The Old Northwest, A Chronicle of the Ohio Valley and Beyond
Frederic Austin Ogg

Part 2 out of 3

At last the Americans had the upper hand. Their arms were feared;
the British promises of help were no longer credited by the
Indians; and it was easy for Wayne to convince the tribal
representatives who visited him in large numbers during the
winter that their true interest was to win the good-will of the
United States. In the summer of 1795 there was a general
pacification. Delegation after delegation arrived at Fort
Greenville, until more than a thousand chiefs and braves were in
attendance. The prestige of Wayne was still further increased
when the news came that John Jay had negotiated a treaty at
London under which the British posts on United States soil were
finally to be given up; and on August 3rd Wayne was able to
announce a great treaty wherein the natives ceded all of what is
now southern Ohio and southeastern Indiana, and numerous tracts
around posts within the Indian country, such as Fort Wayne,
Detroit, and Michilimackinac--strategic points on the western
waterways. "Elder Brother," said a Chippewa chief in the course
of one of the interminable harangues delivered during the
negotiation, "you asked who were the true owners of the land now
ceded to the United States. In answer, I tell you, if any nations
should call themselves the owners of it, they would be guilty of
falsehood; our claim to it is equal; our Elder Brother has
conquered it." The United States duly recognized the Indian title
to all lands not expressly ceded and promised the Indians annual
subsidies. The terms of the treaty were faithfully observed on
both sides, and for fifteen years the pioneer lived and toiled in

Wayne forthwith became a national hero. Returning to Philadelphia
in 1796, he was met by a guard of honor, hailed with the ringing
of bells and a salute of fifteen guns, and treated to a dazzling
display of fireworks. Congress voted its thanks, and Washington,
whose fears had long since vanished, added his congratulations.
There was one other service on the frontier for the doughty
general to render. The British posts were at last to be
surrendered, and Wayne was designated to receive them. By
midsummer he was back in the forest country, and in the autumn he
took possession of Detroit, amid acclamations of Indians,
Americans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen alike. But his work was
done. On the return journey he suffered a renewed attack of his
old enemy, gout, and at Presqu'isle (Erie) he died. A blockhouse
modeled on the defenses which he built during his western
campaign marks his first resting-place and bears aloft the flag
which he helped plant in the heart of the Continent.

Chapter VI. The Great Migration

While the fate of the Northwest still hung in the balance,
emigration from the eastern States became the rage. "Every small
farmer whose barren acres were covered with mortgages, whose
debts pressed heavily upon him, or whose roving spirit gave him
no peace, was eager to sell his homestead for what it would bring
and begin life anew on the banks of the Muskingum or the Ohio."*
Land companies were then just as optimistic and persuasive as
they are today, and the attractions of the western country lost
nothing in the telling. Pamphlets described the climate as
luxurious, the soil as inexhaustible, the rainfall as both
abundant and well distributed, the crops as unfailingly
bountiful; paid agents went among the people assuring them that a
man of push and courage could nowhere be so prosperous and so
happy as in the West.

* McMaster, "History of the People of the United States," vol.
III, p. 461.

As early as 1787 an observer at Pittsburgh reported that in six
weeks he saw fifty flatboats set off for the downriver
settlements; in 1788 forty-five hundred emigrants were said to
have passed Fort Harmar between February and June. Most of these
people were bound for Kentucky or Tennessee. But the census of
1790 gave the population north of the Ohio as 4,280, and after
Wayne's victory the proportion of newcomers who fixed their
abodes in that part of the country rapidly increased. For a
decade Ohio was the favorite goal; and within eight years after
the battle at Fallen Timbers this region was ready for admission
to the Union as a State. Southern Indiana also filled rapidly.

For a time the westward movement was regarded as of no
disadvantage to the seaboard States. It was supposed that the
frontier would attract a population of such character as could
easily be spared in more settled communities. But it became
apparent that the new country did not appeal simply to
broken-down farmers, bankrupts, and ne'er-do-wells. Robust and
industrious men, with growing families, were drawn off in great
numbers; and public protest was raised against the "plots to
drain the East of its best blood." Anti-emigration pamphlets were
scattered broadcast, and, after the manner of the day, the
leading western enterprises were belabored with much bad verse. A
rude cut which gained wide circulation represented a stout,
ruddy, well-dressed man on a sleek horse, with a label, "I am
going to Ohio," meeting a pale and ghastly skeleton of a man, in
rags, on the wreck of what had once been a horse, with the label,
"I have been to Ohio."

The streams of migration flowed from many sources. New England
contributed heavily. Marietta, Cincinnati, and many other rising
river towns received some of the best blood of that remote
section. The Western Reserve--a tract bordering on Lake Erie
which Connecticut had not ceded to the Federal Government--drew
largely from the Nutmeg State. A month before Wayne set out to
take possession of Detroit, Moses Cleaveland with a party of
fifty Connecticut homeseekers started off to found a settlement
in the Reserve; and the town which took its name from the leader
was but the first of a score which promptly sprang up in this
inviting district. The "Seven Ranges," lying directly south of
the Reserve, drew emigrants from Pennsylvania, with some from
farther south. The Scioto valley attracted chiefly Virginians,
who early made Chillicothe their principal center. In the west,
and north of the Symmes tract, Kentuckians poured in by the

Thus in a decade Ohio became a frontier melting-pot. Puritan,
Cavalier, Irishman, Scotch-Irishman, German--all were poured into
the crucible. Ideals clashed, and differing customs grated
harshly. But the product of a hundred years of cross-breeding was
a splendid type of citizenship. At the presidential inaugural
ceremonies of March 4, 1881, six men chiefly attracted the
attention of the crowd: the retiring President, Hayes; the
incoming President, Garfield; the Chief-Justice who administered
the oath, Waite; the general commanding the army, William T.
Sherman; the ex-Secretary of the Treasury, John Sherman; and "the
Marshal Ney of America," Lieutenant-General Sheridan. Five of the
six were natives of Ohio, and the sixth was a lifelong resident.
Men commented on the striking group and rightly remarked that it
could have been produced only by a singularly happy blending of
the ideas and ideals that form the warp and woof of Americanism.

Amalgamation, however, took time; for there were towering
prejudices and antipathies to be overcome. The Yankee scorned the
Southerner, who reciprocated with a double measure of dislike.
The New England settlers were, as a rule, people of some
education; not one of their communities long went without a
schoolmaster. They were pious, law-abiding, industrious; their
more easygoing neighbors were likely to consider them over-
sensitive and critical. But the quality that made most impression
upon others was their shrewdness in business transactions. They
could drive a bargain and could discover loopholes in a contract
in a fashion to take the average backwoodsman off his feet.
"Yankee tricks" became, indeed, a household phrase wherever New
Englander and Southerner met. Whether the Yankee talked or kept
silent, whether he was generous or parsimonious, he was always
under suspicion.

What of the "Long Knives" from Virginia, the Carolinas, and
Kentucky who also made the Ohio lands their goal? Of books they
knew little; they did not name their settlements in honor of
classic heroes. They were not "gentlemen"; many of them, indeed,
had sought the West to escape a society in which distinctions of
birth and possessions had put them at a disadvantage. They were
not so pious as the New Englanders, though they were capable of
great religious enthusiasm, and their morals were probably not
inferior. Their houses were poorer; their villages were not so
well kept; their dress was more uncouth, and their ways rougher.
But they were a hardy folk--brave, industrious, hospitable, and
generous to a fault.

In the first days of westward migration the favorite gateway into
the Ohio Valley was Cumberland Gap, at the southeastern corner of
the present State of Kentucky. Thence the Virginians and
Carolinians passed easily to the Ohio in the region of Cincinnati
or Louisville. Later emigrants from more northern States found
other serviceable routes. Until the opening of the Erie Canal in
1825, New Englanders reached the West by three main avenues. Some
followed the Mohawk and Genesee turnpikes across central New York
to Lake Erie. This route led directly, of course, to the Western
Reserve. Some traveled along the Catskill turnpike from the
Hudson to the headwaters of the Allegheny, and thence descended
the Ohio. Still others went by boat from Boston to New York,
Philadelphia, or Baltimore, in order to approach the Ohio by a
more southerly course.

The natural outlet from Pennsylvania was the Ohio River.
Emigrants from the western parts of the State floated down the
Allegheny or Monongahela to the main stream. Those from farther
east, including settlers from New Jersey, made the journey
overland by one of several well-known roads. The best of these
was a turnpike following the line that General Forbes had cut
during the French and Indian War from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh
by way of Lancaster and Bedford. Baltimore was a favorite point
of departure, and from it the route lay almost invariably along a
turnpike to Cumberland on the upper Potomac, and thence by the
National Road across the mountains to Wheeling. In later days
this was the route chiefly taken from Virginia, although more
southerly passes through the Blue Ridge were used as outlets to
the Great Kanawha, the Big Sandy, and other streams flowing into
the Ohio farther down.

Thus the lines of westward travel which in the East spread
fan-shape from Maine to Georgia converged on the Ohio; and that
stream became, and for half a century remained, the great pathway
of empire. Most of the emigrants had to cover long distances in
overland travel before they reached the hospitable waterway;
some, especially in earlier times, made the entire journey by
land. Hundreds of the very poor went afoot, carrying all their
earthly possessions on their backs, or dragging them in rude
carts. But the usual conveyance was the canvas-covered wagon--
ancestor of the "prairie schooner" of the western plains--drawn
over the rough and muddy roads by four, or even six, horses. In
this vehicle the emigrants stowed their provisions, household
furniture and utensils, agricultural implements, looms, seeds,
medicines, and every sort of thing that the prudent householder
expected to need, and for which he could find space. Extra horses
or oxen sometimes drew an additional load; cattle, and even
flocks of sheep, were occasionally driven ahead or behind by some
member of the family.

In the years of heaviest migration the highways converging on
Pittsburgh and Wheeling were fairly crowded with westward-flowing
traffic. As a rule several families, perhaps from the same
neighborhood in the old home, traveled together; and in any case
the chance acquaintances of the road and of the wayside inns
broke the loneliness of the journey. There were wonderful things
to be seen, and every day brought novel experiences. But exposure
and illness, dread of Indian attacks, mishaps of every sort, and
the awful sense of isolation and of uncertainty of the future,
caused many a man's stout heart to quail, and brought anguish
unspeakable to brave women. Of such joys and sorrows, however, is
a frontier existence compounded; and of the growing thousands who
turned their faces toward the setting sun, comparatively few
yielded to discouragement and went back East. Those who did so
were usually the land speculators and people of weak, irresolute,
or shiftless character.

An English traveler, Morris Birkbeck, who passed over the
National Road through southwestern Pennsylvania in 1817, was
filled with amazement at the number, hardihood, and determination
of the emigrants whom he encountered.

"Old America seems to be breaking up [he wrote] and moving
westward. We are seldom out of sight, as we travel on this grand
track, towards the Ohio, of family groups, behind and before
us.... A small wagon (so light that you might almost carry it,
yet strong enough to bear a good load of bedding, utensils and
provisions, and a swarm of young citizens--and to sustain
marvelous shocks in its passage over these rocky heights) with
two small horses; sometimes a cow or two, comprises their all;
excepting a little store of hard-earned cash for the land office
of the district; where they may obtain a title for as many acres
as they possess half-dollars, being one fourth of the purchase
money. The wagon has a tilt, or cover, made of a sheet, or
perhaps a blanket. The family are seen before, behind, or within
the vehicle, according to the road or the weather, or perhaps the
spirits of the party.... A cart and single horse frequently
affords the means of transfer, sometimes a horse and pack-saddle.
Often the back of the poor pilgrim bears all his effects, and his
wife follows, naked-footed, bending under the hopes of the

* Quoted in Turner, "Rise of the New West," pp. 79-80.

Arrived at the Ohio, the emigrant either engaged passage on some
form of river-craft or set to work to construct with his own
hands a vessel that would bear him and his belongings to the
promised land. The styles of river-craft that appeared on the
Ohio and other western streams in the great era of river
migration make a remarkable pageant. There were canoes, pirogues,
skiffs, rafts, dugouts, scows, galleys, arks, keelboats,
flatboats, barges, "broadhorns," "sneak-boxes," and eventually
ocean-going brigs, schooners, and steamboats. The canoe served
the early explorer and trader, and even the settler whose
possessions had been carried over the Alleghanies on a single
packhorse. But after the Revolution the needs of an awakening
empire led to the introduction of new types of craft, built to
afford a maximum of capacity and safety on a downward voyage,
without regard for the demands of a round trip. The most common
of these one-way vessels was the flatboat.

A flatboat trip down the great river was likely to be filled with
excitement. The sound of the steam-dredge had never been heard on
the western waters, and the streambed was as Nature had made it,
or rather was continually remaking it. Yearly floods washed out
new channels and formed new reefs and sand-bars, while logs and
brush borne from the heavily forested banks continually built new
obstructions. Consequently the sharpest lookout had to be
maintained, and the pilot was both skilful and lucky who
completed his trip without permitting his boat to be caught on a
"planter" (a log immovably fixed in the river bed), entangled in
the branches of overhanging trees, driven on an island, or dashed
on the bank at a bend. Navigation by night and on foggy days was
hazardous in the extreme and was avoided as far as possible. If
all went well, the voyage from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati could be
completed in six or eight days; but delays might easily extend
the period to a month.

One grave danger has not been mentioned--the Indians. From the
moment when the slow-moving flatboat passed beyond the protection
of a white settlement, it was liable to be fired on, by day or by
night, by redskins; and the better-built boats were so
constructed as to be at least partially bullet-proof. Sometimes
extra timber was used to give safety; sometimes the cargo was
specially placed with that aim in view. The Indians rarely went
beyond the water's edge. Their favorite ruse was to cause captive
or renegade whites to run along the bank imploring to be saved.
When a boat had been decoyed to shore, and perhaps a landing had
been made, the savages would pour a murderous fire on the
voyagers. This practice became so common that pioneer boats
"shunned the whites who hailed them from the shores as they would
have shunned the Indians," and as a consequence many whites
escaping from the Indians in the interior were refused succor and
left to die.

When the flatboat reached its destination, it might find service
as a floating store, or even as a schoolhouse. But it was likely
to be broken up, so that the materials in it could be used for
building purposes. Before sawmills became common, lumber was a
precious commodity, and hundreds of pioneer cabins in the Ohio
Valley were built partly or wholly of the boards and timbers
taken from the flatboats of their owners. Even the "gunnels" were
sometimes used in Cincinnati as foundations for houses. In later
days the flatboat, if in reasonably good condition, was not
unlikely to be sold to persons engaged in trading down the
Mississippi. Loaded with grain, flour, meats, and other backwoods
products, it would descend to Natchez or New Orleans, where its
cargo could be transferred to ocean-going craft. But in any case
its end was the same; for it would not have been profitable, even
had it been physically possible, to move the heavy, ungainly
craft upstream over long distances, in order to keep it
continuously in service.

Chapter VII. Pioneer Days And Ways

Arrived on the lower Ohio, or one of its tributaries, the pioneer
looked out upon a land of remarkable riches. It was not a Mexico
or a Peru, with emblazoned palaces and glittering temples, nor
yet a California, with gold-flecked sands. It was merely an
unending stretch of wooded hills and grassy plains, bedecked with
majestic forests and fructifying rivers and lakes. It had no
treasures save for the man of courage, industry, and patience;
but for such it held home, broad acres, liberty, and the coveted
opportunity for social equality and advancement.

The new country has been commonly thought of, and referred to by
writers on the history of the West, as a "wilderness"; and
offhand, one might suppose that the settlers were obliged
literally to hew their way through densely grown vegetation to
the spots which they selected for their homes. In point of fact,
there were great areas of upland--not alone in the prairie
country of northern Indiana and Illinois, but in the hilly
regions within a hundred miles of the Ohio--that were almost
treeless. On these unobstructed stretches grasses grew in
profusion; and here roamed great herds of herbivorous
animal-kind--deer and elk, and also buffalo, "filing in grave
procession to drink at the rivers, plunging and snorting among
the rapids and quicksands, rolling their huge bulk on the grass,
rushing upon each other in hot encounter, like champions under
shield." Along the watercourses ducks, wild geese, cranes,
herons, and other fowl sounded their harsh cries; gray squirrels,
prairie chickens, and partridges the hunter found at every turn.

Furthermore, the forests, as a rule, were not difficult to
penetrate. The trees stood thick, but deer paths, buffalo roads,
and Indian trails ramified in all directions, and sometimes were
wide enough to allow two or three wagons to advance abreast.
Mighty poplars, beeches, sycamores, and "sugars" pushed to great
heights in quest of air and sunshine, and often their
intertwining branches were locked solidly together by a heavy
growth of grape or other vines, producing a canopy which during
the summer months permitted scarcely a ray of sunlight to reach
the ground. There was, therefore, a notable absence of
undergrowth. When a tree died and decayed, it fell apart
piecemeal; it was with difficulty that woodsmen could wrest a
giant oak or poplar from its moorings and bring it to the ground,
even by severing the trunk completely at the base. Here and there
a clean swath was cut through a forest, for perhaps dozens of
miles, by a hurricane. This gave opportunity for the growth of a
thicket of bushes and small trees, and such spots were equally
likely to be the habitations of wild beasts and the hiding-places
of warlike bands of redskins.

There were always adventurous pioneers who scorned the
settlements and went off with their families to fix their abodes
in isolated places. But the average newcomer preferred to find a
location in, or reasonably near, a settlement. The choice of a
site, whether by a company of immigrants wishing to establish a
settlement or by an individual settler, was a matter of much
importance. Some thought must be given to facilities for
fortification against hostile natives. There must be an adequate
supply of drinking-water; and the location of innumerable pioneer
dwellings was selected with reference to free-flowing springs.
Pasture land for immediate use was desirable; and of course the
soil must be fertile. As a rule, the settler had the alternative
of establishing himself on the lowlands along a stream and
obtaining ground of the greatest productiveness, with the almost
certain prospect of annual attacks of malaria, or of seeking the
poorer but more healthful uplands. The attractions of the
"bottoms" were frequently irresistible, and the "ague" became a
feature of frontier life almost as inevitable as the proverbial
"death and taxes."

The site selected, the next task was to clear a few acres of
ground where the cabin was to stand. It was highly desirable to
have a belt of open land as a protection against Indians and wild
beasts; besides, there must be fields cleared for tillage. If the
settler had neighbors, he was likely to have their aid in cutting
away the densest growth of trees, and in raising into position
the heavy timbers which formed the framework and walls of his
cabin. Splendid oaks, poplars, and sycamores were cut into
convenient lengths, and such as could not be used were rolled
into great heaps and burned. Before sawmills were introduced
lumber could not be manufactured; afterwards, it became so
plentiful as to have small market value.

Almost without exception the frontier cabins had log walls; and
they were rarely of larger size than single lengths would permit.
On an average, they were twelve or fourteen feet wide and fifteen
or eighteen feet long. Sometimes they were divided into two
rooms, with an attic above; frequently there was but one room
"downstairs." The logs were notched together at the corners, and
the spaces between them were filled with moss or clay or covered
with bark. Rafters were affixed to the uppermost logs, and to one
another, with wooden pins driven through auger holes. In earliest
times the roof was of bark; later on, shingles were used,
although nails were long unknown, and the shingles, after being
laid in rows, were weighted down with straight logs.

Sometimes there was only an earth floor. But as a rule
"puncheons," i.e., thick, rough boards split from logs, were laid
crosswise on round logs and were fastened with wooden pins. There
was commonly but a single door, which was made also of puncheons
and hung on wooden hinges. A favorite device was to construct the
door in upper and lower sections, so as to make it possible, when
there came a knock or a call from the outside, to respond without
offering easy entrance to an unwelcome visitor. In the days when
there was considerable danger of Indian attacks no windows were
constructed, for the householder could defend only one aperture.
Later, square holes which could be securely barred at night and
during cold weather were made to serve as windows. Flat pieces of
sandstone, if they could be found, were used in building the
great fireplace; otherwise, thick timbers heavily covered with
clay were made to serve. In scarcely a cabin was there a trace of
iron or glass; the whole could be constructed with only two
implements--an ax and an auger.

Occasionally a family carried to its new home some treasured bits
of furniture; but the difficulty of transportation was likely to
be prohibitive, and as a rule the cabins contained only such
pieces of furniture as could be fashioned on the spot. A table
was made by mounting a smoothed slab on four posts, set in auger
holes. For seats short benches and three-legged stools,
constructed after the manner of the tables, were in common use.
Cooking utensils, food-supplies, seeds, herbs for medicinal
purposes, and all sorts of household appliances were stowed away
on shelves, made by laying clapboards across wooden pins driven
into the wall and mounting to the ceiling; although after sawed
lumber came into use it was a matter of no great difficulty to
construct chests and cupboards. Not infrequently the settler's
family slept on bear skins or blankets stretched on the floor.
But crude bedsteads were made by erecting a pole with a fork in
such a manner that other poles could be supported horizontally in
this fork and by crevices in the walls. Split boards served as
"slats" on which the bedding was spread. For a long time
"straw-ticks"--large cloth bags filled with straw or sometimes
dry grass or leaves--were articles of luxury. Iron pots and
knives were necessities which the wise householder carried with
him from his eastern or southern home. In the West they were hard
to obtain. The chief source of supply was the iron-manufacturing
districts of Pennsylvania and Virginia, whence the wares were
carried to the entrepots of river trade by packhorses. The
kitchen outfit of the average newcomer was completed with a few
pewter dishes, plates, and spoons. But winter evenings were
utilized in whittling out wooden bowls, trenchers, and noggins or
cups, while gourds and hard-shelled squashes were turned to
numerous uses. The commonest drinking utensil was a long-handled

The dress of the pioneer long remained a curious cross between
that of the Indians and that of the white people of the older
sections. In earlier times the hunting-shirt--made of linsey,
coarse nettle-bark linen, buffalo-hair, or even dressed
deerskins--was universally worn by the men, together with
breeches, leggings, and moccasins. The women and children were
dressed in simple garments of linsey. In warm weather they went
barefooted; in cold, they wore moccasins or coarse shoes.

Rarely was there lack of food for these pioneer families. The
soil was prodigal, and the forests abounded in game. The piece de
resistance of the backwoods menu was "hog an' hominy"; that is to
say, pork served with Indian corn which, after being boiled in
lye to remove the hulls, had been soaked in clear water and
cooked soft. "Johnny cake" and "pone"--two varieties of
cornbread--were regularly eaten at breakfast and dinner. The
standard dish for supper was cornmeal mush and milk. As cattle
were not numerous, the housewife often lacked milk, in which case
she fell back on her one never-failing resource--hominy; or she
served the mush with sweetened water, molasses, the gravy of
fried meat, or even bear's oil. Tea and coffee were long unknown,
and when introduced they were likely to be scorned by the men as
"slops" good enough perhaps for women and children. Vegetables
the settlers grew in the garden plot which ordinarily adjoined
the house, and thrifty families had also a "truck patch" in which
they raised pumpkins, squashes, potatoes, beans, melons, and corn
for "roasting ears." The forests yielded game, as well as fruits
and wild grapes, and honey for sweetening.

The first quality for which the life of the frontier called was
untiring industry. It was possible, of course, to eke out an
existence by hunting, fishing, petty trading, and garnering the
fruits which Nature supplied without man's assistance. And many
pioneers in whom the roving instinct was strong went on from year
to year in this hand-to-mouth fashion. But the settler who
expected to be a real home-builder, to gain some measure of
wealth, to give his children a larger opportunity in life, must
be prepared to work, to plan, to economize, and to sacrifice. The
forests had to be felled; the great logs had to be rolled
together and burned; crops of maize, tobacco, oats, and cane
needed to be planted, cultivated, and harvested; live-stock to be
housed and fed; fences and barns to be built; pork, beef, grain,
whiskey, and other products to be prepared for market, and
perhaps carried scores of miles to a place of shipment.

All these things had to be done under conditions of exceptional
difficulty. The settler never knew what night his place would be
raided by marauding redskins, who would be lenient indeed if they
merely carried off part of his cattle or burned his barn. Any
morning he might peer out of the "port hole" above the cabin door
to see skulking figures awaiting their chance. Sickness, too, was
a menace and a terror. Picture the horrors of isolation in times
of emergency--wife or child suddenly taken desperately ill, and
no physician within a hundred miles; husband or son hovering
between life and death as the result of injury by a falling tree,
a wild beast, a venomous snake, an accidental gun-shot, or the
tomahawk of a prowling Indian. Who shall describe the anxiety,
the agony, which in some measure must have been the lot of every
frontier family? The prosaic illnesses of the flesh were
troublesome enough. On account of defective protection for the
feet in wet weather, almost everybody had rheumatism; most
settlers in the bottom-lands fell victims to fever and ague at
one time or another; even in the hill country few persons wholly
escaped malarial disorders. "When this home-building and land-
clearing is accomplished," wrote one whose recollections of the
frontier were vivid, "a faithful picture would reveal not only
the changes that have been wrought, but a host of prematurely
brokedown men and women, besides an undue proportion resting
peacefully in country graveyards."

The frontiersman's best friend was his trusty rifle. With it he
defended his cabin and his crops from marauders, waged warfare on
hostile redskins, and obtained the game which formed an
indispensable part of his food supply. At first the gun chiefly
used on the border was the smooth-bored musket. But toward the
close of the eighteenth century a gunsmith named Deckhard, living
at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, began making flintlock rifles of
small bore, and in a short time the "Deckhard rifle" was to be
found in the hands of almost every backwoodsman. The barrel was
heavy and from three feet to three feet and a half in length, so
that the piece, when set on the ground, reached at least to the
huntsman's shoulder. The bore was cut with twisting grooves, and
was so small that seventy bullets were required to weigh a pound.
In loading, a greased linen "patch" was wrapped around the
bullet; and only a small charge of powder was needed. The grin
was heavy to carry and difficult to hold steadily upon a target;
but it was economical of ammunition, and in the hands of the
strong-muscled, keen-eyed, iron-nerved frontiersman it was an
exceedingly accurate weapon, at all events within the ordinary
limits of forest ranges. He was a poor marksman who could not
shoot running deer or elk at a distance of one hundred and fifty
yards, and kill ducks and geese on the wing; and "boys of twelve
hung their heads in shame if detected in hitting a squirrel in
any other part of the body than its head."

Life on the frontier was filled with hard work, danger, and
anxiety. Yet it had its lighter side, and, indeed, it may be
doubted whether people anywhere relished sport more keenly or
found more pleasure in their everyday pursuits. The occasional
family without neighbors was likely to suffer from loneliness.
But few of the settlers were thus cut off, and as a rule
community life was not only physically possible but highly
developed. Many were the opportunities that served to bring
together the frontiersmen, with their families, throughout a
settlement or county. Foremost among such occasions were the

After a settler had felled the thick-growing trees on a plot
which he desired to prepare for cultivation, he cut them, either
by sawing or by burning, into logs twelve or fifteen feet in
length. Frequently these were three, four, or even five feet in
diameter, so that they could not be moved by one man, even with a
team of horses. In such a situation, the settler would send word
to his neighbors for miles around that on a given day there would
be a log-rolling at his place; and when the day arrived six, or a
dozen, or perhaps a score, of sturdy men, with teams of horses
and yokes of oxen, and very likely accompanied by members of
their families, would arrive on the scene with merry shouts of
anticipation. By means of handspikes and chains drawn by horses
or oxen, the great timbers were pushed, rolled, and dragged into
heaps, and by nightfall the field lay open and ready for the
plough--requiring, at the most, only the burning of the huge
piles that had been gathered.

Without loss of time the fires were started; and as darkness came
on, the countryside glowed as with the light of a hundred huge
torches. The skies were reddened, and as a mighty oak or poplar
log toppled and fell to the ground, showers of sparks lent the
scene volcanic splendor. Bats and owls and other dim-eyed
creatures of the night flew about in bewilderment, sometimes
bumping hard against fences or other objects, sometimes plunging
madly into the flames and contributing to the general holocaust.
For days the great fires were kept going, until the last remnants
of this section of the once imposing forest were consumed; while
smoke hung far out over the country, producing an atmospheric
effect like that of Indian summer.

Heavy exertion called for generous refreshment, and on these
occasions the host could be depended on to provide an abundance
of food and drink. The little cabin could hardly be made to
accommodate so many guests, even in relays. Accordingly, a long
table was constructed with planks and trestles in a shady spot,
and at noon--and perhaps again in the evening--the women folk
served a meal which at least made up in "staying qualities" what
it lacked in variety or delicacy. The principal dish was almost
certain to be "pot-pie," consisting of boiled turkeys, geese,
chickens, grouse, veal, or venison, with an abundance of
dumplings. This, with cornbread and milk, met the demands of the
occasion; but if the host was able to furnish a cask of rum, his
generosity was thoroughly appreciated.

In the autumn, corn-huskings were a favorite form of diversion,
especially for the young people; and in the early spring
neighbors sometimes came together to make maple sugar. A wedding
was an important event and furnished diversion of a different
kind. From distances of twenty and thirty miles people came to
attend the ceremony, and often the festivities extended over two
or three days. Even now there was work to be done; for as a rule
the neighbors organized a house-building "bee," and before
separating for their homes they constructed a cabin for the newly
wedded pair, or at all events brought it sufficiently near
completion to be finished by the young husband himself.

Even after a day of heavy toil at log-rolling, the young men and
boys bantered one another into foot races, wrestling matches,
shooting contests, and other feats of strength or skill. And if a
fiddler could be found, the day was sure to end with a
"hoe-down"--a dance that "made even the log-walled house
tremble." No corn-husking or wedding was complete without
dancing, although members of certain of the more straitlaced
religious sects already frowned upon the diversion.

Rough conditions of living made rough men, and we need not be
surprised by the testimony of English and American travelers,
that the frontier had more than its share of boisterous fun,
rowdyism, lawlessness, and crime. The taste for whiskey was
universal, and large quantities were manufactured in rude stills,
not only for shipment down the Mississippi, but for local
consumption. Frequenters of the river-town taverns called for
their favorite brands--"Race Horse," "Moral Suasion," "Vox
Populi," "Pig and Whistle," or "Split Ticket," as the case might
be. But the average frontiersman cared little for the niceties of
color or flavor so long as his liquor was cheap and produced the
desired effect. Hard work and a monotonous diet made him
continually thirsty; and while ordinarily he drank only water and
milk at home, at the taverns and at social gatherings he often
succumbed to potations which left him in happy drunken
forgetfulness of daily hardships. House-raisings and weddings
often became orgies marked by quarreling and fighting and
terminating in brutal and bloody brawls. Foreign visitors to the
back country were led to comment frequently on the number of men
who had lost an eye or an ear, or had been otherwise maimed in
these rough-and-tumble contests.

The great majority of the frontiersmen, however, were sober,
industrious, and law-abiding folk; and they were by no means
beyond the pale of religion. On account of the numbers of Scotch-
Irish, Presbyterianism was in earlier days the principal creed.
although there were many Catholics and adherents of the Reformed
Dutch and German churches, and even a few Episcopalians. About
the beginning of the nineteenth century sectarian ascendancy
passed to the Methodists and Baptists, whose ranks were rapidly
recruited by means of one of the most curious and characteristic
of backwoods institutions, the camp-meeting "revival." The years
1799 and 1800 brought the first of the several great waves of
religious excitement by which the West--especially Ohio, Indiana,
Kentucky, and Tennessee was periodically swept until within the
memory of men still living.

Camp-meetings were usually planned and managed by Methodist
circuit-riders or Baptist itinerant preachers, who hesitated not
to carry their work into the remotest and most dangerous parts of
the back country. When the news went abroad that such a meeting
was to take place, people flocked to the scene from far and near,
in wagons, on horseback, and on foot. Pious men and women came
for the sake of religious fellowship and inspiration; others not
so pious came from motives of curiosity, or even to share in the
rough sport for which the scoffers always found opportunity. The
meeting lasted days, and even weeks; and preaching, praying,
singing, "testifying," and "exhorting" went on almost without
intermission. "The preachers became frantic in their
exhortations; men, women, and children, falling as if in
catalepsy, were laid out in rows. Shouts, incoherent singing,
sometimes barking as of an unreasoning beast, rent the air.
Convulsive leaps and dancing were common; so, too, 'jerking,'
stakes being driven into the ground to jerk by, the subjects of
the fit grasping them as they writhed and grimaced in their
contortions. The world, indeed, seemed demented."* Whole
communities sometimes professed conversion; and it was considered
a particularly good day's work when notorious disbelievers or
wrong-doers--"hard bats," in the phraseology of the frontier--or
gangs of young rowdies whose only object in coming was to commit
acts of deviltry, succumbed to the peculiarly compelling
influences of the occasion.

* Hosmer, "Short History of the Mississippi Valley," p. 116.

In this sort of religion there was, of course, much wild
emotionalism and sheer hysteria; and there were always people to
whom it was repellent. Backsliders were numerous, and the person
who "fell from grace" was more than likely to revert to his
earlier wickedness in its grossest forms. None the less, in a
rough, unlearned, and materialistic society such spiritual
shakings-up were bound to yield much permanent good. Most western
people, at one time or another, came under the influence of the
Methodist and Baptist revivals; and from the men and women who
were drawn by them to a new and larger view of life were
recruited the hundreds of little congregations whose
meeting-houses in the course of time dotted the hills and plains
from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi. As for the hard-working,
honest-minded frontier preachers who braved every sort of danger
in the performance of their great task, the West owes them an
eternal debt of gratitude. In the words of Roosevelt, "their
prejudices and narrow dislikes, their raw vanity and sullen
distrust of all who were better schooled than they, count for
little when weighed against their intense earnestness and heroic

Nor was education neglected. Many of the settlers, especially
those who came from the South, were illiterate. But all who made
any pretense of respectability were desirous of giving their
children an opportunity to learn to read and write. Accordingly,
wherever half a dozen families lived reasonably close together, a
log schoolhouse was sure to be found. In the days before public
funds existed for the support of education the teachers were paid
directly, and usually in produce, by the patrons. Sometimes a
wandering pedagogue would find his way into a community and,
being engaged to give instruction for two or three months during
the winter, would "board around" among the residents and take
such additional pay as he could get. More often, some one of the
settlers who was fortunate enough to possess the rudiments of an
education undertook the role of schoolmaster in the interval
between the autumn corn-gathering and the spring ploughing and

Instruction rarely extended beyond the three R's; but
occasionally a newcomer who had somewhere picked up a smattering
of algebra, Latin, or astronomy stirred the wonder, if not also
the suspicion, of the neighborhood. Schoolbooks were few and
costly; crude slates were made from pieces of shale; pencils were
fashioned from varicolored soapstone found in the beds of small
streams. No frontier picture is more familiar or more pleasing
than that of the farmer's boy sitting or lying on the floor
during the long winter evening industriously tracing by firelight
or by candlelight the proverb or quotation assigned him as an
exercise in penmanship, or wrestling with the intricacies of
least common denominators and highest common divisors. It is in
such a setting that we get our first glimpse of the greatest of
western Americans, Abraham Lincoln.

Chapter VIII. Tecumseh

Wayne's victory in 1795, followed by the Treaty of Fort
Greenville, gave the Northwest welcome relief from Indian
warfare, and within four years the Territory was ready to be
advanced to the second of the three grades of government provided
for it in the Ordinance of 1787. A Legislature was set up at
Cincinnati, and in due time it proceeded to the election of a
delegate to Congress. Choice fell on a young man whose name was
destined to a permanent place in the country's history. William
Henry Harrison was the son of a signer of the Declaration of
Independence, the scion of one of Virginia's most honored
families. Entering the army in 1791, he had served as an
aide-de-camp to Wayne in the campaign which ended at Fallen
Timbers, and at the time of his election was acting as Secretary
of the Territory and ex-officio Lieutenant-Governor.

Although but twenty-six years of age, and without a vote in the
House of Representatives, Harrison succeeded in procuring from
Congress in 1800 an act dividing the Territory into two distinct
"governments," separated by the old Greenville treaty line as far
as Fort Recovery and then by a line running due north to the
Canadian boundary. The division to the east was named Ohio, that
to the west Indiana; and Harrison was made Governor of the
latter, with his residence at Vincennes. In 1802 the development
of the back country was freshly emphasized by the admission of
Ohio as a State.

Meanwhile the equilibrium between the white man and the red again
became unstable. In the Treaty of 1795 the natives had ceded only
southern Ohio, southeastern Indiana, and a few other small and
scattered areas. Northward and westward, their country stretched
to the Lakes and the Mississippi, unbroken except by military
posts and widely scattered settlements; and title to all of this
territory had been solemnly guaranteed. As late as 1800 the white
population of what is now Indiana was practically confined to
Clark's Grant, near the falls of the Ohio, and a small region
around Vincennes. It numbered not more than twenty-five hundred
persons. But thereafter immigration from the seaboard States, and
from the nearer lands of Kentucky and Tennessee, set in on a new
scale. By 1810 Indiana had a white population of twenty-five
thousand, and the cabins of the energetic settlers dotted river
valleys and hillsides never before trodden by white man.

In this new rush of pioneers the rights of the Indians received
scant consideration. Hardy and well-armed Virginians and
Kentuckians broke across treaty boundaries and possessed
themselves of fertile lands to which they had no valid claim.
White hunters trespassed far and wide on Indian territory, until
by 1810 great regions, which a quarter of a century earlier
abounded in deer, bear, and buffalo, were made as useless for
Indian purposes as barren wastes. Although entitled to the
protection of law in his person and property, the native was
cheated and overawed at every turn; he might even be murdered
with impunity. Abraham Lincoln's uncle thought it a virtuous act
to shoot an Indian on sight, and the majority of pioneers agreed
with him.

"I can tell at once," wrote Harrison in 1801, "upon looking at an
Indian whom I may chance to meet whether he belongs to a
neighboring or a more distant tribe. The latter is generally
well-clothed, healthy, and vigorous; the former half-naked,
filthy, and enfeebled by intoxication, and many of them without
arms excepting a knife, which they carry for the most villainous
purposes." The stronger tribes perceived quite as clearly as did
the Governor the ruinous effects of contact between the two
peoples, and the steady destruction of the border warriors became
a leading cause of discontent. Congress had passed laws intended
to prevent the sale of spiritucus liquors to the natives, but the
courts had construed these measures to be operative only outside
the bounds of States and organized Territories, and in the great
unorganized Northwest the laws were not heeded, and the ruinous
traffic went on uninterrupted. Harrison reported that when there
were only six hundred warriors on the Wabash the annual
consumption of whiskey there was six thousand gallons, and that
killing each other in drunken brawls had "become so customary
that it was no longer thought criminal."

Most exasperating, however, from the red man's point of view was
the insatiable demand of the newcomers for land. In the years
1803, 1804, and 1805 Harrison made treaties with the remnants of
the Miami, Eel River, Piankeshaw, and Delaware tribes--
characterized by him as "a body of the most depraved wretches on
earth"--which gained for the settlers a strip of territory fifty
miles wide south of White River; and in 1809 he similarly
acquired, by the Treaty of Fort Wayne, three million acres, in
tracts which cut into the heart of the Indian country for almost
a hundred miles up both banks of the Wabash. The Wabash valley
was richer in game than any other region south of Lake Michigan,
and its loss was keenly felt by the Indians. Indeed, it was
mainly the cession of 1809 that brought once more to a crisis the
long-brewing difficulties with the Indians.

About the year 1768 the Creek squaw of a Shawnee warrior gave
birth at one time to three boys, in the vicinity of the present
city of Springfield, Ohio.* One of the three barely left his name
in aboriginal annals. A second, known as Laulewasikaw, "the man
with the loud voice," poses in the pages of history as "the
prophet." The third brother was Tecumseh, "the wild-cat that
leaps upon its prey," or "the shooting star," as the name has
been translated. He is described as a tall, handsome warrior--
daring and energetic, of fluent and persuasive speech, given to
deep reflection, an implacable hater of the white man. Other
qualities he possessed which were not so common among his people.
He had perfect self-command, a keen insight into human motives
and purposes, and an exceptional capacity to frame plans and
organize men to carry them out. His crowning scheme for bringing
together the tribes of the Middle West into a grand democratic
confederacy to regulate land cessions and other dealings with the
whites stamps him as perhaps the most statesmanlike member of his

* Authorities differ as to the facts of Tecumseh's birth. His
earliest biographer, Benjamin Drake, holds that he was "wholly a
Shawanoe" and that he was a fourth child, the Prophet and another
son being twins. William Henry Harrison spoke of Tecumseh's
mother as a Creek.

While yet hardly more than a boy, Tecumseh seems to have been
stirred to deep indignation by the persistent encroachment of the
whites upon the hunting-grounds of his fathers. The cessions of
1804 and 1805 he specially resented, and it is not unlikely that
they clinched the decision of the young warrior to take up the
task which Pontiac had left unfinished. At all events, the plan
was soon well in hand. A less far-seeing leader would have been
content to call the scattered tribes to a momentary alliance with
a view to a general uprising against the invaders. But Tecumseh's
purposes ran far deeper. All of the Indian peoples, of whatever
name or relationships, from the Lakes to the Gulf and from the
Alleghanies to the Rockies, were to be organized in a single,
permanent confederacy. This union, furthermore, was to consist,
not of chieftains, but of the warriors; and its governing body
was to be a warriors' congress, an organ of genuine popular rule.
Joint ownership of all Indian lands was to be assumed by the
confederacy, and the piecemeal cession of territory by petty
tribal chiefs, under pressure of government agents, was to be
made impossible. Only thus, Tecumseh argued, could the red man
hope to hold his own in the uneven contest that was going on.

The plan was brilliant, even though impracticable. Naturally, it
did not appeal instantly to the chieftains, for it took away--
tribal independence and undermined the chieftain's authority.
Besides, its author was not a chief, and had no sanction of birth
or office. Its success was dependent on the building of an
intertribal association such as Indian history had never known.
And while there was nothing in it which contravened the professed
policy of the United States, it ran counter to the irrepressible
tendency of the advancing white population to spread at will over
the great western domain.

By these obstacles Tecumseh was not deterred. With indefatigable
zeal he traveled from one end of the country to the other,
arguing with chiefs, making fervid speeches to assembled
warriors, and in every possible manner impressing his people with
his great idea. The Prophet went with him; and when the orator's
logic failed to carry, conviction, the medicine-man's
imprecations were relied upon to save the day. Events, too,
played into their hands. The Leopard-Chesapeake affair,* in 1807,
roused strong feeling in the West and prompted the
Governor-General of Canada to begin intrigues looking to an
alliance with the redskins in the event of war. And when, late in
the same year, Governor Hull of Michigan Territory indiscreetly
negotiated a new land cession at Detroit, the northern tribes at
once joined Tecumseh's league, muttering threats to slay the
chiefs by whom the cession had been sanctioned.

* See "Jefferson and his Colleagues," by Allen Johnson (in "The
Chronicles of America").

In the spring of 1808 Tecumseh and his brother carried their
plans forward another step by taking up their residence at a
point in central Indiana where Tippecanoe Creek flows into the
Wabash River. The place--which soon got the name of the Prophet's
Town--was almost equidistant from Vincennes, Fort Wayne, and Fort
Dearborn; from it the warriors could paddle their canoes to any
part of the Ohio or the Mississippi, and with only a short
portage, to the waters of the Maumee and the Great Lakes. The
situation was, therefore, strategic. A village was laid out, and
the population was soon numbered by the hundred. Livestock was
acquired, agriculture was begun, the use of whiskey was
prohibited, and every indication was afforded of peaceful intent.

Seasoned frontiersmen, however, were suspicious. Reports came in
that the Tippecanoe villagers engaged daily in warlike exercises;
rumor had it that emissaries of the Prophet were busily stirring
the tribes, far and near, to rebellion. Governor Harrison was not
a man to be easily frightened, but he became apprehensive, and
proposed to satisfy himself by calling Tecumseh into conference.

The interview took place at Vincennes, and was extended over a
period of two weeks. There was a show of firmness, yet of good
will, on both sides. The Governor counseled peace, orderliness,
and industry; the warrior guest professed a desire to be a friend
to the United States, but said frankly that if the country
continued to deal with the tribes singly in the purchase of land
he would be obliged to ally himself with Great Britain. To
Harrison's admonition that the redskins should leave off drinking
whiskey--"that it was not made for them, but for the white
people, who alone knew how to use it"--the visitor replied
pointedly by asking that the sale of liquor be stopped.

Notwithstanding the tenseness of the situation, Harrison
negotiated the land cessions of 1809, which cost the Indians
their last valuable hunting-grounds in Indiana. The powerful
Wyandots promptly joined Tecumseh's league, and war was made
inevitable. Delay followed only because the Government at
Washington postponed the military occupation of the new purchase,
and because the British authorities in Canada, desiring
Tecumseh's confederacy to attain its maximum strength before the
test came, urged the redskins to wait.

For two more years--while Great Britain and the United States
hovered on the brink of war--preparations continued. Tribe after
tribe in Indiana and Illinois elected Tecumseh as their chief,
alliances reached to regions as remote as Florida. In 1810
another conference took place at Vincennes; and this time,
notwithstanding Harrison's request that not more than thirty
redskins should attend, four hundred came in Tecumseh's train,
fully armed.

"A large portico in front of the Governor's house [says a
contemporary account] had been prepared for the purpose with
seats, as well for the Indians as for the citizens who were
expected to attend. When Tecumseh came from his camp, with about
forty of his warriors, he stood off, and on being invited by the
Governor, through an interpreter, to take his seat, refused,
observing that he wished the council to be held under the shade
of some trees in front of the house. When it was objected that it
would be troublesome to remove the seats, he replied that 'it
would only be necessary to remove those intended for the whites--
that the red men were accustomed to sit upon the earth, which was
their mother, and that they were always happy to recline upon her

* James Hall, "Memoir of William Henry Harrison," pp. 113-114.

The chieftain's equivocal conduct aroused fresh suspicion, but he
was allowed to proceed with the oration which he had come to
deliver. Freely rendered, the speech ran, in part, as follows:

"I have made myself what I am; and I would that I could make the
red people as great as the conceptions of my mind, when I think
of the Great Spirit that rules over all. I would not then come to
Governor Harrison to ask him to tear the treaty [of 1809]; but I
would say to him, Brother, you have liberty to return to your own
country. Once there was no white man in all this country: then it
belonged to red men, children of the same parents, placed on it
by the Great Spirit to keep it, to travel over it, to eat its
fruits, and fill it with the same race--once a happy race, but
now made miserable by the white people, who are never contented,
but always encroaching. They have driven us from the great salt
water, forced us over the mountains, and would shortly push us
into the lakes--but we are determined to go no further. The only
way to stop this evil is for all red men to unite in claiming a
common and equal right in the land, as it was at first, and
should be now--for it never was divided, but belongs to all....
Any sale not made by all is not good."

In his reply Harrison declared that the Indians were not one
nation, since the Great Spirit had "put six different tongues
in their heads," and argued that the Indiana lands had been in
all respects properly bought from their rightful owners.
Tecumseh's blood boiled under this denial of his main contention,
and with the cry, "It is false," he gave a signal to his
warriors, who sprang to their feet and seized their war-clubs.
For a moment an armed clash was imminent. But Harrison's cool
manner enabled him to remain master of the situation, and a
well-directed rebuke sent the chieftain and his followers to
their quarters.

On the following morning Tecumseh apologized for his impetuosity
and asked that the conference be renewed. The request was
granted, and again the forest leader pressed for an abandonment
of the policy of purchasing land from the separate tribes.
Harrison told him that the question was for the President, rather
than for, him, to decide. "As the great chief is to determine the
matter," responded the visitor grimly, "I hope the Great Spirit
will put sense enough into his head to induce him to direct you
to give up this land. It is true he is so far off he will not be
injured by the war. He may sit still in his town, and drink his
wine, while you and I will have to fight it out."

Still the clash was averted. Once more, in the summer of 1811,
Tecumseh appeared at Vincennes, and again the deep issue between
the two peoples was threshed out as fruitlessly as before.
Announcing his purpose to visit the southern tribes to unite them
with those of the North in a peaceful confederacy, the chieftain
asked that during his absence all matters be left as they were,
and promised that upon his return he would go to see President
Madison and "settle everything with him."

Naturally, no pledge of the kind was given, and no sooner had
Tecumseh and twenty of his warriors started southward on their
mission to the Creeks than Harrison began preparations to end the
menace that had been so long hanging over the western country.
Troops were sent to Harrison; and volunteers were called for. As
fast as volunteers came in they were sent up to the Wabash to
take possession of the new purchase. Reinforcements arrived from
Pittsburgh and from Kentucky, and in a short while the Governor
was able to bring together at Fort Harrison, near the site of the
present city of Terre Haute, twenty-four companies of regulars,
militia, and Indians, aggregating about nine hundred well-armed

Late in October this army, commanded by Harrison in person, set
forth for the destruction of the Tippecanoe rendezvous. On the
way stray redskins were encountered, but the advance was not
resisted, and to his surprise Harrison was enabled to lead his
forces unmolested to within a few hundred yards of the Prophet's
headquarters. Emissaries now came saying that the invasion was
wholly unexpected, professing peaceful intentions, and asking for
a parley. Harrison had no idea that anything could be settled by
negotiation, but he preferred to wait until the next day to make
an attack; accordingly he agreed to a council, and the army went
into camp for the night on an oak-covered knoll about a mile
northwest of the village. No entrenchments were thrown up, but
the troops were arranged in a triangle to conform to the contour
of the hill, and a hundred sentinels under experienced officers
were stationed around the camp-fires. The night was cold, and
rain fell at intervals, although at times the moon shone brightly
through the flying clouds.

The Governor was well aware of the proneness of the Indians to
early morning attacks, so that about four o'clock on the 7th of
November he rose to call the men to parade. He had barely pulled
on his boots when the forest stillness was broken by the crack of
a rifle at the farthest angle of the camp, and instantly the
Indian yell, followed by a fusillade, told that a general attack
had begun. Before the militiamen could emerge in force from their
tents, the sentinel line was broken and the red warriors were
pouring into the enclosure. Desperate fighting ensued, and when
time for reloading failed, it was rifle butt and bayonet against
tomahawk and scalping knife in hand-to-hand combat. For two hours
the battle raged in the darkness, and only when daylight came
were the troops able to charge the redskins, dislodge them from
behind the trees, and drive them to a safe distance in the
neighboring swamp. Sixty-one of Harrison's officers and men were
killed or mortally wounded; one hundred and twenty-seven others
suffered serious injury. The Governor himself probably owed his
life to the circumstance that in the confusion he mounted a bay
horse instead of his own white stallion, whose rider was shot
early in the contest.

The Indian losses were small, and for twenty-four hours
Harrison's forces kept their places, hourly expecting another
assault. "Night," wrote one of the men subsequently, "found every
man mounting guard, without food, fire, or light and in a
drizzling rain. The Indian dogs, during the dark hours, produced
frequent alarms by prowling in search of carrion about the
sentinels." There being no further sign of hostilities, early on
the 8th of November a body of mounted riflemen set out for the
Prophet's village, which they found deserted. The place had
evidently been abandoned in haste, for nothing--not even a fresh
stock of English guns and powder--had been destroyed or carried
off. After confiscating much-needed provisions and other
valuables, Harrison ordered the village to be burned. Then,
abandoning camp furniture and private baggage to make room in the
wagons for the wounded, he set out on the return trip to
Vincennes. A company was left at Fort Harrison, and the main
force reached the capital on the 18th of November.

Throughout the western country the news of the battle was
received with delight, and it was fondly believed that the
backbone of Tecumseh's conspiracy was broken. It was even
supposed that the indomitable chieftain and his brother would be
forthwith surrendered by the Indians to the authorities of the
United States. Harrison was acclaimed as a deliverer. The
legislatures of Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois formally thanked
him for his services; and if, as his Federalist enemies charged,
he had planned the whole undertaking with a view to promoting his
personal fortunes, he ought to have been satisfied with the
result. It was the glamour of Tippecanoe that three decades
afterwards carried him into the President's chair.

In precipitating a clash while Tecumseh, the master-mind of the
fast-growing confederacy, was absent, the Prophet committed a
capital blunder. When reproached by his warriors, he declared
that all would have gone well but for the fact that on the night
before the battle his squaw had profanely touched the pot in
which his magic charms were brewed, so that the spell had been
broken! The explanation was not very convincing, and ominous
murmurings were heard. Before the end of the year, however, word
came to Vincennes that the crafty magician was back at
Tippecanoe, that the village had been rebuilt, and that the lives
of the white settlers who were pouring into the new purchase were
again endangered.

Still more alarming was the news of Tecumseh's return in January,
1812, from a very successful visit to the Creeks, Choctaws, and
Cherokees. He began by asking leave to make his long-projected
visit to Washington to obtain peace from the President, and he
professed deep regret for "the unfortunate transaction that took
place between the white people and a few of our young men at our
village." To the British agent at Amherstburg he declared that
had he been on the spot there would have been no fighting at
Tippecanoe. It is reasonable to suppose that in this case there
would have been, at all events, no Indian attack; for Tecumseh
was thoroughly in sympathy with the British plan, which was to
unite and arm the natives, but to prevent a premature outbreak.
The chieftain's presence, however, would hardly have deterred
Harrison from carrying out his decision to break up the
Tippecanoe stronghold.

The spring of 1812 brought an ominous renewal of depredations.
Two settlers were murdered within three miles of Fort Dearborn;
an entire family was massacred but five miles from Vincennes;
from all directions came reports of other bloody deeds. The
frontier was thrown into panic. A general uprising was felt to be
impending; even Vincennes was thought to be in danger. "Most of
the citizens of this country," reported Harrison, on the 6th of
May, "have abandoned their farms, and taken refuge in such
temporary forts as they have been able to construct. Scores fled
to Kentucky and to even more distant regions.

Tecumseh continued to assert his friendship for his "white
brothers" and to treat the battle at Tippecanoe as a matter of no
moment. The murders on the frontier he declared to be the work of
the Potawatomi, who were not under his control, and for whose
conduct he had no excuse. But it was noted that he made no move
to follow up his professed purpose to visit Washington in quest
of peace, and that he put forth no effort to restrain his
over-zealous allies. It was plain enough that he was simply
awaiting a signal from Canada, and that, as the commandant at
Fort Wayne tersely reported, if the country should have a war
with Great Britain, it must be prepared for an Indian war as

Chapter IX. The War Of 1812 And The New West

The spring of 1812 thus found the back country in a turmoil, and
it was with a real sense of relief that the settlers became aware
of the American declaration of war against Great Britain on the
18th of June. More than once Governor Harrison had asked for
authority to raise an army with which to "scour" the Wabash
territory. In the fear that such a step would drive the redskins
into the arms of the British, the War Department had withheld its
consent. Now that the ban was lifted, the people could expect the
necessary measures to be taken for their defense. In no part of
the country was the war more popular; nowhere did the mass of the
able-bodied population show greater eagerness to take the field.

According to official returns, the Westerners were totally
unprepared for the contest. There were but five garrisoned posts
between the Ohio and the Canadian frontier. Fort Harrison had
fifty men, Fort Wayne eighty-five, Fort Dearborn fifty-three,
Fort Mackinac eighty-eight, and Detroit one hundred and twenty--a
total force of fewer than four hundred. The entire standing army
of the United States numbered but sixty-seven hundred men, and it
was obvious that the trans-Alleghany population would be obliged
to carry almost alone the burden of their own defense. The task
would not be easy; for General Brock, commanding in upper Canada,
had at least two thousand regulars and, as soon as hostilities
began, was joined by Tecumseh and many hundred redskins.

While the question of the war was still under debate in Congress,
President Madison made a requisition on Ohio for twelve hundred
militia, and in early summer the Governors of Indiana and
Illinois called hundreds of volunteers into service. Leaving
their families as far as possible under the protection of
stockades or of the towns, the patriots flocked to the
mustering-grounds; many, like Cincinnatus of old, deserted the
plough in midfield. Guns and ammunition in sufficient quantity
were lacking; even tents and blankets were often wanting. But
enthusiasm ran high, and only capable leadership was needed to
make of these frontier forces, once they were properly equipped,
a formidable foe.

The story of the leaders and battles of the war in the West has
been told in an earlier volume of this series.* It will be
necessary here merely to call to mind the stages through which
this contest passed, as a preliminary to a glimpse of the
conditions under which Westerners fought and of the new position
into which their section of the country was brought when peace
was restored. So far as the regions north of the Ohio were
concerned, the war developed two phases. The first began with
General William Hull's expedition from Ohio against Fort Malden
for the relief of Detroit, and it ended with the humiliating
surrender of that important post, together with the forced
abandonment of Forts Dearborn and Mackinac, so that the Wabash
and Maumee became, for all practical purposes, the country's
northern boundary. This was a story of complete and bitter
defeat. The second phase began likewise with a disaster--the
needless loss of a thousand men on the Raisin River, near
Detroit. Yet it succeeded in bringing William Henry Harrison into
chief command, and it ended in Commodore Perry's signal victory
on Lake Erie and Harrison's equally important defeat of the
disheartened British land forces on the banks of the Thames
River, north of the Lake. At this Battle of the Thames perished
Tecumseh, who in point of fact was the real force behind the
British campaigns in the West. Tradition describes him on the eve
of the battle telling his comrades that his last day had come,
solemnly stripping off his British uniform before going into
battle, and arraying himself in the fighting costume of his own

* See "The Fight for a Free Sea," by Ralph D. Paine (in "The
Chronicles of America").

For two-thirds of the time, the war went badly for the
Westerners, and only at the end did it turn out to be a brilliant
success. The reasons for the dreary succession of disasters are
not difficult to discover. Foremost among them is the character
of the troops and officers. The material from which the regiments
were recruited was intrinsically good, but utterly raw and
untrained. The men could shoot well; they had great powers of
endurance; and they were brave. But there the list of their
military virtues ends.

The scheme of military organization relied upon throughout the
West was that of the volunteer militia. In periods of ordinary
Indian warfare the system served its purpose fairly well. Under
stern necessity, the self-willed, independence-loving
backwoodsmen could be brought to act together for a few weeks or
months; but they had little systematic training, and their
impatience of restraint prevented the building up of any real
discipline. There were periodic musters for company or regimental
drill. But, as a rule, drill duty was not taken seriously.
Numbers of men failed to report; and those who came were likely
to give most of their time to horse-races, wrestling-matches,
shooting contests--not to mention drinking and brawling--which
turned the occasion into mere merrymaking or disorder. The men
brought few guns, and when drills were actually held these
soldiers in the making contented themselves with parading with
cornstalks over their shoulders. "Cornstalk drill" thus became a
frontier epithet of derision. It goes without saying that these
troops were poorly officered. The captains and colonels were
chosen by the men, frequently with more regard for their
political affiliations or their general standing in the community
than for their capacity as military commanders; nor were the
higher officers, appointed by the chief executive of territory,
state, or nation, more likely to be chosen with a view to their
military fitness.

So it came about, as Roosevelt has said, that the frontier people
of the second generation "had no military training whatever, and
though they possessed a skeleton militia organization, they
derived no benefit from it, because their officers were
worthless, and the men had no idea of practising self-restraint
or obeying orders longer than they saw fit."* When the War of
1812 began, these backwoods troops were pitted against British
regulars who were powerfully supported by Indian allies. The
officers of these untrained American troops were, like Hull,
pompous, broken-down, political incapables; while to the men
themselves may fairly be applied Amos Kendall's disgusted
characterization of a Kentucky muster: "The soldiers are under no
more restraint than a herd of swine. Reasoning, remonstrating,
threatening, and ridiculing their officers, they show their sense
of equality and their total want of subordination." Not until the
very last of the war, when under Harrison's direction capable and
experienced officers drilled them into real soldiers, did these
backwoods stalwarts become an effective fighting force.

* "Winning of the West," vol. IV, p. 246.

There were also shortcomings of another sort. None was more
exasperating or costly than the lack of means of transportation.
Even in Ohio, the oldest and most settled portion of the
Northwest, roads were few and poor; elsewhere there were
practically none of any kind. But the regions in which the war
was carried on were far too sparsely populated to be able to
furnish the supplies, even the foodstuffs, needed by the troops;
and materials of every sort had to be transported from the East,
by river, lake, and wilderness trail. Up and down the great
unbroken stretches between the Ohio and the Lakes moved the
floundering supply trains in the vain effort to keep up with the
armies, or to reach camps or forts in time to avert starvation or
disaster. Pack-horses waded knee-deep in mud; wagons were dragged
through mire up to their hubs; even empty vehicles sometimes
became so embedded that they had to be abandoned, the drivers
being glad to get off with their horses alive. Many times a
quartermaster, taking advantage of a frost, would send off a
convoy of provisions, only to hear of its being swamped by a thaw
before reaching its destination. One of the tragedies of the war
was the suffering of the troops while waiting for supplies of
clothing, tents, medicines, and food which were stuck in swamps
or frozen up in rivers or lakes.

Beset with pleurisy, pneumonia, and rheumatism in winter, with
fevers in summer, and subject to attack by the Indians at all
times, these frontier soldiers led an existence of exceptional
hardship. Only the knowledge that they were fighting for their
freedom and their homes held them to their task. An interesting
sidelight on the conditions under which their work was done is
contained in the following extract from a letter written by a
volunteer in 1814:

"On the second day of our march a courier arrived from General
Harrison, ordering the artillery to advance with all possible
speed. This was rendered totally impossible by the snow which
took place, it being a complete swamp nearly all day. On the
evening of the same day news arrived that General Harrison had
retreated to Portage River, eighteen miles in the rear of the
encampment at the rapids. As many men as could be spared
determined to proceed immediately to re-enforce him.... At
two o'clock the next morning our tents were struck, and in half
an hour we were on the road. I will candidly confess that on that
day I regretted being a soldier. On that day we marched thirty
miles under an incessant rain; and I am afraid you will doubt my
veracity when I tell you that in eight miles of the best of the
road, it took us over the knees, and often to the middle. The
Black Swamp would have been considered impassable by all but men
determined to surmount every difficulty to accomplish the object
of their march. In this swamp you lose sight of terra firma
altogether--the water was about six inches deep on the ice, which
was very rotten, often breaking through to the depth of four or
five feet. The same night we encamped on very wet ground, but the
driest that could be found, the rain still continuing. It was
with difficulty we could raise fires; we had no tents; our
clothes were wet, no axes, nothing to cook with, and very little
to eat. A brigade of pack-horses being near us, we procured from
them some flour, killed a hog (there were plenty of THEM along
the road); our bread was baked in the ashes, and our pork we
broiled on the coals--a sweeter meal I never partook of. When we
went to sleep it was on two logs laid close to each other, to
keep our bodies from the damp ground. Good God! What a pliant
being is man in adversity.*

* Dawson. "William H. Harrison," p. 369.

The principal theater of war was the Great Lakes and the lands
adjacent to them. Prior to the campaign which culminated in
Jackson's victory at New Orleans after peace had been signed, the
Mississippi Valley had been untrodden by British soldiery. The
contest, none the less, came close home to the backwoods
populations. Scores of able-bodied men from every important
community saw months or years of toilsome service; many failed to
return to their homes, or else returned crippled, weakened, or
stricken with fatal diseases; crops were neglected, or had only
such care as could be given them by old men and boys; trade
languished; Indian depredations wrought further ruin to life and
property and kept the people continually in alarm. Until 1814,
reports of successive defeats, in both the East and West, had a
depressing influence and led to solemn speculation as to whether
the back country stood in danger of falling again under British

It was, therefore, with a very great sense of relief that the
West heard in 1815 that peace had been concluded. At a stroke
both the British menace and the danger from the Indians were
removed; for although the redskins were still numerous and
discontented, their spirit of resistance was broken. Never again
was there a general uprising against the whites; never again did
the Northwest witness even a local Indian war of any degree of
seriousness save Black Hawk's Rebellion in 1832. Tecumseh
manifestly realized before he made his last stand at the Thames
that the cause of his people was forever lost.

For several years the unsettled conditions on the frontiers had
restrained any general migration thither from the seaboard
States. But within a few months after the proclamation of peace
the tide again set westward, and with an unprecedented force.
Men who had suffered in their property or other interests from
the war turned to Indiana and Illinois as a promising field in
which to rebuild their fortunes. The rapid extinction of Indian
titles opened up vast tracts of desirable land, and the
conditions of purchase were made so easy that any man of ordinary
industry and integrity could meet them. Speculators and promoters
industriously advertised the advantages of localities in which
they were interested, boomed new towns, and even loaned money to
ambitious emigrants.

The upshot was that the population of Indiana grew from
twenty-five thousand in 1810 to seventy thousand in 1816, when
the State was admitted to the Union. Illinois filled with equal
rapidity, and attained statehood only two years later. Then the
tide swept irresistibly westward across the Mississippi into the
great regions which had been acquired from France in 1803. As
late as 1819, the Territory of Missouri, comprising all of the
Louisiana Purchase north of the present State of Louisiana, had a
population of only twenty-two thousand, including many French and
Spanish settlers and traders. But in 1818 it had a population of
more than sixty thousand, and was asking Congress for legislation
under which the most densely inhabited portion should be set off
as the State of Missouri. Thus the Old Northwest was not merely
losing its frontier character and taking its place in the nation
on a footing with the seaboard sections; it was also serving as
the open gateway to a newer, vaster, and in some respects richer
American back country.

In the main, southern Indiana and Illinois--as well as the
trans-Mississippi territory--drew from Kentucky, Tennessee,
Virginia, and the remoter South. North of the latitude of
Indianapolis and St. Louis the lines of migration led chiefly
from New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. But many of the
settlers came, immediately or after only a brief interval, from
Europe. The decade following the close of the war was a time of
unprecedented emigration from England, Scotland, Ireland, and
Germany to the United States; and while many of the newcomers
found homes in the eastern States, where they in a measure offset
the depopulation caused by the westward exodus, a very large
proportion pressed on across the mountains in quest of the cheap
lands in the undeveloped interior. During these years the western
country was repeatedly visited by European travelers with a view
to ascertaining its resources, markets, and other attractions for
settlers; and emigration thither was powerfully stimulated by the
writings of these observers, as well as by the activities of
sundry founders of agricultural colonies.

"These favorable accounts," wrote Adlard Welby, an Englishman who
made a tour of inspection through the West in 1819, "aided by a
period of real privation and discontent in Europe, caused
emigration to increase tenfold; and though various reports of
unfavorable nature soon circulated, and many who had emigrated
actually returned to their native land in disgust, yet still the
trading vessels were filled with passengers of all ages and
descriptions, full of hope, looking forward to the West as to a
land of liberty and delight--a land flowing with milk and honey--
a second land of Canaan.*

* Thwaites, "Early Western Travels," vol. XII, p. 148.

After the dangers from the Indians were overcome, the main
obstacle to western development was the lack of means of easy and
cheap transportation. The settler found it difficult to reach the
Legion which he had selected for his home. Eastern supplies of
salt, iron, hardware, and fabrics and foodstuffs could be
obtained only at great expense. The fast-increasing products of
the western farms--maize, wheat, meats, livestock--could be
marketed only at a cost which left a slender margin of profit.
The experiences of the late war had already proved the need of
highways as auxiliaries of national defense. It required a month
to carry goods from Baltimore to central Ohio. None the less,
even before the War of 1812, hundreds of transportation companies
were running four-horse freight wagons between the eastern and
western States; and in 1820 more than three thousand wagons--
practically all carrying western products--passed back and forth
between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, transporting merchandise
valued at eighteen million dollars.

Small wonder that western producer and eastern dealer alike
became interested in internal improvements; or that under the
double stimulus of private and public enterprise Indian trails
fast gave way to rough pioneer roadways, and they to carefully
planned and durable turnpikes. Long before the War of 1812,
Jefferson, Gallatin, Clay, and other statesmen had conceived of a
great highway, or series of highways, connecting the seaboard
with the interior as the surest and best means of promoting
national unity and strength; and, in the act of Congress of 1802
admitting the State of Ohio, a promising beginning had been made
by setting aside five per cent of the money received from the
sale of public lands in the State for the building of roads
extending eastward to the navigable waters of Atlantic streams.
In 1808 Secretary Gallatin had presented to Congress a report
calling for an outlay on internal improvements of two million
dollars of federal money a year for ten years; and in 1811 the
Government had entered upon the greatest undertaking of its kind
in the history of the country.

This enterprise was the building of the magnificent highway known
to the law as the Cumberland Road, but familiar to uncounted
emigrants, travelers, and traders--and deeply embedded in the
traditions of the Middle States and the West--as the National
Road. Starting at Cumberland, Maryland, this great artery of
commerce and travel was pushed slowly through the Alleghanies,
even in the dark days of the war, and by 1818 it was open for
traffic as far west as Wheeling. The method of construction was
that which had lately been devised by John McAdam in England, and
involved spreading crushed limestone over a carefully prepared
road-bed in three layers, traffic being permitted for a time over
each layer in succession. This "macadamized" surface was curved
to permit drainage, and extra precautions were taken in
localities where spring freshets were likely to cause damage.

Controversy raged over proposals to extend the road to the
farthest West, to provide its upkeep by a system of tolls, and to
build similar highways farther north and south. But for a time
constitutional and legal difficulties were swept aside and
construction continued. Columbus was reached in 1833,
Indianapolis about 1840; and the roadway was graded to Vandalia,
then the capital of Illinois, and marked out to Jefferson City,
Missouri, although it was never completed to the last-mentioned
point by federal authority. When one reads that the original cost
of construction mounted to $10,000 a mile in central
Pennsylvania, and even $13,000 a mile in the neighborhood of
Wheeling, one's suspicion is aroused that public contracts were
not less dubious a hundred years ago than they have been known to
be in our own time.

The National Road has long since lost its importance as the great
connecting link of East and West. But in its day, especially
before 1860, it was a teeming thoroughfare. Its course was lined
with hospitable farmhouses and was dotted with fast-growing
villages and towns. Some of the latter which once were
nationally famed were left high and dry by later shifts of the
lines of traffic, and have quite disappeared from the map.
Throughout the spring and summer months there was a steady
westward stream of emigrants; hardly a day failed to bring before
the observer's eye the creaking canvas-covered wagon of the
homeseeker. Singly and in companies they went, ever toward the
promised land. Wagon-trains of merchandise from the eastern
markets toiled patiently along the way. Speculators, peddlers,
and sightseers added to the procession, and in hundreds of
farmhouses the womenfolk and children gathered in interested
groups by the evening fire to hear the chance visitor talk
politics or war and retail with equal facility the gossip of the
next township and that of Washington or New York. Great
stage-coach lines--the National Road Stage Company, the Ohio
National Stage Company, and others--advertised the advantages of
their services and sought patronage with all the ingenuity of the
modern railroad. Taverns and roadhouses of which no trace remains
today offered entertainment at any figure, and of almost any
character, that the customer desired. Eastward flowed a steady
stream of wagon-trains of flour, tobacco, and pork, with great
droves of cattle and hogs to be fattened for the Philadelphia or
Baltimore markets.

At almost precisely the same time that the first shovelful of
earth was turned for the Cumberland Road, people dwelling on the
banks of the upper Ohio were startled by the spectacle of a large
boat moving majestically down stream entirely devoid of sail,
oar, pole, or any other visible means of propulsion or control.
This object of wonderment was the New Orleans, the first
steamboat to be launched on western waters.

The conquest of the steamboat was speedy and complete. Already in
1819 there were sixty-three such craft on the Ohio, and in 1834--
when the total shipping tonnage, of the Atlantic seaboard was
76,064, and of the British Empire 82,696--the tonnage afloat on
the Ohio and Mississippi was 126,278. Vessels regularly ascended
the navigable tributaries of the greater streams in quest of
cargoes, and while craft of other sorts did not disappear, the
great and growing commerce of the river was revolutionized.

In the upbuilding of steamboat navigation the thriving, bustling,
boastful spirit of the West found ample play. Steamboat owners
vied with one another in adorning their vessels with bowsprits,
figureheads, and all manner of tinseled decorations, and in
providing elegant accommodations for passengers; engineers and
pilots gloried in speed records and challenged one another to
races which ended in some of the most shocking steamboat
disasters known to history. The unconscious bombast of an
anonymous Cincinnati writer in Timothy Flint's "Western Monthly
Review" in 1827 gives us the real flavor of the steamboat
business on the threshold of the Jacksonian era:

"An Atlantic cit, who talks of us under the name of backwoodsmen,
would not believe, that such fairy structures of oriental
gorgeousness and splendor as the Washington, the Florida, the
Walk in the Water, The Lady of the Lake, etc., etc., had ever
existed in the imaginative brain of a romancer, much less, that
they were actually in existence, rushing down the Mississippi, as
on the wings of the wind, or plowing up between the forests, and
walking against the mighty current 'as things of life,' bearing
speculators, merchants, dandies, fine ladies, everything real,
and everything affected, in the form of humanity, with pianos,
and stocks of novels, and cards, and dice, and flirting, and
love-making, and drinking, and champagne, and on the deck,
perhaps, three hundred fellows, who have seen alligators, and
neither fear whiskey, nor gun-powder. A steamboat, coming from
New Orleans, brings to the remotest villages of our streams, and
the very doors of the cabins, a little Paris, a section of
Broadway, or a slice of Philadelphia, to ferment in the minds of
our young people, the innate propensity for fashions and
Cincinnati will soon be the centre of the "celestial empire," as
the Chinese say; and instead of encountering the storms, the
seasickness, and dangers of a passage from the Gulf of Mexico
to the Atlantic, whenever the Erie Canal shall be completed, the
opulent southern planters will take their families, their dogs
and parrots, through a world of forests, from New Orleans to
New York, giving us a call by the way. When they are more
acquainted with us, their voyage will often terminate here."*

* Vol. I., p. 25 (May, 1827).

The new West was frankly materialistic. Yet its interests were by
no means restricted to steamboats, turnpikes, crops, exports, and
moneymaking. It concerned itself much with religion. One of the
most familiar figures on trail and highway was the circuit-rider,
with his Bible and saddlebags; and no community was so remote, or
so hardened, as not to be raised occasionally to a frenzy of
religious zeal by the crude but terrifying eloquence of the
revivalist. For education, likewise, there was a growing regard.
Nowhere did the devotion of the Western people to the twin ideas
of democracy and enlightenment find nobler expression than in the
clause of the Indiana constitution of 1816 making it the duty of
the Legislature to provide for "a general system of education,
ascending in a regular gradation from township schools to a state
university, wherein tuition shall be gratis, and equally open to
all." This principle found general application throughout the
Northwest. By 1830 common schools existed wherever population was
sufficient to warrant the expense; academies and other secondary
schools were springing up in Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis,
and many lesser places; state universities existed in Ohio and
Indiana; and Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians had begun to
dot the country with small colleges. Literature developed slowly.
But newspapers appeared almost before there were readers; and
that the new society was by no means without cultural, and even
aesthetic, aspiration is indicated by the long-continued rivalry
of Cincinnati and Lexington, Kentucky, to be known as "the Athens
of the West."

Chapter X. Sectional Cross Current

The War of 1812 did much in America to stimulate national pride
and to foster a sense of unity. None the less, the decade
following the Peace of Ghent proved the beginning of a long era
in which the point of view in politics, business, and social life
was distinctly sectional. New England, the Middle States, the
South, the West all were bent upon getting the utmost advantages
from their resources; all were viewing public questions in the
light of their peculiar interests. In the days of Clay and
Calhoun and Jackson the nation's politics were essentially a
struggle for power among the sections.

There was a time when the frontier folk of the trans-Alleghany
country from Lakes to Gulf were much alike. New Englanders in the
Reserve, Pennsylvanians in central Ohio, Virginians and
Carolinians in Kentucky and southern Indiana, Georgians in
Alabama and Mississippi, Kentuckians and Tennesseeans in Illinois
and Missouri--all were pioneer farmers and stock-raiser's,
absorbed in the conquest of the wilderness and all thinking,
working, and living in much the same way. but by 1820 the
situation had altered. The West was still a "section," whose
interests and characteristics contrasted sharply with those of
New England or the Middle States. Yet upon occasion it could act
with very great effect, as for instance when it rallied to the
support of Jackson and bore him triumphantly to the presidential
chair. Great divergences, however, had grown up within this
western area; differences which had existed from the beginning
had been brought into sharp relief. Under play of climatic and
industrial forces, the West had itself fallen apart into

Foremost was the cleavage between North and South, on a line
marked roughly by the Ohio River. Climate, soil, the cotton gin,
and slavery combined to make of the southern West a great
cotton-raising area, interested in the same things and swayed by
the same impulses as the southern seaboard. Similarly, economic
conditions combined to make of the northern West a land of small
farmers, free labor, town-building, and diversified manufactures
and trade. A very large chapter of American history hinges on
this wedging apart of Southwest and Northwest. To this day the
two great divisions have never wholly come together in their ways
of thinking.

But neither of these western segments was itself entirely a unit.
The Northwest, in particular, had been settled by people drawn
from every older portion of the country, and as the frontier
receded and society took on a more matured aspect, differences of
habits and ideas were accentuated rather than obscured. Men can
get along very well with one another so long as they live apart
and do not try to regulate their everyday affairs on common

The great human streams that poured into the Northwest flowed
from two main sources--the nearer South and New England. Ohio,
Indiana, and Illinois were first peopled by men and women of
Southern stock. Some migrated directly from Virginia, the
Carolinas, and even Georgia. But most came from Kentucky and
Tennessee and represented the second generation of white people
in those States, now impelled to move on to a new frontier by the
desire for larger and cheaper farms. Included in this Southern
element were many representatives of the well-to-do classes, who
were drawn to the new territories by the opportunity for
speculation in land and for political preferment, and by the
opening which the fast-growing communities afforded for lawyers,
doctors, and members of other professions. The number of these
would have been larger had there been less rigid restrictions
upon slaveholding. It was rather, however, the poorer whites--the
more democratic, non-slaveholding Southern element--that formed
the bulk of the earlier settlers north of the Ohio.

There was much westward migration from New England before the War
of 1812, but only a small share of it reached the Ohio country,
and practically none went beyond the Western Reserve. The common
goal was western New York. Here again there was some emigration
of the well-to-do and influential. But, as in the South, the
people who moved were mainly those who were having difficulty in
making ends meet and who could see no way of bettering their
condition in their old homes. The back country of Maine, New
Hampshire, Vermont, and western Massachusetts was filled with
people of this sort--poor, discontented, restless, without
political influence, and needing only the incentive of cheap
lands in the West to sever the slender ties which bound them to
the stony hillsides of New England.

After 1815 New England emigration rose to astonishing
proportions, and an increasing number of the homeseekers passed--
directly or after a sojourn in the Lower Lake country of New
York--into the Northwest. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825
made the westward journey easier and cheaper. The routes of
travel led to Lakes Ontario and Erie, thence to the Reserve in
northern Ohio, thence by natural stages into other portions of
northern Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and eventually into
southern Michigan and Wisconsin. Not until after 1830 did the
stalwart homeseekers penetrate north of Detroit; the great
stretches of prairie between Lakes Erie and Michigan, and to the
south--left quite untouched by Southern pioneers--satisfied every
desire of these restless farmers from New England.

For a long time Southerners determined the course of history in
the Old Northwest. They occupied the field first, and they had
the great advantage of geographical proximity to their old homes.
Furthermore, they lived more compactly; the New Englanders were
not only spread over the broader prairie stretches of the north,
but scattered to some extent throughout the entire region between
the Lakes and the Ohio.* But by the middle of the century not
only had the score of northern counties been inundated by the
"Yankees" but the waves were pushing far into the interior, where
they met and mingled with the counter-current. Both Illinois and
Indiana became, in a preeminent degree, melting-pots in which was
fused by slow and sometimes painful processes an amalgam which
Bryce and other keen observers have pronounced the most American
thing in America.

* In 1820 the population of Indiana was confined almost entirely
to the southern third of the State, although the removal of the
capital, in 1825, from Corydon to Indianapolis was carried out in
the confidence that eventually that point would become the
State's populational as it was its geographical center. When, in
1818, Illinois was admitted to the Union its population was
computed at 40,000. The figure was probably excessive; at all
events, contemporaries testify that so eager were the people for
statehood that many were counted twice, and even emigrants were
counted as they passed through the Territory. But the census of
1880 showed a population of 55,000, settled almost wholly in the
southern third of the State, with narrow tongues of inhabited
land stretching up the river valleys toward the north. Two slave
States flanked the southern end of the commonwealth; almost half
of its area lay south of a westward prolongation of Mason and
Dixon's line. Save for a few Pennsylvanians, the people were
Southern; the State was for all practical purposes a Southern
State. As late as 1883 the Legislature numbered fifty-eight
members from the South, nineteen from the Middle States, and only
four from New England.

Of the great national issues in the quarter-century following the
War of 1812 there were some upon which people of the Northwest,
in spite of their differing points of view, could very well
agree. Internal improvement was one of these. Roads and canals
were necessary outlets to southern and eastern markets, and any
reasonable proposal on this subject could be assured of the
Northwest's solid support. The thirty-four successive
appropriations to 1844 for the Cumberland Road, Calhoun's "Bonus
Bill" of 1816, the bill of 1822 authorizing a continuous national
jurisdiction over the Cumberland Road, the comprehensive "Survey
Bill" of 1824, the Maysville Road Bill of 1830--all were backed
by the united strength of the Northwestern senators and

So with the tariff. The cry of the East for protection to infant
industries was echoed by the struggling manufacturers of
Cincinnati, Louisville, and other towns; while a protective
tariff as a means of building up the home market for foodstuffs
and raw materials seemed to the Westerner an altogether
reasonable and necessary expedient. Ohio alone in the Northwest
had an opportunity to vote on the protective bill of 1816, and
gave its enthusiastic support. Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois voted
unitedly for the bills of 1820, 1824, 1828, and 1832. The
principal western champion of the protective policy was Henry
Clay, a Kentuckian; but the Northwest supported the policy more
consistently than did Clay's own State and section.

On the National Bank the position of the Northwest was no less
emphatic. The people were little troubled by the question of
constitutionality; but believing that the bank was an engine of
tyranny in the hands of an eastern aristocracy, they were fully
prepared to support Jackson in his determination to extinguish
that "un-American monopoly."

There were other subjects upon which agreement was reached either
with difficulty or not at all. One of these was the form of local
government which should be adopted. Southerners and New
Englanders brought to their new homes widely differing political
usages. The former were accustomed to the county as the principal
local unit of administration. It was a relatively large division,
whose affairs were managed by elective officers, mainly a board
of commissioners. The New Englanders, on the other hand, had
grown up under the town-meeting system and clung to the notion
that an indispensable feature of democratic local government is
the periodic assembling of the citizens of a community for
legislative, fiscal, and electoral purposes. The Illinois
constitution of 1818 was made by Southerners, and naturally it
provided for the county system. But protest from the "Yankee"
elements became so strong that in the new constitution of 1848
provision was made for township organization wherever the people
of a county wanted it; and this form of government, at first
prevalent only in the northern counties, is now found in most of
the central and southern counties as well.

The most deeply and continuously dividing issue in the Northwest,
as in the nation, at large, was negro slavery. Although written
by Southern men, the Ordinance of 1787 stipulated that there
should be "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said
territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the
party shall have been duly convicted." If the government of the
Northwest had been one of laws, and not of men, this specific
provision would have made the territory free soil and would have
relieved the inhabitants from all interest in the "peculiar
institution." But the laws never execute themselves--least of all
in frontier communities. In point of fact, considerable numbers
of slaves were held in the territory until the nineteenth century
was far advanced. As late as 1830 thirty-two negroes were held in
servitude in the single town of Vincennes. Slavery could and did
prevail to a limited extent because existing property rights were
guaranteed in the Ordinance itself, in the deed of cession by
Virginia, in the Jay Treaty of 1794, and in other fundamental
acts. The courts of the Northwest held that slave-owners whose
property could be brought under any of these guarantees might
retain that property; and although no court countenanced further
importation, itinerant Southerners--rich planters traveling in
their family carriages, with servants, packs of hunting-dogs, and
trains of slaves, their nightly camp-fires lighting up the
wilderness where so recently the Indian hunter had held
possession"--occasionally settled in southern Indiana or Illinois
and with the connivance of the authorities kept some of their
dependents in slavery, or quasi-slavery, for decades.

Of actual slaveholders there were not enough to influence public
sentiment greatly. But the people of Southern extraction,
although neither slave holders nor desiring to become such, had
no strong moral convictions on the subject. Indeed, they were
likely to feel that the anti-slavery restriction imposed an
unfortunate impediment in the way of immigration from the South.
Hence the persistent demand of citizens of Indiana and Illinois
for a relaxation of the drastic prohibition of slavery in the
Ordinance of 1787. In 1796 Congress was petitioned from Kaskaskia
to extend relief; in 1799 the territorial Legislature was urged
to bring about a repeal; in 1802 an Indiana territorial
convention at Vincennes memorialized Congress in behalf of a
suspension of the proviso for a period of ten years. Not only
were violations of the law winked at, but both Indiana and
Illinois deliberately built up a system of indenture which
partook strongly of the characteristics of slavery. After much
controversy, Indiana, in 1816, framed a state constitution which
reiterated the language of the Northwest Ordinance, but without
invalidating titles to existing slave property; while Illinois
was admitted to the Union in 1818 with seven or eight hundred
slaves upon her soil, and with a constitution which continued the
old system of indenture with slight modification.

In a heated contest in Illinois in 1824 over the question of
calling a state convention to draft a constitution legalizing
slavery the people of Northern antecedents made their votes tell
and defeated the project. But, like other parts of the Northwest,
this State never became a unit on the slavery issue. Certainly it
never became abolitionist. By an almost unanimous vote the
Legislature, in 1837, adopted joint resolutions which condemned
abolitionism as "more productive of evil than of moral and
political good"; and in Congress in the preceding year the
delegation of the State had given solid support to the "gag
resolutions," which were intended to deny a hearing to all
petitions on the slavery question.

Throughout the great era of slavery controversy the Northwest was
prolific of schemes of compromise, for the constant clash of
Northern and Southern elements developed an aptitude for
settlement by agreement on moderate lines. The people of the
section as a whole long clung to popular, or "squatter,"
sovereignty as the supremely desirable solution of the slavery
question--a device formulated and defended by two of the
Northwest's own statesmen, Cass and Douglas, and relinquished
only slowly and reluctantly under the leadership, not of a New
England abolitionist, but of a statesman of Southern birth who
had come to the conclusion that the nation could not permanently
exist half slave and half free.

Cass, Douglas, Lincoln--all were adopted sons of the Northwest,
and the career of every one illustrates not only the prodigality
with which the back country showered its opportunities upon men
of industry and talent, but the play and interplay of sectional
and social forces in the building of the newer nation. Cass and
Douglas were New Englanders. One was born at Exeter, New
Hampshire, in 1782; the other at Brandon, Vermont, in 1813.
Lincoln sprang from Virginian and Kentuckian stocks. His father's
family moved from Virginia to Kentucky at the close of the
Revolution; in 1784 his grandfather was killed by lurking
Indians, and his father, then a boy of six, was saved from
captivity only by a lucky shot of an older brother. Lincoln
himself was born in 1809. Curiously enough, Cass and Douglas, the
New Englanders, played their roles on the national stage as
Jackson Democrats, while Lincoln, the Kentuckian of Virginian
ancestry, became a Whig and later a Republican.

Cass and Douglas were well-born. Cass's father was a thrifty
soldier-farmer who made for his family a comfortable home at
Zanesville, Ohio; Douglas's father was a successful physician.
Lincoln was born in obscurity and wretchedness. His father,
Thomas Lincoln, was a ne'er-do-well Kentucky carpenter, grossly
illiterate, unable or unwilling to rise above the lowest level of
existence in the pioneer settlements. His mother, Nancy Hanks,
whatever her antecedents may have been, was a woman of character,
and apparently of some education. But she died when her son was
only nine years of age.

Cass and Douglas had educational opportunities which in their day
were exceptional. Both attended famous academies and received
instruction in the classics, mathematics, and philosophy. Both
grew up in an environment of enlightenment and integrity.
Lincoln, on the other hand, got a few weeks of instruction under
two amateur teachers in Kentucky and a few months more in
Indiana--in all, hardly as much as one year; and as a boy he knew
only rough, coarse surroundings. When, in 1816, the restless head
of the family moved from Kentucky to southern Indiana, his
worldly belongings consisted of a parcel of carpenters' tools and
cooking utensils, a little bedding, and about four hundred
gallons of whiskey. No one who has not seen the sordidness,
misery, and apparent hopelessness of the life of the "poor
whites" even today, in the Kentucky and southern Indiana hills,
can fully comprehend the chasm which separated the boy Lincoln
from every sort of progress and distinction.

All three men prepared for public life by embracing the
profession that has always, in this country, proved the surest
avenue to preferment--the law. But, whereas Cass arrived at
maturity just in time to have an active part in the War of 1812,
and in this way to make himself the most logical selection for
the governorship of the newly organized Michigan Territory,
Douglas saw no military service, and Lincoln only a few weeks of
service during the Black Hawk War, and both were obliged to seek
fame and fortune along the thorny road of politics. Following
admission to the bar at Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1834, Douglas
was elected public prosecutor of the first judicial circuit in
1835; elected to the state Legislature in 1836; appointed by
President Van Buren registrar of the land office at Springfield
in 1837; made a judge of the supreme court of the State in 1841;
and elected to the national House of Representatives in 1843.
Resourceful, skilled in debate, intensely patriotic, and favored
with many winning personal qualities, he drew to himself men of
both Northern and Southern proclivities and became an influential
exponent of broad and enduring nationalism.


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