Battle of Tippecanoe - Aftermath


See also: Indiana in the War of 1812

The day after the battle the wounded were loaded onto wagons and carried back to Fort Harrison for medical care. Most of the militia was released from duty on November 9 and returned home, but the regulars remained in the area a bit longer. In his initial report to Secretary William Eustis, Harrison informed him of a battle having occurred near the Tippecanoe River, giving the battle the river's name, and added that he feared an imminent reprisal. The first dispatch did not make clear which side had won the conflict, and the secretary interpreted it as a defeat. The follow-up dispatch made the United States victory clear, and the defeat of Tecumseh's confederacy became more certain when no second attack materialized. Eustis replied with a lengthy note demanding to know why Harrison had not taken adequate precautions in fortifying his camp. Harrison responded that he considered the position strong enough to not require fortification. This dispute was the catalyst of a disagreement between Harrison and the Department of War that later caused him to resign from the army in 1814.

At first, the newspapers carried little information about the battle, instead focusing on the highlights of the ongoing Napoleonic Wars. One Louisville newspaper even printed a copy of the original dispatch and called the battle a defeat for the United States. However, by December, most of the major papers in the United States began to carry stories about the battle. Public outrage quickly grew and many citizens blamed the British for inciting the tribes to violence and supplying them with firearms. Andrew Jackson was at the forefront of those calling for war, claiming that Tecumseh and his allies were "excited by secret British agents". Other western governors called for action, Willie Blount of Tennessee called on the government to "purge the camps of Indians of every Englishmen to be found ..." Acting on popular sentiment, the War Hawks in Congress passed resolutions condemning the British for interfering in the United States' domestic affairs. Tippecanoe fueled the worsening tension with Great Britain, culminating in a declaration of war only a few months later.

Until recently historians have accepted the story that Tecumseh was furious with Tenskwatawa for losing the battle, and that Tecumseh had threatened to kill his brother for allowing the attack to take place. According to this story, the Prophet lost prestige after the battle and no longer served as a leader of the confederacy. In their subsequent meetings with Harrison, several Native leaders claimed that the Prophet's influence was destroyed; in some accounts it was said he was being persecuted. Historians Alfred Cave and Robert Owens have argued that the Natives were probably trying to mislead Harrison in an attempt to calm the situation and that Tenskwatawa actually continued to play an important role in the confederacy.

Harrison, having accomplished his goal of dispersing the Natives of Prophetstown, proclaimed that he had won a decisive victory. But some of Harrison's contemporaries, as well as some subsequent historians, raised doubts about whether the battle was as successful as Harrison claimed. "In none of the contemporary reports from Indian agents, traders, and public officials on the aftermath of Tippecanoe can we find confirmation of the claim that Harrison had won a decisive victory", wrote historian Alfred Cave. The defeat was a setback for Tecumseh's confederacy, but the Natives soon rebuilt Prophetstown, and frontier violence actually increased after the battle. "If anything," writes historian Adam Jortner, "the strike on Prophetstown made Tenskwatawa's movement stronger."

On December 16, 1811, the first of the New Madrid earthquakes shook the South and the Midwest. Many Natives of the northwest took the earthquake as a sign that Tenskwatawa's predictions of doom were coming true, leading many to support Tecumseh, including many of his former detractors. Attacks against settlers by Native Americans quickly increased in the aftermath. Numerous settlers and isolated outposts in the Indiana and Illinois Territories were targeted, leading to the deaths of many civilians. Prophetstown was partially rebuilt over the next year, though it was again destroyed by a second campaign in 1812. Tecumseh continued to play a major role in military operations on the frontier, and by the time the U.S. declared war on Great Britain in the War of 1812, Tecumseh's confederacy was ready to launch its own war against the United States, this time with British allies. Tecumseh's warriors made up nearly half of the British army that captured Detroit from the United States in the War of 1812. It was not until Tecumseh's death at the 1813 Battle of the Thames in Ontario that his confederation ceased to threaten the interests of the United States.

When William Henry Harrison ran for President of the United States during the election of 1840, he used the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" to remind people of his heroism during the battle.

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