War of 1812: Tecumseh, the ‘Panther Across the Sky’Written by Frank Kuron | | email@example.com
There’s not much better than leaving the world behind and living for a week as our ancestors did — in the woods. I’ve always loved camping. Oh, I hear you naysayers who can’t handle a few daddy longlegs prancing about your stall in those plush campsite latrines. But the opportunity to build your own fire, sizzle bacon over it in the morning, and in the evening gaze up at galaxies that hide among city lights simply makes every bite of a mosquito worth it.
One night in 1768, Shawnee tribesmen in the vicinity of Chillicothe, Ohio, anxiously paced around their campfire as they heard the moans of a mother-to-be emanating from a nearby wigwam. Incredibly, a star shot across the sky just as the cry of new life echoed through the village. Tecumseh, the panther across the sky, had arrived on Mother Earth.
The adventures of this man are legendary. Tecumseh is arguably the greatest leader his culture has ever produced. Eventually we’ll discuss particulars of his life in our region, but first a few fundamentals should be cited. He was far from any Hollywood Indian stereotype.
Tecumseh had five brothers and a sister. Of all the family members, he certainly garnered the most attention. One brother, known as “the Prophet,” became infamous rather than famous due to his historical antics. Another sibling, Cheeseekau, was instrumental in molding his younger brother into the fiercest of warriors, after their father was killed when Tecumseh was but 6 years old. Other brothers fought alongside him in frontier conflicts, one being killed at Fallen Timbers.
He treasured his relationship with his sister, Tecumapease. After Tecumseh’s marriage to Mamate had soured his sister raised his son, Paukeesa. There are plenty of claims of relationships and marriages throughout Tecumseh’s life, but because records are vague they must be viewed with a wary eye. One frequently cited account regards his wooing of a white woman living near modern-day Xenia, Ohio. He purportedly offered Rebecca Galloway fifty brooches of silver to be his bride, but she refused, not wanting to join his culture.
Physically, Tecumseh was known to be about 5-feet-10-inches inches tall, well-proportioned and generally quite handsome. One friend said he was “square, with a well-built form for strength and agility.” One woman noted that he was the “proudest man” she ever met, that in his walk he “seemed to disdain the ground he walked upon.”
Aside from this, Tecumseh was defined by his personality traits. Character topped the list. He was not only admired by his fellow men, but by his enemies as well. Many noted his vision, honor and eloquence. He repeatedly proved himself to be brave, charismatic, fearless and fair.
On the battlefield he was fierce and disdained cowardice. Adamantly, he insisted that prisoners be treated humanely. This was evidenced during the siege on Fort Meigs and again at the River Raisin massacre in Monroe, Mich., where one historian notes that he arrived late to the slaughter of defenseless POWs and “actually put to death, with his own hand, a chief who would not desist from murdering the American soldiers.”
Some people just take things too far, don’t they? One chief almost deified Tecumseh, claiming, “Bullets shot at him would go through his shirt and fall harmlessly inside.” His humanity, at least in his youth, becomes clear in an account of him indulging a little too heavily in liquor and then encountering a large, powerful man. Tecumseh “became very insulting and annoying” said the man, so he “tied him to a tree until he became more sober and quiet.”
Tecumseh was not naïve. He often expressed his sorrow over the inevitable loss of his ancestors’ lands to the ever-increasing numbers of Europeans moving west. He strove to at least delay this influx, and perhaps stop it, by uniting all tribes in this common goal. It was not an easy task, as tribes not yet impacted saw no need to get involved. But by the time Tecumseh was killed in 1813, he had brought together dozens of tribes. Had he survived and garnered support of hundreds more, the lines on a map of North America just might be otherwise drawn today.
Frank Kuron is author of the War of 1812 book, “Thus Fell Tecumseh.” Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.