Friday, May 26, 2017

Tippecanoe and Bozeman Too

(We stopped in awesome Bozeman, an old western frontier town full of cool history and art.)

In November of 1811 America was moving toward war with England on two fronts.   On the Atlantic to the east, British warships, focused like all of Europe on the Napoleonic wars, were bottling up and hijacking American vessels to prevent trade with France.  To the west, Native American nations (secretly assisted by Britain to secure defense of Canada) were assembling and opposing expansion into their territory by U.S. settlers.  Tensions were high.  Violence was increasing.  
(Oh yes, we ate buffalo burgers too.)

Enter governor of Indiana William Henry Harrison, who wanted to secure Native American lands to form an Indiana State, negotiating numerous land cession treaties including the Treaty of Fort Wayne which sold over 3 million acres of tribal land to the United States.  This greatly outraged an Indian chief of the Shawnee named Tecumseh.  
(Working our way through American history doesn't always align with our travel destinations, but the more we drive, the more we read and study, the lines of this country's stories begin to blur together and overlap.)

Tecumseh was reviving the idea that all Native Americans owned the ancestral land and it could not be sold without agreement from all tribes.  He was assembling an army of Indian soldiers to attack American troops leaving his brother, Tenskwatawa, known as 'The Prophet' in charge in the Indian stronghold of Prophetstown.  
(That's what The West is, isn't it?  A vast network of overlaying legends and lies, myths and twisted fact, personal accounts and tall tales and lives that intersect and pass with a subtle tip of the hat.)

A year earlier, Tecumseh and Harrison met at Fort Wayne to discuss the treaty.  Tecumseh flatly refused, warning Harrison he would seek an alliance with the British if hostilities broke out.  Which of course, they did.  
(Bozeman is full of history.  From the buildings along Main Street to the many art galleries...)

On November 6, 1811, Harrison's forces approached Prophetstown and were camping on the banks of the Tippecanoe River causing panic in the native village.  Tenskwatawa, believing from a vision the only way to prevent war was to murder Harrison in his sleep, sent assassins to infiltrate his camp.  They were led by an escaped military slave who had joined forces with the Indians. 
(To all the cool cowboy art just.... root'n toot'n around!)

 When U.S. sentries caught the Indians approaching the alarm was sounded and all out hell broke loose.  Fierce fighting. Charging warriors.  Small caliber rifles.  A retreat was sounded.  Later that morning, Harrison was able to regroup his men and force the Indian warriors back to Prophetstown.  Suffering great casualties, the warriors confronted Tenskwatawa and accused him of using bad magic.  'The Prophet,'  blaming his wife, offered to cast a new spell, but the warriors refused.  Harrison then entered Prophetstown and burned it to the ground. His soldiers dug up many of the freshly buried Indian graves, scalped them, and threw their bodies upon the pyre.  Days later, after the U.S. soldiers had departed, the Native American returned, sifted through the ashes for remains of their fallen warriors, and scattered them on the winds.
(Of course, it's good to just sit on the sidewalk and color with chalk too.  Add our names to the long list of lives that have passed through here and faded away, pausing to remember them, before heading back out on the trail tomorrow.)

Thirty years later in 1840, Harrison, running for the Presidency, used this victory in a campaign song calling himself 'Tippecanoe.'  Though nowhere near a decisive victory, the legend of Harrison's crushing the Native American uprising helped promote him to the presidency.  I guess, history is always written by the victors.

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