Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Border Wars

by Elizabeth Eggleston Seelye
Assisted by Edward Eggleston
New York
Dodd, Mead and Company, Publishers, 1879.



INDIANS are as merciless in ridicule as in war. They were fond of Red Jacket, but they could not resist the temptation to laugh at his lack of physical courage. They would jokingly remind him in company that they had once taken pity on him and given him a scalp to take home, but they would declare that he was afraid to carry it. Stung by the sneers of his enemies and the jeers of his friends, Red Jacket was eager for war that he might redeem his character from the stain of cowardice. A chance presented itself in the war of 1812. The Mohawks under young Brant had stood firm in their alliance with England. The other Iroquois nations had at first promised the Americans to remain neutral, but Red Jacket spoke eloquently for war on the American side. In company with other Iroquois chiefs he led his people into several battles, the most important of which was the battle of Chippewa.

General Brown, with an army of regulars, volunteers, and Indians, boldly resolved to invade Canada in 1814. The Indian force of the Six Nations had dwindled down from thousands to hundreds. Some five or six hundred Indians included nearly all their warriors, except the Mohawks, who were on the other side. Early one July morning the English garrison at Fort Erie, looking through their glasses, found themselves surrounded by American and Indian forces. Soon after noon the garrison capitulated. The English army under General Real, which was about equal to the American in strength, lay some eighteen miles below, at Chippewa. On the same evening General Brown began his march toward Chippewa. On nearing the enemy, the British Indians placed in the woods succeeded in cramping and annoying the American army. General Brown's pickets were constantly assailed, and he took the extreme measure of cashiering one of his officers for allowing his guard to be driven in. It was not believed that there was a single British soldier upon this side of the Chippewa River, and General Porter, in command of the American Indians and volunteers, was ordered to dislodge the British Indians.

The soldiers and Indians were delighted with their task. When the Iroquois had divested themselves of every unnecessary article of clothing, painted themselves sufficiently and all was ready, the detachment was formed in Indian file and marched for the woods. When the Indians were in the woods and the white men still in the open field, every man faced around, and immediately a line of battle was formed one man deep and three quarters of a mile long. Red Jacket occupied the end of the Indian line, while General Porter was between his white and red forces. The Indian war-chiefs marched, according to their custom, about twenty yards in advance of their men. The farther advance was now carried on silently and cautiously. Scouts were ahead, and Porter's movements were directed by signals. The Indian chiefs themselves, when anything happened which demanded extra precaution or time to consult, had a mode of telegraphing it through their line, and instantly every man would drop to the ground in a crouching position. The Indians lay thus concealed in a thicket very near the enemy, when a final consultation was held. It was decided to quicken the march almost to a run, to receive the first fire of the enemy but not to return it, except singly and where it was sure to bring down a man, then to raise the war-whoop and fall upon the enemy. The first fire was accordingly received, savage yells arose from white man and Indian, and a rush was made. The enemy fled, and Porter's forces pursued with deadly havoc. The Mohawks believed that they would receive no quarter; few of them surrendered, many of them allowed themselves to be cut down in their tracks, often turning upon their pursuers and fighting to the last. The pursuit lasted for a mile to the edge of the open field opposite Chippewa. Here the pursuers were met by a discharge of musketry. Those in front were thrown back in confusion upon those behind them. General Porter endeavored to rally his men, having no suspicion of the presence of any force other than that of the Indians. The American forces advanced again to the edge of the woods, to find themselves confronted with the whole British army. The American detachment received and returned two or three fires. The English charged them, and then General Porter gave the order to retreat. Every man made the best use of his legs. Some of the Indians had brought into battle with them their boys, to train them in war. As they neared General Scott's detachment, sent out to relieve them, one immense fellow who had taken his boy of fourteen across his shoulder was seen running along with him with all his might. Suddenly a shell exploded over his head.

" Ugh!" exclaimed the Indian, bounding up into the air. As he came down the boy dropped sprawling upon the ground. Without turning to look behind him the Indian ran on, while the boy hastily gathered himself up and made all speed after his father. In spite of the seriousness of the occasion, the young officers indulged in a hearty laugh at this ridiculous by-play. General Scott rebuked them for their levity.

Scott's brigade opened and admitted the fugitives. The general immediately marched his men over the bridge across a creek, under a galling fire of artillery, and met the British, who were charging at a headlong pace, with a discharge of musketry, which forced them to fall back. They instantly rallied and made another advance, and were met with another tremendous discharge of musketry. They now left the battleground as swiftly as they had come upon it. They did not stop until they had crossed the Chippewa and destroyed the bridge behind him. General Scott could not advance, because he would have to face their batteries, which were on the opposite side of the river and could not be reached. He moved to the field opposite Chippewa, and ordered his men to lie down with their heads toward the batteries to escape the enemy's fire. The whole army was at this time engaged in the action, which closed at sundown without any further results. Meantime the British Indians had fled, never to return. Many of the American Indians had departed also, and they returned home, from time to time, according to their independent habits.

Two days later the Americans forced the passage of the Chippewa. The enemy retreated, after a short but brave resistance. The Indians could not be restrained from committing depredations upon the farmers on the line of the army's advance. They also captured from fifty to a hundred barrels of liquor and stores which the British had concealed in the woods. Greatly to their discontent, this booty was turned over to the American quartermaster. Red Jacket now suggested the sending a deputation to the British camp proposing the withdrawal of Indian forces upon both sides during the remainder of the war. General Brown acquiescing, two young chiefs were sent to the British army and returned with a somewhat favorable answer. Red Jacket made the most of it, and the American Indians went home promising to return in case the British Indians again took part. They were not again called upon, and Red Jacket ended his career as a warrior, which, if not brilliant, was certainly not disgraceful during the war of 1812.

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