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Title: Indian Battles of 1812
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The memorable massacre at Fort Dearborn, where Chicago now stands, is of interest to residents of the Wabash valley because it was a part of the same movement against the whites of which I have told you in preceding sketches and because some of the Indians from the Wabash were concerned in it. Topenbee, the old Potawatami chief, was present, but it is recorded of him that he was opposed to the massacre and it was thru his instrumentality that seven persons- the Kinzie family, Mrs. Heald, Mrs. Helm and Sergeant Griffith, escaped.

On the 9th of August, 1812, Captain Nathaniel Heald, who was in command of Fort Dearboen, the present site of Chicago, received orders from General Hull, requiring the garrison at Fort Dearborn to evacuate that post and move to Detroit. Captain Wells, who was with Harrison at Tippecanoe, and for whom Wells county, Indiana, was named, left Fort Wayne with about thirty friendly Miami Indians, and arrived at Fort Dearborn (now Chicago), on the 13th day of August, 1812, the purpose being to act as as an escort to the retiring garrison. On the 15th day of August, the troops under the command of Captain Heald, consisting of fifty-four regulars, and twelve militia, evacuated Fort Dearborn, and after marching about a mile and a half down the lake from the fort, or about where 18th street would intersect the lake, were attackt by a superior force composed principally of Potawatamies. The Indians killed twenty-six regulars, all the militia, two women and twelve children, and took twenty-eight prisoners. Captain Wells was among the killed. The losses of the Indians amounted to about fifteen killed.

The Indian camp was located near the fort, north of where the Marshall Field store stands. The fort was north of there, near the Rush street bridge, and a tablet is set into the wall of the W.M. Hoyt building there recording that fact. The fort was burned by the Indians but was rebuilt in 1816.

At the foot of 18th street, near the lake shore, a granite monument surmounted by a bronze statuary group that is among the notable monuments of the city, was erected by George M. Pullman, to mark the site of the massacre.

On the 16th day of August, 1812, the town of Detroit, and the territory of Michigan were surrendered by Gen. Hull, without firing a gun, to the British forces under the command of General Brock. These successive, but temporary triumphs, of the British and Indian forces in the northwest combined with other causes, induced the Kickapoos, Potawatamies, Winnebagos, and other northwestern tribes to take up arms against the United States, and to send war parties to attack the white settlements in the Indiana territory.

In the early part of the month of September, parties of hostile Indians began to assemble, in considerable numbers, in the vicinity of Fort Wayne. About the same time, a strong party of warriors made an unsuccessful attempt on Fort Harrison (now Terre Haute). Other bands of Indians penetrated the territory southeasterly as far as the frontiers of Clark and Jefferson counties, and massacred twenty four persons, at a place which was called "the Pigeon Roost settlement," and which was situated within the present limits of Scott county.

On the evening of the 3d of September, two men, who were making hay in the vicinity of Fort Harrison, were surprised, killed, and scalped by a scouting party of Indians; and on the 4th of September, about eleven o'clock at night, a considerable body of Indians, composed of Winnebagoes, Kickapoos, Shawnees, Potawatamies, and a few Miamis, commenced an attack onthe fort, by setting fire to one of the blockhouses attacht to it. Captain Zachary Taylor (who afterwards became president of the United States) and a small number of the men under his command, bravely resisted the attack, which continued without intermission until about six o'clock on the 5th of September, when the Indians abandoned the assault and retired beyond the guns of the fort. In an official account of thie action, written on the 10th of September, 1812, and addressed to Governor Harrison, Captain Taylor said- "About eleven o'clock I was awakened by the firing of one of the sentinels. I sprang up, ran out, and ordered the men to their posts- when my orderly sergeant, who had charge of the upper blockhouse, called that the Indians had fired from the lower blockhouse.*** The guns had begun to fire pretty smartly from both sides. I directed the buckets to be got ready, and water brought from the well, and the fire extinguished immediately, as it was perceivable at that time; but from debility, or some other cause, the men were very slow in executing my orders. The word "Fire!" appeared to throw the whole of them into confusion, and by the time they had got the water and broken open the door, the fire had, unfortunately, communicated to a quantity of whiskey, and, in spite of every exertion we could make use of, in less that an moment it ascended to the roof, and baffled every effort we could make to extinguish it. As the blockhouse adjoined the barracks that make part of the fortifications, most of the men immediately gave themselves up for lost, and I had the greatest difficulty in getting my orders executed. And, sir, what from the raging of the fire- the yelling and howling of several hundred Indians- the cries of nine women and children, (a part soldiers' and part citizens' wives, who had taken shelter in the fort,) and the desponding of so many of the men, which was worse than all- I can assure you that my feelings were unpleasant. And, indeed, there were more not more than ten or fifteen men able to do a good deal; the others being sick or convalscent; and, to add to our other misfortunes, two of the strongest men of the fort, and that I had every confidence in, jumped the pickets and left us. But my presence of mind did not for a moment foresake me. I saw, by throwing off a part of the roof, that joined the blockhouse that was on fire, and keeping the end perfectly wet, the whole row of buildings might be saved and leave only an entrance of eighteen or twenty feet for the entrance of the Indians, after the house was consumed and that a temporary breastwork might be erected to prevent their even entering there. I convinced the men taht this might be accomplished, and it appeardd to inspire them with new life; and never did the men act with more firmnes and desperation. Those who were able (while the others kept up a constant fire from the other blockhouses and the two bastions) mounted the roofs of the houses with Dr. Clark at their head, (who acted with the greatest presence of mind the whole time the attack lasted, which was about seven hours, under a shower of bullets and in less than a moment threw off as much of the roof as was necessary.**** Altho, hte barracks were several times ablaze, and an immense quantity of fire against them, the men used such exertions that they kept it under, and, before day, raised a temporary breastwork as high as a man's head, altho the Indians continued to pour in a heavy fire of ball, and an immense quantity of arrows during the whole time the attack lasted.*** After keeping up a constant fire until about six o'clock the next morning, which we began to return with some effect after daylight, they removed out of the reach of our guns. A party of them drove up the horses that belonged to the citizens here, and, as they could not catch them very readily, shot the whole of them in our sight, as well as a number of their hogs. They drove off the whole of the cattle, which amounted to sixty-five head, as well as the public oxen."

One of the men who jumped over the pickets, when the fort was attacked, was killed by the Indians. The other, having received a severe wound, returned to the fort and begged for admission. After lying "clost to the pickets, behind an empty barrel," until daylight, he was permitted to enter the fort. Of the men who remained in the fort, during the attack, two were killed, and two were wounded. The loss of the Indians, which was very small, can not be stated with certainty.

When information of the attack of Fort Harrison was received at Vincennes, about twelve hundred men, under the command of Colonel William Russel, of the 7th Regiment U.S. Infantry, marched from that place, for the purpose of punishing the Indians, and carrying relief to the besieged fort. The force under the command of Colonel Russel was composed of Colonel Wilcox's regiment of Kentucky volunteers, three companies of rangers, and two regiments of Indiana militia, comanded, respectfully, by Colonel Jordan and Colonel Evans. When the troops, without meeting with any opposition on their march, reacht Fort Harrison, on the 16th day of September, the Indians had retired from the neighborhood of that place. On the 15th day of September, however, a small detachment composed of eleven men, under the command of Lieutenant Richardson, and acting as an escort of provisions sent from Vincennes, to be delivered to Fort Harrison, was attackt by a party of Indians, at a place which was then called "The Narrows," and which lies within the present limits of Sullivan county. It was reported that seven men of the escort were killed, and one wounded. The provisions fell into the hands of the Indians.

The regiment of Kentucky volunteers under the command of Colonel Wilcox, remained at Fort Harrison. The two regiments of Indiana militia, and three companies of rangers, which march to the relief of the fort, returned to Vincennes.

Date: 1/1/1916
Origin: Historical Sketches of the Wabash Valley
Author: J. Wesley Whicker
Record ID: 00001162
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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