Cherokee Phoenix


Published April, 5, 1834

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From the Chicago Democrat


Our last number contained a brief epitome of the early history of Chicago, and promised to continue the subject, and to lay before our readers, the story of the massacre, which took place here in 1812. We have heard various accounts of the different causes which led to this unfortunate event, but the most authentic, as it appears to us, is the one which we subjoin. If we state any circumstance connected with the story, that is not in strict accordance with truth, our columns are open to communications from any of our readers, who are better acquainted with it than ourselves.

Somewhere about the 8th or 9th of August, 1812, Gen. Hall, then occupying Detroit with his army, conceiving the garrison at Chicago as untenable, (or from some other motive not known,) transmitted orders to Capt. Heald, then commanding the post at this place, to evacuate it forthwith and march to Fort Wayne, at the same time instructing him to distribute the provisions and ammunition, that otherwise he would be compelled to leave in the fort among the tribe of Indians in the neighborhood, the better to ensure their friendship, or at least neutrality, upon which there had been before but little reliance. In obedience to these orders, preparations were made for the immediate removal of the troops. The Indians were sent for; some at the distance of 150 miles- They came in great numbers. By the thirteenth of the month, Chicago was filled with several hundred Potawatamies, eagerly and anxiously expecting the promised supplies. At this juncture, Capt. Wells , a bold and daring officer, accompanied by thirty Miami Indians, arrived at the garrison with counter orders from Gen. Hall, that no provisions should be given to the Indians-that everything not needed by the troops should be destroyed. These subsequent orders were carried into effect. On the night following, about 200 rifles were broken, and the fragments, together with provisions and stores of all kinds were thrown into the river. This fact came into the knowledge of the Indians, and the first impulse that actuated them was their most natural passion,

revenge. Indignant at being called from their homes, to a place so far distant, under the hopes of receiving what was promised to them, and then finding that they had come only to be disappointed in their expectations, they formed the design of retaliating for the injuries and insults which they had supposed were designedly practiced upon them. Maintaining as they had previously to this, merely a neutral disposition, it needed but the smallest pretext to rouse them into hostility. That pretext they now considered as held out to them and the young men resolved to make use of it. The chiefs advised and remonstrated, but without effect, and when these were found unavailing, three Indians, Pierish le Clere (at this very time at Chicago) Win-e-mac, or Cartfish (sic), and Mack-kit-tah-puck-ke, or Black Partridge, made their way into the fort at night, and gave information of the exasperation which possessed the Indians, and the designs which they contemplated accomplishing. They further suggested to the officers a way to escape the dangers that threatened them.- They proposed, that it should be held out that the troops had relinquished the idea of moving at all, or at least of some time to come, until they had received further instructions from Gen. Hall, and until then could make no disposition of the stores. But the proposition and the warning were alike unheeded, and on the 15th of the month the post was evacuated, and the troops marched out to commence their destined journey to Fort Wayne. They had proceeded along the beach of the lake, about two or three miles, in perfect order and in supposed security, when all at once the yell of two hundred savage warriors, and the report of as many rifles rang in their years (sic) and the moment after one half of the gallant band of soldiers that had left the fort, lay dead on the beach. The Indians from the first intimation that they were to be disappointed in their expected presents, had kept a watchful eye upon every movement of the troops, and when the latter left the garrison, the former with all the ardor of Indian warriors, took a circuitous route to the lake shore at the place where the event occurred. There the ambuscade was formed directly behind a range of sand hills or bluffs, that rise to a considerable height, and from fifteen to thirty yards from the lake itself. Here the Indians waited until the soldiers arrived. And when within almost reach of the muzzle of their guns, they poured in their deadly fire. A desperate battle ensued. The whites fought like men whose existence depends upon the cast of the moment, and it was only when they found their little band overpowered by numbers, and their comrades reduced to a mere handful, and when indeed it would be worse than madness to longer resist, that they surrendered. Capt. Wells and his party of Miamies were some distance in the rear; they too were not spared. A detachment of Indians attacked them, and those of the Miamies who were not killed at the first discharge, fled in every direction. In addition to the number of soldiers, Lieut. Rounan and the surgeon, Doct. Van Voorher, were killed. Captains Heald and Helmes were severely wounded and taken prisoners. They were conveyed, or rather dragged by the Indians to their wigwams, where after a confinement of more than two months, and a partial recovery of their wounds, Capt.Helmes was released on parole. One of the most daring and adventurous incidents connected with the sequel of this unfortunate tale, is that in which two females were actors and sufferers. The wives of two of the officers, in the midst of the alarm and terror which agitated them, betook themselves to a small boat for refuge, and not only set out on, but actually accomplished in safety, a voyage to Mackinac on the open lake, without a helm or compass to guide or direct them. It was indeed a masterpiece of female heroism.- Immediately after this massacre of the troops, the Indians returned satiated with blood, but their appetite for revenge was unsatisfied, until the fort was in ashes. In this state it remained till 1817, when it was rebuilt by order of the government, and it has ever since remained with but a short interval, a military post of importance.