From Academic Kids

For other uses of the name, see Tecumseh (disambiguation).

This 1848 drawing of Tecumseh was based on a sketch done from life in 1808.  altered the original by putting Tecumseh in a British uniform, under the mistaken (but widespread) belief that Tecumseh had been commissioned as a British general. Note the , popular among the Shawnee at the time, but typically omitted in idealized depictions of Tecumseh by white artists.
This 1848 drawing of Tecumseh was based on a sketch done from life in 1808. Benson Lossing altered the original by putting Tecumseh in a British uniform, under the mistaken (but widespread) belief that Tecumseh had been commissioned as a British general. Note the nose ring, popular among the Shawnee at the time, but typically omitted in idealized depictions of Tecumseh by white artists.

Tecumseh (c.1768October 5, 1813), whose given name might be more accurately rendered as Tecumtha or Tekamthi, was a famous leader of the Shawnee people. He spent much of his life attempting to rally disparate Native American tribes in a mutual defense of their lands, which eventually culminated in his death in the War of 1812. Tecumseh was greatly admired in his day, remains a respected icon for Native Americans, and is considered a national hero in Canada. Even his longtime adversary William Henry Harrison considered Tecumseh to be "one of those uncommon geniuses which spring up occasionally to produce revolutions and overturn the established order of things."1



The exact date of Tecumseh's birth is impossible to verify; 1768 is the generally accepted estimate. He was born in the Ohio Country, probably in one of the Shawnee towns along the Scioto River. Tecumseh's name (which translates as "I Cross the Way" or "A Panther Crouching for His Prey") was a reference to his family clan (or phratry). Shawnee children inherited a clan affiliation from their fathers; Tecumseh belonged to the panther clan, one of a dozen exogamous Shawnee clans.2

In addition to clans, the Shawnee had five divisions, membership in which was also inherited from the father. Tecumseh's father Pukeshinwah (and thus Tecumseh also) belonged to the Kispoko division. Some traditions state that Tecumseh's mother Methoataaskee was Creek or Cherokee, but biographer John Sugden believes that she was a Shawnee of the Pekowi (Piqua) division.3 Some of the confusion results from the fact that Creeks and Cherokees were eager to claim the famous Tecumseh as one of their own; many Creeks named children after him.4 The details are sketchy, but some traditions suggest that Tecumseh's paternal grandfather (Pukeshinwah's father) may have been British.5

Warfare between whites and Indians loomed large in Tecumseh's youth. Pukeshinwah was killed in Lord Dunmore's War at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. In the American Revolutionary War, many Shawnee villages were destroyed by United States forces, including what was likely Tecumseh's boyhood home in the Battle of Piqua in 1780.


In the late 1780s and together with his brother (Elskwatawa or Tenskwatawa, called the Prophet) Tecumseh attempted to form an alliance of the Native American inhabitants of the upper Midwest and Ohio River valley and Great Lakes area against the expansion of white settlers. The alliance had a number of membership changes, but at one time or another it included representatives from the Shawnee, Canadian Iroquois, Wyandot, Mingo, Ottawa, Chickamauga, Miami, Kickapoo, Lenni Lenape, Ojibway, Potawatomi, Fox, Sauk, and Mascouten nations. Tecumseh's alliance had its capital at Prophets Town, just a few miles north of Lafayette, Indiana near the present-day town of Battle Ground.

Battle of Tippecanoe

In 1811, Tecumseh left Elskwatawa in charge at Tippecanoe, while he journeyed south to meet with representatives of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Cherokee nations to enlist them in his alliance of Native American tribes. On November 7, 1811, a US force under the command of future President William Henry Harrison attacked Elskwatawa at the Battle of Tippecanoe, wiping out Elskwatawa's camp and putting an end to Tecumseh's hope of a broad Native American alliance. Tension was mounting between the US and the United Kingdom, and the War of 1812 broke out early the following year. Tecumseh took a force north, where they enlisted as allies of the British.

Detroit surrender

Tecumseh joined British Major-General Sir Isaac Brock to force the surrender of Detroit in August 1812, a major victory for the British. Tecumseh's accumen in warfare was evident in this engagement. As Brock advanced to a point just out of range of Detroit's guns, Tecumseh had his warriors parade out from a nearby wood and circle around to repeat the maneuver, making it appear that there were many more than was actually the case. The fort commander surrended in fear of the ruin of the fort.

This victory was shortlived, however, as Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's victory on Lake Erie, late in the summer of 1813, cut British supply lines and prompted them to withdraw along the Thames Valley. The British burned the public buildings in Detroit and retreated into Upper Canada. Tecumseh followed, fighting rearguard actions to slow the US advance.

Later years and death

The next British commander, Major-General Henry Proctor did not have the same working relationship with Tecumseh as the latter had with Brock. Proctor failed to appear at Chatham, Ontario as expected by the Native Americans. Harrison crossed into Upper Canada in October, 1813 and won a victory over the British and the Native Americans at the Battle of the Thames near Chatham. Tecumseh was killed in the battle and, shortly after, the tribes of his confederacy surrendered to Harrison at Detroit.



In June 1930, a bronze replica of the figurehead of ship-of-the-line USS Delaware was presented by the Class of 1891 to the United States Naval Academy. This bust, one of the most famous relics on the campus, has been widely identified as Tecumseh. However, when it adorned the American man-of-war, it commemorated not Tecumseh but Tamanend, the revered Delaware chief who welcomed William Penn to America when he arrived in Delaware country on 2 October 1682.

Despite his defeat, Tecumseh is honoured in Canada as a tragic hero who was a brilliant war chief who, along with Brock, saved Canada from US invasion when all seemed hopeless, but could not save his own people. Among the tributes is his placing in The Greatest Canadian list where Tecumseh is ranked #37, the only full blood Native American so honoured.


Tecumseh in fiction

One of the main characters in Orson Scott Card's alternate history fantasy series of novels The Tales of Alvin Maker is based on Tecumseh, where he is called Ta-Kumsaw (especially the second book in the series, Red Prophet).

The Frontiersmen: A Narrative (1967) and A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh (1992) by Allan W. Eckert are also interesting, influential, and well-researched books that feature Tecumseh as a main character. Although Eckert's books are characterised as historical non-fiction, academic historians tend to treat them as fictional works.


Then listen to the voice of duty, of honour, of nature and of your endangered country. Let us form one body, one head and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers. — Tecumseh, circa 1813

A more ... gallant Warrior does not, I believe, exist. — Major-General Sir Isaac Brock

See also

Further reading

Numerous biographies of Tecumseh have been written, but most are full of errors and mythology. — R. David Edmunds.

  • Dowd, Gregory Evans. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
  • Edmunds, R. David. Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership. Boston: Little Brown, 1984.
  • Gilbert, Bill. God Gave us This Country: Tekamthi and the First American Civil War. New York: Atheneum, 1989.
  • Sugden, John. Tecumseh: A Life. New York: Holt, 1997.


External links

Template:Wikiquotecs:Tecumseh de:Tecumseh es:Tecumseh pl:Tecumseh


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