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Title: Battle of Tippecanoe
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In 1800 Congress created the Territory of Indiana and Gen. Wm. Henry Harrison, who had been governor of the Northwest Territory, was continued as governor of the new territory, with headquarters at Vincennes. For ten years, the Indians, inflamed by agents of the British and by ambitious chieftains, continued to wage guerilla warfare against the encroaching settlers. White men were shot down in their fields, women and children were awakened in the night by savage warwhoops, maybe to find the roof blazing over their heads. Most of these depredations were committed further east and south than this section, the tide of white settlement having not yet penetrated this far. It was here however that the Indians had their strongholds and it is for that reason that the final battles with them were fought here. Of the battles the most important in its effects was the Battle of Tippecanoe. Compared with the battles of the present great war in Europe this battle was but a tiny skirmish- the losses on both sides did not exceed a hundred- yet it had a very important effect upon the history of the American republic. It not only made possible the occupation and settlement of Indiana but it settled the Indian question effectively for the whole western country. This resulted in the settlement of the Mississippi valley and ultimately led to the extension of the territory of the United States to the Pacific coast. Thus in the history of the development of the human race it was more important than any of the bloody battles that have been fought thus far in the present European war. In a preceding article I have told you how Gen. Harrison, our of patience because he had been unable to effect a treaty with Tecumseh and to convince him that it was useless for the red man to oppose the march of the white, had finally determined to destroy his headquarters- The Prophet's Town- at the junction of the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers. It was in 1808 that Tecumseh had established his headquarters at this point on invitation of the Potawatamies. This town was sometimes known as Tippecanoe and it grew rapidly in importance as the headquarters of the confederacy which Tecumseh and his brother, The Prophet, were organizing among the Indian tribes of the whole country. Tecumseh establisht relations with the British in Canada and while holding talks, sometimes peaceful and sometimes stormy, with the territorial authorities, he was really organizing a war against them. These practices he continued until 1811 when in futherance of his plans he went south leaving The Prophet in control of affairs in Indiana. Gen. Harrison had a proper estimate of Tecumseh. In an official report he said of him: "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 Mexico and Peru. No difficulties deter him. For four year he had been in constart motion. You see him today on the Wabash and in a short time hear of him on the shores of Lake Erie or Michigan or on the banks of the Mississippi, and wherever he goes he makes an impression favorable to his purpose. He is now upon the last rounds to put a finish stroke upon his work. I hope, however, before his return that part of that work which he considered complete will be demolished and even its foundation." Governor Harrison's judgement was sound and it was time to act. Had he delayed until the return of Tecumseh, possibly within a few weeks, the whole frontier- from Michigan to Georgia- might have been drencht in blood. Knowing that a war was imminent he boldly struck at the hear of the matter by marching against the headquarters of the confederacy, and seized another advantage by doing it when the intrepid leader was away, Tecumseh being in Mississippi when the battle occurred. I have told you the story of the march from Vincennes up the Wabash. It was the 26th day of September when the army set out from Vincennes and at 2:00 o'clock Nov. 6th it halted and camped two miles from The Prophets Town, and it was there that that Battle of Tippecanoe was fought. Perhaps I can convey to my readers the best description of this battle by giving an account of it written by Isaac Naylor, who was a militiaman in the battle and who afterward settled Crawfordsville and became judge of this circuit, which at that time included Fountain county. He was a man of ability and afterward had a very important part in the development of this section. The manuscript from which I quote was lost for many years but was found some twenty years ago and is now a part of the established history of the battle. Following is his account: When the army arrived in view of The Prophets Town, an Indian seem them coming toward General Harrison with a white flag suspended on a pole. Here the army halted, and a parley was had between the General Harrison and the Indian delegation, who assured the General that they desired peace, and solemnly promised to meet him the next day in council, to settle the term of peace and friendship between them and the United States. General Marston G. Clark, who was then bridge major,and Waller Taylor, one of the judges of the General Court of the Territory of Indiana, and afterwards a Senator of the United States from Indiana (one of the General's aide's), were ordered to select a place for the encampment,which they did. The army then marcht to the ground selected about sunset. A strong guard was placed around the encampment commanded by Capt. James Bigger and three lieutenants. The troops were ordered to sleep on their arms. The night being cold, large fires were made along the lines of the encampment and each soldier retired to rest, sleeping in his arms. Having seen a number of squaws and children at the town I thought the Indians were not disposed to fight. About ten o'clock at night Joseph Warnock and myself retired to rest, he taking one side of the fire and I the other, the members of our company being all asleep. My friend Warnock had dreamed, the night before, a bad dream which foreboded something fatal to him to to some of his family, as he told me. Having myself no confidence in dreams, I thot but little about the matter, altho I observed that he never smiled afterwards. I woke about four o'clock the next morning after a sound and refreshing sleep, having heard in a dream the firing of guns and the whistling of bullets just before I awoke from my slumber. A drizzling rain was falling and all things were still and quiet thuout the camp. I was engaged in making a calculation when I should arrive home. In a few moments I heard that crack of a rifle in the direction of the point of a rifle in the direction of the point where now stands the Battle Ground House. I had just time to think that some sentinel was alarmed and fired this rifle without a real cause, when I heard the crack of another rifle, followed by an awful Indian yell all around the encampment. In less than a minute I saw the Indians charging out line most furiously and shooting a great many rifle balls into our camp fires, throwing the live coals into the air three or four feet high. At this moment my friend Warnock was shot by a rifle ball thru his body. He ran a few yards and fell dead on the ground. Our lines were broken and a few Indians were found on the inside of the encampment. In a few minutes they were all killed. Our lines closed up and our men in their proper places. One Indian was killed in the back part of Captain Geiger's tent, while he was attempting to tomahawk the Captain. The sentinels, closely pursued by the Indians, came to the lines of the encampment in haste and confusion. My brother, William Naylor, was on guard. He was pursued so rapidly and furiously that he ran to the nearest point on the left flank, where he remained with a company of regular soldiers until the battle was near its termination. A young man, whose name was Daniel Pettit, was pursued so closely and furiously by an Indian as he was running from the guard line to our lines, that to save his life he cocked his rifle as he ran and turning suddenly around, place the muzzle of his gun against the body of the Indian and shot an ounce ball thru him. The Indian fired his gun at the same instant, but it being longer than Pettit's the muzzle passed by himi and set rife to a handkerchief which he had tied around his head. The Indians made four or five most fierce charges on our lines, yelling and screaming as they advanced, shooting balls and arrows into our ranks. At each charge they were driven back in confusion, carrying off their dead and wounded as they retreated. Colonel Owen, of Shelby county, Kentucky, one of General Harrison's volunteer aides, fell early in action by the side ofthe General. He was a member of the legislature at the time of his death. Colonel Daviess was mortally wounded early in the battle, gallantly charging the Indians on foot with his sword and pistols, according to his own request. He made this request three times of General Harrison before he was permitted to make the charge. This charge was made by himself and eight dragoons on foot near the angle formed by the left flank and front line of the encampment. Colonel Daviess lived about thirty-six hours after he was wounded, manifesting, his ruling passions in life- ambition, patriotism and an ardent love of military glory. During the last hours of his life he said to his friends around him that he had military talents; that he was about to be cut down in the meridian of life without having an opportunity of displaying them for his own honor, and the good of his country. He was buried alone with the honors of was, and the good of his country. He was buried alone with the honors of war near the right flank of the army, inside of the lines of the encampment, between the two trees. On one of these trees the letter "D" is now visible. Nothing but the stump of the other remains. His grave was made here, to conceal it from the Indians. It was filled up to the top with earth and then covered with oak leaves. I presume the Indians never found it. This precautionary act was performed as a mark of peculiar respect for a distinguished hero and patriot for Kentucky. Captain Spencer's company of mounted riflemen composed the right flank of the army. Captain Spencer and both of his lieutenants were killed. John Tipton was elected and commissioned as captain of this company in one hour after the battle, as a reward for his cool and deliberate heroism displayed during the action. He died at Logansport in 1839, having been twice elected Senator of the United States for the State of Indiana. The clear, calm voice of the General Harrison was heard in words of heroism in every part of the encampment during the action. Colonel Boyd behaved very bravely after repeating these words: "Huzza! My sons of gold, a few more fires and victory will be ours!" Just after daylight the Indians retreated across the prairie carrying off their wounded. This retreat was from the right flask of encampment, commanded by Captain Spencer and Robb, having retreat from the other portions of the encampment a few minutes before. As their retreat became visible, an almost defeating and unicersal shout was raised by our men. "Huzza! Huzza! Huzza!" This shout was almost equal to that of the savages of the commencement of the battle; ours was the shout of victory, theirs was the shout of ferocious but disappointed hope. The morning light disclosed the fact that killed and wounded of the army, numbering between eight and nine hundred men, amounted to one hundred and eight. Thirty-six Indians were found near our lines. Many of their dead were carried off during the battle. This fact was proved by the discovery of many Indian graves recently made near their town. Ours was a bloody victory; theirs was a bloody defeat. Soon after breakfast an Indian chief was discovered on the prairie eighty yards from our front line, wrapped in white cloth. He was found by a soldier by the name of Miller, a resident of Jeffersonville, Indiana. The Indian was wounded in one of his legs, the ball having penetrated his knee and passed down his leg, breaking the bone as it passed. Miller put is foot against him and he raised up his head and said: "Don't kill me, don't kill me." At the same time five or six regular soldiers tried to shoot him, but their muskets snapped and missed fire. Major Davis Floyd came riding toward him with dragon sword and said he would show them how to kill Indians, when a messenger came from General Harrison commanding that he should be taken prisoner. He was taken into camp, where the surgeons dressed his wounds. Here he refused to speak a word of English or tell a word of truth. Thru the medium of an interpreter he said that he was a friend to the white peopel and that the Indians shot him while he was coming to the camp to tell General Harrison that they were about to attack the army. He refused to having his leg amputated, tho he was told that amputation was the means of saving his life. One dogma of Indian superstition is that all good and brave Indians, when they die, go to a region abounding with deet and other game, and to be successful hunter he should have all his limbs, his gun and his dog. He therefore preferred death with all his limbs to life without them. In accordance with his request he was left to die, in company with an old squaw, who was found in the Indian town the next day after he was taken prisoner. They were left in one of our tents. At the time this Indian was taken prisoner, another Indian, who was wounded in the body, rose to his feet in the middle of the prairie and began to walk toward the woods on the opposite side. A number of regular soldiers shot at him but missed him. A man who was a member of the same company with me, Henry Huckleberry, ran a few steps into the prairie and shot an ounce ball thru his body and he fell dead near the margin of the woods. Some Kentucky volunteers went across the prairie immediately and scalped him, dividing his scalp into four pieces, each one cutting a hole in each piece, putting the ramrod thru the hole and plaching his part of the scalp just behind the first thimble of his gun, near it muzzle. Such was the fate of nearly all the Indians found dead on the battle-ground, and such was the disposition of their scalps. The death of Owen, and the fact that Daviess was mortally wounded, with the remembrance also that a large portion of Kentucky's best blook had been shed by the Indians, must be their apology for this barbarous conduct. Such will be excused by all who witnessed the treachery of the Indians, and saw the bloody scenes of this battle. Tecumseh being absent at the time of the battle, a chief called White Loon was the chief commander of the Indians. He was seen in the morning after the battle, riding a large white horse in the woods across the prairie, where he was shot at by a volunteer named Montgomery, of this state. At the crack of the rifle his horse jumped as if the ball had hit him. The Indian rode off toward the town and we saw him no more. During the battle the prophet was safely located on a hill, beyond the reach of our balls, praying to the Great Spirit would change our powder into ashes and sand. We had about forty head of beef cattle when we came to the battle. They all ran off the night of the battle, or they were driven off by the Indians, so that they were all lost. We received rations for two days in the morning after the action. We received no more rations until the next Tuesday evening, six days afterwards. The Indians having retreated to their town, we performed the solemn duty of cosigning to their graves our dead soldiers, without shrouds of coffins. They were placed in graves about two feet deep, from five to ten in each grave. General Harrison having learned that Tecumseh was expected to return from the south with a number of Indians whom he had enlisted in his cause, called a council of officers, who advised him to remain on the battle-field and fortify his camp by a breastwork of logs about four feet high. This work was completed during the day and all troops were immediately places behind each line of the work when they were ordered to pass the watchword from right to left every five minutes so that no man was permitted to sleep during the night. The watchword was "Wide awake, wide awake." To me it was a long, cold, cheerless night. On the next day the dragoons went to The Prophet's Town, which they found deserted by all the Indians, except an old squaw, whom they brought into camp and left her with the wounded chief before mentioned. The dragoons set fire to the town and it was all consumed, casting a brilliant light amid the darkness of the ensuing night. I arrived at the town when it was about half on fire. I found large quantities of corn, beans, and peas. I filled my knapsack with these articles and carried them to the camp, and divided them with the members of our mess, consisting of six men. Having these articles of food, we declined eating horse flesh, which was eaten by a large portion of our men. Thus closes the story of Judge Naylor and gives you a very intimate and accurate view of the struggle from te viewpoint of one who was in the conflict. There is one incident which I omitted, however, which I think should be included here, as it will be of particular interest to the boys who are reading these sketches. The company known as the Yellow Jackets and referred to by Judge Naylor, was under command of Capt. Spier Spencer, and had been raised among the pioneers of Harrison county, down on the Ohio river. Spencer had been serving as Sheriff of that county, and tradition has it that he was one of "Mad Anthony" Wayne's seasoned veterans. He had spent all his life on the frontier and it was but natural that he should organize front he brave and hardy pioneers of southern Indiana a company to serve under General Harrison in defense of their homes and little ones. His brother George was one of the company. So too, was his son, Edward, only fourteen years old, but large for his age and well able to handle a rifle. The taking along of this boy, in a campaign which all knew was to be an arduous one, is evidence of that need ofr men and proof of the devotion and patriotism of these early Hoosiers. There were 47 men in the company, exclusive of officers, and in the fortune of battle it happened that they were placed where the most bloody fighting occured. The Indians were in hand-to-hand conflict with the soldiers at this point and it was a struggle that it commemorated in the large mural painting in the office of the Fowler hotel in Lafayette. Early in the fight Capt. Spencer was shot down, struck by three bullets. Two of his men, Pfimmer and Bayard, started to carry him to a protected place, but a fourth bullet struck him in the shoulder and passed lengthwise through his body, killing him almost instantly. The first and second lieutenant were also killed soon afterward and the ensign, John Tipton, took command of the company. As the battle raged hardest at this point the attention of Gen. Harrison was attracted to it and the rode to this part of the field. "Where is your captain?" he demanded of Ensign Tipton. "Dead, sir," replied the young man. "Where is your lieutenant?" "He is also dead, sir" was the reply. "Who are you?" then demanded the rough old general. "I am the ensign of the company sir, and I was put in command." "Hold your own a little longer my brave boy, and I'll send reinforcements to help you." This story was related by one of Gen. Harrison's staff officers who was by his commander's side when it occurred. Tipton and the Yellow Jackets held their own until assistance arrived, tho fifty percent of the company was wounded or slain. The battle lasted two hours and twenty minutes and when it was over 8 of the 47 Yellow Jackets were dead and fifteen wounded. Among the latter was Capt. Spencer's brother who died on the homeward march. in testimony to his ability and bravery Ensign Tipton was selected captain within an hour after the battle. Tipton was 29 years old at the time. He became a man of prominence in Indiana in after years, served in the legislature, also an Indian agent. He it was who bought the land where the battle was fought in 1829, and in 1834 gave it to the State of Indiana to be preserved as an historical park. I shall have something more to say in a later sketch of the men who comprised this army of Harrison's, many of whom occupied positions of prominence later and had an active part in the development of the state whose centenary we are celebrating this year. The boy, Edward Spencer, whom I have mentioned as the fourteen year old son of Capt. Spencer, went thru the battle unscathed, tho his father and uncle were killed. Gen. Harrison in appreciation of the brave death of the lad's father, took the boy under his personal care for the remainder of the campaign, and later secured his admission to West Point Military Academy, assigning as a reason, bravery shown on the field of battle. Later he secured the admission of a younger brother of Edward to the same institution. From taht time on there has been always in the U.S. army a decedent of Speir Spencer, trying to live up t o te example set by the brave pioneer captain who gave up his life for his country at Tippecanoe. On the third day after the battle preparations were hurriedly begun for a return march. The weather was getting cold, snow was not improbably, and Vincennes was 150 miles away. The wounded were loaded into wagons with supplies, made as comfortable as possible, and the march was begun. There were 22 wagons in the train. Before nightfall the army had got out onto the prairie west of where the city of Lafayette now is where they felt safe from attack. Six days of uneventful marching brot them to Fort Harrison, from which point the wounded were taken to Vincennes by boat. Capt. Snelling and his company of regulars were left there as a garrison and the remainder of the army proceeded south to Vincennes, where they have arrived Nov. 18th, having been away 49 days. By the end of the month the militia were mostly mustered out and sent their homes, where they were welcomed as heroes. Following the battle the people of Indiana spent a quiet winter. The hope of the confederacy among the Indians having been broken up Tecumseh spent some time in the South and returned home before spring and made his way to the British at Detroit, where he allied himself openly with them and became one of the chief figures in the War of 1812.

Date: 1/1/1916
Origin: Historical Sketches of the Wabash Valley
Author: J. Wesley Whicker
Record ID: 00001171
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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