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Battle of Tippecanoe

Nov. 7, 1811

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Part of the northwest territory was formed into the territory of Indiana, including the present states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and William Henry Harrison was made its governor and superintendent of Indian affairs. Resigning his seat in congress, he entered on the duties of his office, which included the confirmation of land grants, the defining of townships, and others that were equally important. Governor Harrison was reappointed successively by President Jefferson and President Madison. He organized the legislature at Vincennes in 1805, and applied himself especially to improving the condition of the Indians, trying to prevent the sale of intoxicating liquors among them, and to introduce inoculation for the small-pox. He frequently held councils with them, and, although his life was sometimes endangered, succeeded by his calmness and courage in averting many outbreaks. On 30 September, 1809, he concluded a treaty with several tribes by which they sold to the United States about 3,000,000 acres of land on Wabash and White rivers. This, and the former treaties of cession that had been made, were condemned by Tecumseh (q. v.) and other chiefs on the ground that the consent of all the tribes was necessary to a legal sale. The discontent was increased by the action of speculators in ejecting Indians from the lands, by agents of the British government, and by the preaching of Tecumseh's brother, the "prophet", and it was evident that an outbreak was at hand. 

In the following spring depredations by the savages were frequent, and the governor sent word to Tecumseh that, unless they should cease, the Indians would be punished. The chief promised another interview, and appeared at Vincennes on 27 July, 1811, with 300 followers, but, awed probably by the presence of 750 militia, professed to be friendly. Soon afterward, Harrison, convinced of the chief's insincerity, but not approving the plan of the government to seize him as a hostage, proposed, instead, the establishment of a military post near Tippecanoe, a town that had been established by the prophet on the upper Wabash.

The news that the government had given assent to this scheme was received with joy, and volunteers flocked to Vincennes. Harrison marched from that town on 26 September, with about 900 men, including 350 regular infantry, completed Fort Harrison, near the site of Terre Haute, Indiana, on 28 October, and, leaving a garrison there, pressed forward toward Tippecanoe. On 6 November, when the army had reached a point a mile and a half distant from the town, it was met by messengers demanding a parley. A council was proposed for the next day, and Harrison at once went into camp. taking, however, every precaution against a surprise. At four o'clock on the following morning a fierce attack was made on the camp by the savages, and the fighting continued till daylight, when the Indians were driven from the field by a cavalry charge. During the battle, in which the American loss was 108 killed and wounded, the governor directed the movements of the troops, he was highly complimented by President Madison in his message of 18 Dec., 1811, and was also thanked by the legislatures of Kentucky and Indiana.


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