UMB logo
Upper Mississippi Brigade articles; photo is UMB at Ft. Osage

Tippecanoe: In Their Words

by David M. Grabitske

The Tippecanoe Campaign waged by William Henry Harrison in 1811 has a myriad of causes which have been thoroughly examined by many scholars. But the more human side among the soldiers, apart from the number of killed, wounded and missing, has not received the same notice. There are a number of known reminiscences by Americans, and one by Shabonee, an Indian. Of the earliest written are John Tipton’s and Lt. Charles Larrabee’s. Tipton was a prominent citizen of Harrison County, Indiana Territory, who lived near Corydon, the old capital. Tipton kept a diary. Larrabee wrote his experiences in letters before and just after the battle to his cousin Adam Larrabee to defend the difficulty of fighting Indians. Likewise, Lt. Peters recorded his in a letter at that time. Of course, in the days after Tippecanoe, controversy surrounded Harrison’s conduct stirred up by John P. Boyd, and to his defense sprang a number of officers, such as Waller Taylor, Josiah Snelling, Nathaniel Adams, and many others. Adam Walker, a Musician in Capt. Whitney’s Company of the Rifle Regiment, wrote his in 1816 to capitalize on the success of McAfee’s Late War in the Western Country, whose account is nearly Harrison’s report verbatim. Bridging the gap between these early accounts and the more numerous ones from the 1840s"-1"860s, is Mrs. Lydia Bacon’s autobiography written from her diary and letters kept during the campaign. In the 1840s, Marshall Durkee, formerly a private in Barton’s Coy., petitioned Congress with his account to get land grants for men who enlisted just prior to the War of 1812, and who did not receive such as those who enlisted during the war. Also in the 1840s, as remembering those halcyon days of the Early Republic became vogue, Isaac Naylor wrote his as a patriotic speech. Even as late as the 1860s, Elijah Efner and John Funk recorded their memories of that fateful day.

The Fourth Regiment was authorized in 1808, and began recruiting soldiers in New England. By 1810, the command seems to be nearly complete, but never embodied as a single battalion. The closest it came was when six of the companies were stationed at Ft. Independence in Boston’s harbor. The other companies seem to have been at New Castle, New Hampshire; Marblehead, Massachusetts; New London, Connecticut; and Burlington, Vermont. Its main function was to support the various measures imposed by the locally unpopular Madison Administration. Marshall Durkee related an episode early in his enlistment near Lake Champlain in then-Captain David Byers’ Coy. :

Our company was now divided into three detachments, two of which were ordered off-one to Windmill point, and the other to Missisco bay-for the purpose of intercepting smuggling boats on the lake and bay. This last detachment unfortunately upset a boat, by which Ensign Clark and two privates were drowned.1

Throughout that first winter in Vermont, life in the regiment was terrible for the rankers. They were ill fed, unpaid, and beset with an outbreak of small-pox. Fortunately, their winter clothing finally arrived in late December. But even that could not keep the men of Byers’ and Doane’s from the effects of winter, for relative to the outbreak of smallpox, Durkee says:

In consequence of this disease, on the 6th of January, 1809, we were ordered from our quarters in the village, to some wretched log huts, one mile in the wilderness. Here, with one blanket each and some loose straw, in hovels not fit to shelter cattle, in an inhospitable climate, with snow four feet deep around us, and no money, we dragged out four weeks of miserable existence, suffering more than can easily be described.2

As a result of this service, Byers’ lost 32 men to death and desertion. Byers was dismissed from the service in 1809, and Robert C. Barton assumed command in May 1810. Barton’s and Whitney’s were sent to Newport to begin repairing fortifications. They were soon joined by Captain Return B. Brown’s Coy. of the Fourth. The three companies remained here until ordered to Lazaretto Barracks, south of Philadelphia, on May 1, 1811. Eight companies of the Fourth and one of the Rifle Regiment were embodied at the barracks, where they received their tents and camp equipage. The other two Fourth Infantry companies, Ranney’s at Marblehead and Binney’s on the Vermont frontier, were left in command of Fourth Infantry Lt. Col. Zebulon M. Pike. While awaiting the arrival of Fourth Infantry Colonel John P. Boyd and Fifth Infantry Lt. Col. James Miller, the command was temporarily given to Moses M. Whitney. Musician Adam Walker related that nothing noteworthy happened while they remained at the barracks those ten days, except:

the degrading situation in which Capt. Whitney of the Riflemen, had placed himself, … by descending to the level of a Musician, and with his own hands bestowing corporeal punishment upon the bare posteriors of two privates of his Company, in the face of the whole regiment on parade. Such conduct in a commander, merited and received the pointed scorn of every officer of the regiment.-The two men, who had heretofore been good soldiers, deserted within two hours … and … Capt. Whitney resigned a command which he was totally unworthy of…. 3

Mrs. Bacon, wife of Fourth Infantry Lieutenant Josiah Bacon, naturally had a different opinion of her stay. She had traveled via water as had the troops. Due to the cramped conditions at the over-occupied barracks, Lydia wrote:

we were obliged to put up with any accommodations we could get, & for the first time in our lives, Abby & myself reposed or rather tried to repose on the floor of Doctor Heilman’s Parlor with a Blanket & pillow. This felt rather hard to those who had been accustomed always to a soft bed, but I was young then &, blest with a share of health, spirits & enthusiasm which made me surmount many difficulties.4

After that first night, Lydia and Josiah managed to find more comfortable quarters with friends in Philadelphia. The city she experienced was remarkably clean and beautiful. However, after the arrival of Col. Boyd, the regiment departed over the turnpike bound for Pittsburgh. Along the way crowds jammed the roadsides to glimpse and cheer their soldiers. Marshall Durkee remembered the ten day journey:

The distance, I think, is over three hundred miles; the country was mountainous, the weather dry and hot, the roads dusty, the march fatiguing.5

Adam Walker, remembered it thus:

The country being extremely rough and mountainous, our soldiers pressed beneath the weight of our cumbrous knapsacks, our feet swollen and blistered, and performing toilsome marches beneath a burning sun, amid clouds of dust, in the warmest season of the year, rendered our situation painful in the extreme, and at times almost insupportable.6

Along the route of the march, a disturbing development emerged which threatened the cohesion of the corps. The Fourth had been one of the few military units which had not been subject to the deadly encampment of James Wilkinson’s Terre aux Boeufs army. It was rumored on this westward movement that this was the unit’s destination. Fortunately, Lt. Col. James Miller intervened after the first rash of desertions and convinced the remainder that they were only destined for service at Pittsburgh, and possibly in the Ohio valley.7 Mrs. Bacon’s journey through the mountains was slightly different:

within a foot or two of the Carriage wheels, [was] an awful precipice, at whose base a beautiful river, glided along, unmindful alike of the danger, or admiration, of the beholder. After a little while, we would ride through this stream, or cross a rude bridge thrown over it, then again we would see it in the distance, we were obliged to lock the wheels decending the Mountains, & when we came to a very narrow place, the driver would sound a tin horn to warn any who might be approaching to stop in a safe place till we passed. It is 160 miles across these Mountains … [where] … there are some pretty & thrifty Villages, … the one which attracted my attention most, was called Bedford.8

The Prescotts and Bacons stayed in Bedford on the second night of their trip. The regulars entered Pittsburgh and were quartered at Fort Fayette, the old barracks and training camp of ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne in the early 1790s. As there was insufficient room at the barracks, the Goodings, Bacons and some of the bachelor officers, possibly Josiah Snelling, were forced to rent houses in the burgeoning city.9 Also staying in Pittsburgh was New York businessman Elijah Efner, who was on the return leg of a trip to Detroit. He recalled:

I well remember the arrival there of the 4th U. S. Infantry, [under] Col. Boyd. It was composed of the best material I had ever seen in any service, a large portion of the men being seamen who had been thrown out of employment by the embargo, and were then direct from Fort Independence in Boston, Mass. Their discipline, their parades, and their reviews were superior to anything I have ever seen in any service. I was strongly tempted to go with them; but unwilling to enlist in a time of peace, I determined to follow.10

The Fourth stayed in Pittsburgh about ten days at the end of July, during which rumors abounded. Lieut. Charles Larrabee recorded in a letter to his cousin Lieut. Adam Larrabee of the Light Artillery the confused state of the objective of their unit in the west:

Capt. [William] Piatt of the 2nd U.S.I. arrived at Pittsburgh 23rd of July 1811 from the War office, with orders to Coll Boyd, to proceed with his detachment of the 4th Infy, to the falls of the ohio, and their to wait the orders of Govr Harrison/ if not wanted in the Indiana Territory, he was to ascend the ohio as far, as New Port, for winter quarters/ immediately on this Capt. Piatt and Lieut. Hawkins was dispatched to the falls, to provide the means to transport the baggage by land to Vincennes &/ a day or two after another order was received from the war office, ordering Coll Boyd to stop at New Port.11

Once this was communicated to the troops, Larrabee indicated that the troops were eager for active service, further allaying the fears of interment in Louisiana.12 The Fourth embarked on keelboats on August 2, and spent a week traversing the 524 miles of river to Newport, Kentucky. Along the way these Yankees noticed a good number of settlements begun by their former neighbors. Mrs. Bacon reported:

Stoped this morning a halfe hour, found a Boston man settled on the banks of the Ohio, his name is Gardener (a Son of old Justice Gardener of Boston) he married a young Lady in [Haiti], & was residing there when the Slaves rebelled & massacred a great part of the White Population. Mr. G with his wife and her mother, escaped & … has lived here 12 years.13

Once the expedition reached Newport, a second dispatch was made to inform Capt. Piatt and Lieut. Hawkins of the second order preventing them from going all the way to the falls. With so many Yankees in Cincinnati the town reminded Lydia Bacon of Boston. Lieut. Larrabee noted that there were some 400 dwellings in the city and a host of industry. On the 21st, ten days after the second express left for the falls, orders from Gov. Harrison arrived for the Fourth to continue to Louisville. Capt. Piatt remained at the falls while Lieut. Hawkins was dispatched to apprise Harrison of the Fourth’s situation. An expedition was sent to Lexington for gun powder. On the 30th, the troops embarked on their keel boats, and four days later arrived at Jeffersonville, Indiana, near the falls. Here the soldiers spent three days portaging around the falls. The boats with skilled pilots at the helm would run the falls. Mrs. Bacon wrote:

we are safe through the rapids, it [was] frightful indeed it seemed like being at sea, in a storm, surrounded by breakers, the Clouds heavy, the wind high, threatening a thunderstorm … we stood while passing this tremendous place, with our eyes stretched to their utmost width, & hardly daring to fetch a long breath, expecting every moment when we should dash against a rock. We wished to see the whole, [and] in perfection we did.14

At this stage, Gov. Harrison and Judge Waller Taylor who had come to the falls with Lieut. Hawkins, and Col. Boyd left over land for Vincennes. Meanwhile, militia forces were gathering from Indiana and Kentucky. One such was Capt. Spier Spencer’s “Yellow Jackets” company from Harrison County, mainly near the city of Corydon. Private John Tipton:

[On September] 13th Marched 24 miles and on the way was join[ed] by Capt Berry with 20 men and Encampt at a good spring. [The] 14th Marched 3 miles … Was joined by Capt baggs with a troop of horse, and in the evening by Col bartholomew, with 120 melitia from Clark County.15

They arrived near Vincennes on the 18th, but the mayor would not consent to allowing the military formation into his city since the city was congested already with troops. As a result, Spencer’s was forced to camp in several spots in the nearby countryside. On the 24th, Governor Harrison met with leaders of the Indian community. Shabonee remembered Harrison from this meeting, and poetically predicted what would happen later:

I knew their great war chief, and some of his young men. He was a good man, very soft in his words to his red children, as he called us; and that made some of our men with hot heads mad. I listened to his soft words, but I looked into his eyes. They were full of fire. I knew that they would be among his men like coals of fire in the dry grass. The first wind would raise a great flame. I feared for the red men [who] might be sleeping in its way.16

These councils did affect the festive atmosphere of the militia rendezvous of target shooting competitions and much money wagering. Tipton was not all that successful, and discipline was almost non-existent:

the men was Paraded and marched to the big Prairie and [drilled] till late and in the time mutinized with some of Capt heath’s men, but marched back at sunset and dismisst in good order.17

While militia forces were gathering, the regulars were also converging on Vincennes. The changes in the aforestated operational orders caused a new rash of desertions from the rumored destination of New Orleans. Once the mouth of the Wabash was reached that threat finally faded from the men’s minds. The passage from the falls to the mouth of the Wabash was uneventful, but new difficulties lay ahead, as Adam Walker described:

We were daily obliged to wade the river, and haul the boats after us over the rapids, which occasioned many of our men, on our arrival at Vincennes, to be disordered by the painful disease, the fever and ague. Every precaution was taken by the humane and generous Col. Miller to preserve the health of the regiment; himself waded the river, as well as every other officer; in many instances performing the duty of a common soldier, and assisting them to haul up the boats.18

The hard work of the men was not on the mind of Mrs. Bacon, rather the hard labor she witnessed:

Mrs. Weir, one of the Soldiers wives, had a daughter last night, it was born in a tent, on the Banks of the Wabash.19

It took ten days to ascend the Wabash to Vincennes. If any of the soldiers wondered about the nature of the wilderness they were entering, they soon found out. The regulars arrived after sunset on September 19, and Walker noted:

by the noise and confusion about us, we concluded the town to be overrun with troops. A rabble soon gathered about the boats and assisted in hauling them ashore; their whooping and yells, and their appearance caused us to doubt whether we had not actually landed among the savages themselves.20

Over the next several days, the ad hoc army organized itself under the omen of a comet. Elijah Efner entered the commissariat and served through the coming campaign.21 Even the officers prepared themselves, as Larrabee wrote his cousin:

most of the officers have furnished themselves with pistols, and all with groundd swords and Dirks, reddy for an angagement, I think it may terminate without bloodshed, but no knowing till after the end of the expedition.22

On Thursday the twentysixth, Tipton recorded the infantry’s preparations:

we mooved after Breckfast into town and our Capt treated and also a tavern keeper. We crosst the Wabash and fired two Platoons, and then went up to Capt. [Du Bois] and fired again.23

The Indians at Prophet’s Town were also preparing themselves. While a minority wished to avoid conflict with Gov. Harrison while Tecumseh was visiting the lands of his mother in the South, most wanted to slaughter this army, just as their forebears had other American armies of Harmar and St. Clair. Native Ottawa, who was now a chief among the Potawatomie, Shabonee remembered the words of the young men:

We are ten to their one. If they stay upon the other side, we will leave them alone. If they cross the Wabash, we will take their scalps, or drive them into the river. They cannot swim. Their powder will be wet. The fish will eat their bodies. … These white soldiers are not warriors. Their hands are soft. Their faces are white. One half of them are calico peddlers. … They won’t fight. They will run.24

On Friday the army was embodied with Maj. Joseph Daviess’ Dragoons leading two columns consisting of the Fourth in the lead followed by the militia. The rear was covered by mounted riflemen. Spread out across the Wabash from the main column was Spier Spencer’s Yellow Jackets, thus keeping the baggage borne by water safe from destruction.25 This operation did not seem to have the rigors which the gathering had, for Tipton noted:

Crosst Birch Creek and came to the river and campd near a Prairie and some men went to hunt and found three bee trees in an hour. Spent the evening cutting them. Got 9 or 10 gallons of honey.26

The army marched nearly sixty miles north along the Wabash, and came to a high clearing called Battelle des Illinois. Governor Harrison had already determined to build a fort on this location, or on Terre Haute, to better protect Vincennes, the territorial capital. All the while the Indians were shadowing the army’s movements, as Shabonee remembered:

I was one of the scouts that watched all their march up from Vincennes. I knew that we were like these bushes-very many. They were like these trees; here and there one. But I knew, too, that when a tree falls, it crushes many little ones. I saw some of [their] men shoot squirrels, as they rode along, and I said, the Indians have no such guns. These men will kill us as far as they can see.27

The Yellow Jackets continued to patrol the surrounding countryside during construction. The problem of the regulars, discontent and uncertainty, on the march from New England, now invaded the militia, who were the primary workers constructing the fort. Adam Walker described:

Some murmuring took place among them, being heartily sick of the camp, and desirous of returning to their homes. Many, indeed, threatened to leave us at all hazards, which caused the Governor much anxiety and trouble. He appeared not disposed to retain any man against his inclination; … his frequent addresses to the militia, his eloquence formed to persuade; … never were made in vain … and in a short time all became tranquil and unanimity reigned throughout the army.28

To combat the uneasiness of camp life, Harrison paraded his soldiers every morning, and addressed them before dismissal. Nevertheless, Tipton recorded 3 deserters were pursued by the Kentucky dragoons on the 16, his Second Lieutenant resigned and one man deserted on the 21, and one man drummed out of camp on the 24. While that poor fellow was being drummed out, Capt. Spencer’s tent caught fire. A few days earlier, an Indian shot a sentry through the thighs just after 8 o’clock. The infantry stood in line of battle until midnight, and then two-thirds retired. On Sunday the 27, Governor Harrison staged a mock battle to prepare his green militia for the coming fight.29 That afternoon, the newly completed fort received its name from Maj. Jo Daviess: Fort Harrison. At 3 P. M. on November 1, the little army, less 100 men under the command of the ill Lt. Col. James Miller, moved out north toward the Vermillion. Here they erected another blockhouse and left a sergeant’s guard. While here, Harrison received two bits of troubling news. The contractors who were bringing supplies to him were fired upon just north of Ft. Harrison and forced back. And, his scouts were reporting large trails in the surrounding prairies which seemed to indicate an Indian attack on Vincennes. Meanwhile, back in Vincennes, Mrs. Bacon had that attack on her mind:

I walk sometimes outside the Picketts, but altho a Soldiers wife dare not venture far, for I do not like the thought of being scalped by our red Brethren, … Josiahs eyes are getting stronger fast, & he is determin’d to join the Troops, as soon as the Physician will permit him, he has written the Col. requesting him, to order him to join his regiment. Josiah has received orders to join the Regiment very much to his satisfaction, tho not to mine, …30

Lt. Bacon was burned in the face while hunting on October 1, when his extra long flint was accidentally struck by steel, igniting the powder being poured into the pan, and consequently the entire half-pound in his flask. He rejoined the regiment at Ft. Harrison.31 Surprising the Indians by crossing the Wabash and approaching the village on the north side of the river,32 the army reached Prophet’s Town on the Tippecanoe River about midafternoon on November 6. As a precaution, the soldiers discarded most of the camp equipage into wagons which were left in a prairie. Representatives of the Prophet came to greet Governor Harrison and told him of their desire to conclude a peace. This could be done in the morning, they told him, and he agreed. At first the army attempted to encamp below the town, but finding it too soggy, Harrison sent Waller Taylor and Marston Clarke to find something suitable above the town on the Tippecanoe. Lt. Larrabee described the ground:

a high piece of ground, (west of the town ½ a mile) projecting and running to a point of prairie, raising above the level of which, about 12 feet on the east side, and nearly twice that distance on the west, and nigh this side runs a small stream/ 33

Despite assurances of friendship from the Shawnee, Harrison prudently had the men sleep in line of battle on loaded muskets with their accouterment still on. From the Indian perspective, Shabonee reported his comrades were annoyed:

Every night [Harrison] picked his camping ground and set his sentinels all around, as though he expected us to attack him in the dark. We should have done so before we did, if it had not been for this precaution. Some of our people taunted him for this, and pretended to be angry that he should distrust them, for they still talked of their willingness to treat, as soon as they could get all the people.34

Harrison also designated a guard under the command of Indiana Militia Capt. James Bigger and three Lieutenants, including Fourth Infantry Lt. George P. Peters, who wrote of it thus:

The night was one of the darkest I ever saw-the Wind blew, it was so cold and the Rain pour’d down in Torrents. Such was Our Situation. I commanded the front guard consisting of Militia posted 200 yards in front of the Camp (42 privates & 4 Non Coms. officers)35

The night was cold, wet and quiet, for the most part. Private William Bingham was on guard that night and described his encounter just between three and four in the morning of November 7:

I had resumed my station about a half an hour, when I heard a faint whistle, not far off from William Brown’s post, as I supposed-he called to me; but I did not think it prudent to answer-however after he had called several times, I answered “holloa”-says he, “look sharp” [the usual word of caution between sentinels]-I kneeled down with my gun on a charge.36

Governor Harrison arose, preparing to have the Principle Musician give drummer’s call, for the troops customarily assembled just before sunrise under his command. Some of the men were also arising and began to stoke the fires back to life for morning’s breakfast. Meanwhile, William Brown was becoming more nervous, as Bingham continued:

Brown very imprudently left his post, and came towards me. I heard light footsteps—presented my gun, and should have fired upon him had he not that moment spoke, much agitated—“Bingham, let us fire and run in—you may depend upon it there are Indians in the bushes.” I told him not to fire yet for fear we should give false alarm.—While we were standing together, something struck in the bush near us, (I suppose an arrow)—we were both frightened and run in without firing.37

They raced through Barton’s Company and by Sergt. Orr’s tent, who remembered,

some person rushed by and touched the corner of the tent—I sprang partly up—all was still. I jogged Corpl. Thomas (who slept in the same tent) and asked, “if he did not hear somebody run by the tent?”—He said, “no—I’ve been asleep.” I then laid down again, when something struck the top of the tent—Corpl. Thomas rose up, took his gun; in a moment three or four rifles were discharged at the very door of the tent, and an awful yell ensued—Thomas fell back on to me … he was a dead man.38

The “awful yell” Sergt. Orr heard was the back-up plan, according to Shabonee:

The men that were to crawl upon their bellies into camp were seen in the grass by a white man who had eyes like an owl, and he fired and hit his mark. The Indian was not brave. He cried out. He should have lain still and died. Then the other men fired. The other Indians were fools. They jumped up out of the grass and yelled. They believed what had been told them, that a white man would run at a noise made in the night. Then many Indians … all yelled like wolves, wild cats and screech owls; but it did not make the white men run. … If the one that was discovered and shot had died … brave, without a groan, the sentinel would have then thought that he was mistaken … The alarm having been made, the others followed Elskatawwa’s orders, which were, in case of discovery, so as to prevent the secret movement, they should make a great yell as a signal for the general attack.39

The general attack commenced on the rear corner held by Welche’s and Barton’s Companies, and Captain Frederic Geiger’s Company, Indiana Militia. The sentinels quickly fell back on their lines, as Private Isaac Naylor recalled:

My brother William Naylor was on guard. He was pursued so rapidly and furiously that he ran to the nearest point on the left flank, where he remained with a company of regular soldiers until the battle was near its termination. … Daniel Pettit, was pursued so closely and furiously by an Indian as he was running from the guard fire to our lines, that to save his life he cocked his rifle as he ran and turning suddenly round, placed the muzzle of the gun against the body of the Indian and shot an ounce ball through him. The Indian fired his gun at the same instant, but it being longer than Pettit’s the muzzle passed by him and set fire to the handkerchief which he had tied round his head.40

From the first, the front guard under George Peters was attacked. Peters wrote:

a Gun was fired by one of my Sentries on which the Indians immediately rose up and fired on my Guard as they were forming—Killed two & wounded Several & giving their war yells rushed forward with dreadful fury. My Guard ran (in spite of my exertions to detain them) some even leaving their Arms behind. Thus finding myself alone I seized a Rifle & Slipping behind a Tree waited the approach of the terrible enemy. I had Scarcely taken up my post when an Indian flash’d his peice at me within the distance of a rod—his rifle missing fire perhaps saved my life. I then thought it time to discharge my Rifle at my antagonist & make Tracks for my own Safety.41

The firing of the first musket awakened Capt. Josiah Snelling on the front line, 200 yards behind Peters’ position. Capt. Snelling wrote:

I … seized my sword and ran to the door of my tent where I met the orderly sargeant of my company who asked me if the company should form in front or rear of the tents. The men were then in the rear and recollecting that the light of the fires in front would expose them to the fire of the enemy and probably occasion some confusion, I directed them to form in the rear and counter-march to the front.42

As Lt. Peters retreated he passed through the Indiana Militia of Capt. Bigger and Capt. Robb toward his own company stationed on the rear line. The Militia had begun to disintegrate under the weight of the attack. When Peters reached his command,

I wheeled them instantly & marched up to support the retreating Militia. Two other Comp’ys of the Regulars were order’d to in the same manner—we pass’d the confus’d retreat & met the Indians & charg’d them Outside of the Camp43

As with the infantry, the dragoons awoke, and then assembled, as Capt. Peter Funk related:

nothing could be seen but the flashes of the enemies guns. [ I ] immediately mounted [my] troop which had been stationed near Gov. Harrisons marquee, … —finding that the enemies missls reached some of [my] men while they were unable to annoy their foe [Harrison] ordered [us] to dismount and, with sabre and pistol in hand, to stand beside [our] horses, ready to repel any attack, that should force the lines of infantry in [our] front.44

Bigger’s Company with its Captain not present, but on guard, remained on the interior of the camp. Captain Robb’s riflemen rallied and were sent to reinforce the right flank. Meanwhile Larrabee wrote:

in front of Whitnes and Baens companies [on the left flank], were a few trees, behind which there were a number of indians, and a constant fire was kept up between these two companies, and those indians for some time/ having command of Capt Baens company, and judging it was better to charge the indians in front, than to stand and receive their fires, so I requested of Major Floyd, who commanded the right wing, as did Lieut. Hawkins commanding Whitnes45

The galling fire was a result of camp fires having been stoked just prior to the commencement of the fight, which yielded an excellent view of the Americans for the Indians. These fires were soon extinguished, as well as all Indians who had initially breached the lines being killed. Those wounded crawled to the center of the camp, taking refuge with Efner and other commissary employees who were defending the stores.46 As Larrabee and Hawkins realized, the way to break up the attack was to launch a charge. However, Harrison believed that such a charge could only be effective if launched during the daylight, or else the charge may become lost and lose momentum, allowing the Indians to butcher it. Thus for the moment, Harrison and Boyd could only encourage their men to stand, as Naylor recalled:

The clear, calm voice of General Harrison was heard in words of heroism in every part of the encampment during the action. Colonel Boyd behaved very bravely after repeating these words: Huzza! My sons of gold, a few more fires and victory will be ours!47

Meanwhile, Shabonee was engaged in the fight, too:

I fought that day by the side of an old Ottawa chief and his son, the brother of my wife. We were in the advance party, and several of those nearest to me fell by the bullets or blows of the two horsemen who appeared to be proof against our guns. At length one of these two men killed the young man and wounded the old chief, and at the same time I brought him and his horse to the ground. … The man’s leg was broken and he had another bad wound. I could have taken his scalp easily, but Shabaqua, the old chief, begged me not to kill him. He wanted to take him to his wife alive, in place of her son whom the white brave had killed.48

Though Harrison knew a charge might be fruitless, Maj. Jo Daviess was persistent in his request of Harrison to let him make a charge. Harrison relented. Daviess apparently was too excited and charged without waiting for the bulk of his command. He was mortally wounded, and then dragged back to camp by the three or four troopers who followed him. Once morning dawned a pair of charges were made. On the right Spencer’s Yellow Jackets and Cook’s Company of the 4th, as Tipton recalled:

we maid a Charge and Drove them out of a timber across a prairie. Our Losst … among the dead was our Capt Spier Spencer and first Lieutenant mcmahan and Capt Berry that had been attached to our company and 5 more killed Dead and 15 wounded.49

Meanwhile, right of center on the front line was Josiah Snelling. Harrison had ordered Snelling’s Company to reposition itself four times that morning. It had been readied to participate in Spencer’s charge, but was not needed as the success of the charge was so great. It lastly returned to the front line. Snelling charged at the head of his company breaking up the strongest part of the attack yet remaining in a copse of oak trees. Major Wells then took charge of Snelling’s and George Prescott’s companies and commenced a general advance into the swampy prairie, disbursing attackers. A third charge was described by Lt. Larrabee:

at the same I received an order (as did Lt. Hawkins) and proceeded accordingly to support the rear line/ on my arrival the indians had gained ground on Spencers company, being the senior officer present, commanded and formed the companies, charged the indians killed five and put the rest to flight/50

The struggle was over. For the next hour, the soldiers stood wearily. Gradually, the sun began to assume full strength near 7 A. M., and they began to think of their comrades who had fallen. Elijah Efner, with the commisariat had remained with his charge, began to collect the fallen and prepare them for burial. Capt. Funk assisted in caring for his fallen chief, Maj. Daviess. Sergt. Orr, of Welche’s, and Private William Bingham, of Whitney’s, fell wounded. Lt. Peters was also wounded. John Tipton was elected to serve the remainder of his enlistment as Captain of the Yellow Jackets. He had been elected as an Ensign since October 24. Through it all though, Lt. Josiah Bacon was spared, as Lydia recorded:

Still new mercies, call for our loudest, songs, of praise & gratitude, to him, who is our constant Benefactor & preserver. My Husband has returned in safety after being exposed in the most horrid of all Battles, an Indian one.51

The gallantry displayed at Tippecanoe by the regulars, militia, volunteers and Indians, can never be contested. Each side wanted and expected the best possible outcome that their descendants might know freedom and prosperity. Truly all were Americans. For the Indians, the bitter disappointment was reflected by Shabonee:

The Indians were defeated. … It was my last fight. I put my body in the way. It was strong then, but it was not strong enough to stop the white men. They pushed it aside as I do this stick. I have never seen the place where we fought that night. My heart was big then. Tecumseh filled it with gall. It has been empty ever since.52

For the fledgling United States Army, Tippecanoe was an important step in establishing traditions. It continued the Army’s distrust for militia, since Bigger’s and Robb’s Indiana Militia broke, and portions of Geiger’s did too. Interestingly, most of the Army’s infantry regiments were represented at the battle. Lieutenant Albright from the First commanded Posey’s Company of the Seventh; Capt. William Piatt of the Second administered the Quarter Master and Commissary functions; Lt. Colonel James Miller of the Fifth commanded of a detachment at Ft. Harrison; Whitney’s tiny company of the Rifle Regiment was attached to the Fourth; and of course, the bulk of the Fourth. What kept the Third and Sixth from supplying personnel may be open to speculation!

What became of the cast of characters who left journals and letters?
Mrs. Lydia Bacon lived with her husband after the war in various places in New England. Josiah was appointed by President Harrison to administer the Marine Hospital in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1841, which he did until his death in 1852. Lydia died the following year.53
Pvt. William Bingham recovered from his wounds at the Hospital in Vincennes. 54
Pvt. Marshall S. Durkee lived in Brimfield, Massachusetts, after the war and became a respected citizen.55
Elijah D. Efner before, during and after the war was a business man in western New York State. He was the son of a tanner and a Quaker mother. After an apprenticeship in a business house, he traveled extensively in New England and the Midwest. He was a War Democrat who had supported De Witt Clinton over James Madison. After his parole he returned to Buffalo, where he turned out in the defense of that town on December 29, 1813. He assisted in the operation of an artillery piece and was nearly captured, this before he had formally been exchanged. He also supplied goods and services for Winfield Scott’s brigade on the Niagara Campaign. After the war he engaged in land speculation, and did well.56
Capt. Peter Funk returned to Kentucky and participated in other actions in the War of 1812.57
Lt. Charles Larrabee was born in 1782 in Windham, Connecticut. He entered the army in the dragoons as a Second Lieutenant in 1808. He survived the reductions in the army of 1815 and 1821 probably on the merits of his brevet as a major from the Battle of Brownstown. He resigned the service in 1825. He married Elizabeth Hathaway in 1819, and had a family of two children. He “got religion” in the 1850s and contacted Lyman C. Draper, the Secretary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Draper had been a fellow student of Charles’ son, Charles H. Larrabee, while at Granville, Ohio. Charles H. subsequently became a judge in Wisconsin, and donated his father’s letters to Draper’s collections. The elder Larrabee died in 1862.58
Pvt. Isaac Naylor was born in 1790 in Virginia. He and his brother served in the Indiana Militia during both the Tippecanoe Campaign and at Pigeon Roost. He became a circuit judge, and frequently urged the erection of a monument on the Tippecanoe battlefield. He died in 1873.59
Sgt. Montgomery Orr died of his wounds in 1812.60
Lt. George P. Peters was born in Wentworth, New York, in 1789, the son of Revolutionary War General Absolom Peters and Vermont native Mary Rogers. He was the 40th graduate of West Point. He married Lorraine Allen Hitchcock in 1814. He served admirably throughout the war, and was retained. He participated in the First Seminole War, and then later died in 1819 at Ft. Gadsen, Florida.61
Shabonee was born on the Maumee in 1775. He was a grand-nephew of Pontiac. He became one of Tecumseh’s lieutenants during the War of 1812, and served with him until the latter’s death in battle on the Thames. After many perceived slights by the British, he and his band gave their allegiance to the Americans. He served the United States for the rest of his life. In 1827 he traveled among the Potawatomie to dissuade them from joining the Winnebago War which disrupted communications and supplies on the Mississippi bound for Fort Snelling. Josiah Snelling, now Colonel of the new Fifth Infantry, was again at war with Indians. In 1832, Shabonee assisted the whites in quickly defeating Black Hawk. Because of his help, he was under a death threat by repeated assassination attempts from other Indians. The United States, and Illinois in particular, rewarded him with land. He lived out his last years on his farm near Seneca, and died July 17, 1859.62
Capt. Josiah Snelling continued in the army after the War of 1812, eventually building a massive stone fortress which bears his name on the Upper Mississippi. He died in 1828.
Capt. John Tipton was elected the Captaincy of the Yellow Jackets following Spencer’s death in action. He was also appointed to lead other expeditions in Indiana during the War of 1812. After the war he became politically active.63
Adam Walker was discharged after one enlistment and moved to New Hampshire where he wrote his account.64

    1. Marshall S. Durkee, “Land to Soldiers—Old Fourth Regiment,” House Reports No. 322, 27th Congress, 2d Session, H. R. 291 (1841"-1"843): 4. Heitman does not list an “Ensign Clark” for the Fourth Infantry who drowned in November 1808.
    2. Ibid.
    3. Adam Walker, A Journal of the Two Campaigns of the Fourth Regiment of U. S. Infantry, in the Michigan and Indiana Territories under the command of Col. John P. Boyd and Lt. Col. James Miller during the years 1811 and 1812 (Keene, NH: Sentinel Press, 1816) in Logan Esarey, ed., Governor’s Messages and Letters: Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, 1809"-1"811 1 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Commission, 1922): 695.
    4. Mary M. Crawford, ed. “Mrs. Lydia B. Bacon’s Journal, 1811"-1"812,” Indiana Magazine of History 40(1944): 370.
    5. Durkee, 5.
    6. Walker, 695.
    7. Ibid., 695-696.
    8. Crawford, 371-372.
    9. Walker, 696; Crawford, 372.
    10. Elijah D. Efner, “The Adventures and Enterprises of Elijah D. Efner: An Autobiographical Memoir” Buffalo Historical Society Publications 4 (1896): 43.
    11. Florence G. Watts, ed., “Lieutenant Charles Larrabee’s Account of the Battle of Tippecanoe, 1811,” Indiana Magazine of History 57 (September, 1961): 236.
    12. Ibid.; Walker, 696-697.
    13. Crawford, 375-376.
    14. Ibid., 376.
    15. John Tipton, “John Tipton’s Tippecanoe Journal,” Indiana Magazine of History 2 (December, 1906): 170.
    16. J. Wesley Wickar, ed. “Shabonee’s Account of Tippecanoe,” Indiana Magazine of History 17 (December, 1921): 354-355.
    17. Tipton, 171.
    18. Walker, 697.
    19. Crawford, 379.
    20. Walker, 697.
    21. Efner, 43.
    22. Watts, 231.
    23. Tipton, 171"-1"72.
    24. Wickar, 354.
    25. Walker, 698; Tipton, 172.
    26. Tipton, 172.
    27. Wickar, 355.
    28. Walker, 699.
    29. Tipton, 173"-1"75.
    30. Crawford, 380.
    31. Ibid., 379.
    32. Wickar, 355. The Prophet sent three chiefs down the south bank of the Wabash to delay Harrison’s army by declaring their intention to treat with him. This was hoped to delay the Americans long enough to complete all preparations.
    33. Watts, 242.
    34. Wickar, 355.
    35. Richard G. Carlson, ed. “George P. Peters’ Version of the Battle of Tippecanoe (November 7, 1811),” Vermont History 45 (Winter 1977): 41. Harrison indicated that he assigned two captain’s guards of the numbers cited by Peters, and two subaltern’s guards of 20 privates and non-commissioned officers. Evidently the two captain’s guards were posted along the front and rear lines, and the subaltern’s guards beyond each flank. The whole being under Capt. James of the Indiana Militia, as Field Officer of the Day. While Capt. Bigger commanded one of the captain’s guards, it is seems likely that Regular Army officer, Lt. Peters commanded the other, while two militia lieutenants led the subaltern’s guards.
    36. Walker, 703.
    37. Ibid.
    38. Ibid., 702.
    39. Wickar, 356 and 358.
    40. Isaac Naylor, “The Battle of Tippecanoe,” Indiana Magazine of History 2 (December, 1906): 165.
    41. Carlson, 41.
    42. Josiah Snelling, “Snelling’s Statement, Vincennes, January 8th, 1812” in Logan Esarey, ed., Governor’s Messages and Letters: Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, 1812"-1"816 2 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Commission, 1922): 9"-1"0.
    43. Carlson, 41. On the resignation of Capt. Paul Wentworth (October 29, 1811), 1 Lt. Nathaniel F. Adams was made Capt., and 2 Lt. Peters made 1 Lt. N. F. Adams was detached from his company as the Adjutant of Harrison’s Army.
    44. Peter Funk, “Funk’s Narrative: The Tippecanoe Campaign, as told to D. R. Poignand (1862),” in Esarey, Governor’s Messages and Letters: Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, 1809"-1"811 1 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Commission, 1922): 721.
    45. Watts, 243.
    46. Nathaniel F. Adams, “Adams to Harrison, December, 1811,” in Esarey, 1: 689.
    47. Naylor, 166"-1"67.
    48. Wickar, 360.
    49. Tipton, 181.
    50. Watts, 244.
    51. Crawford, 382.
    52. Wickar, 360.
    53. Crawford, 367-368; 368n.
    54. House Report only indicated his residence and “veracity.”
    55. Walker, 709.
    56. Efner, 35-37.
    57. Funk, 723n.
    58. Watts, 229.
    59. Naylor, 163.
    60. Walker, 709.
    61. Carlson, 40.
    62. Wickar, 353n, 354n.
    63. Tipton, 170.
    64. Walker, 693. Surmised from the title page.

back to top


site designed and maintained by Celtic Fringe Web Design