THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Dec. 16-Dec. 22)
Battle of the Mississinewa
Three days after a forced 80-mile march through snow and bitter cold from Fort Greenville in Ohio (see last Monday’s posting), Lieutenant Colonel John Campbell and a force of 600 mounted troops arrive Dec. 17 at the Mississinewa River in the Indiana Territory. The mixed force of U.S. Dragoons and volunteer units mostly from Kentucky – but also Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan – is on a mission to attack and destroy several Indian villages strung out along the river, especially the Miami village of Mississenaway).
The Shawnee leader Tecumseh has been trying to organize the tribes East of the Mississippi River to resist further encroachment by the Americans. Tecumseh, who has encouraged the Miamis, Kickapoos, Wea and other tribal peoples to join him, has thrown in his lot with the British in their war with the Americans. In the summer of 1812, Indian bands attack several white settlements and Army forts in Indiana and Major Gen. William Henry Harrison, commander of the Northwest Army, wins Washington’s approval to launch a punitive expedition against the Miamis and their allies. He picks Campbell to lead
Campbell’s troops take the first village, kill about eight Indian men and take 42 prisoners – all but eight of them women and children. The captured village is that of the Delaware (Lenape) leader Silver Heels. Campbell is under orders to avoid harming Silver Heels and his people, who have to join Tecumseh’s war with the whites. The U.S. forces continue along the river, burning two evacuated Miami villages. Many of Campbell’s men are suffering from frostbite while ammunition and food are running low, so he decides to declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ and head back to Fort Greenville.
The next morning (Dec. 18), about 300 Indian warriors attack Campbell’s camp at dawn. The U.S. troops manage to drive them off after about an hour of fierce fighting but a dozen soldiers and militia men are killed and more than 40 wounded. Indian casualties are unknown but believed to number about 30 dead. More than 100 soldiers’ horse are killed in the fight. To hasten the return back to Ohio, the Indian women and children captives are placed on captured ponies while the soldiers who lost their mounts have to walk in knee-deep snow.
Fearing another Indian attack, Campbell’s troops build a fortified camp every night during the six-day retreat back to Ohio, depleting the men’s strength even further. One day out from Fort Greenville, with all food gone, half the force suffering from the cold and many of the wounded near death, the force is met by a relief column. Campbell’s force reaches the Fort on Dec. 24. More than half of his men are incapacitated by frostbite.
Even though the main objective, Mississineway, is never reached, Harrison declares the operation a success and Campbell is promoted. The Indian captives are sent to an Indian settlement in Ohio. Harrison’s plans to march north and retake Fort Detroit are put on hold.
One of the largest historic re-enactments of the War of 1812 marks the Battle of Mississinewa every October outside Marion, Indiana. Here’s a brief YouTube video, which gives a sense of the uniforms and weapons used 200 years ago by British and American troops (even though most of the actual participants in the Battle of Mississinewa were frontiersmen and Native Americans).
Entry filed under: National Security and Defense, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, Unconventional Warfare. Tags: Indian Wars, Miami Indians, Mississinewa, Tecumseh, Topics, War of 1812 Bicentennial, War of 1812-Indiana, War of 1812-Ohio, winter warfare.