By Hope, 2006; Revised

An 1842 Drawing of Tecumseh
An 1842 Drawing of Tecumseh
On June 18th, 1812, the British-American war began.  After the American Revolution, Britain had lost what we now call the United States, though they still had Canada. Both sides had their reasons and motives for going into combat. Britain wanted to set an example for the rest of their colonies worldwide. The message was: Britain will not tolerate riots. The Americans, on the other hand, wanted Canada. The Southerners were a minority and wanted to establish new states where they could place Southern settlers.

Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnee tribe had, since the 1780s, tried to form an inter-tribal alliance to fight the Americans. His brother, Tenskwatawa, appeared as a prophet, saying that the Master of Life wanted the Indians to join forces against the American suppressors. Tecumseh managed to ally many of the woodland tribes, but participation and membership changed during the years. The nations that were in the alliance for a short time or longer were the Canadian Iroquois, Wyandot, Ottawa, Chickamauga, Fox, Mascouten, Ottawa, Mingo, Kickapoo, Lenni Lenape, Ojibway, Miama, Sauk and Potawatomi.

Tecumseh was constantly seeking new members to his coalition, and, in 1811, he made a trip down south to discuss with members of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw nations. While he was away, his brother was in charge of Prophet’s Town, the Shawnee headquarter. The warrior, White Loon, was the military commander. On November 7, American soldiers commanded by the later president William Henry Harrison entered Tippecanoe, an area just outside the city. A young Indian rode to the Americans, telling that the Prophet demanded a ceasefire just so that the Shawnees could discuss the situation. Harrison accepted, but strengthened the night watches in fear of a night attack. The attack came at dawn. Fighting was short and left 37 American soldiers dead and 126 wounded.  The number of Indian casualties is unknown.

The following day, Harrison besieged Prophet’s Town. Worrying about Tecumseh returning with reinforcements, Harrison sent some scouts to the camp. They found that the warriors had left the town. Sources disagree on the number of Shawnees still present at the arrival of the scouts, or if there were any present at all. However, it seems to be an accepted fact that the only Shawnees in town were women and children.  The Battle of Tippecanoe was a disaster for Tecumseh and his hope for a broad Native coalition, but, even more, it was a disaster for Tenskwatawa – the Prophet. Having prophesied Shawnee victory, he fled to Canada in disgrace.