War of 1812Events and Locationsfrench

The Battle of Tippecanoe (Prophetstown)

Plan of Tippecanoe Camp and Battle

Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief

At the dawn of the 19th century, two Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa, led a First Nations movement to resist the incursion of the "white man". While Tecumseh's focus was the protection of native territory, his brother's concerns were of a more spiritual nature. In 1808, the brothers' disciples began to settle at Prophet's Town on the Tippecanoe River.

Meanwhile, William Henry Harrison, the governor of Indiana Territory, was intent on clearing First Nations people out of the Old Northwest to make way for American settlers. Despite several attempts at negotiation, Harrison and the brothers were headed for a tragic collision.

In November 1811, while Tecumseh was in the southern U.S. enlisting support for his confederacy, Harrison moved up the Wabash River towards Prophet's Town with 1000 men. This force was a combination of US Army soldiers, Indiana militiamen and eager volunteers from Kentucky where Indian fighting was a glorious tradition.

A dozen miles from the native village, Harrison stopped and sent out scouts. He was well aware that Washington preferred a peaceful settlement with the First Nations people, but on the other hand, many of the men who had followed him so far wanted to fight. Three native messengers approached and declared that Tenskwatawa was willing to meet them the following day in order to discuss Harrison's demands. So Harrison and his men set up camp one mile away from Prophet's Town.

The native warriors were certain that Harrison's forces intended to attack them regardless of negotiations, so they decided to attack first. At the crack of dawn on November 7, they ambushed the American forces. It was a frantic battle fought in the half-light. By the time Harrison realized what was happening, his men were falling all around him. But by daybreak, the entire American line was engaged and the warriors begin to falter. After a final charge from the flanks, the Prophet's force was depleted of ammunition and they had to retreat across the marshy prairie. Two days later, Harrison's men plundered Prophet's Town and then burned it to the ground.

The Americans suffered about 200 dead and wounded, with the First Nations warriors suffered approximately the same number. Nevertheless, Harrison portrayed the engagement as a victory for settler's rights and won instant national fame.

The Battle of Tippecanoe did not destroy Tecumseh's confederacy or Tenskwatawa's power. Many First Nations people were so incensed by Harrison's tactics that they joined forces with the British military to fight against their common enemy - the Americans.