This story is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s 2016 Indiana Bicentennial coverage, which includes our list of the 200 Hoosier Hall of Fame picks, designated throughout in bold or highlighted. For more on this celebration of the state’s first two centuries, click here.
Musket to musket, the two most monumental conflicts fought on Hoosier soil. Pick a winner between these Indiana battles if you must, but please—no fighting.
Battle of Vincennes vs. Battle of Tippecanoe
BoV: February 23–25, 1779
BoT: November 7, 1811
BoV: Vincennes. Duh.
BoT: Just north of present-day Lafayette
CLAIM TO FAME
BoV: The major frontier clash of the Revolutionary War
BoT: According to some, the first fight in the War of 1812
BoV: About 175 Americans and Frenchmen against roughly the same number of British troops and French Canadian militiamen, plus Native American allies on each side
BoT: About 1,000 U.S. troops and militiamen vs. 550 to 700 Native Americans
NOTABLE THREE-NAMED PARTICIPANT
BoV: George Rogers Clark
BoT: William Henry Harrison
… WHO WENT ON TO …
BoV: … settle on the north bank of the Ohio, on land granted to him for his service in the Revolution—some of the earliest parcels in what is now Southern Indiana. There, he hosted Meriwether Lewis, while Lewis and William, Clark’s younger brother, prepared for their famous expedition.
BoT: … become president of the United States—as would his grandson, Benjamin Harrison.
WHO STARTED IT?
BoV: Tired of British-supported Native American raids on frontier settlers, Clark led a militia to capture British posts in Illinois and secure, from afar, the loyalty of the French at Fort Sackville in Vincennes. Then the British retook the fort.
BoT: Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa (a.k.a. the Prophet) were assembling a Native American confederation at Prophetstown by the Tippecanoe River, for
a final stand against American incursion. Harrison, the Indiana Territory’s governor, wanted to drive them out.
BoV: While the British forces at Fort Sackville waited for a planned springtime attack on Clark, Clark’s forces traveled to Vincennes for a preemptive midwinter assault. The siege succeeded in just two days.
BoT: While Tecumseh was traveling, Harrison led his army to an encampment near Prophetstown. The Native Americans attacked the next morning, and the U.S. forces decimated them, then razed Prophetstown.
BoV: Clark’s men hoisted extra flags and fired frequently to give the illusion of being a much larger force.
BoT: Harrison’s men slept fully clothed, weapons at the ready, in case of attack.
BoV: While the British had discouraged settlers on the frontier (per treaties with Native Americans), Clark’s win—and the Treaty of Paris, which gave the U.S. land north of the Ohio River—opened the door for more of them.
BoT: The battle stoked American antipathy toward the British and their Native American allies, setting the stage for the War of 1812.
BoV: 80-foot memorial rotunda at George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes
BoT: 85-foot obelisk at the Tippecanoe Battlefield site in appropriately named Battle Ground, Indiana
BoV: “Great things have been effected by a few men well conducted.” —Clark
BoT: “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too!”—1840 campaign slogan of Harrison and veep candidate John Tyler
BoV: We call ourselves Hoosiers instead of Canucks. Many of our American rights—like freedom of religion and trial by jury—were first enshrined in the post-Vincennes Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
BoT: With the eventual defeat of the Prophet’s confederation, Native Americans never again mounted serious resistance to European settlement in the Northwest Territory. Most were expelled west.