Native American Conflicts and Wars

Along the Frontier

Pontiac's War (1763)

During the French and Indian War, British traders and fur trappers had moved into the Ohio River valley of the Middle West. They drove out the French, and refused to continue the French custom of giving the tribe presents every year.

In 1762, Pontiac, and Ottawa chief, began to organize the many tribes of the region to fight the newcomers. It was probably the most far-reaching alliance of tribes ever attempted in North America. In 1763, Pontiac's forces seized every British post between the Straits of Mackinac and western New York except Detroit and Fort Pitt. The besieged the fort at Detroit for about five months, but finally had to withdraw to their hunting grounds in October partly because the French cut off supplies.

Lord Dunmore's War (1774)

A wave of traders and settlers in the 1770's alarmed the Native Americans in the southern Ohio River valley. These tribes included the Delaware, the Wyandot, the Shawnee, and the Cayuga Iroquois. They gave Kentucky the name of "the dark and bloody ground". Virginia claimed the area, and its governor, Lord Dunmore, sent troops to restore order. On Oct. 10, 1774, about 3,000 soldiers defeated 1,000 Native Americans at what is now Point Pleasant, W. Va. The Native Americans then gave up their hunting lands south of the Ohio River.

Other Midwestern Conflicts (1775-1832)

During the Revolutionary War, the British encouraged Native Americans to fight the American colonists. Henry Hamilton, British lieutenant governor at Detroit, was called the "Hair Buyer," because he was said to have brought many American scalps from Native Americans. However, the United States won the Northwest Territory from the British during the Revolutionary War. After the war, the British hoped to regain the area and again encouraged the tribes to fight the Americans. In an area of the Northwest Territory that later became Indiana, Miami Indians under Chief Little Turtle defeated troops led by Brigadier General Josiah Harmar in 1790. A year later, an inexperienced army under Major General Arthur St. Clair retreated after a surprise attack. The tribes then formed a confederacy that included the Shawnee under Black Wolf, and the Ottawa, Chippewa and Potawatomi under Blue Jacket. Nearly 2,000 warriors' gathers along the Maumee River in Ohio as Major General "Mad Anthony" Wayne marched against them in August 1794. The two forces met in a field strewn with fallen trees near what is now Toledo, Ohio. In the 40-minute Battle of Fallen Timbers, the American forces dealt the tribes a crushing blow from which they never recovered.

In the early 1800's, the Shawnee chief Tecumseh and his brother, known as the Shawnee Prophet, tried to form another alliance against the whites. Tecumseh traveled throughout the Middle West and the South, and won may Native Americans to his cause. While Tecumseh was in the South, the Prophet stirred up trouble in Indiana. William Henry Harrison, governor of the Indian Territory, organized the militia and marched to the Indians' village on the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers. The Prophet's men attacked Harrison's army before dawn on Nov. 7, 1811, at present-day Battle Ground, Ind. The two forces fought hand-to-hand in a chilly drizzle, and the Prophet's men fled just after daylight. Harrison's victory in the Battle of Tippecanoe helped him to the presidency 29 years later, in 1840. He and his running mate, John Tyler, rallied American voters with the famous slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too."

Many tribes in Tecumseh's alliance joined the British and fought against the Americans in the War of 1812. They helped the British defeat Brigadier General William Hull at Detroit, and forced many white settlers in the region to retreat eastward after the Fort Dearborn massacre of 1812. But most of the Native American resistance in the Middle West crumbled after Tecumseh died in 1813, and after the British surrendered their posts the following year. The last Native American war in the area, the Black Hawk War, took place in 1832. This unsuccessful attempt by the Sauk and Fox Indians to regain one of their villages (now Rock Island, IL) has become well known because Abraham Lincoln too part in it, although he saw no action.

In the South (1813-1842)

Tecumseh had stirred up the Creeks who "took up the hatchet" throughout Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. In 1813 they attacked Fort Mims in Alabama, and massacred several hundred settlers. Panic seized the entire southern frontier. Andrew Jackson rallied a force of militiamen with the slogan "Remember Fort Mims". They broke the power of the Creek in 1814 at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River in east-central Alabama. The Creek then gave up a huge tract of land. The Seminole, a southern branch of the Creek in Florida, became angry because the Creek gave up the land. They rose against the whites in the First Seminole War (1817-1817). Jackson marched into Florida with 3,000 men. His action forced Spain to give up that territory but did not completely subdue the Seminole, who began fighting again in 1835. In this Second Seminole War, they struggled desperately for seven years. Their chief, Osceola vowed to fight "till the last drop of Seminole blood has moistened the dust of his hunting ground". The whites captured Osceola in 1837, but the Seminole fought on until they were nearly wiped out. Many surviving Seminole moved west, but some who had retreated into the Everglades remained there.

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