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Battle of Tippecanoe: Summary and Significance

Mary Anthony Feb 29, 2020
The dispute between American armed forces and Native American tribes over land rights led to the Battle of Tippecanoe. This post describes the Battle of Tippecanoe with its summary and significance.

200 Years of Victory!

The historic American victory at Tippecanoe completed 200 years in 2011, it was commemorated by patriotic gatherings at the Tippecanoe Battle Ground in Tippecanoe county.
During the period of 1810, the American settlers had occupied mostly the Easternmost coast of the nation. They began eyeing the Western regions of Appalachian Mountains for additional expansion. These regions belonged to the Native American tribes who felt threatened by the American forces.
To combat against them, two leaders Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa, also known as 'The Prophet' started gathering arms and training Indian warriors in a village called Prophetstown or Tippecanoe.
Tecumseh hoped that the other Native American tribes would aid him to form an alliance against the United States forces. Also, the British took advantage of this situation, and provided the Native Indians with large amount of armaments.
General William Henry Harrison of the United States Army got a wind of the upcoming rebellion and swiftly planned to attack Prophetstown in a bid to capture it and crush the revolt. These three men - the two Shawnee brothers and Henry Harrison played a decisive role in the battle of Tippecanoe.


◆Tecumseh was a brave war chief and Shawnee tribe political leader. For years, the Shawnee tribe had aided the British against the Americans.
◆In his ambitious plan of uniting all the Native American tribes under one big political confederacy, he traveled throughout Midwest urging tribes to follow him and rise up against the land grabbings by the Americans with his powerful oratory skills.
◆In 1808, Tecumseh and his Prophetic brother established a new village at the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers known as Prophetstown. This new settlement attracted many Native Indians who received training with armaments to prepare for a revolt against the Americans.
◆During November 1811, the Native Indians and the American army clashed in a bloody battle at Tippecanoe. While this battle ensued, Tecumseh was in the South essaying recruitment of the Creeks into his confederacy. The Battle of the Tippecanoe proved to be a disaster for the Shawnees. Their settlements were burned and food supplies destroyed by the formidable Americans.
◆Upon his return from South, Tecumseh attempted to reconstruct his shattered dream of a united confederacy. Reviving the dream was close to impossible because the battle had weakened the morals of the Native Indians.
So, he assisted the British during the War of 1812 in Michigan during the capture of Detroit and led pro-British Indians in concomitant accomplishments in Southern Michigan (Monguagon) and Northern Ohio (Fort Meigs). Tecumseh died on the battlefield during the Battle of the Thames on 5th October, 1813.
◆ Tecumseh was greatly respected by the British as well as the Americans for his political leadership, oratory skills, humanitarianism, and bravery which has made him an American folk hero.


◆ The early life of Lalawethika is totally the opposite of what he acquired later in life. Being abandoned by his mother at an early age, he was not physically perfect like his brothers to be a warrior. His life was spent finding solace through drinking and gaining medicinal knowledge through the village doctor.
After the sole village doctor's death, he could not sustain his role and took to drinking heavily. Once in a drunken stupor, he fell unconscious for hours and his family thought he was dead for good and prepared for his burial.
◆ Suddenly he woke up and claimed that he had a spiritual encounter with the Master of Life, a Shawnee deity who advised him to fight against the Americans. He advocated the tribe to follow his teachings and give up on all American goods like guns, iron cookware, glass beads, and alcohol.
He insisted that if the Natives follow their traditional lifestyle they would regain the hold over their captured lands.
◆ He changed his name to Tenskwatawa which means "open door" in Shawnee. With his newly acquired title, he was known as the 'Prophet' by the Americans. Slowly he gained plenty of followers from the other tribes as well and established the 'Prophetstown' or Tippecanoe to train the warriors.
To prove that he had magical powers he successfully predicted a solar eclipse in 1806. Taking advantage of this tremendous support his brother Tecumseh channeled the religious following into a political one by recruiting Native Americans into a confederation.
◆ During the Battle of Tippecanoe, the Prophet miscalculated the army strategy of the Americans and gave the Native Indians a fiery speech laced with the promise of them receiving divine protection against the American bullets. He sent out the Indians to attack the American army which led to a disastrous end.
◆ Native people lost faith in their Prophet after the battle and refused to join in a confederation. Tenskwatawa wandered between Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, seeking followers. The Prophet died an unknown death in November 1836.

General William Henry Harrison

◆ William Henry Harrison was an efficient military general, eloquent statesman, and the ninth President of the United States for the shortest tenure. He won many military conquests especially the Battle of Tippecanoe is credited as one of his greatest wins during his lifetime.
◆ He won the presidential election with a sweeping 234 to 60 votes, shortly after he joined the office he contracted severe pneumonia due to which he died on 4th April, 1841 becoming the first President to die during office tenure.


The dispute between the Confederacy of Native Indian warriors who were led by Shawnee leaders Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa and the United States army led by General William Henry Harrison against the American expansion of the Indian territory in which the American army stood victorious is known as the battle of Tippecanoe.

Battle Facts

◆ The establishing of Prophetstown had put fear in the hearts of the American expansionists, they also feared the increasing influence of the 'Prophet' under whose guidance innumerable Native warriors were getting military and spiritual training.
◆ The British aided the faithful Shawnee tribe by providing them with ample armament supply. The impending revolt and the powerful alliance with the British caught the attention of American Gen. William Henry Harrison who planned to invade Prophetstown and destroy it.
He gathered an army of 1,000 men and marched towards the settlement. On 6th November, 1811 his contingent reached the Native settlement where a meeting was held between him and the Natives. It was decided that no casualties would be there until an agreement is reached the following day.
◆ On the return of American troops to a secluded area on the West of Prophet's Town, Gen. William instructed them to stay on high alert as he suspected treachery on the Prophet's part. He arranged the army in a quadrangular formation and every soldier slept in full armed position.
◆ On the other hand, Tenskwatawa infuriated his warriors by his hatred speech and spiritual talk of surviving the American bullets through divine intervention. Clearly displaying poor military skills and an over-ambitious attempt at war, he announced a surprise attack on the American troops.
The Native warriors struck during early morning but the American troops were well-prepared and defeated the Natives badly.
◆ They then burnt the settlement of Prophetstown and disrupted the food supply. The natives fled the town crushed in spirit and their faith over their spiritual leader diminished - so much so that they wanted to murder him. The American troops won the Battle of Tippecanoe on 7th November, 1811.

Significance & Aftermath

◆ Tecumseh could not fulfill his dreams of a united confederation, hence he continued supporting the British against the Americans. He is said to be the main catalyst of the War of 1812. He died fighting during the Battle of the Thames on 5th October, 1813. His Prophet brother could not take the scorn of the people and retreated on Wildcat creek.
He later went from town to town expecting followers but then died an obscure death in Wyandotte County, Kansas, during November, 1834.
◆ Gen. Harrison presided over the Indiana Territory as Governor until September, 1812. Later he was assigned command of the Northwestern frontier during the War of 1812 in which he was the prime force for the capture of Detroit and the Battle of the Thames, where Tecumseh was killed. Gen.
Harrison returned to public life at North Bend, Ohio where he served in the Ohio state senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate.
◆ When he won the presidential election from the Whig political party there were celebrations on the grounds of the Tippecanoe battlefield on 29th May, 1840 where roughly over 30,000 people gathered for the political festivities. The battlefield is now a historic site where a 85-foot marble obelisk was erected as a memorial in 1908.
The Battle of Tippecanoe sealed the fate of the Native Indians forever and helped realize the dreams of the American expansionists.