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General Harrison And The Battle Of Tippecanoe

2107 words - 8 pages

In 1811, Indiana was a territory rather than a state. A charismatic Indian leader, Tecumseh, led a confederation of tribes in central and northern Indiana and opposed further American expansion. Governor William Henry Harrison aimed to gain land for settlers and achieve statehood. These competing interests led to conflict in the fall of 1811, culminating in the Battle of Tippecanoe and the destruction of an Indian town and the center of a new Indian confederacy, Prophetstown. Harrison’s strategic aims and actions were not in line with the intent of his commander, President Madison. However, Harrison’s leadership during tactical action in the Battle of Tippecanoe demonstrated effective execution of the doctrinal tasks of Mission Command.
In addition to the road to battle, it is important to know that historical accounts of what led to the battle and what transpired are in dispute. These are not disputes over minor items, such as the exact order of battle or a clear sequence of events in what was a confusing night and dawn battle. Accounts of what transpired are often fundamentally different, and it is clear that various actors suppressed or championed differing accounts for political or personal reasons. By some accounts, the battle began by accident as an Indian patrol sent to keep watch on the Americans drew fire from nervous American sentries, leading the Indians only a mile away at Prophetstown to attack. By other accounts, the Indians planned a deliberate attack in order to strike the American force before the Americans could strike the Indians. Harrison touted the battle as a decisive victory that broke up the Indian confederacy and many historians agreed. However, modern accounts argue that the battle actually increased Indian violence against American settlers. What is clear, and what this paper will use to examine mission command, is first that President Madison did not intend to start a war while Harrison was eager for a fight. Second, while differences remain, the battle accounts are similar enough once combat began to evaluate Harrison’s tactical actions and leadership, if not clear enough to know precisely what happened the night and morning of the battle.
The background leading to the battle has many intricacies, meetings, arguments, and umbrage both on the part of Harrison and Indiana settlers and Tecumseh and the other Indian leaders. For the sake of brevity, this paper identifies only key elements leading to the outbreak of battle. Tecumseh, a highly educated and charismatic Indian leader, sought to develop a confederacy of many Indian tribes standing together in order to stop American settlers from gaining more Indian land. Harrison sought to force the Indians to abide by the Treaty of Fort Wayne, as the Indians still occupied land that the treaty had ceded to Americans. Tecumseh and other chiefs argued, with merit, that Harrison obtained the treaty through coercion, threats, and bribes and was further...

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