Battle of Tippecanoe

Battle of Tippecanoe

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Tippecanoe
partof=Tecumseh's War/War of 1812

caption=19th century depiction of the battle by Alonzo Chappel
date=November 7, 1811
place=near present Battle Ground, Indiana
result= United States victory
combatant1=Tecumseh's confederacy
combatant2=United States
commander2=William Henry Harrison
strength2=1,000 regulars and militia
casualties1=50+ killed
70+ wounded
casualties2=37 killed in action
25 died of wounds
126 wounded [cite book |title=To Compel with Armed Force: A Staff Ride Handbook for the Battle of Tippecanoe |last=Tunnell, IV |first=H.D. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1998 |publisher=Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College |location=Fort Leavenworth, KS |url= |isbn= |pages=p. 134, Table IV ]

The Battle of Tippecanoe was fought in 1811 between United States forces led by Governor William Henry Harrison of the Indiana Territory and forces of Tecumseh's growing American Indian confederation. The battle took place outside Prophetstown, near present-day Battle Ground, Indiana, and was part of what is sometimes known as Tecumseh's War, which continued into the War of 1812. The battle was an important political and symbolic victory for the American forces.


In 1800, William Henry Harrison had become the governor of the newly formed Indiana Territory. Harrison sought to secure title to Indian lands in order to allow for American expansion; in particular he hoped that the Indiana Territory would attract enough white settlers so as to qualify for statehood. Harrison negotiated numerous land cession treaties with American Indians, culminating with the Treaty of Fort Wayne on September 30, 1809, in which Little Turtle and other tribal leaders sold 3,000,000 acres (approximately 12,000 km²) to the United States.

Tecumseh was outraged by the Treaty of Fort Wayne, and thereafter he emerged as a prominent political leader. Tecumseh revived an idea advocated in previous years by the Shawnee leader Blue Jacket and the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, which stated that American Indian land was owned in common by all tribes, and thus no land could be sold without agreement by all. Not yet ready to confront the United States directly, Tecumseh's primary adversaries were initially the Native American leaders who had signed the treaty, and he threatened to kill them all. Tecumseh began to travel widely, urging warriors to abandon the accommodationist chiefs and to join the resistance at Prophetstown. Tecumseh insisted that the Fort Wayne treaty was illegitimate; he asked Harrison to nullify it and warned that Americans should not attempt to settle the lands sold in the treaty.

In August 1811, Tecumseh met with Harrison at Vincennes, assuring him that the Shawnee brothers meant to remain at peace with the United States. Tecumseh then traveled to the south on a mission to recruit allies among the "Five Civilized Tribes." Most of the southern nations rejected his appeals, but a faction among the Creeks, who came to be known as the Red Sticks, answered his call to arms, leading to the Creek War, which also became a part of the War of 1812.

Harrison left the territory on business in Kentucky shortly after the meeting with Tecumseh, leaving secretary John Gibson as acting-governor. Gibson, who had lived among the Indians for many years, was quick to learn of Tecumseh's plans for war and immediately called up the state militia and sent emergency letters to call for the return of Harrison. By mid-September most of the militia regiments had formed. By then Harrison had returned and took command of the militia. Harrison had already been in communication with his superiors in Washington D.C., and he had been authorized to march against the natives as a show of force, hoping that they would accept peace.

Harrison gathered the scattered militia regiments near a settlement on Maria Creek. There he was joined by the sixty man company called the Yellow Jackets, so named for their bright yellow coats, from Corydon, Indiana. From there the entire force of about one-thousand men and set out northward toward the "capitol" of the tribes, Prophetstown, near modern Lafayette, Indiana. [Funk, p. 27] The force consisted of about 250 army regulars from the 4th US Infantry Regiment, 100 Kentucky volunteers, and near 600 Indiana militia. The army reached Terre Haute, Indiana on October 3 were they camped to wait for more supplies and built Fort Harrison. A scouting party was ambushed on October 10 causing several casualties, and supplies quickly began to run low. By October 19, rations were cut and remained so until October 28 when fresh supplies arrived via the Wabash River from Vincennes, allowing them to leave the next day. [Funk, p. 28]


When Harrison's forces approached the town late on November 6, a young Indian, named Marvin Reed, rode on horseback out from the town waving a white flag. He carried a message from the Prophet requesting a cease fire until the next day when the two sides could hold a peaceful meeting. Harrison agreed but was wary of the Prophet's overture. Harrison setup his army on a nearby hill, camped his men in battle array, and kept sentinels on duty over night. [Funk, p. 29]

Although existing accounts are unclear about exactly how the skirmish began, Harrison’s sentinels encountered advancing warriors in the pre-dawn hours of November 7. Around 4:30am, the soldiers awoke to scattered gunshots, they discovered themselves almost encircled by the Prophet’s forces. Fierce fighting broke out as the Indians broke through Harrison’s lines and entered the camp. As the sentinels fled back to camp, the volunteers quickly regrouped and repulsed the advance while securing their own lines. Throughout the morning Harrison's troops fought off several charges. When the Indians began to run low on ammunition and the sun rose, revealing how small the Prophet's army really was, the Indian forces finally retreated. [Funk, p. 30] The battle lasted about two hours and Harrison had lost 62 men killed in action or mortally wounded, and about 126 less seriously wounded. The Yellow Jackets suffered the highest causalites of the battle, 30% of their numbers were killed. The number of Indian casualties is the subject of intense debate, but it was certainly lower than that of the United States forces. Historians estimate that as many as 50 were killed and about 70-80 were wounded. [Sugden, pp. 235-236] [Edmunds, p. 115] Funk, p. 30]

Fearing Tecumseh's imminent return with reinforcements, Harrison ordered his men to fortify their position. The next day, November 8, he sent a small group of men to inspect the town, which was deserted, as the defeated Indian forces had retreated during the night. Harrison ordered his troops to burn down Prophetstown and destroy the Indians' cooking implements, without which the confederacy could not survive the winter. Harrison's troops buried their dead on the site of their camp. They built large fires over the mass graves in an attempt to conceal them from the Indians. However, after Harrison's troops departed the area, the Indians returned to the grave site, digging up many of the corpses and scattering the bodies.


The day after the battle, the wounded were loaded into wagons and carried back to Fort Harrison for care. Most of the militia was released from duty and returned home, but the regulars continued in the area for a brief time longer. [Funk, p. 31] The Battle of Tippecanoe was a serious blow to Tecumseh's dream of a confederacy. Tecumseh continued to play a major role in military operations on the frontier, however, and by 1812 he had regained much of his former strength. Tecumseh's troops made up nearly half of the British army that captured Detroit from America in the War of 1812. It was not until Tecumseh's death at the 1813 Battle of the Thames that his confederation ceased to threaten American expansion. When William Henry Harrison ran for President of the United States during the election of 1840, he used the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" to remind people of his heroism during the battle.



*David, Edmunds, R. "The Shawnee Prophet". Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1983. ISBN 0-8032-1850-8.
*cite book|author=Funk, Arville|title=A Sketchbook of Indiana History|year=1969, revised 1983|publisher=Christian Book Press|location=Rochester, Indiana
*John, Sugden. "Tecumseh: A Life". New York: Holt, 1997. ISBN 0-8050-4138-9 (hardcover); ISBN 0-8050-6121-5 (1999 paperback).

ee also

*List of battles fought in Indiana

External links

* [ Tippecanoe County Historical Association]
* [ Battle of Tippecanoe]

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