After the Battle of Fort Harrison, Indian raids increased all across Indiana. Fort Wayne, at what was to become our state’s second largest city, was the scene of a long siege and a number of settlers killed or wounded. General William Henry Harrison now in command of the Northwestern U.S. Army was determined to end these hostilities in the Fort Wayne area so he organized a large force of troops to try and put an end to this Indian threat.
Colonel John Campbell was to command this body of troops which would include some of the most elite troops in Harrison’s army. There would be Colonel Semrade’s regiment of Kentucky Light Dragoons led by Major James Ball, three companies of mounted infantry with 158 men under Captain John Alexander, these men were Pennsylvania volunteers, also men from the Pittsburg Blues, and finally a company of the 19th U.S. Infantry would make up Campbell’s force. The army totaled 787 officers and men and all were mounted. It was indeed an impressive strike force. The army left Franklinton, Ohio, on Nov. 15, 1812, and began its march westward. On Dec. 14 it crossed the Indian line in present day Randolph County, then it rode into Delaware and Grant counties.
The weather had turned cold and snow was on the ground. Several Indian villages were in this area and the object was to attack and burn out the villages and kill all the men they could find. The problem was most if not all of these Indian towns had not taken part in any of the hostilities that had occurred. As so often occurred, an Indian peaceful or hostile was someone to be attacked and killed if they resisted. The white army moved along the banks of the Mississinewa River when suddenly four Indians materialized out of the morning fog. The Indians were the first to react. They turned and rode away to sound the alarm. It was three miles to their village of Mumsee. These Delawares were led by Chief Metocinyah. This was a peaceful village and most of the men were away hunting. Seeing the village ahead Campbell exalted his troops, formed them into a line and then charged into the startled Indians. There was only a dozen or so braves still in the village and you can imagine what the Indians thought when they saw almost 800 mounted troops charging into their village. The handful of braves tried to defend the village and allow the women and children to escape across the frozen river. As can be expected it was a hard but fierce firefight which allowed most of the women and children to escape. All the braves as can be expected were killed, but they did kill two of the attacking troops and wounded several others before they were gunned down.
While most of the women and children did manage to escape, all but 42 were hunted down and taken as prisoners. Grilling the prisoners Campbell learned that there were three other villages on down the Mississinewa. All were non-hostile, including that of Silver Heels who was a friend of Harrison and did his utmost to keep his young men from joining the hostiles. One of the Indians who had managed to escape, Metocinyah, reached the downstream villages before Campbell’s troops could arrive and warned the downstream Indians, so they fled before the troops could arrive. Finding the villages deserted Campbell gave the order to burn down the towns and destroy everything in them including the food the Indians needed to survive the long cold winter.
This was Campbell’s first command and he was shaken by the defense of a dozen braes facing hundreds of attacking white soldiers. His troops were already beginning to show the effects of the cold weather and at evening roll call almost 70 already had frostbitten hands or feet. Campbell knew there were still more villages in the vicinity, but he decided to go into camp for the night and see what the morning would be like. He would soon learn, as we shall see in the account of the Battle of Mississinewa in my next column.