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Tecumseh

Born: 1768-03-XX

Died: 1813-10-05

Tecumseh was a Shawnee Native American leader and warrior and the brother of Tenskwatawa. Born in the Ohio Valley along the Scioto River, Tecumseh was the son of Pukeshinwa, leader of the Kispoko Band of the Shawnee who died in October 1774 in battle as the Shawnee sought to prevent Virginians from settling in their territory. White incursions into Shawnee territory forced Tecumseh to move several times during and after the American Revolution. In the 1780s, the Shawnee moved to the Maumee River, where they coordinated with other Native American nations to resist white settlement in the Northwest. Tecumseh joined the fight in 1786 under the leadership of his brother Cheeseekau, earning a reputation as a fierce and formidable warrior. When Cheeseekau died in battle in 1792, Tecumseh replaced him as leader of the Kispoko band. He fought at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in August 1794, where General Anthony Wayne defeated the Indian Confederation. After the signing of the Treaty of Greenville and forced removal of many Native Americans from the Ohio Valley, Tecumseh moved with his band to an area near Anderson, Indiana. Over the next decade, Tecumseh witnessed the decline of Shawnee civilization, as alcoholism, disease, economic hardship, and renewed white appetite for Indian land splintered and ravaged the nation. Tecumseh supported Tenskwatawa's religious teachings, hoping it could unite the fragmented and troubled Shawnee. In 1805, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa moved the Shawnee back to Ohio, establishing their base near Greenville. Two years later, Tenskwatawa sent emissaries to the Great Lakes region and Upper Mississippi Valley, hoping to unite Native Americans under his new religion. Accusations of witchcraft and hostile intentions toward white settlers, together with the deteriorating relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, prompted Tecumseh to move again, this time to the Wabash River in the Indiana Territory, near the mouth of the Tippecanoe River. As relations between the United States and Britain worsened and Americans purchased more Native American land, Tecumseh became more overtly hostile to the United States. Over the next several years, Tecumseh traveled through the North and South, seeking to create an Indian confederacy to prevent whites from settling on Indian lands. Tecumseh's pleas for unity had mixed results; many Native American groups in the North responded favorably to his entreaties, but he received only limited support from nations in the South. Further hampering his efforts was William Henry Harrison's defeat of the Shawnee under Tenskwatawa at the Battle of Tippecanoe in December 1811. Upon the outbreak of the War of 1812, Tecumseh and his band joined the British against the United States. He participated in blunting General William Hull's invasion into Canada, and he led the Indian contingent that induced Hull to surrender Fort Detroit in August 1812. In April 1813, he participated in two failed attempts to capture Fort Meigs, and protested when the British planned to retreat to the head of Lake Ontario, Tecumseh hoping to make a stand at the Thames River. He was killed in combat at the Battle of the Thames.

John Sugden, "Tecumseh," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 21:422-25.