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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 IV. — The Indians Recklessly Engage in the War of 1812.

ON the 18th of the June following this battle, Congress declared war against Great Britain. This war, according to the newly announced oracular view, appeared to the Indians as the manifestation of the power of the Great Spirit, and was regarded as the means employed to disenthral them from the hated rule of the white race. Their great Shawnee prophet had announced to the tribes, from his oracular jesukean, or prophet's lodge, on the banks of the Wabash, the approaching epoch of their deliverance, and the news had been diffused far and wide. The intimate political relations of his brother, Tecumseh, with the British authorities of Canada, as now fully disclosed, 480 formed the nucleus of their power; and, hence, they could depend on the British for arms, provisions, and clothing. Was it any wonder that they flocked to the British standard as soon as it was displayed? Twenty-seven days after the declaration of this war by Congress, the Indians were in possession of Michilimackinac; and, on the same day, their tomahawks were red with the gore of the slaughtered garrison of Chicago, who had abandoned the fort walls, and sought safety on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. It is not designed to create an impression that our Indian relations had had, originally, any controlling influence on this question. The war resulted mainly from long-pending disputes concerning maritime rights and national injustice. The concurrent Indian hostilities on the frontiers, were but a sequence of the original cause of complaint. Tet the assumption that they were originated by British emissaries was clearly deducible from the events which transpired on the frontiers, and it derived additional confirmation, in a short time, from the fact, that these Indian tribes were engaged to "fight by the side of white men," 481 and to serve as auxiliaries to the British army in the West. It was the threat of the Indian tomahawk and scalping-knife that unstrung the already weak nerves of General Hull, at Detroit; and the employment of these barbarous weapons lent an additional horror to the massacres perpetrated on the River Raisin, and at Chicago. In the war of 1812, Great Britain made the same unjustifiable use

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of the Indians as she had previously done in that of 1776; they were her cruel and bloody satellites. Thyendanagea had gone to the hunting grounds of the spirit land; but his counterpart still existed in Tecumseh, who possessed greater energy of purpose, equal bravery, and had more deeply enlisted the warmest sympathies of the Indians. The former, it is hoped, had, ere his death, overcome his violent prejudices against the Americans; but the latter fell in defence of rights and of a cause which he believed to be just, while his dishonest adviser and auxiliary in command, General Proctor, fled ingloriously from the field. 482

The Indians believed that, in the war of 1812, they had an opportunity of regaining possession of the western country, perhaps to the line of the Illinois, while the British thought to secure a more southerly line of boundary than that prescribed by the treaty of 1783; a motive which, in the minds of sober-thinking people, hardly redounded to their credit. Their conduct in this war, as in that of the Revolution, served only to add to its horrors, and, by acts of cruelty, incited the Americans to greater exertions. It is but sorry testimony to the intellectual calibre of British statesmen, to say that they supposed the fury of savages, however demoniac, could produce permanent national apprehension, or exert any practical influence on a people inured to hardships, and educated for centuries in the principles of political self-reliance, and faith in God. If the Indians were in error as to the possibility of recovering their lands, or limiting the westward progress of civilization, those who led them into this error were certainly not deceived, and could not have supposed this probable, or even possible. That the Indians had been told that they would be able to recover their territory north-west of the Ohio, is evident from the speech of Tecumseh, made to General Proctor, at Amhertsburg, in 1813. "When the war was declared," said the great Indian captain, "our Father stood up, and gave us the tomahawk, and told us that he was now ready to strike the Americans; that he wanted our assistance; and that he would certainly get us our lands back, which the Americans had taken from us." 483

After reciting the long course of maritime injustice and wrong, the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs emphatically say, "Forbearance has ceased to be a virtue." "Whether the British Government has contributed, by active measures, to excite against us the hostility of the savage tribes on our frontiers, your Committee are not disposed to occupy much time in investigating. Certain indications of general notoriety may supply the place of authentic documents, though these have not been wanting to establish the fact in some instances. It is known that symptoms of British hostility towards the United States have never failed to produce corresponding symptoms among those tribes. It is also well known that, on all such occasions, abundant supplies of the ordinary munitions of war have been afforded by the British commercial companies, and even from British garrisons, wherewith they were enabled to commence that

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system of savage warfare on our frontiers, which has been, at all times, indiscriminate in its effect on all ages, sexes, and conditions, and so revolting to humanity." 484

"Summer before last," [i. e., 1810,] says Tecumseh, "when I came forward with my red brethren, and was ready to take up the hatchet in favor of our British Father, we were told not to be in a hurry; that he had not yet determined to fight the Americans." 485 This impatience on the part of the Indians was so great, that it appears they took the initiative at the battle of Tippecanoe. That action thrilled through the nerves of the Americans like an electric shock, and was the first intimation that the frontiers were about to become the scene of another severe contest with the bloodthirsty and infuriated savages. But, though the impatient Indians chafed at the delay, it served to give a degree of unanimity to their hostility which even the war of the Revolution had not witnessed. From the termination of the Appalachian chain to the great lake basins of Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior, and onward to the
Falls of St. Anthony, the Indians assumed an attitude of determined hostility; and, as soon as the key-note was sounded in Canada by the British bugle, an answering yell of discord resounded through the land, which electrified the people on the frontiers, made the mother quake with dread in her nursery, and the patriotic militiaman fly to arms.

During the winter following the action on the Wabash, Ellksattawa continued his incantations, delivering his oracular responses with more than Ephesian authority; while his distinguished brother continued those negotiations with the tribes, which were necessary to prepare them for conflict; and we would not have known they were ready to take up the hatchet two years previously, had not Tecumseh stated it in his celebrated speech. 486

Early in the spring of 1813, the forests surrounding every military post in the West were, at nearly the same time, filled with armed warriors, who watched the gates with the keen eyes of a panther ready to spring upon its prey. Their central rendezvous, and the depot whence they drew their supplies, was Fort Maiden, at Amhertsburg, near the mouth of the Detroit river. They had watched the movements of Hull in Michigan with the accuracy of a vulture, or of an eagle on its perch; and with the same rapacious vigilance, had permitted no one to escape who ventured from the gates of a fort, or of any guarded enclosure. When the apprehensions of Hull had reached their climax, and the British flag was hoisted on the ramparts of Fort Shelby, their exultation was extreme. The Chippewas and Ottawas, with delegations of the Menomonees, Winnebagoes, and Sioux, had, on the 17th of July preceding, enabled Captain Roberts, with a trifling force, 487 to surprise and capture
Michilimackinac. On the 4th of August, a large body of Wyandots and other Indians, lying in ambuscade at

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Brownston, defeated Major Van Horn, with a force of 200 riflemen, driving him back to Detroit with great loss. 488 On the 9th of August, after Hull had re-crossed Detroit river, Colonel Miller also encountered at Brownston the same force of Indians, led by Tecumseh, and supported by a large body of British regulars, located behind temporary breastworks, whom he gallantly charged with the bayonet, and defeated. 489 On the 16th of the same month, Detroit was surrendered to an inconsiderable army, 490 hastily mustered by General Brock, who officially intimated that the Indians could, not be restrained. General Hull observes that "the history of barbarians in the north of Europe does not furnish examples of more greedy violence than these savages have exhibited;" 491 and thus consoles himself, by a historical truism, for a surrender which is a lasting stigma on the military history of the Union.

Decision and address were alone required for the maintenance of that post. The Indians had neither the disposition, capacity, nor will to contend with the garrison of a strong fortification; and this fort mounted eight brass guns, beside twenty-five pieces of iron ordnance, 492 and likewise contained four hundred rounds of twenty-four pound shot. 493

On the 15th of August, the garrison of Chicago, under Captain Heald, was surrounded by Pottawattamies, while on its march to Detroit, along the open shores of Lake Michigan, and all but about fifteen massacred, including the women and children who followed the camp. The stock of stores and baggage was captured. 494

On the 8th of September, the Wabash Indians invested fort Harrison, then garrisoned by a few men, under command of Captain Zachary Taylor. 495 They killed several persons outside of the fort, and invested it closely for two days. Finding they could not force an entry, they fired one of the blockhouses, the lower part of which contained the provisions of the garrison. Attempts to save it proving unsuccessful, it was burned down, leaving an opening about eighteen feet in width. With great self-possession and cool courage, Captain Taylor caused the breach to be repaired, though subjected to an incessant fire from the enemy, and finally beat them off. 496

On the 5th of the month, the savages laid siege to Fort Madison, of Missouri, on the Upper Mississippi, commencing their operations by shooting and scalping a soldier near the gate. They then opened a brisk attack with ball and buckshot, killed the cattle in an outer enclosure, fired at the flag-staff, and cut the rope which held the flag, causing it to fall, and also made several bold and dexterous attempts to set the works on fire.

On the 28th of September, a series of severe skirmishes took place on the St. John's river, between the Creeks and Seminoles and a party of 250 Georgia volunteers, in

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which both parties suffered a loss in killed and wounded. The principal bands engaged were those of the Lotchnoay and Alligator Indians. Early in October, Governor Edwards, of Illinois, marched against the Indian town of Peoria, and the savages in its vicinity. He was attacked by the Indians in their usual manner, but succeeded in burning their towns and destroying their corn, losing only a few men. In the month of November, the hostilities of the Wabash Indians became so troublesome, that a force of about 1250 volunteers, under General Hopkins, was marched from Vincennes against them. On the 20th, 21st, and 22d, he applied the torch to several of their villages, utterly destroyed the prophet's town, and drove the enemy from their strongholds, who, however, avoided any decisive battle. On the 12th of December, a party, comprising 260 or 300 Indians, assaulted the camp of Colonel Campbell, on the Mississinaway branch of the Wabash, killing eight men and wounding thirty-five or forty. 497 General Harrison commended the intrepidity with which this attack was repulsed.

This event closed the campaign of 1812.

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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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