Tecumseh 1768-1813


Tecumseh 1768-1813

also spelled Tecumtha, Tecumthe, Tikamthe, Tecumtha, or Tecumsa.

Tecumseh might be translated as Shooting Star.

Image Above

Tecumseh in traditional dress

Sketch by the French portrait painter and fur trader Pierre Le Dru (sometimes LeDru), 1808

Later drawings of Tecumseh, that are based on this sketch, add a British uniform with epaulettes [the little table brooms on the shoulders] and a nose ring.

Aboriginal People in the Canadian Military / National Defence and the Canadian Forces


Tecumseh was a chief of the Shawnee tribe, and, among other things, a respected human being, the founder of an intertribal Indian confederation, an admired leader, and a powerful orator.

Here is the map:

Shawnee Tribe Map - Tribes of the Indian Nation
Tribes of the Indian Nation
Click to enlarge


Tecumseh's Family

Tecumseh's mother was a Creek Indian, see today's Georgia and Alabama on the map above.

Tecumseh's brother was Tenskwatawa, also called the Prophet.

His elder sister was Tecumapease, or Tecumpease. Another elder brother was Cheeseekau. And yet another brother was Sauwaseekau.

Tecumseh probably married twice. The name of his first wife is not known. His second wife was Mamate. Mamate and Tecumseh had a son, Pachetha.

Mamate died before Tecumseh founded his confederacy. Pachetha was brought up by Tecumapease, Tecumseh's sister.


Tecumseh's Character

Although a warrior, Tecumseh did not tolerate cruelty.


Tecumseh's Brief Biography

1768 - Birth at Old Piqua near today's Springfield, Clark county, Ohio. As far as colonists are concerned, the region is in British hands.

Map of North America After the 1763 Treaty of Paris
Map of North America After the 1763 Treaty of Paris

Treaty of Paris 1763
Library of Congress


1774 - Tecumseh's father is killed by whites, his mother leaves him with the tribe and disappears. The Shawnee chief Blackfish adopts him.

1775-1783 - American Revolution. Young Tecumseh fights with fellow Shawnee warriors alongside the British against the Americans.

1783 - Treaty of Paris

Map of North America After the 1783 Treaty of Paris
Map of North America After the 1783 Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris 1783
Library of Congress


After the war, Tecumseh fights along with the Cherokees.

1788 - Kentucky frontiersmen begin raiding native villages

1789 - Fighting between the Northwest Indian Confederation and the whites breaks out. / George Washington becomes the first U.S. president.

1790 - General Josiah Harmar and his punitive expedition, is ambushed by warriors of the Northwest Indian Confederation, led by Little Turtle, chief of the Miami tribe.

November 4, 1791 - Saint Clair's Defeat. Indians of the Northwest Indian Confederation, again led by Little Turtle, creep up on General Arthur St. Clair's camp of 3,000 men and kill more than 600 of them. Tecumseh serves as a scout with the Indians.

September 1792 - In a raid near Nashville, Tennessee, Tecumseh's brother Cheeseekau is killed.

1792 - President Washington makes Anthony Wayne commander in chief of the U.S. Army, who sets out to defy Indian resistance. The Shawnee chief Bluejacket rallies Indian troops to deal with Wayne. Accordingly, Tecumseh moves back into the Ohio region to lend a hand.

June 1794 - Tecumseh leads a futile Indian attack on Fort Recovery.

August 20, 1794 - Tecumseh fights in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, a devastating defeat of the Northwest Indian Confederation by the Americans, led by General Anthony Wayne. Tecumseh's brother Sauwaseekau is killed in battle.

August 3, 1795 - As a result of the Indian defeat at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the Indians, represented by Little Turtle, are forced to sign the Treaty of Greenville, in which they cede most of Ohio, and large parts of Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. This concludes the Northwest Indian War.

1797 - John Adams becomes the second president of the U.S.

1799 - Council near today's Urbana, Ohio, to settle racial differences. Tecumseh stuns the audience with his eloquence.

May 1800 - Twenty-eight year old William Henry Harrison is appointed governor of the newly created Indiana Territory.

January 10, 1801 - Harrison arrives at Vincennes.

1801 - Thomas Jefferson becomes the third president of the United States.

1803 - Louisiana Purchase

1804 - An incident near Chillicothe, Ohio, [the killing of a settler] prompts a council between whites and Indians at Chillicothe. Violent emotions are flying high on both sides, Indians and whites. Tecumseh addresses the crowd.

From the confident manner in which he spoke of the intention of the Indians to adhere to the treaty of Greenville, and live in peace and friendship with their white brethren, he dispelled, as if by magic, the apprehensions of the whites - the settlers returned to their deserted farms, and business generally was resumed throughout that region.

Colonel John McDonald


1805 - Tecumseh's brother Tenskwatawa, aka the Prophet, begins to preach peace among all Indian tribes and calls for a united front against the whites. Tecumseh travels up and down the country to obtain support and members for his new Indian confederation.

Summer of 1808 - Tecumseh visits the British at Fort Malden, Upper Canada. The British are very much interested in aiding Tecumseh's activities, because they share an enemy, the United States.

Followers and advocates of the intertribal Indian confederacy gather at Prophet's Town on the Tippecanoe River, Indiana. This assemblage is a mixture of religious revival (Tenskwatawa claims he had a revelation), devotion to Native American traditions, resistance to land grabbing by whites, and pure American patriotism, in its original sense of the word. Tecumseh continues to travel the country in search of recruits.

1809 - James Madison becomes the fourth president of the U.S.

1809 - The Treaty of Fort Wayne, negotiated by William Henry Harrison between the U.S. and the "Delawares, Shawanoes, Putawatimies, Miamies and Kickapoos", takes three million acres from the Natives.

Tecumseh begs to differ:

No tribe has the right to sell, even to each other, much less to strangers. Sell a country? Why not sell the great air, the great sea, as well as the earth. Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?

Tecumseh to General William Henry Harrison on August 20, 1810, at Vincennes
Go here to read the entire speech


Summer of 1811 - Tecumseh's second meeting with Harrison at Vincennes. Arriving with Tecumseh at this meeting are several hundred of his men. This time around there is much more tension in the air, and the meeting accomplishes nothing.

Tecumseh goes on to recruit troops for his confederacy in the South, while Harrison finds his absence a great opportunity to attack the Indian confederation at its core. This will result in the Battle of Tippecanoe.

Harrison marches up the Wabash River and sets up camp in close proximity to Prophet's Town.

Tenskwatawa decides to attack first. The battle that followed marked the beginning of what became known as Tecumseh's Revolt. This revolt will merge with the War of 1812.

November 7, 1811 - Battle of Tippecanoe. U.S. victory. Tenskwatawa flees to Canada. His men scatter.

Upon his return, Tecumseh finds his village in ruins. He braces for war between the Americans and the British, and decides to cross the Detroit River with his troops, and to join the British at Fort Malden.

Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us that,

There he brought together perhaps the most formidable force ever commanded by a North American Indian, an accomplishment that was a decisive factor in the capture of Detroit and of 2,500 U.S. soldiers (1812).

Map Location Detroit River
Map Location Detroit River


Fort Malden Map Location
Fort Malden Map Location
Click to enlarge


June 18, 1812 - The U.S. declares war against Great Britain. The War of 1812 has begun.

August 5, 1812 - Tecumseh and his men ambush a small unit of American troops. This is the Battle of Brownstown.

Check this event and more details in the Timeline of the War of 1812

August 9, 1812 - Tecumseh, his men, and British troops attack a U.S. detachment at Maguaga. This is the Battle of Monguagon (Maguaga).

Check this event and more details in the Timeline of the War of 1812

August 15, 1812 - The British and Indians, including Tecumseh, attack Fort Detroit.

August 16, 1812 - Surrender of Detroit.

Tecumseh continues to travel in order to find support among the Indian nations. The Alabama Creeks respond well to his message, but the Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Cherokees do not.

Tecumseh returns north to join British General Henry A. Procter in his invasion of Ohio.

May 1, 1813 - First Siege of Fort Meigs, located on the Maumee River above Toledo. Harrison against Procter. Procter withdraws on May 9.

May 5, 1813 - Battle of Fort Meigs. This is part of the Siege of Fort Meigs. In this battle Tecumseh defeats 800 Americans, led by Colonel William Dudle.

Check this event and more details in the Timeline of the War of 1812

July 21, 1813 - Second Siege of Fort Meigs, which is Tecumseh's almost brilliant plan to lure the Americans out of the seemingly impenetrable fort.

Check this event and more details in the Timeline of the War of 1812

On October 5, 1813, Tecumseh is killed in the Battle of the Thames, also called the Battle of Moraviantown, near the Thames River in Upper Canada, today's Ontario.

Check this event in the timeline of the War of 1812.


Tecumseh's Death and Its Impact on History

Who exactly killed Tecumseh? No one knows. One of the many unconfirmed rumors is that it was Colonel Richard M. Johnson, commander of the Kentucky mounted militia.

Where exactly was Tecumseh's body buried? No one knows. Some say his body was mutilated by U.S. troops, others say Tecumseh's men buried him.

Either way, Tecumseh's death crushed the Indian confederate resistance as well as the British-Indian coalition.

Many legends were invented and Tecumseh became a larger historic figure post-mortem.


More About the Likeness of Tecumseh

The Smithsonian shows us a more popular rendering of Tecumseh: Benson John Lossing's engraving of Tecumseh, based partially on Pierre Le Dru's sketch. Lossing lived 1813-1891.

Portrait of Tecumseh
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian:

Composite image of Tecumseh or Tecumtha (The One Who Passes Across Intervening Space From One Point To Another) wearing a peace medal, taken from Benson John Lossing's Pictorial Fieldbook of the War of 1812. According to a note by Lossing, he made the "portrait" of Tecumseh from a Pierre le Dru's pencil sketch of his head and cap and a rough drawing showing him in full military dress, made at Malden shortly after the surrender of Detroit.


Tecumseh - Colored Portrait
Le Dru's sketch copied, enhanced, and engraved by Benson J. Lossing, and then copied and colored by an anonymous artist, c. 1812
Toronto Public Library


Map of the Indian Tribes Around the Great Lakes
Map of the Indian Tribes Around the Great Lakes
Main Indian Groups in Contact with the French in the Great Lakes region
Library of Congress



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