Battle of Tippecanoe
In 1808 Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa (the Prophet) founded Prophets
Town in Indiana which they envisioned as an independent, sovereign Indian state
that would preserve and protect Indian culture. Like Pontiacs message
in the 1760s after the Seven Years War, Tecumsehs message to reject the
white man and his ways galvanized Indian solidarity. The Creeks in the South
who had lost millions of acres to the Americans were particularly receptive;
in a few years the Prophets message would spark armed conflict between
the Creek and American troops.
Back in Indiana, the territorial governor William Henry Harrison plied a group
of Indian leaders with liquor and then arranged a deal to purchase 3 million
acres for a pittance in 1809. Tecumseh decried the possibility that Indians
could legitimately sell their peoples homeland to the US government.
In 1811, Harrison led 1000 US soldiers in an advance on Prophets Town.
Before they could reach the settlement several hundred Shawnees attacked their
camp on the Tippecanoe River. The Indians were soundly defeated and Harrison
burned Prophets Town to the ground. Despite their initial feelings of
superiority over the soft white man, Native Americans realized that
military technology, not just will, would shape the course of western conflict.
The defeat of the Shawnees at Tippecanoe only inflamed western war hawks
passions and inflamed their resolve to break the back of Indian resistance altogether.
To do so would require the Americans to invade Canada and eliminate the British
arms suppliers who had been trading with the Indians (and armed them during
the American Revolution). This goal to end the conflict on the frontier with
savages armed by the British in combination with Americans
other recent grievances against England: the British seizure (and impressment)
of American citizens on the high seas and the blockage of American goods prompted
the War of 1812 with Britain.
War of 1812
Like in the American Revolution many Native Americans would fight with British
during the War of 1812 (Tecumseh served as a brigadier general in the British
Army) and many African Americans would claim their freedom by getting on British
boats bound for Nova Scotia (along with those who fled during the American Revolution,
many of these African Americans ultimately settled in Sierra Leone on the coast
of West Africa). However many African Americans fought for the Americans as
well. See page 336 for an image of Crafus, a man of African descent who led
the barracks in the English prison where approximately 6000 American prisoners
of war were held, many of whom were African Americans. Many African Americans
fought in the Battle of New Orleans where American troops led by Andrew Jackson
defeated the British (almost half of the soldiers in this historic battle were
free black volunteers from .Kentucky).
Treaty of Horseshoe Bend
In the Southeast, Tecumsehs message of Indian unity had resonated with
particular force among Native Americans once the War of 1812 broke out. Some
Cherokees and Choctaws cast their lot with the US. However a minority of Creeks,
who would come to be known as Red Sticks, stood ready to do battle with the
Americans. They faced opposition from the White Sticks who counseled peace.
After the Red Sticks attacked a US fort in Alabama, Andrew Jackson (now a major
general in Tennessee militia) was determined to retaliate.
Jackson, who had been a speculator in Indian lands, expressed an anti-Indian
sentiment that was extreme even in his day. He and his troops including Native
Americans laid waste to Creek territory and to 3/4 of the 1000 Red Stick men,
women, and children in Horseshoe Bend (Alabama). Some American soldiers made
bridles of the skin of their victims.
In the Treaty of Horseshoe Bend that followed the massacre, the Americans forced the Creek Nation to give up 23 million acres. The remnants of the Red Stick fled to the swamps of Florida (the Everglades) to join the Seminole Indians who were composed of fugitive slaves (maroon or cimarrones) from the South.
Outcomes of the War
The War of 1812 yielded little in the way of material gains for the US or concessions from England. Yet it permanently reshaped American social, political, and economic life. The nation exploited vulnerable southeastern Indians and hastened their removal from their homeland. Many veterans of the war gained land rights, military glory, and political influence in return for their sacrifices. (See page 335 caption: after the war the government issued almost 30,000 land warrants for nearly 5 million acres.) Although (or because) the war disrupted foreign trade, it gave home manufacturers a tremendous boost. The textile industry (based on southern cotton production) spearheaded a revolution in industry. And a new class of workersfactory operatives (machine tenders)emerged to symbolize both the promise and the hazards of technological innovation.