribes, including Shawnee, Huron, Winnebago,
Chippewa, Wyandotte, and others came together. White settlers became alarmed by the power of
Tecumseh’s followers and so in the late summer of 1811, General William Henry Harrison (Governor
of the Indiana Territory) organized a small army in hopes of destroying the town. Arriving on November
6th, the soldiers met with representatives of The Prophet (Tecumseh being away on a recruitment drive).
It was agreed that there would be no hostilities until after a counsel was held on November 7th. The
American forces then set up camp on a wooded hill about one mile west of the Indian town (approximately
seven miles north of present day Lafayette Indiana).
General Harrison, fearful of a surprise attack, warned his men to the possibility
of treachery. Fires were
lit to combat cold and heavy rain and a large detail of sentries was posted. Companies from the Fourth US
were posted on the northeast and northwest flanks of the camp. Most units slept fully clothed, “underarms”.
Although Tecumseh had warned his brother not to attack the white men until the federation was strong and
unified, The Prophet became angry, when a deserter told the Indians that Harrison only had a few hundred
men, had a great deal of goods, and the council, planned for the following day, was only an excuse – that
General Harrison planned to attack and destroy them. The Prophet rallied his forces – telling them that
the white man’s bullets could not harm them – and led them to the army camp. While The Prophet watched
from a nearby hill, the Indian braves, under the war chiefs White-loon, Stone-eater, and Winnemac attacked
the army camp just after 4 a.m. First attacked was Captain Barton’s company of the Fourth U.S. and Captain
Guiger’s (Kentucky militia) company of mounted riflemen. Despite the inexperience of the militia units
the army fought off the determined Indian attack.
As dawn broke, two charges were made. On the right, Captain Spier Spencer’s “Yellow Jackets”
Cook’s company of the Fourth charged the Indians to their front and “drove them out of the timber across a
prairie.” On the center, Captain Snelling, of the Fourth, at the head of his company, charged the strongest
remaining part of the Indian attack and drove them from a copse of oak trees. Major Wells (militia) took
command of Snelling’s and Prescott’s companies of the Fourth and began an advance on the Indian's
positions, forcing them to flee.
The battle was over. Thirty-seven soldiers were dead and one hundred fifty one were
wounded. Of the wounded,
twenty five later died.
Angered and demoralized by the defeat, the Indians left The Prophet’s town. The tribes
stripped The Prophet
of his power and threatened to kill him. When Tecumseh returned several months later his hopes of an
Indian federation were destroyed. He allied himself with the British and was later killed, during the War of
1812 at the battle of the Thames on October 5th, 1813.
In his report to the Secretary of War (18 November 1811), of the Fourth U.S., General Harrison stated,
“Of the several corps, the Fourth United States Regiment, and the two small companies
attached to it,
were certainly the most conspicuous for undaunted valor”.
Link to Tippecanoe Battlefield web site.