SINCE the late Convention assembled at Harrisburg, I have examined with some care, the public despatches, speeches, and acts of William Henry Harrison, nominated by that Convention as a candidate for the office of President of the United States, and have prepared, from such authentic materials as were accessible to me, a relation of the events of his life, — which I beg leave, most respectfully, to present herewith to your consideration.
In Congress, 10th Feb., 1840.
WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON being now before the people of the United States as a candidate for the presidency, it naturally follows that the events of his life, and the public service he has performed, should become objects of general interest and attention. Happily there exist ample means of authentic information to satisfy the public curiosity concerning him; for the history of the Western States, during the period of their early struggles and triumphs, is also his history; and his fame is identified with that of the teeming myriads of the Valley of the Mississippi. A brief retrospect of his career, civil and military, while it exhibits the character and acts of an able statesman, a high-minded patriot, a brave soldier, and a successful commander, will approve and justify the confidence and respect of his countrymen, in proposing to raise him to the eminent post of Chief Magistrate of the Union.
Birth and Education.
Harrison was born of the blood, and bred in the school, of the patriots of the Revolution. That was a period when a single-hearted purity of purpose, and a lofty self-devotion of principle, animated the public men of the day. In the Congress of the Thirteen States, each State, and every representative of either State, contended to see which would most disinterestedly serve their common country. When a Commander-in-Chief of the armies of Independence was to be appointed, Massachusetts hastened to sacrifice her own local claims and preferences in behalf of George Washington of Virginia. When John Hancock, elected President of Congress, modestly hesitated to assume that important station, Benjamin Harrison, of Virginia, placed him, with gentle force, in the presidential chair, exclaiming, "We will show Mother Britain how little we care for her, by making a Massachusetts man our President, whom she has excluded from pardon by public proclamation." In fact, Benjamin Harrison, acting in the spirit of the times, postponed his own pretensions in favor of Hancock. His name is enrolled for immortality among the signers of the Declaration of Independence. At a subsequent period, as Governor of Virginia, he exerted all the energies of his decided and powerful mind, in the application of the resources of that great Commonwealth to the promotion of the cause of the Revolution.
William Henry, third son of Benjamin Harrison, was born at Berkley, in Charles City county, Virginia, the 9th of February, 1773, and educated at Hampden Sidney College. His father died in 1791, having expended a large fortune in the service, of his country during the Revolution, in Congress, as Chairman of the Board of War, and otherwise, and as Governor of Virginia; and thus leaving to his children little inheritance, save the example and lessons of his patriotism and love of liberty. Dependent on his own exertions, and preparing to enter life at an interval of peace, he had applied himself assiduously to the study of medicine; but, before long, the hostilities of the Indians in the Northwest began to awaken public solicitude, and he felt irresistibly impelled to relinquish his professional pursuits, and to dedicate his life to the defence of his country. This inclination was combated, but in vain, by his guardian, Robert Morris. It was heartily approved, however, by General Washington, the intimate friend of his father, and then President of the United States, who appreciated
4the generous motives of young Harrison, and gave him an appointment of Ensign of artillery in the troops destined to operate on the Ohio.
Services Under Wayne.
It was no holiday service in which Harrison was to learn the duties of a soldier. The Northwest, at that time thinly inhabited by the hardy pioneer settlers, was overrun by numerous bands of hostile Indians, their enmity to the United States stimulated and fostered by the intrigues of Great Britain. Indeed, the British ministers treated the years immediately following the war of Independence as an imperfect truce, rather than an assured peace. Notwithstanding the efforts of the United States, during the war of Independence, to induce the British Government to allow the Indians to stand neutral during that contest; notwithstanding the indignant denunciation of the policy of Great Britain in this respect, by such men as Chatham and Burke, in the British Parliament; the ministers armed the Indians on the frontier, and let loose upon our defenceless women and children the savage instruments of massacre and conflagration. Thus the life of the early settlers in the West was one of fearful danger, or of continual contest with a foe who recognized no rules of civilized warfare. When the independence of the United States was at length acknowledged by Great Britain, our people considered, in good faith, that peace was come, and the tide of their emigration began to set in a steady stream to the fertile fields of the West. But they found that the British Government persisted, in violation of treaty, in retaining military possession of the great frontier posts in the Northwest; that she still fomented the hostile passions of the Indians, and supplied them with arms; and that she was prompting and combining them in a project to drive our people out of the Northwest, and to establish, between the Ohio and the Lakes, a great, independent Indian Empire, looking to her for protection; and thus restoring to her influence one half of the territory nominally recognized as ours by the Treaty of Peace. Between 1783 and 1789, it is estimated that fifteen hundred men, women, and children were killed or taken prisoners by the Indians on the waters of the Ohio, and an incalculable amount of property plundered or destroyed. At length, a formal war broke out; and its opening events were most disastrous to the United States. First came the defeat of General Harmar, and the dispersion of the army under his command. Next, General St. Clair, with a still larger force, was defeated, with great loss, by the confederated Indians under Little Turtle. The whole country was now filled with consternation. Men, who would have cheerfully gone to the encounter of regular troops in the field, shrunk from the hardships of a laborious service in the wilderness of the West, and from exposure to the rifle and tomahawk of the merciless Indian. Great as were the difficulties of the case, however, General Washington met them with his characteristic vigor and firmness. The war had ceased to he an affair of the frontier; it had assumed national importance. General Anthony Wayne, an officer who had won a merited distinction in the Revolutionary War, by that union of sound judgment and successful daring which constitutes the highest military talent, was selected to take the command in the Northwest. But an army was to be created, as well as a commander found; for the previous army had been nearly annihilated in the defeats of Harmar and St. Clair; and most of the experienced officers were slain, or had resigned their commissions. Accordingly, the army was newly organized; and the first business of General Wayne was to discipline his raw levies, to give them the habit and skill of combined action, and, above all, to reinfuse into the troops the necessary confidence, which the calamitous campaigns of Harmar and St. Clair had done so much to destroy. Assiduous exercises in the camp, toilsome marches, incessant watching, and hard fare on the way, deadly peril in the field — such was the life of the troops led by General Wayne to redeem the honor of the country, and deliver the Northwest from dismay and desolation.
These were the circumstances, amid which, in the campaign of 1791, Harrison, at the age of eighteen, commenced his career of public duties. On receiving his commission, he repaired immediately to join his regiment, then stationed at Fort Washington, where he arrived just after the defeat of General St. Clair, to witness the gathering in of the scattered fragments of that officer's late gallant army, and to cooperate in maintaining the frontier outposts against the victorious Indians. Harrison's young and slender form was deemed by his friends hardly robust enough to cope with the hardships and privations of an arduous winter service in such a region and at such a time. But the boldness and vigor of his character, his early prudence, and the temperate habits which, notwithstanding the temptations of a soldier's life, he sedulously cultivated, prepared him to endure, without injury, the severe toils and exposures of his after life, and bore him triumphantly through all the difficulties and dangers of his position.
5His first detailed service was to command an escort bound for Fort Hamilton; a duty which, young as he was, he discharged with so much ability and judgment as to elicit the commendation of St. Clair.
In 1792, Harrison was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, and on joining the legion under General Wayne, was selected by him as one of his Aids-de-Camp, in which capacity he served during the rest of the war. The appointment was as honorable as it was useful to Harrison; for General Wayne was a man who looked only to personal merit in the officers he distinguished; and employment under his immediate eye was a severe school of discipline, courage, and ability, which necessarily exacted high qualities, and afforded the best field for their development and exercise.
Wayne's army left Pittsburg towards the close of 1792, and, as the organization and discipline of the troops advanced, proceeded first to Legionville, at the mouth of Beaver, then to Fort Washington, (Cincinnati,) and finally to Greenville, towards the Miami. Negotiation for peace had meanwhile gone on without results. In December, 1793, a body of troops was despatched to take possession of the battle-field of St. Clair's defeat, and to fortify a position there, called Fort Recovery. In the course of the general order, issued on that occasion, General Wayne says: "The Commander-in-Chief also requests Major Mills, Captains De Butts and Butler, LIEUTENANT HARRISON, and Dr. Scott, to accept his best thanks for their voluntary aid and services on the occasion." Harrison had thus early earned a name in history.
Passing over the lesser incidents of war, it will be sufficient to dwell on the crowning victory of the 20th August, 1794. Wayne had advanced into the very heart of the Indian country, at the head of the United States troops, and a gallant band of Kentuckians under General Charles Scott. He encountered the combined force of the hostile Indians, with volunteers and militia from Canada, numbering 2,000 in all, at the foot of the Miami Rapids, in the vicinity of a British fort and garrison recently set up in our territory, and, with a force less than half that of the enemy, gained a complete and splendid victory. In his despatch to the President, giving an account of the victory, General Wayne says:
"The bravery and conduct of every officer belonging to the army, from the generals down to the ensigns, merit my highest approbation. There were, however, some, whose rank and situation placed their conduct in a very conspicuous point of view, and which I observed with pleasure and the most lively gratitude; among whom I beg leave to mention Brigadier General Wilkinson, and Colonel Hamtramck, the commandants of the right and left wings of the legion, whose brave example inspired the troops; and to these I must add the names of my faithful and gallant aids-de-camp Captains De Butts and T. Lewis, and Lieutenant Harrison, who, with the adjutant General Major Mills, rendered the most essential service by communicating my orders in every direction, and, by their conduct and bravery exciting the troops to press for victory."
Indeed, there are veterans of that well-fought field, who remember and honor the gallantry of young Harrison in rallying our troops to battle.
This engagement not only broke the power of the Indians for the time being, and ended the war by the treaty of Greenville, but had other important consequences in compelling Great Britain to surrender the frontier posts she had so long intrusively held, and to conclude the treaty of 1794, commonly called Jay's Treaty.
Previous to this, however, Harrison, being advanced to the rank of Captain, was placed in command of Fort Washington, with extensive discretionary powers to be used according to the requisition of circumstances, and with various specific delicate duties devolved on him by the yet unquiet condition of the Ohio and Mississippi country.
While stationed in this command, Captain Harrison married the daughter of John Cleves Symmes, the founder of the Miami settlements; a lady who has been his estimable companion through life, the consort of his toils and vicissitudes, and the witness of his fame and his honor.
Secretary of the Northwest Territory.
On the death of General Wayne, in 1797, Harrison, perceiving that the exigencies of war were passed, and that there was no longer an opportunity to serve his country in the field, resigned his commission in the army, and was immediately appointed Secretary of the Northwest Territory. Here, in the discharge of the civil duties incumbent on his office, he became intimately associated with the brave and hardy people around him, and learned to understand and duly estimate the character, wants, and wishes of his countrymen, — studying the practical lessons of life in the great volume of nature, as unfolded to him by daily intercourse, in the cabin of the settler, the hunter's lodge, the council chamber, and in social meetings, with the free-spirited pioneers of the West.
Delegate in Congress.
When, according to the then existing system, the Northwestern Territory was admitted to a representation in Congress, the signal abilities, not less than the personal popularity of Harrison, pointed him out to the people as the fittest person to represent them; and, on the opening of the sixth Congress, December 2d, 1799, he took his seat, as the Delegate of the Territory in the House of Representatives, being then but twenty-six years of age.
He distinguished himself in that Congress by proposing and carrying through a series of measures, all-important immediately to his constituents, and, in their effects, eminently beneficial to the whole West, for a radical change in the method of making gales of the public lands.
This, of course, — the interest in the soil, — was the question of questions in a new country. At that time the public lands, except in peculiar situations, were offered only in large tracts, of at least four thousand acres. The purchase of so large a tract of land required considerable means, and gave all advantage to the capitalist, who bought for resale, and imposed every disadvantage on the actual settlers. These last were generally poor men, whose bold hearts and strong arms were to win the country from the savages, clear the soil, and constitute the very hone and sinew of the population; but who yet, by the system of sales in use, were almost debarred from the rights of freeholders, except by purchase, at second hand, from the great landowners. In some instances, very extensive grants had been made to companies or individuals; the operation of all which, if continued without change, would have been to build up a class of rich proprietors, with the mass of the people in the condition of mere tenants on their princely estates. Nothing could have been more inequitable, nothing more favorable to the Few, nothing less so to the Many.
With this subject, in all its bearings, Harrison was practically familiar; and, young as he was, and a new member, too, the House deferred to his knowledge and experience, and the sagacity of his views, on this great subject. At his motion, a select committee was raised to investigate the matter, of which he was appointed chairman, and the committee adopted his ideas; he was efficiently supported in the committee by Mr. Gallatin, and their report recommended that the public lands be, in the first place, offered at public sale, in half sections of 320 acres; that lands not bid off at public sales should remain for private entry at the minimum government price; and that, for the convenience of the settlers, land offices should be opened in the region of the sales. Relying upon the justice of his cause, and his intimate knowledge of the subject, and with an ardent zeal and a ready and manly eloquence at his command, he succeeded in convincing Congress of the wisdom of these ideas, and procuring the passage of a law in conformity therewith. Subsequently, the same ideas were still further carried out by authorizing the sale of the public lands in still smaller subdivisions, and at a reduced price.
Encouraged by his success in this measure, he introduced and carried another for a change in the mode of locating military warrants. By these measures, he at once secured the gratitude of his constituents, and acquired standing and character as an able statesman; for the reforms thus effected were of the utmost possible consequence to the welfare of the West. Now, when settlers poured, with augmented rapidity, into the valley of the Ohio, the land was no longer engrossed by monopolists, but every man could be the master of a freehold, suited to his views. Who can say how much the prosperity and population of the West might not have been retarded if the former defective system had been persevered in by Congress? Thanks to the judgment and efforts of Harrison, other counsels prevailed.
Governor of Indiana.
When, soon afterwards, the Northwest Territory was divided, and the Territory of Indiana established, public opinion, the wishes of the inhabitants, and the confidence of the Executive in his capacity and integrity, designated Harrison to be its Governor. He received the appointment in 1860; and immediately entered upon the difficult and responsible duties of his government; being first appointed by Mr. Adams, and afterwards by Mr. Jefferson.
The new Territory embraced the vast region now divided into Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin; for a period of nearly two years, from 1803 to 1805, the whole of Louisiana was appended to it, and Michigan was for a time added, on the admission of Ohio into the Union. In the very outset, however, the limits of Governor Harrison's jurisdiction were sufficiently extensive. His powers were not less so; for the Territory had no separate Legislature, and all the functions of government, of course, appertained to the United States, and were devolved on the Governor.
It was a new country, whose institutions were yet to be formed. The white population was thinly scattered over a wide region. There were three principal settlements only: one at Vincennes, on the Wabash, which was the capital; another, known as Clark's Grant, at the Falls of the Ohio; and the third in the American Bottom, from Kaskaskia to Cahokia. Between these chief settlements the means of communication were imperfect, and the intermediate country was in the possession of the Indians, who, besides, occupied the wide wilderness beyond the settlements. The Indians were restless and dissatisfied, given to plunder and murder, even in the periods of professed peace, and kept in a state of perpetual irritation against the United States by the intrigues of the British Government, whose agents supplied them with arms and ammunition, infuriated them with ardent spirits, and perpetually incited them to war and rapine. All the endeavors of the United States (and they were unceasing) to allure the Indians to the arts of peace, — to civilize and Christianize them, — to save them from the self-degradation of their own peculiar vices of idleness, intemperance, and poverty, — were neutralized by the officers of Britain, whose policy it was to keep them ready maddened to her hand, to be let slip, at a word, on the frontier settlements of the Ohio and the Mississippi.
Such was the nature of the country, and such that of the inhabitants. The powers and the duties of the Governor, numerous, complicated, and extensive, authorized and required him to adopt and publish such laws of the original States, criminal and civil, as might be necessary and best suited to the circumstances of the Territory, — to appoint all magistrates and other officers, civil and military, below the rank of General, — to command the militia, — to divide the Territory into counties and townships, — to superintend the affairs of the Indians,— and, in general, to represent the plenary authority of the Federal Government in a vast variety of administrative cares and functions. And, in 1803, Mr. Jefferson added to all these great powers that of General and sole Commissioner to treat with the Indian tribes of the Northwest on the subject of their boundaries and lands.
Thus it will be seen that, for some time, Governor Harrison was, in effect, the lawgiver of the people of the Northwest; that he was their civil and military governor, and the fountain of trust and office; their general agent with the Federal Government, and the superintendent of, and negotiator with, the numerous Indians between the Ohio, the Lakes, and the Mississippi.
In the latter capacity, he concluded, in the course of his administration, thirteen important treaties with the different tribes, and obtained cessions, on the most advantageous terms, of not less than sixty millions of acres of land, embracing a large portion of the richest region in the Northwest; at the same time that he, for a long period, preserved the peace within his jurisdiction, and counteracted all the machinations of the agents and officers of Great Britain to embroil our people with the savages, and taught the latter, in the course of his frequent association with them, to respect his undaunted firmness, while they were conciliated by his moderation, forbearance, and integrity.
His integrity, indeed, not in this relation only, but in all the multifarious trusts committed to him, some of them of the most delicate and discriminating kind, was equally manifest throughout his long administration of the affairs of the Northwest. His unspotted purity, in the disbursement of the large sums of public money which passed through his hands, if not then remarkable in men so situated, was a virtue, which later experience has taught his countrymen to appreciate as it deserves. Nor in reference to money only, but likewise in the management of his various trusts relating to the public lands, the same disinterested integrity of principle was characteristic of his conduct. Thus, to mention but one example, to him was confided the sole authority of confirming grants of land to a numerous class of individuals having certain equitable claims to be approved and sanctioned by him. Here, also, later experience has demonstrated the stainless integrity of his character, by showing the opportunities he possessed (had he chosen to descend to use them) to gain wealth by indirect means. Yet his conduct in this respect, as in all others, is universally admitted to have been not only strictly and scrupulously upright, but so honorable, just, and true, as to be beyond the reach of suspicion.
Once, and only once, was his integrity called in question. One M'Intosh, for some insignificant cause of offence, accused Governor Harrison of having defrauded the Indians in the treaty of Fort Wayne; and the accused justly conceived that it was due to his own fame, and to the interests of the General Government, that the charge should be fully investigated in a court of justice, whilst all the facts were fresh in the minds of the community. He instituted, therefore, an action for slander in the Supreme Court of the Territory, and every possible means was adopted to secure a free and fair investigation of the circumstances, by committing the trial to a
8judge and a jury of admitted competency and impartiality between the parties. It was done, and the evidence was so conclusive in favor of Governor Harrison, that the counsel for M'Intosh abandoned the attempt to justify, and plead only in a mitigation of damages. The jury, however, rendered a verdict of four thousand dollars damages against M'Intosh; whose property was levied upon to satisfy the judgment, and, being brought in by an agent of the Governor, one third of it was distributed by him among the orphan children of some of his fellow-citizens who had died in battle, and the residue was restored to M'Intosh himself. No language of praise can add to the truth and force of the simple beauty of such examples of magnanimity, disinterestedness, and generosity.
Governor Harrison did not willingly continue in the exercise of the large powers originally confided to him, any longer than the policy of the Federal Government required it of him; and in 1805, partly at his pressing instance, the people of Indiana were authorized by Congress to elect a Legislative Assembly and a Delegate to the House of Representatives. This change, while it divided the powers of the Governor, scarcely diminished his means of usefulness; because the new form of government, being participated in by the people, involved the originating and discussion of new measures adapted to the advanced state of the Territory. The departments of administration were to be modeled; important laws to be enacted; and public, measures to be considered by the Governor, in cooperation with the representatives of the people. His speeches to the Legislature, at this period, are frank, manly, sagaciously-conceived, and well-written public documents, exhibiting a mind cultivated by study and reflection, zeal for the public service, and views of enlightened statesmanship adapted to the circumstances and the welfare of the Territory. In a word, in his civil capacity, as Governor of the Territory, he was a wise, upright, faithful, and successful administrator of the high powers intrusted to him by the General Government.
It necessarily followed that he enjoyed the highest meed of active public service, which a statesman can hope for, — the highest, that is, next to the approbation of his own conscience, — namely, the consciousness of eminent usefulness and of eminent popularity consequent thereon. When he first entered on the duties of his office, he avowed his intention to retain it no longer than his administration should be satisfactory to the people of the Territory; and, at their request, his commission was renewed at successive periods by Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison. His first appointments had come from the "Father of his country;" and Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, each, in succession, honored him with their confidence. In politics, he had been early identified with the Republicans; and he temperately, but steadily, adhered to the maxims of that party; deferring to the wishes of the people, and seeking to promote their interests, in the true spirit of enlightened republican patriotism.
Hence, when Louisiana was separated from Indiana, the citizens of St. Louis expressed their sentiments of his administration as follows:
"To his Excellency William H. Harrison, Governor, and the honorable the Judges of the Indiana Territory.
"GENTLEMEN: An arduous public service assigned you by the general government of the United States, is about to cease. The eve of the anniversary of American Independence will close the scene, and on that celebrated festival will be organized, under the most auspicious circumstances, a government for the Territory of Louisiana. Local situation and circumstances forbid the possibility of a permanent political connection. This change, however congenial to our wishes, and conducive to our happiness, will not take effect without a respectful expression of our sentiments to you, gentlemen, for your assiduity, attention, and disinterested punctuality, in the temporary administration of the government of Louisiana."
The officers of the militia of St. Louis, on the same occasion, at the close of an address to the Governor, said:
"Accept, sir, these sentiments, as the pledge of our affectionate attachment to you, and to the magnanimous policy by which you have been guided. May the Chief Magistrate of the American nation duly estimate your worth and talents, and long keep you in a station where you have it in your power to gain hearts by virtuous actions, and promulgate laws among men who know how to respect you, and are acquainted with the extent of their own rights."
In 1809, the House of Representatives of Indiana, in a resolution unanimously requesting of the President to reappoint Governor Harrison, used the following language:
"They (the House of Representatives) cannot forbear recommending to, and requesting of, the President and Senate, most earnestly, in their own names, and in the names of their constituents, the reappointment of their present Governor, William Henry Harrison; because he possesses the good wishes and affections of a great majority of his fellow-citizens; because
9they believe him to be sincerely attached to the Union, the prosperity of the United States, and the administration of its Government; because they believe him, in a superior decree, capable of promoting the interest of our Territory, from long experience and laborious attention to its concerns, from his influence over the Indians, and wise and disinterested management of that department; and because they have confidence in his virtues, talents, and republicanism."
And the officers of the militia of Knox county passed the following resolution:
"Resolved, That the attention paid, and the unremitted exertions used, by William Henry Harrison, to organize and discipline, by frequent trainings, the militia of the Territory, and the masterly skill and military talents displayed in such his exertions, together with the anxious solicitude with which he has ever watched over the peace and happiness of the Territory; to which maybe added, the confidence reposed in him by the neighboring tribes of Indians, and the great facility and ease with which he manages their affairs, — induce this meeting to have great confidence in him, as eminently qualified to govern the Territory, not only because of his superior talents, but also his integrity, patriotism, and firm attachment to the General Government."
With these most honorable testimonials to his worth and capacity as Governor of the Territory of Indiana, this part of the subject may well be closed, for the purpose of proceeding to other matters of deep and wide interest.
Commissioner and Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
We have seen that, in addition to his ordinary duties in the civil and military government of the Territory of Indiana, Governor Harrison was also Commissioner to treat with the Indians, and Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Northwest, in which capacity he negotiated a large number of important treaties, and conducted all the relations of the United States with the Indians, in a spirit of mingled dignity, decision, and humanity, alike honorable to himself, and to the Federal Government. His voluminous correspondence with the Government on these matters, appears in the official documents of the day, and is distinguished by minuteness of detail, the full and accurate statement of facts, a benevolent and enlightened policy, and a considerate regard as well for the rights and interests of the Indians themselves, as of the whole inhabitants of the Territory. The same spirit of equity, forbearance, and manliness, in this respect, pervades his addresses to the Legislature of Indiana, whenever occasion called for any reference to the subject.
Similar traits were manifested by him in his immediate intercourse with the Indians. This department of public duty, always a difficult one to discharge judiciously, was emphatically so at that period. The Northwest was then filled, not only with the tribes who had originally hunted there, but with the broken remnants of other tribes, — men whom the atrocious policy of Great Britain had inveigled into war against us, and who, now smarting under successive defeats, and scattered over the country, constituted the ready elements of disorder, if any of the chances of events should offer them inducements to raise the hatchet anew. Nor were they without continual incitements to hostility. It was a part of the system of Great Britain — a system not yet relinquished — to assemble the tribes of the Northwest annually, at a convenient point on the Lakes, and there to pay and deliver to them a regular war subsidy, as the price of their allegiance to Britain, and enmity to the United States. The British traders in the Northwest spared no pains to misrepresent the acts of the people and Government of the United States, and to thwart all our endeavors either to keep the peace in that region, or to raise the Indians to the condition of a civilized and Christian people. There, too, as almost every where else, the Indians were their own worst enemies, by their obstinate adherence to the usages of savage life, their repudiation of all regular government, and their consequent exposure to the criminal arts of bad men along the frontier, who, from avarice and profligacy, supplied a fatal nutriment to the constitutional vices of the Indians. Add to which, that mutual and long-continued injuries between the whites on the one hand, and the Indians on the other, had infused into the minds of each a feeling of reciprocal hatred, which was continually breaking forth into acts of common aggression.
To conduct the business of the Indians in such circumstances, and to govern them, (as the Superintendent in fact must,) was in itself an affair of the utmost delicacy and difficulty, requiring the highest qualities of judgment, sagacity, and firmness. But the task was rendered still more arduous by the peculiar system of the United States Government. Governor Harrison was instructed to pursue, sedulously, a policy of peace with the Indians; to avoid all appearance of a hostile and jealous disposition towards them; to practise forbearance and conciliation, and to cultivate friendly relations at every hazard. He was to pursue this policy along an exposed frontier, in the midst of numerous tribes of Indians, who, from the causes already specified, were unusually
10fierce, turbulent, and vindictive, and who were incessantly stimulated to acts of out-rage by the agents of Great Britain. It will be conceived that, in such circumstances, the, pacific spirit of our Government, while it imperfectly attained its object, never wholly stayed the work of desolation, but augmented greatly the labors of the Governor. With (it has been well said) the savage war-whoop yelling on one hand, and a Government commanding peace on the other, — with a feeble settlement claiming protection at one point, and a band of martial borderers demanding to be led to battle on another, — while the agents of a nation at peace with our own urged on the savages, and her military posts supplied them with arms, — there can scarcely be imagined a post requiring the exertions of greater skill, prudence, and firmness, than that of the Governor of Indiana. For him there could be neither repose nor safety. He led the life of a warrior, yet discharged the duties of the civil magistrate. While executing the laws, and founding the institutions of a new State, he was continually called to encounter danger in the defence of the homes of the people. Though compelled to restrain the Indians and the whites by force of authority, it was his duty to interpose with each as a minister of benevolence on the part of the United States.
Yet all these multifarious and most arduous duties Governor Harrison fulfilled with fidelity and with honor, and while affording efficient protection to the citizens of the country, and thus displaying all the talents of a great statesman and a brave officer, he never sullied his name with any act of military violence, or gratuitous cruelty; so that, when war at length could no longer be averted, and it became incumbent on him to lead the forces of the Territory into the field, he bore thither the stainless banner of, — not a wanton assailant of the rights of others, but the patriotic defender of his country's altars and firesides.
Intercourse with Tecumthe and the Prophet.
For, strenuously as the United States Government, and Governor Harrison, acting under its orders, strove to avert a war, it became inevitable, through the operation of causes over which he had no control; namely, the persevering aggressions of Great Britain on the commerce and public rights of the United States, which ended in war between the two nations, preluded by Indian hostilities in the Northwest.
At all times, as before stated, both during the Revolution and afterwards, as the incidents of St. Clair's and Wayne's campaign evinced, British agents were active in stirring up against us the Indians within the United States. The anticipation of a new war with the United States, redoubled their activity; and they found efficient agents among the Indians themselves, in two Shawanee Chiefs, Tecumthe and his twin brother, the Prophet. Tecumthe first began to be much known in 1806. He had conceived and matured a design — the same which Pontiac had attempted in vain — to combine all the western tribes for the destruction of the western settlements. He was daring, energetic, and sagacious in character, a shrewd thinker, a fluent speaker, an able warrior, and a skilful negotiator, animated by the most inextinguishable hatred against the United States. He had for his coadjutor his brother Ol-li-wa-chi-ca, called the Prophet, who, though inferior to Tecumthe in most respects, was yet capable of aiding his brother efficiently, by reason of his influence over the superstitious Indians as a medicine man, pretending to be inspired by the Great Spirit, and endowed by him with power and wisdom, to expel the white men from the Valley of the Mississippi, to redeem the red men from their present degradation, and to restore to them their ancient exclusive power in the New World. They surrounded themselves with a lawless band of desperate and reckless men, the outcasts of different tribes, whom they at length established at a principal rendezvous on the Wabash, near the mouth of the Tippecanoe, — a place which gradually acquired the name of the Prophet's Town.
Meanwhile, they were indefatigably employed in disturbing all the councils successively held, and endeavoring to prevent every treaty attempted to be made. They took up and propagated the false idea, that all the lands in North America were the common property of all the tribes, and that no sale of any part could be valid without the consent of all; and made this a pretext for interfering, whenever treaties were to be negotiated by the United States with any portion of the Indians. Thus, by instigating the Indians to acts of violence, and by filling their minds with fallacious notions of their power and their rights, Tecumthe, with the Prophet, constantly thwarted, and at last, to their own ruin, succeeded in defeating, all the efforts of General Harrison to maintain the peace of the frontiers.
General hostilities first began to be openly threatened on occasion of a treaty made by the Delawares, Miamis, and Potawatamies, in 1809, at Fort Wayne, ceding to the United States a tract of land on the Wabash. When this treaty was made, Tecumthe
11was absent; but on his return, ho threatened with death some of the chiefs concerned in the treaty. Hereupon Governor Harrison despatched a message to inquire the cause of dissatisfaction with the treaty; and to assure him that any claims he might have to the lands which had been ceded, were not affected by the treaty; that he might come to Vincennes and exhibit his pretensions, and if they were found to be valid, the land would either be given up, or an ample compensation made for it.
Tecumthe accepted the invitation, but came with four hundred warriors completely armed, instead of thirty, as directed; giving to the people of Vincennes just apprehension that treachery was intended. Tecumthe claimed for all the Indians of the country a common right to all the lands in it; denied the right of any tribe to sell even to one another, much less to strangers; and, therefore, claimed that the treaty of Fort Wayne was utterly void. Harrison replied, that when the whites came to this Continent, they found the Miamis in occupation of all the country of the Wabash, at which time the Shawanees dwelt in Georgia, from whence they were driven by the Creeks; that the Miamis had consulted their own interest, as they had a right to do, in selling their own land on terms satisfactory to themselves; and that the Shawanees had no right to come from a distant country, and undertake to control the Miamis in the disposition of their own property. Scarcely had the interpreter finished speaking these words, when Tecumthe fiercely exclaimed, "It is false!" and giving a signal to his warriors, they sprang to their feet, and raised their war-clubs, while Tecumthe continued to address the Indians in a passionate tone, and with violent gesticulation. In this emergency, when every thing threatened the most fatal consequences to the surrounding whites, who were chiefly unarmed citizens, collision was avoided by the intrepidity of the Governor. He rose immediately, and drew his sword; but he restrained his guards, and calmly, but authoritatively, told Tecumthe, that "he was a bad man; that he would have no further talk with him; that he must return to his camp, and take hi? departure from the settlements immediately;" and with that, the council was broken up, and Tecumthe and his warriors, awed by the intrepidity and self-possession of Harrison, withdrew in silence.
The next morning, Tecumthe, perceiving that he had to deal with a man as vigilant and as bold as himself — one not to be daunted by the show of violence, nor circumvented by specious wiles, — apologized for the affront he had given, and solicited that the council might be renewed, to which the Governor consented. At the second council, Tecumthe no longer attempted to intimidate Harrison by his violence, or, at any rate, kept a better guard over his temper. He told the Governor that white men (British emissaries undoubtedly) had advised him to do as he had done, and that he was determined to maintain the old boundary — all which the Governor said he would report to the President; and here the council ended.
Still anxious to conciliate the dangerous Chief, Governor Harrison went, attended only by an interpreter, to his camp. Tecumthe received him with courtesy and respect; but signified the intention not to recede from the grounds taken at the council; — and as neither Tecumthe nor the Prophet was yet ready for open war, the matter rested here for a while.
Battle of Tippecanoe.
But, as hostilities between the United States and Great Britain became more and more imminent and certain, the audacity and violence of the Indians increased. In 1811, Tecumthe had assembled a new body of warriors at the Prophet's Town; and marauding parties roved towards the settlements more frequently than ever. In the public documents, there is a great body of evidence to show that, at that time, a general commotion pervaded all the Indian tribes. Messengers went to and fro; the war-belt was circulated; arms and ammunitions were obtained from Upper Canada, in quantities beyond the usual yearly issue of presents by the British; and thus every thing indicated the approach of a rising against the United States. The commission of a number of murders on the frontiers of Illinois and Indiana, the usual forerunners of an Indian war, warned Governor Harrison to take measures for the defence of the Territory, and induced the Government to direct him to move with an armed force towards Tippecanoe, the centre and head-quarters of all the intrigues of the savages, and the resort of the most desperate and daring of their men, and where it was known that a thousand hostile Indians were assembled, whom he was directed to disperse.
Governor Harrison had collected a force of about nine hundred men, composed of the militia and volunteers of Indiana, a small but gallant body of volunteers from Kentucky, and a detachment of United States troops. His first effort, like Wayne's, in the similar case before, was to prepare his troops for victory by drilling them thoroughly in person, and organizing them for victory; and to this, in no small part, the subsequent success was due. Thus prepared, he began his march from Fort Harrison, on
12the Wabash, on the 20th of October, 1811. His orders were most positive to avoid hostilities, of any kind or any degree, not indispensably required. These instructions compelled him, though marching into a hostile country, where a numerous force of Indians awaited him, yet to act on the defensive, to fight only when attacked, and thus, in tact, to leave to the Indians to fight or not, as they chose, and to select their own time for battle. He was to advance in the hope, and with the endeavor, to induce the Indians to make peace; and yet to be ready at all times to encounter a treacherous foe, unknowing where or when the death struggle might commence. To meet these conditions, it was necessary to conduct the expedition at all times as in lace of the enemy; to encamp in order of battle; and to march in such form as to be able to repel an assault at a moment's warning. Of course, the utmost vigilance was requisite to guard against surprise; to avoid falling into ambuscades; and to secure the army from attack in a disadvantageous position. All this Harrison accomplished, his own experience, wisdom, and circumspection, being ably seconded by the zeal and vigilance of his officers and troops.
Proceeding thus, by a judicious feint, after reconnoitring and laying out a wagon road on one bank of the Wabash, which led the Indians to expect he would pass up on that side, he suddenly changed his route, crossed to the other hank, and thug marched to the Prophet's Town, without molestation or hinderance. He arrived on the 6th of November. He had previously sent forward some chiefs of the Delawares and Miamis to endeavor to make peace, but had heard nothing from them. Interpreters were now sent, with the advanced guard, for the same purposes, but were repelled with menace and insult. A second effort, with a flag of truce, was made, and failed. Governor Harrison had been urged, by some of his officers, to attack the Prophet's Town; but, determined to persevere in the pursuit of peace, and in the spirit of his instructions, he refused to make the attack so long as any possibility remained of the Indians complying with the demands of the Government. At length, the Prophet sent three of his Indians to propose a suspension of hostilities, and a meeting, the next day, to agree upon the terms of peace; but Governor Harrison knew too well the treacherous disposition of his adversary, to allow himself to be thrown off his guard. Two competent officers, Majors Clark and Taylor, were employed to select a suitable place to encamp advantageously, as in the enemy's presence, and where an attack could best be repelled. Accordingly, they examined the environs, and selected an elevated spot, surrounded by wet prairie, and adequately supplied with wood and water; and, as Major Taylor has since declared, the selection was made according to their best judgment, ratified by that of nine tenths of the other officers. Indeed, the judiciousness of the selection they made was proved, not only by the results, but by subsequent observation and reflection; for, when the army of General Hopkins was there, in the following year, says M'Affee, they all united in the opinion that a better spot to resist Indians was not to be found in the whole country.
Here, then, the army encamped, but with every thing ready for a night attack. The troops lay as they were to rise for battle, in all their clothes and accoutrements, the dragoons with their swords and pistols in their belts, and the infantry with their arms by their sides; and it was the Governor's invariable practice, says M'Affee, to be ready to mount his horse at a moment's warning. The entire camp, of course, was surrounded by a cordon of sentinels, so posted as to give timely notice of any attack, and thus preclude, as far as possible, the danger of loss or confusion by surprise.
The Governor had arisen before dawn, on the morning of the 7th, — the sky being heavy, with occasional rain, and clouds, which obscured the moon, — and sat, conversing with his aids, by the fire, awaiting the signal, which was in a few minutes to have been given, for the troops to turn out. At this moment, one of the sentinels gave the alarm by firing his piece, which was immediately followed by the war-whoop and a desperate charge of the Indians on the left flank.
At that point, the guard giving way, the charge of the savages was received by the united regulars and volunteers, under Captains Barton and Guiger, in the rear, who rose ready armed, formed in their appointed posts, and gallantly stood their ground. Upon the first alarm, the Governor mounted his horse, and proceeded to the point of attack, and, finding the line weakened there, ordered up two companies from the rear centre to reenforce it. Meanwhile, the camp-fires had been extinguished, so as not to afford light to the Indians. As the Governor rode across the camp, Major Joseph H. Daviess, of Kentucky, one of the most popular men in the West, asked permission to charge a body of Indians concealed behind some trees near the left of the front line. In attempting this brave exploit, he fell, as did also Colonel Isaac White, of Indiana, who served as a volunteer under him; after which, the charge was repeated, and the Indians dislodged from their cover by Captain Snelling. Perceiving the
13attack now to be severely felt on the right flank, the Governor led up another company to reenforce it, while doing which, his aid, Colonel Owen, of Kentucky, fell by his side. By this time, the battle had become general, and was maintained on all sides with desperate valor, until the day dawned, when, the right and left flanks having been further strengthened, a simultaneous charge was made against the Indians on each side, who were thus put to flight, with great loss; and a glorious victory crowned the toils and dangers of the American troops.
Without taking a very active part in the contest, the Prophet remained secure on a near eminence, chanting a war-song, and animating his followers with the assurance of miraculous aid from the Great Spirit in their favor, so as to insure to them a victory. Tecumthe himself was not present, being at the South, endeavoring to combine the tribes in that quarter against the United States. But, animated by the Prophet, the Indians fought with desperate and unprecedented valor, hand to hand, so as to render the battle of Tippecanoe one of the most memorable and decisive engagements ever fought between the Indians and the whites. The Indians attacked boldly, advancing and retreating by a rattling sound made with deer hoofs. They were encountered with corresponding valor and resolution by Harrison's brave and spirited men. The Governor himself was unwearied in his exertions, personally inspecting and cooperating in all the operations of the engagement, ordering every important movement, repeatedly leading the troops into action as any change of their position became requisite, and sharing all the perils of the battle, not only equally with the rest, but more so, because his person was more conspicuous, on horseback, known to every Indian. His intrepidity and self-possession were admired by all. In the heat of the action, says the published journal of Adam Walker, a private soldier in the battle, "His voice was heard, and easily distinguished, giving his orders in the same cool and collected manner with which he had been used to receive them on drill or parade. The confidence of the troops in the General was unlimited."
Indeed, his exposure in the field was not the only danger he incurred. If the Indians had met him in council, as they at first contemplated, it was a part of their plan to assassinate him; and two Winnebagoes had undertaken the enterprise. When, afterwards, the Prophet concluded to attack the Americans, a negro was engaged to enter the camp, and murder the Governor; but he was detected in the attempt, whilst waiting near the Governor's marquee, and afterwards tried, convicted of the purpose, and sentenced to be shot. But, as the negro lay tied and staked to the ground, awaiting the hour of execution, the Governor could not resist the emotions of pity which his appearance excited, and ordered him to be discharged; thus evincing the most compassionate feelings in association with the highest resolution and courage.
The victory of Tippecanoe was justly deemed of the greatest importance to the country. If Harrison had been beaten, the triumphant bands of the Prophet, re-enforced by other tribes recruited to his standard by the influence of Tecumthe, would have poured upon the settlements, tomahawk in hand, consigning the whole frontier to massacre and conflagration. The decisive blow struck at Tippecanoe, not only broke the power of the openly hostile, but at once decided the wavering, and quelled the rising spirit of the discontented, and restored peace and quiet to the exposed and alarmed frontier. Indeed, the battle-field of Tippecanoe, where Harrison and the militia of Indiana, and the volunteers of Kentucky, won imperishable honors, has become as classical ground in the memory of all patriotic hearts, and is now to be regarded as one of the monuments of the glory of the West.
We shall be prepared, therefore, to learn, that, in his message to Congress, soon afterwards, Mr. Madison said:
"Congress will see, with satisfaction, the dauntless spirit and fortitude, victoriously displayed, by every description of the troops engaged, as well as the collected firmness which distinguished their commander, on an occasion requiring the utmost exertion of valor and discipline. It may reasonably be expected that the good effects of a critical defeat and dispersion of a combination of savages which appears to have been spreading to a greater extent, will be experienced, not only in the cessation of the murders, and depredations committed on our frontier, but in the prevention of any hostile incursions otherwise to have been apprehended."
The Legislature of Indiana, in their address, said:
"The House of Representatives of Indiana Territory, in their own name, and in behalf of their constituents, most cordially reciprocate the congratulations of your Excellency on the glorious result of the late sanguinary conflict with the Shawanee Prophet, and the tribes of Indians confederated with him. When we see displayed in behalf of our country not only the consummate abilities of the General, but the heroism of the man, and when we take into view the benefits which must result to that country from those exertions, we cannot for a moment withhold our meed of applause."
And the Legislature of Kentucky, on motion of Mr. Crittenden,
"Resolved, That, in the late campaign against the Indians on the Wabash, Governor William H. Harrison has, in the opinion of this Legislature, behaved like a hero, a patriot, and a general, and that, for his cool, deliberate, skilful, and gallant conduct in the late battle of Tippecanoe, he well deserves the warmest thanks of the nation."
Major General of the Kentucky Militia.
The tranquillity which followed the battle of Tippecanoe was the lull which precedes the storm. War with Great Britain was about to commence, and was actually declared on the 18th June, 1812. In anticipation of it, the Lake Indians in the United States, always kept under pay by Great Britain, and those in Upper Canada subject to her immediate authority, stood ready to dash at a moment's warning on the inhabitants of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. When the war came, it found the Northwest without any important garrisoned posts on the frontier, except Detroit, — without military depots and military stores, or munitions of war; but it found the brave and hardy population, of all classes and conditions, full of zeal in their country's defence, and prompt to rush to the field. It became the immediate duty of all in authority in the West to arm and imbody the people suitably to the public exigency, under the leadership of a general of tried courage and ability. Every eye was instinctively turned to Harrison as the man of the crisis; and he was, by acclamation, called to head the American arms in the Northwest.
Looking to the perils which threatened the country, Governor Harrison, in concert with Governor Edwards of Illinois, and Governor Scott of Kentucky, had for some time past been exerting himself indefatigably to prepare the people and the Government for the struggle. Soon after war was declared, he repaired to Frankfort, at the earnest request of Governor Scott, to confer in regard to the disposition to be made of the troops of Kentucky. He was received with most flattering testimonials of the respect and affection of the inhabitants. The first object was to succor Detroit, which it was immediately apprehended the British would speedily attack with all the force at their disposal. In fact, the news quickly came, first of the surrender of Chicago and Mackinac, and then that the British had summoned the northern tribes for the siege of Detroit. If this place fell, an immense frontier, including Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, would be left exposed at the mercy of a remorseless foe. This catastrophe there was but too much reason to dread.
General Hull had already sent an express to hasten up reenforcements from Kentucky. At the same time, letters came from several of the principal officers of the garrison, exposing their want of confidence in their commander, and the apprehension occasioned by his miserable arrangements and apparent imbecility and cowardice, and expressing the common wish that Governor Harrison should accompany the reenforcements. In that wish the people of Kentucky warmly concurred. Governor Scott had levied a force of more than five thousand militia and volunteers, commanded by some of the ablest men and most experienced officers in the State, two thousand of which were ordered for immediate service, to march to Detroit. Their feeling was universal that the command should be given to Harrison. To accomplish this object, as the powers held by him under the Federal Government were confined to the Territories, and though none but a citizen of Kentucky could hold a command in her militia, yet, yielding to the exigencies of the occasion, and fortified by the advice of Governor Shelby, Judge Todd, Mr. Clay, and others, Governor Scott gave to Harrison a brevet commission of Major General in the militia of Kentucky, and authorized him to take command, of the detachment destined for Detroit.
In the midst of the preparations which this responsible and most honorable trust imposed on General Harrison, intelligence of the disgraceful and cowardly surrender of Detroit arrived, and spread consternation far and wide through the country. This event only served to redouble the exertions and zeal of both officers and men. Universal disappointment ensued, when it became known, that, ignorant alike of the fall of Detroit and of the proceedings in Kentucky, General Winchester, of the regular army, was appointed by the Government to take the command. And though General Harrison received the appointment of Brigadier General in the army of the United States, he declined to accept or act under it, until he could learn whether his acceptance would make him subordinate to General Winchester. In this, he did but conform to the wishes and expectations of those around him, who were reconciled to march under Winchester only by the expectation that, when all the facts should be known to the War Department, Harrison would be confirmed in the command. For, by this time, says M'Affee, "he had completely secured the confidence of every
15soldier in the army. He was affable and courteous in his manners, and indefatigable in his attention to every branch of business. His soldiers seemed to anticipate the wishes of their general; it was only necessary to be known that he wished something done, and all were anxious to risk their lives in its accomplishment. His men would have fought better and suffered more with him, than with any other general in America."
Nevertheless, though, considering his command, under existing circumstances, as merely provisional, General Harrison, learning that Fort Wayne was invested by a large body of Indians, would not allow any consideration personal to himself to impede the public service, and without waiting for orders from the Government, he hastened to the relief of that place by way of Dayton and Piqua. He reached that place on the 12th September. His troops were in fine spirits, and he confidently anticipated a successful issue to the expected encounter with the enemy; but he found the besieging army had abandoned its position and fled at his approach.
Previous to the arrival of General Winchester, he continued to employ himself in various measures to strike terror into the hostile Indians. Some detached independent operations of this class also occurred in the same autumn; such as the gallant defence of Fort Harrison by Captain (now General) Zachary Taylor, attacked by a body of Kickapoos and Winnebagoes; the expedition of General Hopkins of Kentucky against the Indians on the Wabash; and that of Governor Edwards and Colonel Russell to the head of Peoria Lake.
On giving up the command, General Harrison retired from the army to resume his duties as Governor of Indiana, having then entered the field only because there was no other officer to take the command, and cheerfully acquiescing afterwards in the decision of the Government to bestow it on General Winchester.
Commander of the Northwestern Army.
No sooner, however, did the President become acquainted with the actual state of affairs, and learn that General Harrison was the choice of the whole Western people, and that he was already engaged in extensive preparations for active service, than the chief command in the Northwest was assigned to him. Orders to this effect reached him at Piqua on his return, by which he was required, after providing for the protection of the Western frontiers, to retake Detroit, and, with a view to the conquest of Upper Canada, to penetrate that country as far as the forces under his command would in his judgment justify. The army placed under him, consisting of regular troops, and militia and volunteers of Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, amounted to ten thousand men. With the designation of these very general objects to be accomplished, broad authority was given him to command such means as might be practicable, to exercise his own discretion, and to act in all cases according to his own judgment. In a word, complete and discretionary power was conferred on him to conduct all the operations of war in the Northwest, — subject, always, to the three specific objects prescribed by the Department, namely, the internal defence of the country, the recapture of Detroit, and the invasion of Canada.
This extensive command, — more extensive than was ever intrusted before to any officer of the United States since the Revolution, — extensive, not only as to the wide expanse of country it embraced, but also the nature of the powers conferred, was placed in the hands of General Harrison by President Madison, whose long and intimate official knowledge of the officer employed, gave him the best possible means of judging as to that officer's trustworthiness and capability. Nor did the result disappoint the President's expectations. General Harrison's command covered a vast frontier, stretching along the great Lakes, with harbors and rivers accessible to the enemy, and with a large number of scattered posts and exposed settlements, which he was required to defend against a host of warlike Indians. His forces were either undisciplined recruits, or militia and volunteers, full of the ardor, it is true, of patriots and freemen, but enlisted for limited periods, destitute of the habits or experience of the soldier, and to be held in obedience by personal influence, rather than force of authority. Such troops were, unquestionably, competent to the defensive purposes contemplated for them by the Government. But, in addition to this, General Harrison was to operate offensively; he was to repair the disasters of Hull's misconduct; to re take Detroit, and carry the war into the enemy's country; and, in doing this, he was to act against the experienced officers and well-disciplined troops of Britain. Besides which, the point of attack was remote from the source of his supplies, while the intervening country was a trackless and swampy wilderness, almost impassable for heavy wagons, swarming with hostile savages, and where the troops, though ever so little encumbered with baggage, could advance but slowly, and with incessant labor and the difficulties thus caused were tenfold augmented by the fact, that many of the
16most indispensable munitions of war were yet wanting, — magazines and depots to be provided, — and a commissariat, covering so extensive and so impracticable a theatre of operations, to be created almost out of nothing. That delays, and subordinate reverses, should have impeded the progress of General Harrison, amid all these difficulties, was in the inevitable course of things. No power short of one to work miracles could have sufficed to prevent this. The wonder is, that General Harrison succeeded at all. And yet, in the face of the immense embarrassments and impediments which surrounded him, he, by persevering energy, firmness, and courage, overcame them all, accomplished every one of the objects prescribed to him, and, within one short year from the time he commenced his undertaking, gloriously concluded it, by the final victory of the Thames, achieved in the very heart of Upper Canada.
When General Harrison received his orders, the first consideration was, By what plan of operations were the prescribed objects of the Government to be attained? Smarting under the sense of the disgrace Hull had brought on the country, and sanguine in the consciousness of their own courage, the men of the West had at first turned their thoughts to the idea of the recapture of Detroit by a coup de main. Further reflection satisfied them of the impracticability of effecting this, without the previous concentration of supplies, and the armament of particular points, to support the advancing forces. If troops could be advanced in sufficient numbers, in the course of the autumn or winter, simultaneously with the collection of rations and stores at secure posts, and the fortification of others to be held as points d'appui, for the intended movements, then a blow could at once be struck at Malden, so as to break up the power of the enemy, and the recapture of Detroit made certain. Meanwhile, in these operations, pointing at the ulterior object as the main one, the incidental one would likewise be attained, of holding in check the British and their savage allies, and thus guarding the safety of the frontier States.
In this view, General Harrison fixed upon the following plan of operations: The point of concentration, from which the principal movement on the enemy was to be made, was the Rapids of the Miami of the Lakes, with a military base extending from Upper Sandusky on the right, to Fort Defiance on the left. General Winchester was to conduct the left division, consisting of troops already assembled at Fort Defiance, and some Kentucky regiments at or near St. Mary's; Gen. Tupper commanded the centre division of the Ohio troops, assembled at Fort M'Arthur; and the right division, composed of Virginia and Pennsylvania troops, was reserved for the personal command of General Harrison himself. Each of these columns was to move by a separate line of operation, terminating at the Rapids. "This," says Colonel Wood, — an accomplished engineer, the competency of whose judgment is admitted on all hands, — "was an excellent plan; for, by sending the corps by different routes, with a view of concentrating somewhere in the neighborhood of the enemy, the march of the army would not only be expedited, but the frontier much more effectually protected." And to the execution of the plan, thus judiciously conceived, and fully approved by the Government, General Harrison proceeded to devote all his own energies, and the resources of men and means at his command.
Before describing the events of the campaign, there are two subjects of personal detail, connected with those events, which require to be touched upon here.
One is, the toils and hardships, to which General Harrison, in common with the troops under him, was exposed. For he chose to participate in all the privations, as well as the dangers, of the campaign. It is difficult to describe, — it is impossible for those who pass their lives in the ordinary civil or business pursuits, to conceive, in all their force, — the sufferings of the soldier, marching through a wilderness country, exposed to all the vicissitudes of the weather, amid the rains of autumn and the snows of winter, with necessarily imperfect supplies of clothing, food, and equipage, and subject, at the same time, to all the requisitions of military duty and peril. Honor to the brave men who left their happy homes to do and dare all this, and who, with self-sacrificing patriotism, rushed to defend the firesides of their country and its threatened honor from the assaults of the foreign foe, with his scarce more savage allies!
The other subject is, the deportment of General Harrison to the peculiar troops under his command, and the means by which he secured their obedience and their cooperation amid all the hardships of the service. These troops were chiefly citizen soldiers, freemen, serving voluntarily in the ranks of patriotism, high-spirited and generous, the choice men of the States to which they belonged. Such men were not to be treated as the common soldiers of a regular army. To secure their hearty service, nay, to have their obedience at all, the General under whom they served must possess their confidence, their respect, their affection. Such was the relation between General Harrison and his troops. His proved talents, his eminent public services, his
17energy of character, his judgment, commanded their respect; his considerateness, forbearance, good temper, and conciliatory manner, won their attachment. Their commander, it is true, exacted of them the severest service, as the necessities of the country required he should; he was yet their companion in period, their fellow-citizen, their friend. During the whole period of his command, he never caused nor permitted a degrading punishment to be inflicted on a militia soldier. If the fault committed were an individual one, he dealt with it by private admonition: if masses of men were concerned, he attained his object by oral addresses or by general orders; and thus his eloquent exhortations reclaimed them to their duty and their country's cause, whenever, amid the difficulties and dangers of the campaign, they were disposed to falter.
An incident, which occurred on his arrival in Winchester's camp, at Fort Defiance, illustrates this. Soon after he had retired to rest, he was awakened by Col. Allen and Major Hardin, to be informed that Allen's regiment was in open mutiny, determined to abandon the expedition and return home; and that all their own attempts to bring their men back to their duty, were utterly in vain. General Harrison ordered the alarm to beat the ensuing morning instead of a reveille. This brought all the surprised troops to arms, and when the troops paraded at their posts, they saw, with new surprise, General Harrison appear among them. He began by lamenting the discontents which existed among men he so highly esteemed; but it was because of its dishonor to them: for Government would dispense with their services; and all those who were disheartened that they did not find in the woods the luxuries and comforts of home, had full liberty to return. But what would be their reception from the old and young, who had greeted them on, their march to the scene of war, as their country's gallant defenders? To be seen returning before the expiration of their term of service without having struck a blow! If their fathers did not drive their degenerate sons back to recover their tarnished honor on the field of battle, would not their mothers and sisters hiss them from their presence? But, if they were prepared thus to encounter the scorn and contempt of their friends at home, they could go, and the Government would look elsewhere for braver and better men to defend the country in its hour of need. This strain of indignant remonstrance, and of mingled regret and reproval, was irresistible; the generous men of Kentucky returned by acclamation to their duty; and no more faithful troops than they, served in that whole war.
To resume the narrative of events, — the autumn of the year was passed in laborious preparation for active service; in collecting troops, in building forts, in erecting depots, in cutting roads, in opening resources for supplies, and in organizing the various departments of the army. So long as hope was tenable, General Harrison persevered in the hope to be able to strike the meditated blow in the current season; but as winter approached, the difficulty of getting forward supplies increased; and he was reluctantly compelled to postpone his final advance until he should be able to take advantage of the ice and snow for transportation and the passage of rivers. Before tins time came, however, the unfortunate movement of General Winchester, on the River Raisin, led to a new series of important but unexpected incidents.
According to the plan and the general instructions for the campaign, General Harrison expected that, on his arrival at Upper Sandusky, in December, he should he advised of the advance of Winchester to the Rapids. But Winchester did not march from the mouth of the Glaize until the 30th of December, and on the 10th of January reached the Rapids, where he established and fortified his camp in a good position. In a few days messengers came to the camp from Frenchtown, on the River Raisin, earnestly entreating Winchester to send a force to protect them against an expected attack of Indians. Winchester consented, and sent Colonel Lewis and Colonel Allen, with two detachments of upwards of six hundred men, to Frenchtown. They found the enemy already there, prepared to receive them; and immediately charged the combined British and Indians, and gained a decisive and most brilliant victory. If they had then retired, it would have been well; but, flushed with triumph, they resolved to maintain the position; and Winchester proceeded to Frenchtown to support them. If then he had adopted suitable precautions, the error of making this detached movement, without advice of the Commander-in-Chief of means of aid from him, might have passed off well; but Winchester, for the first time during the whole campaign, neglected to fortify his position, or to guard against the approach of troops from the near post of Malden, where he knew the enemy were in great strength. The consequences to his command were most disastrous. They Were surprised on the morning of the 22d, by a body of British and Indians under Colonel Proctor, who earned an eternity of infamy, — for himself and for the country which rewarded his services on this occasion with honor, — by leaving the wounded prisoners to be murdered by the Indians.
18Winchester himself, and some few others who were able to march, were conducted to Malden; but a large portion of the Americans were either tomahawked on the spot, or murdered in cold blood afterwards; and Frenchtown was committed to the flames. It is idle and totally impossible to relieve the British arms from the ignominy and infamy of the transaction; for much of the butchery happened under the very eyes of Proctor, and his whole conduct in the affair was alike brutal and mean. He chose to feed the Indians with blood, in order to whet their appetite for it, and thus make them the better auxiliaries of Britain, But for these atrocities he was himself destined, erelong, to receive a part of the detestation he merited at the hands of Harrison himself.
How different has been the conduct of the Americans! At near the same time, Colonel Campbell had conducted successfully an expedition against the Indians on the Mississinneway. In the order issued on the return of the expedition, General Harrison says:
"It is with the sincerest pleasure that the General has heard that the most punctual obedience was paid to his orders, in not only saving all the women and children, but in sparing all the warriors who ceased to resist; and that, even when vigorously attacked by the enemy, the claims of mercy prevailed over every sense of their own danger, and this heroic band respected the lives of their prisoners. Let an account of murdered innocence be opened in the records of heaven against our enemies alone. The American soldier will follow the example of his Government; and the sword of the one will not be raised against the fallen and helpless, nor the gold of the other be paid for the scalps of a massacred enemy."
How nobly do such conduct and such sentiments contrast with the miscreant acts of Proctor!
If the massacre of the River Raisin filled the West with sorrow, it also awakened there a sense of indignation and outrage, of which the effects were afterwards seen. Its immediate influence was prejudicial to the objects of the campaign. Winchester's movement had been not only without the knowledge or consent of Harrison, but contrary to his views and plans for the conduct of the campaign. When he heard that the movement had been made, he, and those about him, felt that it was to the last degree imprudent, and looked for nothing less from it than the certain and inevitable destruction of the left wing of the army, which had thus thrown itself into the very jaws of the enemy, and away from the possibility of succor. On the evening of the 16th, being at Upper Sandusky, he received from Colonel Perkins, at Lower Sandusky, intelligence, for the first time, that Winchester, having arrived at the Rapids, meditated some unknown movement against the enemy. Alarmed at this, and ignorant what it implied, General Harrison gave orders for the advance of troops and artillery, and hastened to Lower Sandusky himself. Here he was met by information from the Rapids of the march of Colonel Lewis to Frenchtown. Fresh troops were immediately put in motion by forced marches for the Rapids; to which point he himself pushed with the utmost speed. All the disposable troops at the Rapids, and others as they came in, were ordered on with anxious expedition; but they were met on the road by the fugitives from the field of battle, and nothing remained but to protect them and the houseless people of Frenchtown. In short, all possible efforts were made to protect Winchester from the apprehended consequences of his own ill-advised acts.
After this, in the expectation of an attack on the position at the Rapids, the army fell back to the Portage, to admit of an expected reenforcement under General Leftwich; on the arrival of which the position at the Rapids, on the east bank of the Miami, was resumed, and strongly fortified as the winter-quarters of the army; it being called Camp Meigs, in honor of the Governor of Ohio.
This position, being attacked by the British, became the scene of a brilliant triumph to the arms of the United States. So soon as it became known that the attack was contemplated, General Harrison, having made arrangements for strong reenforcements to follow him, repaired to Camp Meigs to conduct the defence of it in person. The enemy made his appearance on the 26th April, consisting of a numerous force, British and Indians, commanded by General Proctor; who, having ascended on the north side of the Miami in boats, landed at old Fort Miami, and proceeded to construct there powerful batteries, directly opposite the American camp. Meanwhile our troops had thrown up a breastwork of earth, twelve feet in height, traversing the camp in rear of the tents, so that when the batteries of the enemy were completed and mounted, and his fire opened, the tents of the Americans, being struck and removed to the rear of the traverse, were completely sheltered and protected. A severe fire was now kept up on both sides until the 4th of May, when intelligence reached the camp of the approach of the expected reenforcements, composed of a brigade of Kentucky militia, under General Green Clay.
General Harrison immediately determined to make a bold effort, by a sortie from the camp, combined with an attack of the enemy's lines by General Clay, to raise the siege. Orders, accordingly, were despatched to General Clay, requiring him that, instead of forming an immediate junction with the garrison, he should detach eight hundred of his men on the opposite side of the river, where two of the British batteries were, turn and take the batteries, spike the cannon, and destroy the gun-carriages, and then regain the boats as speedily as possible; while the remainder of the brigade should land, and fight their way into the camp, so as to favor a sortie to be made by the garrison against the third and only remaining British battery. This plan was ably conceived, and promised the best results. General Clay, after detaching Colonel Dudley to land on the west side of the Miami, fought, his way safely into the camp. A part of the garrison, also, under Colonel (now General) Miller, consisting, in part, of regular troops and the residue militia and Kentucky volunteers, gallantly assaulted and carried the battery on the eastern bank, made a number of prisoners, and drove the British and Indians from their lines.
Meanwhile Dudley had landed his men, and charged and carried the two batteries without the loss of a man. Unhappily these gallant citizens were not sufficiently aware of their exposed situation, and of the necessity of retreating to their boats, in punctual observance of their orders, so soon as they should have destroyed the enemy's artillery. Instead of this they were, without due consideration, drawn into a fight with some straggling Indians, and so detained until Proctor had time to interpose a strong force between them and the means of retreat. The result was the destruction rather than defeat of the detachment, for three fourths of it were made captives or slain. The British arms were again dishonored by giving up the prisoners to be massacred by the Indians. Dudley and many of his companions were tomahawked at once. Others of the prisoners were put into Fort Miami for the Indians to stand on the ramparts and fire into the disarmed crowd. Those Indians who chose, selected their victims, led them to the gateway, and there, under the eye of General Proctor, and in the presence of the whole British army, murdered and scalped them. Not until Tecumthe came up from the batteries did the slaughter cease. "For shame! it is a disgrace to kill defenceless prisoners!" he exclaimed, thus displaying more of humanity and civilization than Proctor himself.
Unfortunate as this incident was, the events of the day satisfied Proctor that he could not continue the siege with any hope of success. He resolved to retreat, to cover which he sent in a flag of truce, requiring the immediate surrender of the American post and army, as "the only means left for saving the latter from tile tomahawks and scalping-knives of the savages." Considering this base and insolent message unworthy of any serious notice, General Harrison simply admonished Proctor not to repeat it. With which manly and decided answer Proctor being, perforce, content, hastily broke up his camp, and retreated in disgrace and confusion towards Malden.
In May following, however, Proctor, thinking to surprise Fort Meigs, made a second attack upon it with a large force of British regulars and Canadians, and several thousand Indians under Tecumthe, but was again obliged to retreat in disgrace. After which Proctor landed a part of his force at Lower Sandusky, with a view to reduce Fort Stephenson. This was a mere outpost, of little importance; and General Harrison, acting with the unanimous advice of his council of war, had sent orders to Major Croghan, who commanded the garrison, to evacuate the fort, and make good his retreat to head-quarters, provided the enemy should approach the place with artillery, and a retreat be practicable. But the first step taken by Proctor was to isolate the fort by a cordon of Indians, thus leaving to Major Croghan no choice but between resistance and submission. He then demanded of Croghan to surrender, adding his customary declaration that, otherwise, he could not protect the garrison from massacre by the Indians in case the fort should be taken. To this atrocious threat, as unjustifiable by any of the usages of war as it was cowardly and discourteous, Croghan calmly replied that, "when the fort should be taken there would be none left to massacre, as it would not be given up while a man was able to fight." With his small garrison this brave young officer gallantly maintained the post, and repulsed the assaults of Proctor. Much idle censure has been cast upon General Harrison because of this affair. To which it is sufficient here to say that, while his orders were such as the circumstances justified and required, and were fully approved and sanctioned by the most competent judges on the spot, Croghan himself bearing witness to the penetration and able generalship of his measures, so the defence itself, so successfully made in compliance with the very contingency contemplated in the orders, was in the highest degree honorable to the brave garrison and its young commander.
Battle of the Thames.
The time was now at hand when General Harrison and his army were to reach the full completion of all the contemplated objects of the expedition.
Among the earliest recommendations of General Harrison to the Government, the year before, and immediately after he commenced operations, had been that of constructing and equipping a naval armament on the Lakes. In one letter he says: "Admitting that Malden and Detroit are both taken, Mackinaw and St. Joseph will both remain in the hands of the enemy until we can create a force capable of contending with the vessels which the British have in Lake Michigan, &c." And again, in another letter: "Should an offensive operation be suspended until spring, it is my decided opinion that the cheapest and most effectual plan will be to obtain command of Lake Erie. This being once effected, every difficulty will be removed. An army of four thousand men, landed on the north side of the lake, below Malden, will reduce that place, retake Detroit, and, with the aid of the fleet, proceed down the lake, to cooperate with the army from Niagara." These sagacious instructions being repeatedly and strenuously urged by him, and reenforced also from other quarters, were adopted and acted upon by the Government. Commodore Perry was commissioned to build, equip, and command the contemplated fleet; and, on the 10th of September, with an inferior force, he met the enemy, and gained the brilliant victory of Lake Erie.
Meanwhile, Colonel Richard M. Johnson, then a member of Congress from Kentucky, had devised the organization of two regiments of mounted militia, which he was authorized by the Government to raise, as well for service against the Indians as to cooperate with Harrison. Colonel Johnson crossed the country to Lower Sandusky, where he received orders from the War Department to proceed to Kaskaskia to operate in that quarter; but, by the interference of Harrison, and at the urgent request of Colonel Johnson, — who said, for himself and his men, that the first object of their hearts was to accompany Harrison to Detroit and Canada, and to partake in the danger and honor of that expedition, under an officer in whom they had confidence, and who had approved himself "to be wise, prudent, and brave," — the orders of the Department were countermanded, and Colonel Johnson attained his wish.
General Harrison now prepared to strike the great blow. Aided by the energetic efforts of Governor Meigs, of Ohio, and Governor Shelby, of Kentucky, he had ready on the southern shore of Lake Erie, by the middle of September, a competent force destined for the immediate invasion of Canada. Between the 16th and the 24th of September, the artillery, military stores, provisions, and troops, were gradually embarked, and on the 27th the whole army proceeded to the Canada shore. "Remember the River Raisin," said General Harrison, in his address to the troops, "but remember it only whilst victory is suspended. The revenge of a soldier cannot be gratified on a fallen enemy." The army landed in high spirits; but the enemy had abandoned his stronghold, and retreated to Sandwich, — after dismantling Malden, burning the barracks and navy-yard, and stripping the adjacent country of horses and cattle. General Harrison encamped that night on the ruins of Malden.
No time was lost in resuming the pursuit of Proctor. Colonel Johnson's mounted regiment came up and supplied the cavalry wanting for the pursuit. Two days only were occupied in reestablishing the civil government of Michigan, and assigning to it a defensive corps, in organizing a portion of the army for rapid movement, and in giving to the whole of it an order of march and battle. It was not until the 5th of October that Proctor was overtaken, at a place ever memorable as the battle-ground of one of the most honorable and decisive actions fought during the war. On that day, the enemy was discovered in a position skilfully chosen, in relation as well to local circumstances as to the character of his troops. A narrow strip of dry land, flanked by the River Thames on the left, and by a swamp on the right, was occupied by his regular infantry and artillery; while on the right flank lay Tecumthe and his followers, on the eastern margin of the swamp. But, notwithstanding the judicious choice of the ground, Proctor had committed the error of forming his infantry in Open order. Availing himself of this fact, and aware that troops so disposed could not resist a charge of mounted men, he directed Colonel Johnson to dash through the enemy's line in column. The movement was made with brilliant success. The mounted men charged with promptitude and vigor, broke through the line of the enemy, formed in the rear, and assailed the broken line with a success seldom equalled, for nearly the whole of the British regular force were either killed, wounded, or taken. On the left, the Indians rushed on the mounted men there, and fiercely contested the ground for a short time, until Tecumthe fell, as is supposed, by the hand of Colonel Johnson Proctor, who had saved himself and a part of his suite by a base desertion of his troops, in keeping with his character, was now strenuously,
21but unsuccessfully pursued. But the defeat of the enemy was now complete. All his baggage and military stores, together with his official papers, fell into Harrison's hands. Several field-pieces also, which had been taken from the British in the revolutionary war at Saratoga and Yorktown, but which Hull had shamefully surrendered at Detroit, were again captured, and were honorable trophies of victory.
In this battle Governor Shelby, of Kentucky, commanded the troops of his State, and Colonel (General) Cass and Commodore Perry acted as volunteer aids to General Harrison.
"Thus fortunately terminated an expedition," says General Armstrong, "the results of which were of high importance to the United States: a naval ascendency gained on Lakes Erie and Superior; Malden destroyed; Detroit recovered; Proctor defeated; the alliance between Great Britain and the savages dissolved, and peace and industry restored to our widely-extended Western frontier." In a word, Harrison had gloriously accomplished, by his own abilities and the cooperation of the gallant people of the West, all that he undertook in assuming the command of the American forces in the Northwest.
The news of this great victory was received throughout the United States with universal rejoicings and gratulations. In his message to Congress of the 7th December, 1813, Mr. Madison spoke of the result as "signally honorable to Major General Harrison, by whose military talents it was prepared." "The victory of Harrison," said Mr. Cheeves on the floor of Congress, "was such as would have secured to a Roman general, in the best days of the republic, the honors of a triumph. He put an end to the war in the uppermost Canada." "The blessings," said Governor Snyder, of Pennsylvania, in his message to the Legislature of that State, "of thousands of women and children, rescued from the scalping-knife of the ruthless savage of the wilderness, and from the still more savage Proctor, rest on Harrison and his gallant army." It was well said by a prominent Virginia press, of Harrison's despatch after the battle, that in his letter he had done justice to every one but himself; and that the world mast therefore do justice to the man, who was too modest to be just to himself. And, without referring to other contemporaneous testimonies of public gratitude and respect, it will be sufficient to add the following resolution, passed by both branches of Congress, and approved 4th of April, 1818:
"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the thanks of Congress be, and they are hereby presented to Major General William Henry Harrison, and Isaac Shelby, late Governor of Kentucky, and through them to the officers and men under their command, for their gallantry and good conduct in defeating the combined British and Indian forces under Major General Proctor, on the Thames, in Upper Canada, on the 5th day of October, 1813, capturing the British army, with their baggage, camp equipage, and artillery, and that the President of the United States be requested to cause two Gold Medals to be struck, emblematical of this triumph, and presented to General Harrison, and Isaac Shelby, late Governor of Kentucky."
Having thus entirely defeated the enemy in Upper Canada, Harrison advanced with a part of his army to the Niagara frontier, and thence to Sackett's Harbor, where ho left the troops and proceeded to the seat of Government, and then to Ohio, where his immediate duties required his presence. In the plan of the ensuing campaign, General Armstrong, the Secretary of War, saw fit to assign to General Harrison the command of a now comparatively unimportant district, while active service against Canada was intrusted to others. That an officer in the prime of life, bred to combat under Wayne, who had signalized his name in the memorable triumph of Tippecanoe, won the brilliant victory of the Thames, and by his courage and skill given peace to the Northwest, reconquered Michigan, and gained possession of a large part of Upper Canada, — that such an officer should not be continued in active service naturally occasioned surprise. But though the causes of it were veiled from the public eye, yet the agency and motives became visible, when the Secretary of War, soon afterwards, not only designated a subordinate officer, within General Harrison's district, for a particular duty, but also transmitted directly to that officer orders to take troops from the district without consulting its commander. On receiving notice of this, General Harrison, justly indignant, addressed to the Department a letter of resignation, with a notification to the President. Hearing of this, Governor Shelby wrote a remonstrance to the President, expressing the highest opinion of Harrison's military talents and capacity to command, derived from actually serving under him, and declaring the belief that, in the arduous duties he performed, no officer had ever displayed more energy or exhibited greater capability. But the Secretary of War hastily assumed the right, Mr. Madison being absent in Virginia, to accept General Harrison's resignation, without which, it is believed, the President would have decided otherwise; and thus, in the subsequent campaigns, the country was deprived of the
22abilities of him "who," in the words of Colonel Johnson, "during the late war, was longer in active service than any other general officer, was perhaps oftener in action than any of them, and never sustained a defeat." For General Harrison, with the disinterestedness and love of honor which have always distinguished him, would not continue to enjoy the high rank he held in the army, and the emoluments it conferred, without he could be rendering at the same time an equivalent service to the Republic.
But General Harrison did not the less continue to receive new marks of the confidence of Mr. Madison.
In the summer of 1814, he was appointed, in conjunction with Governor Shelby and General Cass, to treat with the Indians in the Northwest, at Greenville, the old headquarters of General Wayne.
In 1815, after the peace of Ghent, and in the execution of the provisions therein for the pacification of the Indians, General Harrison was placed at the head of the commission for treating with the important tribes of the Wyandots, Shawnees, Ottawas, Winnebagoes, Chippewas, Delawares, Senecas, Pottawatamies, and Miamis, at Spring Wells.
Member of Congress, and of the Ohio Legislature.
Hitherto we have followed General Harrison through a long series of public duties and services, both civil and military, for a period of twenty-five years of active life; in fifteen of which we have seen him employed in the highest and most arduous public trusts, whether as the political head or the military commander, in the great region of the West, which has been the scene of his toils and his triumphs. Preeminent as he was in the field when his country called him there, yet in the character of a civil ruler, as a negotiator, as a chief magistrate, — which for the greater part of the time he was, — he had shown himself equally preeminent. For a short period only of his early life he had appeared before the nation as a member of a legislative body; but then with distinguished capacity for public usefulness. In 1816, he became again a member of Congress, being elected a Representative from the State of Ohio, and continuing for three years, after which he became a member of the Senate of that State; and in 1824, he was elected a Senator in Congress from that State. General Harrison was amply qualified for the legislative duties he was thus called to perform, not merely by the possession of a high order of intellect, a cultivated mind, long and intimate familiarity with affairs, and great political and general acquirements, but also as an animated and ready speaker, fluent in language, plain, but not ungraceful in manner, eminently happy in extemporaneous address, and endowed with apt and ready skill in bringing the resources of his mind to bear upon any given subject — all which traits characterized his cursory debates, as well as more formal speeches, in Congress.
It would far exceed the necessary limits of these Outlines, to enter minutely into the review of General Harrison's acts and opinions during the period of this his service in Congress. These alone, with the official papers which proceeded from his pen, whilst at the head of affairs in the Northwest, would constitute a volume.
Of the subjects, however, which received particular attention from him, some deserve to be mentioned, for their intrinsic importance, and the value of his efforts in regard to them. Such are the organization of the militia; the introduction of a more equal system of military education than now exists; the recognition of the independence of the Spanish American republics; the improvement of the moral condition of the army by augmenting the inducements to respectability on the part of the noncommissioned officers and soldiers; the introduction of uniformity as to military pensions; and, above all, his strenuous exertions in behalf of the claims of the surviving officers and soldiers of the Revolution.
Minister to Colombia.
In 1828, General Harrison was appointed, by Mr. Adams, Minister Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Colombia. He arrived in the midst of that unhappy period, when Bolivar, forgetful of that example of Washington, which it had been his pride in early life to follow, was engaged in those efforts to change the constitution of his country, the failure of which, and the chagrin they brought upon him, consigned him to a premature grave, the broken-hearted victim of bitter disappointment and unavailing regrets. An elaborate letter of General Harrison's to Bolivar, in reference
23to these matters, is justly admired for the noble and just sentiments of Republican liberty and of pure patriotism, which it is replete with General Harrison did not remain long in Colombia, however; the change of administration, which ensued in the United States, producing his recall.
Such, without enlarging to refer to other trusts of less general importance, at different periods confided to General Harrison, have been the great public employments, which, in the course of his diversified and eventful life, he has been called to fill, with honor to himself and to the Union.
The traits of character, which distinguished him in those employments, have been described briefly, as they came successively in review. Some of these traits, of a personal nature, deserve to be more distinctly spoken of by themselves.
Disinterestedness and integrity, in pecuniary matters, have marked all his actions.
As Governor of Indiana, and as Superintendent of Indian Affairs, large sums of money passed through his hands to be disbursed at his discretion, and with few of the checks now provided in reference to such things. He gave no security, and the Government had no guaranty for the faithful application of the funds intrusted to him, but his prudence and honesty. But he was conscientiously true to his duty; neither accumulating wealth by speculation upon the public money or lands, nor becoming a debtor of the Government.
During the war, as Commander-in-Chief in the Northwest, he had liberty to draw on the Government to an unlimited amount, and was daily passing large sums of public money through his hands, but not a cent did he ever divert to his own use; and at the close of his military services, there was no charge against him on the books of the Treasury, except for moneys faithfully and truly accounted for by him, and allowed as such.
Meanwhile, his situation in life, more especially when Commander-in-Chief, subjected him to many and great personal charges; not only those directly incidental to his military duties, in travelling and otherwise; but charges, also, of a different kind, imposed by the peculiar description of the forces he led, and the consequent necessity he was under, at times, of keeping free quarters for the reception of his fellow-citizens, whom his duty to the Government, and the dependence of the country upon volunteer troops, made it important he should conciliate. Add to which, that, at his own expense, he continually supplied clothing and other needful comforts for his sick and wounded soldiers. Hence, though he lived as frugally and fared as hardly in the field as any soldier in the ranks of his army, yet his expenses at that period exceeded his pay, and the balance came from his private property.
Since the war, General Harrison has been the principal representative of the military class of our citizens in the region in which he lived; and the old soldier, the veteran, who had served under Wayne, St. Clair, and others, and, still more, they who had served under himself, came to him to present their claims for lands and pensions, and regarded him in the light of a protector and a friend. Hospitable by nature and habit, the old soldier always found a welcome at his fireside. Not only were his expenses increased, but much of his time also employed, in the duties of charity or friendship, to these his brave companions in arms.
Nor did he at any time seek to avail himself of those means which came in his way, to add to the regular appointments of the stations he held. While Governor of Indiana, and Indian Superintendent, he refused to accept any of the perquisites, which, before his time, had been customarily paid; and for his services as commander of the expedition to Tippecanoe he never received or asked compensation.
Though having a numerous family, — and with official patronage long at his command, — and high claims in his own right, and otherwise, to such favors, — he has educated his children at his own expense, and waived opportunities of providing for them in the public service, that he might give his influence to others.
Thus disinterested in his public relations, (and not less so, indeed, in his private,) he has carried with him into retirement no spoils of office; continuing to possess only the competency which belongs to independence, and that richest of all possessions, the enviable reputation of an upright life.
Whether in civil office or military command, General Harrison was always just, moderate, and conciliatory, though firm; and whether in public or private life, generous and considerate in his disposition, cheerful and affable in his intercourse with all; and though warm in his affections, yet never violent nor vindictive in his enmities. By this rare union of ability, courtesy, and moderation, it was that he swayed those about him. He himself; on being asked how he could control the militia he led
24to victory, disclosed the secret of his influence. "By treating them," he said, "with affection and kindness, by always recollecting that they were my fellow-citizens, whose feelings I was bound to respect, and by sharing, on every occasion, the hardships they were obliged to undergo."
His published writings, which are numerous, are distinguished by clearness and facility of composition, and indicate beyond dispute, that he possesses great cultivation of mind, as well as a great natural intellect.
It is not the purpose of these Outlines to speak with particularity of the political opinions of General Harrison. These are best learnt by inspection of his writings, his speeches, his official or public correspondence, and by observation of his life and actions. One fact, however, in this relation, it is material to bear in mind. Though honored with the confidence as well of the Washington and Adams as of the Jefferson and Madison administrations, and though heartily attached to the Republican principles of the latter, and one of the electors of Mr. Monroe, yet his public service has been rendered to his country rather than to a party, and he stands free and untrammelled, with claims to the confidence of his fellow-citizens founded, not on marrow party or sectional peculiarities, but on the broad basis of tried patriotism and capacity, unblemished integrity, and his unquestionable devotion to the great public interests of the whole Union. And it needs only to add, therefore, that, since his return from Colombia, he has lived in comparative retirement, upon his farm at North Bend, on the Ohio, a short way below Cincinnati, in the enjoyment of the unimpaired vigor of body and mind, which his active and temperate habits of life have secured to him, and in the conscientious discharge of all the relative duties of the just man and the sincere Christian.