A Celebration of Women Writers

"Part VII, Chapter 69." by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-)
From: This country of ours; the story of the United States by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-) New York, George H. Doran company, 1917.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


CHAPTER 69
MADISON–THE SHOOTING STAR AND THE PROPHET

JEFFERSON was twice chosen President. He might, had he wished, have been elected a third time. But like Washington he refused he refused to stand. And as those two great presidents refused to be elected a third time it has become a kind of unwritten law in the United States that no man shall be president longer than eight years.

 

The next president to be elected was James Madison, who had been Jefferson's secretary and friend. He was a little man always carefully and elegantly dressed. He was kindly natured and learned, and, like Jefferson, he loved peace. He soon, however, found himself and his country at war.

 

Ever since the Indians had been defeated by General Wayne they had been at peace. But now they again became restless. It was for the old cause. They saw the white people spreading more and more over their land, they saw themselves being driven further and further from their hunting grounds, and their sleeping hatred of the Pale-faces awoke again.

Indian War once more

And now a great chief rose to power among the Indians. He was called Tecumseh or Shooting Star. He was tall, straight and handsome, a great warrior and splendid speaker.

Tecumseh

Tecumseh's desire was to unite all the Indians into one great nation, and drive the Pale-faces out of the land. In this he was joined by his brother Tenskwatawa or the Open Door. He took this name because, he said, he was the Open Door through which all might learn of the Great Spirit. He soon came to be looked upon as a very great Medicine Man and prophet, and is generally called the Prophet.

The Prophet

Much that the Prophet taught to the people was good. He told them that they ought to give up fighting each other, and join together into one nation, that they ought to till the ground and sow corn; and above all that they should have nothing to do with "fire water." "It is not made for you," he said, "but for the white people who alone know how to use it. It is the cause of all the mischief which the Indians suffer."

 

The Prophet also told the Indians that they had no right to sell their land, for the Great Spirit had given it to them. And so great was the Prophet's influence that he was able to build a town where the Indians lived peacefully tilling the ground, and where no "fire water" was drunk.

Indian town of Tippecanoe

Now about this time General Harrison, the Governor of the Territory of Indiana, wanted more land. So in 1809 he made a treaty with some of the Indians and persuaded them to sign away their lands to him. When Tecumseh heard of it he was very angry. He declared that the treaty was no treaty, and that no land could be given to the white people unless all the tribes agreed to it.

General Harrison's Treaty, 1809

The Governor tried to reason with Tecumseh, but it was of no avail. And as time went on it was more and more plain that the Indians were preparing for war.

 

Tecumseh traveled about rousing tribe after tribe. "Let the white race perish," he cried. "They seize our land, they trample on our dead. Back! whence they came upon a trail of blood they must be driven! Back! back into the great water whose accursed waves brought them to our shores! Burn their dwellings! Destroy their stock! Slay their wives and children! To the Redman belongs the country and the Pale-face must never enjoy it. War now! War for ever! War upon the living. War upon the dead. Dig their very corpses from their graves. Our country must give no rest to a white man's bones. All the tribes of the North are dancing in the war dance."

Tecumseh's speech

After speeches like these there could be little doubt left that Tecumseh meant to begin a great war as soon as he was ready. And as time went on the settlers began to be more and more anxious, for murders became frequent, horses and cattle were stolen, and there seemed no safety anywhere.

 

The Governor sent messages to the various tribes saying that these murders and thefts must cease, and telling them that if they raised the tomahawk against their white fathers they need expect no mercy.

Harrison sends messages to the Indians;

The Prophet sent back a message of peace. But the outrages still went on, and through friendly Indians the Governor learned that the Prophet was constantly urging the Indians to war.

 

So the Governor determined to give him war, and with nearly a thousand men he marched to Tippecanoe, the Prophet's village. Tecumseh was not there at the time, but as the Governor drew near the Prophet sent him a message saying that they meant nothing but peace, and asking for a council next day.

he marches against them, 1811;

To this General Harrison agreed. But well knowing the treachery of the Indians he would not allow his men to disarm, and they slept that night fully dressed, and with their arms beside them ready for an attack.

 

The Governor's fears were well founded. For the day had not yet dawned when suddenly a shot was heard, and a frightful Indian yell broke the stillness.

the attack

In a minute every man was on his feet, and none too soon, for the Indians were upon them. There was a desperate fight in the grey light of dawn. The Indians fought more fiercely than ever before, and while the battle raged the Prophet stood on a hill near, chanting a war song, and urging his men on.

 

Every now and again messengers came to him with news of the battle. And when he was told that his braves were falling fast before the guns of the white men he bade them still fight on.

 

"The Great Spirit will give us victory," he said; "the Pale-faces will flee."

 

But the Pale-faces did not flee. And when daylight came they charged the Indians, and scattered them in flight. They fled to the forest, leaving the town deserted. So the Americans burned it, and marched away.

 

When Tecumseh heard of this battle he was so angry that he seized his brother by the hair of his head and shook him till his teeth rattled. For the Prophet had begun to fight before his plans were complete, and instead of being victorious had been defeated. And Tecumseh felt that now he would never be able to unite all the tribes into one great nation as he had dreamed of doing. The braves too were angry with the Prophet because he had not led them to victory as he had sworn to do. They ceased to believe in him, and after the battle of Tippecanoe the Prophet lost his power over the Indians.

Tecumseh's anger

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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Celebration of Women Writers.
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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom