The Land of the Miamis Part 14

On the second of October the army arrived at Terre Haute or "high land,"

said to be the scene of a b.l.o.o.d.y battle between the ancient tribe of the Illinois and the Iroquois. The place was designated by the old French traders and settlers as "Bataille des Illinois." A few old apple and peach trees still marked the site of an ancient Indian village. About two miles from this location was a town of the Weas. Harrison immediately began the erection of a quadrangular stockaded fort, with a blockhouse at three of the angles. This fortification, amid much celebrating, was, on Sunday, the twenty-seventh of October, christened as Fort Harrison. An oration was delivered on the occasion by Joseph Hamilton Davis.

[Ill.u.s.tration: The Line of Harrison's March to Tippecanoe and the New Purchase of 1809. Drawing by Heaton]

All doubt of the Prophet's hostility was now dispelled. He had committed open acts of war on the United States. While the army was on the march to Terre Haute a party of the Prophet's raiders, in open daylight, took eight horses from a settlement in the Illinois Territory about thirty miles above Vincennes. At eight o'clock, on the evening of the tenth of October, a sentinel belonging to the Fourth United States Regiment was fired on and badly wounded by savages prowling about the camp. "The army was immediately turned out," says Harrison, "and formed in excellent order in a very few minutes. Patrols were dispatched in every direction, but the darkness was such that pursuit was impracticable. Other alarms took place in the course of the night, probably without good cause, but the troops manifested an alertness in taking their positions which was highly gratifying to me." On the evening of the eleventh, John Conner and four of the Delaware chiefs came into camp. Before leaving Vincennes, Harrison had sent a request that some of their chiefs might meet him on the march, for the purpose of undertaking emba.s.sies of peace to the different tribes. On the sixth of October, many of them had set out from their towns, but were met on the way by a deputation from the Prophet's Town. This deputation declared that the followers of the Prophet had taken up the tomahawk against the United States, "and that they would lay it down only with their lives." They were confident of victory and required a categorical answer from the Delawares to the question of whether they would or would not join them in the coming war. Conner and the four chiefs were immediately sent to report to Harrison, and another party ordered forward to Tippecanoe to remonstrate with the Prophet. On the twenty-seventh the latter party reported to the Governor at Fort Harrison. They had been insulted and badly treated by the Prophet and were dismissed with contempt. During their stay with the Shawnee leader, the warriors arrived who had fired on the sentinel at Terre Haute. They were Shawnees and the Prophet's nearest friends.

Harrison now resolved to immediately march to Tippecanoe and demand satisfaction. To return to Vincennes with his troops without effecting a dispersion or humiliation of the Prophet's party would be attended with the most fatal consequences. "If he is thus presumptuous upon our advance," writes the Governor, "our return without chastising him, or greatly alarming his fears and those of his followers, would give him an eclat that would increase his followers, and we would have to wage through the winter a defensive war which would greatly distress our frontiers." The Governor's display of force on the Wabash had not had the desired effect. While some of the Weas were returning to their villages, and the Wyandots were reported to be urging the tribes to fall away from the Prophet, still the spirit of treachery was abroad in the whole Wabash country. The Miami chiefs arrived for an apparently friendly council, but the Stone Eater was vacillating, and already under the influence of the Prophet. Winamac, who had made so many professions of friendliness towards the government, was now rallying his forces on the side of the Shawnee. Reinforcements of savage Kickapoos and Potawatomi from the Illinois river were beating down the great trails on the way to Tippecanoe. The constant and continued influence of the British, the "ridiculous and superst.i.tious pranks" of the Shawnee impostor, and the natural fear and jealousy of all the tribesmen, on account of their lands, had at last cemented the savage union. The young men and braves of all the clans were ranged in either open or secret hostility against the United States.

The forces at the Prophet's Town were estimated at about six hundred. At a council of the officers it was decided to send for a reinforcement of four companies, but without waiting for their return, to at once take up the march, as all forage for the horses would soon disappear. On the twenty-ninth of October the army moved forward. It consisted of about six hundred and forty foot and two hundred and seventy mounted men. Two hundred and fifty of these were regulars, about sixty were Kentuckians, and the remainder were Indiana militia, raised at Corydon, Vincennes, and points along the Wabash and Ohio rivers. "The militia," says Harrison, "are the best I ever saw, and Colonel Boyd's regiment is a fine body of men." Along with the army rolled nineteen wagons and one cart to transport the supplies, as the winding course of the river and the nature of the ground near it, rendered their further transportation by boats impracticable. The Governor at the last moment sent forward a message to the Prophet's Town requiring the immediate disbandment of the Winnebago, Potawatomi and Kickapoo followers of the Shawnee, the surrender of all murderers, and the delivery up of all stolen horses.

"I am determined," wrote Harrison to Governor Scott of Kentucky, "to disperse the Prophet's banditti before I return, or give him the chance of acquiring as much fame as a warrior, as he now has as a saint."

On Thursday, the thirty-first, the army crossed the northern line of the New Purchase at Racc.o.o.n Creek, and a few hours later forded the Wabash at Montezuma. The water was very deep and the troops and wagons were three hours in making the pa.s.sage. The east bank of the river had been reconnoitered for several miles up and a feint made as though to cut a wagon road, but the country on the left bank afforded too many opportunities for an ambuscade, and Harrison now resolved to strike the open prairies toward the state line. On the first of November the army encamped on the west side of the Wabash about two or three miles below the mouth of the Big Vermilion, and as it had been determined to take forward the provisions from this point in wagons, a small blockhouse, twenty-five feet square was here erected, with a breastwork at each corner next to the river, to receive supplies from the boats. Remnants of the old landing were still to be seen in 1914. Logs and brush were now employed to level down the great horse weeds that filled the lowlands, and corduroy roads made for the pa.s.sage of the wagons to the uplands at the west. Major General Samuel Wells, Colonel Abraham Owen and Captain Frederick Geiger had now arrived with some of the Kentucky volunteers, and the army, after leaving a guard of eight men at the blockhouse, at once crossed the Big Vermilion at the site of the old Kickapoo village and entered upon Sand Prairie at the north.

Harrison was now in the heart of the hostile Kickapoo country. Like his old commander Wayne, he maintained a most diligent lookout. The army was moving forward with mounted men in advance, in the rear and on both flanks. The infantry marched in two columns of files, one on either side of the road. The heavy army wagons drawn by oxen, and the beeves and led animals were in the center. A company of twelve scouts under the command of Captain Touissant Dubois closely scanned every place of danger and pointed out the army's way.

Late on the third of November, the frontiersmen saw for the first time the great prairies of the west, stretching north to Chicago and west to the Mississippi. They camped that night in Round Grove, near the present town of Sloan. An abundance of blue gra.s.s carpeted the sheltered ground and a fine spring of water supplied fresh drink. All the next day the great wheels of the lumbering baggage wagons cut through the sod of the Warren prairies, leaving a long trail over the plains that was plainly traceable for a half century afterwards. Night found the army encamped on the east bank of Pine creek, above the site of the old Brier milldam.

An old bayonet of the revolutionary type was long years afterward picked up in an adjoining wheat field and is now lodged in the Babc.o.c.k museum at Goodland. The dangerous to the south had been avoided and scouts were Posted far down the stream to avoid the danger of a night attack.

Wednesday the sixth, it was very cold. Indian signs were now observed for the first time, the scouts caught four Indian horses, and parties of savages were constantly lurking on the skirts of the advancing forces.

Every effort to hold conversation with them, however, was in vain. At a distance of about four miles from the Prophet's Town the army was formed in order of battle, and moved forward with great caution. The scouts had evidently picked out a poor path, for the army now found itself on dangerous ground, and Harrison was obliged to change the position of the several corps three times in the distance of a mile, to avoid the peril of an ambuscade.

At half past two o'clock in the afternoon the troops crossed Burnet's Creek at a distance of one and one-half miles from the town, and again formed in order of battle. Captain Dubois, now offering to go to the Indian camp with a flag, was sent forward with an interpreter to request a conference. The savages knew Dubois well, but they now appeared on either flank and attempted to cut him off from the army. Harrison recalled him and determined to encamp for the night.

In the meantime, the impatient Major Daviess had advanced to the Indian corn fields along the river with a party of dragoons. He now returned and reported that the Indians were very hostile and had answered every attempt to bring them to a parley with insolence and contempt. He, together with all the officers, advised an immediate attack. Harrison was mindful of the President's injunctions. He did not wish to bring on a conflict until all efforts for peace had failed. He ordered the army to advance, but placed the interpreters at the front, with directions to invite a conference with any Indians that they might meet with.

After proceeding about four hundred yards, the advance guard was approached by three Indians who expressed a wish to see the Governor.

One of them was a chief closely connected with the Prophet. He told Harrison that they were surprised at his rapid advance upon them; that they had been given to understand by a party of Delawares and Miamis whom the Governor had sent forward, that he would not march on their town until an answer had been made to his demands; that Winamac had been detailed two days before to meet the Governor and arrange terms, but that he had proceeded down the south side of the Wabash. These statements were all false, but the General answered that he had no intention of attacking them until he was convinced that they would not comply with his demands, and that he would now go forward and encamp on the river. In the morning, an interview would be held and he would communicate to them the determination of the President. The march was then resumed.

The Indian corn lands extended for a great distance along the river and the ground was so broken and uneven, and the timber had been cleared away to such an extent, that no suitable place could be found for a camp. The troops were now almost upon the town, when fifty or sixty savages sallied forth and with loud cries called upon the cavalry and militia to halt. The Governor immediately pressed to the front, and directed the interpreter to request some of the chiefs to come near.

Harrison now informed them that his only object for the present was to secure a camp, where he might find wood and water. The chiefs informed him that there was a creek to the northwest that would suit his purpose, and after mutual promises of a suspension of hostilities until the following day, the interview was brought to an end.

Majors Waller Taylor and Marston G. Clark, aides to the Governor, were now detailed to select a site for an encampment. The ground chosen was the destined battlefield of Tippecanoe. "It was a piece of dry oak land rising about ten feet above the level of a marshy prairie in front, (towards the Indian town), and nearly twice that height above a similar prairie in the rear, through which, and near to this bank, ran a small stream clothed with willows and brush wood. Towards the left flank this bench of high land widened considerably, but became gradually narrower in the opposite direction, and at the distance of one hundred and fifty yards from the right flank, terminated in an abrupt point."

[Ill.u.s.tration: Smith Pine Creek in Warren County, Indiana, a few miles below the place where Harrison crossed. Photo by Lawrence]



_--The night attack on Harrison's forces.--The destruction of Tec.u.mseh's Confederacy._

An inverted flatiron pointing to the east of south--that is the battle ground of Tippecanoe. The western edge is the sheer bank of Burnet's Creek. A savage would have some difficulty in climbing there. Back of the creek is a low marsh, filled with cat-tails and long gra.s.s. The surface of the flatiron is a sandy plain with scattering oaks, and sloping towards the east. At the north the plain widens, but comes to an abrupt point at the southern end. To the east and in the direction of the Prophet's Town is a wet prairie. The Kickapoos said that Harrison's choice of a camping place was excellent.

Late in the evening the army arrives and takes up its position. Axes are scarce and there is no time to erect a breastwork of trees. Firewood must be cut to warm the shivering troops. The militia have no tents and blankets are scarce. Low scudding clouds betoken a cold November rain.

The regulars are split into two battalions of four companies each. One is placed on the left front facing the east. This is under the command of Major George Rogers Clark Floyd. Under him are the companies of Baen, Snelling and Prescott, and a small company of United States riflemen armed with muskets. On his right are two companies of Indiana militia commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bartholomew. The second battalion of regulars is placed in the left rear and is commanded by Captain William C. Baen, acting as major. To the right of this battalion are four companies of Indiana militia, commanded by Captains Josiah Snelling, Jr., John Posey, Thomas Scott and Jacob Warrick, all of whom are under the leadership of Lieutenant-Colonel Luke Decker. Warrick's company is in the southwestern corner of the camp, and next to the mounted riflemen under Spencer. The left flank is filled up by two companies of mounted riflemen under the command of Major-General Samuel Wells, of the Kentucky militia, acting as major. Back of these riflemen are two troops of dragoons under Major Joseph Hamilton Daviess, and in the rear of the front lines are the Light Dragoons of Vincennes, led by Captain Benjamin Parke. The right flank is made up of the famous Yellow Jackets of Harrison county, Indiana. They wear yellow flannel hunting shirts with a red fringe and hats with red plumes. Their officers are Captain Spier Spencer, sheriff of his county; First-Lieutenant Richard McMahan, Second-Lieutenant Thomas Berry, and Ensign John Tipton. Spencer is of a Kentucky family, his mother has been an Indian captive when a girl, and his fourteen year old son accompanies him on the expedition, bearing a rifle. The distance between the front and rear lines on the left flank is about one hundred and fifty yards, and something more than half that distance on the right flank. In the center of the camp are the headquarters of the Governor, the wagons and baggage, and the beef cattle.

Night is now coming on apace and the great camp fires of the army shed a cheerful glow on men and horses, arms and accouterments. Harrison is watchful. While neither he nor his officers expect a night attack, still he bears in mind that he is in the heart of the Indian country and only a mile and a quarter from the Prophet's village. A council of the officers is held and all placed in readiness for instant action. The camp, in form, is an irregular parallelogram, and troops may be rushed to at once reinforce any point a.s.sailed. The troops are formed in single rank and maneuver easily--extension of the lines is readily accomplished. The order of encampment is the order of battle. Every man must sleep opposite his post. In case of attack the soldiers are to arise, step to the rear of the fires, and instantly form in line. The line thus formed is to hold its ground until further relieved. The dragoons are to parade dismounted, with their pistols in their belts, and to act as a corps de reserve. The whole camp is surrounded by two captains' guards, each consisting of four non-commissioned officers and forty-two men, and two subalterns' guards, of twenty non-commissioned officers and privates. The regulars retire with accouterments on, and their arms by their sides. The tired militia, having no tents, sleep with their arms under them to keep them dry. Captain Cook, of the Fourth Regiment records that he slept with his boots and great coat on, and with his trusty rifle clasped in his arms. The infantry bear cartridges each loaded with twelve buckshot. These are intended for a rain of death.

In the meantime, the fearful Prophet is filled with doubt. Now that the hour of destiny is at hand, his heart fails him. He counsels caution and a postponement of the fight. He urges that a treaty be entered into; a compliance made with the demands of the Governor, and that the Potawatomi murderers be surrendered up. The army must be thrown off its guard and a treacherous attack made on its return home. But the young men and warriors think otherwise. Has not the Prophet told them that the white man's bullets are harmless, and that his powder will turn to sand?

Why hesitate? The army is now asleep and will never awake. Let the Magic Bowl be produced, the sacred torch and the "Medean fire." Let there be death to all!

At a quarter past four o'clock in the morning the Governor arises to pull on his boots. The moon is now obscured, and a drizzly rain is falling. The camp fires are still burning, but beyond the lines of sleeping men, all is darkness and gloom. The sentinels out there in the night are listening to strange sounds. Through the tall gra.s.s of the swamp lands terrible forms are creeping, like snakes on their bellies, towards the camp. The painted and feather-bedecked warriors of the Prophet are surrounding the army.

In two minutes more an aide is to awake the drummer and have him ready by the fire to beat the reveille, when all at once the attack begins. A sentinel, standing on the bank of Burnet's Creek near the northwestern angle of the camp, sees an object crawling on the ground. He fires and runs toward the line--the next moment he is shot down. With demon yells the savages burst upon the ranks of Captain Barton's company and Geiger's riflemen.

In an instant the camp is alive and the men spring to arms, but there is no disorder or confusion. In Barton's company a sergeant and two privates are up renewing the fires, and immediately give the alarm. Two savages penetrate the camps but are killed within twenty yards of the line. A corporal in Barton's company is shot as he steps to the door of his tent. Another corporal and a private are killed and a sergeant wounded as the lines are forming, but immediately afterwards a heavy fire is opened and the charging red skins are driven back. The attack on the Kentuckians is particularly ferocious. A hand to hand fight ensues.

One of Geiger's men loses his gun and the captain runs to his tent to get him another. He finds some savages there "ransacking its contents, and prodding their knives into everything." One of them attempts to kill the captain with a tomahawk, but is immediately slain.

At the first alarm the Governor calls for his white horse, but the shots and yells terrify that animal and he breaks his tether. Harrison now mounts a bay and rides to the first point of attack, Colonel Abraham Owen at his side. Owen is killed, a lock of the Governor's hair is cut away by a bullet, but he brings up Wentworth's company under Lieutenant George P. Peters, and Captain Joel Cook's from the rear line, and forms them across the angle in support of Barton and Geiger.

Nothing like this fury has ever been witnessed before. The rattling of dried deer hoofs and the shrieks of the warriors resound on every hand.

In a few moments the fire extends along the whole front, both flanks, and a part of the rear line. The fierce Winnebagoes, with tall eagle feathers in their scalp locks, rush upon the bayonets, attempt to push them aside, and cut down the men. It avails them nothing. The iron discipline of the regulars holds them firm. On every hand the soldiers kick out the fires, re-load their guns and settle down to the fight.

In the first mad rushes, the company of David Robb posted on the left flank, gives way, or through some error in orders, retires to the center of the camp. Harrison sees the mistake on the instant and orders Snelling to cover the left flank. Snelling is alert, and at the first gun seizes his sword and forms his company into line. The dangerous gap is at once filled, and the companies close up. But a murderous fire now a.s.sails them on the front from behind some fallen logs and trees.

Daviess with his dragoons is behind the lines, and impatient of restraint. Twice he asks the Governor for orders to charge--the third time a reluctant consent is given. The regulars open up, the brave Major with eight of his men pa.s.s through the ranks, and the next moment he is mortally wounded. Snelling's company with levelled bayonets clear the field.

Prodigies of valor are being performed on the right flank. Spencer is there and his famous Yellow Jackets. If the regulars have been valorous, the mounted riflemen of Harrison County have been brilliant. Harrison rides down and calls for the Captain. A slip of a boy answers: "He is dead, sir." "Where is your lieutenant?" "He is dead." "Where is your second lieutenant?" "He is dead." "Where is your ensign?" The answer came, "I am he." The General compliments him and tells him to hold the line. Spencer is wounded in the head, but exhorts his men to fight. He is shot through both thighs and falls, but from the ground encourages his men to stand. They raise him up, but a ball puts an immediate end to his brave career. To the rear of Spencer is the giant Warrick. He is shot through the body and taken to the surgery to be dressed. His wounds bound up, he insists on going back to the head of his company, although he has but a few hours to live. Thus fought and died these brave militiamen of the southern hills. Harrison orders up the company of Robb and the lines hold until the coming of the light.

Throughout the long and trying hours of darkness the Governor remains cool. Mounted on his charger, he appears at every point along the line, and his calm and confident tones of command give rea.s.surance to all his men. If the formation can be held intact until the coming of the dawn, the bayonets of the regulars and the broadswords of the dragoons shall be brought into play. He remembers the example of the ill.u.s.trious Wayne.

As the morning approaches the fight narrows down to the two flanks. Here the savages will make their last stand. Harrison now draws the companies of Snelling, Posey and Scott from the front lines, and the company of Captain Walter Wilson from the rear, and forms them on the left flank.

At the same time he orders Baen's company from the front and Cook's from the rear, to form on the right. The infantry are to be supported by the dragoons. But as soon as the companies form on the left, Major Samuel Wells orders a charge, the Indians flee in front of the cold steel, and are pursued into the swamps by the dragoons. At the same moment the troops on the right dislodge the savages from behind the trees, and drive them headlong into the wet prairie in front. The battle is over. A long and deafening shout from, the troops proclaims the victory.

Thus ended the battle of Tippecanoe, justly famed in history. The intrepidity of the officers, the firm resolution of the regulars, the daring brilliancy of the militiamen, all brought about the desired end.

The conflict had been severe. One hundred and eighty-eight men and officers were either killed or wounded. The officers slain were, Colonel Abraham Owen, Major Joseph Hamilton Daviess, Captain Jacob Warrick, Captain Spier Spencer, Captain William C. Baen, Lieutenant Richard McMahan, Lieutenant Thomas Berry, Corporal James Mitch.e.l.l and Corporal Stephen Mars. The loss of the savages in killed alone was nearly forty.

The number of their wounded could never be ascertained. They were led in battle by the perfidious Winamac, who had always professed to be the friend of the Governor, and by White Loon and the Stone Eater.

In the weeks that followed the battle much censure of Harrison was heard, and much of the credit for the victory was at first accorded to the United States regulars and Colonel Boyd. This was so manifestly unfair to General Harrison, that Captains Cook, Snelling and Barton, Lieutenants Adams, Fuller, Hawkins and Gooding, Ensign Burchstead and Surgeons Josiah D. Foster and Hosea Blood, all of the Fourth United States Regiment, signed an open statement highly laudatory of the Governor's talents, military science and patriotism. They declared that throughout the whole campaign the Governor demeaned himself both as a "soldier and a general," and that any attempt to undermine their confidence in and respect for the commander-in-chief, would be regarded by them as an "insult to their understandings and an injury to their feelings." The legislatures of Indiana and Kentucky pa.s.sed resolutions highly commendatory of the Governor's military conduct and skill.

The Indian confederacy was crushed. Tec.u.mseh returned about the first of the year to find the forces at the Prophet's Town broken up and scattered, and his ambitious dreams of empire forever dissipated.

Nothing now remained for him to do but openly espouse the British cause.

He became the intimate and a.s.sociate of the infamous Proctor and died in the battle at the River Thames.

The battle of Tippecanoe gave great impetus to the military spirit in the western world and prepared the way for the War of 1812. Harrison became the leader of the frontier forces and thousands of volunteers flocked to his standard. The tales of valor and heroism, the stories of the death of Daviess and Owen, Spencer and Warrick, and of the long, terrible hours of contest with a savage foe, were recounted for years afterward around every fireside in southern Indiana and Kentucky, and brought a thrill of patriotic pride to the heart of every man, woman and child who heard them. The menace of the red skin was removed. During the following winter the frontier reposed in peace.

The battle did more. Many of those who followed Harrison saw for the first time the wonderful valley of the upper Wabash and the boundless prairies of the north. In the wake of the conflict followed the forces of civilization, and in a few years afterward both valley and plain were filling up with a virile and hardy race of frontiersmen who laid the foundations of the new commonwealth. In 1816, Indiana became a member of the federal union.



_--A description, of the battle by one of the volunteers._

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