H. Huckleberry to the Editors of The Old Soldier, 9 March 1840To the Editors of the Old Soldier: Gentlemen,
I have been of late much mortified to hear so many different tales respecting the conduct of Gen. Harrison at the battle of Tippecanoe. Some say the Indians chose the place for the encampment the night previous to the battle. Some say Harrison acted cowardly by exposing others, thereby securing himself from danger. Some say one thing, and some another; and most I believe is said by those who do not know whether what they say be true or false. As to the charge of the Indians selecting the encampment, I pronounce it to be false; the encampment was selected by a couple of officers sent by Gen. Harrison; and as far as my knowledge extends a better one could not be found to repel an Indian foe.—It was elevated, nearly surrounded by open prairie, and a sufficiency of wood. On the charge of Gen. Harrison’s attempting to shun danger, he appeared to me to expose himself unnecessarily,—wherever danger was, there was he encouraging his men. My own opinion was then, and is now, that his daring conduct, was the great stimulous to officers and men, which alone prevented a disaster similar to the one known as St. Clair’s defeat.1 The Indians rushed to the charge with all the fury of demons; his presence every where completely roused the solider in every man—[no]ne flagged or faltered, though many fell. Th[e sa]me spirit that animated the commander-i[n-ch]ief, by his daring feats, was caught by h[is m]en, and all appeared determined to conqu[er or] die. I have long been an observer o [?] old General’s conduct, in the field and in t[he co]uncils of the nation, and will say that he [?] in every instance acquitted himself with ho[nor] and to the interest of his country.2Yours,H. HUCKLEBERRY. March 9th, 1840.
1On November 4, 1791, Arthur St. Clair and his American forces suffered defeat near the Wabash River in present-day Ohio at the hands of an Indian confederation led by Little Turtle and Black Jacket. The rout, the greatest military defeat of an U.S. force by Native Americans in history, became known by a number of names, including “St. Clair’s Defeat.”
Gregory Evans Dowd, “St. Clair, Arthur," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 20:584; Spencer C. Tucker, Almanac of American Military History (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 1:411
2Amos Kendall, director of Martin Van Buren’s re-election bid in 1840, instead of trying to defend the president, who had become increasingly unpopular due to his stumbling response to the Panic of 1837, launched a newspaper campaign attacking Harrison’s physical fitness for office, military exploits, and civic achievements. Harrison had only a sparse legislative record, so Kendall and the Democratic press often focused on his military career, where there was more grist for the mill. Charges of cowardice at Tippecanoe were easily refuted, but Harrison did make mistakes before and during the battle, including not fortifying the American encampment.
Gail Collins, William Henry Harrison (New York: Times Books, 2012), 109-10.
Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), The Old Soldier (Springfield, IL), 14 March 1840, 3:2.