The Battle of Tippecanoe was fought along the riverbanks in central Indiana. The name of the river was Keth-tip-pe-can-nunk. It was a battle between the Native American warriors and American soldiers.
What Was the Battle of Tippecanoe?
The battle was triggered by the 1809 Treaty of Fort Wayne. The treaty required Indiana’s Native American tribes to sell three million acres of land to the US government. Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief, was unsurprisingly enraged by this condition. So, he put together a confederation of tribes to fight the white settlers coming in to claim their ancestral lands.
Why Did the Battle of Tippecanoe Take Place?
Because the Native Americans did not cooperate as the US government thought they would, the settlers thought it best to fight force with force.
William Henry Harrison, the governor then, led a thousand soldiers to destroy “Prophetstown.” Prophetstown was a Shawnee Village named after Tecumseh’s brother, Tenskwatawa. He was often referred to as “the Prophet.” Tecumseh, the Shawnee Chief, also considered the village the center of the Confederacy he had formed to rebel against the US government. So, it was double the blow.
What Were the Events that Defined the Battle of Tippecanoe?’
The Battle of Tippecanoe seemed about to end before it even started when one of Tenskwatawa’s followers received Harrison and his men with a white flag. This was on November 6, 1811.
The follower requested a ceasefire so the two leaders could talk before anything else happened. However, it appeared to be a strategic delay because Tecumseh was not even at Prophetstown then. He had gone south to find other Native Americans who would join his cause. He sought to recruit from the “Five Civilized Tribes.” These tribes would understand his plight and would be willing to participate in battle because they were also experiencing the same pressure from the US government.
Governor Harrison, however, agreed to the ceasefire. He had his men rest on the Burnett Creek banks, about a mile from Prophetstown. However, the governor was also wary about this suggested ceasefire. As a result, he had his men keep a defensive situation while they rested at night.
His front lines were also continuously manned by soldiers. He had a reserve of 300 regulars who could support new and untested militiamen. Meanwhile, Indiana Yellow Jackets’ Captain Spier Spencer was in charge of the southern part.
While Harrison was suspicious of the peace offered by Tenskwatawa, the latter was also impatient. He said there would be a ceasefire because he needed time for Tecumseh to gather additional forces. The Shawnee Chief had warned him and the rest not to incite war until their Confederacy was stable and strong.
Tenskwatawa went up on a rock ledge in the center of the Confederacy in Prophetstown and encouraged his people to chant and sing war songs. He promised everyone that the incantations would protect them from the white settlers’ bullets.
At dawn the following day, they surrounded Harrison’s men. They attacked the northern part of the rectangular defense. The shots that ensued woke the rest of the US soldiers. Because of the surprise attack, Spencer’s men retreated. Warriors had somehow defeated two commanding lieutenants.
However, Harrison was also on the move. He transferred the Indiana Mounted Rifles and Captain David Robb to the south to help stabilize the area. Because of the more vigorous defense, Tenskwatawa and his men had no choice but to withdraw.
It didn’t stop the Native Americans from attacking a second time. During that time, they simultaneously attacked both the northern and southern ends. The southern flank received the brunt of the attacks, but could hold up better the second time with its reinforced defense.
Meanwhile, Major Joseph Hamilton Daveiss led the northern flank. His men were able to more than adequately resist the second attack. He even led an attack that intended to have the advancing Native Americans retreat. However brave the strategy may be, the major was wounded. He died not long after.
Guerilla and surprise tactics might have given the Native Americans an initial advantage. Still, Harrison’s superior weapons and numbers soon had his men hold their positions and dispel the attacks.
Because of this, the Braves retreated to Prophetstown. They were not happy with Tenskwatawa. Having been promised that the spells and incantations would protect them, they no longer believed in Tenskwatawa. They no longer wanted to follow him, leaving the Confederacy center.
With fewer Native Americans guarding Prophetstown, the Confederacy center became even more vulnerable to the white settlers.
So, on November 8, 1811, Harrison could torch the village without much resistance. He then went back to Vincennes.
Three months after the Battle of Tippecanoe, Tecumseh returned to find Prophetstown in ruins. It ended his hopes of having a Native American Confederacy keeping and maintaining their ancestral lands.
Who won the Battle of Tippecanoe?
The white settlers, under Governor Harrison, won the Battle of Tippecanoe. While the US government certainly had the numbers and the weapons, Tenskwatawa’s impatience had also contributed to the quick defeat.
There was no guarantee that a stronger Confederacy of Native Americans would have helped the cause. However, Tenkswatawa should still have waited for Tecumseh. They probably would have better chances. He also destroyed any possible chances for a conference between the two leaders by breaking the trust of the settlers. Of course, Harrison’s men were also skeptical about making such deals, anyway, and more likely to attack eventually. Still, it should be remembered that the Braves were the first to attack.
What happened after the Battle of Tippecanoe?
The Battle of Tippecanoe happened in Central Indiana. However, many other tribes were dealing with the same issues as they tried to hold on to their ancestral lands.
The significant blow did not fully retire Tecumseh. He managed to hold his remaining forces together to ally with Great Britain during the 1812 War. Tecumseh and his Braves might have been defeated in the Battle of Tippecanoe. However, they still played a vital role in making the British military win in the Great Lakes region.