A couple of weeks ago, I ran into an elderly fellow in the village down in the campus area. He was handing out flyers and doing a little PR work to promote an annual event that I, oddly enough, hadn’t really known too much about at that time. It happened that I was reading a book about the settling of the Ohio frontier in the late 1700’s to early 1800’s which devotes several chapters to the Indian wars that occurred during that span of history. There were several run-ins with the native American tribes, but they pretty much subsided at the conclusion of the War of 1812.
One of these clashes occurred in the area just north of Marion, Indiana on the banks of the Mississinewa River in the year 1812. It was declared the first American victory of the war, however, history shows that it turned out to be a tragedy in the long run. According to the recount of the event that I read, American Officer Lt. Col. John B. Campbell, under orders from Gen. William Henry Harrison, advanced with 600 mounted troops to the area to root-out Miami, Delaware, Munsee clan, Pottawatomie, and other hostile native tribes that had been working with the British forces. Campbell and his American troops attacked a couple of the native camps and captured thirty to fifty natives, mostly women and children. One of the captured Indians informed the American interrogators that chief Tecumseh was in the area and that an attack by him was looming. This worried the American leaders and provoked the decision to return back to Fort Greenville, Ohio, where the unit was based. Also, winter weather was setting in fiercely as it was the first of December. At dawn, as the regiment began their trek back to the fort, a surprise counter-attack occurred which resulted in quite numerous casualties on both sides, 80 to 100, which was considered a fairly large number compared to most of the skirmishes with Indians during that era. The Americans repelled the ambush and returned with their prisoners to Fort Greenville, however, over 75 percent of the regiment was incapacitated for the remainder of the war due to frostbite. This set some sort of record in American military fact books.
Now that I’ve reviewed the actual series of events, the Mississinewa 1812 re-enactment and festival was a 3-day adventure where the entertainers actually live the life of the early folks for 3 days. They wear the clothing, live in the tents, cook out of kettles, roast meat on spits over a fire, make their own soap, candles, guns, you name it. The re-enactment itself was a real treat though the show did not depict the actual battle but a similar type of engagement that involved British & Canadian Regulars, Marines, Scottish Highlanders, Militia (American & Crown), Indians (American & Crown), cavalry, artillery, the works.
The crowd turned out in huge numbers reminding me of a State Fair or the likes of.
When I saw that man in the village that day, I had no idea that I would be invited by my good friend Bill and his wife to go that weekend and I am so glad that I did. It made me feel like a kid again. I only wish I would have picked up a raccoon skin cap because I would probably still be wearing it around. I still have that pioneer spirit going, at least for the time being.