Steamboat Adventure
Made possible by the Rivers Institute and the History Department of Hanover College.

Relations between Native Americans and Euro-Americans


The steamboat New Orleans' 1811-1812  trip down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans marked a turning point in the Transportation Revolution.  After the New Orleans showed that it could be done, steamboats proliferated on the Ohio and the Mississippi and their tributaries.  Steamboat traffic helped create a national economy, opening markets for farm goods and drawing people and commerce to cities along the rivers.  The New Orleans passed through territory occupied mostly by Native Americans, and the items below provide context for understanding Indian-white relations of that time.  Readers should note that these primary sources were created by Euro-Americans and thus reflect their perspectives and attitudes. Also note that newspaper editors often reprinted stories that had appeared earlier elsewhere.

Throughout what is now the Midwest, Native Americans resented the settlers who were encroaching on their land; and unsympathetic settlers fueled that resentment.  The Shawnee war chief Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa (known to Euro-Americans as the Prophet) organized Indian unity and resistence.  Tensions between the Americans and British were also high and would soon break out as the War of 1812.  To that end, the British recruited Indian allies and encouraged conflict between Native Americans and American settlers.  While the Roosevelts were in Louisville waiting for the river to rise, they would have heard about Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh and of the Kentucky men who left from Louisville to join William Henry Harrison's men in a show of force against them. Indian-white hostility finally erupted with the Battle of Tippecanoe (near modern Lafayette, Indiana) on November 7,  1811.  The Roosevelts got news of the battle about two weeks later. All this must have made them apprehensive about traveling south through areas controlled by Native Americans.  As it turned out, some were hostile and others were not. (The Roosevelts felt particularly threatened passing through the Chickasaw territory in Tennessee.)

Note: To facilitate keyword searching, I have provided the accepted spelling of native names and tribes in square brackets after their first mention. Otherwise, spelling and naming is as they originally appeared in the primary sources.

News of Indian-White relations (from the Euro-American perspective):

Feb. 8, 1811, Pittsburgh Gazette - Indians retain title to "a large tract of territory" within the state of Ohio but are willing to give it up under some circumstances
Mar. 2, 1811, Western Spy - a narrative about the inevitable spread of Christianity and of white settlers, despite warnings from the  "Prophet of the Alleghany"
Mar. 14, 1811, Louisiana Gazette - detailed "sketches" of Indians in the Louisiana Territory, including Sauk, Fox, Osage, and Shawnee
Mar. 18, 1811, Western Spy - a "descendant of Japhet" argues that biblical prophecy makes inevitable existing relations between Native Americans and Euro-Americans
Mar. 30, 1811, Western Spy - a re-discovered version of "Logan's Lament," a 1774 speech, by the leader of the Mingos, critical of white aggression and cruelty
July 3, 1811Liberty Hall - a poem showing commerce and civilization moving into Indian territory
July 27, 1811, Western Spy - travel unsafe because of Indians "infesting" the Illinois and Louisiana territories
Aug. 3, 1811, Western Sun - editor asserts Indian resistance will increase as Tecumseh, having united northern tribes, travels south to bring more tribes into his confederacy
Aug. 3, 1811, Western Sun - "a very considerable number" from Knox county meet to petition the president to act against Indians organized by Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa
Sept. 18, 1811, Liberty Hall - Gov. William Henry Harrison requests cavalry from Kentucky for "his proposed expedition against the Indians"
Nov. 2, 1811, Louisiana Gazette - August speeches made by Miami leaders respond to rising tensions between settlers and Indians organized by Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa
Nov. 21, 1811, Western Spy - publishers "stop the presses" for this extra edition headlined "War! War! War!" (on the Battle of Tippecanoe)
Nov. 30, 1811, Louisiana Gazette - the newspaper shares travellers reports on the Battle of Tippecanoe and blames the British for Indian aggression
Dec. 7, 1811, Louisiana Gazette - reports on the dead from the Battle of Tippecanoe; also Harrison's men took or destroyed 50 bushels of corn at Prophetstown
Dec. 7, 1811, Louisiana Gazette -  1900 Indians have gathered and threaten Harrison's men; the editor asserts British influence ("the Savages only allies of GREATER Savages")
Dec. 18, 1811, Pennsylvania Gazette - Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks oppose federal roadbuilding
Dec. 20, 1811, Pittsburgh Gazette - Gov. William Henry Harrison is optimistic about the consequences of the Battle of Tippecanoe for white settlers
Dec. 21, 1811, Louisiana Gazette - a song by Joseph Cross on "Harrison's Victory" at the Battle of Tippecanoe
Dec. 21, 1811, Louisiana Gazette - Lt. Vasquez's eyewitness report on the Battle of Tippecanoe
Dec. 27, 1811, Pittsburgh Gazette - Indian Agents report that the Cherokee, Chocktaw, and Creeks "remain quiet and friendly" after the Battle of Tippecanoe
Dec. 28, 1811, Western Spy - the Indian Agent in Fort Wayne reports that chiefs he met with were friendly, and describes Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa
Jan. 18, 1812, Western Spy - reports of Indian aggressiveness, perhaps connected with Tecumseh's southern supporters
Jan. 31, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - a Pittsburgh songwriter offers for sale "a new song" about the Battle of Tippecanoe
Jan. 1, 1812, Liberty Hall - James Knight of Brookville, Indiana Territory, advertises his inn, "at the sign of the Indian Chief"
Jan. 4, 1812, Western Sun - third-hand report on Tenskwatawa and the results of the Battle of Tippecanoe
Jan. 4, 1812, Western Spy - letter from William Henry Harrison on Kickapoo attitudes after the Battle of Tippecanoe
Jan. 4, 1812, Western Spy - William Henry Harrison refuses to meet with the Owl, a Miami chief negotiating for the Kickapoo and Winnebago
Jan. 18, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - the Winnebago retaliate against Americans for the Battle of Tippecanoe
Jan. 22, 1812, Pennsylvania Gazette - third-hand news of Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh
Feb. 1, 1812, Western Spy - report that Tenskwatawa had predicted the earthquake and that "seven Indians were said to have been swallowed up" by it
Feb. 1, 1812, Western Sun- President Madison's report to Congress about the Battle of Tippecanoe
Feb. 1, 1812, Western Sun- William Henry Harrison's detailed report on the Battle of Tippecanoe (about 5000 words)
Feb. 7, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - "hunting Indians" report on the earthquake on the Missouri River but editor discounts their reliability
Feb. 8, 1812, Western Spy - unnamed reports that the Winnebagos are cannibals
Feb. 12, 1812, Centinel - report that Tenskwatawa had predicted the earthquake and that "seven Indians were said to have been swallowed up" by it
Feb. 14, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - "we heard of no lives being lost, except seven Indians, who were shaken into the Mississippi"
Feb. 15, 1812, Western Spy - "I have heard of no white person being lost" but seven "Indians were swollawed up"
Feb. 15, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - the Winnebago "are determined to have revenge" on Americans for the Battle of Tippecanoe
Feb. 19, 1812, Connecticut Courant - William L. Pierce reports on Indian reaction to the earthquake; some were "excessively alarmed and terrified"
Feb. 26, 1812, Liberty Hall - speculation about a volcano near "the great Osage village" west of St. Louis
Mar. 14, 1812, Western Spy - "many Indian towns swallowed up" by the earthquake
Mar. 20, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - "some Indians" discovered a volcano at the head of the Arkansas River in connection with the earthquake
Mar. 21, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - report on various tribes' alignment against or for the United States after the Battle of Tippecanoe (and earthquake news)
Mar. 21, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - the Winnebago attack Fort Madison, with the Potawatomi and Kickapoo expected to join them soon
Apr. 10, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - overview of momentous events in 1811, including the Battle of Tippecanoe
Apr. 11, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - white settlers fire on Potawatomi, Kickapoo, and Chippewa delegates to peace conference
May 16, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - scalping near present-day Seymour, Indiana
May 16, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - the editor argues that "British are the authors of our present difficulties" with Indians who are committing atrocities
May 16, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - Haryman family killed by Indians on the Embarras River, in Illinois Territory
May 23, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - Indians kill whites near Chicago, along the Mississippi River, and in Ohio
May 30, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - Indians kill John M'Gowan, near Vincennes (in present-day Indiana)
May 30, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - Nathan Heald letter to William Wells, reporting on the scalping of Liberty White and John Cardin
May 30, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - John Lalime letter to William Wells, reporting on the scalping of Liberty White and John Cardin
June 13, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - the Chickasaw Indian Factor reports that Indians north of Natchez, Mississippi, support Tenskwatawa against the whites

May 1812, Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal - a "retrospect" of 1811, including the Battle of Tippecanoe and an eulogy for Joseph Hamilton Daveiss

1871, First Steamboat Voyage - Lydia Roosevelt's brother describes a threatened Chickasaw attack on the New Orleans








More about the "Steamboat Adventure" of 1811-1812 --


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Chronology

Spring 1811
Summer 1811
Fall 1811
Winter 1811-1812
Spring 1812

Locations

Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Louisville (Kentucky) and Madison (Indiana Territory)
New Madrid (now in Missouri)
Chickasaw Bluffs (now Memphis)
Natchez
New Orleans

Topics

Nicholas and Lydia Roosevelt
The Transportation Revolution
The Great Comet of 1811
The New Madrid Earthquakes
Indian Relations

Questions or comments -- historians@hanover.edu