Tecumseh was a Shawnee born in the southern states area during the US revolution and grew up during the Northwest Indian war. In his lifetime he was always at war.
When the Europeans arrived in North America, they were welcomed by the Natives and allowed to share their land. The Natives did not understand that the Europeans had no desire to share, what they settled was theirs and no longer accessible to the Natives.
As the white man moved further west they continued to push all the tribes before them. In 1783 the British ceded the Ohio Valley to the U.S. and the Natives, including the Shawnee had to move further north and west to present day Indiana. They knew they were at risk of losing not only their land, but their culture which was being eroded by liquor and loss of the buffalo, and their own lives, for the advance of the white man brought epidemic diseases which wiped out whole tribes.
All the different tribes were furiously independent and jealous, they spoke different languages and often warred against each other. That independence was their downfall. It was too easy for the aggressive Americans to conquer the lands of these smaller nations. Tecumseh and his brother Prophet realized that if the Natives united in one large confederacy they might be able to establish at least large tract of land for themselves.
The British military was tied up fighting against Napoleon in Europe when the United States declared war on Britain, and decided to fight them in Canada. The U.S. had almost ten times the population of Canada and knew this was the right time to bring Canada under its control. The British had to utilize the local militias which were made of the settlers, many of whom were former Americans. Even so, they would have be doomed unless they utilized Natives who hated the U.S. for encroaching on their lands and massacring their families.
When General Isaac Brock and Tecumseh first met, both were very impressed with each other. Brock afforded Tecumseh the respect he deserved and together they planed and executed some daring and successful battles. Tecumseh was a great orator who impressed not only his fellow Natives but also many of the whites.
Unfortunately Brock was killed in the first year of the war, ending their brief, but successful partnership. He was replaced by Major General Procter who had trouble making decisions and did not keep Tecumseh informed. The summer of 1813 saw the British lose the naval Battle of Lake Erie. With U.S. supremacy on the lake, Procter’s supply lines were threatened and he decided his position at Ft. Amherstburg was indefensible, and decided to withdraw, without telling Tecumseh. Tecumseh was infuriated and likened him to “a fat animal that carries its tail upon its back, but when affrighted, it drops it between its legs and runs off.”
As the retreat began, Procter sent his belongings and families with a large escort up the Thames. He couldn’t decide where to make a stand against the closely-following Americans. He changed his mind three times and when he chose the spot on the north bank of the Thames, 1.6 kilometres from Moraviantown, his men were confused, dispirited and hungry.
It was not a good location and the U.S. attack broke the British lines almost immediately. Procter fled ‘in shameful display’. The U.S. immediately turned to the thicker woods where Tecumseh and his warriors stood. He had no intention of retreating without a fight even though he was outnumbered 3000 to 500. The battle didn’t last long. Tecumseh was shot.
The American version of his death said U.S. soldiers scalped him and tore strips of skin to make razor strops. Natives say his body was spirited away to an unmarked grave so his body could not be desecrated.
Proctor escaped but was disgraced and court-marshalled. Tecumseh’s death was also the death of the confederacy as there was no one to take his place in drawing the peoples together.
During peace negotiations at the end of the war the British actually tried to have a large area in the midwest set aside for an Indian Nation. The U.S. however refused to sign any treaty which included land for the Natives.
In the end the original boarders between Canada and U.S. were re-established, the true losers of this war were the Natives, who eventually lost all their lands on both sides of the boarder.
The 200th Anniversary of the Battle of the Thames will be remembered October 4/5 in the Chatham area. Here you can learn about the great Tecumseh and his dreams of a future that would have left North America looking very different if he had lived and achieved his aims.
Saturday, October 5 there will be drills, Regency dance lessons, two visits from Tecumseh, Fife and Drum Corps performances and of course at 3 p.m. the re-enactment of the Battle of the Thames. Check out their website for details: http://www.battleofthethames.ca/#/battleofthethames_tecumseh/