The Battle of Tippecanoe

 Present site of Prophet's Town
Present site of Prophet's Town


Harrison, having lost hopes of a peaceful solution of difficulties, determined upon an aggressive policy. He resolved to march on The Prophet's Town before Tecumseh should return from the South. The following are some of the orders given by General Harrison before his army moved from Vincennes,

"Headquarters, Vincennes,
16th September, 1811.
"The governor of the Indiana Territory and commander-in-chief of the militia, being charged by the president of the United States with a military expedition, takes command of the troops destined for the same; viz.: The detachment of regular troops under command of Col. John P. Boyd (consisting of the Fourth United States Regiment of infantry, and a company of the rifle regiment), the present garrison of Fort Knox, and the various detachments of militia, infantry and dragoons which have been ordered for this service. As the present garrison of Fort Knox is to form a part of Colonel Boyd's command, the officer commanding that post will receive the colonel's orders. Captain Piatt, of the Second United States Regiment, has been appointed quartermaster for all the troops employed on the expedition, and is to be obeyed and respected as such. Capt. Robert Buntin is appointed quartermaster for the militia, and is to be obeyed and respected accordingly. Henry Hurst, Esq., and the Hon. Waller Taylor, aide-de-camp to the commander-in-chief, and, having the rank of majors, are announced as such; all orders coming from them, in his name, whether in writing or verbally delivered, are to be respected and obeyed, as if delivered by the commander-in-chief in person. Captain Piatt is to have the superintendence [sic] of persons appertaining to the quartermaster's or military agent's department, and the direction of all stores destined for the use of the expedition.

"Headquarters, Vincennes,
21st September, 1811.
"The commandants of the several infantry corps will immediately commence drilling their men to the performance of the evolutions, contemplated by the commander-in-chief, for the order of march and battle. The principal feature in all these evolutions is that of a battalion changing its direction by swinging around on its center. This, body, is impracticable in woods. It is to be formed thus: The battalion being on its march in a single rank, and its center being ascertained, the front division comes to the right about, excepting the man in the rear of that division; at the same time the front man of the second division takes a position about four feet to the left of the man in the rear of the front division, and dresses with him in a line at right angles to the line of march, these two men acting as guides or markers for the formation of the new alignment. At the word form the new alignment, march!' the men of the front division, passing in succession to the left of their guide and doubling round him, form on his right; the men of the rear division at the same moment filing up in succession to the left of their guide, dress in a line with him and the guide of the front division. This movement may be performed by any number of men whatever -- by a company or platoon as well as by a battalion. "Joseph Hamilton Daveiss, Esq., has been appointed and commissioned major of dragoons in the militia of Indiana Territory; and is appointed to the command of all the dragoons employed on the present expedition -- which, for this purpose, will form one squadron."

"Headquarters, Vincennes,
22d September, 1811
"The whole of the infantry, regulars and militia, is to be considered as one brigade, to be under the command of Col. John P. Boyd as brigadier-general. Lieutenant-colonel Miller will command the first line, composed of the whole of the United States troops; and Lieutenant-colonel Bartholomew the second line, composed of the whole of the militia infantry; and these officers will report to, and receive their orders from, Colonel Boyd. The whole of the cavalry will be under the command of Major Daveiss, who will report to, and receive his orders from, the commander-in-chief. Captain Spencer's company of volunteers will act as a detached corps, and the captain will receive his orders from the commander-in-chief; they are received as a company of mounted volunteers.

"The whole army will parade to-morrow [sic] at 1 o'clock; the infantry in two columns of files in a single rank. The regular troops will form the leading battalions of each column; the militia infantry the rear. The columns will be at such a distance from each other that when the battalions change their order to one at right angles to their order of march their flanks will meet. Major Daveiss will place his largest troop of dragoons in a squadron at open order 150 yards advanced of the columns of infantry, and at right angles to the order of march. The next largest troop will be placed in the same form and order at 150 yards in rear of the columns. The third troop will be placed, in single line, on the right flank, at 150 yards from the line of infantry, and parallel thereto. Captain Spencer's company will be formed on the left flank, in single rank, and in a line parallel to the infantry, at a distance of 150 yards from the left column.

"The army, thus formed, will commence its march -- the columns taking care to keep their distance and their heads dressed. When in the woods the movements will be regulated by signals from the drums. The maneuvering on to-morrow [sic] being on open ground, the sight will be sufficient to govern the movements. Upon the word being given to receive the enemy in front in two lines,' each battalion (of which there are supposed to be four -- two in each column) will swing round on its center in the manner directed by the general order of the 21st instant. The dragoons in front will be supposed to keep the enemy in check until the lines are formed, when they will be recalled by a signal, which, for the present, will be the retreat. The dragoons and mounted riflemen on the flanks and in the rear will continue their first positions until ordered otherwise. If the second line should be ordered up to form on the flank of the first line, the commanding officer will order the line to break off by files from the right of platoons -- the right battalion marching obliquely to the right, and the left to the left, and forming, respectively, upon the right and left of the front line. At the same time the dragoons and mounted riflemen on the flanks will incline to the right or left, as the case may be, to give room for the infantry to form, and will endeavor to turn the flank of the enemy. When the first troop of dragoons is called, it will pass in short columns of files through the intervals of the front line, and form a corps de reserve immediately in the rear of the front line; and, upon the moving up of the second line of infantry, the rear troop of dragoons will move up and join the advanced troop in the rear of the first line. The lines of march will be formed again in the manner the commander-in-chief shall direct. Dr. Blood, having been appointed a surgeon's mate, Dr. Foster will employ him in such a manner as will be most beneficial to the service."

"Headquarters, Vincennes,
22d September, 1811.
"After Orders. -- The army being formed in the order of march prescribed by the general order of the day, if an attack should be made on the right flank, the whole will face to the right, and it will then be in two lines parallel to the line of march, the right column forming the front line and the left the rear. Should the attack be made on the left flank, the reverse of what is here described will take place -- i.e, the whole army will face to the left, the left column acting as the front line, and the right as the rear -- the same maneuver as is directed for an attack in front, with this difference only, that the leading grand division of each battalion will form by the filing up of each man in succession, and the second grand division by doubling round its front guide and displaying to the left. To resist an attack in front and rear, the two leading battalions will perform the maneuver directed for the front attack, and the two others that which has been last described. In all cases where there is an attack other than a front one, the dragoons and riflemen will consider themselves as front, rear, or flank guards, according to the situation they may be placed in, relatively to the rest of the army, and perform the duties which those situations respectively require, as heretofore directed."

On the 26th of September, General Harrison, in command of this military expedition, left Vincennes. On the 3d of October he encamped at a point on the east side of the Wabash, two miles north of the present site of Terre Haute. This place, known by the French settlers as Bataille des Illinois, was, according to Indian tradition, the scene of a great battle between the Illinois and Iroquois tribes. Here General Harrison erected a fort, which, by unanimous request of his commissioned officers, was named Fort Harrison. General Harrison sent a message to the friendly Delaware chiefs, inviting them to meet him on the Wabash. The request was complied with by all who were able to march. While on their way to join Harrison, the Delaware chiefs were met by some of The Prophet's followers and told that the Indians were soon to take up arms against the Americans, and requested them to join the confederacy, and threatened them with punishment if they refused. Sending a message to Harrison to inform him of this, they visited The Prophet. On the evening of the 10th of October, a sentinel in Harrison's camp was severely wounded by some Indians who fired on him. Governor Harrison had hoped that the advance of his army from Vincennes would overawe the Indians and avert a conflict. The impression on them, though not sufficient for this, was very perceptible. The Miami chiefs stated to visit him, and the Wea tribe declared that they would never join The Prophet. Harrison, being convinced of the warlike intentions of the savages, determined to march upon Tippecanoe, desiring, if possible, to bring the contest to a close before Tecumseh should return from among the southern Indians. His departure from Fort Harrison was delayed because of poor arrangements concerning his supply of provisions.

On the 27th of October, the Delaware chiefs, who had visited The Prophet at Tippecanoe, arrived at Fort Harrison. They reported to the general the hostile preparations of The Prophet. They stated that he treated them with great contempt and that he was practicing his diabolical rites and holding great war dances every night. They stated that the Indians, who fired on and wounded the sentinel at Fort Harrison, had returned to Tippecanoe, and that they belonged to the Shawnee tribe. And that The Prophet had declared his intention of burning the first prisoner taken.

After a conference it was decided to send a deputation to The Prophet by the friendly Indian chiefs. The governor demanded of The Prophet that all stolen horses should be returned to their owners, and that Indian murderers of white settlers be delivered up to him, and that the Kickapoo, Pottawatomie and Winnebago Indians, then at Tippecanoe, should return to their tribes. Fort Harrison was completed on the 28th of October, and left garrisoned by a few soldiers, the majority of whom were invalids, under Lieut.-Col. Miller.

The army resumed its march for The Prophet's Town on the following day. It consisted of about 910 men, composed of 250 regular troops, under Col. John P. Boyd; about sixty Kentucky volunteers; and some 600 volunteers from the Indiana Territory, including companies organized at Corydon and Vincennes, and other points along the Wabash and Ohio rivers. Of these about 120 were dragoons. Among the Kentucky volunteers were some of that State's most gallant sons, such as Joseph Hamilton Daveiss, an eminent lawyer, a man of remarkable eloquence and talents; Gen. Samuel Wells, who had rendered valuable service in former Indian wars; Col. Abraham Owen, a venerable participant in frontier struggles; Colonel Guiger, who organized a small company near Louisville; in this army also were Croghan, O'Fallon, Shipp, Cheem and Edwards, who afterward distinguished themselves as officers in the army of the United States.

The march to Tippecanoe was conducted with great caution. There were two routes leading to The Prophet's Town in general use by the Indians; one on each side of the Wabash river. The one on the left, or southeast side was the shorter, but lay in a wooded country where the army would be exposed to ambuscade. The route on the right, or northwest side of the Wabash, presented less opportunity for such attacks, and was therefore preferred by General Harrison, over which to conduct his army. In order to deceive the Indians if possible, General Harrison caused the road on the southeast side of the river to be reconnoitered and opened into a wagon road. The army stated from Fort Harrison, moving up the east bank until it had crossed Big Raccoon creek. But suddenly, on the 31, he crossed the Wabash near the site of the present town of Montezuma, Parke county, and took the other trail. On the 2d of November, the army built a block-house about twenty-five feet square, in a small prairie, at a point on the west bank of the Wabash, nearly three miles below the mouth of the Big Vermillion river. At this post a guard of eight men and a sergeant were stationed for the purpose of protecting the boats, which up to this place had been used in the transportation of supplies. The uncertainty concerning the movements of the Indians had been a source of uneasiness to General Harrison. Had he been opposed by an army similar to his own, it would have been his duty as a military commander to have ascertained the situation of the enemy and to interpose his force between them and the unprotected settlements he left behind him. But, with an army of savages, who had no artillery or military supplies to carry with them, who could traverse the forests without roads, who could dissolve their army organization into single men and reunite at a given point with the greatest secrecy and dexterity, the situation was hazardous. Since Governor Harrison was the civil as well as the military head of Indiana Territory, he was charged with the responsibility of protecting the women and children in the unprotected settlements. The thought that the Indian might be stealing his way to murder the defenseless inhabitants of Vincennes while he, with all available military force of the settlements, was marching to attack him in his own stronghold, bore heavily upon the governor's mind. He arose one night from his restless sleep and ordered Major Jordan of the Indiana volunteers to take with him forty picked men and return to Vincennes. His orders were, in case the army should be destroyed, to fortify the courthouse and other public buildings and to dispatch the governor of Kentucky, with the utmost speed, for assistance. The army proceeded on its march, there being no incident worthy of mention until it reached Big Pine creek in Warren county. This stream was bordered by high, rocky bluffs, covered by cedar and pine trees. The defile through which the army would have to pass in going down into and coming up out of this stream was long and narrow, and afforded an opportunity where a few men might successfully dispute the progress of his entire army. The Indians had twice availed themselves of this pass in opposing expeditions sent against them. First, in 1786, against an expedition led by General Clarke. Secondly, in 1790, against Colonel Hamtramck, who led a portion of the American army.

General Harrison halted and sent forth a reconnoitering party to find a crossing where his army would be less exposed to attack. A ford, evidently used by the Indians, was found further up the stream, on the border of a prairie country. The beauty of this region, stretching away to the northwest, toward the Illinois river, a distance of about 100 miles, was viewed by the soldiers with great admiration. The Big Pine was crossed in safety. No Indians were seen until the army had well nigh reached The Prophet"s Town.

On the night of the 5th of November, the army encamped near the present village of Montmorenci, in the western part of Tippecanoe county, about ten miles from The Prophet's Town. On the following day the march was resumed. Indians were seen lurking about, and the interpreters in front of the army were instructed to interview them. The Indians refused to talk, and replied only with defiant gestures. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon of the 6th of November, the army arrived within about a mile and a half of The Prophet's Town. General Harrison was urged to make an immediate attack. But his instructions were to avoid hostilities, if possible, and he still hoped for the arrival in his army of the deputation of friendly Indians, which he had sent while yet at Fort Harrison, concerning whom nothing had been heard or seen. General Harrison sent Captain Dubois, accompanied by an interpreter, forward with a flag of truce. The Indians refused to converse with him, and endeavored to cut them off from the army on their return. Harrison determined to encamp for the night, and started in search of suitable ground. When he had almost reached the town, The Prophet sent forward a deputation of three Indians, including his chief counselor. With much pretended innocence they inquired why the American army had approached so near their town. They disclaimed all hostile intentions, and told Harrison that The Prophet had sent a pacific message to him by the friendly Indians, who had returned to Fort Harrison by the road on the southeast side of the Wabash, and had by that cause failed to meet him. It was arranged that General Harrison should meet The Prophet on the following day and conclude a treaty of peace. He inquired of the Indians for a suitable camping ground, where the army could have plenty of fuel and water. They referred him to a site on a creek northwest of the town. Harrison dispatched two of his officers, Majors Marston G. Clark and Waller Taylor, to inspect this ground. After an examination, they reported everything satisfactory, and the army went into camp for the night.

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Nancy Trice,