Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
Ownership and Administration. State of Indiana; Department of Conservation.
Significance. Although the Battle of Tippecanoe (November 7, 1811) did not destroy the power of Tecumseh or quell the Indian threat in the old Northwest, it strengthened American morale and helped make Harrison a national hero. The battle was followed by increased Indian depredations along the frontier and led the Indians to a closer alliance with the British in the War of 1812. During the war, at the Battle of the Thames (1813), Harrison decisively defeated the Indians and British and left Tecumseh dead on the battlefield.
In the first part of the 19th century, as settlement was spreading westward from the Appalachians, the powerful and resourceful Shawnee Tecumseh began uniting the tribes of the old Northwest. Driven into present Indiana by the advance of white settlement, he and his half-brother, "The Prophet," in 1808 founded a stronghold named Prophet's Town near the mouth of Tippecanoe Creek. From this base Tecumseh attempted to ally Indians in the North and South against the white invaders. While he faced the practical realities of resistance, "The Prophet" preached of visions that foretold the doom of all white men who ventured into Indian lands.
In the Treaty of Fort Wayne (1809) the Delaware and Potawatomi Indians ceded about 3 million acres of land to the United States for a pittance. The following year Tecumseh traveled to Vincennes to discuss the matter of Indian lands with William Henry Harrison, Governor of Indiana Territory. Tecumseh promised peace if white men made no further advances into Indian lands, but Harrison told him that such advance was inevitable. Harrison, also rebuffing Tecumseh's assertion that land cessions made by one tribe could not be binding on all tribes, warned that the newly acquired lands would be settled by force if the Indians resisted. By autumn the frontier was ablaze. British agents in Canada, aware of the increasing tension between Great Britain and the United States, stepped up their aid to the Indians, though probably not to the degree that the Americans believed. After the failure of a last-minute conference in July 1811 at Vincennes, Tecumseh departed for the South with a warning to Harrison that he would invite Southwestern tribes to join the Indian confederacy.
Harrison immediately initiated a campaign against Tecumseh's base at Tippecanoe Creek. In September he mobilized 900 men, consisting of the Indiana Militia, reinforcements from the 4th U.S. Infantry Regiment, and a few Kentucky volunteers, and marched northward to Terre Haute. There he spent most of October building Fort Harrison to serve as an advance base. Late in the month the march resumed. On the night of November 6 he camped near the Indian base. Shortly before dawn about 600 or 700 Indians, who during the night had been incited by "The Prophet," attackedbut without the leadership of Tecumseh. Harrison beat them off three times and ordered a countercharge. The Indians broke and fled. The next day Harrison marched to the deserted village of Prophet's Town, destroyed it, and then marched back to Fort Harrison and Vincennes.
Although people in the West regarded the Battle of Tippecanoe as a major victory, it was dearly bought and not decisive. One-fourth of Harrison's army was dead or wounded. Harrison disbanded the survivors at Vincennes. The Indians soon rebuilt Prophet's Town and increased their attacks on white settlers. The frontier became as defenseless as before. Nevertheless, Harrison dispatched to the East an exaggerated account of the battle. Its impression on the frontier mind is evidenced by the campaign slogan of about 30 years later, "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too," when Harrison won the Presidency. Because of the Battle of Tippecanoe, Tecumseh and his followers allied themselves with the British the following summer, when the War of 1812 broke out. In the Battle of the Thames (1813), Harrison finally struck a fatal blow to the Indians. With Tecumseh's death in the battle, the Indian threat in the old Northwest subsided.
Present Appearance. Located on the edge of the village of Battleground, the 16-acre site of the Battle of Tippecanoe is enclosed by an iron fence and commemorated in Tippecanoe Battlefield State Memorial. The area is heavily wooded and relatively isolated from modern intrusion. A towering white monument, near the base of which is a statue of Harrison, and several stone markers identifying the locations where U.S. officers were killed or mortally wounded commemorate the battle.
NHL Designation: 10/09/60
Last Updated: 29-Aug-2005