Notes to Canto First.
It is well known that a few months prior to this unfortunate engagement, the trees of which the American flotilla was formed, were actually standing in their native forests. The whole of their naval force had been captured early in the preceding year, at the reduction of Detroit; of the few vessels which compose it, however, one was subsequently burnt, another retaken. Although it could not be presumed that the enemy were inactive, the utmost surprise was created when early in the month of September, 1813, a fleet of nine sail suddenly appeared off the harbour of Amherstburg, at the head of Lake Erie. Our force had been increased by the addition of the Detroit, a large vessel, which was at that moment, in an unfinished state, and consisted of six barks, two of which alone were of any magnitude. The superiority was therefore decidedly with the enemy, who sailed triumphantly near the port, and fully prepared for action, awaited the moment when the increasing necessities of the Garrison compelled Captain Barclay to weigh anchor, and attempt a communication with the centre division of the Army. This could only be affected by a contest, unfavorable under every circumstance, to the little band of martyrs. They fell certainly, but not without a hard struggle; nor was it until after two hours and a half of incessant cannonading, that the British flag was replaced by that of America.
There was, in fact, but one Commander who escaped the enemys fire. Captain Finnis, who commanded the Queen Charlotte, and Lieut. Garden of the Newfoundland Regt., (acting as Marines) were both killed by the same ball.
The success with which Tecumseh combated their encroachments as on the Wabash, is well known to the Americans. General Harrison, to whom he was always constantly opposed, was candid enough to ascribe to his memory talents and feeling worthy of the most enlightened people.
The tradition handed down by the Indians, and faithfully reported by Mr. Jefferson in his Notes on Virginia, is as follows,"That in ancient times a herd of tremendous animals came to the Bickbone Licks, and began a universal destruction of the bear, deer, elk, buffalo and other animals which had been created for the use of the Indiansthat the Great Man above, looking down and seeing this, was so enraged that he seized his lightnings, descended on the earth, seated himself on a neighboring mountain on a rock, on which his seat and the prints of his feet are still to be seen, and hurled his bolts among them till the whole were slaughtered, except the big bull, who presenting his forehead to the shafts shook them off as they fell; but missing one at length it wounded him in the side, when on springing round he bounded over the Ohio, over the Wabash, the Illinois, and finally over the great lakes where he is living this day." Jeffersons Notes on Virginia.
After various and unsuccessful attempts to bring this expedition to a favorble issue, General Harrison was glad to enter into terms highly advantageous to the Indians. Tecumseh, however, attached little faith to promises so repeatedly violated on the slightest pretext. The event fully justified his expectation.
Notes to Canto Second.
The fort of Michillimakinac captured through stratagem by the Indians in 1763.
Numerous are the instances which might be adduced of Tecumsehs forbearance and clemency towards a fallen foe. War he delighted inhis bleeding country he sought every opportunity to avenge, but cold, deliberate, systematic cruelty was not in his nature; and many an American has been indebted to him for the preservation of life, which but for his prompt and timely interposition had more than tottered on the brink of eternity.
This, though a new figure is, the Author trusts, neither inappropriate nor inexpressive, inasmuch as it conveys an idea of peace and happiness in their most pure and uninterrupted state.
Whenever the Indians return from a successful expedition, a long pole to which are attached the scalps of the slain, is carried by a Warrior, who precedes each tribe to its particular encampment. This Herald of the band, if he may be so called, utters as many prolonged and appalling yells as there are scalps belonging to his immediate party. This done, the whole tribe vociferate one astounding chorus, which rings like the knell of death on the ear of each unhappy captive.
Of the whole of this event as related here, and accompanied by other circumstances revolting to delicacy, the author had the unenviable fortune to be an eye witness. It occurred not however, in consequence of the death of Tecumsehs son, but that of a very fine young Chief, named Logan, who fell in the first affair, which succeeded to the American declaration of war. It is customary with the Indians, when a warrior of any consideration perishes in battle, either to adopt or sacrifice a prisoner. A young man of remarkably fine appearance and faultless symmetry of person, was the unhappy victim destined to appease the manes of the deceased. The remorseless executioner was and old and maiden aunt of Logan, who acquitted herself of the self-imposed task, with traits of innate cruelty, too shocking and almost too incredible to be detailed. Mr. Campbell, in his beautiful and affecting poem of Gertrude of Wyoming, or rather in one of the notes to that work, relates a story, not wholly dissimilar of Brandt, who being wounded in the heel, and suffering much from the consequent pain, went up to an American prisoner engaged at the time in conversation with an officer of rank, and felled him to the earth with a blow from his tomahawk; while to the angry remonstrances of the astonished and indignant witness of the act, he contented himself with cooly replying that he was sorry for, but could not help it, his heel had pained him at the moment, but since the blow had been given he felt considerably relieved.
This anecdote, so perfectly in accordance with the Indian character, has, however, been since denied by a near relative of the celebrated Chieftain.
This last is of course an idea purely poetical; as such therefore, the author trusts the critic will consider it, nor cavil too bitterly against the license of an hypothesis which is in strict conformity with the imposing grandeur of these stupendous countries.
The merciful conduct of Tecumseh, immediately subsequent to the action of the 5th of May, when the batteries were so gallantly stormed and regained from the enemys force under General Clay, has already been fully described in the "Operations of the Right Division."
Note to Canto Third.
This building originally erected for the purposes of council with the Indian Chiefs, had latterly been made to answer alternately as barracks and chapel; and it not unfrequently happened that while the clergyman was deeply engaged in the performance of the service, the eyes of his auditory rested on the relics of an Indian meal hastily removed for the occasion, or wandered to the singular and uncouth devices with which the walls were literally covered; while in the different corners of the building, were to be seen rifles, bows, spears, war-clubs, and all the paraphernalia of savage warfare, mingled with the muskets and accoutrements of the soldiery, many of whom had been thrown into the extensive edifice in default of other accommodation.
Notes to Canto Fourth.
This line is insensibly borrowed from Shakespeares King Henry the Fifth, nor is it any excuse in the author to add that he was regardless at the moment of the plagiarism he had committed, until the circumstance was brought to his recollection by the commentary of another.
To the propensity of this tribe for human food the Author can personally attest. Strolling through the Indian encampment an evening or two after the action of the Miami on the 5th of May 1813, he, in company with another officer, suddenly found himself among a party of Minouminies who were seated round a large fire, above which was suspended their untempting meal. At the surface of the boiling water appeared an offensive scum, and each warrior had his own particular portion attached to a small string, one end of which hung over the edge of the vessel immediately opposite. They stated with evident satisfaction, that it was an American, and extended their invitation to the Author and his companion, who to conceal their loathing, while declining the honor, were prudent enough to dress their countenances in a forced smile, which but ill accorded with the state of their feelings. It would have been unwise to have manifested their disgust.