Rural Missouri - June 2013 - (Page 28)

1812 Missouri’s ForgottenWar Territorial Gov. Clark quells Indian attacks during the War of 1812 O by Jim Denny n June 4, 1812, the Territory of Louisiana became the Missouri Territory. As a secondclass territory, Missouri could now elect a delegate to Congress and vote for its own territorial legislature. Two weeks later, however, the United States declared war on Great Britain, plunging the fledgling territory into a state of war. Out on this western fringe of the nation, the impressment of American sailors or access to foreign ports meant little as reasons to go to war with England. For Missourians, most transplanted from Kentucky, the war was going to be the dark and bloody ground days of the American Revolution all over again: Indians incited and supplied by British agents, raiding into frontier settlements and putting men, women and children to the tomahawk. Fortunately, the ground was not nearly so bloodied during Missouri’s War of 1812 as back in Kentucky in those earlier times. But blood did spill and settlers — including women and children — were slaughtered by Indian assailants. The frontier settlement vanguard along the Mississippi or Missouri rivers would huddle into stockades while hostile Indians filled the surrounding woods — or at least seemed to. Indian tensions already were high when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first saw this country in 1804 on their great expedition. In what is now central Missouri, they noticed signs of a brewing Indian war. The Sauk-Fox Indians, who ranged through northern Missouri, had crossed the Missouri River to attack the Osage Indians whose villages were in southwest Missouri. Ioway Indians also were warring against the Osage. This dangerous situation was further complicated by the arrival of thousands of settlers, who poured into the new Louisiana Purchase lands. Between 1804 and 1810, the population doubled to more than 20,000 citizens. Some of these settlers headed for choice lands that also were claimed by Indians. By 1813, William Clark was territorial governor. He would have to employ his considerable skills to restrain land-hungry frontiersmen from encroaching on lands claimed by Indians. He needed some time to forge the necessary treaties with Indian nations to open these tribal lands up to American settlement. Treaty making was something at which Clark excelled. By means of treaties, Clark and Lewis had acquired a 50,000acre tract of land between the Missouri and Arkansas rivers from the mighty Osage Indian tribe in 1808. That same year, he directed the construction of Fort Osage, 350 miles up the Missouri River, to provide trade goods to the Osage and protection from their enemies. Four years earlier, William Henry Harrison convinced some Sauk-Fox to sign a treaty ceding a portion of northeast Missouri, along with large tracts in Illinois and Wisconsin. In 1808, Fort Madison was erected on the Mississippi River, above the mouth of the Des Moines River, to control the belligerent SaukFox Indians who were concentrated at their Rock River villages near present Rock Island, Ill. The war years were filled with anxiety that huge Indian armies were amassing along the upper Mississippi preparing to attack. The Shawnee leaders, Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet, were exhorting Indian tribes to join the British. The war chieftain, Black Hawk, led a faction of the Sauk-Fox tribe to the British side. Would they send their armies down the Mississippi River? Luckily, the dreaded attacks never materialized during the first two years of the war. The Territory of Missouri was unprepared to defend the scattered settlements of Missouri — or even St. Louis — against a British-Indian army. Despite the fact that only 241 regular Army soldiers were stationed west of the Mississippi River, it was vital that the Osage be kept neutral and that the Sauk-Fox and other hostile nations be held at bay. The attacks that did occur happened when small bands of Indians ambushed isolated settlers. In February 1812, in the remote Salt River country, the mother and nine children of the O’Neal family were murdered by a band of Kickapoo Indians. Fort Mason was built by Missouri Rangers soon after. In September 1812, a man and his wife were wounded and their horses and cow taken by a band of Indians outside Portage des Sioux. The following March, a young man was killed by Potawatomi Indians while hunting horses in the same vicinity. On Aug. 3, 1813, a group of men and boys picking turnips near Fort Howard were fired on by Sauk-Fox, who killed one settler and wounded another. The most successful military operations in Missouri were carried out by the four companies of the Missouri Rangers. During 1812 and 1813, these hardy frontiersmen were recruited from the Boone settlement on the Missouri River and other backwoods locales and led by men such as Capt. Nathan Boone, Daniel’s youngest son, who could “climb like a bear and swim like a duck.” The rangers kept up constant patrols in the hinterland that stretched from the Loutre Island settlement on the Missouri River to Fort Portage des Sioux and up the Mississippi River to Fort Madison. In July 1813, a patrol of 11 rangers had a bloody encounter with an equal number of Winnebagos near Fort Mason. The running battle left four rangers dead. The ranger patrols may well have discouraged additional Indian attacks during those troubled years. The Fort Osage factory trading post was closed in the spring of 1813. In the fall of that year, it reopened near present-day Arrow Rock. Directly across the Missouri River from the factory was the Boonslick settlement, the westernmost outpost of the American settlement frontier. Fort Madison also was closed in the fall of 1813. Unlike personnel at Fort Osage, who maintained friendly relations with the Osage, those at Fort Madison existed in an almost continuous state of siege by the hostile Sauk-Fox. Finally, on Sept. 3, the garrison at Fort Madison fired the fort and escaped with their lives. By then, Gov. Clark had managed through long negotiations to convince a large contingent of the Sauk-Fox tribe to separate themselves from Black Hawk’s pro-British band on the Mississippi River and to relocate to a site on the Missouri River near Little Moniteau Creek in today’s Moniteau County. The factory that had provided trade goods at Fort Madison was moved to the new village site. This seemed to be a good idea at the time, but 1,500 newly transplanted “friendly” Sauk-Fox Indians were now just 50 miles downriver from the sizable Boonslick settlement. Could they peacefully coexist? Nationally, the War of 1812 was starting to take a favorable turn. Oliver Perry’s victory on Lake Erie and the defeat and death of Tecumseh gave hope to Territorial Missourians that the war might have turned the corner. Little did they know that the most difficult days still lay ahead. Jim Denny from Lupus is a freelance writer and historian retired from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The lunette mural, “Indian Attack on the Village of St. Louis, 1780,” painted by Oscar Edmund Berninghaus in 1921, adorns a wall inside the Capitol in Jefferson City. It depicts the type of warfare that early Territorial Missourians faced as the War of 1812 waged.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2013

Rural Missouri - June 2013
Table of Contents
Back to the land
Full steam ahead
Out of the Way Eats
Where shall I thee wed?
Missouri Snapshots contest
Hearth and Home
Missouri’s forgotten war
Plant during summer’s sizzle
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - June 2013