A History of the State of Ohio,
Natural and Civil

by Caleb Atwater

(139) [In St. Clair's defeat, November 3, 1791,] ... the carnage was dreadful. Our soldiers finally threw away their arms, and fled for their lives. (140) Many were killed in the fight, tomahawked and scalped; many were captivated and afterwards roasted alive, at the stake. The elder Caray maunee, of the Winnebagoes, was there, and informed us of all the particulars, when we were at Prairie du Chien, in July, 1829.

After glutting their savage vengeance, by killing many of our men; and, having taken as many prisoners as they could well manage, the Indians left off their pursuit, and returned to the battle ground. There lay the dying and the dead; there stood the artillery and trains; and there also stood the baggage wagons. Here, the enemy now glutted his vengeance to the very utmost, on the dying, the dead, and the living. But, we leave the horrid picture for some other to fill up, not we. ...

(145) The visit was made by General Washington [to the New York Indians], to conciliate those savages, and to prevent their joining in the war, with the British Indians, as they had done all along before this period. Many New York Indians were present at St. Clair's defeat, and some of them, still went off, and fought against General Wayne, in 1794, when they were defeated, and mostly killed, on the Maumee river. In the summer of 1793, Wayne tried to treat with the Indians. Fort Massac was built, under him, to prevent an expedition against New Orleans, which GENET was planning. General Wayne sent out, in succession, Colonel Hardin, and Major Trueman with a flag of truce, medals, talks and presents to the Indians in order to make a peace with them.

These messengers of peace were killed in succession, as soon as they arrived among the savages. Their medals, and speeches, sent by them, and all they had with them, were taken by the Indians who slew the bearers of them. We saw these medals and speeches in the possession of the elder Caray Maunee, principal chief of the Winnebagoes at Prairie du Chien, in July 1829.

The medal was a large one, of copper, six inches in diameter, and purported, no doubt truly, to have been made, at the expense of a gentleman of Philadelphia, and by him, sent as a token of General Washington's friendship, to the Indians. Every other effort was made by General Wayne, that summer, to bring about a peace with the savages, but all in vain, and worse than in vain. But notwithstanding all the efforts to make a peace, yet, nothing was omitted that could be done, to (146) prepare for a vigorous war against them. Although General Wayne promptly accepted his appointment, and entered on its arduous duties, yet, it was found no easy matter to fill up the minor appointments, even the very next in grade to the Commander-in-chief, of this army. Several were appointed to these offices who refused to accept them. It was found difficult too, to enlist soldiers for this hazardous service. Every thing moved along slowly, and the season was spent in doing very little, to any good effect. The British commander of the fort at Detroit, had erected a fort at the head of the Maumee Bay, for the purpose, it would seem, of protecting the Indians, in alliance with them. Here the Indians resorted for protection; here they sold their furs, peltries and skins, received their annuities, and, we doubt not, that they received here, also, the price paid for the scalps of our murdered countrymen. ...

In this action [the Battle of the Thames,] Tecumseh, as we have said, was killed, which circumstance has given rise to almost innumerable fictions — why, we hardly can tell, but it is so. The writer's opportunities for knowing the truth, is equal to any person's now living. He was personally, very well acquainted with the celebrated warrior. He accompanied Tecumseh, Elsquataway, Fourlegs and Caraymaunee, on their tour among the six nations of New York, in 1809, and acted as their interpreter among those Indians. In 1829, at Prairie Du Chien, the two latter Indians, both then civil chiefs, of the Winnebagoes, were with the writer, who was then acting as commissioner of Indian affairs in the United States service. From the statement of these constant companions of Tecumseh, during nearly twenty years of his life, we proceed to state, that Tecumseh lay with his warriors at the commencement of the battle in a forest of thick underbrush, on the left of the American army. That these Indians were at no period of the battle, out of their thick underbrush; that Nawcaw [Nąka] saw no officer between them and the American army; that Tecumseh fell the very first fire of the Kentucky dragoons, pierced by thirty bullets, and was carried four or five miles into the thick woods, and there buried by the warriors, who told the story of his fate. This account was repeated to me three several times, word for word, and neither of the relaters ever knew the fictions to which Tecumseh's death has given rise. Some of these fictions originated in the mischievous design of ridiculing the person who is said to have killed this savage, and who, by the by, killed no one that day, at least, either red or white. We mean no personal reflection on any one for not killing Tecumseh. We could easily write this (237) warrior's whole history, as he often requested us to do. By those who neither knew him, nor any other wild Indians, he is often represented as being something very uncommon; whereas all his movements originated with the Canadian Indian department. In obedience to their orders, he visited nearly all the Indian nations of North America, stirring them all up, against the Americans. He told the Onondagoes, through the writer, as his interpreter, "that he had visited the Florida Indians, and even the Indians so far to the north that snow covered the ground in midsummer." He was a warrior, and Elsquataway acted as a prophet, dissuading the Indians from drinking ardent spirits. As to real talent he possessed no more of it than any one of thousands of his people, in the northwest. Being much with the British officers, he had enlarged his ideas very much, as KEOKUK has his also, in the same way. All the principal men of the Winnebagoes had learned a great deal from the English officers. In their manners, these Indians at table, were most perfect gentlemen, and they knew enough to behave so any where. Whether the ridiculous stories about Tecumseh's death will continue to be told, we do not know, but we have done our duty by stating facts. ...

Nąga Keramąnį́ga, 1829

Commentary. "Caray maunee" — this is for Keramąnį́(ga), "The Turtle Who Walks," a reference to The Turtle, the spirit who invented war. He was also known by his clan name, Nąga, "Wood." See the commentaries to Atwater's "Tour to Prairie du Chien," and "The Tavern Visit."

"Genet" — sent by the revolutionary government of France, who had declared war on England in February, 1793, as ambassador to the United States. His object was to draw America into the war, and induce early repayment of our debt to France. In these objectives he failed, and when he tried to destabilized the U. S. government, he was made persona non grata. Rather than return to France, where he could expect an appointment with the guillotine, he slipped away to a quiet life in upstate New York, where he had a family and became an American citizen.

"a gentleman of Philadelphia" — this appears to be a coy reference to Benjamin Franklin, who died in 1790.

"Tecumseh" — one of the most celebrated Native Americans, he was a chief among the Shawnee. He managed, with the aid of his brother, the Shawnee Prophet, to create a grand alliance among the northwestern tribes to resist American expansionism. He was a devoted ally of the British and generally did their bidding. As mentioned here, he was killed in the War of 1812. It was said among some of the Hocągara that Tecumseh had a smooth black stone inside his stomach that made him proof against bullets. See "Tecumseh's Bulletproof Skin."

"Elsquataway" — the Shawnee Prophet, the brother of Tecumseh, whose name is more usually given as, Tenskwatawa. He preached a return to the purely Indian way of life, demonstrating a self-reliance that would free them from dependency on the white man and especially his whiskey. The Hocągara have detailed stories about him: see "What the Shawnee Prophet Told the Hocągara," and "The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension."

"Fourlegs" — Hujopka. See "Four Legs." See also Caleb Atwater's account in his "Tour to Prairie du Chien."

"Keokuk" — for Keokuk, see the commentary to Atwater's "Tour to Prairie du Chien."


Caleb Atwater, A History of the State of Ohio, Natural and Civil (Cincinnati: Glezen & Shepard, 1838).