When he spoke, his voice was deep and full, like an organ, his face shone with emotion, and his words were remarkable for their poetic beauty.
His father was a Shawnee warrior, and was killed in battle with white settlers, when Tecumseh was a mere child. This impressed him with a great resolve to keep the white men out of the Indian lands, and to fight them whenever he could.
He possessed a sensitive dignity, as is shown by the following incident. Upon one occasion, when he came with his warriors to hold a conference with General Harrison, he looked around, after he had finished his address, to find a seat. Seeing that none had been reserved for him, he appeared offended.
A white man, seated near General Harrison, arose and offered him his seat, saying, "Your father wishes you to sit by his side."
"The sun is my father, and the earth is my mother. I shall sit in his light and rest on her bosom," said Tecumseh. Whereupon, he sat down on the ground, in the full light of the sun.
Tecumseh was a noble soldier, and never allowed any prisoners to be tortured. He promised General Harrison that, in case of war between the Indians and the whites, he would not permit his warriors to massacre women and children. He faithfully kept his word. At the siege of Fort Meigs, the Indians began murdering their prisoners. Tecumseh ran in, and, brandishing his tomahawk, bade them stop at once. Turning to General Procter, who stood looking on, he cried out,
"Why do you permit this outrage? Why did you not stop those men, and save those wretched prisoners?"
Procter replied that the Indians could not be restrained, and that he could not prevent the massacre.
Tecumseh was furious at this, and said, "Begone, you coward. You are not fit to command men. Go and put on a petticoat, and sit with the women, where you belong."
Procter was not a brave soldier, and, at one time, burned his stores and abandoned his fort, even though he had a thousand men and three thousand Indian allies. Tecumseh was so disgusted with his cowardice, that he compared him to a fat dog, who barked and held his tail high, when there was no danger, but who howled, and dropped his tail between his legs and ran, whenever any one attacked him.
When Tecumseh went to Alabama to stir up the Creek Indians against the whites of that section, he found them unwilling to rise against their neighbors and friends. All his eloquence failed to move them, and, to all his appeals and threats, they merely shook their heads. Finally, in a burst of anger, he cried out,
"Your blood is white, and no longer runs red like the rising sun. You do not fight because you are cowards and are afraid to fight. You do not believe the Great Spirit has sent me, but you shall believe it. I am going back to Detroit. It will take me many days, but when I reach there, I shall tell the Great Spirit, and I shall stamp my foot on the ground, and shake every house in your village."
So saying, he left, and journeyed northward. The Indians counted the days until he should reach home. Strangely enough, about the time he was due there, an earthquake shook the village. The Indians rushed wildly for their dwellings, crying out,
"Tecumseh has arrived in Detroit; he has told the Great Spirit; we feel the stamping of his foot!"
The last battle in which this warrior was engaged was that of the Thames. The Americans had been pursuing the British and their Indian allies for some time, until Tecumseh was tired of the disgraceful state of affairs, and told the British officer, Procter, that he would retreat no longer. "We will stand here and give battle," said he. "I and my warriors were not made for running away from our enemies."
The result was the battle of the Thames. At the opening of the conflict, Tecumseh turned to his friends, and said,
"Brother warriors, I shall never come out of this battle alive. I go there to die, but I go. My body will remain on the field, I know it will be so.
He unbuckled his sword, and handed it to one of his Chiefs, and said, "When my son becomes a great warrior, give him this sword, and tell him his father died like a brave Chief and a hero. Tell my people I died for their rights." With that, he also took off the British uniform, which he had been wearing, and put on his own savage dress and war-paint.
The battle raged for a while with fury. Procter at last fled through the swamps and wilderness, escaping with a few followers. Tecumseh, however, brandishing his club, rushed upon his pursuers, and fell, pierced with many wounds.
The Story of Tecumseh
This story of Tecumseh is featured in the book entitled America First - One Hundred Stories from Our Own History, by Lawton B. Evans, Milton Bradley Co., Springfield Mass., 1920.