Fayette County History & Genealogy

History of Fayette County


From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County

WAR OF 1812

A cursory view of Indian affairs prior to the war of 1812, will enable us the more clearly to understand the real cause of the war. Although the popular notion is that it grew out of the assumed right of search for British seamen on American vessels, it will be observed by the reading people that the British never wholly acknowledged the independence of the colonies. Therefore, by order of the British council, during her war with France, all our vessels, under penalty of liability to capture, were obliged to call at a British port on their passage to or from France or her allies. Napoleon, in retaliation, decreed that all vessels that had submitted to this regulation should be liable to capture by his cruisers. This, in addition to the British impressment of our seamen, was an outrage not to be tolerated by an independent people. Prior to this—indeed, ever since the treaty of Greenville, the Indian agents—principally McKee—had been busy sowing the seeds of dissension among the Indians, which were finally to be nurtured into open hostility. The prime disturbing elements among the Indians were the Prophet and his illustrious brother Tecumseh, or more properly, Tecumthe, who claimed that the Indian title to their lands was never extinguished by the treaty of Greenville. He traveled from north to south, and east to west, in his endeavors to unite all the Indian tribes to resist the incursion of the whites, in which he was encouraged by the British agents in this country. To strengthen his influence, the Prophet assumed the role of seer and oracle, and with bold effrontery pretended to receive communications from the Great Spirit; and having by some means ascertained the date of an eclipse of the moon, warned the Indians to rise and slay the whites; that the Great Spirit was angry at their delay, and on a certain night would hide his face from them. The event coming to pass as foretold, filled the superstitious minds of the Indians with perfect confidence in his supernatural powers and with dreadful apprehensions of the divine visitation unless they obeyed his commands.
Their crushing defeat by General Wayne still rankled in their bosoms, and cried aloud for vengeance. At the treaty of Fort Wayne, in 1809, the Indians ceded their lands along the Wabash. Tecumseh was absent, and the Prophet and his band were not invited, because they did not own the land. . On Tecumseh's return, he threatened to kill the chiefs who had signed the treaty. This led to negotiations between this celebrated chief and General Harrison, which only increased their complications. The wily chief sought to stave off open hostility till he could bring all the tribes together, and strike a simultaneous blow in conjunction with the British, as soon as war was declared between England and the United States.
After his last stormy interview with General Harrison, Tecumseh departed for the south, leaving the Prophet in charge. That ambitious schemer rushed the Indians into open hostilities, by instigating murders and plundering, until the battle of Tippecanoe, which, although he had told them that the Great Spirit had vouchsafed to him certain victory, terminated disastrously to the savages.
This battle, fought against the express advice of Tecumseh, frustrated his plans for a confederation of all the tribes. The Prophet was in disgrace. Said a Winnebago chief to him: " You are a liar; for you told us that the whites were dead or crazy, when they were all in their senses, and fought like the devil!" He answered by saying there must have been some mistake in the compounding of his decoction. He was reduced to a fac simile of Æsop's braying donkey in the lion's skin. It is related that Tecumseh upbraided him in the most severe terms, and on his offering palliating replies, seized him by the hair, shook him violently, and threatened to take his life.
On Tecnmseh's return, he insolently demanded ammunition at Fort Wayne, which being denied him, he said he would go to his British father, who would not deny him; remained standing thoughtfully a moment, then gave an appalling war-whoop and disappeared.
Meanwhile the affairs between the United States and Great Britain were rapidly approaching a crisis: April, 1812, an embargo was laid by congress on all the shipping in the ports of the United States. An act authorizing the president to detach one hundred thousand militia for six months was passed, also for organizing a regular army. The same month a requisition was made by the president on Ohio for twelve hundred militia, in obedience to which Governor Meigs issued orders to the major generals of the middle and western divisions of the state for their respective quotas of men, to rendezvous at Dayton April 29th. With an ardor and love of country unsurpassed, many more than were wanted tendered their services, and citizens of the first circles of society flocked in from Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Warren, Fayette, and surrounding counties, literally contending with each other who should go first. The oflicers elected for the three regiments formed were respectively
First regiment—Colonel, Duncan McArthur; majors, James Denny and William A. Trimble.
Second regiment—Colonel, James Findley ; majors, Thomas Moore and Thomas B. Vanhorne.
Third regiment—Colonel, Lewis Cass; majors, Eobert Morrison and J. R. Munson.
On the 25th of May, 1812, they were formally put under the command of General Hull, governor of the territory and superintendent of Indian afltairs. Speeches were made by Governor Meigs, Colonel Cass, and General Hull, and the fire of patriotism and military ardor burned brightly in every bosom, and all things looked auspicious.
June 1st the army marched up the Miami to Staunton, in Miami County, where they halted until their baggage came up the river in boats; on the arrival of which they continued their march to Urbana, about thirty miles east of Staunton, where, on the 8th, they were informed that they would be reviewed by the governor and some Indian chiefs. At this place Governor Meigs and General Hull held a council with twelve chiefs of the Shawanoes, Wyandot and Mingo nations, to obtain leave to pass through their territory, which was readily granted, and every facility oflered to aid the progress of the army. It was the humane policy of the government, in diametrical contrast with the contemptible course of Great Britain, to exhort the Indians to neutrality, in order to avoid the horrors of the tomahawk and scalping knife.
June 15th they broke camp and marched for Detroit, on their way wading through a swamp knee deep for over forty miles.
On Saturday, September 22d, news reached Dayton that Hull had surrendered at Detroit, August 16th. This created intense excitement and consternation along the frontier counties, and steps were at once taken to organize the militia. There were over forty thousand dollars' worth of public stores at Piqua, and the Indians who had assembled there at the grand council were still hanging around. Hand-bills were distributed, calling upon all able bodied citizens to rendezvous with arms at Dayton, immediately, to march to the relief of the frontiers. On Sunday morning, before seven o'clock, a company of seventy men was raised and under marching orders for Piqua in a few hours, led by Captain James Steele. Before the morrow, seven other companies were raised from the surrounding country, with Captain Caldwell's troop of horse, and Johnston's rifle company from Warren County, which latter, in company with Adams' battalion left on Monday. General Benjamin Whiteman, of Greene County, marched with nearly a full brigade. By reference to the muster roll, on a subsequent page, in the absence of tangible data, we can see some of the names of those who most likely participated in this campaign. The governor gave General Munger command at Piqua, and had the stores removed to Dayton. The whole country was thoroughly aroused to a sense of the imminent danger that threatened the frontiers. Troops were rapidly pushed forward to resist the expected attack of the English and Indians, led by the infamous Proctor and Tecumseh in the main, whose scattering bands were infesting the isolated settlements. The excitement was intense. All men capable of bearing arms were scouting, or in the army; women and children were huddled together in block-houses. Something must be done with the friendly Indians around the agency at Piqua.
About the 20th of June, 1812, General Harrison held a council with the chiefs of the Delawares, Shawanoes, Wyandots and Senecas, informing them that a crisis had arrived which required all the tribes who had remained neutral, and who were willing to engage in the war, to take a decided stand either for or against the Americans; that the president desired no false friends; that the proposal of General Proctor to exchange the Kentucky militia (his prisoners) for the tribes in our friendship, indicated that he had received some intimation of their willingness to take up the tomahawk against the Americans; and to give the United States proof of their disposition, they must either remove with their families into the interior, or the warriors must fight with him. To the latter condition the chiefs and warriors unanimously agreed, saying they had been awaiting an invitation to fight for the Americans.
Harrison exacted a promise from them to fight as white men, not slay women and children, old men, or defenseless prisoners; for by their conduct would the British power to restrain Indian ferocity be measured.
The general humorously told them that he had been informed that Proctor had promised to deliver him (Harrison) into the hands of Tecumseh, in case he captured him at Fort Meigs, to be treated as that warrior might think proper. "Now," said he, "If I can capture Proctor, you shall have him for your prisoner, provided you will agree to treat him as a squaw, and put petticoats upon him; for he who would kill a defenseless prisoner must be a coward."
The subject having been brought before the government, authority was given to enlist them, and the sequel proved that the Indians who fought under the American standard were uniformly distinguished for their orderly and humane conduct. Thus was the agency at Piqua relieved of a wearisome burden, and the indolent warriors utilized, who, by their military discipline, proved the contemptible perfidy and cowardice of Proctor.
It is impossible, in this work, to follow General Harrison, through all his campaigns, to Maiden, Sandwich, Fort Wayne, Detroit, Fort Meigs, until he practically closes the war by his glorious victory at the Thames, followed, July 22, 1814, by a treaty of peace, at Greenville, between the United States, Wyandots, Delawares, Shawanoes, Senecas, on the one side, and the Miamis, Weas, and Eel River Indians, and tribes of Pottawatamies, Ottawas, and Kickapoos, by which all these tribes were to aid the Americans, in case of the continuance of war with England, which, fortunately, was also terminated by the treaty of Ghent, December 24, 1814. Treaties were subsequently made with all the surrounding tribes, except the Sacs, of Rock River, who, under the celebrated Black Hawk, refused to attend the treaty, and acknowledged themselves British subjects, and went to Canada for presents. Thus we observe the germ of the Black Hawk war, in 1832, which, being remote, created no serious perturbations in this country. So, likewise, with the Mexican war, though participated in by a few of our citizens.
In the year 1814, either in December or January, Major Samuel Myers, of this county, was employed by the army contractors to superintend the transportation of eight hundred hogs, from Urbana, Ohio, to Fort Wayne, Ind. These hogs were bought in Madison and Fayette Counties, the Funk family furnishing the larger portion. John Funk accompanied Major Myers. In the latter part of December, with a guard of twelve soldiers under Ensign Gilmore, a number of cattle and about forty pack-horses, and a few assistants, the party started from Urbana, through the thick forest, to Fort Wayne. Although Indians were plenty they passed on quietly, occasionally stopping to allow the hogs to feed on the abundance of acorns in the forest.
The St. Mary's River, and Shanes Prairie were covered with ice, upon which the hogs and party crossed. The day before reaching their destination, being bright and snshiny, the pack-horses were allowed to crop the tall bear-grass that stuck up above the ice, while Myers, Funk and the soldiers remained, and the hands drove on the hogs. They had not proceeded far, yelling and hallooing at the hogs, until suddenly all was still. The major thinking something was wrong, mounted his horse and rode rapidly towards them. On approaching, he found them all huddled together, pale and trembling with fear. They informed him, that while driving the hogs, they suddenly beheld about forty Indians, armed, equipped, and in their war paint, sitting on their horses in a line not over a hundred yards from the road, then moving off towards the party in the rear.
The major, after hearing this, put spurs to his horse and galloped back, and ordered the pack-horses and soldiers to come up immediately. The drivers insisted on leaving all the stock in the woods, and rushing to the fort fifteen miles away ; but were ordered to remain until attacked. They then drove on to a favorable place, halted, and threw out a guard of six soldiers, cooked supper, put out the fire, and moved away about three hundred yards, cut beechbrush, laid it on the snow, put their blankets upon it, increased the number of guards, tied their horses close to their heads, and with their guns in their hands, bivouacked for the night, but not to sleep.
About ten o'clock, at night, a furious snow storm set in, which by midnight fell to the depth of ten inches. Major Myers knowing the Indians would not make an attack in such a storm ordered in the guards.
The sequel proved the truth of his predictions. The night passed undisturbed, and in the morning. Major Myers rode to the fort, then in command of Major Whistler, who sent out a detachment to guard the stock while on the road to the fort.
Prior to this, the celebrated chief, White Pigeon, had been confined a prisoner at the fort, and made his escape two days before the stock was expected to arrive. It was pretty certain that he knew that the stock was on the road. It was, therefore, at once supposed that the Indians led by him, with the intention of attacking the party and capturing the stock. It appears the Indians knowing the strong resistance that would be ottered, and anticipating a re-inforcement and pursuit from the fort, feared to make the attack.