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CHRONICLES OF CANADA Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton In thirty-two volumes
TECUMSEH A Chronicle of the last Great Leader of his People
By ETHEL T. RAYMOND TORONTO, 1915
I. THE BOYHOOD OF TECUMSEH II. THE BAPTISM OF FIRE III. A LEADER AMONG HIS PEOPLE IV. THE PROPHET V. A GIFTED ORATOR VI. THE BATTLE OF TIPPECANOE VII. UNDER THE BRITISH FLAG VIII. FIGHTING ON AMERICAN SOIL IX. THE BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE X. TECUMSEH'S LAST FIGHT BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
THE BOYHOOD OF TECUMSEH
Three Indian figures stand out in bold relief on the background of Canadian history—the figures of Pontiac, Brant, and Tecumseh. The Ottawa chief Pontiac was the friend of the French, and, when the French suffered defeat, he plotted and fought to drive the English from the Indian country. Brant, the Mohawk, took the king's side against the Americans in the War of Independence, and finally led his defeated people to Canada that they might have homes on British soil. And Tecumseh threw in his lot with the British in the War of 1812 and gave his life in their service. But, while Pontiac fought for the French and Brant and Tecumseh for the British, it was for the lost cause of their own people that all three were really fighting; and it was for this that they spent themselves in vain.
Tecumseh, whose story we are to tell in this volume, sprang from the Shawnees, an energetic and warlike tribe of Algonquian stock. The Algonquins, whose tribal branches were scattered from Labrador to the Rockies and from Hudson Bay to North Carolina, believed that a deity presided over each of the four cardinal points of the compass. Shawan was the guardian spirit of the South; and, as the tribe to which Tecumseh belonged formerly lived south of the other tribes, its members became known as Shawanoes, or Shawnees—that is, Southerners.
Little is known of the history of the Shawnees, for they were restless bands, greater wanderers even than the generality of Indians, and their continual change of settlement baffles historical research. Upon the southern shores of Lake Erie, on the banks of the Ohio, and along the broad Mississippi, at different times they pitched their tents. The name of the river Suwanee, or 'Swanee,' corrupted from their own, marks their abode at one time in Georgia and Florida.
The Shawnees were originally divided into twelve clans, each clan adopting as its totem a reptile, bird, or animal that at some time had been regarded as a benign spirit. As a result of continual wars and wandering, however, the twelve clans had dwindled to four. Only the Mequachake, Chillicothe, Piqua, and Kiscopoke remained. In the first of these, which conducted all tribal rites, the chiefship was hereditary; in the other three it was the reward of merit.
To the Kiscopoke clan belonged Tecumseh's father, Puckeshinwau ('something that drops'). He had been elevated to the rank of chief by his brother-warriors, and at the time of Tecumseh's birth was a powerful leader among his people. The panther was the totem of his clan. Tecumseh's mother, named Methoataske ('a turtle laying eggs in the sand'), is said to have been noted for wisdom among the women of her tribe, and her name shows that she belonged to the clan having the turtle as its totem. After much wandering, Puckeshinwau settled down in the Ohio country with his family and the band that accompanied him in his migrations. It was in the old Indian village of Piqua, about six miles south-west of the site of the present city of Springfield, Ohio, and within sound of the rushing waters of the Mad River, that he set up the wigwam in which, in the year 1768, Tecumseh first opened his eyes. We are told that a rich, wide plateau, gemmed with wild flowers, extended between the village and the river, and that precipitous cliffs rose on one side, while rolling hills crowned with tall trees completed the circle of the village.
Tecumseh was the fourth child of a family of seven. His elders were Cheeseekau, the eldest son, Tecumapease, the only daughter, and Sauwaseekau; the younger children were Nehasumo, Laulewasikaw, and Kumshakaw. The two last were twins; and twins were held in superstitious awe by the Indians, who feared them as possessed of occult power, and frequently put one or both to death. In this instance no such fate befell the children. Kumshakaw evinced none of the dreaded attributes, and lived to a ripe old age, but Laulewasikaw, by his practice of magic and claims of supernatural knowledge and power, as we shall see later, bore out the ancient belief.
Tecumseh in his early days was left largely to the care of his sister, Tecumapease. Thus between the two there arose a strong attachment which lasted until Tecumseh's death. From the well-known Indian practices in relation to the bringing up of young children we can imagine how the days of his infancy were passed. When not rolling on the ground, the child would be closely confined in his curious cradle, a sack made from the skin of an animal and bound to a thin, straight board, somewhat larger than his body. Great care would be taken to keep straight the infant limbs, that their symmetry might be preserved in later life. This was the first stage in the making of an Indian stoic. Every part of the cradle was symbolical. That the child's life might be preserved, the heart of a tree was used for the cradle board. Along the wooden bow above the child's head, which symbolized the sky, zigzag furrows were cut to represent lightning, the power of which was designated by suspended arrows. Through holes in the upper part of the board was threaded a leather thong, or burden-strap, which Tecumapease passed about her forehead when carrying the papoose on her back, or which the mother fastened to the pommel of her saddle when making long journeys. It served also to hang the cradle to the branch of a tree, when the child swayed backwards and forwards with the motion of the bough while the wind crooned him to sleep. The cradle would sometimes be placed upright against a tree-trunk, so that Tecumseh's eyes might follow Tecumapease as she helped to grind the corn in a hollow stone or sift it through baskets; or, again, while she mixed the meal into cakes, and carefully covered them with leaves before baking them in the ashes.
Sometimes Tecumapease would carry Tecumseh on her back to where Methoataske worked in the field with the other women of her tribe. Like them, from bearing heavy burdens and doing the drudgery of the camp, Tecumapease was strong and sturdy rather than graceful. Her hair, black and glossy as a raven's wing, hung below her waist in a heavy braid. The short, loose sleeves of her fringed leather smock gave freedom to her strong brown arms. A belted skirt, leggings, and embroidered moccasins completed her costume. On special occasions, like other Indian women, she adorned herself with a belt and collar of coloured wampum, weaving strands of it into her hair; and sometimes a necklace of polished elk-teeth gleamed on her dusky throat. When Tecumseh had learned the use of his legs, he would romp about the camp with the other black-eyed children of his tribe. He watched his father, Puckeshinwau, make the flint arrow-head and split the wooden shaft to receive it, bind it firmly with a thong, and tip the other end of the shaft with a feather to wing it on its flight; and saw the men build the birch canoe, so light that one man could shoulder it, yet strong enough to carry a heavy load.
During Tecumseh's childhood the Indians north of the Ohio were in a state of unrest. They had been subdued by Bouquet, [footnote: See The War Chief of the Ottawas in this Series.] but the leniency of that humane leader, in merely exacting that they should return their white prisoners and remain at peace, was looked on by the tribes as a mark of weakness; and, while no open war broke out, young warriors occasionally attacked traders and settlers. By the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, in 1768, the Six Nations had ceded to the whites the land between the Ohio and the Tennessee. But this was the common hunting-ground of all the tribes, and the Indians both south and north of the Ohio resented the action of the Six Nations and opposed the entrance of white settlers into this region. They were encouraged in their opposition by the action of the British government in proclaiming the territory west of the Alleghanies Indian country and forbidding settlers to enter it. But the hardy Virginians could not be kept out, and slowly but surely ever westward the smoke of their woodland huts ascended, and the forests of what are now Kentucky and Tennessee were falling beneath the axe of the frontiersmen. Resentful of the encroachments of the Virginians on their hunting-grounds, frequent war-parties of Shawnees, Delawares, Mohicans, Cherokees, and Mingoes crossed the Ohio and crept stealthily on some unguarded settlement, to slay and scalp the inhabitants and carry off their horses and cattle. The chiefs disclaimed responsibility for these raids, but in words which made the settlers in a sense responsible for them.
It was we [they said] who so kindly received Europeans on their first arrival into our own country. We took them by the hand and bade them welcome, to sit down by our side and live with us as brothers; but how did they requite our kindness? They at first asked only for a little land on which to raise bread for their families and pasture their cattle, which we freely gave them. They saw the game in the woods which the Great Spirit had given us for our subsistence, and they wanted it too. They penetrated into the woods in quest of game, they discovered spots of land which they also wanted, and because we were loath to part with it, as we saw they already had more than they had need of, they took it from us by force and drove us to a great distance from our homes.
At this time there was not community of interest or united action among the colonies. Pennsylvania and Virginia each claimed authority in the Indian country. The Pennsylvanians viewed the country from a trading point of view; the Virginians viewed it as a field for settlement. So bitter was the feud between the two colonies that for a time civil strife was imminent. And while this family quarrel was at its height, the Indian scalping raids grew in frequency and violence; and the memory of the Pontiac War was still fresh in the minds of the frontiersmen. Many Pennsylvanians in the west became alarmed, and soon the passes of the Alleghanies were filled with fugitive settlers returning to their former homes. The Virginians of Kentucky were made of sterner stuff. Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, was ambitious for his colony, and determined to make good by the sword Virginia's claim to the region of which Fort Pitt was the centre; and, under leaders like the veteran borderers, Michael Cresap and Daniel Boone, and the youthful and audacious hunter and surveyor, George Rogers Clark, the Virginians strengthened their fortified villages and led successful raids against the tribes north of the Ohio.
For some time the Shawnees had been at peace, but in the latter part of April 1774, when two Indians suspected of horse-stealing were put to death near Wheeling, on the Ohio, they threatened war. A little later a party of Virginians fired upon a band of Indians, and killed several. Again, thirty-two white men, hitherto friends of the Indians, set out to attack a hunting-party of warriors camped on the Ohio. A friendly squaw warned them to return, as the Indians, who were carousing, had vowed vengeance for the death of their tribesmen. But the white men had determined to destroy the band; and by the promise of more rum they enticed a number of the Indians to cross the river to their camp, where they put all to death, with the exception of one child, not even sparing the kindly counsellor. Other Indians across the river, alarmed by the sound of shooting, sent two canoes to the rescue, but the whites drawn up on shore fired upon their occupants, killing twelve and wounding several more. The Indians were further incensed by the murder of Bald Eagle, a sachem of the Delawares, who was attacked and scalped while returning from a visit to a fort at the mouth of the Great Kanawha, and whose body, placed in an upright position in his canoe, was found drifting down the Ohio by his enraged followers. Even Silver Heels, a favourite Shawnee chief, barely escaped death. While guiding some white settlers along unfamiliar trails on their way to safety, he was severely wounded by the bullets of other whites waiting for him in ambush.
Such deeds as these urged on the inevitable war, for which the Indians now openly prepared. Even the mighty Mingo chief, Logan, who had ever extended the hand of friendship to the white man, now appeared with uplifted tomahawk to avenge the unprovoked murder of his friends. Some eight hundred warriors were soon assembled, thirsting to avenge these recent murders, and eager to establish their right to the disputed territory. Logan, Elenipsico, Red Eagle, and Puckeshinwau were to lead the Indians, with Cornstalk, 'the mighty sachem of the Shawnee, and king of the northern confederacy,' in supreme command.
So it happened that in 1774, when the eastern colonies were on the verge of revolution, the west was in the throes of an Indian war. When Lord Dunmore learned that the Shawnees had declared war, he at once proceeded to raise in Virginia an army of fifteen hundred men; and he instructed General Andrew Lewis to go to Kentucky and recruit among the borderers there an army of the same numerical strength, and march to the mouth of the Great Kanawha, where the two armies would meet. Meanwhile Dunmore advanced to Fort Pitt; but here he changed his plan, marched to the Scioto, and entrenched his force not far from the Indian town of Old Chillicothe. [Footnote: On Paint Creek, near the present city of Chillicothe, Ohio.]
The 9th of October found Lewis with his troops encamped at Point Pleasant, where the Great Kanawha pours its waters into the Ohio, when a messenger arrived with new orders directing him to cross the Ohio and join Dunmore on the Scioto for an advance against the Indian towns to the north. Next morning the camp was astir at daybreak, and the soldiers were busily preparing for their intended march, when a scout returned with news that, about a mile away, a large body of Indians lay in ambush.
These were Cornstalk's warriors, who had arrived at the Great Kanawha the night before. Advised by active scouts of every movement of the enemy, Cornstalk's Shawnees, Delawares, Mingoes, and Ioways had crossed the Ohio on the 9th and had lain all night ambushed in the wet woods, impatiently awaiting the dawn. Shortly after sunrise they perceived the Americans advancing to the attack in two detachments, one at some distance from the Ohio, the other along its bank. Presently Cornstalk gave the signal to attack both bodies simultaneously, and the piercing war-cry resounded through the forest as the Indians rushed upon the advancing foe. In the first furious onset the Americans were beaten back, several of them being killed and an officer fatally wounded. Cornstalk's commanding voice rose high above the clash of arms, cheering on his followers; but the Americans, reinforced from their camp, and fighting desperately, finally drove the Indians from the field. Tecumseh's father, Puckeshinwau, and others among the ablest warriors, had fallen in the early onrush.
Cornstalk led his defeated warriors to the valley of the Scioto. Here a council-fire was kindled and the chiefs gathered about it. Into the middle of the circle stepped Cornstalk with gloomy countenance but majestic bearing. Searching the faces of those he had led through the long day of battle, he gave voice to the question that was in the mind of all—'What is now our course?' The only response was the crackling of the fire as its fitful light played on the dusky warriors. 'The Long Knives are coming upon us by two routes,' he continued. 'Shall we fight them—Yes or No?' The only answer was the harsh, ominous cry of a night-bird. 'Shall we kill all our women and children and then fight until we ourselves are killed?' The chiefs still maintained a gloomy silence. Cornstalk wheeled suddenly about; his tomahawk gleamed in the firelight and then sank quivering into the war-post which stood in the midst. 'Since you are not inclined to fight, I will go and make peace!' he exclaimed.
Runners bearing belts of white wampum were at once dispatched by the Indians to inform Lord Dunmore, who was now encamped not far from the Shawnee settlement, of their desire for peace. A conference was arranged, only eighteen chiefs, with unarmed escorts, being permitted to attend. Logan, although not averse to peace, had refused to be present. But as the consent of such an influential chief was necessary to any Indian treaty, Dunmore sent a special messenger to him in the person of Colonel Gibson. Gibson met Logan in the forest, and there Logan gave vent to his pent-up feelings with passionate eloquence.
I appeal to any white man to say if he ever entered Logan's cabin hungry and he gave him not meat; if ever he came cold and naked and he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate of peace. Such was my love for the whites that my countrymen pointed as they passed and said, 'Logan is the friend of white men. Colonel Cresap, [Footnote: Logan was mistaken: Cresap was not the murderer. See Roosevelt's Winning of the West, part ii, p. 31.] the last spring and in cold blood and unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan, not even sparing my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This called on me for revenge. I have sought it. I have killed many. I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbour a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one.
Gibson recorded the words of Logan, and they were duly presented to Dunmore. A treaty of peace was drawn up, by which the Indians agreed to give up all white prisoners and stolen horses and to surrender all claim to the land south of the Ohio.
The effect of Lord Dunmore's war was to make peace in the hinterland, a matter of vast importance to the Americans on the eve of the Revolution. Great Britain by the Quebec Act had placed the country north of the Ohio and extending to the Mississippi under the government of Canada. But Great Britain was soon too busy with the war in the east to pay any attention to the west, and the hinterland posts remained as they were, feebly guarded and, except for Detroit, administered by French creoles. The Indians, it is true, were friendly to the British, but the crushing defeat they had received at the hands of Lewis and the humiliating terms they were forced to make with Dunmore left them impotent. They once more began their raids, but they were incapable of concerted action; and when in 1778 George Rogers Clark, with a feeble force of less than two hundred men, advanced against the British posts at Kaskaskia and Cahokia on the Mississippi and Vincennes on the Wabash, they were unable to hinder his march. These posts fell into the hands of the Americans, and the Indians, as we shall see, were doomed.
After the battle of Point Pleasant, Cheeseekau, Tecumseh's eldest brother, led his father's warriors back to the village of Piqua, where the disasters of the fight were recounted. Still covered with the stains of battle, Cheeseekau related to his mother and his awestruck brothers and sisters the manner of his brave father's death. The dark shadow of mourning fell upon the survivors. Throughout the village rose the wail of the death-song, Methoataske's voice mingling in the dirge of the widows; and so a new and tragic scene was imprinted upon the young Tecumseh's plastic mind.
A father's task now fell upon Cheeseekau, who took much pride in instructing his younger brother in the art of war and in hunting, and how to endure fatigue and to perform feats of agility and daring. He gave him lessons in woodcraft and forest lore, showing him how to snare the fish, to stalk the wary deer, to guide the frail canoe through treacherous rapids, and, with tightly fastened snow-shoe, to traverse the wintry waste. Tecumseh, of course, had learned to swim almost as soon as he could walk; in running it is said that he could easily out-distance his companions; while his skill with the bow excited their admiration and envy. His greatest delight, however, was to muster his playmates into rival bands for mimic warfare.
The history of Tecumseh's nation was not recorded in cold print between the covers of a book; it lived in the memories of the elders and on the lips of orators and sachems. In impassioned language and with graphic gesture the deeds of the past were conjured up before the minds of the listeners. By the light of the camp-fire the stripling heard, with kindling eye and throbbing pulse, the tales of the heroic dead; and he early formed the ambition to become a leader of his race. Some sachem would sadly sketch the smiling scenes of health and happiness in the days before the pale-face came to wrest from the Indians their land, the gift of the Great Spirit. And as the boy listened to these stories of encroachment and oppression, a fierce impulse fired his blood and bade him check the advance of the whites and win back the land of which his people had been robbed. Thus was moulded his life's high purpose; thus was fanned that spark of eloquence which later burst into flame and fired the hearts of his race, from Florida to the Great Lakes.
THE BAPTISM OF FIRE
The populous Indian village of Piqua on the Mad River had prospered during six years of peace. The fertile plains about it had been cultivated in the rude fashion of the Indian, and the corn now stood ripening in the August sun with promise of an abundant harvest. Amid such a scene Tecumseh and his young companions, tired of their play, threw themselves down one evening to listen to the exciting tales of the warriors who lounged smoking in the cool shade. The women busied themselves about the camp-fires cooking the game just brought in by the men. The voices of the Indian girls rose and fell in monotonous song as with nimble fingers they deftly wove the rushes into mats, while keeping a watchful eye upon the little ones who played near by. The few years of peace had given the inhabitants of Piqua a feeling of security, and they did not know that the dark cloud of war even then overshadowed them.
The agents of the British commandant at Detroit had been busy among the Indians seeking to enlist their aid against the revolutionists. And in May of this year (1780) a party of six hundred warriors from the country north of the Ohio, accompanied by a few Canadians, had raided a number of villages in Kentucky, slain many settlers, and carried off horses and prisoners. George Rogers Clark, now holding the rank of colonel in the American army, was on a visit to Kentucky. The frontiersmen rallied about him; and with a body of 970 crack riflemen he crossed the Ohio and advanced on the town of Old Chillicothe. The Indians there had been warned and the town was deserted. The Americans burnt it to the ground and continued their march to Piqua.
At this time there were in Piqua about two hundred warriors and two British agents, Simon Girty and his brother, who had fought under Dunmore against the Shawnees in 1774, and who were now known to the Kentuckians as 'the white renegades.' The appearance of Clark and his raiders on the outskirts of the village took the inhabitants completely by surprise. At the first note of alarm, the women, wild with terror, snatched up their infants and fled shrieking to the woods. Tecumseh and the older children followed, hastily gathering a few treasured possessions. The warriors, awakening the forest echoes with their defiant war-cries, took up their position in an old fort which commanded the river. From the opposite side the Kentucky rifle-men assailed the fort, which, in its decayed and ruinous condition, offered but poor shelter. The Indians quickly evacuated it, but not before several had been killed. While the defenders were occupied by the attack from across the river, a detachment of the enemy crept round through the wood and suddenly emerged at the rear of the village. The red men rushed to the defence of their wigwams, and kept the enemy at bay for some time; but the whites being vastly superior in number, the Indians were defeated with great loss, and the whites applied the torch to the village.
At length, when the cry of battle and the sound of firing had ceased, the women and children ventured to creep forth from their forest shelter. The enemy had gone, but had left a scene of desolation behind. The village was a heap of smoking ruins, and the corn in the fields was laid waste. Bodies of dead warriors strewed the ground, many of them lying stretched before their own wigwams, which they had defended so bravely. A scene of smiling peace had indeed been turned into one of deepest mourning. Content and happiness had fled before the ruthless destroyer, and he had gone forward to the next Indian village on his mission of destruction.
The impression made by this scene upon Tecumseh's youthful mind was enduring. The youth gazed with awe at the dead warriors and watched with childish wonder the preparations for burial. The fallen defenders of Piqua might not have the customary funeral dress, for such things had been destroyed by the fire, but the survivors did what their resources permitted. About the mat whereon each warrior lay were placed his tomahawk, scalping-knife, and other weapons of war. By his side lay his bow and arrow, wherewith to resume the chase with phantom hunters in the Indian paradise. As darkness descended upon the village the women stole out to mourn by the new-made graves. During four nights they faithfully kept long vigil until the lurid light of the funeral fires paled against the brightening dawn. Then, after these last solemn tribal rites had been performed, the Shawnees gathered together their few remaining possessions and followed the trail, leading about thirty miles in a north-westerly direction, to the Great Miami, where they rebuilt their houses. [Footnote: See Handbook of American Indians, vol. ii, p. 260.] A modern American city, with its great mills and costly residences, preserves the Shawnee name of Piqua, and marks the site where these poor Indian fugitives set up their wigwams in the autumn of 1780.
The feud between the Indians and the whites continued with unabated fury. Cheeseekau was now as noted a warrior as his father had been, and became the leading spirit in many fierce frontier encounters. At the camp-fire Tecumseh listened eagerly as his brother told his thrilling tales. So persistent was Tecumseh's plea to be allowed to go on the war-path that Cheeseekau promised to let him taste real fighting in an attack on a party of whites encamped a few miles south of Piqua. The youth, impatient for the fray, set out bravely with Cheeseekau and his warriors, but when the actual horrors of war, with its blood and confusion, burst upon him, he fled from the field. It may be recalled that Frederick the Great, when first under fire, did the same.
The time soon came when, according to Indian custom, Tecumseh must undergo the solemn ordeal of initiation. He must establish his personal relationship with the unseen world before taking rank as a warrior in his tribe. For this purpose he must go into the solitary woods or ascend some lonely mountain, where, by virtue of fasting, he should receive supernatural help and a revelation of the unknown. He entered alone into the green gloom of the forest. Wild things at which he had been wont to draw his bow now peered at him from the bushes and crossed his path unharmed. For many days he saw the rising sun shine through the dewy woods and watched it sink in splendour below the tree-tops. He slept the tired sleep of youth, and woke refreshed to resume his sacred quest. One day, weary with continual wandering and exhausted from persistent fasting, he threw himself down where a little stream poured its waters into a rocky basin. Lulled by the music of the waterfall, he fell asleep. Then in a dream was revealed to him the unseen world. Suddenly, out of a cluster of stars shot one, brighter than the rest, with shining train. Its brilliance startled him from sleep. About him were the familiar trees, and placid moonlight silvered the waterfall. Across his passive mind flitted half-remembered tales of strange monsters of the sky. The flaming meteor now assumed the crouching shape of a panther about to spring on its prey; now that of a dragon taking its flight across some midnight sky to seek the dark waters of a lake, where it was condemned to dwell, lest it should set the world on fire. Wooed by the slumberous music of the fall, sleep once more closed the dreamer's heavy eyes. Scarcely had he crossed the threshold of this unknown world when the bright symbol again traced its path. So often did the strange messenger appear that he accepted it as the radiant guardian of his destiny. When he returned to his people they were filled with rejoicing that his dream had been of things above, for this augured well. Henceforth they called him 'the shooting star,' or, in their own soft tongue, 'Tecumtha.'
When the elaborate religious ceremonies customary to the initiation of a warrior had been performed, Tecumseh's power of physical endurance was put to a severe test. He presented himself for public torture before the chiefs and warriors of his tribe. Sharp skewers were thrust through the muscles of his back, and from these he was suspended by thongs to a pole. Had he flinched or evinced any sign of anguish during this painful ordeal, he would have been rejected as unworthy to take his place among his tribesmen. With stoic fortitude, however, he endured the torture, and when it was ended took a warrior's rank among his people.
Tecumseh was not content with the narrow territory which satisfied his tribesmen. He desired to explore regions far remote from the hunting-grounds of the Shawnees. The same wandering instinct that had led his father to the Ohio country awakened within him. His fancy roamed beyond the familiar trails and peopled foreign regions with strange tribes. By his eloquence he played upon the responsive minds of his companions until they were fired with the same restless spirit. A wandering life became the theme of general interest as they smoked round the evening camp-fire. When finally fifty of the boldest expressed a desire to go on such an expedition as Tecumseh had planned, a party was organized. With due ceremony Cheeseekau was appointed leader, to decide each day's journey and choose the camping-ground; and he bore with him a tribal talisman to ensure safety and success and to be consulted when they were uncertain as to their course.
Along the well-worn trail Cheeseekau started forth, followed in Indian file by his young adventurers, none more eager than Tecumseh. The narrow path, worn smooth by the feet of runners, followed high ground to avoid the dense brush, and led to points where the streams were shallowest and most easily fordable. Every day soon after sunrise the party was journeying through new regions which unfolded beauties ever fresh. At sunset they pitched their tents, lighted their fires, and gathered about them to discuss the day's adventures. Thus they journeyed until they came to the waters of the Mississinewa, in what is now northern Indiana. By its bank Cheeseekau chose a favourable spot whereon to pitch the tents. Here they remained until their interest in the surrounding country was exhausted. Then they took a westward trail. Signs of Indian occupation were everywhere visible. Where the path abruptly mounted a steep ascent, a mound of pebbles would be heaped in the ravine. Each passer-by had cast his tribute on the pile as an offering to good spirits that they might lessen his fatigue in the toilsome climb. At last they reached the broad Mississippi. By its waters the adventurous band remained until the sun had made a complete course. Then they took a southerly route through the Illinois country, where the trail had been made by the countless hoofs of the bison, through whose haunts it led. Presently the prairies stretched before them, and they saw the skin-covered 'teepees' of the dwellers of the plains. They joined a party of Mandans and soon were free to follow with them the exciting chase of the buffalo. A hunting-party was organized and a leader was chosen with due ceremony according to tribal rites. Those engaging in this dangerous pastime were mounted. They spread out so as to form a circle round the dense herd of buffaloes. By this means an equal chance was ensured to each hunter. Turn what way they would, the confused and struggling animals were confronted by hunters with gun and bow. When the sport was at its height misfortune befell Tecumseh. When an infuriated bull escaped from the ring, Tecumseh rode after him in hot pursuit. But his horse suddenly stumbled and threw him heavily to the ground. Those nearest galloped to rescue him from the trampling hoofs of the following herd, but they found him unable to rise, for his thigh had been broken by the fall. He was borne back to camp, and there was carefully tended. Everything known to the Indian doctor's art was done to heal him, but owing to his mishap the band were forced to prolong their stay at the hunting-place. When at last Tecumseh was fit for the trail the party moved southward. After a time they saw the smoke of distant camp-fires. Thereupon Cheeseekau halted his men and dispatched two messengers with a packet of tobacco and a belt of wampum to signify his friendly intent. The rest donned their gala garments and painted their faces in readiness to receive visitors. With the messengers came two Cherokees to conduct the Shawnees to their settlement, where the chief warriors of the tribe welcomed Cheeseekau and his braves. After the calumet had gone the rounds in token of goodwill, the Cherokee chief explained that their hatchet was raised against the white settlers, and that they were on the eve of setting out on the war-path. This was good news for the Shawnees, who promptly agreed to cast in their lot with the Cherokees.
While Tecumseh and his companions were making ready for war, Cheeseekau withdrew to fast and thus to prepare himself to consult worthily the sacred talisman of the tribe. The future was revealed to him in a trance. He saw the Cherokees and his own band, brightly painted for war, move forward to battle under the leadership of a ghostly semblance of himself. Suddenly a musket rang out and a bullet sped from the enemy's line. His wraith was struck full in the forehead and fell to earth in the agony of death. On rejoining his comrades he related his vision and foretold that in the battle about to take place he should meet death. He said also, however, that, if the Indians fought on, victory would crown their efforts.
Cheeseekau remained undaunted by his evil vision, and when the day of battle arrived led his warriors forth as usual. Incited by the Shawnees, the Cherokees fought stubbornly, and success seemed about to be achieved. But at the hour foretold, in the thickest of the fight, the fatal bullet found its mark, and Cheeseekau fell pierced through the forehead. The second part of the prophecy was unheeded. Deaf to Tecumseh's loud avenging cry, and heedless of his rallying shout, the superstitious Indians fled in a panic.
Tecumseh felt keenly the death of his noble brother, who had guided his youthful mind in all things, and deeply his followers mourned the loss of their dauntless leader, who had directed them safely through all their wanderings. Tecumseh was now chosen leader unanimously. For nearly two years he and his comrades remained in the south, taking an active part in many forays.
Exciting incidents were not lacking. For a time Tecumseh's band dwelt near a cane thicket on the Tennessee, whither they had gone in quest of booty. Here they were frequently attacked. On one occasion, under cover of darkness, thirty whites stealthily surrounded the Shawnees, thinking to take them by surprise. Tecumseh was occupied in flaying the last of the day's quarry, when his quick ear caught the sound of their approach. With a shrill war-cry he summoned his sleeping band. Without pausing to consider the numbers of the foe, he charged them fearlessly and his men followed him impetuously. The enemy were routed by the furious attack, and the Indians bore two scalps back to their camp in triumph. By such exploits Tecumseh won great renown among the southern tribes as a warrior. Unlike his followers, he cared little for plunder: his ruling passion was the love of glory.
In the end the adventurers turned their faces homeward. They travelled through West Virginia, crossed the Ohio near the mouth of the Scioto, and visited the Indian villages scattered along that river. And as the verdure of summer was changing into the tints of autumn in the year 1790, they passed familiar scenes along the Great Miami. Tecumseh, who had gone out as a follower of his brother but was now leader, brought eight survivors back to Piqua, where he was received with clamorous rejoicing.
Such apparently aimless wanderings were slowly but surely shaping Tecumseh's life for future action. By his intercourse with the various tribes, by learning their languages and customs, he had gleaned knowledge which was later to be of the greatest use to him; and his widespread reputation as a warrior was to count with telling effect in that great plan and purpose of his life—the formation of his Indian confederacy.
A LEADER AMONG HIS PEOPLE
After the feast of welcome at Piqua the villagers gathered round the camp-fire and plied the adventurers with many questions. The wanderers recounted the exciting exploits of their band and told of Cheeseekau's summons to the spirit-world and of his brave death on the distant battlefield. Then they in turn listened eagerly as an old chief rose and dramatically related the important events that had taken place in their absence. He told how General Harmar, with three hundred troops of the Thirteen Fires and eleven hundred Kentucky volunteers, had advanced into the Miami country and laid waste all their cornfields; how he and his followers had watched from a distant hill the soldiers at their work of destruction; and how Colonel Hardin, spying them in the distance, had suddenly turned and attacked them. With rapid gestures the chief described the pretended flight of the Indians. He told how, when out of sight of the enemy, they had divided their force and marched back some distance on either side of their trail. Assuming a crouching attitude and cunning mien, he pictured them as they crept back through the tall grass towards the place where they waited for the enemy. Then he recalled their loud, triumphant yells as they rushed upon the foe. He snatched his tomahawk from his belt to go through the movements of the Indians striking and cutting down the white men on all sides, and told how the white leader escaped with but a handful of his men. He depicted further victories of the Indians. Colonel Hardin had returned with five hundred militia and sixty regulars to take vengeance on his savage foes. The regulars remained at the village, while the militia, bent on revenge, routed the few Indians whom they found lurking about. But the Indians were not really beaten. Blue Jacket of the Shawnees and Little Turtle of the Miamis concealed their assembled warriors in another ambush. At the critical moment the Indians rushed from their ambuscade, fell upon both regulars and militia, and pitilessly drove them ever farther back.
Tecumseh had not long to wait for the time when he should again embark on active service. In the autumn of 1791 news came that Generals St Clair and Butler were advancing from the south with an army of some fourteen hundred men. Tecumseh was placed in command of a party of scouts to watch the movements of the enemy. On November 3 he discovered the American army encamped at the upper waters of the Wabash about twenty miles north of Greenville. At once he dispatched runners to tell the war chiefs Blue Jacket and Little Turtle of the enemy's position. On the following morning the Americans awoke to find their camp surrounded by whooping savages. A frightful slaughter ensued. General Butler and many of the officers were slain, together with nearly half the troops. The remainder fled in disorder. General St Clair himself escaped on a pack-horse after having had three horses killed under him in the battle.
The next winter, when the snow lay deep in the forest, Tecumseh, while on a hunting expedition with ten warriors and a boy, made his camp near Big Rock, not far from Piqua. One morning after breakfast, as they sat about the fire smoking and discussing plans for the day, they were suddenly assailed by a storm of bullets. A party of whites, three times their number, under Robert McClelland, had attacked them. Instantly the Indian war-cry rang out on the clear, frosty air. Tecumseh called to the boy to run to shelter, and he and his companions returned the fire of their assailants. Black Turkey, one of the Indians, took to his heels and was running away at full speed, but in obedience to Tecumseh's angry command he halted and returned to join in the battle. On came the whites with challenging shout, answered by defiant war-whoops. The assaulting party was finally beaten back; and Tecumseh, with his men, pursued them through the woods, driving them from every sheltering tree and cover.
Shortly after this, Tecumseh, with a party of chiefs and warriors, established his headquarters on a southern tributary of the Little Miami. From this point they made frequent inroads upon the property of white settlers, plundering flat-boats on the Ohio, and capturing some of the finest horses belonging to Kentuckians. It was here that Tecumseh had more than one encounter with Simon Kenton, the well-known American pioneer. Hearing of the exploits of the marauders, Kenton quickly mustered thirty-six men and set out to punish them. He came upon the Indians at night, divided his force into three detachments, and surrounded the encampment. That night Tecumseh had flung himself down by the camp-fire. The flickering light threw into fitful relief the bark tents of his sleeping companions. It did not penetrate, however, the gloom where lurked the watchful Americans. One of the Indians rose to stir the smouldering embers. A rifle cracked sharply, and the warrior fell forward into the fire. At the same moment a body of the Americans made a rush for the camp. Tecumseh leaped up and called loudly to his companions. He felled his first assailant with his war-club and dealt savage blows to all within reach. A shower of bullets rained upon the tents, but the Indians were now aroused and ready to return the fire. Presently reinforcements came from the Indians of a nearby camp who had heard the yelling and shooting; and the whites were dispersed.
Tecumseh's next skirmish with Kenton was in 1793. He was hunting in the Scioto valley with a few followers and their families. Shortly before dawn, when it was supposed that the Indians would not be on their guard, Kenton's men surrounded the camp and cautiously closed in upon it. The loud barking of a dog gave the alarm to the Indians. When the whites charged, the Indians sought shelter behind trees. Though Tecumseh was surrounded by a superior force, he maintained his presence of mind. He ordered some of his men to bring up the horses while he and others defended the camp. In the end the Indians adroitly managed to escape with their women and children. In the engagement they had sustained a loss of but one warrior.
Two years passed in this desultory fighting, after the defeat of St Clair's army, before the Americans made any organized attempt to retrieve their fortunes. But in the autumn of 1793 General Anthony Wayne marched into the Indian country with a strong and thoroughly disciplined army. He encamped for the winter at Greenville and built several forts: one, which he erected at the place of St Clair's disaster, he hopefully named Fort Recovery. In the summer of 1794 the Indians watched three hundred pack-horses laden with flour making their way towards this fort, under the protection of an escort of ninety riflemen and fifty dragoons. The savages hovered about, but they found the force too strong to attack. Their chance came later. By the time the escort was ready to return, one thousand tribesmen had assembled. The Americans had proceeded only about four hundred yards from the fort when they found themselves surrounded. The dragoons charged the Indians, but were repulsed with heavy loss. Then they manoeuvred to regain the fort, but the Indian forces cut them off. An American officer, with twenty volunteers, now rushed from the fort to the assistance of his comrades, and the Indians gave way before a determined attack. The white men brought their wounded off the field; and although two officers had been captured by the Indians, they afterwards escaped to the fort. In the fight twenty-two white men were killed and thirty wounded. The Indians had suffered much greater loss. The warriors rallied, however, and kept up an incessant fire against the fort until a heavy fog fell and night closed in. Then with flaring torches they sought their dead. This made them an easy mark for the soldiers, who fired on them from the fort. When daylight appeared eight or ten more bodies were found lying near the walls.
In July the American army was reinforced by two thousand Kentucky volunteers under Major-General Scott, and Wayne was now ready to strike. He manoeuvred as though he intended to attack the Miami villages to the south, but, suddenly changing his course, he marched his troops northward, straight into the Indian settlements on the Au Glaize. At the mouth of this river, where it enters the Maumee, he built Fort Defiance.
The Indians had followed Wayne's march down the Au Glaize, hovering on the flanks of his army, and they were now mustered some two thousand strong on the Maumee river. From Fort Defiance Wayne sent them a final offer of peace; but, without waiting for an answer, he marched his forces down the Maumee and encamped at the foot of the rapids, about fifteen miles from the site of the present city of Toledo.
The war chiefs of the Miami, Potawatomi, Delaware, Shawnee, Chippewa, Ottawa, and Seneca tribes held a great council to consider the proposal of peace sent them by the general of the Long Knives. Little Turtle of the Miamis advised peace. 'We have beaten the enemy twice,' said he. 'We cannot expect the same good fortune always to attend us. The Americans are now led by a chief who never sleeps. The day and night are alike to him, and he has been ever marching upon our villages, notwithstanding the watchfulness of our young men. We have never been able to surprise him. Think well of it,' he cautioned; 'there is something that whispers to me it were well to listen to his offers of peace.'
Profound silence followed this speech. Then rose Blue Jacket, the Shawnee, who commanded the entire Indian forces. Blue Jacket strongly favoured battle; and his counsel prevailed. The chiefs decided on war. A plan of action was quickly formed. The Indian forces were to be drawn up in three detachments within supporting distance of each other behind the Fallen Timbers. This was a place some distance up the river from Wayne's encampment, where the forest had been levelled by a hurricane, the fallen trees forming a natural barricade.
On August 20, 1794, shortly after daybreak, Wayne ordered his troops to advance. He was still uncertain whether the Indians were hostile or friendly. But before he had proceeded far his soldiers were fired upon by a body of red men secreted in the tall grass. In the battle which followed Tecumseh led the Shawnees, and, with two of his brothers, was in the advance-guard when the fighting began. The Indians fought stubbornly, but to no purpose. The American force of mounted volunteers advanced, while the infantry with fixed bayonets drove the red men from cover and compelled them to retreat. In the latter part of the action Tecumseh lost the use of his gun by having, in his excitement, rammed a bullet into it before putting in powder. Falling back until he met another body of Shawnees, he secured a fowling-piece, and then fought on bravely until again forced to give ground. In spite of his desperate efforts to rally his followers, the Indians were beaten and were fleeing in disorder through the woods. When night fell and the Indians stole back to bury or hide their dead, Tecumseh gazed on the familiar features, now fixed in death, of Sauwaseekau, his second brother to fall in battle; and another battlefield, in which Cheeseekau had in like manner beheld the silent face of his father, arose before his mind. He remembered his eldest brother's return from the battle, with tidings that had burned into his very soul, while he was yet too young to take up arms in defence of his race.
The Indian warriors were defeated and scattered, and the Americans proceeded to lay waste their villages and cornfields in the valley of the Au Glaize. The blow to Indian power was irrevocable. On August 3 of the following year, 1795, was concluded the Treaty of Greenville, by which large tracts of Indian territory in what are now the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan were surrendered to the Americans. The treaty was signed by Blue Jacket for the Shawnees, by Little Turtle for the Miamis, and by chiefs representing the Wyandots, the Delawares, the Ottawas, the Potawatomis, and other tribes. Tecumseh, however, had refused to attend Wayne's council, and when he heard from Blue Jacket of the terms of the treaty, he disputed its validity. Indian land, he said, was common property; all the chiefs had not been consulted, and many of them would refuse to accept the loss of their lands.
Tecumseh was now pondering a great plan. Year after year he had seen his people pushed farther and farther back from their streams and hunting-grounds. When he looked into the future, he saw that the red race was doomed unless a strong and united effort was made to check this aggression. He did not at once take his followers into his confidence, but meditated long on a plan to gather the tribes into one great confederacy to oppose the encroachments of the whites and to prevent the extermination of the Indian race. Pontiac, that towering figure in Indian speech and legend, was ever in his mind. Before Tecumseh's birth Pontiac had formed an Indian confederation against the English in America. But his was only a temporary union of the Indians, while Tecumseh planned to unite the tribes in a great and permanent empire.
To further his great plan of bringing about a confederation of the tribes, Tecumseh resolved to take advantage of the superstitions of the people. An Indian familiar with the lore of his tribe believes himself to be continually surrounded by spirits, of whose power he is in constant dread. He sees them dimly in visions and recognizes them in many signs and omens—in gliding snake, flying bird, the lightning, the wind, the rustling of leaves, the noise of the tempest, the roaring cataract, the sound of thunder. To the hunter roaming through the forest the trees take on weird shapes, and ghostly shadows lurk in dark defiles. At twilight he sees gnomelike figures dancing before him and anon swallowed up in the darkness; again he sees them, holding their elfin revels on some moonlit cliff. Thus it is that the Indian imagination peoples the gloom of the ancient forests.
It has been mentioned that Tecumseh had a younger brother named Laulewasikaw, who had been born a twin, and, in consequence, would be supposed by the Indians to possess supernatural power. One day, while Laulewasikaw was smoking in his wigwam, his pipe dropped from his hand, and he fell prone upon the ground. His body remained so long without sign of life that his friends assembled to administer the last rites for the dead. Suddenly, however, he awoke from his deathlike trance, and announced to the startled mourners that he had been transported to the spirit-world, where marvellous things had been revealed to him. After this he frequently retired to secret places to hold converse with the Great Spirit, and from his knowledge of the spirit-world he became an object of reverence and awe to his fellow-tribesmen.
It thus came about that on the death of Pengashega, an aged and influential prophet of the Shawnees, this brother of Tecumseh, Laulewasikaw, or 'the Prophet,' was made his successor. From his conical-shaped lodge, with its stout poles bound about by skins of animals, the Prophet gave forth his oracles. He was often consulted, and a well-worn path soon marked the way to his abode. It was believed that he could foretell the future, reveal the haunts of animals of the chase, and inform anxious inquirers about the fate of friends. He evaded impossible requests skilfully, and by moderation in his pretensions he was able to maintain the respect of his many suppliants. He jealously guarded in his lodge a bowl credited with miraculous powers, which he claimed the Great Spirit had bestowed upon him. He had also a mystic torch, the gift, as he said, of Manabozho, keeper of the sacred fire. He had also singular belt made of beans, which he assured his credulous followers had grown from his flesh and would render invulnerable all who touched it. To widen his influence the Prophet had this belt carried by Indian runners far and wide.
Laulewasikaw, who had already many names, now wished to be known as Tenskwatawa, 'the Open Door,' to intimate that he was to be the deliverer of his people. Unlike other Indian prophets, he preached to his followers after the manner of the white missionaries. Upon him, as upon Tecumseh, had descended the gift of oratory. But he lacked Tecumseh's dignity. He was ugly, and had lost an eye. On account of his dissolute habits he appeared much older than his distinguished brother. In spite of his bad character his persuasive eloquence gained the attention of the Shawnees, and he flattered their pride by reminding them of their ancient belief that they were the first people created by the Master of Life and the greatest of all his children. At Wapakoneta, on the Au Glaize, he gathered about him Shawnees, Wyandots, Ottawas, and Senecas, and announced himself as a bearer of new revelations from the Master of Life. He claimed to have been taken up into the spirit-world, and that there the veil of the future had been lifted to him. He had seen the suffering of evil-doers and also the happiness that would reward those who heeded his words. Radical reform, he declared, must be made in the manners of the red people. They must eschew all habits learned from the whites. Linen or woollen clothing must be replaced by the old-time buckskin; the 'fire-stick' of the white man must be abandoned and the bow and arrow must be used in its stead; the flesh of sheep and bullocks must no longer be eaten, but only that of deer and buffalo; bread should no more be made of wheat, but of Indian corn. Every tool and custom of the whites must be relinquished, and the Indian must return to the ways taught by the Master of Life. The Prophet exhorted the young to help the aged and the infirm; he forbade Indian women to intermarry with the whites, since the outcome would be inevitable misery; he condemned the accursed fire-water, which had caused such contention among the Indians, and threatened with never-ending flames all those who should persist in its use. He referred in glowing terms to the boundless hunting-ground of the red men before the coming of the whites, and contrasted it with their rapidly narrowing territory. The Indians, he said, should hold all their lands in common. Having outlined these reforms, he declared that when the Indians had carried them out, they should enjoy the long and peaceful lives of their ancestors and regain their ancient happiness. To assure his hearers of the divine character of his mission, he announced that power had been given him to cure all diseases and to arrest death as a result of sickness or on the battlefield.
Encouraged by the hope of regaining their lost liberty and happiness, many flocked about the new prophet. The Kickapoos and Delawares believed in him without reserve. His stoutest opponents were some of his own people, who resented the sudden rise to power and influence of one hitherto regarded with disfavour as stupid and intemperate. Shawnee chiefs, jealous of his position, made a plot to overthrow him. But Tenskwatawa, as he was now called, turned the tables upon them, and, accusing several of his most outspoken enemies of witchcraft, caused them to be put to death, with torture.
In 1806 the governor of Indiana Territory sent an envoy to the Delawares to deliver the following message:
The dark and thorny road you are now pursuing certainly will lead you to endless woe and misery. And who is this pretended prophet, who dares to speak in the name of the Great Creator? Examine him. Is he more virtuous than you are yourselves that he should be selected to convey to you the orders of your God? Demand of him some proof at least of being the messenger of the Deity. If God has really employed him, He has doubtless authorized him to perform miracles, that he may be known and received as a prophet. If he is really a prophet, ask him to cause the sun to stand still, the moon to alter its course, the rivers to cease to flow, or the dead to rise from their graves. If he does these things, you may then believe that he has been sent from God.
In reply to this unexpected attack Tenskwatawa assured his followers that he would give them convincing proof of his being the true messenger of the Great Spirit, and he boldly predicted that on a certain day he would draw a veil of darkness over the sun. Many Indians assembled to witness the test of his supernatural power. If it succeeded, it would establish his position beyond doubt; if it failed, the faith of his followers would be sadly shaken. Scoffers pointed to the brightness of the summer sun, and openly questioned the power of the Prophet to dim its rays. Believers furtively watched the entrance of the Prophet's lodge, which was decorated with strange symbols. From it at the time appointed the familiar form of the one-eyed wizard emerged, clad in his prophet's robe with outspread raven's wings. At his appearance the noonday brilliance of the sun began to wane. Sudden silence fell upon the awestruck throng, and faces took on a look of fear as the darkness deepened about them. The Prophet's voice thrilled through the gloom. 'Did I not prophesy truly? Behold, darkness has shrouded the sun.' The apparent miracle convinced many unbelievers and established the influence of Tenskwatawa more strongly than ever. The Indians were completely deceived. The achievement had, of course, a very simple explanation: the Prophet had overheard some white missionaries predicting an eclipse of the sun, and had used this information very adroitly for his purpose.
In April 1807 some four hundred redskins had gathered near Greenville, ready to do the Prophet's bidding. Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh were invited by Captain Wells, the Indian agent at Fort Wayne, to visit the fort with a few chiefs, to learn the news contained in a recent letter from the president of the Seventeen Fires. [Footnote: The United States. Four new states had been added to the original thirteen, making, in Indian terms, seventeen council fires.] Tecumseh peremptorily commanded the messenger to 'go back to Fort Wayne and tell Captain Wells that my fire is kindled on the spot appointed by the Great Spirit above, and, if he has anything to communicate to me, he must come here; I shall expect him in six days from this time.' At the time appointed the messenger returned, bearing a copy of a letter from the United States government, in which Tecumseh and his followers were charged with still occupying land that had passed out of their possession by the Treaty of Greenville. Tecumseh vented his feelings in vehement speech.
These lands are ours, and no one has the right to remove us, because we were the first owners; the Great Spirit above has appointed this place for us on which to light our fires, and here we will remain. As to boundaries, the Great Spirit above knows no boundaries, nor will His red people know any... If my great father, the President of the Seventeen Fires, has anything more to say to me, he must send a man of note as his messenger; I will hold no further intercourse with Captain Wells.
The American settlers saw with increasing anxiety the unending stream of Indians on their way to the Prophet. The strange garb of many of them denoted that they had journeyed from distant regions. Runners continually passed to and fro, bearing pipes and belts of wampum from tribe to tribe. Council fires were frequently kindled. It was commonly believed that this unwonted activity was due to the secret plottings of British agents from Canada. By the autumn of 1807 the Prophet had assembled near Greenville about eight hundred Indians, many of whom were equipped with new rifles.
On September 12 came two commissioners from the governor of Ohio. These were received by the Indians in a friendly manner, and a council was immediately called to hear their message. The governor, the commissioners said, desired to know why so many Indians were gathered on land no longer theirs. He wished to remind the Indians of their former relations with the Seventeen Fires, and of the importance of remaining neutral in the event of war with the British. After hearing the commissioners the council adjourned until the following day, when Blue Jacket, who was unanimously chosen to voice the sentiment of his people, spoke as follows:
Brethren, we are seated who heard you yesterday. You will get a true relation as far as we and our connections can give it, who are as follows: Shawnees, Wyandots, Potawatomis, Tawas, Chippewas, Winnepaus, Malominese, Malockese, Sacawgoes, and one more from the north of the Chippewas. Brethren, you see all these men sitting before you, who now speak to you.
About eleven days ago we [the Indians] had a council, at which the tribe of Wyandots [the elder brother of the red people] spoke and said God had kindled a fire and all sat around it. In this council we talked over the treaties with the French and the Americans. The Wyandot said the French formerly marked a line along the Alleghany mountains, southerly, to Charleston. No man was to pass it from either side. When the Americans came to settle over the line, they told the Indians to unite and drive off the French, until the war came on between the British and the Americans, when it was told them that King George, by his officers, directed them to unite and drive the Americans back.
After the treaty of peace between the English and Americans, the summer before Wayne's army came out, the British held a council with the Indians and told them if they would turn out and unite as one man, they might surround the Americans like deer in a ring of fire and destroy them all. The Wyandot spoke further in the council. We see, said he, there is like to be war between the English and our white brethren, the Americans. Let us unite and consider the sufferings we have undergone, from interfering in the wars of the English. They have often promised to help us, and at last when we could not withstand the army that came against us, and went to the English fort for refuge, [Footnote: He is referring to what happened in 1794 at the Fallen Timbers. There was a British post on the Maumee not far from the scene of the battle. At this time, it will be remembered, Detroit and other western posts, which passed to the United States in 1796, were still held by the British.] the English told us, 'I cannot let you in; you are painted too much, my children.' It was then we saw the British dealt treacherously with us. We now see them going to war again. We do not know what they are going to fight for. Let us, my brethren, not interfere, was the speech of the Wyandot.
Further, the Wyandot said, I speak to you, my little brother, the Shawnees at Greenville, and to you our little brothers all around. You appear to be at Greenville to serve the Supreme Ruler of the universe. Now send forth your speeches to all our brethren far around us, and let us unite to seek for that which shall be for our eternal welfare, and unite ourselves in a band of perpetual brotherhood. These, brethren, are the sentiments of all the men who sit around you: they all adhere to what the elder brother, the Wyandot, has said, and these are their sentiments. It is not that they are afraid of their white brethren, but that they desire peace and harmony, and not that their white brethren could put them to great necessity, for their former arms were bows and arrows, by which they got their living.
The Prophet then arose and launched forth into one of the lengthy harangues so familiar to his followers. Three years ago, he said, he had been called upon by powers he could not disobey to follow the course which had been revealed to him by the Great Spirit. In accordance with this divine guidance he had earnestly endeavoured ever since to teach the Indians how to live sober, industrious, and peaceful lives. He had been persecuted by chiefs of his own tribe who had refused to listen to his preaching. He had been driven from his own village. But the Great Spirit had directed him to this place, which the Americans now claimed as their own, Here he desired to remain, not for the value of the land or the natural beauty of the surroundings, but to obey the divine command, and by his exemplary life to prove to the complete satisfaction of the white people his genuine honesty of purpose. By this adroit speech the Prophet succeeded in allaying suspicion, and thus under the guise of peace and religion Tecumseh was enabled to continue his preparations for war. When the council had terminated, Tecumseh, Blue Jacket, Roundhead, and Panther accompanied the messengers to Chillicothe, then the capital of Ohio, and assured the governor of their peaceful intentions towards the Americans.
A GIFTED ORATOR
Indian oratory, like that of most savage races, is poetical and picturesque in thought and expression. It abounds in imagery and is not without touches of pathos and humour. The unlettered Indian has no rich store of written history from which to draw his illustrations. He takes them from Nature's ever-open book—the sheltered lake, the winding stream, the storm-swept forest—and from the legendary lore of his tribe. Tecumseh was one of the most renowned of a race of orators. The stately Algonquian language displayed its greatest beauty when spoken by him. His eloquence flowed as freely as a mighty river, or again, thundering like a cataract, it swept everything along on its tempestuous tide. Tecumseh's speech can never reach our ears; we cannot see the light flash from his hazel eye or the smile play upon his bronzed cheek. We cannot watch his graceful gestures. His personal presence we may not feel; but behind his recorded words we are still aware of living force and power. We can picture his manly form in its simple attire, as he paces up and down, dominating his hearers by his persuasive speech, convincing their reason, controlling their judgement, compelling their action. None knew the untaught and unteachable art of oratory better than Tecumseh. Throughout his life it ever played an important part, from his first outburst, which was in defence of a helpless captive, until his last appeal to the courage of a British general. Tecumseh acquitted himself gallantly upon the field of battle, where he was always conspicuous for his courage; but in the council-chamber there were also battles to be fought, in which words were weapons, and there Tecumseh was no less conspicuous and successful.
After the arrival of the commissioners and Indian chiefs at Chillicothe the governor summoned them to a great council. Tecumseh was to speak on behalf of the red men. Upon him was centred the attention of all. He spoke for three hours, during which he held his listeners spellbound. He assured them that it was far from his intention to take up the hatchet against the pale-face, but that he would sternly resist any trespass upon his people's rights. Rapidly reviewing all the treaties between the western tribes and the whites, he boldly denied the validity of the Treaty of Greenville. At the same time, he pleaded for conciliation and peace. His speech made a great impression. The governor's fear of an uprising at Greenville was allayed, and the militia, which had been hastily summoned, were dismissed.
Tecumseh's oratory was called into play again in the autumn of 1807, when the Americans were thrown into a state of terror by the murder of a white man near the site of the present town of Urbana. This deed of violence, coupled with the constant increase of the Prophet's band at Greenville, caused the wildest alarm among the settlers. Tecumseh and his brother disclaimed all knowledge of the murder, which had been committed by some wandering Indians, and they agreed to attend a council at Springfield to reassure the whites. The Indians who attended the council were asked to lay aside their arms. Tecumseh haughtily refused, thinking it unbecoming the dignity of a warrior chief. When the request was repeated, the wily Indian replied that his tomahawk was also his pipe and that he might wish to smoke. Thereupon a gaunt American advanced and offered Tecumseh his own pipe. Taking the earthen bowl with its long stern into his fingers, Tecumseh eyed it curiously; his gaze then travelled to the owner, who stood half fearful of the result of this offer. Then with an indignant gesture the chief tossed the pipe into the bushes behind him. Nothing more was said about the tomahawk.
The council was held in the shade of spreading maples. The chiefs and their warriors ranged themselves in a semicircle on the grass. The pipe of peace slowly made its round in token of goodwill. Several chiefs spoke in turn, expressing the pacific intentions of the Indians. Tecumseh referred to the recent murder, and denied that it had been the act of any of the tribes under his influence. He explained that the motive for the gathering of so many red men at Greenville was purely religious, and that all were friendly towards the whites. His wards and manner again carried conviction, and the council terminated peacefully.
The Americans, however, still continued to regard the Prophet's settlement at Greenville as a real menace. During the same autumn came another message to all the tribes under the Prophet's influence from the governor of the territory of Indiana, William Henry Harrison, afterwards president of the United States, and an active and successful leader of the Americans in the War of 1812. The message closed with these words:
My children, I have heard bad news. The sacred spot where the great council fire was kindled, around which the Seventeen Fires and ten tribes of their children smoked the pipe of peace—that very spot, where the Great Spirit saw His red and white children encircle themselves with the chain of friendship,—that place has been selected for dark and bloody councils. My children, this business must be stopped. You have called in a number of men from the most distant tribes, to listen to a fool, who speaks not the words of the Great Spirit, but those of the devil and of the British agents. My children, your conduct has much alarmed the white settlers near you. They desire that you will send away those people, and if they desire to have the impostor with them, they may carry him. Let him go to the lakes; he can hear the British more distinctly.
Tecumseh was absent from Greenville when this message was received, and it fell to the Prophet to make a reply. He was sorry, he said, that his father listened to the advice of bad birds. He denied that the Indians had any intercourse with the British, or that they desired anything but peace and to hear the words of the Great Spirit.
Early in the spring of 1808 Tecumseh and the Prophet, with their band of followers, left Greenville and set out in a westerly direction, across what is now the state of Indiana. Land had been granted to them by the Potawatomis and Kickapoos on the banks of the Tippecanoe, near its junction with the Wabash, and here they intended to make a new town, which should be the headquarters of their proposed confederacy. No more desirable spot could have been chosen. It was almost central in relation to the tribes they were endeavouring to bring together, and it had convenient communication with Lake Erie by means of the Wabash and Maumee rivers, and with Lake Michigan and the Illinois country by way of the Tippecanoe and other connecting waters. On one side an almost impenetrable stretch of wilderness formed a natural defence. From this position, also, Tecumseh was able to watch carefully the country from which he wished to exclude white settlers.
The Prophet's influence soon extended Among the neighbouring tribes, and the American authorities again became alarmed, the more so as they learned that among his followers warlike sports were now being practised along with religious rites. To counteract the effect of such reports the Prophet sent a message to Governor Harrison to say that he had been misrepresented, and followed it up by a personal visit along with a number of his followers, to explain his attitude towards the Americans. The visit lasted for a fortnight and frequent conferences took place between Harrison and the Prophet. The governor also questioned many of the Indians, but could learn nothing from them derogatory to their leader. Desiring to know to what extent the Prophet's teachings controlled his followers, he tempted them with liquor, but they remained true to their vow of total abstinence.
Before taking his leave Tenskwatawa thus addressed himself to the governor:
I told all the redskins, that the way they were in was not good, and that they ought to abandon it. That we ought to consider ourselves as one man; but we ought to live agreeably to our several customs, the red people after their mode, and the white people after theirs; particularly that they should not drink whisky; ... do not take up the tomahawk should it be offered by the British, or by the Long Knives; do not meddle with anything that does not belong to you, but mind your own business and cultivate the ground, that your women and your children may have enough to live on.
I now inform you, that it is our intention to live in peace with our father and his people for ever.
This harangue ended with the customary begging for presents, after which the Prophet and his company took their departure.
Meanwhile Governor Harrison was planning to take more territory from the Indians and add it to the United States. By a treaty with some of the tribes made at Fort Wayne on September 30, 1809, he obtained a tract of about three million acres, extending nearly one hundred miles on each side of the Wabash. By this treaty the Indians found that they were deprived of much of their best hunting-ground. Their indignation rose to fighting pitch, and many who had been holding back now accepted Tecumseh's scheme of a great confederation by means of which they might, with some hope of success, battle for their rights. The powerful Wyandots, keepers of the great wampum belt of tribal union, turned to the Prophet. Many of the lesser tribes followed their example, and refused to recognize the American claims to this newly ceded territory. For lands acquired under various treaties, the Indians were receiving from the Americans certain annuities in goods. That year, when their annual portion of salt arrived at Tippecanoe, the Indians refused to take it and drove the boatmen away. They accused the Americans of deception, demanding that the land should be given back, and that no more should be taken without the unanimous consent of all the tribes.
War between the British and the Americans now seemed inevitable, and everything pointed to an alliance between the British and the Indians of Tecumseh's confederacy. British interests required that the confederacy should not be weakened by premature outbreaks. Gifts of clothing, food, and weapons were lavishly bestowed upon Tecumseh, who was encouraged to unite the tribes, but not to declare war until word came from Canada. 'My son,' said a British agent, 'keep your eyes fixed on me; my tomahawk is now up; be you ready, but do not strike until I give the signal.'
The governor of Indiana, desiring to learn the Prophet's strength and, if possible, to avert war, sent the following message to Tippecanoe:
There is yet but little harm done, which may be easily repaired. The chain of friendship, which united the whites with the Indians, may be renewed and be as strong as ever. A great deal of that work depends on you—the destiny of those who are under your direction depends upon the choice you may make of the two roads which are before you. The one is large, open and pleasant, and leads to peace, security, and happiness; the other, on the contrary, is narrow and crooked, and leads to misery and ruin. Do not deceive yourselves; do not believe that all the nations of Indians united are able to resist the force of the Seventeen Fires. I know your warriors are brave, but ours are not less so; and what can a few brave warriors do against the innumerable warriors of the Seventeen Fires? Our blue coats are more numerous than you can count; our hunters are like the leaves of the forest, or the grains of sand on the Wabash.
Do not think the red coats can protect you; they are not able to protect themselves. They do not think of going to war with us. If they did, you would in a few moons see our flag wave over all the forts of Canada.
To this the Prophet made no direct reply, but said that Tecumseh, as his representative, would visit the governor shortly.
True to this promise, early in August 1810, Tecumseh, with four hundred warriors grotesquely painted for the occasion, swept down the Wabash in canoes. Captain Lloyd, then at Fort Knox, writes of their passing:
The Shawanoe Indians have come; they passed this garrison, which is three miles above Vincennes, on Sunday last, in eighty canoes. They were all painted in the most terrific manner. They were stopped at the garrison by me, for a short time. I examined their canoes and found them well prepared for war, in case of an attack. They were headed by the brother of the Prophet (Tecumseh), who, perhaps, is one of the finest-looking men I ever saw—about six feet high, straight, with large, fine features, and altogether a daring, bold-looking fellow. The governor's council with them will commence to-morrow morning.
Tecumseh and his warriors encamped at Vincennes, the capital at that time of the territory of Indiana, where many had assembled for the council, which was fixed for August 12. At the hour appointed Tecumseh, attended by forty followers, proceeded to the governor's house. Seated in state on the portico was the governor, surrounded by judges of the Supreme Court, officers, and citizens. About forty yards from the house Tecumseh halted abruptly. An interpreter advanced with the request that the chief and his warriors should take seats on the portico. To this Tecumseh signified strong disapproval, saying that he preferred a neighbouring grove. The governor objected that there were no chairs there. 'The earth is my mother, and on her bosom will I repose,' was the rejoinder. The chief carried his point, and chairs for the governor and his suite were removed to the grove.
Tecumseh put forth all the powers of his eloquence. He traced the course of relations between the two races from the time when only the moccasined foot of the red man trod the wilderness. He depicted vividly the evils suffered by his race since their first contact with the whites. The ruthless destruction of his birthplace, the sufferings of his childhood, the conflicts of his early manhood—all these he passed over in rapid review. And he closed his address by contending that the Treaty of Fort Wayne was illegal, since it had not been agreed to by all the tribes, who constituted a single nation and who had joint ownership in the land. Governor Harrison in his reply disputed Tecumseh's statement that all the Indians were as one nation, using as his main argument the fact that they spoke different tongues. He contended that if the Miamis desired to sell their land, the Shawnees had no right to interfere. On the following day he inquired whether Tecumseh intended to prevent a survey of the disputed land. The chief replied that it was the intention of the united tribes to recognize the old boundary only, and that, while he had no desire to provoke war, he would oppose further aggression. If the Americans gave up this land, he would serve them faithfully; if not, he would cast in his lot with the British. The governor promised to notify the president of Tecumseh's views, without holding out much prospect of a decision to surrender the land to its former owners.
'Well,' returned Tecumseh, 'as the great chief is to decide the matter, I hope the Great Spirit will put enough sense into his head to induce him to direct you to give up this land. It is true he is so far off he will not be injured by the war; he may sit still in his town and drink his wine, while you and I shall have to fight it out.'
In the following spring (1811), when the Americans were distributing the annuity of salt to the Kickapoos and Shawnees, the Prophet's Indians at Tippecanoe, on being offered their share of five barrels, forcibly seized the whole boat-load. This angered the Americans, who were further incensed by the murder on the Missouri of four white men by two Indians of the Potawatomi tribe. Tecumseh, who was absent at the time either on a hunting expedition or for the purpose of strengthening his confederation, was summoned to Vincennes shortly after his return. He arrived on July 27, attended by a party of three hundred warriors. The governor referred to the recent seizure of the salt by the Prophet's warriors and demanded an explanation. Tecumseh replied that it was indeed difficult to please the governor, since he seemed equally annoyed if the salt were taken or rejected. When asked to deliver up the Indians guilty of the murder, he replied that he had no jurisdiction over them, since they were not of his town. The white people, he said, were needlessly alarmed at his active measures in uniting the northern tribes; for he was but following the example which the Seventeen Fires had set him when they joined the Fires in one confederacy, and he boldly declared that he would endeavour also to unite the various tribes of the south with those of the north. The land question he hoped would be left in abeyance until his return in the spring.
THE BATTLE OF TIPPECANOE
Tecumseh was soon on his southern journey, with twenty warriors to aid in the work which was now apparently nearing completion. Inspired by patriotic zeal, he passed from tribe to tribe, incessantly active. Through dismal swamps and across wide plains he made his way, and in his light canoe shot many a dangerous rapid. He laboured diligently among the Indians to make them sensible of their wrongs and induce them to sink their petty tribal jealousies in a grand and noble patriotism. He braved the dangers and difficulties of winter travel over the crusted snow and through the white forests. From sunrise to sunset he journeyed, passing from camp-fire to camp-fire, binding together the scattered tribes by the fire and force of his eloquence.
In Tecumseh's absence the Prophet reigned at Tippecanoe, performing his mysterious rites, seeing visions, and dreaming dreams. Indians from the most remote tribes were drawn by tales of his miraculous deeds to this chosen seat of the Great Spirit, the centre from which radiated the Prophet's influence. The ever-increasing number of red men there assembling was evidence also of the success of Tecumseh's mission. The Americans had heard with uneasiness his bold avowal before starting on his southern journey, and their alarm was increased by the reports from Harrison's spies, posted near the Prophet's town.
On August 7, 1811, the United States government demanded the surrender of all Indians who were in any way connected with the murder of American citizens, and threatened to exterminate those tribes which raised the hatchet. In response the Prophet promised to comply with the president's demands, and reiterated his earnest desire to avert war. But, in spite of such pacific protesting, the Indians continued their acts of hostility. Some horses were stolen, and the thieves were tracked to Tippecanoe. The owners hastened thither to reclaim their property, and on nearing the town were fired upon by Indians. Similar incidents were common.
Harrison was well aware of the important and extensive nature of the work in which Tecumseh was engaged, and viewing with alarm the rapid growth of the confederation on the western frontier, he resolved on action. The destruction of Tippecanoe would be of the utmost strategic importance, but, if such a drastic measure were determined upon, it would have to be accomplished before Tecumseh's return. On the other hand, the president's commands had been to maintain peace. The governor reconciled the two opposing courses of action by the thought that a large army advancing upon the Indians might intimidate them into submission. Failing that, the alternative war became inevitable.
On October 5 Harrison set out from Vincennes with over one thousand men. This army encamped for a brief period on the Wabash, where the city of Terre Haute now stands, and erected a fort which, in honour of the leader, was named Fort Harrison. Leaving about one hundred men as a guard, Harrison, with the remaining nine hundred, set out for Tippecanoe on October 29. Two well-worn trails made by the Prophet's disciples led along the Wabash, one on either side of the river. Harrison chose that along the eastern side, then forded the river and struck the other trail. He safely crossed the dangerous pass at Pine Creek, where fatal havoc had been wrought upon the troops of General Harmar. Worn out by their tedious and difficult march, the soldiers encamped on the evening of November 5 within ten miles of the Prophet's headquarters. Next morning they were early on the march; and, after having gone about five miles, they sighted a party of reconnoitring Indians, with whom they endeavoured to communicate, but the red men ignored their advances and assumed an unfriendly attitude. Within a mile and a half of the town several of the officers impatiently urged an immediate attack; but as the president's commands were to keep peace as long as possible, Harrison decided to send an officer with a small guard to arrange for a conference. This overture, however, did not succeed; the Indians were hostile, and even made an attempt to capture the officer and his men. And Harrison then ordered his army to advance upon the town.
Suddenly three Indians appeared, making their way directly towards the army. The Prophet's chief counsellor, with two interpreters, had come to demand the reason of this warlike advance. Peace, they declared, was their one desire. With much gesticulation they explained that messages to that effect had been sent by certain chiefs, who must have taken the other trail and so missed the general of the Seventeen Fires. The governor agreed to suspend hostilities in order that terms of peace might be arranged in council on the following day, and then set his men in motion towards Tippecanoe. This unlooked-for action startled the Indians, who immediately assumed the defensive. The governor, however, assured them that he had no hostile intentions, and asked whether there was a near-by stream by the side of which his troops might encamp. He was directed to a creek about a mile distant which ran through the prairie to the north of the town. Thither the Americans at once proceeded, and finding it a most desirable camping-ground, the soldiers were soon busily engaged in pitching their tents and gathering brushwood to make fires, for the November air was chill. Although no attack was anticipated, Harrison arranged his camp as if expecting battle, and posted around it a thin line of sentries.