Tecumseh returns from the south—proposes to visit the President, but declines, because not permitted to go to Washington at the head of a party—attends a council at fort Wayne—proceeds to Malden and joins the British—governor Harrison's letter to the War Department relative to the north-west tribes.
During the two succeeding days, the victorious army remained in camp, for the purpose of burying the dead and taking care of the wounded. In the mean time, colonel Wells, with the mounted riflemen, visited the Prophet's town, and found it deserted by all the (page 154) Indians except one, whose leg had been broken in the action. The houses were mostly burnt, and the corn around the village destroyed. On the ninth the army commenced its return to Vincennes, having broken up or committed to the flames all their unnecessary baggage, in order that the wagons might be used for the transportation of the wounded.
The defeated Indians were greatly exasperated with the Prophet: they reproached him in bitter terms for the calamity he had brought upon them, and accused him of the murder of their friends who had fallen in the action. It seems, that after pronouncing some incantations over a certain composition, which he had prepared on the night preceding the action, he assured his followers, that by the power of his art, half of the invading army was already dead, and the other half in a state of distraction; and that the Indians would have little to do but rush into their camp, and complete the work of destruction with their tomahawks. "You are a liar," said one of the surviving Winnebagoes to him, after the action, "for you told us that the white people were dead or crazy, when they were all in their senses and fought like the devil." The Prophet appeared dejected, and sought to excuse himself on the plea that the virtue of his composition had been lost by a circumstance of which he had no knowledge until after the battle was over. His sacred character, however, was so far forfeited, that the Indians actually bound him with cords, and threatened to put him to death. After leaving the Prophet's town, they marched about twenty miles and encamped on the bank of Wild Cat creek.
In a letter to the war department, dated fourth of December, governor Harrison writes:
"I have the honor to inform you that two principal chiefs of the Kickapoos of the prairie, arrived here, bearing a flag, on the evening before last. The account which they give of the late confederacy under the Prophet, is as follows: The Prophet, with his Shawanoes, is at a small Huron village, about twelve miles from his former residence, on this side of the Wabash, where also were twelve or fifteen Hurons. The Kickapoos are encamped near the Tippecanoe, the Potawatamies (page 155) have scattered and gone to different villages of that tribe. The Winnebagoes had all set out on their return to their own country, excepting one chief and nine men, who remained at their former villages. The Prophet had sent a messenger to the Kickapoos of the prairie to request that he might be permitted to retire to their town. This was positively refused, and a warning sent to him not to come there. These chiefs say that the whole of the tribes who lost warriors in the late action, attribute their misfortune to the Prophet alone; that they constantly reproach him with their misfortunes, and threaten him with death; that they are all desirous of making their peace with the United States, and will send deputations to me for that purpose, as soon as they are informed that they will be well received. They further say, that the Prophet's followers were fully impressed with a belief that they could defeat us with ease; that it was their intention to have attacked us at fort Harrison, if we had gone no higher; that Racoon creek was then fixed on, and finally Pine creek, and that the latter would probably have been the place, if the usual route had not been abandoned, and a crossing made higher up; that the attack made on our sentinels at fort Harrison was intended to shut the door against accommodation; that the Winnebagoes had forty warriors killed in the action, and the Kickapoos eleven, and ten wounded. They have never heard how many of the Potawatamies and other tribes were killed."
With the battle of Tippecanoe, the Prophet lost his popularity and power among the Indians. His magic wand was broken, and the mysterious charm by means of which he had for years, played upon the superstitious minds of this wild people, scattered through a vast extent of country, was dissipated forever. It was not alone to the character of his prophetic office that he was indebted for his influence over his followers. The position which he maintained in regard to the Indian lands, and the encroachments of the white people upon their hunting grounds, increased his popularity, which was likewise greatly strengthened by the respect and deference with which the politic Tecumseh—the master (page 156) spirit of his day—uniformly treated him. He had, moreover, nimble wit, quickness of apprehension, much cunning and a captivating eloquence of speech. These qualities fitted him for playing his part with great success; and sustaining for a series of years, the character of one inspired by the Great Spirit. He was, however, rash, presumptuous and deficient in judgment. And no sooner was he left without the sagacious counsel and positive control of Tecumseh, than he foolishly annihilated his own power, and suddenly crashed the grand confederacy upon which he and his brother had expended years of labor, and in the organization of which they had incurred much personal peril and endured great privation.
Tecumseh returned from the south through Missouri, visited the tribes on the Des Moins, and crossing the head waters of the Illinois, reached the Wabash a few days after the disastrous battle of Tippecanoe. It is believed that he made a strong impression upon all the tribes visited by him in his extended mission; and that he had laid the foundation of numerous accessions to his confederacy. He reached the banks of the Tippecanoe, just in time to witness the dispersion of his followers, the disgrace of his brother, and the final overthrow of the great object of his ambition, a union of all the Indian tribes against the United States: and all this, the result of a disregard to his positive commands. His mortification was extreme; and it is related on good authority, that when he first met the Prophet, he reproached him in bitter terms for having departed from his instructions to preserve peace with the United States at all hazards. The attempt of the Prophet to palliate his own conduct, excited the haughty chieftain still more, and seizing him by the hair and shaking him violently, he threatened to take his life.
During the ensuing winter, there was peace on the frontiers. In the month of January, 1812, Little Turtle, the celebrated Miami chief, wrote to governor Harrison, that all the Prophet's followers had left him, except two camps of his own tribe, and that Tecumseh had just joined him with only eight men; from which he concluded there was no present danger to be apprehended (page 157) from them. Shortly afterwards, Tecumseh sent a message to governor Harrison informing him of his return from the south; and that he was now ready to make the promised visit to the President. The governor replied, giving his permission for Tecumseh to go to Washington, but not as the leader of any party of Indians. The chieftain, who had been accustomed to make his visits to Vincennes, attended by three or four hundred warriors, all completely armed, did not choose to present himself to his great father, the President, shorn of his power and without his retinue. The visit was declined, and here terminated the intercourse between him and governor Harrison.
Early in March, the peace of the frontiers was again disturbed by Indian depredations; and in the course of this and the following month, several families were murdered on the Wabash and Ohio rivers. On the 15th of May, there was a grand council held at Mississiniway, which was attended by twelve tribes of Indians. They all professed to be in favor of peace, and condemned the disturbances which had occurred between the Indians and the settlers, since the battle of Tippecanoe. Tecumseh was present at this council and spoke several times. He defied any living creature to say that he had ever advised any one, directly or indirectly, to make war upon the whites: it had constantly been his misfortune, he said, to have his views misrepresented to his white brethren, and this had been done by pretended chiefs of the Potawatamies, who had been in the habit of selling land to the white people, which did not belong to them. "Governor Harrison," he continued, "made war on my people in my absence: it was the will of God that he should do so. We hope it will please God that the white people will let us live in peace. We will not disturb them, neither have we done it, except when they came to our village with the intention of destroying us. We are happy to state to our brothers present, that the unfortunate transaction that took place between the white people and a few of our young men at our village, has been settled between us and governor Harrison; and I will further state, that had I been (page 158) at home, there would have been no bloodshed at that time."
In the month of June, following this council, Tecumseh made a visit to fort Wayne, and sought an interview with the Indian agent at that place. Misfortune had not subdued his haughty spirit nor silenced the fearless expression of his feelings and opinions. He still maintained the justice of his position in regard to the ownership of the Indian lands, disavowed any intention of making war upon the United States, and reproached governor Harrison for having marched against his people during his absence. The agent made a long speech to him, presenting reasons why he should now become the friend and ally of the United States. To this harangue, Tecumseh listened with frigid indifference, made a few general remarks in reply, and then with a haughty air, left the council-house, and took his departure for Malden, where he joined the British standard.
In taking leave of that part of our subject which relates to the confederacy of Tecumseh and the Prophet, and the principle on which it was established, we quote, as relevant to the case, and as an interesting piece of general history, the following letter from governor Harrison to the Secretary of War:
"Cincinnati, March 22, 1814.
"Sir,—The tribes of Indians on this frontier and east of the Mississippi, with whom the United States have been connected by treaty, are the Wyandots, Delawares, Shawanoes, Miamis, Potawatamies, Ottawas, Chippewas, Piankashaws, Kaskaskias and Sacs. All but the two last were in the confederacy which carried on the former Indian war against the United States, that was terminated by the treaty of Greenville. The Kaskaskias were parties to the treaty, but they had not been in the war. The Wyandots are admitted by the others to be the leading tribe. They hold the grand calumet which unites them and kindles the council fire. This tribe is nearly equally divided between the Crane, at Sandusky, who is the grand sachem of the nation, and Walk-in-the-Water, at Brownstown, near (page 159) Detroit. They claim the lands bounded by the settlements of this state, southwardly and eastwardly; and by lake Erie, the Miami river, and the claim of the Shawanoes upon the Auglaize, a branch of the latter. They also claim the lands they live on near Detroit, but I am ignorant to what extent.
"The Wyandots of Sahdusky have adhered to us through the war. Their chief, the Crane, is a venerable, intelligent and upright man. Within the tract of land claimed by the Wyandots, a number of Senecas are settled. They broke off from their own tribe six or eight years ago, but received a part of the annuity granted that tribe by the United States, by sending a deputation for it to Buffalo. The claim of the Wyandots to the lands they occupy, is not disputed, that I know of, by any other tribe. Their residence on it, however, is not of long standing, and the country was certainly once the property of the Miamis.
"Passing westwardly from the Wyandots, we meet with the Shawanoe settlement at Stony creek, a branch of the Great Miami, and at Wapauckanata, on the Auglaize. These settlements were made immediately after the treaty of Greenville, and with the consent of the Miamis, whom I consider the real owners of these lands. The chiefs of this band of Shawanoes, Blackhoof, Wolf and Lewis, are attached to us from principle as well as interest—they are all honest men.
"The Miamis have their principal settlement at the forks of the Wabash, thirty miles from fort Wayne; and at Mississinaway, thirty miles lower down. A band of them under the name of Weas, have resided on the Wabash, sixty miles above Vincennes; and another under the Turtle on Eel river, a branch of the Wabash, twenty miles north-west of fort Wayne. By an artifice of Little Turtle, these three bands were passed on general Wayne as distinct tribes, and an annuity granted to each. The Eel river and Weas, however, to this day call themselves Miamis, and are recognized as such by the Mississinaway band. The Miamis, Maumees or Tewicktowes, are the undoubted proprietors of all that beautiful country which is watered by the Wabash and its branches; and there is as (page 160) little doubt that their claim extended at least as far east as the Scioto. They have no tradition of removing from any other quarter of the country; whereas all the neighboring tribes, the Piankishaws excepted, who are a branch of the Miamis, are either intruders upon them, or have been permitted to settle in their country. The Wyandots emigrated first from lake Ontario, and subsequently from lake Huron—the Delawares from Pennsylvania and Maryland—the Shawanoes from Georgia—the Kickapoos and Potawatamies from the country between lake Michigan and the Mississippi—and the Ottawas and Chippewas from the peninsula formed by lakes Michigan, Huron and St Clair, and the strait connecting the latter with Erie. The claims of the Miamis were bounded on the north and west by those of the Illinois confederacy, consisting originally of five tribes, called Kaskaskias, Cahokias, Peorians, Michiganians, and Temorais, speaking the Miami language, and no doubt branches of that nation.
"When I was first appointed governor of Indiana territory, these once powerful tribes were reduced to about thirty warriors, of whom twenty-five were Kaskaskias, four Peorians, and a single Michiganian. There was an individual lately alive at St. Louis, who saw the enumeration made of them by the Jesuits in the year 1745, making the number of their warriors four thousand. A furious war between them and the Sacs and Kickapoos, reduced them to that miserable remnant, which had taken refuge amongst the white people of the towns of Kaskaskias and St. Genevieve. The Kickapoos had fixed their principal village at Peoria, upon the south bank of the Illinois river, while the Sacs remained masters of the country to the north.
"During the war of our Revolution, the Miamis had invited the Kickapoos into their country to assist them against the whites, and a considerable village was formed by that tribe on Vermillion river, near its junction with the Wabash. After the treaty of Greenville, the Delawares had, with the approbation of the Miamis, removed from the mouth of the Auglaize to the head waters of White river, a large branch of the Wabash—and the Potawatamies, without their consent, had (page 161) formed two villages upon the latter river, one at Tippecanoe, and the other at Chippoy, twenty-five miles below.
"The Piankishaws lived in the neighborhood of Vincennes, which was their ancient village, and claimed the lands to the mouth of the Wabash, and to the north and west as far as the Kaskaskias claimed. Such was the situation of the tribes, when I received instructions from President Jefferson, shortly after his first election, to make efforts for extinguishing the Indian claims upon the Ohio, below the mouth of the Kentucky river, and to such other tracts as were necessary to connect and consolidate our settlements. It was at once determined, that the community of interests in the lands amongst the Indian tribes, which seemed to be recognized by the treaty of Greenville, should be objected to; and that each individual tribe should be protected in every claim that should appear to be founded in reason and justice. But it was also determined, that as a measure of policy and liberality, such tribes as lived upon any tract of land which it would be desirable to purchase, should receive a portion of the compensation, although the title might be exclusively in another tribe. Upon this principle the Delawares, Shawanoes, Potawatamies, and Kickapoos, were admitted as parties to several of the treaties. Care was taken, however, to place the title to such tracts as might be desirable to purchase hereafter, upon a footing that would facilitate the procuring of them, by getting the tribes who had no claim themselves, and who might probably interfere, to recognize the titles of those who were ascertained to possess them.
"This was particularly the case with regard to the lands watered by the Wabash, which were declared to be the property of the Miamis, with the exception of the tract occupied by the Delawares on White river, which was to be considered the joint property of them and the Miamis. This arrangement was very much disliked by Tecumseh, and the banditti that he had assembled at Tippecanoe. He complained loudly, as well of the sales that had been made, as of the principle of considering a particular tribe as the exclusive (page 162) proprietors of any part of the country, which he said the Great Spirit had given to all his red children. Besides the disaffected amongst the neighboring tribes, he had brought together a considerable number of Winnebagoes and Folsovoins, from the neighborhood of Green Bay, Sacs from the Mississippi, and some Ottawas and Chippewas from Abercrosh on lake Michigan. These people were better pleased with the climate and country of the Wabash, than with that they had left.
"The Miamis resisted the pretensions of Tecumseh and his followers for some time; but a system of terror was adopted, and the young men were seduced by eternally placing before them a picture of labor, and restriction as to hunting, to which the system adopted would inevitably lead. The Potawatamies and other tribes inhabiting the Illinois river and south of lake Michigan, had been for a long time approaching gradually towards the Wabash. Their country, which was never abundantly stocked with game, was latterly almost exhausted of it. The fertile regions of the Wabash still afforded it. It was represented, that the progressive settlements of the whites upon that river, would soon deprive them of their only resource, and indeed would force the Indians of that river upon them who were already half starved.
"It is a fact, that for many years the current of emigration, as to the tribes east of the Mississippi, has been from north to south. This is owing to two causes; the diminution of those animals from which the Indians procure their support; and the pressure of the two great tribes, the Chippewas and Sioux, to the north and west. So long ago as the treaty of Greenville, the Potawatamies gave notice to the Miamis, that they intended to settle upon the Wabash. They made no pretensions to the country, and their only excuse for the intended aggression was, that they were 'tired of eating fish and wanted meat.' It has already been observed that the Sacs had extended themselves to the Illinois river, and that the settlements of the Kickapoos at the Peorias was of modern date. Previously to the commencement of the present war, a considerable number had joined their brethren on the Wabash. The (page 163) Tawas from the Des Moins river, have twice made attempts to get a footing there.
"The question of the title to the lands south of the Wabash, has been thoroughly examined; every opportunity was afforded to Tecumseh and his party to exhibit their pretensions, and they were found to rest upon no other basis than that of their being the common property of all the Indians. The Potawatamies and Kickapoos have unequivocally acknowledged the Miami and Delaware titles."
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