Thursday, August 25, 2011

Firsthand account of Tippecanoe fighting

While working on my War of 1812 book project, I've found a lot of interesting digital sources. Currently I'm researching the Battle of Tippecanoe (200 years ago this November 7) and found a good primary source on the battle, the journal of the 1811 campaign kept by a soldier in the 4th US Regiment of Infantry, Adam Walker (first published in 1816): (Still working on the embeddable content...)



Many of the text files on archive.org allow for online reading of digitized texts, which can also be embedded in other websites and blogs.

Perhaps the most interesting accounts of the battle were written by Private Brigham of the Regiment of Rifles, who was on picket duty when it started; and Sergeant Orr, who was woken to the sound of his corporal being shot and killed at the door of his tent. Unfortunately, he was mortally wounded in the fight.





Brigham and other individual soldiers were posted in advanced positions on the night of November 6/7. It was rainy, and so dark that these sentinels couldn't see the Indians when they began their assault around 4am. He and his neighboring sentry barely had time to turn and run before the warriors rushed their positions. Apparently only one of the pickets got a shot off to warm the main body of the attack.




Like most of William Henry Harrison's army of volunteer militia and regulars, Sergeant Orr was asleep, though Harrison had ordered the men to sleep with their muskets loaded and ready. Historians have since pointed out that several warriors may have infiltrated the American camp during the night, in an attempt to kill Harrison. Orr's company, Captain Barton's was one of the first to be hit by the attackers, and was unable to form a line to repel the attack but held its own until help could arrive.

By the end of the night battle, the Indians (led by the Prophet in Tecumseh's absence) had been repulsed, but only at a severe cost to the Americans. They not only suffered more overall casualties than the Prophet's men, but lost many officers. Nevertheless, the surviving force was enough to continue a few miles to Prophetstown and burn it, scattering the Indian Confederacy for a time.