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The Battle of Tippecanoe
by R. Taylor


 Tens-Kwau-Ta-Waw, the Prophet (LAC)

While not really a battle of the War of 1812, the Battle of Tippecanoe was none the less significant in the long term.

   Upon arriving at the site, Harrison warned his men of the possible treachery of the Prophet. The troops were placed in a quadrangular formation; each man was to sleep fully clothed. Fires were lit to combat the cold, rainy night, and a large detail was assigned to sentinel the outposts. Although Tecumseh had warned his brother not to attack the white men until the confederation was strong and completely unified, the incensed Prophet lashed his men with fiery oratory. Claiming the white man's bullets could not harm them, the Prophet led his men near the army campsite. From a high rock ledge west of the camp, he gave an order to attack just before daybreak on the following day. The sentinels were ready, and the first gunshot was fired when the yells of the warriors were heard. Many of the men awoke to find the Indians upon them. Although only a handful of the soldiers had had previous battle experience, the army bloodily fought off the reckless, determined Indian attack. Two hours later, thirty-seven soldiers were dead, twenty-five others were to die of injuries, and over 126 were wounded. The Indian casualties were unknown, but their spirit was crushed. Angered by his deceit, the weary warriors stripped the Prophet of his power and threatened to kill him. Harrison, expecting Tecumseh to return with a large band of Indians, fortified his camp soon after the battle. No man was permitted to sleep the following night. Taking care of their dead and wounded, the demoralized Indians left Prophet's Town, abandoning most of their food and belongings. When Harrison's men arrived at the village on November 8, they found only an aged squaw, whom they left with a wounded chief found not far from the battlefield. After burning the town, the army began their painful return to Vincennes.

THE AFTERMATH

Tecumseh returned three months later to find his dreams in ashes. Believing the reconstruction of the confederation to be too risky and the chance of Indian survival under the United States government to be dim, he gathered his remaining followers and allied himself with the British forces. Tecumseh played a key role in the War of 1812, being active in the fall of Detroit, but he was killed at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, at the age of forty-five. Scorned by the Indians and renounced by Tecumseh, the Prophet took refuge along nearby Wildcat Creek. Although remaining in disgrace, the Prophet retained a small band of followers, who roamed with him through the Northwest and Canada during the War of 1812. He died in Wyandotte County, Kansas, in November 1834.

General Harrison remained governor of Indiana Territory until September, 1812, when he was assigned command of the Northwestern frontier in the War of 1812. He was in command at the capture of Detroit and the Battle of the Thames, where Tecumseh was killed. Thereafter Harrison returned to civilian life; the Whigs, in need of a national hero, nominated him for President in 1840. He won by a majority of less than 150,000, but swept the Electoral College, 234 to 60. When he arrived in Washington in February 1841, Harrison let Daniel Webster edit his Inaugural Address, ornate with classical allusions. Webster obtained some deletions, boasting in a jolly fashion that he had killed "seventeen Roman proconsuls as dead as smelts, every one of them." Webster had reason to be pleased, for while Harrison was nationalistic in his outlook, he emphasized in his Inaugural that he would be obedient to the will of the people as expressed through Congress.


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