Tippecanoe Battlefield Park

Location: Lafayette, Indiana

Webpage: Indiana State Park

General Description: When William Henry Harrison became the first Territorial Governor of the new Indiana Territory in 1800, his primary purpose was to secure Indian lands for new settlements in the territory.  This included the Treaty of Fort Wayne in 1809 that purchased nearly 3 million acres from the Miami, Pattawatomie, and Lenape tribes.  As the native Indians were forced to sell or give up their land as settlers continued to push west from Pennsylvania and Ohio, there were numerous conflicts between the settlers and Indians, fueled by the British who provided munitions to the native Indians since before the Revolutionary War. Tenskwatawa, known as the Prophet, had been leading a religious movement attracting disenfranchised Indians from throughout the northwest tribes to return to ancestral Indian ways.  His brother, Tecumseh, was outraged by the Treaty of Fort Wayne holding that viewpoint that all Indian lands were held in common by all the tribes and therefore could not be sold without agreement of all tribes.  Tecumseh began to travel widely encouraging warriors to abandon their accommodating chiefs and to join his forces at Prophetstown in Indiana where the Tippacanoe River joined the Wabash River.  In 1810, Tecumseh met with Harrison in Vincennes demanding Harrison negate the treaty, which was rejected.  Again in 1811 they met again in Vincennes, when Tecumseh assured Harrison that his Shawnee brothers meant to remain at peace.  After the meeting Tecumseh continued on south seeking out allies with the Creek Nation in Tennessee.  Even though Tecumseh claimed otherwise, Harrison soon learned about war plans and gathered his forces to make a show of force at Prophetstown while Tecumseh was away. Gathering his forces at Fort Knox, just north of Vincennes, he set out for Prophetstown by late September, 1811 consisting of 250 Army regulars, 100 Kentucky volunteers, and 800 Indiana militia.  By October 3, the force had reached a location on the Wabash River near present day Terra Haute where they camped and built Fort Harrison while they waited on supplies.  The supplies finally arrived by October 19, at which time they set out once again for Prophetstown.  As Harrison’s forces approached Prophetstown on November 6, Tenskwatawa sent out an emissary asking for a ceasefire until the next morning when they could meet and talk.  Harrison agreed, but felt the meeting would be worthless.  His army set up a defensive camp on a nearby hill at the confluence of the Tippacanoe and Wabash Rivers, a bit over a mile from Prophetstown.  Since there was a shallow creek, Burnett Creek, to the west and a steep embankment to the east, he did not order any defensive works created for the night.  During the night the Indians surrounded the camp and prepared for battle.  However, at 4:30 in the morning of November 7, some of the Indians were spotted and sporadic gunfire broke out.  This alerted the camp and since they had been ordered to sleep with loaded rifles, they were able to soon respond to the threat.  They were able to repel multiple charges into the camp by the Indians with the heaviest fighting along the southern end of the camp.  The battle lasted nearly 2 hours with 62 soldiers killed and an unknown number of Indians.  The Indians returned to Prophetstown blaming Tenskwatawa for not protecting them with magic spells as he promised.  They refused to attack again and abandoned the town.  Meanwhile Harrison was concerned about another attack and so spent the rest of the day building defensive works and tending to the wounded.  Since no further attack came, they marched into Prophetstown the following day finding it abandoned.  They burned the town and began their return to Vincennes under the assumption that they had ended the threat of the Prophet, Tenskwatawa and his brother Tecumseh.   While Harrison claimed a great victory against the Condeferacy, Prophetstown was rebuilt and Indian raids actually continued to increase in the region leading into the War of 1812 a year later.


1) Located at the site of the Battle of Tippacanoe is a very nice museum that includes exhibits about the events leading up to the battle from both points of view.  Then are exhibits about Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh, as well as, the forces Harrison brought together at Fort Knox.  Then a short movie provides details about the battle on November 7, 1811 and along with a diorama and maps you get a good understanding of the battle itself.  Finally, there is a series of exhibits about the immediate aftermath and the history of the area that led to the protection of the battlefield.


2) The battlefield itself is protected by a large fence surrounding the camp on the top of the hill along Burnett Creek.  There is a large monument at the north end of the battlefield and numerous smaller monuments scattered around the battlefield commemorating the location where officers were killed during the battle.  Today the battlefield has many large trees in a park like setting, some of which are old enough to have witnessed the battle itself.