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The nation that will insist on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to have its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards.-- Sir William Francis Butler
The Fort Dearborn Massacre12654 Reads
Pittsburg, 23 October 1812 On the 9th of August last, I received orders from General Hull to evacuate the post and proceed with my command to Detroit by land, leaving it at my discretion to dispose of the public property as I thought proper. The neighbouring Indians got the information as early as I did, and came in from all quarters in order to receive the goods in the factory store, which they understood were to be given them.
On the 13th, captain Wells, of Fort Wayne, arrived with about 30 Miamies, for the purpose of escorting us in, by the request of General Hull. On the 14th I delivered all the goods in the factory store, and a considerable quantity of provisions which we could not take away with us. The surplus arms and ammunition I thought proper to destroy, fearing they would make bad use of it if put into their possession. I also destroyed all the liquor on hand soon after they began to collect. The collection was unusually large for that place, but they conducted themselves with the strictest propriety till after I left the fort.
On the 15th, at nine in the morning we commenced our march; part of the Miamies were detached in front, and the remainder in our rear, as guards, under the direction of captain Wells. The situation of the country rendered it necessary for us to take the beach, with the lake on our left, and a high sand bank on our right, at about 100 yards distance. We had proceeded about a mile and a half, when it was discovered the Indiana were prepared to attack us from behind the bank. I immediately marched up with the company to the top of the bank, when the action commenced; after firing one round, we charged and the Indians gave way in front and joined those on our flanks. In about 15 minutes they got possession of all our horses, provisions, and baggage of every description, and finding the Miamies did not assist us, I drew off the few men I had left, and took possession of a small elevation in the open prairies, out of shot of the bank or any other cover.
The Indians did not follow me, but assembled in a body on the top of the bank, and, after some consultation among themselves, made signs for me to approach them. I advanced towards them alone, and was met by one of the Potawatamie chiefs, called the Black Bird, with an interpreter. After shaking hands, he requested me to surrender, promising to spare the lives of all the prisoners. On a few moments' consideration I concluded it would be most prudent to comply with his request, although I did not put entire confidence in his promise. After delivering up our arms we were taken back to their encampment near the fort, and distributed among the different tribes.
The next morning they set fire to the fort and left the place, taking the prisoners with them.-Their number of warriors was between four and five hundred, mostly of the Potawatamie nation, and their loss, from the best information I could get, was about 15. Our strength was 54 regulars and 12 militia, out of which 26 regulars and all the militia were killed in the action, with two women and twelve children. Ensign George Roman and Dr. Isaac D. Van Voorhis of my company, with captain Wells, of fort Wayne, are, to my great sorrow, numbered among the dead. Lieutenant Lina D. T. Helm, with 25 non-commissioned officers and privates, and 11 women and children, were prisoners when we separated. Mrs. Heald and myself were taken to the mouth of the river St. Joseph, and both being badly wounded, were permitted to reside with Mr. Burnett, an Indian trader.
In a few days after our arrival there, the Indians all went off to take fort Wayne, and in their absence I engaged a Frenchman to take us to Michillimackinac by water, when I gave myself up as a prisoner of war, with one of my serjeants. The commanding officer, captain Roberts, offered me every assistance in his power to render our situation comfortable while we remained there, and to enable us to proceed on our journey. To him I gave my parole of honour, and came on to Detroit, and reported myself to colonel Procter, who gave us a passage to Buffaloe; from that place I came by way of Presque Isle and arrived here yesterday.
Note: by Captain Heald, letter to The Secretary of War
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