AHGP Transcription Project


Johnson County


Johnson County, the 97th organized in the state, was formed in 1843, out of parts of Floyd, Lawrence, and Morgan, and named in honor of Col. Richard M. Johnson. It is situated on the waters of Big Sandy River, in the extreme eastern portion of the state; and is bounded north by Lawrence, east by Martin, south by Floyd and Magoffin, and west by Magoffin County. The surface of the county is hilly, interspersed with fertile valleys; the soil sandy, based upon sandstone. Exports, horses, cattle, hogs, lumber, and coal. Several mineral springs are found in the county. The south fork of Big Sandy is navigable for flat-boats and small steamboats, during several months in the year.

Paintsville, the county seat, is situated on Paint creek, about 39 miles from West Liberty, 40 miles from Louisa, and 130 miles from Frankfort; population in 1870, 247, having more than doubled in twenty years, notwithstanding the disasters and drawbacks of the civil war.

Members of the Legislature from Johnson County

Senate
None resident in the county.

House of Representatives
Samuel K. Friend, 1844;
Daniel Hager, 1846;
John B. Harris, 1848;
Garland Hurt, 1851-53;
Henry G. Hager, 1853-55:
John B. Auxier, 1855-57;
Samuel Salyers, 1859-61;
George H. Whitten, 1863-67.
[See Floyd Co.]
Thos. J. Mayo, 1873-75.

A copper cross, about one inch and a half long, with an image extended on it, and a crescent about an inch in diameter, made of copper, and having either pearl or imitation of pearl on it, was found at the mouth of Paint creek, in this county, about seven years ago, by a gentleman when plowing his corn. On the cross were the letters "Santa Maria.''


Colonel Richard M. Johnson, the third son of Colonel Robert Johnson, of Scott County,* was born in Kentucky in the autumn of 1781. The literary institutions of Kentucky were then in their infancy, and the facilities for thorough education, exceedingly limited. Richard remained with his father until the age of fifteen, receiving only such instruction as the nature of circumstances would allow. At this age he left his father's house, intent upon advantages superior to those afforded in that vicinity, and entered a country school, where he acquired a knowledge of grammar, and the rudiments of the Latin language. Afterwards he entered Transylvania University, where, by unremitted industry, he made rapid progress in the acquisition of classic and scientific knowledge.

Upon quitting the university, he entered upon the study of the law, under the guidance and instruction of that celebrated jurist and statesman, Colonel George Nicholas. On the decease of this gentleman, which took place a few weeks after his young student had entered his office, the subject of this biography placed himself under the instruction of the Hon. James Brown, late a senator in Congress from Louisiana, and subsequently a minister from the United States to the court of France, but then a distinguished member of the Kentucky bar. With this eminent citizen he finished his preparatory studies, and at the early age of nineteen entered upon the arduous duties of his profession.

In his vocation as a lawyer, he was eminently successful, and displayed the same active energy of mind and benevolence of heart, which have since so eminently distinguished him in higher and more responsible stations. He despised injustice and oppression, and never omitted an occasion to render his services, without prospect of reward, where honest poverty or injured innocence was found struggling against the oppressions of wealth. The inability of a client to pay a fee, never deterred him from attending sedulously to his cause, no matter how intricate and laborious were the services. By these means, even at so early an age, he secured to himself the just reward of his virtues, and the approbation and esteem of the public.

Scarcely had he been fairly installed in the duties of his profession, before an opportunity was afforded for the development of that high and chivalrous patriotism which has since identified him with some of the noblest feats of American valor, and given his name to immortality. In 1802, the port of New Orleans, in violation of an existing treaty, was closed against the United States by the Spanish intendant. The occurrence gave rise to immense excitement throughout America, especially in the valley of the Ohio and Mississippi, and a rupture between Spain and the United States, likely to end in war, was the consequence.

Richard M. Johnson, then only in his twentieth year, with many other young men of his neighborhood, promptly volunteered his services to pass down the western waters and make a decent on New Orleans, in the event of war. In a few days, chiefly through his exertions, a large company was enrolled, and he was chosen to the command. The speedy adjustment of the dispute with Spain, deprived him and the brave youths under his command, of the opportunity of signalizing themselves and the State upon the field of battle.

Before he had attained the age of twenty-one, at which period the constitution of Kentucky fixes the eligibility of the citizen to a seat in the legislature, the citizens of Scott County elected him, by acclamation, to a seat in that body. As a member of the legislature, he acquitted himself with great credit, and to the entire satisfaction of his constituents. Having served two years in that station, at the age of twenty-four he was elected a representative in the Congress of the United States; and in October, 1807, being then just twenty-five, took his seat in that body.

He entered upon the theatre of national politics, at a period when party excitement ran high, and attached himself to the Republican Party, more from a uniform and fixed devotion to the principles of democracy, than from any purely selfish policy. He was immediately placed upon some of the most important committees, and at the second session of the term for which he was elected, was appointed chairman of the committee of claims, at that time among the most important of the house committees. His zealous and faithful devotion to business, and the distinction which he had acquired in Congress and throughout the Union, as a genuine friend of the liberty and happiness of his country, increased his popularity at home, and insured his re-election by his constituents, who from that period to the present time, have never failed to manifest their devoted attachment to him, whenever he was a candidate for office, either under the State or national government.

*. See a sketch of Colonel Robert Johnson, under the head of Scott County.

In 1811, our relations with Great Britain were such as, in the opinion of many, to render an appeal to arms inevitable. Richard M. Johnson was among those who were convinced that no other alternative remained to the people of the United States; and accordingly, after supporting, with great energy, all the preparatory measures which the crisis demanded, in June, 1812, gave his vote for the declaration of war. This important measure was shortly afterwards followed by an adjournment of Congress, when he hastened home, raised the standard of his country, and called around him many of the best citizens of his neighborhood, some of whom, schooled in the stormy period of the early settlement of the State, were veteran warriors, well suited for the service for which they were intended. With this battalion, composed of three companies, he hastened to the frontier, and when arrived at St. Mary's on the 13th of September, his force, by general order, was augmented by a battalion of mounted volunteers, and he elected to the command of the regiment thus formed. A portion of the regiment only, during that season, had any opportunity of an engagement; and this was a party of the mounted battalion, under Major Suggett, which, in communicating with Fort Wayne, besieged by a superior force, encountered an equal number of the enemy, whom it routed, killing an Indian chief of some distinction. After an active campaign of about ten months, Colonel Johnson returned home for the purpose of proceeding to Washington to re-enter Congress, having added to his reputation as a statesman, that of an energetic and patriotic soldier.

In the winter following while in attendance upon Congress, he rendered material aid to the president, in arranging the plan of campaign for the ensuing summer, and his views being adopted, were subsequently carried out, and contributed essentially to the successes which followed upon the frontier. Colonel Johnson was authorized by the secretary of war to raise, organize and hold in readiness, a regiment of mounted volunteers, to consist of one thousand men. Accordingly upon the adjournment of Congress in March, he hastened home, and in a few weeks secured from among the most respectable and patriotic citizens of the state, the full complement of volunteers, to the organization and discipline of whom he gave his most sedulous attention. In this important part of his military duty, he had the valuable aid of his skillful and intrepid brother, Lt. Col. James Johnson, whose military talents, decision and courage in the hour of battle, have entitled him to a full share of the glory acquired by the regiment. Colonel Johnson, with his accustomed energy, lost no time in repairing with his command to the frontier of Ohio, then the theatre of operations. His regiment soon acquired a name that attracted the admiration of the country. Never did soldiers perform their arduous duties with more alacrity and cheerfulness, nor were the services of any more useful and extensive. In making inroads upon the enemy, and in various skirmishes, their success was always complete.

In October, 1813, the decisive crisis in the operations of the north-western army arrived, the battle of the Thames, which led to a termination of hostilities in that quarter, was fought and won. The distinguished services of Colonel Johnson, and his brave regiment, in that sanguinary engagement, have scarcely a parallel in the heroic annals of our country. The British and Indians, the former under the command of General Proctor, and the latter under that of Tecumseh, the celebrated Indian warrior, had taken an advantageous position, the British in line between the river Thames and a narrow swamp, and the Indians in ambush on their right, and west of the swamp, ready to fall upon the rear of Colonel Johnson, should he force a retreat of the British. Colonel Johnson, under the orders of the commander in chief, divided his regiment into two battalions, one under the command of his gallant brother James, and the other to be led by himself. Col. Johnson with his battalion passed the swamp and attacked the Indians, at the same moment that his brother James fell upon and routed the British regulars. The contest for a while between Colonel Johnson's battalion and the Indians, was obstinate and bloody, the slaughter great, but success complete. The gallant Colonel was in the very midst and thickest of the fight, inspiring by his presence and courage the utmost confidence of his brave followers, and though perforated with balls, his bridle arm shattered, and bleeding profusely, he continued to fight until he encountered and slew an Indian chief who formed the rallying point of the savages. This chief was supposed to be the famous Tecumseh himself, upon whose fall the Indians raised a yell and retreated. The heroic Colonel, covered with wounds, twenty-five balls having been shot into him, his clothes, and his horse, was borne from the battle ground, faint from exertion and loss of blood, and almost lifeless. Never was victory so complete or its achievement so glorious. Fifteen hundred Indians were engaged against the battalion of Col. Johnson, and eight hundred British regulars against that of his brother. Both forces were completely routed, and an effectual end put to the war upon the northern frontier, distinguished as it had been by so many murderous cruelties upon the part of the savage allies of the British.

The war in that quarter being now ended, in a short time the army took up its march homeward; but Colonel Johnson being unable to continue with his regiment, was carried to Detroit, from whence after a short confinement he departed for home. After a distressing journey, during which he endured the most painful suffering, he reached his home in Kentucky early in November. In February 1814, still unable to walk, he reached Washington City, and resumed his seat in Congress. Everywhere upon the route, and at the metropolis, he was met with the most enthusiastic and cordial greetings of a grateful people. Even his political opponents, deeply sensible of his sincerity, his patriotism and his valor, cordially united in doing honor to the man who had at so much sacrifice, rendered such glorious service to the country. Congress by joint resolution, made appropriate acknowledgment, of his gallant deeds, and directed him to be presented with a suitable testimonial of his services.

He continued to serve his constituents in Congress until the year 1819, when he voluntarily retired, carrying with him the esteem of the whole nation. But his native state, of which he was justly the idol, would not suffer him to remain in retirement. The people of Scott County immediately returned him to the state legislature, and that body elected him to the United States' senate. An honor so exalted, from a source so honored, he could not resist; and accordingly in December 1819 he took his seat in the United States senate, and after serving his term was unanimously re-elected, a circumstance which serves to show how well he preserved the confidence of the people of his native state, and how deeply he was enshrined in their affections.

His career as a legislator, was scarcely less brilliant and useful, than that in which he distinguished himself as a warrior. His speeches and reports, are monuments of his wisdom and liberality as a statesman. The whole nation will bear evidence to his zeal and industry in support of all measures calculated to promote the end of free government, the happiness of the people. No man labored more indefatigably, in behalf of private claimants, than did Colonel Johnson; and so scrupulously faithful was he in the discharge of his duty towards all who applied for his services, that he never failed while in congress to attend to a single application that was made to him. The old soldiers of the revolution, the invalids of the last war, and thousands of other persons, all over the Union, who had claims to urge upon the government, had no truer or surer friend in Congress than Col. Johnson, as many of them now enjoying the bounty of the government through his instrumentality, can bear most grateful testimony.

In 1836 he was made Vice President of the United States, and presided over the senate with great dignity for the term of four years, at the expiration of which, he retired to his farm, in Scott County, Kentucky. The remainder of his life, with the exception of two terms in the State Legislature, was assiduously devoted to improving his private fortunes, somewhat impaired by a too liberal hospitality and constant attention to public affairs. He was a member of the Legislature at the time of his death, which occurred in Frankfort, in 1850.

Who Killed Tecumseh?
The most interesting feature of the battle of the river Thames, and the one of greatest moment to the people of the frontiers, because of the death of the great Tecumseh, or Tecumthe, the only chief who could always rouse and concentrate against the whites the deadliest hate and revenge of the red men, was the fight in the Indian quarter. The scene of the battle was a beech forest, over two miles long, without any clearing, and near to the bank of the river. At from 200 to 300 yards from the river, and parallel to it, a swamp extends throughout the whole distance. The ground between the river and the swamp was dry, and in many places clear of underbrush, although the trees were tolerably thick. The British troops, over 840 strong, were drawn up across this strip, their left resting on the river and supported by artillery in the wagon road, their right in the swamp, covered by the whole force of over 1,500 Indians. A small swamp, and back of it a narrow piece of dry land, extended in front of the Indians, and at right angles to the main strip of land above. Gen. Harrison, after learning from Col. Richard M. Johnson and his brother and lieutenant colonel James Johnson, that in drilling their corps of Kentuckians they had occasionally on their march practiced charging on horseback, determined to take advantage of a singular position of the British Gen. Proctor, and thus attack him. The first battalion, under Lieut. Col. James Johnson, was placed in front of the British lines; and when the order was given, moved steadily forward, supported by several brigades of infantry. They had gone but a short distance, when the British opened fire along their whole line, followed quickly by another fire. The horses recoiled at first, but under the order to charge, the column soon got in motion, and went dashing forward with irresistible force upon an astounded and bewildered enemy, broke through their ranks, and wheeled and poured in upon it a destructive fire. The British officers saw no hope for their disordered ranks, and immediately surrendered over 600 troops; their commander, Gen. Proctor, who feared to trust himself in the hands of soldiers against whose people he had incited the refined cruelties of Indian warfare, with 204 of his troops, effected his escape. Thus, in this quarter the victory was complete, won, in a few minutes, by, to them, a new kind of battle tactics, a charge of mounted infantry, who reserved their fire for the moment of closest contact as they returned through the broken ranks.

On the left, the scene was different. Colonel R. M. Johnson, after reconnoitering, was determined upon a prompt hand-to-hand fight with the Indians, and marched his second battalion through the first or small swamp, right in their face, forming in two columns on horseback, with a company on foot in front, himself leading the right column, and Major Thompson the left. Here is his own account of this part of the battle, and of the death of the chief he afterwards supposed to be Tecumseh, given in a speech in Indiana:

"Colonel Johnson said that at his age it was wrong to put on any false modesty; and as he had been called upon to relate that portion of the fight which took place with the Indians, he would endeavor to do so. The Indians were 1,400 strong, commanded by Tecumseh, one of the bravest warriors that ever drew breath. He was a sort of ‘Washington among the Indians’, that is, they looked upon him as we look upon Washington. The Indians were in ambush, on the other side of what we were informed was an impassable swamp; but just before the battle came on, a narrow passage across the swamp was discovered.”

"Knowing well the Indian character, I determined to push forward with about twenty men, in order to draw forth the Indian fire, so that the remainder of the regiment might rush upon them, while their rifles were empty. Having promised the wives, mothers, and sisters of my men, before I left Kentucky, that I would place their husbands, sons, and brothers in no hazard which I was unwilling to share myself, I put myself at the head of these twenty men, and we advanced upon the covert in which I knew the Indians were concealed. The moment we came in view, we received the whole Indian fire. Nineteen of my twenty men dropped in the field. I felt that I was myself severely wounded. The mare I rode staggered and fell to her knees; she had fifteen balls in her, as was afterwards ascertained; but the noble animal recovered her feet by a touch of the rein.”

"I waited but a few moments, when the remainder of the troops came up, and we pushed forward on the Indians, who instantly retreated. I noticed an Indian chief among them who succeeded in rallying them three different times. This I thought I would endeavor to prevent; because it was at this time known to the Indians that their allies, the British, had surrendered. I advanced singly upon him, keeping my right arm close by my side, and covered by the swamp; he took a tree and from thence deliberately fired upon me. Although I previously had four balls in me, this last wound was more acutely painful than all of them. His ball struck me on the knuckle of the left hand, passed through my hand, and came out just above the wrist. I ran my left hand through my bridle rein, for my hand instantly swelled and became useless. The Indian supposed he had mortally wounded me; he came out from behind the tree and advanced upon me with uplifted tomahawk. When he had come within my mare's length of me, I drew my pistol and instantly fired, having a dead aim upon him. He fell, and the Indians shortly after either surrendered or fled. My pistol had one ball and three buck-shot in it; and the body of the Indian was found to have a ball through his body, and three buck-shot in different parts of his breast and head. ["Thus Tecumseh fell," cried out some one of the audience.] Colonel Johnson said he did not know that it was Tecumseh at the time.”

Of the forlorn hope, after a few minutes, the only one left on horseback besides Colonel Johnson was Dr. Samuel Theobald, of Lexington, Kentucky; the others were either killed, wounded, or had their horses shot under them. The whole battalion, by order of the colonel, now dismounted, and fought on foot for nearly half an hour, until the Indians lost their leader, the great Tecumseh, whose voice was silent in death, and no longer urged them to the fight. Until then the contest was terrible. Of the small number concentrated upon a few square rods of ground, 7 mounted men were killed and 19 wounded, of whom 5 died. The Indians left 33 dead upon the battle-ground, removed several of their dead, and several were killed in the retreat. Much the largest part of the Indian force was not engaged. They extended for half a mile into the swamp, and there waited for the Americans, and wondered—so they afterwards said, why they did not come to fight them.*


But Colonel Johnson was not alone in the belief that he had broken the Indian power by personally killing Tecumseh. Indeed, of all who confidently claimed for him the credit of it, he seemed among the least confident. For political purposes, in after years, a strong showing was made of his part in the matter the only thing incontestibly proved being that Colonel Johnson killed an Indian chief, one of three who fell, and each conspicuous for his bravery. Mr. Butler, one of the most patient and careful of historians, compiles the proof (pages 440-1)—that an Indian chief was killed; that an examination of his body showed that he was killed with a ball and three buck-shot; that Colonel Johnson's remaining horse-pistol was, and the discharged pistol had been, thus loaded; that the shot ranged downward, and was evidently by one on horseback; that Anthony Shane, a half-breed Shawnee and interpreter, who said he had known Tecumseh from boyhood, recognized his body as the one pierced with the ball and buck-shot, and proved his identity by describing a scar upon his thigh from a fall in childhood, which scar was found upon the dead chief; that this Indian chief was found upon or near the spot where Colonel Johnson had shot an Indian commander; that Shane further said, that “the Indians who saw Tecumseh very soon after he was killed, described Colonel Johnson as the man who killed him, and the horse on which he rode as white." Shane was said to be reliable and trusty.

Mr. Butler evidently was convinced that Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh, and so published in the first edition of his History of Kentucky, in 1834. But the doubts expressed and claims advanced by others induced him to correspond with the very persons from whom the above proof had emanated with Richard W. Cummins, U. S. Indian agent at the Northern agency of the Western Territory, with Colonel Garret Wall who was himself a soldier fighting bravely a few yards distant, and with Rev. O. B. Brown, of Washington city, a hearsay witness. Their letters in full occupy nearly four pages of the appendix to Mr. Butler's History, 2nd edition, 1836; they, with other proof, stagger his former faith, and he "leaves the reader to draw his own conclusion from the same materials with himself."

* Letter of General Wm. H. Harrison to Mann Butler, Butler's Kentucky, p. 437.

In the summer of 1859, died near Bloomfield, Indiana, Isaac Hamblin, Sen., aged 86 years, a soldier of the battle of the Thames. His account of the closing scene at that battle differs very seriously from other accounts:
"He says he was standing but a few feet from Col. Johnson when he fell, and in full view, and saw the whole of that part of the battle. He was well acquainted with Tecumseh, having seen him before the war, and having been a prisoner for 17 days and received many a cursing from him. He thinks that Tecumseh thought Col. Johnson was Gen. Harrison, as he often heard the chief swear that he would have Harrison's scalp, and seemed to have a special hatred of him. Johnson's horse fell under him, he himself being also deeply wounded. In the fall, he lost his sword, his large pistols were empty, and he was entangled with his horse on the ground. Tecumseh had fired his rifle at him; and when he saw him fall, he threw down his gun, and bounded forward like a tiger sure of his prey. Johnson had only a side pistol ready for use. He aimed at the chief over the head of his horse, and shot near the center of his forehead. When the ball struck, it seemed to him that the Indian jumped, with his head full fifteen feet into air; as soon as he struck the ground, a little Frenchman ran his bayonet into him, and pinned him fast to the ground."*

In addition to this, is the testimony of Shabona (or Shawbeneh), a Pottawatomie chief, who was in the battle and near Tecumseh at the time. Shabona† says ”he saw Tecumseh, and saw him fall; that he was shot by a man on a white horse, who carried a "short gun" (probably a pistol); and that simultaneously with the fall of Tecumseh, the man and the horse came down to the ground, and he thinks were killed.” The moment it was discovered that Tecumseh was killed, he heard a man say to him "Puceaohee Shabona,'' and he ran. Shabona afterwards saw Col. R. M. Johnson in Congress, at Washington City, who was pointed out as the man who killed Tecumseh; but Shabona says he was not the man who fired the "short gun" from the discharge of which Tecumseh lost his life. He further states that Tecumseh's body was not mutilated by the American troops. Shabona was vouched for as a man of unquestionable veracity, by those who had known him long and well.

The testimony of another Pottawatomie chief, Chamblee, as furnished by the late Gen. Robert Anderson, of the U. S; army, is to this effect:
"He saw Tecumseh engaged in a personal reencounter with a soldier armed with a musket; that the latter made a thrust at the chief, who caught the bayonet under his arm, where he held it, and was in the act of striking his opponent with his tomahawk, when a horseman rode up and shot Tecumseh dead with a pistol. The horseman had a red feather (plume) in his hat, and was mounted on a spotted or red-roan horse. He further says that he saw the body of Tecumseh a day or two after the battle, and that it was not mutilated.”

In a work entitled "History of the Indian Tribes of North America," you might want to add a link to there is the following note "A Pottawatomie chief was thus questioned: Were you at the battle of the Thames? Yes. Did you know Tecumseh? Yes. Were you near him in the fight? Yes. Did you see him fall? Yes. Who shot him? Don't know. Did you see the man that shot him? Yes. What sort of looking man was he? Short, thick man. What color was the horse he rode? Most white. How do you know this man shot Tecumseh? I saw the man ride up, saw his horse get tangled in some bushes, when the horse was most still, I saw Tecumseh level his rifle at the man and shoot, the man shook on his horse, soon the horse got out of the bushes, and the man spurred him up, horse came slow, Tecumseh right before him, man's left hand hung down just as he got near, Tecumseh lifted his tomahawk and was going to throw it, when the man shot him with a short gun (pistol) Tecumseh fell dead and we all ran."

*. Obituary in Western Christian Advocate, Sept., 1869. †. Mendota (Minnesota) Press, Dec, 1857. % Drake's Life of Tecumseh, p. 200

Atwater, in his History of Ohio, remarks, that two Winnebago chiefs, Four-Legs and Carymaunee, told him that Tecumseh, at the commencement of the battle of the Thames, lay with his warriors in a thicket of underbrush on the left of the American army, and that they were, at no period of the battle, out of their covert—that no officer was seen between them and the American troops, that Tecumseh fell the very first fire of the Kentucky dragoons, pierced by thirty bullets, and was carried four or five miles into the thick woods and there buried by the warriors, who told the story of his fate.

In 1838, a writer in the Baltimore American published Black Hawk's account of the fall of Tecumseh, as follows:
* * * "Shortly after this, the Indian spies came in and gave word of the near approach of the Americans. Tecumseh immediately posted his men in. the edge of a swamp, which flanked the British line, placing himself at their head. I was a little to his right with a small party of Sauks. It was not long before the Americans made their appearance; they did not perceive us at first, hid as we were by the undergrowth, but we soon let them know where we were, by pouring in one or two voles as they were forming into line to oppose the British. They faltered a little; but very soon we perceived a large body of horse (Col. Johnson's regiment of mounted Kentuckians) preparing to charge upon us in the swamp. They came bravely on; yet we never stirred until they were so close that we could see the flints in their guns, when Tecumseh, springing to his feet, gave the Shawanoe war-cry, and discharged his rifle. This was the signal for us to commence the battle, but it did not last long; the Americans answered the shout, returning our fire, and at the first discharge of their guns, I saw Tecumseh stagger forwards over a fallen tree near which he was standing, letting his rifle drop at his feet. As soon as the Indians discovered that he was killed, a sudden fear came over them, and thinking the Great Spirit was angry, they fought no longer, and were quickly put to flight. That night we returned to bury our dead; and search for the body of Tecumseh. He was found lying where he had first fallen; a bullet had struck him above the hip, and his skull had been broken by the butt-end of the gun of some soldier, who had found him, perhaps, when life was not yet quite gone. With the exception of these wounds, his body was untouched; lying near him was a large fine-looking Pottawatomie, who had been killed, decked off in his “plumes and war-paint”, whom the Americans no doubt had taken for Tecumseh, for he was scalped and every particle of skin flayed from his body. Tecumseh himself had no ornaments about his person, save a British medal. During the night, we buried our dead, and brought off the body of Tecumseh, although we were in sight of the fires of the American camp."

James, a British historian,* after describing the battle of the Thames, remarks:
"It seems extraordinary that General Harrison should have omitted to mention in his letter, the death of a chief, whose fall contributed so largely to break down the Indian spirit, and to give peace and security to the whole north-western frontier of the United States. Tecumseh, although he had received a musket-ball in the left arm, was still seeking the hottest of the fire, when he encountered Col. Richard M. Johnson, member of congress from Kentucky. Just as the chief, having discharged his rifle, was rushing forward with his tomahawk, he received a ball in the head from the colonel's pistol. Thus fell the Indian warrior, Tecumseh, in the forty-fourth year of his age. ****** The body of Tecumseh was recognized, not only by the British officers, who were prisoners, but by Commodore Perry, and several American officers." This writer adds, that Tecumseh was scalped and his body flayed by the Kentuckians.

Mr. Butler f publishes the statement (from a letter written at his request) of a wounded officer of the battle, claiming that David King, a soldier of Capt. James Davidson's (afterwards Treasurer of Kentucky) company, killed Tecumseh. "Wounded as I was, at David King's request, I accompanied him to a place where there lay an Indian chief, afterwards ascertained to be Tecumseh, whom King said he had killed. Before we came as near as 70 or 80 yards of the place where Tecumseh lay, King pointed out the tree particularly, and the manner in which the savage had been shot. When we arrived at the tree, we found everything precisely as King had represented; and then and there the tomahawk was taken by King."

*. "Military Occurrences of the Late War between Great Britain and the United States, by Wm. James, 2 vols. London, 1818."
f History of Ky., 2nd ed., p. 546

Colonel Daniel Garrard,* late of Clay county, Kentucky (son of Governor James Garrard), and who was in the battle, said that David King claimed to have killed a chief whom he supposed to be Tecumseh; that he had loaded his gun with two balls, and aimed at a certain portion of the chiefs body; an examination was instituted, the death-wounds were found to be as indicated, and all present at the time were convinced that the double shot had done the work.

Captain Wm. Robinson,† who was on the spot, says that the veteran Colonel Wm. Whitley, then 66 years old, of Lincoln County, Kentucky, was shot by an Indian chief; who, in turn, was immediately shot down by Colonel Whitley's friend and neighbor, David King, a private soldier in Captain Davidson's company. It was not known until afterwards that the chief was Tecumseh.

Many soldiers of the 2nd Kentucky regiment (Colonel Danaldson's) claimed in 1852 that David Gooding, a private soldier of Captain Botts' company, of Fleming County, Kentucky, was the person who killed Tecumseh. Beyond a doubt, Gooding killed a chief, in that part of the fight where Tecumseh commanded in person; and the regiment generally believed that chief was Tecumseh himself.‡

Gen. George Sanderson, of Lancaster, Ohio, who commanded a company in Col. Paul's regiment of regulars, 27th U. S. infantry, says:║("I remember Tecumseh. I saw him a number of times before the war. He was a man of huge frame, powerfully built, about 6 feet 2 inches in height. I saw his body before it was cold, on the Thames battle-field. Whether Colonel Johnson killed him or not, I cannot say. I never heard any one speak of Colonel Johnson's having killed him until years afterward. Johnson was a brave man, and was badly wounded in a very painful part of his knuckles, and also, I think, in the body; he was carried past me on a litter. In the evening of the day of the battle, I was appointed by General Harrison to guard the Indian prisoners with my company. The location was near a swamp. As to the report of Kentuckians having skinned Tecumseh's body, I am personally cognizant that such was the fact. I saw Kentucky troops in the very act of cutting the skin from the body of the chief. They cut strips about half a foot in length. That it was Tecumseh's body that was skinned, I have no doubt. I knew him. Besides, the Indian prisoners under my charge continually pointed to his body, which lay close by, and uttered the most bewailing cries at his loss. By noon the day after the battle, the body could scarcely be recognized, so thoroughly had it been skinned. My men covered it with brush and logs, and it was probably eaten by wolves. Although many officers did not like this conduct of the Kentuckians, they dare not interfere. The troops from that state were infuriated at the massacre at the river Raisin, and their battle cry was, "Remember the River Raisin!" It was only with difficulty that the Indian prisoners could be guarded, so general was the disposition of the Kentuckians to massacre them. I remained in service until the summer of 1815, when the 27th regiment was disbanded."

But contradicting the story that Tecumseh's body was desecrated by skinning strips from it is the statement of old Peter Nayarre or Navarre,§ the French trader and interpreter, still living at Toledo, Ohio. He said " Tecumseh was standing behind a large tree that had been blown down, encouraging his warriors, and was killed by a ball that passed diagonally through his chest. After death, he was shot several times; but otherwise his body was not mutilated in the least, being buried in his regimentals (as the chief desired) by myself and a companion, at the command of Gen. Harrison. All statements that he was scalped or skinned are absolutely false."

*. Paris True Kentuckian, Aug. 25, 1869.
†. The Pioneer, by John McGill, 50 years a resident of Kentucky, 1832, p. 68.
‡. Letter in the Maysville Eagle, June 10, 1852.
║. Taken down April 16, 1870, by A. J. Godman, of the Western Reserve Historical Society.
§. Toledo Blade, June 13, 1872.

Dr. Samuel Theobald, of Kentucky*, who will be remembered (see ante, page 404) as the only one of the "forlorn hope" who was not unhorsed or wounded by the first concentrated fire of the Indians, says that on the "next morning, he took a half-breed Shawnee, named Anthony Shane, to see the body reputed to be that of Tecumseh. Strips of skin had been cut from the thighs; but Shane said it was not the body of Tecumseh."

Capt. Ben. Warfield,* who commanded a company in the battle, says he was searching the field, the next morning, and found a wounded British soldier named Clark, who lay near where Tecumseh was reported to have been killed. Clark said that Tecumseh's body was carried away by Indians. The biography of Col. Richard M. Johnson, published in 1834, by Wm. Emmons, and without an author's name, but claiming to be "authentic," says, page 34, that the Indian chief whom Col. Johnson killed "was arrayed in the habiliments of war, clad in the richest savage attire, and his face painted with alternate circular lines of black and red from the eye downward, which increased the natural ferocity of his savage countenance." When Col. Johnson "discharged the contents of his pistol into his breast and laid him dead upon the spot, the Indians near him, filled with consternation on seeing their commander fall, raised a horrid yell and instantly fled." This biographer says that Anthony Shane told him that this fallen chief was Tecumseh.

There is one singular weakness in this latter statement, which proves, if it proves anything, that Col. Johnson killed a conspicuous chief; perhaps the gaily dressed Pottawatomie, but not Tecumseh. The latter was noted for the plainness of his dress, for avoiding to a great extent, the gaudy ornaments in which most Indians so greatly delighted. He entered the battle of the Thames dressed in the ordinary deer-skin garb of his tribe.

Again: There was no custom in war more faithfully and religiously observed, usually at the hazard of all the lives necessary to accomplish it, than the carrying off from the scene of battle of their dead chiefs, for burial. Black Hawk declares that Tecumseh's body was carried off; the two Winnebago chiefs assert that it was carried into the thick woods, and there buried; Clark, the British soldier, declares what he must have seen to enable him to say so, that his body was "carried away during the engagement;" and Peter Navarre says that, by order of General Harrison, he and his companion buried it. But adding to the mystery, and most unaccountable of all, is the fact that General Harrison, in his first brief official report to the U. S. secretary of war, of Oct. 5, 1813, on or near the field of battle, and in his full detailed report, four days later, Oct. 9, 1813, from his headquarters at Detroit, does not mention or even remotely allude to the death of Tecumseh, the most extraordinary and important result of the battle, and that which, far more than the remarkable defeat of the British general Proctor, ensured peace and tranquility to the whole northwestern border, for the present at least. Indeed, there was no certainty, and no general conviction, that Tecumseh's voice was hushed in death until some days after the battle. If General Harrison ordered Peter Navarre to bury the body, he must even then have been ignorant that it was the body of Tecumseh.

But Colonel Charles S. Todd, one of the aids of General Harrison, and U. S. inspector general during the war of 1812, thus explains the reticence of the commander: "I am authorized by several officers of Gen. Harrison's staff, who were in the battle of the Thames, to state most unequivocally their belief, that the general neither knew nor could have known the fact of the death of Tecumseh, at the date of his letter to the war department. It was the uncertainty which prevailed as to the fact of Tecumseh's being killed that prevented any notice of it in his report. On the next day after the battle, General Harrison, in company with Commodore Perry and other officers, examined the body

*. Lossing's Field Book of War of 1812, page 556.

of an Indian supposed to be Tecumseh; but from its swollen and mutilated condition, he was unable to decide whether it was that chief or a Pottawatomie who usually visited him at Vincennes, in company with Tecumseh; and I repeat most unhesitatingly, that neither Commodore Perry nor any officer in the American army, excepting General Harrison, had ever seen Tecumseh previously to the battle; and even though he had recognized the body which he examined to be that of the celebrated chief, it was manifestly impossible that he could have known whether he was killed by Johnson's corps, or by that part of the infantry which participated in the action. No official or other satisfactory report of his death, was made to him by those engaged on that part of the battle ground where he fell. It was not until after the return of the army to Detroit, and after the date of General Harrison's dispatches,* that it was ascertained from the enemy, that Tecumseh was certainly killed; and even then the opinion of the army was divided as to the person by whose hands he fell. Some claimed the credit of it for Colonel Whitley, some for Colonel Johnson; but others, constituting a majority, including Governor Shelby, entertained the opinion that he fell by a shot from David King, a private in Captain Davidson's company, from Lincoln County, Kentucky. In this state of the case, even had the fact of Tecumseh's death been fully ascertained, at the date of General Harrison's letter, it would have been manifestly unjust, not to say impracticable, for the commander-in-chief to have expressed an opinion as to the particular individual to whose personal prowess his death was to be attributed."

The proof that Tecumseh fell by the hand of the old Indian fighter, Colonel Wm. Whitley, is contained chiefly in a letter of Abraham Scribner, Greenville, Ohio, dated Sept. 8, 1840, and another dated Feb. 24, 1841, of Colonel Ambrose Dudley, of Cincinnati. The latter says: "The morning after the battle of the Thames, in company with several other persons, I walked over the ground, to see the bodies of those who had been slain in the engagement. After passing from the river a considerable distance, and the latter part of the way along what was termed a swamp, viewing the slain of the British army, we came to a place where some half a dozen persons were standing, and three dead Indians were lying close together. One of the spectators remarked, that he had witnessed that part of the engagement which led to the death of these three Indians and two of our troops, whose bodies had been removed the evening before for burial. He proceeded to point out the position of the slain as they lay upon the ground, with that of our men. He said old Colonel Whitley rode up to the body of a tree, which lay before him, and behind which lay an Indian: he (the Indian,) attempted to fire, but from some cause did not succeed, and then Whitley instantly shot him. This Indian was recognized by one of the persons present as Tecumseh; the next Indian was pointed out as having killed Whitley; then the position of another of our troops who killed that Indian, and the Indian who killed him, with the position of the man who shot the third Indian, making three Indians and two Americans who had fallen on a very small space of ground. From the manner of the narrator, and the facts related at the time, I did not doubt the truth of his statement, nor have I ever had any reason to doubt it since. The Indian pointed out as Tecumseh, was wearing a bandage over a wound in the arm, and as it was known that Tecumseh had been slightly wounded in the arm the day before, while defending the passage of a creek, my conviction was strengthened by this circumstance, that the body before us was that of Tecumseh."

We have presented at considerable length, much of it in full, the statements and opinions as to who killed Tecumseh. No inconsiderable portion of it is contradictory, claiming as facts statements or positions which are at variance with each other, and of which no explanation has yet been given. In our view, it is conclusive that Col. Johnson did not kill Tecumseh, that David King might have done it, but that Colonel Whitley probably did kill him. The whole narrative and testimony reminds us of the speech of General Lewis Cass, in the senate of the United States, in the winter of 1853-54, and the sequel to it. In the gallery was a large delegation of Indians, among them some fine looking men. Cass was earnestly and eloquently advocating a measure in which the Indians were interested, and used their presence quite happily to enforce his points. Gen. Sam. Houston, of Texas, broke the effect of his speech somewhat, by playfully suggesting, "Now, general, tell us who killed Tecumseh!" The general resumed, and pointedly and with some power told the story, as soberly as though he did not suspect that Houston was quizzing him. Two hours later, he met in the library an old friend* from Ohio, who stoutly upbraided him for want of sincerity in thus ascribing to Colonel Johnson glory which was only proximately his General Cass pleasantly replied, "It is of no sort of consequence now, who killed Tecumseh. Let Colonel Johnson have the credit of it."

*. Early on the 7th, General Harrison left the army under the command of Governor Shelby, and returned to Detroit. His report of the battle was dated on the 9th. The army did not reach Sandwich, opposite Detroit, until the 10th.

The Razor Straps
A gentleman* who traveled with several hundred mounted Kentuckians from headquarters at Franklinton (now Columbus), Ohio, through Maysville to Lexington, Kentucky, when they were returning home after the battle of the Thames, says they informed him that Tecumseh was not in the battle; they all believed it, and had not heard of his death. They told him of strips of skin for razor straps having been cut by somebody from the body of an Indian chief, but all denied having any. It was a mortifying fact, too disgraceful to be acknowledged or justified. If any in the regiments thus traveling together were guilty, they were ashamed to have it known.

Presentiments
Colonel Wm. Whitley, on the night before the battle, occupied the same tent with an old neighbor and friend, to whom he told his presentiment that he would be killed in the coming engagement, and urged him, but in vain, to have his scalp taken back to his wife, Esther, in Kentucky. He fell in the action, and was buried in his blanket on the bank of the Thames. [See sketch under Whitley County.] The biographer of Tecumseh records a similar presentiment; he, too, entered the battle of the Thames with a strong conviction that he should not survive it. The retreat of Proctor was against his judgment, and he deemed further flight disgraceful, yet had little hope of victory in the impending action. Colonel Whitley was 64, but Tecumseh only 43 years of age.

The Forlorn Hope spoken of above was composed of 20 men. The command was given by Col. Johnson to his old friend Col. Wm. Whitley, who thus addressed his Spartan band: "Boys, we have been selected to second our colonel in the charge; act well your part; recollect the watch-word Victory or Death!" Lieut. Logan; a young printer named Mansfield; Joseph Taylor; Benj. Chambers, a member of the Kentucky legislature; Dr. Samuel Theobald; Robert Payne; Wm. Webb; Garret Wall, forage-master; Eli Short, assistant deputy quarter master; made 10 of the band. The names of the other 10 we have not ascertained. The five last named, and Colonel Johnson, survived the terrible ordeal; most, if not all, of the other 15 were killed in the charge or died of wounds.

*. Wm. A. Adams, Esq., formerly of Columbus, Ohio, now (February 15, 1873), of Newport, Kentucky.


Source: History of Kentucky, Volume II, by Lewis Collins, Published by Collins & Company,
Covington, Kentucky, 1874



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