As soon as the theft of the horses was discovered, great excitement prevailed, as horses were very valuable to the early pioneer. A rescue party was organized, composed of Samuel Cole, and William T. Cole, Temple, Patton, Murdock and Gooch, and after pursuing the Indians all day, they came in sight of them on a large prairie, but the horses of Cole's party were so tired that Cole had to give up the chase, and an encampment was made in a small woodland. After midnight, and when all were in slumber, the stealthy savages returned, surrounded the camp, and on the first attack killed Temple, Patton and Gooch. Murdock sought shelter under the bank of a creek near by, but William T. Cole was attacked by two savages, one in front and one in the rear. In the rencounter Cole was stabbed in the shoulder, but wrenched a knife from one of his a.s.sailants and killed him. The other Indian escaped in the darkness.
This murder and larceny combined, was brought to the attention of Governor Harrison by the then acting governor of the Louisiana Territory. Later, doc.u.mentary proof was furnished by Governor Howard.
Harrison sent William Wells and John Conner to Tippecanoe to demand rest.i.tution of the stolen property. Four horses were delivered up, and a promise made by the Shawnee leaders to procure the remainder, but this was never done. Wells found out that the Potawatomi banditti who had committed these murders were directly under the influence of Tec.u.mseh and the Prophet, but he was given to understand that the murderers had fled to the Illinois river, and that no attempt would be made to apprehend them. Tec.u.mseh boldly attempted to excuse all these outrages in a subsequent conference with the Governor.
Wells had much conversation at this time with Tec.u.mseh, who "openly and positively avowed his determination to resist the encroachments of the white people." Wells told the Shawnee chief that he would never be able to accomplish his designs, but Tec.u.mseh replied that Wells would live to see the contrary. About this time a friendly Kickapoo chief arrived at Vincennes and told the Governor that he was determined to put him on his guard against the Prophet and his brother. "He said that their pacific professions were not to be relied upon; that he had heard them speaking to the Indians for several years and in that time he had never heard anything that they said but war and hatred against the United States.
That the delivering up of the horses which were occasionally stolen was merely intended to lull our vigilance and to prevent us from discovering their designs until they were ripe for execution. That they frequently told their young men that they would defeat their plans by their precipitancy. That in their harangues to the Indians they frequently requested those who would not join their confederacy, to keep their secret. That they always promised them a rich harvest of plunder and scalps, declaring that the first stroke would put them in possession of an ample supply of arms, ammunition and provisions."
On the second of May, General William Clark, of St. Louis, wrote to the Governor informing him that the Prophet had sent the belt to the Mississippi tribes, inviting them to join in a war against the United States, and declaring that the war would be begun by an attack on Vincennes. About the same time word was brought that the Sacs had acceded to the hostile confederacy, and that the Potawatomi in the region of Chicago were on the warpath. A party of surveyors employed by the surveyor-general to divide the New Purchase into townships, were seized and bound by a party of Weas, their arms taken from them, and the engineers driven in terror to Cincinnati. In the fore part of June, a pirogue sent up the Wabash with the annual supply of salt for the Indian tribes was seized by the Prophet and every barrel taken. The excuse given was, that the Prophet had two thousand warriors to feed, and that he had taken none on the previous year. Pierre La Plante, Harrison's agent at the Prophet's Town, reported that only about one hundred warriors were present at the time, but that Tec.u.mseh was shortly expected to arrive with a considerable reinforcement from the lakes.
About the twentieth of June, five Shawnees and ten Winnebagoes of the Prophet's party invaded Vincennes bringing a number of rifles and tomahawks to be repaired. They were boldly accused by some Potawatomi of Topenebee's faction to be meditating war against Harrison and to be making observations on the situation of affairs within the town.
So threatening and warlike were the actions of the Shawnee leaders that the Governor now addressed a communication to the Secretary of War, demanding that the Fourth United States Regiment at Pittsburgh, under the command of Colonel John Parke Boyd, be sent forward immediately for the defense of the frontiers. The government was in part aroused from its state of lethargy. Recent advices from Governor Edwards had announced a series of murders and depredations on the Illinois frontier, and the citizens of Vincennes were in constant dread and apprehension.
The Governor said that he could not much longer restrain his people, and that there was danger of them falling on the Indians and slaying friend and foe alike, from their inability to discriminate the various tribes.
By a letter of the seventeenth of July, the Governor received word that the aforementioned regiment, with a company of riflemen, had been ordered to descend the Ohio, and that Colonel Boyd was to act under the advice and command of the Governor himself. If necessary, this force was to be employed in an attack upon the Prophet, but the Governor was given positive orders not to march them up the river or to begin hostilities, until every other expedient had failed. Hedged about by timid restrictions and foolish admonitions, the course of the Governor was rendered extremely difficult. One thing, however, he had firmly resolved to do. The Prophet's forces must soon be scattered.
In the meantime, Harrison had dispatched Captain Walter Wilson, of the Territorial militia, with a speech to the Prophet's Town. The Captain was well received by Tec.u.mseh. Harrison's talk was plain and to the point. He informed the Shawnee brothers that he was well aware of their design to unite the tribes, murder the Governor, and commence a war upon his people. That their seizure of the salt sent up the Wabash was ample proof of their hostile intention. That they had no prospect of success, for his hunting shirt men were as numerous as the mosquitoes on the sh.o.r.es of the Wabash. That if they were discontented with the sale of the lands at Fort Wayne, that he (the Governor) would furnish them the means to visit the President of the United States, and they might then state their claims in full and receive justice, but that they must not come to Vincennes with a large retinue, as this would not be permitted.
If they came they must only be attended by a few of their young men.
This last proposition, Tec.u.mseh promptly acquiesced in and sent word to the Governor that he expected to be in Vincennes in about eighteen days, and that all matters would then be settled in "peace and happiness."
Harrison was vigilant. He determined to watch the river with a party of scouts, and in the meantime to muster the militia and make a show of military force. He was convinced that if his wily antagonist found him off his guard that he would not hesitate to "pick a quarrel," and launch a general attack. The Governor's letter to the war department of July 10th, 1811, is interesting. "With them (i. e., the Indians) the surprise of an enemy bestows more eclat upon a warrior than the most brilliant success obtained by other means. Tec.u.mseh has taken for his model the celebrated Pontiac and I am persuaded that he will bear a favorable comparison in every respect with that far famed warrior. If it is his object to begin with the surprise of this place, it is impossible that a more favorable situation could have been chosen than the one he occupies. It is just so far off as to be removed from our immediate observation, and yet so near as to enable him to strike us when the water is high in twenty-four hours, and even when it is low their light canoes will come fully as fast as the journey could be performed on horseback. The situation is in other respects admirable for the purposes for which he has chosen it. It is nearly central with regard to the tribes which he wishes to unite. The water communication with Lake Erie by means of the Wabash and Miami, with Lake Michigan and the Illinois by the Tippecanoe, is a great convenience. It is immediately in the center of the back line of that fine country which he wishes to prevent us from settling, and above all, he has immediately in his rear a country that has been but little explored, consisting princ.i.p.ally of barren thickets, interspersed with swamps and lakes, into which our cavalry could not penetrate, and our infantry only by slow and laborious marches."
Tec.u.mseh did not keep his word. At the very time he was promising Wilson to bring only a few men he was sending word in every direction to collect his people. On the twenty-fourth of July he was within a few miles' march of Vincennes with one hundred twenty or thirty warriors, and the Weas under Lapoussier were coming on in the rear. The people were greatly alarmed and irritated and there was danger of their firing on the savage bands. Brouillette was kept in the saddle riding from camp to camp. On the twenty-fifth, Harrison sent Captain Wilson twenty miles up the river to demand of Tec.u.mseh his reason for approaching the town with so large a force, despite the Governor's injunction and his own previous agreement. The savage after some equivocation, said that he was only attended by twenty-four men and that the remainder had come "on their own accord." Parties of savages were then lurking about the settlements on every hand, and "upwards of one hundred were within two miles of the town northwest of the Wabash." Some sinister design was moving the chieftain's mind.
On the twenty-seventh the main body of savages arrived by canoe, and on the next day came those who marched by land. Three hundred red men were present, including twenty or thirty women and children. What was Tec.u.mseh's object? Harrison's spies reported to him that it was the intention of the Shawnee to peremptorily demand a retrocession of the late purchase, and if it was not obtained, to seize some of the chiefs who were active in making the treaty, and in the presence of the Governor put them to death. If the Governor interfered he was to share the same fate. However this may be, the great chief abandoned any hostile design he may have entertained on a view of Harrison's forces.
On the day of his arrival a review of the neighboring militia was held, at which were present seven or eight hundred men under arms. "The two infantry companies on duty were increased to three, and these being relieved on different days by some management in marching and changing quarters, it appeared to the Indians that four or five companies were on constant duty. The elegant troop of dragoons commanded by Captain Parke (who is also one of our supreme judges) were exhibited to the greatest advantage, and nightly patrols both of horse and foot announced a vigilance which defied surprise. The Indians were in astonishment and terror and I believe most of them went off impressed with the belief that Vincennes was not as easily to be taken as their chief would have convinced them." The prompt.i.tude and foresight of the Governor probably prevented a ma.s.sacre.
Harrison sought an immediate interview, but was not able to bring Tec.u.mseh into council, until Tuesday the thirtieth of July. An arbor had been erected in front of the executive mansion. An hour before the time of the appointed meeting Tec.u.mseh sent a messenger to learn whether the Governor would be attended by an armed force. In that event he announced that he would come armed also. The Governor gave him his choice, but informed the chief that in case his warriors left their guns at their camp, that he (Harrison) would only be attended by twenty-five or thirty dismounted dragoons. Tec.u.mseh preferred the latter arrangement, "and came attended by about one hundred and seventy or one hundred and eighty men without guns, but all of them having knives and tomahawks or war clubs, and some with bows and arrows." The Governor opened the council by mentioning the great alarm which had been occasioned by the late murders in Illinois and the a.s.sembling of so large a body of savages, and declared that he was ready to listen to anything that the chiefs might have to say, but that he would enter into no negotiation concerning the late purchase. That affair was in the hands of the President who had not sent any answer to the claim that Tec.u.mseh had last year set up on behalf of all the tribes on the continent. He also declared that Tec.u.mseh might, if he so desired, make a visit to the President and hear his determination from his own mouth. The Governor concluded by demanding an explanation of the seizure of the salt.
Tec.u.mseh in his short reply adverted to the matter of the salt first. He said that he had not been at home on either occasion when the salt boats had arrived, but that it was impossible to please the Governor, for last year he was angry because the salt was refused, and now he was angry because it was taken. After some further unimportant observations, a violent storm came on and the council was adjourned.
At two o'clock the next day the council again convened, when Lapoussier, the Wea chieftain, who was now the firm friend of Tec.u.mseh, arose and made a long speech on the treaties that had been entered into between the Governor and the Indian tribes. He closed by stating that the Miamis had been forced by the Potawatomi to make the late treaty of Fort Wayne, and that it would be proper to make an inquiry as to the person who had held the tomahawk over their heads, and punish him. This was, of course, an allusion to Winamac. Harrison immediately called on the Miami chiefs present for a contradiction of this statement, and then turning to Tec.u.mseh, told him that it lay within his power to manifest the truth of his professions of friendship towards the United States and his desire to preserve peace, by delivering up the two Potawatomi who had murdered the four white men on the Missouri last fall, and who were then in his camp.
The reply of Tec.u.mseh is given in Harrison's own language. "He said that after much trouble and difficulty he had at length brought all the northern tribes to unite and place themselves under his direction. That the white people were unnecessarily alarmed at his measures--that they really meant nothing but peace--the United States had set him the example of forming a strict union amongst all the fires that compose their confederacy. That the Indians did not complain of it--nor should his white brothers complain of him for doing the same thing with regard to the Indian tribes. As soon as the council was over he was to set out on a visit to the southern tribes to get them to unite with those of the north. To my demand of the murderers, he observed that they were not in his town, as I believed them--that it was not right to punish those people--that they ought to be forgiven, as well as those who lately murdered our people in the Illinois. That he had set us an example of forgiveness of injuries which we ought to follow. The Ottawas had murdered one of his women, and the Osages one of his relations, and yet he had forborne to revenge them--that he had even taken the tomahawks out of the hands of those who were ready to march against the Osages. To my inquiry whether he was determined to prevent the settlement of the New Purchase, he replied that he hoped no attempt would be made to settle until his return next spring. That a great number of Indians were coming to settle at his town this fall, and who must occupy that tract as a hunting ground, and if they did no further injury, they might kill the cattle and hogs of the white people, which would produce disturbance. That he wished every thing to remain in its present situation until his return--our settlements not to progress further--and no revenge sought for any injury that had been or should be received by the white people until his return--that he would then go and see the President and settle everything with him. That the affairs of all the tribes in this quarter were in his hands and that nothing could be done without him--that he would dispatch messengers in every direction to prevent them from doing any more mischief--that he had made full atonement for the murders which had been committed by the wampum which he delivered."
The reply of the Governor was short and pithy. It was now evening and the moon was shining. He told the a.s.sembled tribesmen that the moon which they beheld would sooner fall to the earth "than the President would suffer his people to be murdered with impunity, and that he would put his warriors in petticoats sooner than he would give up a country which he had fairly acquired from the rightful owners." The meeting was then broken up.
We have said that the prompt.i.tude and foresight of the Governor probably averted a ma.s.sacre. It was the opinion of all the neutral Indians on the ground that Tec.u.mseh meditated a stroke. His manner throughout the council was embarra.s.sed, and it was evident to all that the speech he actually delivered was not the one he had prepared for the occasion. If he had found the Governor unprepared and the town defenseless, his fierce hatred of the paleface and his boundless ambition as a warrior, would probably have prompted him to resort to violence, for it is a well known fact, observed by all Indian writers, that a savage will always act upon the advantage of the moment, regardless of future consequences.
Besides, it is probable that Tec.u.mseh now felt himself powerful enough to deal a telling blow. Many accessions had been made to his confederacy and the daring depredations in the Illinois country had gone unpunished.
Like all savages, he had nothing but contempt for a government that did not promptly revenge its wrongs. But when, on approaching the town, he observed the great military array, and saw bodies of armed men and mounted riflemen moving to and fro, his resolution was shaken and he experienced a more wholesome respect for his adversary's strength.
"Heedless of futurity," says Harrison, "it is only by placing the danger before his eyes, that a savage is to be controlled. Even the gallant Tec.u.mseh is not insensible to an argument of this kind. No courtier could be more complaisant, than he was upon his last visit. To have heard him, one would have supposed that he came here for the purpose of complimenting me. This wonderful metamorphosis in manner was entirely produced by the gleaming and clanging of arms; by the frowns of a considerable body of hunting shirt men, who accidentally lined a road by which he approached to the council house."
The body of savages again melted away, and the Miami chieftains who had accompanied the expedition returned to their homes. On the fifth of August, Tec.u.mseh, with a retinue of twenty chiefs, including the famous Potawatomi, Shaubena, pa.s.sed down the Wabash to visit the nations of the south and more firmly cement the bonds of his confederacy. The day before he departed he called on the Governor and labored hard to convince him that he had no object in view other than to unite the tribes in a league of peace. After visiting the Creeks and Choctaws, he was to pa.s.s through the land of the Osages and return by the Missouri river. Before his return, the last hope of the red man was to be forever crushed, and the old dream of Pontiac forever dispelled.
The Governor has paid a just and worthy tribute to his savage foe. In a letter of August seventh, 1811, he writes to the department of war as follows: "The implicit confidence and respect which the followers of Tec.u.mseh pay to him is really astonishing, and more than any other circ.u.mstance bespeaks him one of those uncommon geniuses, which spring up occasionally to produce revolutions and overturn the established order of things. If it were not for the vicinity of the United States, he would perhaps be the founder of an empire that would rival in glory that of Mexico or Peru. No difficulties deter him. His activity and industry supply the want of letters. For four years he has been in constant motion. You see him today on the Wabash, and in a short time you hear of him on the sh.o.r.es of Lake Erie or Michigan, or on the banks of the Mississippi, and wherever he goes he makes an impression favorable to his purposes."
While these stirring events were happening at the frontier capital, and on the thirty-first of July, a considerable body of the citizens of Vincennes, both English and French, met at the seminary building, and after selecting Ephraim Jordan as president and one James Smith as secretary, certain resolutions were "fallen into," which vividly portray the emotions of the frontiersmen of that day and their dire apprehension of impending danger. The resolutions stated in substance that the safety of the persons and property of the inhabitants could never be effectively secured, but by the breaking up of the combination formed on the Wabash by the Shawnee Prophet; that the inhabitants regarded this combination as a British scheme; that but for the prompt measures of Governor Harrison, it was highly probable that the town would have been destroyed and the inhabitants ma.s.sacred. The Rev. Samuel T. Scott, the Rev. Alexander Devin, Colonel Luke Decker, Francis Vigo and others, were appointed as a committee to draft an address to the President of the United States, setting forth their situation and praying for relief. On the same day this address was duly formulated and signed by the committee above mentioned, and forwarded to the chief executive of the nation. In it, the citizens breathed forth their terrors and fear of the Wabash banditti, and their alarm at the constant depredations committed on the frontier. One pa.s.sage is significant. "The people have become irritated and alarmed, and if the government will not direct their energies, we fear that the innocent will feel the effects of their resentment, and a general war be the consequence." A temper of this kind could not long be disregarded. Temporizing must cease.
THE MUSTER AND THE MARCH
--_The rally of the Kentuckians and their clansmen in southern Indiana, to Harrison's support--The coming of the support of the Fourth United States Regiment--The march to the Tippecanoe battlefield._
In the summer and early autumn of the year 1811, the British were again distributing arms and ammunition among the tribes of the northwest and rallying them for that second and final struggle with the United States.
In August of that year a Potawatomi chief informed Harrison that he was present when a message from the British agent was delivered to the Prophet, "telling him that the time had arrived for taking up arms, and inviting him to send a party to Malden to receive the necessary supplies." A statement made by Captain Benjamin Parke of the light dragoons of Vincennes, to the Governor on the thirteenth of September, was to the effect that the Indians of the Wabash and the Illinois had recently visited Elliott at Malden; "that they are now returning from thence with a larger supply of goods than is known ever to have been distributed to them before; that rifles or fusees are given to those who are unarmed, and powder and lead to all." A similar communication made by the Hon. Waller Taylor, a judge of the supreme court of the Territory, stated that, "The spirit of hostility manifested by the Prophet and his followers (who, it is said, are daily increasing); the thefts and murders committed within a few months past, and the unusual quant.i.ties of arms, ammunition, etc., which not only these, but the Indians generally have received from the British agent at Fort Malden, strongly evidence a disposition to commence war as soon as a fit opportunity occurs."
In this same month of September, Touissant Dubois, a French-Canadian agent of the Governor's, reported to him that all the Indians along the Wabash had been, or were then, on a visit to the British agency. "He (Dubois) has been in the Indian trade thirty years and has never known, as he thinks, more than one-fourth as many goods given to the Indians as they are now distributing. He examined the share of one man (not a chief) and found that he had received an elegant rifle, 25 pounds of powder, 50 of lead, 3 blankets, 3 strouds of cloth, 10 shirts, and several other articles. He says that every Indian is furnished with a gun (either rifle or fusil), and an abundance of ammunition. A trader of this country was lately at the King's stores at Malden. He saw 150 kegs of powder (supposed to contain about 60 pounds each), and he was told that the quant.i.ty of goods for the Indian Department which had been sent over this year exceeded that of common years by twenty thousand pounds sterling. It is impossible to ascribe this profusion to any other motive than that of instigating the Indians to take up the tomahawk. It cannot be to secure their trade, for all the peltries collected on the waters of the Wabash in one year, if sold in the London market, would not pay the freight of the goods which have been given to the Indians." The contagion of unrest, thus encouraged and cultivated, was, as Captain Parke observed, rapidly spreading to all the tribes of the Wabash, the lakes and the Mississippi, and the influence of the Prophet was daily increasing. Unless the nest of banditti at Tippecanoe was broken up, the axe would quickly fall on all the settlements.
The plans of the Governor were speedily formed and most energetically carried forward. His purposes were, to call upon the tribes to immediately deliver up any and all of their people who had been concerned in the murders on the frontier; to require them to fulfill "that article of the Treaty of Greenville which obliges them to give information and to stop any parties pa.s.sing through their districts with hostile intentions;" to further require them to cause such of their warriors as had joined the Prophet to immediately return to their tribes, or be put out of their protection. Of the Miamis he would demand an absolute disavowal of all further connection with the Prophet, and a disapprobation of his continued occupancy of their lands. All the tribes were to be reminded of the lenity, justice and continued consideration of the United States, and the efforts of the government to civilize them and promote their happiness, and warned that in case they took up the tomahawk against their fathers, no further mercies might be expected. To enforce these requirements, spread terror among the recalcitrant, and give strength to the wavering, he proposed to move up to the upper line of the New Purchase with two companies of regulars, fourteen or fifteen companies of militia, and two troops of dragoons. He hoped thus to dissolve the Prophet's bands without the effusion of blood, but in case of a continued defiance he proposed to march into the Indian country and enforce his demands with sword in hand.
Immediately after the conference with Tec.u.mseh the Governor had sent a message to the Miami chiefs who had accompanied the Shawnee leader, requiring their return to Vincennes, that he might confer with them on measures of peace. To this demand they returned an insolent reply and refused to come. He then dispatched Touissant Dubois with a written speech to the Miami, Eel river and Wea tribes.
"My children: My eyes are open and I am now looking toward the Wabash. I see a dark cloud hanging over it. Those who have raised it intended it for my destruction, but I will turn it upon their heads."
"My children: I hoped that you would not be injured by this cloud. You have seen it gathering. You had timely notice to keep clear of it. The thunder begins to roll; take care that it does not burst upon your heads."
"My children: I now speak plainly to you. What is that great collection of people at the mouth of the Tippecanoe intended for? I am not blind, my children. I can easily see what their object is. Those people have boasted that they will find me asleep, but they will be deceived."
"My children: Do not suppose that I will be foolish enough to suffer them to go on with their preparations until they are ready to strike my people. No. I have watched their motions. I know what they wish to do, and you know it also. Listen, then, to what I say. I will not suffer any more strange Indians to settle on the Wabash. Those that are there, and do not belong there, shall disperse and go to their own tribes."
"My Children: When you made the treaty with General Wayne you promised that if you knew of any parties of Indians pa.s.sing through your country with hostile intentions toward us, that you would give us notice of it and endeavor to stop them. I now inform you that I consider all those who join the Prophet and his party as hostile, and call upon you to fulfill your engagements. I have also sent to the tribes who have any of their warriors with the Prophet, to withdraw them immediately. Those who do not comply, I shall consider to have let go the chain of friendship which united us."
"My Children: Be wise and listen to my voice. I fear that you have got on a road that will lead you to destruction. Have pity upon your women and children. It is time that my friends should be known. I shall draw a line. Those who keep me by the hand must keep on one side of it, and those that adhere to the Prophet on the other."
"My children: Take your choice. My warriors are in arms but they shall do you no hurt unless you force me to it. But I must have satisfaction for the murder of my people and the war pole that has been raised on the Wabash must be taken down."
When Dubois arrived at the Miami town with the above message, the chieftains were all preparing to go to Malden. The words of the Governor called them to a sudden halt. They must now determine whether they would further listen to the counsel of the Prophet and accept presents from the British, or remain on terms of friendship with the United States. No further wavering or delay would be tolerated.
In the council which followed, Lapoussier was insolent and told Dubois that the Miamis had received no notice whatever of any hostile intention on the part of the Prophet; that they (the Miamis) would defend their lands to the last man, and that the Governor was making himself contemptible in the eyes of all. These bold declarations were approved by Pecan, the Big Man, Negro Legs, Osage, and Sa-na-mah-hon-ga, or The One That Eats Stones, commonly known as the Stone Eater. The words of Little Turtle were of a different tone. He then and afterwards, affirmed his allegiance to the United States. While he prayed the Governor to avoid if possible the shedding of blood, he still proclaimed that the lands on the Wabash were the property of the Miamis; that they had endeavored to stop the Prophet from going there, and that his settlement was made without their consent. "I told my people when they were going to see the Governor not to say anything respecting the land; that the treaty was made and it was a fair one. They had signed the paper which bound the sale of the lands, and that nothing further should be said on the subject. I also charged them whatever they did, to have nothing to do with the Prophet; that the Prophet was an enemy of Governor Harrison's and Governor Harrison's of his; that if they formed any kind of connection with the Prophet it would make the Governor an enemy of theirs."
While these events were going forward, the Governor was making preparations for his expedition up the Wabash. The noise of the coming storm soon reached the ears of the Kentuckians. On the twenty-fourth of August, Joseph Hamilton Daviess wrote to the Governor offering himself as a volunteer. He had been instrumental in checking the treasonable designs of Aaron Burr, was Master of the Grand Lodge of Free Masons of the state of Kentucky, and was one of the most eloquent advocates at the bar of his state. His coming was hailed with eager joy by the rough militiamen of the frontier. In the latter part of the month Harrison was in Louisville asking for volunteers. His call, says Pirtle, "was met with a prompt and ample response. He was very popular, his voice stirring the people like a bugle call. Old Indian fighters like Major General Samuel Wells and Colonel Abraham Owen, of the Kentucky militia, instantly started for the field." Captain Frederick Geiger raised a company, and Captain Peter Funk, who was in command of a company of militia cavalry, at once hastened to Governor Charles Scott of Kentucky, to obtain permission to raise a company of mounted riflemen. In a few days his men were enrolled and early in September joined the forces of Colonel Joseph Bartholomew on their march to Vincennes.
On the third of September, the regular troops of the Fourth United States Regiment of infantry, under Colonel John Parke Boyd, arrived in keel boats at the Falls of the Ohio. The Governor was there to meet them. Boyd was a soldier of fortune and one of the most striking military adventurers of that day. A short sketch of him as given by Benson J. Lossing is as follows: "John Parke Boyd was born in Newburyport, Ma.s.sachusetts, December 21, 1764. His father was from Scotland, and his mother was a descendant of Tristam Coffin, the first of that family who emigrated to America. He entered the army in 1786, as ensign in the Second Regiment. With a spirit of adventure, he went to India in 1789, having first touched the Isle of France. In a letter to his father from Madras, in June, 1790, he says: 'Having procured recommendatory letters to the British consul residing at the court of his highness, the Nizam, I proceeded to his capital, Hyberabad, 450 miles from Madras. On my arrival, I was presented to his highness in form by the British consul. My reception was as favorable as my most sanguine wishes had antic.i.p.ated. After the usual ceremony was over, he presented me with the command of two kansolars of infantry, each of which consists of 500 men.' His commission and pay were in accordance with his command. He describes the army of the Nizam, which had taken the field against Tippoo Sultan. It consisted of 150,000 infantry, 60,000 cavalry, and 500 elephants, each elephant supporting a 'castle'
containing a nabob and servants. He remained in India several years in a sort of guerrilla service, and obtained much favor. He was in Paris early in 1808 and at home in the autumn of that year, when he was appointed (October 2) Colonel of the Fourth Regiment of the U. S. Army."
This tall, handsome and courteous officer, who had fought with the hordes of India on the other side of the world, was shortly to encounter the eagle-feathered chiefs of the Winnebagoes on the banks of the Wabash.
On the night of the 19th of September the regulars of the Fourth Regiment arrived at Vincennes by way of the Wabash. They were under the immediate command of Colonel James Miller, of "I'll try, Sir," fame in the War of 1812. The Governor and Colonel Boyd had already traveled overland on horseback from Louisville. The sight which greeted the eyes of the old French residents on the morning of the twentieth, was a novel one. The American infantry of that period wore a uniform consisting of "blue, bra.s.s-b.u.t.toned tail-coats, skin-tight pantaloons, and 'stove-pipe hats,' with red, white and blue c.o.c.kades." One pictures them marching in the brown October woods, their bayonets gleaming in the sunshine, and their bugles awakening strange echoes from headland and bluff. The regiment, though small, was made up of a formidable array of men. While not disciplined in Indian warfare, the rank and file were composed of brave, resolute soldiers, and such officers as Captains W. C. Baen, Josiah Snelling, Robert C. Barton, Return B. Brown, George W. Prescott and Joel Cook, were of the best of that time. The gallant Baen was on his last march, and his bones were destined to repose in a savage wilderness.
A military conference was now held, partic.i.p.ated in by Governor Harrison, Colonel Boyd, and two judges of the supreme court, Benjamin Parke and Waller Taylor, both of whom were officers in the local militia. It was determined to ascend the river with a respectable force, which would not only defy attack, but impress the tribesmen, if possible, with a due respect for the power and authority of the United States. The Prophet, though not a warrior, was known, as Harrison says, to be, "daring, presumptuous and rash." He was now reinforced by a considerable body of Winnebago warriors, and the Potawatomi of the prairies and the Illinois were coming to his support. A small expedition would not only excite contempt, but might lead to a disaster.
Accordingly, on the morning of the twenty-sixth of September, an army of about one thousand men, including one hundred and forty dragoons and sixty mounted riflemen, commenced its march to the upper end of the New Purchase. The cavalry had been sent forward two days before to the settlement of Busseron, where forage for the horses could more easily be procured. Just before the departure of the army, a deputation of warriors arrived from the Prophet's Town, led by a war chief of the hostile Kickapoos. He expressed his astonishment at seeing such warlike preparations, said that his women and children were all in tears, and falsely a.s.serted that the hearts of all the Prophet's party were warm towards the United States. The Governor peremptorily informed the Kickapoo that the army was about to march, and that nothing but an immediate surrender of the Indian murderers and horse-thieves would satisfy the government. The mount of Captain William Piatt, chief quartermaster of the expedition, and four horses from Busseron had just been stolen, and all further dissimulation on the part of the savages was without avail.
The account of the march, as recorded by Captain John Tipton, is exceedingly interesting. The militiamen of southern Indiana and Kentucky a.s.sembled from the frontier settlements, were men of simple habits, rough, unlettered, hard to teach the intricacies of military evolutions, but as General John C. Black has stated, they were also "insensible to fatigue, watchful as a catamount, resolute as men, heroic as martyrs."
Some of their favorite sports were wrestling, shooting at a mark, and horse-racing. All were inured to an active, outdoor life. Most of them were without tents and few had blankets, but they did not complain. As the army advanced through the wilderness, the cutting down of bee trees, the shooting of squirrels, racc.o.o.n and deer were everyday occurrences; horses strayed away and were recovered; the provision boats lodged on the sand bars in the river and were launched again; stories of adventure and midnight ma.s.sacre were told about the great camp fires. All came from families who had suffered from savage outrage; all hated both British and Indians "with a holy hate," and all were determined that the forces of civilization should not recede. They were eager for battle and unafraid.
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