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Tecumseh and His Indian Confederacy

In our last post we talked about the Northwest Territory, the American push to settle it, and the Northwest Indian War. However, the American victory in the war did not lead to an end of the conflict between the American settlers and the Native tribes who called this area home. In this article we will examine the life and work of a native leader who rose from the ashes of the Northwest Indian Confederacy to become one of the most powerful and remembered Indian leaders of the early 19th century. A man who, in conjunction with his brother, formed a confederacy of native tribes that is arguably unparalleled in American history. Today we will look at Tecumseh and his Confederacy.

Tecumseh’s Early Life

Tecumseh's father, Puckeshinwau, was a Shawnee war chief of the Kispoko sept or division. Tecumseh's mother, Methoataaskee, probably belonged to the Pekowi sept and the Turtle clan, although some traditions maintain that she was Creek. His parents met and married in what is now Alabama, where many Shawnees had settled after the Iroquois drove then out of the Ohio Country in the 17th-century Beaver Wars. Around 1759, Puckeshinwau and Methoataaskee moved to the Ohio Country as part of a Shawnee effort to reunite in their traditional homeland.

Tecumseh, the fifth of eight children, was likely born in the Shawnee town of Chillicothe, in the Scioto River valley, near present-day Chillicothe, Ohio, or in a nearby Kispoko village. The best estimates his birthdate suggest it was somewhere around March 1768. Born into the Panther clan of the Kispoko sept of the Shawnee tribe, like most Shawnees, his name showed his clan: translations of his name from the Shawnee language include "I Cross the Way", and "Shooting Star", references to a meteor associated with the Panther clan.

In 1763, the British Empire laid claim to the Ohio Country following its victory in the French and Indian War. The change of policies toward the Native Americans from those of the French to those of the British Crown resulted in an Indian uprising known as Pontiac’s War. Tecumseh was born in the peaceful decade after Pontiac's War, a time when Puckeshinwau became the chief of the Kispoko town on the Scioto. In a 1768 treaty, the Iroquois ceded land south of the Ohio River (including present-day Kentucky), land they did not control, to the British. This was a region the Shawnee and other tribes used for hunting. As a result, the Shawnees tried to organize further resistance against colonial occupation of the region. This resistance resulted in Lord Dunmore’s War and culminated in the 1774 Battle of Point Pleasant, in which Puckeshinwau was killed. Peace negotiations following the battle resulted in the Shawnees ceding Kentucky to the colonists.

George Rogers Clark ca. 1830
George Rogers Clark ca. 1830

When the American Revolution began, many Shawnees allied themselves with the British, raiding into Kentucky. Tecumseh, who would have been too young to fight, was among those forced to move in the face of American counterraids. In 1777, his family moved from the Scioto River to a Kispoko town on the Mad River, near present-day Springfield, Ohio. General George Rogers Clark, commander of the Kentucky militia, led a major expedition into Shawnee territory in 1780. Tecumseh, although a non-combatant, may have seen the ensuing Battle of Piqua on August 8. After the Shawnees retreated, moving to the northwest along Great Miami River, Clark burned their villages and crops. Clark returned in 1782 and destroyed those villages as well, forcing the Shawnees to retreat further north, near present-day Bellefontaine, Ohio.

Joseph Brant
Joseph Brant

After the American Revolution, several of the new States claimed land north of the Ohio River by right of conquest, land they intended to use to pay the promised enlistment bounties they had offered during the war. As a result, the Native tribes met in an inter-tribal conference at Lower Sandusky (present day Fremont Ohio) to develop a response. The doctrine they developed, driven by Mohawk Joseph Brant among others, said that Indian lands were held in common by all tribes, and so no further land should be ceded to the United States without the consent of all the tribes. This idea made a strong impression on Tecumseh, who was just fifteen years old when he attended the conference. The United States, however, insisted on dealing with the tribes individually, getting each to sign separate land treaties and so, in January 1786, Motlanthe, civil chief (as opposed to war chief) of the Mekoche Shawnee sept, signed the Treaty of Fort Finney, surrendering most of Ohio to the Americans. Later that year, Motlanthe was murdered by a Kentucky militiaman, resulting in a new border war.

Tecumseh’s Rise to Chiefdom

Tecumseh, now about eighteen years old, became a warrior under the tutelage of his older brother Cheeseekau, a noted war chief of the Shawnee. Along with his brother, Tecumseh took part in attacks on flatboats traveling down the Ohio River, carrying waves of immigrants into lands the Shawnees had lost. In 1788, Tecumseh, Cheeseekau and their family moved westward, relocating near Cape Girardeau, Missouri. They hoped to be free of American settlers, only to find colonists moving there as well, so they did not stay long.

In late 1789 or early 1790, Tecumseh traveled south with Cheeseekau to live with the Chickamauga Cherokees, led by Dragging Canoe, near Lookout Mountain in what is now Tennessee. Some Shawnees already lived among the Chickamaugas, who were fierce opponents of U.S. expansion. Cheeseekau led about forty Shawnees in raids against colonists; Tecumseh was presumably among them.

Dragging Canoe
Dragging Canoe

In 1791, Tecumseh returned to the Ohio Country to take part in the Northwest Indian War as a minor leader. The Native confederacy that had been formed to fight the war was led by the Shawnee war chief Blue Jacket and provided a model for the confederacy Tecumseh created years later. He led a band of eight followers, including his younger brother Lalawethika, later known as Tenskwatawa. According to native accounts, Tecumseh missed fighting in the major Indian victory known as St. Clair's defeat. The following year he took part in other skirmishes before rejoining Cheeseekau in Tennessee. Tecumseh was with Cheeseekau when he was killed in an unsuccessful attack on Buchanan's Station near Nashville in 1792.

Tecumseh returned to the Ohio Country at the end of 1792 and fought in several more skirmishes. In 1794, he fought in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, a bitter defeat for the Indians. Once Blue Jacket agreed to make peace with the Americans, the Native confederacy fell apart. Tecumseh did not attend the signing of the Treaty of Greenville (1795), in which about two-thirds of Ohio and portions of present-day Indiana were ceded to the United States.

By 1796, Tecumseh was both the civil and war chief of a Kispoko band of about 50 warriors and 250 people and his sister Tecumapease was the band's principal female chief. Tecumseh's band moved to various locations before settling in 1798, close to the Delaware Indians along the White River near present-day Anderson, Indiana. He and his band lived there for the next eight years. By 1808 Tecumseh began to be seen as a leader by his community. He was outraged by the continued loss of land to the Americans, and he began to travel around the southern Great Lakes region to visit village leaders and urge them to stop cooperating with the Americans and threatening to kill chiefs who continued to work with the Americans.

The Prophet or Tenskwatawa

Originally named Lalawethika ("He Makes a Loud Noise" or "Noise Maker"), Tenskwatawa was part of a set of triplet brothers born in early 1775 to Puckeshinwau and Methoataaskee in a Shawnee village along the Mad River in western Ohio. During his early years however, he showed no evidence of the powerful spiritual leader he would become as an adult. Tenskwatawa was a failure "at almost everything he attempted" during his youth. When Chiksika, his oldest brother and a leading warrior, took his brothers out to hunt and fight in small battles, Tenskwatawa stayed behind because he lacked competence as a skilled hunter and warrior. Because of this, Tenskwatawa was never able to distinguish himself as a hunter or fighter as his older brother, Tecumseh, had done.

Tecumseh, who was seven years older, was an especially gifted athlete who became the favorite of most of the tribe. In contrast, Tenskwatawa was isolated, unpopular, and depressed by his lack of success. He began drinking alcohol, which further lowered his self-esteem and increased his problems. He also blinded himself in his right eye with his own arrow when he was younger. Lonely and insecure, Tenskwatawa attempted to make up for his deficiencies by boasting and making up stories about how talented and important he was. His depression and alcoholism, which worsened as he grew older, made him unable to support his wife and several children.

Tenskwatawa (The Prophet)
Tenskwatawa (The Prophet)

In 1794, nineteen-year-old Tenskwatawa was present at the Battle of Fallen Timbers with two of his brothers, Tecumseh and Sauwauseekau, but he did not distinguish himself as a warrior. In his late twenties, he decided to become a medicine man and apprenticed with a tribal healer, Penagashea ("Changing Feathers"). However, when Tenskawatawa was unable to save his people after they fell seriously ill, probably with influenza, he became humiliated and even more depressed. By the early 1800s, Tenskawatawa had developed a reputation as a notorious drunk among the Shawnee living along the White River.

Beginning in 1805, Lalawethika had a series of religious visions that transformed his life, caused him to change his name to Tenskwatawa (meaning "Open Door"), and led him to reject his old ways. He experienced his first vision in May 1805, when he fell into unconsciousness during one of his alcoholic stupors and was thought to be dead. Unexpectedly reviving as his body was being prepared for burial, he recounted a powerful vision of two different worlds, one filled with ample blessings for the virtuous ones who lived as the Master of Life intended, while the other world was filled with pain, hardship, and terror for those who refused to follow traditional tribal ways. Tenskwatawa became known as "The Prophet," began preaching, and gathered a growing number of followers. He was soon recognized as a powerful and influential spiritual leader. More visions followed in succeeding months, including revelations that the European invaders from the east were "the children of the Evil Spirit."

The Prophet's developing purification movement caused him to urge his followers to reject European habits, such as consumption of alcohol, and to return to their traditional ways. He wanted his people to reject the white man's customs by forbidding marriages between Indians and whites, as well as the use of Euro-American foods, clothing, and manufactured goods. Tenskwatawa also encouraged his people to follow traditional gender roles (women as farmers, men as hunters and warriors). Tenskwatawa proved to be harsh, even brutal, in his treatment of those who opposed him and his teachings. He accused his detractors, and anyone who associated with settlers, of witchcraft, including Indians who had converted to Christianity. For Tenskwatawa, Indian witches were the most active agents of the evil spirits on earth, and he sought to identify and destroy them.

The changes to Tenskawatawa's life, along with his rise as a powerful spiritual leader in the early 1800s, coincided with other situations that threatened Native Americans' traditional way of life and caused rising tensions between natives and settlers. These included significant liquor consumption among natives, ever-increasing land cession treaties that promised annuities to natives in exchange for giving up their lands to the U.S. government, and the steady encroachment of white settlers in areas around Indian-held treaty land.

William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison

1805 Tenskwatawa, who evolved into an effective speaker and charismatic leader of his religious movement, formed a new community with his followers along the White River, near the present site of Greenville in western Ohio. The Indian village's population rapidly increased after Tenskwatawa accurately predicted a solar eclipse in 1806. The prediction humiliated William Henry Harrison, the governor of the Indiana Territory since previously, Harrison had publicly derided Tenskwatawa as a fraud to the tribal leaders, but many tribal members considered the accuracy of Tenskwatawa's prediction as proof of his power.

The Prophet detested the leaders of the United States government, including President Thomas Jefferson and Harrison, the Indiana territorial governor. Tenskwatawa also opposed some tribal leaders, such as Little Turtle, and their representatives because he felt that they had agreed to the demands of the government. When some of the tribal chiefs tried to promote compromise and conciliation with the United States, Tenskwatawa, proclaiming his obedience to the Great Spirit, lashed out against the pro-U.S. sympathizers, and castigated them as wicked traitors.

The Indian Confederacy

With the Prophet continuing to preach unity among his people and urging them to resist the government and the settlers' way of life, his brother, Tecumseh, began to gather the tribes at Greenville to set up a pan-Indian resistance movement. Officials in Ohio became concerned about the increasing numbers of followers of Tecumseh and the Prophet. As the settlers became more hostile and planned to act, Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh found it increasingly difficult to feed their expanding village. Although there was opposition from some tribal leaders such as Little Turtle, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa decided to move farther west and set up a village in a more remote location to further distance his followers from the settlers.

Woodland Indian Village
Woodland Indian Village

In 1808 Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh founded a new village along the Tippecanoe River, north of present-day Lafayette, Indiana. The settlers called the Indian village Prophetstown, after the Shawnee spiritual leader. Many of the disaffected came to align themselves with the Prophet and his teachings. Soon, the town attracted followers from many different tribes, including Shawnee, Chickamauga, Ojibwe/Chippewa, Mascouten, Fox, Sauk, Piankeshaw, Lenape (Delaware), Kickapoo, and Potawatomi. Prophetstown soon expanded into a large, multi-tribal community of the Prophet's followers that became a "powerful Indian city-state" for the pan-Indian movement. Located near the juncture of two rivers (the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers), Prophetstown gained significance as a critical hub in the political and military alliance that was forming around Tecumseh, as well as the spiritual hub of the purification movement that the Prophet set up to preserve tribal culture.

One effect of the increasing pan-Indian alliance was steady pressure from Harrison and the U.S. government to accept land-cession treaties, including a pivotal one made in 1809. Under the terms of the Treaty of Fort Wayne, the tribes in the Wabash River area ceded an estimated 2.5 to 3 million acres of land to the U.S. government. While warriors continued to congregate at Prophetstown, Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh, who adamantly wanted to retain their independence from the United States, denounced the treaty. They became openly hostile to those who had signed it, including other tribal leaders, and began discussions of a alliance with the British who had first approached Tecumseh in late 1808.

Grouseland - William Henry Harrison's Home
Grouseland - William Henry Harrison's Home

It was not until 1810 that the Americans first took serious notice of him. William Henry Harrison, the governor of Indiana Territory, was impressed by Tecumseh and even referred to him in one letter as "one of those uncommon geniuses." Harrison thought that Tecumseh had the potential to create a strong empire if he went unchecked and suspected that he was behind attempts to start an uprising. He also feared that if Tecumseh was able to achieve a larger tribal federation, the British would take advantage of the situation to press their claims to the Northwest.

In August 1810, Tecumseh and 400 armed warriors traveled down the Wabash River to meet with Harrison in Vincennes. The warriors were all wearing war paint, and their sudden appearance at first frightened the soldiers at Vincennes. The leaders of the group were escorted to Harrison’s home, Grouseland. Tecumseh insisted that the Fort Wayne treaty was illegitimate; he asked Harrison to nullify it and warned that Americans should not attempt to settle the lands sold in the treaty. Tecumseh acknowledged to Harrison that he had threatened to kill the chiefs who signed the treaty if they carried out its terms, and that his confederation was rapidly growing. Harrison responded to Tecumseh that the Miami were the owners of the land and could sell it if they so choose. He also rejected Tecumseh's claim that all the Indians formed one nation and insisted that each nation could have separate relations with the United States. As proof, Harrison told Tecumseh that the Great Spirit would have made all the tribes to speak one language if they were to be one nation.

Confrontation at Grouseland
Confrontation at Grouseland

Tecumseh launched an "impassioned rebuttal", but Harrison was unable to understand his language. A Shawnee who was friendly to Harrison cocked his pistol from the sidelines to alert Harrison that Tecumseh's speech was leading to trouble. Finally, an army lieutenant who could speak Tecumseh's language warned Harrison that he was encouraging the warriors with him to kill Harrison. Many of the warriors began to pull their weapons and Harrison pulled his sword. The entire town's population was only 1,000 and Tecumseh's men could have easily massacred the town, but once the few officers pulled their guns to defend Harrison, the warriors backed down. Chief Winnemac, who was friendly to Harrison, countered Tecumseh's arguments to the warriors and instructed them that because they had come in peace, they should return in peace and fight another day. Before leaving, Tecumseh informed Harrison that unless the treaty was nullified, he would seek an alliance with the British.

During the next year, tensions began to rise quickly. Four settlers were murdered on the Missouri River, and in another incident, a boatload of supplies was seized by natives from a group of traders. Harrison summoned Tecumseh to Vincennes to explain the actions of his allies. In August 1811, Tecumseh met with Harrison at Vincennes, assuring him that the Shawnee brothers meant to remain at peace with the United States.

Tecumseh then traveled to the south on a mission to recruit allies among the "Five Civilized Tribes". Most of the southern nations rejected his appeals, but a faction among the Creeks, who came to be known as the Red Sticks, answered his call to arms, leading to the Creek War, which also became a part of the War of 1812.

Having heard from intelligence that Tecumseh was far away, Governor Harrison sent this report to the Department of War, concerning Vincennes's meeting:

Tecumseh "is now upon the last round to put a finishing stroke upon his work. I hope, however, before his return that that part of the work which he considered complete will be demolished and even its foundation rooted up."

Tecumseh made a strategic error by leaving Tenskawatawa alone and in charge while he traveled to the south. Before heading south, Tecumseh ordered his brother to take no action, but his brother continued to call for the death of Harrison. As tensions rose, Harrison openly denounced The Prophet as a fraud and a fool, enraging him. Tenskwatawa lifted the ban on firearms and was able to quickly procure them in copious quantities from the British in Canada. Tenskwatawa took his brother's absence as an opportunity to raise tensions even higher by further stirring up his followers.

Battle of Tippecanoe (Prophetstown)
Battle of Tippecanoe (Prophetstown)

Governor Harrison marched his army north along the Wabash River from Vincennes with more than 1,000 men on an expedition to intimidate the Prophet and his followers. His stated goal was to force them to accept peace, but he acknowledged that he would launch a pre-emptive attack on the natives if they refused. His army stopped near present-day Terre Haute to construct Fort Harrison to guard a critical position on the Wabash River. While at Fort Harrison, Harrison received orders from Secretary of War William Eustis authorizing him to use force, if necessary, to disperse the Indians at Prophetstown.

On November 6, 1811, Harrison's army arrived outside Prophetstown, and Tenskwatawa agreed to meet Harrison in a conference to be held the next day. Tenskwatawa, perhaps suspecting that Harrison intended to attack the village, decided to risk a pre-emptive strike, sending out about 500 of his warriors against the American encampment. Before the dawn of the next day, the Indians attacked, but Harrison's men held their ground, and the Indians withdrew from the village after the battle (Battle of Tippecanoe). Despite the surprise attack, the victorious Americans burned Prophetstown the following day and returned to Vincennes. The battle was a severe blow for Tenskwatawa, who lost prestige and the confidence of his brother. Although it was a significant setback, and many including Harrison claimed it was a “death blow” to Tecumseh’s confederacy, Tecumseh began to secretly rebuild the alliance upon his return from the south.

Harrison hoped his preemptive strike would subdue Tecumseh's confederacy, but a wave of frontier violence erupted after the battle. Indians, many who had fought at Tippecanoe, sought revenge, killing as many as 46 Americans. Tecumseh sought to restrain warriors from premature action while preparing the confederacy for future hostilities. By December, most of the major American papers began to carry stories on the battle. Public outrage quickly grew, and many Americans blamed the British for inciting the tribes to violence and supplying them with firearms. Andrew Jackson was among the forefront of men calling for war, claiming that Indians were "excited by secret British agents." Other western governors called for action; William Blount of Tennessee called on the government to "purge the camps of Indians of every Englishmen to be found..." Acting on popular sentiment, Congress passed resolutions condemning the British for interfering in American domestic affairs. Tippecanoe fueled the worsening tension with Britain, culminating in a declaration of war only a few months later.

The War of 1812

As the Americans went to war with the British, Tecumseh found British allies in Canada. Canadians would later remember Tecumseh as a defender of Canada, but his actions in the War of 1812—which would cost him his life—were a continuation of his efforts to secure Native American independence from outside dominance. By the time the United States declared war on Great Britain in June 1812, as many as 800 warriors had gathered around the rebuilt Prophetstown and Tecumseh's Indian allies throughout the Northwest Territory numbered around 3,500 warriors.

Map of Fort Malden (Amherstberg) Area
Map of Fort Malden (Amherstberg) Area

In June 1812, Tecumseh arrived at Fort Malden in Amherstburg to join his cause with the British in the War of 1812. The British had few troops and scant resources in the west, so Native allies were essential to the defense of Upper Canada. The British quickly recognized Tecumseh as the most influential of their Indian allies and relied upon him to direct the Native forces.

He and his warriors scouted and probed enemy positions as American General William Hull crossed into Canada and threatened to take Fort Malden. On July 25, Tecumseh's warriors skirmished with Americans north of Amherstburg, inflicting the first American fatalities of the war. Tecumseh turned his attention to cutting off Hull's supply and communication lines on the U.S. side of the border, south of Detroit. On August 5, he led 25 warriors in two successive ambushes, scattering a far superior force. Tecumseh captured Hull's outgoing mail, which revealed that the general was fearful of being cut off. On August 9, Tecumseh joined with British soldiers at the Battle of Maguaga, successfully thwarting Hull's attempt to reopen his line of communications. Two days later, Hull pulled the last of his men from Amherstburg, ending his attempt to invade Canada.

On August 14, Major-General Isaac Brock, British commander of Upper Canada, arrived at Fort Malden and began preparations for attacking Hull at Fort Detroit. Tecumseh and Brock "formed an immediate friendship that served to cement the alliance." Brock's high esteem for Tecumseh contributed to a popular belief that Tecumseh was appointed a brigadier general in the British Army, though this is a myth.

Tecumseh led about 530 warriors in the Siege of Detroit. According to one account, Tecumseh had his men repeatedly pass though an opening in the woods to create the impression that thousands of Indians were outside the fort, a story that may be apocryphal. To almost everyone's astonishment, Hull decided to surrender on August 16. Afterwards, Brock wrote of Tecumseh:

“He who attracted most of my attention was a Shawnee chief, Tecumset [sic], brother to the Prophet, who for the last two years has carried on, contrary to our remonstrances, an active warfare against the United States. A more sagacious or a more gallant warrior does not I believe exist. He was the admiration of every one who conversed with him.”

In all likelihood, Brock assured Tecumseh that the British would support Indian land claims. He wrote his superiors that restoration of land "fraudulently usurped" from the Indians should be considered in any peace treaty. News of Detroit's capture revived British discussion of creating of an Indian barrier state to ensure the security of Upper Canada. After his short stay in the area, Brock returned to the Niagara frontier, where he was killed in action several weeks later.

Meanwhile, the British had negotiated a temporary armistice and called off further offensives. Tecumseh was frustrated by the unexpected British-American armistice, which came at a time when his confederacy was attacking other American forts and were in need of British support. In September 1812, he and Roundhead led 600 warriors to assist in an attack on Fort Wayne, but the siege failed before they arrived. Another siege against Fort Harrison also failed. Tecumseh stayed in the Prophetstown region for the remainder of 1812, coordinating Indian war efforts.

Map of the Siege of Fort Meigs
Map of the Siege of Fort Meigs

Tecumseh returned to Amherstburg in April 1813. Meanwhile, the Americans, having suffered defeat at the Battle of Frenchtown in January 1813, were pushing back toward Detroit under the command of William Henry Harrison. Tecumseh and Roundhead led about 1,200 warriors to Fort Meigs, a recently constructed American fort along the Maumee River in Ohio. The Indians initially saw little action while British forces under General Henry Procter laid siege to the fort. Fighting outside the fort began on May 5 after the arrival of American reinforcements, who attacked the British gun batteries. Tecumseh led an attack on an American sortie from the fort, then crossed the river to help defeat a regiment of Kentucky militia. The British and Indians had inflicted heavy casualties on the Americans outside the fort but failed to capture it. Procter's Canadian militia and many of Tecumseh's warriors left after the battle, so Procter was compelled to lift the siege.

One of the most famous incidents in Tecumseh's life occurred after the battle. American prisoners had been taken to the nearby ruins of Fort Miami. When a group of Indians began killing prisoners, Tecumseh rushed in and stopped the slaughter. According to Sugden (1997),

"Tecumseh's defense of the American prisoners became a cornerstone of his legend, the ultimate proof of his inherent nobility."

Tecumseh and Procter returned to Fort Meigs in July 1813, Tecumseh with 2,500 warriors, the largest contingent he would ever lead. They had little hope of taking the strongly defended fort, but Tecumseh sought to draw the Americans into open battle. He staged a mock battle within earshot of the fort, hoping the Americans would ride out to assist. The ruse failed and the second siege of Fort Meigs was lifted. Procter then led a detachment to attack Fort Stephenson on the Sandusky River, while Tecumseh went west to intercept potential American advances. Procter's attack failed and the expedition returned to Amherstburg.

Tecumseh hoped further offensives were forthcoming, but after the American naval victory in the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813, Procter decided to retreat from Amherstburg. Tecumseh pleaded with Procter to stay and fight:

"Our lives are in the hands of the Great Spirit. We are determined to defend our lands, and if it is his will, we wish to leave our bones upon them."

Procter insisted the defense of Amherstburg was untenable now that the Americans controlled Lake Erie, but he promised to make a stand at Chatham, along the Thames River. Tecumseh reluctantly agreed. The British burned Fort Malden and public buildings in Amherstburg, then began the retreat, with William Henry Harrison's army in pursuit.

Map of the Battle of the Thames
Map of the Battle of the Thames

Tecumseh arrived at Chatham to find that Procter had retreated even further upriver. Procter sent word that he had chosen to make a stand near Moraviantown. Tecumseh was angered by the change in plans, but he led a rearguard action at Chatham to slow the American advance and was slightly wounded in the arm. Many of Tecumseh's despairing allies deserted during the retreat, leaving him 500 warriors. Procter and Tecumseh, outnumbered more than three-to-one, faced the Americans at the Battle of the Thames on October 5. Tecumseh positioned his men in a line of trees along the right, hoping to flank the Americans. The left, commanded by Procter, collapsed almost at once, and Procter fled the battlefield. Colonel Richard Mentor Johnson led the American charge against the Indians. Tecumseh was killed in the fierce fighting, and the Indians dispersed. The Americans had won a decisive victory and finally put an end to Tecumseh’s Confederacy.

Just as his name referred to a “shooting star”, Tecumseh’s life burned brightly across the Northwest Territory and was extinguished just as quickly as a meteorite burns out in the atmosphere. How this Shawnee chief and warrior is viewed depends on whether you are white or native, American or Canadian but it is clear that he will be remembered forever.

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Drake, Benjamin. Life of Tecumseh and his brother The Prophet. Cincinnati: E. Morgan & Co., 1841.

Edmunds, R. David. Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.

Smelser, Marshall. "Tecumseh, Harrison, and The War of 1812." Indiana Magazine of History 65.1 (1969): 25-44. 10 May 2021.

Smithsonian Museum of American Art. "Tecumseh and the War of 1812." 10 2014. 10 05 2021.

Sugden, John. "Early Pan-Indianism: Tecumseh's Tour of the Indian Country, 1811-1812". American Indian Quarterly Fall 1986: 273-304.

—. Tecumseh: A Life. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997.


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