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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter III. — Ire of the Indian Priesthood as a Disturbing Political Element. Battle of Tippecanoe.

ANOTHER power was, at this period, in the rapid process of development, through the influence attained by the Shawnee prophet, Ellksattawa, over the entire body of tribes. This person, though belonging to the reservation of his tribe, at Wappecanotta, had located his residence principally on the Wabash, in the vicinity of the mouth of the Tippecanoe river, which became the centre of his power, and whence emanated his oracular revelations. By the recital and interpretation of dreams, by fasting, and by an assumed indifference to all worldly considerations and rewards, he had attained a high position and influence. Ellksattawa had lost one eye, which defect he concealed by wearing a black veil or handkerchief over the disfigured organ. He affected great sanctity; did not engage in the secular duties of war or hunting; was seldom in public; devoted most of his time to fasting, the interpretation of dreams, and offering sacrifices to spiritual powers; pretended to see into futurity, and to foretell events, and announced himself to be the mouthpiece of God. The Indians flocked to him from every quarter; there was no name that carried such weight as his. They never ceased talking of his power, or expatiating on the miracles he wrought; and the more extraordinary the revelations he made, the more readily were they believed and confided in. He possessed a remarkably clear conception of the Indian character, great shrewdness, and astuteness. It being essential to his purposes that he, who was the concentrated wisdom of the Indian race, should have no rivals, the minor priests and powwows became but the retailers of his words and prophecies; and, when one was found who disputed his authority, or resisted his power, he did not proceed against him in a direct manner, but insidiously operated upon the superstitions of the Indian mind. In this way, he disposed of Tarhe, the wise and venerable sachem king of the Wyandots, who, being accused of witchcraft, was condemned to be burnt at the stake. The very knowledge that he possessed such an indomitable will, increased the fear and respect entertained for him by the Indians; which was, however, based on an implicit belief in his miraculous gifts. It has been mentioned that the prophet was not a warrior; his sole

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object was to employ his power in furtherance of the projects of his brother Tecumseh. 476

There was a higher purpose concealed under these manifestations of Ellksattawa. He told the Indians that their pristine state, antecedent to the arrival of the Europeans, was most agreeable to the Great Spirit, and that they had adopted too many of the manners and customs of the whites. He counselled them to return to their primeval simple condition; to throw away their flints and steels, and resort to their original mode of obtaining fire by percussion. He denounced the woollen stuffs as not equal to skins for clothing; he commended the use of the bow and arrow. Like Pontiac, who, however, had made no pretensions to priestly power, he professed a profound respect for the ancient manners and customs of the Indians; whether influenced thereto by his knowledge, derived from tradition, of the potency of this argument, as made use of by that renowned chief; or, which might have been the case, the idea originated with himself. Fifty years only had passed since the era of Pontiac, and young men who had been engaged in that bold attempt to resist British power, might yet be on the stage of action. Now, however, the real purpose was not to resist, but to invite the co-operation of British power. This was the secret of his actions. This was the argument used by the subordinate emissaries of the Indian trading agencies located in Canada, who visited the Miami of the Lakes, the Wabash, the Scioto, the Illinois, and the upper Mississippi. In the course of a few years, the doctrines of Ellksattawa had spread among the tribes in the valley of the Missouri, over those located on the most distant shores of Lake Superior, and throughout all the Appalachian tribes of the South. They were as current on the Ockmulgee, the Chattahootchee, and the Alabama, as they were on the Wabash, and the Miami. He was himself a half-Creek.

The speeches of the Indians in their assemblages had, for some time, savored of these counsels, and the name of the Shawnee prophet was known, and the influence of his teaching disseminated throughout the country. In 1811, the congregation of large masses of Indians around the residence of this oracular personage, on the banks of the upper part of the Wabash, created considerable alarm, and General Harrison, who had closely watched this secret movement, reported it to the government, by which he was authorized to march a military force from Vincennes, up the Wabash. This army, comprising one regiment of regular infantry, an auxiliary body of mounted Kentucky volunteers, and also volunteer militia from other Western States, left Vincennes in October, 1811, and, in November, reached the Indian villages located on eligible open grounds near the confluence of the Tippecanoe. A preliminary conference was immediately held with the Indians, who recommended a locality at a moderate distance inland, as a suitable one for an encampment. General Harrison had no reason to

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suspect Indian treachery, nor is it quite clear that any was originally intended. But that night the prophet was observed practising his secret rites of divination; and he reported that the omens were favorable for an immediate attack. The army was encamped with the skill and precaution indicated by the teachings of Wayne; and, agreeably to his rigid rules, General Harrison had arisen to order the reveille, and was in his tent engaged in drawing on his boots, when the chief musician stepped in to ask whether he should commence the beat. "Not yet; but presently," was his reply. 477 The expression had scarcely passed his lips, when the Indian war-cry was heard. One of the sentinels on post had observed an arrow fall on the grass, which did not it seems reach its destination; and, his curiosity being aroused, he was endeavoring to peer through the intense darkness in the direction whence the arrow came, when the Indians made a sudden onslaught. 478 A thousand wolves could not have produced a more horrific howl. The lines were driven in; the horses of the officers, fastened to stakes in the square, broke loose; confusion everywhere prevailed; and the army was assailed from all points. General Harrison 479 gallantly mounted his horse, and endeavored to restore order at the principal points of attack. The mounted volunteers from Kentucky and Indiana charged, as well as they could, through the darkness. The fourth regiment of United States infantry, which was in a high state of discipline, restored confidence to the foot, and as soon as the dawn of day permitted them to act, they repulsed the Indians. At the same time the volunteer cavalry drove the enemy across the prairie to their coverts. There had been, however, a most severe and lamentable slaughter. Daylight rendered visible the dead bodies of the chivalric Colonel Davies, of Kentucky, Colonel Owens, of Indiana, a Senator in Congress, and of a vast number of brave officers and men. The army was only saved from destruction by the rising of the sun, which rendered the enemy visible. Such a battle had not been fought since St. Clair's defeat, and the sensation produced throughout the Union was immense. Numbers of the Indians had been slain by the broadsword, in their retreat. This battle was not, however, fought by Tecumseh, who was then absent on a mission to the Creeks, his relatives by his mother's side. Thus commenced a new Indian war.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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