Tecumseh was a Chief of the Shawnee tribe who formed a Native American Confederacy to resist white settlement in the early 1800’s. Tecumseh was known for his leadership, compassion, and bravery which gained the respect of Native Americans and Colonists alike. His legacy transformed into a mythological folk hero.
Tecumseh was born in South-Central Ohio, and grew up around the border conflict in the Ohio Valley during the last quarter of the 1700’s. Puckeshinwa, his father, was a minor war chief and was killed in the Battle of Point Pleasant in the French and Indian War. Methoutaske, his mother, left him to be raised by his sister, Tecumpease, when she moved to Missouri with other tribal members.
When Tecumseh was a teenager, he joined the Iroquois League led by Chief Joseph Brant, also known as Thayendanegeu, of the Mohawks. Brant was an advocate for tribes to join together to defend their land against encroaching settlers. As a young warrior, Tecumseh led a raiding party against colonists’ boats to cut off their supply chain on the Ohio River. However, after witnessing a colonist being burnt alive by members of his own tribe, he realized that this kind of brutality from either side was unnecessary and strongly criticized his fellow tribesmen. On November 4th, 1791, under the orders of Shawnee’s chief, Blue Jacket, Tecumseh led a scouting party at the Battle of the Wabash where 952 of 1,000 of the American soldiers led by U.S. General St. Clair were killed. On June 30th, 1794, Tecumseh was involved in the unsuccessful attack on Fort Recovery, leading to the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the last major battle of the Northwest Territory Indian War. Leading to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville, which Tecumseh strongly criticized the chiefs who signed.
In the early 1800’s Tecumseh wanted to unite the Native tribes west of the Appalachian Mountains. This was because he believed to properly transfer land to colonists was if all the tribes agreed. He believed the land belonged to the Master of Life, Shawnee’s main god, and therefore no one tribe could sell the land. In 1808 Tecumseh joined his brother Tenskwatawa at Prophetstown in Indiana Territory. Tenskwatawa was a prominent Native American religious leader known as the Prophet. He tried to use his brother’s religious following to discourage natives from assimilating. Tenskwatawa said if the tribes ended their reliance on colonial goods the Master of Life would drive settlers away from their land. Tecumseh then attempted to recruit tribes throughout the Northwest Territory and southern United States, most listened to Tecumseh’s ideas but many rejected them.
Battle of Tippecanoe:
The fall of 1811, Indiana governor William Henry Harrison sent 1,000 soldiers to station on a hill near Prophetstown, on the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers, while Tecumseh was in the South recruiting tribes. On November 6th, Tenskwatawa requested to meet with Governor Harrison. Then on the morning of November 7th Tenskwatawa, against Tecumseh’s wishes, attacked the American camp ensuing the Battle of Tippecanoe a devastating lost for Tecumseh’s Confederacy and resulted in Prophetstown being burnt down. When Tecumseh returned, he tried to rebuild but his confederacy ultimately failed.
War of 1812:
The War of 1812 began on June 1st after the United States declared war on Britain. The tribes of the Northwest Territory had split allegiances between the British and the United States. This is why Tecumseh and a small band of warriors went to Michigan to assist British Major-General Sir Isaac Brock at the Siege of Detroit leading to the surrender of American Commander Brigadier-General William Hull. In the spring of 1813 Tecumseh and British Major-General Henry Procter combined troops to attack William Henry Harrison in the Siege of Fort Meigs. When Harrison’s forces counterattacked Procter and Tecumseh retreated into Canada.
On October 5th, 1813, Tecumseh and his troops were overrun and he was killed in battle. The details about his death and burial are unclear, however it is believed that his body was buried in an unmarked grave. Tecumseh’s death started the decline of Native American resistance in the Ohio River Valley and started the forceful removal of Native tribes west of the Mississippi River over the next several decades.
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