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A romanticized depiction of Tecumseh from c. 1915
Born March 1768
On the Scioto River, near the present-day city of Chillicothe, Ohio (location uncertain, see Early life)
Died October 5, 1813(1813-10-05) (aged 45)
Moravian of the Thames
(in modern-day Chatham-Kent, Ontario)
Resting place Walpole Island, Canada
Nationality Shawnee
Other names Tecumtha, Tekamthi
Known for War of 1812
Parent(s) Puckshinwa, Methoataske

Tecumseh /tˈkʌmsə, tˈkʌmsi/ tə-KUM-sə, tə-KUM-see (March 1768 – October 5, 1813) was a Native American leader of the Shawnee and a large tribal confederacy (known as Tecumseh's Confederacy) which opposed the United States during Tecumseh's War and became an ally of Britain in the War of 1812.

Tecumseh grew up in the Ohio Country during the American Revolutionary War and the Northwest Indian War, where he was constantly exposed to warfare.[1] With Americans continuing to move west after the British ceded the Ohio Valley to the new United States in 1783, the Shawnee moved farther northwest. In 1808, they settled Prophetstown in present-day Indiana. With a vision of establishing an independent Native American nation east of the Mississippi under British protection, Tecumseh worked to recruit additional tribes to the confederacy from the southern United States.[1]

During the War of 1812, Tecumseh's confederacy allied with the British and helped in the capture of Fort Detroit. Prior to the raid, Chief Tecumseh delivered a powerful speech upon a rock that is preserved to this day at Fort Malden. After the U.S. Navy took control of Lake Erie in 1813, the Native Americans and British retreated. American forces caught them at the Battle of the Thames, and killed Tecumseh in October 1813. With his death, his confederation disintegrated, and the Native Americans had to move west again, yet Tecumseh became an iconic folk hero in American, Aboriginal and Canadian history.[2]

Family background

Tecumseh's father was named Puckshinwa (in Shawnee, Puckeshinwau, meaning "Alights from Flying", "Something that drops" or "I light from flying", also known as Puckeshinwa, Pucksinwah, Pukshinwa, Pukeesheno, Pekishinoah, Pooksehnwe and other variations), a minor Shawnee war chief of the Kispoko ("Dancing Tail" or "Panther") band and the Panther Clan of the tribe. According to some sources, Puckshinwa's father was Muscogee (Creek) and his mother was Shawnee. Either because his father died when he was young, or because among the Creeks a husband lives with his wife's family, Puckshinwa was considered a Shawnee.[3] According to John Sugden, however, "the truth about Puckeshinwau's ancestry must remain a mystery", and he reports further period testimonies[4] stating that the Kispoko chief "was reputed to have had a British father (presumably a trader)".[5]

Tecumseh's mother was Methotaske (in Shawnee, Methoataaskee, meaning "[One who] Lays Eggs in the Sand" or "A turtle laying eggs in the sand", also known as Methoataske, Meetheetashe, Methotase and Methoatase), Puckshinwa's second wife. She is believed to have been Shawnee through her father and her mother, possibly of the Pekowi band and the Turtle Clan. Some traditions hold that she was Creek, because she had lived among that tribe prior to marriage; some hold that she was Cherokee, having died in old age living among that tribe; still others hold that she was a white captive, as family stories claim that Puckshinwa had been married to a white captive.[3] Tecumseh's great-great grandfather on his mother's side, Straight Tail Meaurroway Opessa, was a prominent Chief of the Pekowi and the Turtle Clan.

Shawnee lineage was recorded paternally, which made Tecumseh a member of the Kispoko.

At the time Tecumseh's parents married, their tribe was living somewhere near modern Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The tribe had lived in that region alongside the Creek tribe since being driven from their homes in the Ohio River Valley by the Iroquois (based in New York and Pennsylvania) during the 17th-century Beaver Wars.[6]

About 1759, the Pekowi band decided to move west into the Ohio Country. Not wanting to force his wife to choose between him and her family, Puckshinwa decided to travel north with her. The Pekowi founded the settlement of Chillicothe where Tecumseh was likely born. During the 1760s, Puckshinwa took part in the French and Indian War.

Early life

Tecumseh (in Shawnee, Tekoomsē, meaning "Shooting Star" or "Panther Across The Sky", also known as Tecumtha or Tekamthi) was born about March 1768. Popular tradition locates his birthplace in Old Chillicothe[7] (the present-day Oldtown area of Xenia Township, Greene County, Ohio, about 12 miles (19 km) east of Dayton). As the Shawnee did not settle in Old Chillicothe until 1774, however, Sugden comes to the conclusion that Tecumseh was almost certainly born either in a different "Chillicothe" (in Shawnee, Chalahgawtha)[8] set up along the Scioto River, near the present-day city of Chillicothe, Ohio, or in another village the Kispoko had erected not far away, along a small tributary stream of the same river, where his family moved just before or not long after his birth.[9]

During Tecumseh's boyhood, white frontiersmen slew his father Pucksinwah at the Battle of Point Pleasant during Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774. The frontiersmen had crossed onto Indian land in violation of a recent treaty. Tecumseh resolved to become a warrior like his father and to be "a fire spreading over the hill and valley, consuming the race of dark souls".[10]

At age 15, after the American Revolutionary War ended in 1783, Tecumseh joined a band of Shawnee who aimed to stop the white invasion of their lands by attacking settlers' flatboats traveling down the Ohio River from Pennsylvania. In time, Tecumseh came to lead his own band of warriors. For a while, these Indian raids became so effective that river traffic virtually ceased.[10]

Frontier conflicts

The Shawnee were military allies with the British during the American Revolutionary War and repeatedly battled the Americans. Following his father's death, his family moved back to Chief Blackfish's nearby village of Chillicothe. The town was destroyed in 1779 by Kentucky militia in reprisal for Blackfish's attack on Boonesburough.[11] His family fled to another nearby Kispoko village, but this was destroyed in 1780 by forces under the command of George Rogers Clark. The family moved a third time to the village of Sanding Stone. That village was attacked by Clark in November 1782, and the family moved to a new Shawnee settlement near modern Bellefontaine, Ohio.[12]

Violence continued on the American frontier after the Revolution as the Northwest Indian War. A large tribal confederacy, known as the Wabash Confederacy, which included all the major tribes of Ohio and the Illinois Country, formed to repel the American settlers from the region.[13] As the war between the confederacy and the Americans grew, Tecumseh became a warrior and took an active part fighting along with his older brother Chiksika, an important war leader who essentially raised Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa after their parents' early deaths. Their older sister, Tecumapese, was also very important to their upbringing.

In early 1789, Tecumseh traveled south with Chiksika to live among, and fight alongside, the Chickamauga faction of the Cherokee. Accompanied by twelve Shawnee warriors, they stayed at Running Water (in Marion County, Tennessee), where Chiksika's wife and daughter lived. There Tecumseh met Dragging Canoe, a famous leader who was leading a resistance movement against U.S. expansion. Chiksika[14] was killed while leading a raid, and Tecumseh assumed leadership of the small Shawnee band, and subsequent Chickamauga raiding parties.

Tecumseh returned to Ohio in late 1790. Afterward, Tecumseh took part in several battles, including that of the 1794 Fallen Timbers. The Indians were defeated by the Americans, which ended the Northwestern Indian Wars in favor of the Americans.[15] Despite this loss, Tecumseh refused to sign the Treaty of Greenville, in which the Indians ceded great portions of their Northwest territory in exchange for goods valued at $20,000.[16][17]


Tenskwatawa, by George Catlin.

Tecumseh eventually settled in what is now Greenville, Ohio, the home of his younger brother, Lalawethika ("He Makes A Loud Noise") who later took the new name of Tenskwatawa ("The Open Door"). After difficult years as a young man who suffered from alcoholism, Tenskwatawa became a religious leader. Known as "The Shawnee Prophet", he advocated a return of the Shawnee and other American Indians to their ancestral lifestyle and rejection of the colonists and Americans. He attracted a large following among Indians who had already suffered major epidemics and dispossession of their lands.

In 1805, Tenskwatawa led a religious revival following a series of witch-hunts following an outbreak of smallpox among the Shawnee. His beliefs were based on the earlier teachings of the Lenape prophets, Scattamek and Neolin, who predicted a coming apocalypse that would destroy the European-American settlers.[18]

Tenskwatawa urged Native Americans to reject the ways of the Europeans: to give up firearms, liquor, European style clothing, to pay traders only half the value of their debts, and to refrain from ceding any more lands to the United States. The teachings led to rising tensions between the settlers and his followers. Opposing Tenskwatawa was the Shawnee leader Black Hoof, who was working to maintain a peaceful relationship with the United States.[18]

The earliest record of Tecumseh's interaction with the Americans was in 1807, when the US Indian agent William Wells met with Blue Jacket and other Shawnee leaders in Greenville to determine their intentions after the recent murder of a settler. Tecumseh was among those who spoke with Wells and assured him that his band of Shawnee intended to remain at peace and wanted only to follow the will of the Great Spirit and his prophet. According to Wells's report, Tecumseh told him that the Prophet intended to move with his followers deeper into the frontier and away from American settlements.[19]

By 1808, due to increasing tensions with the encroaching settlers, Black Hoof demanded that Tenskwatawa and his followers leave the area. Tecumseh was among the leaders of the group, and helped decide to move further northwest and establish the village of Prophetstown near the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers (near present-day Battle Ground, Indiana). The site was in Miami tribe territory, and their Chief Little Turtle warned the group not to settle there. Despite the threat, the Shawnee moved into the region and the Miami left them alone. According to his brother's later account, Tecumseh was already contemplating a pan-tribal confederacy to counter American expansion into Indian-held lands. He was considered a natural and charismatic leader.[20]

Tenskwatawa's religious teachings became more widely known, as did his predictions on the coming doom of the Americans. His teachings attracted numerous members of other tribes to Prophetstown; they formed the basis of a sizeable confederacy of tribes in the southwestern Great Lakes region. Tecumseh emerged as the primary leader of this confederation, although it had started with warriors attracted by the religious appeal of his younger brother. Relatively few in confederacy were Shawnee; the confederacy was made up primarily of other tribes.[18][21]

Tenskwatawa precipitated the battle of Tippecanoe when he was overcome by his power and defied Tecumseh's orders to evacuate if Harrison approached the village. He instead pretended to have a vision and spoke to the tribes "in the voice of Moneto", their god, to attack as the white men could not hurt them, no one could die or would feel harm. The "loss" of this skirmish brought an end to the Prophet, as he was disowned, and to the great plan by Tecumseh, as many tribes lost faith.[22]

Tecumseh's War

Portraits of Pushmataha (left) and Tecumseh (right).

"These white Americans... give us fair exchange, their cloth, their guns, their tools, implements, and other things which the Choctaws need but do not make.... So in marked contrast with the experience of the Shawnee, it will be seen that the whites and Indians in this section are living on friendly and mutually beneficial terms." — Pushmataha, 1811[23]
"Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mochican, the Pocanet, and other powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man.... Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws.... Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up, and their graves turned into plowed fields?" — Tecumseh, 1811[24]

The two principal adversaries in the conflict, Tecumseh and William Henry Harrison (elected ninth US president in 1840, died in April the following year), had both been junior participants in the Battle of Fallen Timbers at the end of the Northwest Indian War in 1794. Tecumseh was not among the signers of the Treaty of Greenville that had ended the war and ceded much of present-day Ohio, long inhabited by the Shawnee and other Native Americans, to the United States. However, many Indian leaders in the region accepted the Greenville terms, and for the next ten years pan-tribal resistance to American hegemony faded.

After the Treaty of Greenville, most of the Ohio Shawnee settled at the Shawnee village of Wapakoneta on the Auglaize River, where they were led by Black Hoof, a senior chief who had signed the treaty. Little Turtle, a War Chief of the Miamis, who had also participated in the earlier war and signed the Greenville Treaty, lived in his village on the Eel River. Both Black Hoof and Little Turtle urged cultural adaptation and accommodation with the United States.

The tribes of the region participated in several treaties including the Treaty of Grouseland and the Treaty of Vincennes that gave and recognized American possession of most of southern Indiana. The treaties resulted in an easing of tensions by allowing settlers into Indiana and appeasing the Indians with reimbursement for the lands the settlers were squatting on.

Rising tensions

In September 1809, William Henry Harrison, governor of the newly formed Indiana Territory, negotiated the Treaty of Fort Wayne in which a delegation of Indians ceded 3 million acres (12,000 km2) of Native American lands to the United States. The treaty negotiations were questionable as they were unauthorized by the President and thus the United States government, and involved what some historians compared to bribery, offering large subsidies to the tribes and their chiefs, and the liberal distribution of liquor before the negotiations.[25]

Tecumseh's opposition to the treaty marked his emergence as a prominent leader. Although Tecumseh and the Shawnee had no claim on the land sold, he was alarmed by the massive sale as many of the followers in Prophetstown were Piankeshaw, Kickapoo, and Wea, who were the primary inhabitants of the land. Tecumseh revived an idea advocated in previous years by the Shawnee leader Blue Jacket and the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, which stated that Indian land was owned in common by all.[26]

Not ready to confront the United States directly, Tecumseh's primary adversaries were initially the Indian leaders who had signed the treaty. An impressive orator, Tecumseh began to travel widely, urging warriors to abandon accommodationist chiefs and to join him in resistance of the treaty.[27] Tecumseh insisted that the Fort Wayne treaty was illegal; he asked Harrison to nullify it, and warned that Americans should not attempt to settle on the lands sold in the treaty. Tecumseh is quoted as saying, "No tribe has the right to sell [land], even to each other, much less to strangers.... Sell a country!? Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Didn't the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?" And, "....the only way to stop this evil [loss of land] is for the red man to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land, as it was first, and should be now, for it was never divided.":[28]


At Vincennes in 1810, Tecumseh loses his temper when William Henry Harrison refuses to rescind the Treaty of Fort Wayne.

Tecumseh met with Indiana Governor William Henry Harrison to demand the rescission of land purchase treaties the US had forced on the Shawnee and other tribes. Harrison refused.

In August 1810, Tecumseh led four hundred armed warriors from Prophetstown to confront Harrison at his Vincennes home, Grouseland. Their appearance startled the townspeople, and the situation quickly became dangerous when Harrison rejected Tecumseh's demand and argued that individual tribes could have relations with the United States, and that Tecumseh's interference was unwelcome by the tribes of the area. Tecumseh launched an impassioned rebuttal against Harrison:[29]

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(Governor William Harrison), you have the liberty to return to your own country... you wish to prevent the Indians from doing as we wish them, to unite and let them consider their lands as common property of the whole.... You never see an Indian endeavor to make the white people do this.... Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children? How can we have confidence in the white people?.[30]

Tecumseh began inciting the warriors to kill Harrison, who responded by pulling his sword. The small garrison defending the town quickly moved to protect Harrison. Potawatomi Chief Winnemac arose and countered Tecumseh's arguments to the group, and urged the warriors to leave in peace. As they left, Tecumseh informed Harrison that unless he rescinded the treaty, he would seek an alliance with the British.[31]

In 1811, Tecumseh again met with Harrison at his home after being summoned following the murder of settlers on the frontier. Tecumseh told Harrison that the Shawnee and their Native American brothers wanted to remain at peace with the United States but these differences had to be resolved. The meeting had just a merely tentative character and both parties probably inferred from it that war was unavoidable.

Tecumseh's pan-Indian campaign

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Following the meeting Tecumseh traveled south, on a mission to recruit allies among the Five Civilized Tribes. The war speech he delivered to the Muscogee (Creek) at Tuckaubatchee, in October 1811, has been so reported by General Samuel Dale, who was present at the meeting:

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In defiance of the white warriors of Ohio and Kentucky, I have traveled through their settlements, once our favorite hunting grounds. No war-whoop was sounded, but there is blood on our knives. The Pale-faces felt the blow, but knew not whence it came. Accursed be the race that has seized on our country and made women of our warriors. Our fathers, from their tombs, reproach us as slaves and cowards. I hear them now in the wailing winds. The Muscogee was once a mighty people. The Georgians trembled at your war-whoop, and the maidens of my tribe, on the distant lakes, sung the prowess of your warriors and sighed for their embraces. Now your very blood is white; your tomahawks have no edge; your bows and arrows were buried with your fathers. Oh! Muscogees, brethren of my mother, brush from your eyelids the sleep of slavery; once more strike for vengeance; once more for your country. The spirits of the mighty dead complain. Their tears drop from the weeping skies. Let the white race perish. They seize your land; they corrupt your women; they trample on the ashes of your dead! Back, whence they came, upon a trail of blood, they must be driven. Back! back, ay, into the great water whose accursed waves brought them to our shores! Burn their dwellings! Destroy their stock! Slay their wives and children! The Red Man owns the country, and the Pale-faces must never enjoy it. War now! War forever! War upon the living! War upon the dead! Dig their very corpses from the grave. Our country must give no rest to a white man's bones. This is the will of the Great Spirit, revealed to my brother, his familiar, the Prophet of the Lakes. He sends me to you. All the tribes of the north are dancing the war-dance. Two mighty warriors across the seas will send us arms. Tecumseh will soon return to his country. My prophets shall tarry with you. They will stand between you and the bullets of your enemies. When the white men approach you the yawning earth shall swallow them up. Soon shall you see my arm of fire stretched athwart the sky. I will stamp my foot at Tippecanoe, and the very earth shall shake.[32][33]

Here is also, however, the text of quite a different-toned speech which Tecumseh allegedly delivered to a band of Osages on his way back home in 1811. It was reported by John Dunn Hunter, an Anglo-American whose parents had been killed by the Kickapoos, and who had been later raised among the Osages:[34]

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Brothers, we all belong to one family; we are all children of the Great Spirit; we walk in the same path; slake our thirst at the same spring; and now affairs of the greatest concern lead us to smoke the pipe around the same council fire! Brothers, we are friends; we must assist each other to bear our burdens. The blood of many of our fathers and brothers has run like water on the ground, to satisfy the avarice of the white men. We, ourselves, are threatened with a great evil; nothing will pacify them but the destruction of all the red men. Brothers, when the white men first set foot on our grounds, they were hungry; they had no place on which to spread their blankets, or to kindle their fires. They were feeble; they could do nothing for themselves. Our fathers commiserated their distress, and shared freely with them whatever the Great Spirit had given his red children. They gave them food when hungry, medicine when sick, spread skins for them to sleep on, and gave them grounds, that they might hunt and raise corn. Brothers, the white people are like poisonous serpents: when chilled, they are feeble and harmless; but invigorate them with warmth, and they sting their benefactors to death. The white people came among us feeble; and now that we have made them strong, they wish to kill us, or drive us back, as they would wolves and panthers. Brothers, the white men are not friends to the Indians: at first, they only asked for land sufficient for a wigwam; now, nothing will satisfy them but the whole of our hunting grounds, from the rising to the setting sun. Brothers, the white men want more than our hunting grounds; they wish to kill our old men, women, and little ones. Brothers, many winters ago there was no land; the sun did not rise and set; all was darkness. The Great Spirit made all things. He gave the white people a home beyond the great waters. He supplied these grounds with game, and gave them to his red children; and he gave them strength and courage to defend them. Brothers, my people wish for peace; the red men all wish for peace; but where the white people are, there is no peace for them, except it be on the bosom of our mother. Brothers, the white men despise and cheat the Indians; they abuse and insult them; they do not think the red men sufficiently good to live. The red men have borne many and great injuries; they ought to suffer them no longer. My people will not; they are determined on vengeance; they have taken up the tomahawk; they will make it fat with blood; they will drink the blood of the white people. Brothers, my people are brave and numerous; but the white people are too strong for them alone. I wish you to take up the tomahawk with them. If we all unite, we will cause the rivers to stain the great waters with their blood. Brothers, if you do not unite with us, they will first destroy us, and then you will fall an easy prey to them. They have destroyed many nations of red men, because they were not united, because they were not friends to each other. Brothers, the white people send runners amongst us; they wish to make us enemies, that they may sweep over and desolate our hunting grounds, like devastating winds, or rushing waters. Brothers, our Great Father[35] over the great waters is angry with the white people, our enemies. He will send his brave warriors against them; he will send us rifles, and whatever else we want—he is our friend, and we are his children. Brothers, who are the white people that we should fear them? They cannot run fast, and are good marks to shoot at: they are only men; our fathers have killed many of them: we are not squaws, and we will stain the earth red with their blood. Brothers, the Great Spirit is angry with our enemies; he speaks in thunder, and the earth swallows up villages, and drinks up the Mississippi. The great waters will cover their lowlands; their corn cannot grow; and the Great Spirit will sweep those who escape to the hills from the earth with his terrible breath. Brothers, we must be united; we must smoke the same pipe; we must fight each other’s battles; and, more than all, we must love the Great Spirit: he is for us; he will destroy our enemies, and make all his red children happy.[36]

Despite Tecumseh's efforts, most of the southern nations rejected his appeals, and particularly Choctaw Chief Pushmataha, who stood fast and insisted upon adhering to the terms of the peace treaties that had been signed with the U.S. Government.[37] However, a faction among the Creeks, who came to be known as the Red Sticks, answered his call to arms, leading to the Creek War.[31]

A comet appeared in March 1811. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh, whose name meant "shooting star", told the Creeks that the comet signaled his coming. Tecumseh's confederacy and allies took it as an omen of good luck. McKenney reported that Tecumseh claimed he would prove that the Great Spirit had sent him to the Creeks by giving the tribes a sign.

Battle of Tippecanoe

The New Madrid earthquake was interpreted by the Muscogee as a sign to support the Shawnee's resistance.

Having heard from intelligence that Tecumseh was far away, Governor Harrison sent the following report to the Department of War: "[Tecumseh] is now upon the last round to put a finishing stroke upon his work. I hope, however, before his return that that part of the work which he considered complete will be demolished and even its foundation rooted up." [38] Accordingly, Governor Harrison moved from Vincennes on September 26, 1811, with about 1,000 men in fighting trim, and marched on Tippecanoe. On November 6, 1811, Harrison's army arrived outside Prophetstown. The Prophet sent a messenger to meet with Harrison and requested a meeting be held the next day to negotiate. Harrison encamped his army on a nearby hill, and during the early dawn hours of November 7, the confederacy launched a sneak attack on his camp. In the Battle of Tippecanoe, Harrison's men held their ground, and the Indians withdrew from the village after the battle. The victorious Americans burned the town and returned to Vincennes.[39]

The Battle of Tippecanoe was a severe blow for Tenskwatawa, who lost both prestige and the confidence of his brother. Although it was a significant setback, Tecumseh began to secretly rebuild his alliance upon his return. The Americans soon after went to war with the British in the War of 1812, and Tecumseh's War became a part of that struggle.[39]

On December 16, 1811, the New Madrid earthquake shook the South and the Midwest. While the interpretation of this event varied from tribe to tribe, one consensus was universally accepted: the powerful earthquake had to have meant something. For many tribes it meant that Tecumseh and the Prophet must be supported.[40]

War of 1812

Siege of Detroit

Tecumseh rallied his confederacy and allied his forces with the British army invading the Northwest Territory from Upper Canada. He joined British Major-General Sir Isaac Brock in the Siege of Detroit, helping to force the city's surrender in August 1812. At one point in the battle, as Brock advanced to a point just out of range of Detroit's guns, Tecumseh had his approximately four hundred warriors parade out from a nearby wood and circle back around to repeat the maneuver, making it appear that there were many more warriors under his command than was actually the case. Brigadier General William Hull, the fort commander, surrendered in fear of a massacre. This decision later led Hull to a court-martial. The victory was of a great strategic value to the British allies.[41]

The next British commander in the region, Major-General Henry Procter, wanted to honor Tecumseh for his help at the Siege of Detroit. He gave Tecumseh a sash, while offering him the rank of brigadier general in the British army. Tecumseh refused the commission and gave the sash away.[42]

The victory at Detroit was reversed a little over a year later. Commodore Perry's victory on Lake Erie late in the summer of 1813 cut the British supply lines. Along with William Henry Harrison's successful defense of Fort Meigs, which created a staging area for the recapture of Fort Detroit, the British found themselves in an indefensible position and had to withdraw from the city. They burned all public buildings in Detroit and retreated into Upper Canada along the Thames Valley. Tecumseh sought continued British support in order to defend tribal lands against the Americans. However, a much reinforced Harrison led an invasion of Canada.

Siege of Fort Meigs

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In spring of the next year, British forces under Procter and Indians led by Tecumseh attacked U.S. territory and besieged Fort Meigs, finally without success. During the siege, Native American warriors began killing American prisoners, until Tecumseh arrived. He is said to have shouted at Procter, asking why he had not stopped the massacre before. This event is thought to be a major reason why Tecumseh later became a hero also in the United States, a “noble savage.”[43]

Battle of the Thames

Procter did not have the same working relationship with Tecumseh as his predecessor Brock, and the two disagreed over tactics. Procter favored withdrawing into Canada and avoiding battle while the Americans suffered from the winter. Tecumseh was more eager to launch a decisive action to defeat the American army and allow his men to retake their homes in the northwest.[44] Meanwhile, Harrison pursued the retreating British and allied tribes. When Procter's forces failed to appear at Chatham, Ontario (although he had promised Tecumseh that he would make a stand against the Americans there), Tecumseh reluctantly moved his men to meet up with Procter near Moraviantown. He informed Procter that he would withdraw no farther. He told Procter that if the British wanted his continued help then an action needed to be fought, and that they should await Harrison's army there. The despairing speech Tecumseh delivered before Procter, bitterly hinting at his weakness, concluded with these foreseeing words.

Father, listen!—The Americans have not yet defeated us by land—neither are we sure that they have done so by water—[45] we therefore wish to remain here, and fight our enemy, should they make their appearance... Father!—You have got the arms and the ammunition which our great father[35] sent for his red children. If you have an idea of going away, give them to us. Our lives are in the hands of the Great Spirit. We are determined to defend our lands, and if it be his will, we wish to leave our bones upon them[46]

Death of Tecumseh
Frieze of the United States Capitol rotunda

On October 5, 1813, the Americans attacked and won a victory over the British and Native Americans at the Battle of the Thames, near Moraviantown. Tecumseh was killed, and shortly after the battle, most tribes of his confederacy surrendered to Harrison at Detroit.[47] As to the actual circumstances surrounding Tecumseh’s death, "the Americans claimed that [he] was killed by Colonel Richard Johnson during a cavalry charge. But the Wyandott historian Peter D. Clarke wrote, after talking with Indians who had fought in the battle:"[48]

Among the retreating Indians was a Potawatamie brave, who, on perceiving an American officer (supposed to be Colonel Johnson) on horse, close upon him, turned to tomahawk his pursuer, but was shot down by him with his pistol. […] The fallen Potawatamie brave was probably taken for Tecumseh by some of Harrison's infantry, and mutilated soon after the battle.
A half-Indian and half-white, named William Caldwell, whilst retreating, after the last encounter, overtook and passed Tecumseh, who was walking along slowly, using his rifle for a staff—when asked by Caldwell if he was wounded, he replied in English, " I am shot "— Caldwell noticed where a rifle bullet had penetrated his breast, through his buckskin hunting coat. His body was found by his friends, where he had laid [sic] down to die, untouched, within the vicinity of the battle ground […]
Several of Harrison's army claimed to have killed Tecumseh. "I killed Tecumseh; I have some of his beard" one would say ; "I killed Tecumseh," another would clamour; "I have a piece of his skin to make me a razor strop !" none of these bragadocias [sic] were in the last battle, in which the brave Chief received his mortal wound.[49]

The death of Tecumseh is examined in great depth in the book, Tecumseh's Last Stand by John Sugden (1985, U. Oklahoma Press), where an entire chapter is devoted to the subject. The question is, was it in the best interest of those giving testimony to credit Johnson for taking Tecumseh's life? It seems as if this claim would have, and did, greatly enhanced his political career. Sugden, despite his exhaustive study, could not come to the conclusion that Johnson truly was the person who killed Tecumseh. Furthermore, he could not find enough evidence to firmly claim that Tecumseh's body was defiled. Some Indian accounts indicated that his body was removed before this could have taken place (both whites and Indians engaged in this practice).[clarification needed][citation needed]

Another name has been mentioned, William Whitley. Though by some accounts Sugden places him there as already killed, some credit Whitley. The most recent discovery of evidence to this end is found in the 1929 autobiography of Whitley descendant James A. Drain Sr., Single Handed[50]

It was a fierce battle midst trees and undergrowth, the fighting close and long and hard. The Kentucky Rifles were sent in to save the day, and they did. Grandfather was tall. He carried himself as straight as an arrow for all his years. His long white hair touched his shoulders. On his great snow white horse he was easily marked.

Shot through the body, he fell. The fatal bullet came from behind a fallen tree. From there sprang the great chief Tecumseh, intent upon taking for himself a scalp so splendid and so clearly that of a great chief of the white men. But Grandfather was not dead. Falling, weakening hand still grasped his gun, the gun he always loaded with two bullets. That gun was loaded now and as his slayer drew near, the dying man with one motion raised himself to a knee and the gun to his shoulder. Then he borrowed enough time from that last scant instant of life for his hunter's eye to center sights upon the red man's breast. And as he fired, he fell and the Indian as well, each gone where good fighting men go.

And how the men of the Rifles buried his body at dead of night and fed their horses upon his grave that none might know where he lay. And how these men in pride brought back to his Kentucky home the high stepping horse he had ridden away to his death, the horse itself blind of an eye by a shot.

Oral history from Saugeen First Nation, recorded by Dr. Edwin Seaborn in the 1930s, recounts Tecumseh's death this way.[51]

Pe-wak-a-nep, who was 70 years old in 1938, gives his grandfather’s eye-witness account of Tecumseh’s last battle. It describes the chief fighting with ‘a long knife’ on a bridge. Tecumseh’s lance snapped close to his grip and he fell after ‘a long knife’ was run through his shoulder from behind. The witness, who hid in the water by ‘turning himself into a turtle’ under a log, saw Americans take the body of another warrior to a tree and mutilate it, not Tecumseh.

In 1836, Johnson was elected vice-president; his campaign used the slogan Rumpsey Dumpsey, Rumpsey Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh (see Election of 1836).

Consequences for Native Americans

Tecumseh's death and the defeat of the British-Native American alliance was a decisive blow to the Native American front. It had larger implications during negotiations for the Treaty of Ghent. During the treaty process, the British called for the United States to return lands in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan to Native Americans. The British strategy for decades had been to create a buffer state to block American expansion. The Americans refused to consider a buffer state and the proposal was dropped.[52] Although article IX of the treaty included provisions to restore to Natives "all possessions, rights and privileges which they may have enjoyed, or been entitled to in 1811", the provisions were unenforceable.[53]



Noted by Indian, American and English colleagues, allies and enemies as an inspiring orator, Tecumseh left these words to live by:

<templatestyles src="Template:Blockquote/styles.css" />

Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart...Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and in the service of your people...

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself...

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose lives are filled with the fear of death, so that when time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.[54]

He rallied many tribes to his alliance by his attacks on white people:

<templatestyles src="Template:Blockquote/styles.css" />

Brothers – the white people are like poisonous serpents: when chilled they are feeble and harmless, but invigorate them with warmth and they sting their benefactors to death.[55]


Tecumseh commemorative Shawnee Nation dollar


HMCS Tecumseh, Canadian Forces Naval Reserve, Calgary, Alberta

Tecumseh is honored in Canada as a hero and military commander who played a major role in Canada's successful repulsion of an American invasion in the War of 1812, which, among other things, eventually led to Canada's nationhood in 1867 with the British North America Act. Among the tributes, Tecumseh is ranked 37th in The Greatest Canadian list. The Canadian naval reserve unit HMCS Tecumseh is based in Calgary, Alberta. The Royal Canadian Mint released a two dollar coin on June 18, 2012 and will release four quarters, celebrating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. The second quarter in the series, was released in November 2012 and features Tecumseh.[56]

The Ontario Heritage Foundation & Kent Military Reenactment Society erected a plaque in Tecumseh Park, 50 William Street North, Chatham, Ontario, reading: "On this site, Tecumseh, a Shawnee Chief, who was an ally of the British during the war of 1812, fought against American forces on October 4, 1813. Tecumseh was born in 1768 and became an important organizer of native resistance to the spread of white settlement in North America. The day after the fighting here, he was killed in the Battle of Thames near Moraviantown. Tecumseh park was named to commemorate strong will and determination."[57]

He is also honored by a massive portrait which hangs in the Royal Canadian Military Institute. The unveiling of the work, commissioned under the patronage of Kathryn Langley Hope and Trisha Langley, took place at the Toronto-based RCMI on October 29, 2008.[58]

A replica of the War of 1812 warship HMS Tecumseh was built in 1994 and displayed in Penetanguishene, Ontario near the raised wreck of the original HMS Tecumseh. The original HMS Tecumseh was built in 1815 to be used in defense against the Americans. First on Lake Erie, she moved to Lake Huron in 1817. She sank in Penetanguishene harbor in 1828, and was raised in 1953.[59]

U.S. Military

President Harry S. Truman joining Midshipmen in tossing pennies to Tecumseh, "the god of 2.5," during his visit to the U.S. Naval Academy

The United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, has Tecumseh Court, which is located outside Bancroft Hall's front entrance, and features a bust of Tecumseh. The bust is often decorated to celebrate special days. The bust was originally meant to represent Tamanend, an Indian chief from the 17th century who was known as a lover of peace and friendship, but the Academy's midshipmen preferred the warrior Tecumseh, and have referred to the statue by his name.[60]

Four ships of the United States Navy have been named USS Tecumseh.

Persons' names

Union Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman, was given the name Tecumseh because "my father...had caught a fancy for the great chief of the Shawnees."[61] Another Civil War general, Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh Dana, also bore the name of the Shawnee leader (evolutionary biologist and cognitive scientist W. Tecumseh Fitch was named after the general, and thus only indirectly for the chief).

Towns' and buildings' names

Tecumseh Building, 34 W. High Street, Springfield, Ohio

A number of towns have been named in honor of Tecumseh, including those in the states of Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and the province of Ontario, as well as the town and township of New Tecumseth, Ontario and Mount Tecumseh in New Hampshire.

Schools named in honor of Tecumseh include, in the United States: Tecumseh Junior – Senior High in Hart Township, Warrick County, just outside Lynnville, Indiana.[citation needed] Lafayette Tecumseh Junior High in Lafayette, Indiana.[citation needed] Tecumseh-Harrison Elementary[62] in Vincennes, Indiana.[citation needed] Tecumseh Acres Elementary, Tecumseh Middle and Tecumseh High in Tecumseh, Michigan.[63] Tecumseh Elementary in Farmingville, New York.[citation needed] Tecumseh Elementary in Jamesville, New York.[citation needed] Tecumseh Middle and Tecumseh High in Bethel Township, Clark County near New Carlisle, Ohio and their district, the Tecumseh Local School District.[citation needed] Tecumseh Elementary in Xenia Township, Greene County near Xenia, Ohio.[citation needed] Tecumseh Middle[64] and Tecumseh High in Tecumseh, Oklahoma. And in Canada: Tecumseh Elementary[65] in Vancouver. Tecumseh Public[66] in Burlington, Ontario. Tecumseh Senior Public[67] in Scarborough, Ontario.[citation needed]


Benson Lossing's engraving
Purported portrait of Tecumseh acquired by William Clark ca. 1820
File:Battle of the Thames original.png
Johnson shooting Tecumseh, Emmons 1833
Johnson shooting Tecumseh, Langworthy 1843

Benson Lossing's engraved portrait of Tecumseh, in his 1868 The Pictorial Fieldbook of the War of 1812 (p. 283),[68][69] was based on a sketch done from life in 1808. Lossing altered the original by putting Tecumseh in a British uniform, under the mistaken (but widespread) belief that Tecumseh had been a British general.[70] This depiction is unusual in that it includes a nose ring, popular among the Shawnee at the time, but typically omitted in idealized depictions.[71] On the other hand, the artist quotes Captain J. B. Glegg as follows: "Three small silver crosses or coronets were suspended from the lower cartilage of his aquiline nose[...]".[69][72] (Tecumseh's brother "The Prophet" is depicted with a nose ring in Lossing's book[73]—as well as by George Catlin.) Apart from Tecumseh's "gala dress" (at a celebration of the Surrender of Detroit) Lossing referred to, also his face may not be rendered faithfully—no fully authenticated portrait of the Shawnee leader exists.[70] In general, many known portraits and sculptures have been made decades after Tecumseh's death, by artists who did not know how Tecumseh actually had looked like.

Numerous depictions show how Colonel Richard Johnson, leading a cavalry attack of the Battle of the Thames, shot Tecumseh—see above for doubts (it has been reported that an Indian rose his tomahawk against Johnson and was shot by the latter, while some reports deny that this Indian was Tecumseh). These depictions range from a book illustration to a section of the frieze of the rotunda of the United States Capitol.


File:Tecumseh in Lafayette IN.jpg
Tecumseh (right) in the Tippecanoe County Courthouse pediment

In Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum exhibits a bust of Tecumseh created by Hamilton MacCarthy in 1896.

German sculptor Ferdinand Pettrich (1798–1872) studied under the neo-classicist Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen in Rome and moved to the United States in 1835. He was especially impressed by the Indians. He modelled The Dying Tecumseh ca. 1837–1846; it was finished 1856 in marble and copper alloy. First it was shown at the U.S. Capitol, where a stereoscopic photograph was taken of it in the later 1860s; in 1916 it was transferred to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.[74]

In recent years, Peter Wolf Toth has created the Trail of the Whispering Giants, a series of sculptures honoring Native Americans. He donated one work devoted to Tecumseh to the City of Vincennes, which was Indiana's capital in the years around 1810, where Tecumseh confronted governor William Henry Harrison, and in the area of which Tecumseh's war then happened and the War of 1812 started. In the same U.S. state, in Lafayette, Tecumseh appears along with the Marquis de Lafayette and Harrison in a pediment on the Tippecanoe County Courthouse (1882).[75]

Tecumseh in popular culture

Art and other media




  • A life-size statue of Tecumseh is featured in the sitcom Cheers.[83]
  • Insurance company executive Randall tries to quote Tecumseh in the Mad Men season six episode, "The Flood".[84] In greeting Roger Sterling and the SCDP creative team hello and goodbye, Randall raises his hand in a stereotyped Native American gesture associated with "How"; this gesture is also a military greeting.[85]

See also



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  4. In particular by Anthony Shane, a mixed-blood who spent most of his life in Shawnee towns, and by his wife Lameteshe, one of Tecumseh's kindred.
  5. Sugden (1999), p. 15
  6. Sugden (1999), p. 13–14
  7. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  8. Chalahgawtha was simply the name of one of the five bands of the Shawnee.
  9. Sugden (1999), pp. 20-23
  10. 10.0 10.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  11. Sugden (1999), p. 33
  12. Sugden (1999), p. 36
  13. Sugden (1999), p. 37
  14. Gateway To Empire by Allan W. Eckert
  15. Sugden (1999), p. 38
  16. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  17. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Owens, p. 210–211
  19. Sugden (1999), pp. 4–7
  20. Sugden (1999), p. 9
  21. "Shawnee." Encyclopedia of North American Indians. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. History Study Center.
  22. Gateway To Empire by Allan W Eckert
  23. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  24. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  25. Treaty with the Delawares, Etc., 1809. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau.
  26. Owen, p. 203
  27. Owen, p. 209
  28. Steinberg, Theodore. Slide Mountain or The Folly of Owning Nature. Chapter 5, "Three-D Deeds: The Rise of Air Rights in New York" University of California Press, 1996.
  29. Langguth, p. 165
  30. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Langguth, p. 167
  32. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  33. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  34. cf. History tools by Professor Benjamin Reiss
  35. 35.0 35.1 The King of Great Britain.
  36. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. (accessible online in books.google)
  37. cf. box at the beginning of the present section, Tecumseh's War
  38. Quoted by Reed Beard, The battle of Tippecanoe: historical sketches of the famous field upon which General William Henry Harrison won renown that aided him in reaching the presidency; lives of the Prophet and Tecumseh, with many interesting incidents of their rise and overthrow. The campaign of 1888 and election of General Benjamin Harrison, Tippecanoe Pub. co., 1889 (the 1911 edition has been digitized by the Internet Archive with funding from Microsoft Corporation and is accessible online in archive.org; quotation from page 44).
  39. 39.0 39.1 Langguth, p. 168
  40. Ehle p. 102–104
  41. Burton, Pierre (1980) The Invasion of Canada. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, pp. 177-182.
  42. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  43. Norman K. Risjord (2001). Representative Americans: The Revolutionary Generation. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, p. 302. ISBN 978-0-7425-2075-2.
  44. Langguth, p. 196
  45. Tecumseh was referring to the naval Battle of Lake Erie (10 September 1813)
  46. The speech was repeatedly reported by Benjamin Bussey Thatcher in his works about the North-East Indians; see, Indian Biography, or An historical account of those individuals who have been distinguished among the North American natives as orators, warriors, statesmen and other remarkable characters, New York, J. & J. Harper, 1832, vol. II, p. 237 (accessible online in books.google)
  47. Langguth, p. 206. Not all tribes, however, resigned themselves to surrendering, and among them most of the 'diehard' Kickapoos that had followed Tecumseh to Canada. In August 1816 over 150 of them were still living in the Prophet's settlement at Amherstberg and continuing their private war on the United States. Not until 1819 did the entire Canadian band return southwards (Gibson, Arrell Morgan (1963). The Kickapoos: Lords of the Middle Border. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963, pp. 72-73. ISBN 0-8061-1264-6).
  48. Hamilton, Charles (ed) (1950). Cry of the Thunderbird; the American Indian's own story. New York: Macmillan Company, p. 162.
  49. Clarke, Peter Dooyentate, Origin and traditional history of the Wyandotts and sketches of other Indian tribes of North America, true traditional stories of Tecumseh and his league, in the years 1811 and 1812. Toronto: Hunter, Rose & Co., 1870, pp. 113-115 (accessible free of charge in Internet Archive)
  50. Drain, Sr., James A. (2013). "2–The Line of the Drains". Single Handed, Cambridge, Wisconsin: ed. Mark L. Bardenwerper, Sr. ISBN 978-1470032760.
  51. Communications.uwo.ca
  52. Robert Remini, Henry Clay (1991) p 117
  53. A. T. Mahan, "The Negotiations at Ghent in 1814," The American Historical Review (1905) 11#1 pp. 68-87 esp pp 73-78 free in JSTOR
  54. Rich in Years: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Long Life, Johann Christophe Arnold, Plough Publishing House 2013
  55. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  56. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  57. Tecumseh plaque
  58. Welland Tribune (Article ID# 2803886).
  59. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  60. "Tamanend, Chief of Delaware Indians (1628-1698), (sculpture).", Smithsonian Institution, SI.edu
  61. WTS Memoirs, 2d ed. 11 (Lib. of America 1990)
  62. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
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  69. 69.0 69.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  70. 70.0 70.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
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  76. Nl.newsbank.com BYLINE:Andrew McGinn Staff Writer DATE: February 22, 2007 PUBLICATION: Springfield News-Sun (OH)
  77. Chillicothegazette.com 'Tecumseh' to receive award this weekend
  78. Washington Post Allan Eckert, playwright of ‘Tecumseh!’ outdoor drama in Ohio dies at 80 in California
  79. Historical Overview, The Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir Program, Summer 1990.
  80. Ernest Thompson Seton, The Gospel of the Red Man: An Indian Bible, San Diego, The Book Tree, 2006, p. 60 (ISBN 978-1-58509-276-5).
  81. Tecumseh at the Internet Movie Database
  82. Galloway, William Albert. Old Chillicothe. Xenia, OH: The Buckeye Press, 1934.
  83. Cf. storyline of the episode Bar Wars III: The Return of Tecumseh (15 Mars 1990; Season 8, Episode 21) at IMDb (accessed 2 August 2014).
  84. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
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  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
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  • Sugden, John. Tecumseh: A Life. New York: Holt, 1997 (Paperbacks Edition cited: 1999). ISBN 978-0-8050-6121-5
  • Sugden, John. Tecumseh's Last Stand. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985. ISBN 0-80611-944-6
  • Baym, Nina, Robert S. Levine, and Arnold Krupat. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Beginning to 1820 Vol. A. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2007. ISBN 9780393927399
  • Henretta, James A., and David Brody. America: A Concise History. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. Print

Further reading

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  • Dowd, Gregory Evans. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-80184-236-0
  • Drake, Benjamin. Life of Tecumseh and of His Brother the Prophet; With a Historical Sketch of the Shawanoe Indians. (Mount Vernon: Rose Press, 2008).
  • Eckert, Allan. A Sorrow in Our Hearts: The Life of Tecumseh. New York: Bantam Books, 1992. ISBN 0-55356-174-X
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  • Edmunds, R. David. Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership. Boston: Little Brown, 1984.
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  • Gilbert, Bil. God Gave us This Country: Tekamthi and the First American Civil War. New York: Atheneum, 1989.
  • Green, James A., "Tecumseh," in Charles F. Horne, ed., Great Men and Famous Women, vol. 2: Soldiers and Sailors, 308. New York: Selmar Hess, 1894.
  • Laxer, James. Tecumseh & Brock : the War of 1812. Toronto: House of Anansi, 2012. ISBN 0-88784-261-5
  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. as read to the Filson Club.
  • Valencius, Conevery Bolton. The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes. The University of Chicago Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-2260-5389-9. Chapter 3, "Earthquakes on Native Ground"

Primary sources

  • Klinck, Carl F. ed. Tecumseh: Fact and Fiction in Early Records (Prentice Hall, 1961),


  • Buff, Rachel. "Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa: Myth, Historiography and Popular Memory." Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques (1995): 277-299.
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External links

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  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.—Covers a number of "portraits" of Tecumseh and links to relevant sources as well as bibliography.
  • Warrior ... at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 2009)—an archived former Geocities.com site with many witness texts.