The battle of the Mississinewa was a part of the War of 1812. It
was the last battle fought in what is now Indiana, and it was also the last
time that the Miami fought as a nation.
The battle site was on the right bank of the Mississinewa about a
mile east of the present village of Jalapa and seven miles northwest of
Anti-Indian feeling ran high in the West, and the War of 1812
received universal support from the Americans who felt that British influence
and money were responsible for much of the Indian troubles and who were
impatient to expand the frontier into Indiana territory.
Young men in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and the Michigan Territory
eagerly joined volunteer units of cavalry and infantry. Enlisted for periods
of from six to twelve months; these volunteer companies were locally equipped,
drilled and officered.
The United States Army, which consisted of only twelve regiments in January,
1812, was heavily dependent upon them. Some of the volunteer units, like
the Pittsburgh Blues, were as well trained and equipped as the regular army.
These men, mostly between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two,
generally knew each other, many were related to each other, and they had
pride and confidence in their officers who, in most instances, were the
recruiters. The soldiers of the Mississineway expedition were paid five
dollars a month for their services and twelve dollars for the use of the
horses, a clear indication that monetary reward was not the principal motive
for their service.
The war was declared in June, and at the beginning things went very
badly for the Americans. By the middle of August the forts at Mackinac and
Dearborn had fallen, and General Hull had surrendered his entire army at
Detroit without resistance. The Indians who massacred the garrison at Fort
Dearborn were joined by others, many of whom were Miami, and laid seige to
Fort Wayne early in September.
General William Henry Harrison, who had been sent word of the seige,
marched from Fort Washington (Cincinnati) with an army of 2200 and dispersed
the Indians without a battle. Harrison then proceeded to lay waste to the
Miami villages north and west of Fort Wayne and at the junction of the Wabash
and Little rivers near the present city of Huntington. The village of
Mississineway lay just thirty miles to the south of this last place; but
Harrison apparently considered it of no importance at this time, as the army
returned to Ohio without venturing further.
The village of Mississineway had been founded early in the summer
of 1795 at the junction of the Mississinewa and Wabash rivers by the Miami
Peshewah (John B. Richardville) as a place for this people to go when Fort
Wayne was built on their former village site on the Maumee.
It was to Mississineway that the rest of the Miami fled when their
villages and crops to the north were destroyed by Harrison. Their remaining
food for the winter was in this area; and it held some promise of safety, as
it was removed from the path of the army on its way to Canada.
In spite of the knowledge that the surviving Miami were in distress
and without military leadership, General Harrison concluded in November
that the concentration at Mississineway constituted a threat to him, and he
organized an expedition to destroy it.
The expedition for Mississineway was composed of more than six
hundred men, and it began to assemble at Franklinton (Columbus, Ohio) on
November 5, 1812. The army consisted of Major James V. Ball's Squadron
composed of the 2nd Regiment of U.S. Light Dragoons and volunteer companies
from Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan; Colonel James Simrall's
Regiment of Kentucky Volunteer Light Dragoons; Captain Alexander's
Pennsylvania Riflemen; the Pittsburgh Blues; the 19th Regiment of U.S.
Infantry; and a group of spies and guides, in addition to the staff officers.
The senior officers and staff officers of the command were experienced and
knew what to expect from their men; but the commanding officer, Lieut Colonel
John B. Campbell, had been commissioned on joining the army a few months
before and was without military experience of any kind.
Campbell received his orders and the army left Franklinton on
November 25th, proceeding through Springfield to Xenia where the troops were
mustered in and paid. On December 5th the expedition left Xenia and marched
In Dayton horses were provided the infantrymen, muskets were
exchanged for Yaugers (short rifles) and cavalry arms, and the army
dispossessed itself of its tents and all baggage not essential to light
travel. Provisions were issued consisting of biscuits and pork. The troops
proceeded through Lexington and were advised of their destination and the
object of the expedition just prior to entering Greenville on December 13th.
Greenville was on the edge of the wilderness, and few men knew their
way westward. Guides had been provided who had engaged in trading with the
Indians and were to some extent acquainted with travel in the forest. The
weather was extremely cold; the snow was deep, and the swamps and streams
were frozen. These conditions were considered to be ideal for the expedition,
but they were also to be the cause of much suffering and near disaster.
As they entered the wilderness, each man carried his own provisions
consisting of biscuits, pork, and one bushel of corn, thought sufficient to
last twelve days.
On the first day out of Greenville the army traveled fifteen miles
through the wilderness; and on the second day, twenty miles. On the third
day, the troops marched all day and, with a brief rest for supper, marched
all through the night.
They crossed the Mississinewa River near the present town of Eaton
and arrived with sight of the first Indian village shortly after dawn on
This village, to become the site of the engagement of the next day,
was located on the right bank of the Mississinewa, seventeen miles above the
village of Mississineway, which was the first objective of the expedition.
The dragoons, probably due to fatigue, entered the village in great
disorder. Some missed it completely, and in the confusion caused the death
of one of their own men. Eight Indians were killed and forty-two prisoners
taken. These prisoners, all Munsees, were the only ones taken by the
expedition. They were housed in two of the huts, and the remainder of the
village was burned.
The infantry remained with the prisoners, and the dragoons pursued
the escaping Indians down the river and destroyed two more villages enroute.
One of the villages was that of the Miami Chief Metocinyah at the mouth of
Jocinah Creek. No resistance was encountered as the occupants of these
villages fled in advance of the troops.
The dragoons returned to the site of the first village where a camp
five hundred feet square had been laid out with redoubts on its northern side.
The army settled down for the night with a strong guard posted.
The prisoners were interrogated and said that there was a large
number of warriors assembled at the village of Mississineway. The
expedition's food supply was becoming critical, and frostbite was clearly a
very serious problem. Weighing these matters, Campbell called the senior
officers to his campfire before dawn to consider an immediate return to
Greenville. However, before this conference was concluded, the Indians
The redoubt at the northwest corner of the encampment was overwhelmed,
and a heavy fire was poured on the troops of Hopkins and Garrard of Ball's
Squadron. Major Ball called for assistance, and Campbell sent the Pittsburgh
Blues too relieve the pressure on the northwest corner. The Blues, firing by
platoons, were most effective, and the attack shifted south along the west
side of the camp.
The battle proper was of about an hour's duration. At dawn the fire
of the troops became more accurate, and it was apparent to the Indians that
the strength of the army was too much for them. As the Indians broke off the
attack and retreated down river, Campbell sent Simrall's men in pursuit.
Upon their return they reported that the Indians had indeed departed and that
there was no immediate danger from them.
The dead were buried, and the huts where the prisoners were kept were
pulled down on the graves and burned to prevent the discovery of the burial
place. This precaution was not taken at the Battle of Tippecanoe, and the
dead were exhumed and scalped by the Indians, only to be buried again by
General Hopkin's men. The Indians dug up the bodies a second time and they
were not properly interred for ten years.
With the wounded in litters and the prisoners in tow, the expedition
left the battleground late in the afternoon on their return to Greenville.
Over a hundred horses had been killed in the battle, and their loss made
progress more difficult. The remaining horses were much weakened, as they
were accustomed to regular feeding of grain and hay and were unable to
subsist in the forest in winter.
The night of December 18th was spent just two miles from the
battleground. During the next three days only thirty-seven miles were
Because the army expected an attack at any time, much time and energy
were actually wasted each night cutting trees, with the few axes at hand, to
Campbell had sent three men ahead to request reinforcements and
provisions. These men traveled the nearly eighty miles to Greenville in the
astonishing time of twenty-two hours and were responsible for the expedition
meeting Major John Adair with reinforcements on December 22nd.
Adair had food with him for the trip out; and there was enough for
each of Campbell's men, most of whom had had nothing to eat for days, to have
a half ration per man. The next day another detachment was met carrying
enough supplies to enable the exhausted troops to enter Greenville on December
24th. The horses were in a pitiful condition, thirteen men had been killed,
forty-four were wounded, and more than three hundred were suffering seriously
from frostbite with many facing amputation.
No one knows how many Indians were engaged or who led their attack.
A guide, William Conner, thought he heard the voice of Little Thunder, a
nephew of Little Turtle. Meshingomesia always claimed that he did not
participate - a sound position to take later when dealing with Indian agents.
The warrior chiefs were dead, and leadership has passed to Richardville and
other sons of French fathers - men not inclined to fight but to enrich
themselves and who did so later by dealing with the Americans and often at
the expense of their own people.
Most of the young, belligerent braves had gone north to join Tecumseh,
and those at Mississinewa were desperate men fighting to protect their
families from the incursion of the Americans.
It was not an accident that more than a hundred horses belonging to
the American troops were killed. For the Indians to accomplish their purpose,
it was not necessary to destroy the troops of Campbell, but only to check
their progress, cause them to return and leave the villages unmolested.
Although, within a week after the return of the expedition, General Harrison
was consulting with Governor Meiggs of Ohio to raise another force for the
destruction of Mississineway, the Miami were left unmolested throughout the
winter. In the spring they evacuated their villages and the following July
the empty villages were destroyed by Colonel William Russell.
Most of the troops were unfit for further service on their return to
Greenville, and many of the enlistment periods were about to expire. Colonel
Simrall had to recruit a new regiment and nearly all of the units engaged had
to be reformed.
Only the extravagant prose of the military commander of the day could
have turned the affair into a victory, and Harrison was equal to the occasion.
His reports received the approval of the President of the United States, and
a full colonel's commission was obtained for Campbell in addition to several
raises in rank for many of the regular army officers.
After the war many of the men who participated in the battle at
Mississinewa played prominent parts in the development of the state of
Indiana. Among them were William Conner, one of the guides, who became a
founder of Noblesville; Captain Markle, of Ball's squadron, who was granted
land on the Wabash and was one of the founders of Terre Haute; and First
Sergeant Thomas W. Porter, of McClelland's company, the father of Indiana's
Governor Albert G. Porter.
(Article from - image/March 1968 by Murray Holliday)
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