Battle of Tippecanoe: Results and Significance

Avery Gordon, Adam Richards
  • Author
    Avery Gordon

    Avery Gordon has experience working in the education space both in and outside of the classroom. He has served as a social studies teacher and has created content for Ohio's Historical Society. He has a bachelor's degree in history from The Ohio State University.

  • Instructor
    Adam Richards

    Adam has a master's degree in history.

Learn about the Battle of Tippecanoe, why it happened, and where it happened. Read about Tecumseh’s significance in the battle and the result of the battle. Updated: 03/18/2022

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What Was the Battle of Tippecanoe?

What was the battle of Tippecanoe? The Battle of Tippecanoe was a combat engagement between the United States, led by Governor William Henry Harrison, and the Native Confederacy of Indians, led by Tenskwatawa. Harrison, who was governor of the Indiana Territory, led an assault of 1,000 men on the Native Confederacy whilst their leader, Tecumseh, was away recruiting. Tecumseh's brother, Tenskwatawa, was left in command. The United States was "victorious" in the battle, but this outcome pushed Tecumseh to officially side with the British in the impending War of 1812.

Where Was the Battle of Tippecanoe?

Where was the battle of Tippecanoe? The Battle of Tippecanoe occurred in the Ohio Valley, where the United States was attempting to settle. Governor Harrison, who was in charge of the region, led the assault on the village of Tippecanoe, also called Prophetstown. It was an important location for the Native Confederation, who used it as a rallying point for new recruits.


Battle of Tippecanoe Map

Map of the Battle of Tippecanoe


When Was the Battle of Tippecanoe?

When was the battle of Tippecanoe? The Battle of Tippecanoe took place on November 7th and 8th, 1811. At the time, Governor William Henry Harrison had been pestering President Madison to sanction an assault on Tecumseh's Native Confederation, who had been raiding American settlements in his territory. Madison finally relented, which led to Tippecanoe. This battle served as one of many catalysts that led to the War of 1812. Tecumseh fully committed to siding with the British, and with their support, ramped up his raids.

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The Battle of Tippecanoe: Background and Context

In January of 1801, after the Northwest Territory was divided, William Henry Harrison was made Governor of the Indiana Territory. At that time, the Territory included Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Harrison was tasked by President Thomas Jefferson to make as many "legal" claims to Native lands as he could. From a Native American perspective, the concept of owning land was a foreign one. Harrison exploited this in his treaties with the Native Americans. He was also well known for plying Native leaders with liquor during their meetings in order to take advantage of them while they were intoxicated.

Around 1810, Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, set in motion a plan to unite the tribes of the region and form a Native Confederation. He saw through Harrison's tricks and thought if the Natives united, they could resist American settlement on their land. Tensions hit a boiling point when in 1811, Harrison made an offer to buy three million acres of Native land for just two cents an acre. He intentionally did not invite Tecumseh or any other Native leader who he knew would be hostile towards the arrangement. At this conference, he convinced leaders of the Miami, Potawatomi, and Delaware tribes to agree to a transfer of land. Tecumseh was outraged, and rightfully so. The leaders of the tribes who sold the land had no legal right to do so from his perspective. Tecumseh went to meet Harrison to voice his protest, and he is quoted with saying:

"Sell a country!" he told Harrison. "Why not sell the air, the clouds and the great sea, as well as the earth? Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?"

Tecumseh then warned Harrison to not attempt any further settlement in the area. In response, Harrison went to President Madison and asked him to sanction an assault on Tecumseh and his Confederation. Madison signed off on Harrison's plan, and the Battle of Tippecanoe was set into motion.

The War of 1812

The Battle of Tippecanoe occurred just 7 months prior to President Madison asking Congress for a Declaration of War against Britain. Tippecanoe played a large role in Madison's decision. Tecumseh had already been courting the aid of the British prior to the battle. Afterward, he fully committed to allying with the British. The British aiding Tecumseh's raids on American settlements in the Ohio Valley was one of three major reasons America declared war. The other two reasons were the possibility of seizing Britain's land in Canada, and the British impeding American trade on the Atlantic.

For Britain and the United States, the War of 1812 ended in a stalemate. The Treaty of Ghent required all land captured by both sides to be returned, and the British continued to interfere with American trade. For the Native Americans, however, it was a disaster. Tecumseh died in the Battle of the Thames, and the Native American Confederation splintered, making it easier for the United States to further steal Native lands.

Tecumseh's Significance and the Pan-Indian Movement

Tecumseh, and his brother Tenskwatawa, played a significant role in early 18th-century history. Together they created a Pan-Indian movement that united the Native American tribes of Ohio Valley, with the aims of restoring tradition and resisting American incursions on their land. Tecumseh dreamed of creating an Independent Native American Nation. His unfortunate death in the War of 1812 made this impossible. His confederacy shattered without his leadership. That said, Tecumseh's significance should not be understated. He was quite successful at uniting tribes of distinct cultures under one banner, and had he faced an untimely death, who knows what he could have accomplished.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who won the Battle of Tippecanoe?

Led by Governor William Henry Harrison, the United States won the Battle of Tippecanoe. Harrison destroyed the village and killed Tenskwatawa.

What happened in the Battle of Tippecanoe?

The US troops, led by Governor Harrison, repelled a surprise attack from the Native Confederation. The following day, Harrison led an assault on Prophetstown, destroying the city.

Why was the Battle of Tippecanoe so important?

Tippecanoe was important because it caused Tecumseh to fully align with Great Britain. This alliance, in part, is why the United States declared war on Britain the following year.

Why was the Battle of Tippecanoe fought?

Tecumseh had been raiding American settlements and was in the process of uniting the tribes of the Ohio Valley into a confederation. William Henry Harrison wanted to prevent this, so he sought permission from President Madison to attack one of their main rally points, Tippecanoe.

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