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'''Tecumseh''' (c. [[1768]] – [[5 October]] [[1813]]), whose given name might be more accurately rendered as ''Tecumtha'' or ''Tekamthi'', was a famous [[Shawnee]] leader. He spent much of his life attempting to rally disparate [[Native Americans in the United States|Native American]] tribes in a mutual defense of their lands, which eventually led to his death in the [[War of 1812]].
'''Tecumseh''' (c. [[1768]] – [[5 October]] [[1813]]), whose given name might be more accurately rendered as ''Tecumtha'' or ''Tekamthi'', was a famous [[Shawnee]] leader. He spent much of his life attempting to rally disparate [[Native Americans in the United States|Native American]] tribes in a mutual defense of their lands, which eventually led to his death in the [[War of 1812]].
==Early life==
Tecumseh (''Tekamwthē'': "He who Walks Across [the Sky]"<ref>see: "dkamse" in Rhodes, Richard ''Eastern Ojibwa-Chippewa-Ottawa Dictionary. ISBN 3-11-013749-6</ref>) is believed to have been born in 1768 just outside the current town of [[Xenia, Ohio]], to the "Dancing Tail" (Panther) clan. His father was Pucksinwah, a Shawnee warrior who was killed at the [[Battle of Point Pleasant]]. His mother was named [[Methoataske]]. Tecumseh was raised as a warrior by his older brother, Cheeksuakalo.
Tecumseh eventually settled in what is now [[Greenville, Ohio|Greenville]], [[Ohio]], the home of his younger brother [[Tenskwatawa]] (formerly Lowawluwaysica) ("One With Open Mouth or The Open Door"), perhaps best known simply as The Prophet.
=="Tecumseh's War"==
=="Tecumseh's War"==

Revision as of 17:51, 28 March 2008

This 1848 drawing of Tecumseh was based on a sketch done from life in 1808. Benson Lossing altered the original by putting Tecumseh in a British uniform, under the mistaken (but widespread) belief that Tecumseh had been a British general. This depiction is unusual in that it includes a nose ring, popular among the Shawnee at the time, but typically omitted in idealized depictions.
Born c. 1768
Xenia, OH
Died (1813-10-05)October 5, 1813
Moraviantown (near current-day Chatham-Kent, Ontario)
Nationality Shawnee
Other names Tecumtha, Tekamthi
Occupation Shawnee leader, Native American right activist
Known for Tecumseh's War, War of 1812
Parent(s) Pucksinwah, Methoataske

Tecumseh (c. 17685 October 1813), whose given name might be more accurately rendered as Tecumtha or Tekamthi, was a famous Shawnee leader. He spent much of his life attempting to rally disparate Native American tribes in a mutual defense of their lands, which eventually led to his death in the War of 1812.


"Tecumseh's War"

In 1805, a religious revival led by Tenskwatawa emerged. Tenskwatawa urged natives to reject the ways of the whites, and to refrain from ceding any more lands to the United States. Opposing Tenskwatawa was the Shawnee leader Black Hoof, who was working to maintain a peaceful relationship with the United States. By 1808, tensions with white settlers and Black Hoof's Shawnees compelled Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh to move further northwest and establish the village of Prophetstown near the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers (near present-day Battle Ground, Indiana).

Tenskwatawa's religious teachings became widely known as did his predictions based on information supplied by Tecumseh. Many of these were based on readings from white men's books, in particular astronomy books (see Galloway). Tecumseh would eventually emerge as the leader of this confederation, though it was built upon a foundation established by the religious appeal of his younger brother. Relatively few of these followers were Shawnees; although Tecumseh is often portrayed as the leader of the Shawnees, most Shawnees in fact had little involvement with Tecumseh or the Prophet, and chose instead to move further west or to remain at peace with the United States.

In September 1809, William Henry Harrison, governor of the newly formed Indiana Territory, negotiated the Treaty of Fort Wayne in which a delegation of half-starved Indians ceded 3 million acres (12,000 km²) of Native American lands to the United States.[1] Harrison was under orders from Washington to negotiate with Indians that claimed the lands that they were ceding. However, he disregarded these orders, as none of the Indians he met with lived on the lands that they ceded.

Tecumseh's opposition to the treaty marked his emergence as a prominent leader. Although Tecumseh and the Shawnees had no claim on the land sold, he was alarmed by the massive sale. Tecumseh revived an idea advocated in previous years by the Shawnee leader Blue Jacket and the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, which stated that Indian land was owned in common by all tribes, and thus no land could be sold without agreement by all. Not ready to confront the United States directly, Tecumseh's primary adversaries were initially the Indian leaders who had signed the treaty. An impressive orator, Tecumseh began to travel widely, urging warriors to abandon accommodationist chiefs and to join the resistance at Prophetstown. Tecumseh insisted that the Fort Wayne treaty was illegal; he asked Harrison to nullify it, and warned that Americans should not attempt to settle on the lands sold in the treaty. Tecumseh is quoted as saying, "No tribe has the right to sell, even to each other, much less to strangers.... Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Didn't the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?" And, "....the only way to stop this evil is for the red man to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land, as it was first, and should be now, for it was never divided."[2]

In 1810 and 1811, Tecumseh met with Harrison at Grouseland, Harrison's Vincennes, Indiana, home. He assured him that the Shawnee brothers meant to remain at peace with the United States. Tecumseh then traveled south, on a mission to recruit allies among those Indians who were at the time called the "Five Civilized Tribes." Most of the southern nations rejected his appeals, but a faction among the Creeks, who came to be known as the Red Sticks, answered his call to arms, leading to the Creek War.

While Tecumseh was in the South, Governor Harrison marched up the Wabash River from Vincennes with more than 1,000 men, on an expedition to intimidate the Prophet and his followers. On November 6 1811, Harrison's army arrived outside Prophetstown (Tippecanoe). Instead of being frightened, Tenskwatawa ordered his warriors to attack the American encampment that night. In the Battle of Tippecanoe, Harrison's men held their ground, and the Indians withdrew from the village after the battle. The victorious Americans burned the town and returned to Vincennes.

The battle was a severe blow for Tenskwatawa, who had lost both prestige and the confidence of his brother. Although it was a significant setback, Tecumseh began to secretly rebuild his alliance upon his return. Now that the Americans were also at war with the British in the War of 1812, "Tecumseh's War" became a part of that struggle. The American effort to neutralize potential British-Native American cooperation had backfired, instead making Tecumseh and his followers more fully committed to an alliance with Britain.

War of 1812

Tecumseh joined British Major-General Sir Isaac Brock to force the surrender of Detroit in August 1812, a major victory for the British. Tecumseh's acumen in warfare was evident in this engagement. As Brock advanced to a point just out of range of Detroit's guns, Tecumseh had his warriors parade from a nearby wood and circle around to repeat the maneuver, making it appear that there were many more than was actually the case. The fort commander, Brigadier General William Hull, surrendered in fear of a massacre should he refuse.[3] Among the Detroit residents imprisoned by the British was Father Gabriel Richard, but due to the high esteem in which the priest was held by the Native Americans among whom he ministered, Tecumseh refused to continue fighting for the British until they freed Richard.

This victory was reversed a little over a year later, as Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's victory on Lake Erie, late in the summer of 1813, cut British supply lines and forced them to withdraw. The British burned all public buildings in Detroit and retreated into Upper Canada along the Thames Valley. Tecumseh followed, fighting rearguard actions to slow the US advance.

Death of Tecumseh

The next British commander, Major-General Henry Procter did not have the same working relationship with Tecumseh as his predecessor and the two "disagreed over tactics." Procter failed to appear at Chatham, Ontario as expected by the Native Americans. Harrison crossed into Upper Canada in October, 1813 and won a victory over the British and Native Americans at the Battle of the Thames near Chatham. Tecumseh was killed, and shortly after the battle the tribes of his confederacy surrendered to Harrison at Detroit. Certain eye-witness sources state that Tecumseh was killed by Colonel Richard M. Johnson, future vice-president of the United States under Martin Van Buren, although it has not been proven.


The US Navy named four ships USS Tecumseh, the first one as early as 1863. The Canadian naval reserve unit ship, HMCS Tecumseh, is based in Calgary, Alberta. In June 1930, the United States Naval Academy Class of 1891 presented the Academy with a bronze replica of the figurehead of USS Delaware, a sailing ship of the line. This bust, one of the most famous relics on the campus, has been widely identified as Tecumseh. However, when it adorned the American man-of-war, it commemorated not Tecumseh but Tamanend, the Delaware chief who welcomed William Penn to America in 1682.

Tecumseh is honoured in Canada as a hero and military commander who played a major role in Canada's successful defence against an American takeover in the War of 1812, which eventually led to an independent Canada half a century later. Among the tributes, Tecumseh is ranked 37th in The Greatest Canadian list.

A number of towns have been named in honor of Tecumseh, including those in the states of Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and the province of Ontario, as well as the town and township of New Tecumseth, Ontario, and Mount Tecumseh in New Hampshire.

Union Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman, was named "Tecumseh Sherman" at birth, but his foster parents insisted on adding a more conventional "Christian name." By coincidence, Judy Garland's grandfather was also given the names William Tecumseh.

Tecumseh in fiction

See also


  1. ^ Treaty with the Delawares, Etc., 1809. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau.
  2. ^ Steinberg, Theodore. Slide Mountain or The Folly of Owning Nature. Chapter 5, "Three-D Deeds: The Rise of Air Rights in New York" University of California Press, 1996.
  3. ^ Burton, Pierre (1980) The Invasion of Canada. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, pp. 177-182.
  4. ^ Tecumseh! Official webpage for the outdoor drama program

Further reading

  • Dowd, Gregory Evans. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
  • Eckert, Allan. A Sorrow in Our Hearts: The Life of Tecumseh. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
  • Edmunds, R. David. Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership. Boston: Little Brown, 1984.
  • Gilbert, Bil. God Gave us This Country: Tekamthi and the First American Civil War. New York: Atheneum, 1989.
  • Sugden, John. Tecumseh: A Life. New York: Holt, 1997.

External links