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1812 Captain Z. Taylor's defence of Fort Harrison. 531 ed by the Indians, and two-thirds of them (from 50 to 60) mas1 sacred at once.
Thus, by the middle of August the whole northwest with the exception of Fort Wayne and Fort Harrison was again in the hands of the British and their red allies. Early in September
these two posts were also attacked, and the latter, had it not been defended with the greatest vigor, would have been taken. Its defender was Captain Taylor, now General Taylor, the commander of the army in Mexico, and at present the most eminent of American military men; and that his present position is derived from the possession of true merit was proved by his conduct at Fort Harrison no less than by his behavior at Palo Alto, Resaca de Palma, and Monterey, as the following account will show,
Letter from Captain Z. Taylor, commanding fort Harrison, Indiana Territory, to General Harrison.
Fort Harrison, September 10th. Dear Sir-On Thursday evening, the third instant, after retreat beating, sour guns were heard to fire in the direction where two young men (citizens who resided here) were making hay, about four hundred yards distance from the fort. I was immediately impressed with the idea that
they were killed by the Indians, as the Prophet's party would soon be * here for the purpose of commencing hostilities, and that they had been
directed to leave this place, as we were about to do. I did not think it prudent to send out at that late hour of the night to see what had become of them; and their not coming in convinced me that I was right in my conjecture. I waited until eight o'clock next morning, when I sent out a corporal with a small party to find them if it could be done without running too much risk of being drawn into an ambuscade. He soon sent back to inform me that he had found them both killed, and wished to know my further orders ; I sent the cart and oxen, had them brought in and buried; they had been shot with two balls, scalped, and cut in the most shocking manner. Late in the evening of the fourth instant, old Joseph Lenar and between 30 and 40 Indians arrived from the Prophet's town, with a white flag; among whom were about ten women, and the men were composed of chiefs of the different tribes that compose the Prophet's party. A Shawanee man, that spoke good English, informed me that old Lenar intended to speak to me next morning, and try to get something to eat.
At retreal beating I examined the men's arms, and found them all in good order, and completed their cartridges to fifteen rounds per man.
Captain Heald's account may be found in Niles' Register, iii. 155—and a letter from Walter Jordan who was present, in same work, vol. iv. 160. See also, Brown's Illinois, 306 to 316.
1812 As I had not been able to mount a guard of more than six privates ed two non-commissioned officers for some time past, and sometimes part of them every other day, from the unhealthiness of the company: 1 had not conceived my force adequate to the defence of this post should it be vigorously attacked, for some time past.
As I had just recovered from a very severe attack of the fever, I was not able to be up much through the night. After tatoo, I cautioned the guard to be vigilent, and ordered one of the non-commissioned officers, as the sentinels could not see every part of the garrison, to walk rocod on the inside during the whole night, to prevent the Indians taking any advantage of us, provided they had any intention of attacking us. About 11 o'clock I was awakened by the firing of one of the sentinels; I sprang up, ran out, and ordered ihe men to their posts ; when my orderly sergeant, who had charge of the upper block-house, called oat that the Indians had fired the lower block-house, (which contained the property of the contractor, which was deposited in the lower part, the opper having been assigned to a corporal and ten privates as an alarm post.) The guns had began to fire pretty smartly from both sides. I directed the buckets to be got ready and water brought from the well, and the fire extinguished immediately, as it was perceivable at that that time; but from debility or some other cause, the men were very slow in executing my orders—the word fire appeared to throw the whole of them into confusion ; and by the time they had got the water and broken open the door, the fire had unfortunately communicated to a quantity of whiskey (the stock having licked several holes through the lower part of the building, after the salt that was stored there, through which they had introduced the fire without being discovered, as the night was very dark) and in spite of every exertion we could make use of, in less than a moment it ascended to the roof and baffled every effort we could make to extinguish it. As that block-house adjoined the barracks that make part of the fortifications most of the men immediately gave themselves up for lost, and I had the greatest difficulty in getting my orders executed—and, sir, what from the raging of the fire-the yelling and howling of several hundred Indians—the cries of nine women and children (a part soldiers' and a part citizens' wives, who had taken shelter in the fort) and the desponding of so many of the men, which was worse than all-I can assure that my feelings were unpleasant-and indeed there were not more than ten or fifteen men able to do a great deal, the others being sick or convalescent and to add to our other misfortunes, two of the strongest men in the fort, and that I had every confidence in jumped the picket and left us. But my presence of mind did not for a moment forsake me. I saw, by throwing off a part of the roof that joined the block-house that was on fire, and keeping the end perfectly wet, the whole row of buildings might be
533 saved, and leave only an entrance of eighteen or twenty feet for the entrance of the Indians after the house was consumed; and that a temporary breast-work might be executed to prevent their even entering there—I convinced the men that this might be accomplished and it appeared to inspire them with new life, and never did men act with more firmness and desperation. Those that were able (while the others kept up a constant fire from the other block-house and the two bastions) mounted the roofs of the houses, with Dr. Clark at their head, who acted with the greatest firmness and presence of mind the whole time the attack lasted, which was seven hours, under a shower of bullets, and in less than a moment threw off as much of the roof as was necessary.
'This was done only with a loss of one man and two wounded, and I am in hopes neither of them dangerously; the man that was
killed was a little deranged, and did not get off the house as soon as i directed, or he would not have been hurt-and although the barracks
were several times in a blaze, and an immense quantity of fire against
them, the inen used such exertions that they kept it under and before 1 day raised a temporary breast-work as high as a man's head, although
the Indians continued to pour in a heavy fire of ball and an innumerable quantity of arrows during the whole time the attack lasted, in every part of the parade. I had but one other man killed, nor any other wounded inside the fort, and he lost his life by being too anxious—he got into one of the gallies in the bastions, and fired over the pickets, and called out to his comrades that he had killed an Indian, and neglecting to stoop down in an instant he was shot dead. One of the men that jumped the pickets, returned an hour before day, and running up towards the gate, begged for God's sake for it to be opened. I suspected it to be a stratagem of the Indians to get in, as I did not recollect the voice. I directed the men in the bastion, where I happened to be, to shoot him let him be who he would, and one of them fired at him, but fortunately he ran up to the other bastion, where they knew his voice, and Dr. Clarke directed him to lie down close to the pickets behind an empty barrel that happened to be there, and at day-light I had him let in. His arm was broke in a most shocking manner; which he says was done by the Indians—which I suppose, was the cause of his returning—I think it probable that he will not recover. The other they caught about 130 yards from the garrison, and cut him all to pieces. After keeping up a constant fire until about six o'clock the next morning, which we began to return with some effect after day-light, they removed out of the reach of our guns. A party of them drove up the horses that belonged to the citizens here, and as they could not catch them very readily, shot the whole of them in our sight, as well as a number of their hogs. They drove off the whole of the cattle, which amounted to 65 head, as well as the public oxen. I had the vacancy filled up before night, (which
1812 was made by the burning of the block-house) with a strong rot of pickets, whieh I got by pulling down the guard-house. We lost the whole of our provisions, but must make out to live upon green core until we can get a supply, which I am in hopes will not be long. I believe the whole of the Miamies or Weas, were among the Prophet's party, as one chief gave his orders in that language, which resembled Stone Eater's voice, and I believe Negro Legs was there likewise. À Frenchman here understands their different languages, and several of the Miamies or Weas, that have been frequently here, were recognized by the Frenchman and soldiers, next morning. The Indians suffered smartly, but were so numerous as to take off all that were shot. They continued with us until the next morning, but made no further attempt upon the fort, nor have we seen any thing more of them since. I have de layed informing you of my situation, as I did not like to weaken the garrison, and I looked for some person from Vincennes, and none of my men were acqnainted with the woods, and therefore I would either hare to take the road or the river, which I was fearful was guarded by small parties of Indians that would not dare attack a company of rangers that was on a scout; but being disappointed, I have at length determined to send a couple of my men by water, and am in hopes they will arrive safe. I think it would be best to send the provisions under a pretty strong escort, as the Indians may attempt to prevent their coming. If you carry on an expedition against the Prophet this fall, you ought to be well provided with every thing, as you may calculate on having every inch of ground disputed between this and there that they can defend with advantage.
Z. TAYLOR. His Excellency Gov. HARRISON.
Fort Harrison, September 13, 1812. Dear Sir-I wrote you on the 10th instant, giving you an account of the attack on this place, as well as my situation, which account I altempted to send by water, but the two men whom I dispatched in a canoe after night, found the river so well guarded, that they were obliged to return. The Indians had built a fire on the bank of the river, a short distance below the garrison, which gave them an opportunity of seeing any craft that might attempt to pass, and were waiting with a canoe ready to intercept it. I expect the fort, as well as the road to Vincennes, is as well or better watched than the river. But my situation compels me to make one other attempt by land, and my orderly sergeant, with one other man, sets out to night with strict orders to avoid the road in the day time, and depend entirely on the woods, although neither of them have ever been in Vincennes by land, nor do they know any thing of the country, but I am in hopes they will reach you in safety. I send them with great reluctance from their ignorance of the woods. I
1812. W. H. Harrison Commander-in-Chief.
535 think it very probable there is a large party of Indians waylaying the road between this and Vincennes, likely about the Narrows, for the purpose of intercepting any party that may be coming to this place, as the cattle they got here will supply them plentifully with provisions for some time to come.
Z. TAYLOR. His Excellency Gov. HARRISON.
But before the surrender of Hull took place, extensive preparations had been made in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, to bring into service a large and efficient army.t Three points needed defence, Fort Wayne and the Maumee, the Wabash, and the Illinois River: the troops destined for the first point were to be under the command of General Winchester, a revolutionary officer resident in Tennessee and but little known to the frontier men ;t those for the Wabash were to be under Harrison, whose name since the battle of Tippecanoe was familiar everywhere; while Governor Edwards of the Illinois Territory, was to command the expedition upon the river of the same name. Such were the intentions of the Government, but the wishes of the people frustrated them, and led, first, to the appointment of Harrison to the command of the Kentucky volunteers, destined to assist Hull's army,|| and next to his elevation to the post of commander-inchief over all the forces of the west and north-west: this last appointment was made September 17th, and was notified to the General upon the 24th of that month.9 Meantime Fort Wayne had been relieved, and the line of the Maumee secured; so that when Harrison found himself placed at the head of military affairs in the west, his main objects were, first, to drive the Indians from the western side of the Detroit River; second, to take Malden; and third, having thus secured his communications, to recapture the Michigan Territory and its dependencies.** To do all this before winter, and thus be prepared to conquer Upper Canada, Harrison proposed to take possession of the Rapids of the Maumee
• Niles' Register, iii. 90. McAfee, 153. + McAfee, 102 to 110.
Armstrong's Nctices, i. 52 to 66. Appendix, No. 8. p. 203. McAfee, 131. | The propriety of this step was much questioned , see McAfee, 107, &c. Armstrong's Notices, i. 58. & McAfee 140.-Also, Letter of Secretary of War, McAfee 118. See the details in McAfee, 120 to 139. Armstrong's Notices, i. 59. McAfee, 142.