Tippecanoe Battlefield

Originally posted July 2007

The Tippecanoe Battlefield is located in Battleground, Indiana. The Battle of Tippecanoe is considered an important event that many of us in Indiana probably read about in elementary school.

The story goes that white folks in southern Indiana (around Vincennes) were getting nervous about all the Indians gathering in Prophetstown and wanted the territorial governor, William Harrison, to do something about it. If you’re not sure what Prophetstown was, read my earlier blog about Prophetstown State Park.

Harrison waited until Tecumseh, leader of Prophetstown, traveled south to recruit more tribes into his confederation before making his move. While Tecumseh was away his brother Tenskwatawa, “the prophet”, was in charge and Harrison felt he would be easier to deal with.

Harrison’s 1000 troops arrived at present day Battleground on a cold November day and prepared to meet with the Prophet the next day. Harrison had an uneasy feeling about what might happen, so he instructed his troops to sleep in their uniforms and have their guns at the ready. Sure enough, around 4 in the morning, the Prophet’s men attacked and a fierce battle waged for several hours. Before the battle began the Prophet stood on a large rock near where the soldiers slept and told his men that the bullets of the white soldiers would “fall off them like dust” and that they would win. Well, you can imagine how that turned out… Many men were killed on both sides, but Harrison’s troops eventually won the day.

The next day Harrison sent a small group of men to inspect Prophetstown, but everyone had fled during the night and the town was deserted. The Army burned down Prophetstown and returned home.

The park today consists primarily of a cemetery where the US soldiers killed during the battle are buried, a few small hiking trails and a museum. In 1911 a monument similar to the Washington monument was erected to commemorate the US soldiers. At some point a large outdoor swimming pool was built on the site. What a great marketing idea!! “Come swim with the dead at Battleground Indiana!”

This is really a small town/urban park, so the trails are small and none are much more than a mile in length. One of the trails leads to the rock that the Prophet stood on when he cast his spell, which is pretty cool.

There is also a small museum onsite with a lot of the usual museum “stuff”: Bones, deer skins, period costumes, old maps, and memorabilia from the 1976 republican convention. Yes, that’s right, someone has donated an entire ROOM full of schlock from the Gerald Ford/Bob Dole 1976 ticket to the museum. After visiting many insightful areas of the museum that really get you thinking about how our country was created, you step into a room filled with so much red, polyester and corny slogans that you’ll be trippin’ like one of the castaways on the island in LOST. “Ben made me wear this robin’s egg blue leisure suit. He said, ‘The Peanut farmer must never be president.’ The Peanut farmer must never be president’. “

I enjoyed the museum and found it to have quite a bit of useful information, even though, as a city/county supported facility, it probably doesn’t get a lot of funding. Having siad that, I think it does need to be “updated” a little. On more than one occasion in one of the exhibits I heard the narrator refer to “the savage Indian hordes”. I don’t think the former residents of Prophetstown would be referred to like that today.

The Tippecanoe Battlefield Park is a good place to visit and spend an hour or two learning about early Indiana history. Who knows, you might even see Bob Dole in the swimming pool. Ask him to leave the ink pen at home though.

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