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Life of Tecumseh and of His Brother the Prophet


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Life of Tecumseh, and of His Brother the Prophet With a Historical Sketch of the Shawanoe Indians

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With a Historical Sketch of the Shawanoe Indians



Author of The Life of Black Hawk, Tales from the Queen City, &c. &c.

Cincinnati: Printed and Published by E. Morgan &Co. Stereotyped by J.A. James, Cincinnati.


<p>PREFACE</p><br />

Many years have elapsed since the author of this volume determined to write the life of TECUMSEH and of his brother the PROPHET, and actually commenced the collection of the materials for its accomplishment. From various causes, the completion of the task has been postponed until the present time. This delay, however, has probably proved beneficial to the work, as many interesting incidents in the lives of these individuals are now embraced in its pages, which could not have been included had it been put to press at an earlier period.

In the preparation of this volume, the author's attention was drawn, to some extent, to the history of the Shawanoe tribe of Indians: and he has accordingly prefixed to the main work, a brief historical narrative of this wandering and warlike nation, with biographical sketches of several of its most distinguished chiefs.

The author is under lasting obligations to a number of gentlemen residing in different sections of the country, for the substantial assistance which they have kindly afforded him in the collection of the matter embraced in this volume. Other sources of information have not, however, been neglected. All the histories, magazines and journals within the reach of the author, containing notices of the subjects of this memoir, have been carefully consulted. By application at the proper department at Washington, copies of the numerous letters written by general Harrison to the Secretary of War in the years 1808, '9, '10, '11, '12 and '13, were obtained, and have been found of much value in the preparation of this work. As governor of Indiana territory, superintendant of Indian affairs, and afterwards commander-in-chief of the north-western army, the writer of those letters possessed opportunities of knowing Tecumseh and the Prophet enjoyed by no other individuals.

In addition to these several sources of information, the author has personally, at different times, visited the frontiers of Ohio and Indiana, for the purpose of conversing with the Indians and the pioneers of that region, who happened to be acquainted with Tecumseh and his brother; and by these visits, has been enabled to enrich his narrative with some amusing and valuable anecdotes.

In the general accuracy of his work the author feels considerable confidence: in its merit, as a literary production, very little. Every line of it having been written while suffering under the depressing influence of ill health, he has only aimed at a simple narrative style, without any reference to the graces of a polished composition. B.D.

Cincinnati, 1841.


There is a tradition among the Shawanoes, in regard to their origin, which is said to be peculiar to that tribe. While most of the aborigines of this country believe that their respective races came out of holes in the earth at different places on this continent, the Shawanoes alone claim, that their ancestors once inhabited a foreign land; but having determined to leave it, they assembled their people and marched to the sea shore. Here, under the guidance of a leader of the Turtle tribe, one of their twelve original subdivisions, they walked into the sea, the waters of which immediately parted, and they passed in safety along the bottom of the ocean, until they reached this island.[A]

[Footnote A: History of the Indian Tribes of North America, by James Hall and J. L. McKinney, a valuable work, containing one hundred and twenty richly colored portraits of Indian chiefs.]

The Shawanoes have been known by different names. The Iroquois, according to Colden's history of the "Five Nations," gave them the appellation of Satanas. The Delawares, says Gallatin, in his synopsis of the Indian tribes, call them Shawaneu, which means southern. The French writers mention them under the name of Chaouanons; and occasionally they are denominated Massawomees.

The orthography of the word by which they are generally designated, is not very well settled. It has been written Shawanos, Sawanos, Shawaneu, Shawnees and Shawanoes, which last method of spelling the word, will be followed in the pages of this work.

The original seats of the Shawanoes have been placed in different sections of the country. This has doubtless been owing to their very erratic disposition. Of their history, prior to the year 1680, but little is known. The earliest mention of them by any writer whose work has fallen under our observation, was in the beginning of the seventeenth century. Mr. Jefferson, in his "Notes on Virginia," says that when captain John Smith first arrived in America a fierce war was raging against the allied Mohicans, residing on Long Island, and the Shawanoes on the Susquehanna, and to the westward of that river, by the Iroquois. Captain Smith first landed on this continent in April, 1607. In the following year, 1608, he penetrated down the Susquehanna to the mouth of it, where he met six or seven of their canoes, filled with warriors, about to attack their enemy in the rear. De Laet, in 1632, in his enumeration of the different tribes, on either side of the Delaware river, mentions the Shawanoes.-Charlevoix speaks of them under the name of Chaouanons, as neighbors and allies in 1672, of the Andastes, an Iroquois tribe, living south of the Senecas. Whether any of the Shawanoes were present at the treaty[A] made in 1682, under the celebrated Kensington elm, between William Penn and the Indians, does not positively appear from any authorities before us; that such, however, was the fact, may be fairly inferred, from the circumstance that at a conference between the Indians and governor Keith, in 1722, the Shawanoes exhibited a copy of this treaty written on parchment.

[Footnote A: "This treaty," says Voltaire, "was the first made between those people (the Indians) and the Christians, that was not ratified with an oath, and that was never broken."]

To the succeeding one made at Philadelphia, in February, 1701, the Shawanoes were parties, being represented on that occasion, by their chiefs, Wopatha, Lemoytungh and Pemoyajagh.[A] More than fifty years afterward, a manuscript copy of this treaty of commerce and friendship, was in the possession of the Shawanoes of Ohio, and was exhibited by them. In 1684, the Iroquois, when complained of by the French for having attacked the Miamis, justified their conduct on the-ground, that they had invited the Santanas (Shawanoes) into the country, for the purpose of making war upon them.[B] The Sauks and Foxes, whose residence was originally on the St. Lawrence, claim the Shawanoes as belonging to the same stock with themselves, and retain traditional accounts of their emigration to the south.[C] In the "History of the Indian Tribes of North America," when speaking of the Shawanoes, the authors say, "their manners, customs and language indicate a northern origin; and, upwards of two centuries ago, they held the country south of Lake Erie. They were the first tribe which felt the force and yielded to the superiority of the Iroquois. Conquered by these, they migrated to the south, and from fear or favor, were allowed to take possession of a region upon the Savannah river; but what part of that stream, whether in Georgia or Florida, is not known; it is presumed the former." Mr. Gallatin speaks of the final defeat of the Shawanoes and their allies, in a war with the Five Nations, as having taken place in the year 1672. This same writer, who has carefully studied the language of the aborigines, considers the Shawanoes as belonging to the Lenape tribes of the north. From these various authorities, it is apparent that the Shawanoes belonged originally to the Algonkin-Lenape nation; and that during the three first quarters of the seventeenth century, they were found in eastern Pennsylvania, on the St. Lawrence, and the southern shore of Lake Erie; and generally at war with some of the neighboring tribes. Whether their dispersion, which is supposed to have taken place about the year 1672, drove them all to the south side of the Ohio, does not very satisfactorily appear.

[Footnote A: Proud's History of Pennsylvania.]

[Footnote B: Colden.]

[Footnote C: Morse's Report.]

Subsequently to this period, the Shawanoes were found on the Ohio river below the Wabash, in Kentucky, Georgia and the Carolinas. Lawson, in his history of Carolina in 1708, speaks of the Savanoes, removing from the Mississippi to one of the rivers of South Carolina. Gallatin quotes an authority which sustains Lawson, and which establishes the fact that at a very early period in the history of the south, there was a Shawanoe settlement on the head waters of the Catawba or Santee, and probably of the Yadkin. From another authority it appears, that for a time the Shawanoes had a station on the Savannah river, above Augusta; and Adair, who refers to the war between the Shawanoes and Cherokees, saw a body of the former in the wilderness, who, after having wandered for some time in the woods, were then returning to the Creek country. According to John Johnston,[A] a large party of the Shawanoes, who originally lived north of the Ohio, had for some cause emigrated as far south as the Suwanoe river, which empties into the Gulf of Mexico. From thence they returned, under the direction of a chief named Black Hoof, about the middle of the last century, to Ohio. It is supposed that this tribe gave name to the Suwanoe river, in 1750, by which name the Cumberland was also known, when Doctor Walker, (of Virginia) visited Kentucky.

[Footnote A: I Vol. Trans. Amer. Antiquarian Society.]

Of the causes which led the Shawanoes to abandon the south, but little is known beyond what may be gleaned from their traditions. Heckewelder, in his contributions to the American Philosophical Society, says, "they were a restless people, delighting in wars, in which they were constantly engaged with some of the surrounding nations. At last their neighbors, tired of being continually harassed by them, formed a league for their destruction. The Shawanoes finding themselves thus dangerously situated, asked to be permitted to leave the country, which was granted to them; and they immediately removed to the Ohio. Here their main body settled, and then sent messengers to their elder brother,[A] the Mohicans, requesting them to intercede for them with their grandfather, the Lenni Lenape, to take them under his protection. This the Mohicans willingly did, and even sent a body of their own people to conduct their younger brother into the country of the Delawares. The Shawanoes finding themselves safe under the protection of their grandfather, did not choose to proceed to the eastward, but many of them remained on the Ohio, some of whom settled as far up that river as the long island, above which the French afterwards built fort Duquesne, on the spot where Pittsburg now stands. Those who proceeded farther, were accompanied by their chief, named Gachgawatschiqua, and settled principally at and about the forks of the Delaware, between that and the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill; and some, even on the spot where Philadelphia now stands; others were conducted by the Mohicans into their own country, where they intermarried with them and became one people. When those settled near the Delaware had multiplied, they returned to Wyoming on the Susquehannah, where they resided for a great number of years."

[Footnote A: The Shawanoes call the Mohicans their elder brother, and the Delawares their grandfather.]

Chapman, in his history of Wyoming, states, that after the Shawanoes were driven from Georgia and Florida, they built a town at the mouth of the Wabash, and established themselves in it. They then applied to the Delawares for some territory on which to reside. When granted, a council was held to consider the propriety of accepting the offer of the Delawares. On this question the Shawanoes divided-part of them remained on the Wabash,-the others, composing chiefly the Piqua tribe, formed a settlement in the forks of the Delaware. Alter a time, a disagreement arose between them and the Delawares, which induced the former to remove to the valley of the Wyoming, on the Susquehannah, on the west bank of which they built a town, and lived in repose many years. Subsequently to the treaty held at Philadelphia, in 1742, between the governor and the Six Nations, the Delawares were driven from that part of Pennsylvania; and a portion of them also removed to the Wyoming valley, then in possession of the Shawanoes, and secured the quiet occupancy of a part of it; built a town on the east bank of the river, which they called Waughwauwame, where they lived for some time, on terms of amity with their new neighbors.

During the summer of 1742, count Zinzendorf of Saxony, came to America on a religious mission, connected with the ancient church of the United Brethren. Having heard of the Shawanoes at Wyoming, he determined to make an effort to introduce Christianity among them. He accordingly made them a visit, but did not meet with a cordial reception. The Shawanoes supposed that the missionary was in pursuit of their lands; and a party of them determined to assassinate him privately, for fear of exciting other Indians to hostility. The attempt upon his life was made, but strangely defeated. Chapman relates the manner of it, which he obtained from a companion of the count, who did not publish it in his memoirs, lest the United Brethren might suppose that the subsequent conversion of the Shawanoes was the result of their superstition. It is as follows:

"Zinzendorf was alone in his tent, seated upon a bundle of dry weeds, which composed his bed, and engaged in writing, when the assassins approached to execute their bloody commission. It was night, and the cool air of September had rendered a small fire necessary for his comfort and convenience. A curtain, formed of a blanket, and hung upon pins, was the only guard to his tent. The heat of this small fire had aroused a large rattlesnake, which lay in the weeds not far from it; and the reptile, to enjoy it the more effectually, had crawled slowly into the tent, and passed over one of his legs, undiscovered. Without, all was still and quiet, except the gentle murmur of the river, at the rapids about a mile below. At this moment, the Indians softly approached the door of his tent and slightly removing the curtain, contemplated the venerable man, too deeply engaged in the subject of his thoughts to notice either their approach, or the snake which lay before him. At a sight like this, even the heart of the savages shrunk from the idea of committing so horrid an act; and, quitting the spot, they hastily returned to the town, and informed their companions, that the Great Spirit protected the white man, for they had found him with no door but a blanket, and had seen a large rattlesnake crawl over his legs without attempting to injure him. This circumstance, together with the arrival soon afterwards of Conrad Weizer, the interpreter, procured the count the friendship of the Indians, and probably induced some of them to embrace Christianity."

When the war between the French and the English occurred in 1754, the Shawanoes on the Ohio took sides with the former; but the appeal to those residing at Wyoming to do the same, was ineffectual. The influence of the count's missionary efforts had made them averse to war. But an event which happened soon afterward, disturbed the peace of their settlement, and finally led to their removal from the valley. Occasional difficulties of a transient nature, had arisen between the Delawares and the Shawanoes at Wyoming. An unkind feeling, produced by trifling local causes, had grown up between the two tribes. At length a childish dispute about the possession of a harmless grasshopper, brought on a bloody battle; and a final separation of the two parties soon followed. One day, while most of the Delaware men were absent on a hunting excursion, the women of that tribe went out to gather wild fruits on the margin of the river, below their village. Here they met a number of Shawanoe women and their children, who had crossed the stream in their canoes, and were similarly engaged. One of the Shawanoe children having caught a large grasshopper, a dispute arose with some of the Delaware children, in regard to the possession of it. In this quarrel, as was natural, the mothers soon became involved. The Delaware women contended for the possession of the grasshopper on the ground that the Shawanoes possessed no privileges on that side of the river. A resort to violence ensued, and the Shawanoe women being in the minority, were speedily driven to their canoes, and compelled to seek safety by flight to their own bank of the stream. Here the matter rested until the return of the hunters, when the Shawanoes, in order to avenge the indignity offered to their women, armed themselves for battle. When they attempted to cross the river, they found the Delawares duly prepared to receive them and oppose their landing. The battle commenced while the Shawanoes were still in their canoes, but they at length effected a landing, which was followed by a general and destructive engagement. The Shawanoes having lost a number of their warriors before reaching the shore, were too much weakened to sustain the battle for any length of time. After the loss of nearly one half their party, they were compelled to fly to their own side of the river. Many of the Delawares were killed. Shortly after this disastrous contest, the Shawanoes quietly abandoned their village, and removed westward to the banks of the Ohio.[A]

[Footnote A: Chapman]

After the Shawanoes of Pennsylvania had fallen back upon the waters of the Ohio, they spread themselves from the Alleghenies as far westward as the Big Miami. One of their villages was seventeen miles below Pittsburg: it was called Log's Town, and was visited by Croghan, in 1765. Another, named Lowertown, also visited by the same traveler, stood just below the mouth of the Scioto. It was subsequently carried away by a great flood in that river, which overflowed the site of the town, and compelled the Indians to escape in their canoes. They afterwards built a new town on the opposite side of the river, but soon abandoned it, and removed to the plains of the Scioto and Paint creek, where they established themselves, on the north fork of the latter stream. They had also several other villages of considerable size in the Miami valley. One was "Chillicothe," standing near the mouth of Massie's creek, three miles north of Xenia. Another, called Piqua, and memorable as the birth place of TECUMSEH, the subject of our present narrative, stands upon the north-west side of Mad river, about seven miles below Springfield, in Clark county. Both of these villages were destroyed in 1780, by an expedition from Kentucky, under the command of general George Rogers Clark.

After the peace of 1763, the Miamis having removed from the Big Miami river, a body of Shawanoes established themselves at Lower and Upper Piqua, in Miami county, which places, being near together, became their great head-quarters in Ohio. Here they remained until driven off by the Kentuckians; when they crossed over to the St. Mary's and to Wapakanotta. The Upper Piqua is said to have contained, at one period, near four thousand Shawanoes.[A]

[Footnote A: John Johnston.]

From the geographical location of the Shawanoes, it will be perceived that they were placed under circumstances which enabled them, with great facility, to annoy the early settlements in Kentucky; and to attack the emigrants descending the Ohio. In this fierce border war, which was waged upon the whites for a number of years, and oftentimes with extreme cruelty, the Delawares, Wyandots, Mingoes and Miamis, united: the Shawanoes, however, were by far the most warlike and troublesome.

The Shawanoes were originally divided into twelve tribes or bands, each of which was sub-divided into families, known as the Eagle, the Turtle, the Panther, &c., these animals constituting their totems. Of these twelve, the names of but four tribes are preserved, the rest having become extinct, or incorporated with them. They are, 1st. the Mequachake,-2d. the Chillicothe,-3d. the Kiskapocoke,-4th. the Piqua. When in council, one of these tribes is assigned to each of the four sides of the council-house, and during the continuance of the deliberations, the tribes retain their respective places. They claim to have the power of distinguishing, at sight, to which tribe an individual belongs; but to the casual observer, there are no visible shades of difference. In each of the four tribes, except the Mequachake, the chiefs owe their authority to merit, but in the last named, the office is hereditary. Of the origin of the Piqua tribe, the following tradition has been recited:[A] "In ancient times, the Shawanoes had occasion to build a large fire, and after it was burned down, a great puffing and blowing was heard, when up rose a man from the ashes!-hence the name Piqua, which means a man coming out of the ashes." Mequachake, signifies a perfect man. To this tribe the priesthood is confided. The members, or rather certain individuals of it, are alone permitted to perform the sacrifices and other religious ceremonies of the tribe.[B] The division of the tribe into bands or totems, is not peculiar to the Shawanoes, but is common to several other nations. One of the leading causes of its institution, was the prohibition of marriage between those related in a remote degree of consanguinity. Individuals are not at liberty to change their totems, or disregard the restraint imposed by it on intermarriages. It is stated in Tanner's narrative, that the Indians hold it to be criminal for a man to marry a woman whose totem is the same as his own; and they relate instances where young men, for a violation of this rule, have been put to death by their nearest relatives. Loskiel, in his history of the Moravian missions, says, the Delawares and Iroquois never marry near relatives. According to their own account, the Indian nations were divided into tribes for the sole purpose, that no one might, either through temptation or mistake, marry a near relation, which is now scarcely possible, for whoever intends to marry must take a person of a different totem. Another reason for the institution of these totems, may be found in their influence on the social relations of the tribe, in softening private revenge, and preserving peace. Gallatin, on the information derived from a former Indian agent[C] among the Creeks, says, "according to the ancient custom, if an offence was committed by one or another member of the same clan, the compensation to be made, on account of the injury, was regulated in an amicable way by the other members of the clan. Murder was rarely expiated in any other way than by the death of the murderer; the nearest male relative of the deceased was the executioner; but this being done, as under the authority of the clan, there was no further retaliation. If the injury was committed by some one of another clan, it was not the injured party, but the clan to which he belonged, that asked for reparation. This was rarely refused by the clan of the offender; but in case of refusal, the injured clan had a right to do itself justice, either by killing the offender, in case of murder, or inflicting some other punishment for lesser offences. This species of private war, was, by the Creeks, called, 'to take up the sticks;' because, the punishment generally consisted in beating the offender. At the time of the annual corn-feast, the sticks were laid down, and could not be again taken up for the same offence. But it seems that originally there had been a superiority among some of the clans. That of the Wind, had the right to take up the sticks four times, that of the Bear twice, for the same offence; whilst those of the Tiger, of the Wolf, of the Bird, of the Root, and of two more whose names I do not know, could raise them but once. It is obvious that the object of the unknown legislation, was to prevent or soften the effects of private revenge, by transferring the power and duty from the blood relatives to a more impartial body. The father and his brothers, by the same mother, never could belong to the same clan, as their son or nephew, whilst the perpetual changes, arising from intermarriages with women of a different clan, prevented their degenerating into distinct tribes; and checked the natural tendency towards a subdivision of the nation into independent communities. The institution may be considered as the foundation of the internal policy, and the basis of the social state of the Indians."

[Footnote A: Stephen Ruddell's manuscript account of the Shawanoes, in possession of the author.]

[Footnote B: John Johnston.]

[Footnote C: Mitchell.]

One mode of ascertaining the origin of the Indian tribes, and of determining their relation to each other, as well as to other races of mankind, is the study of their language. This has, at different times, engaged the attention of several able philologists, who have done much to analyze the Indian languages, and to arrange in systematic order, the numerous dialects of this erratic people. The results of the investigation of one[A] of the most learned and profound of these individuals, may be summed up in the three following propositions:

1. "That the American languages in general, are rich in words and in grammatical forms, and that in their complicated construction, the greatest order, method and regularity prevail.

2. "That these complicated forms, which I call poly synthetic, appear to exist in all those languages, from Greenland to Cape Horn.


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