Trail Of Death Journey

Journal notes walking the "Trail of Death" tracing the Potawatomi Indians forced removal from Indiana to Kansas in 1838. This blog is in process of being re-ordered and moved to

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Location: Marion, Indiana, United States

Professor Emeritus


Day 9-- Battleground, IN -- 89 Miles
May 5, 2006; Sept. 12, 1838

By 11 Am this day the Pottawatomie had forded the Tippecanoe River the same river they had spent their first night camped along at Chipeway though at this point it was a much larger body of water. Within an hour they passed the site of the old Tippecanoe battle ground which certainly brought back deep memories for everyone. Just 30 years , in 1808 Tecumseh and “the prophet” established “Prophets Town” in an attempt to unify and consolidate all remaining Indians into a single voice that could be the Indian equivalent of Washington DC and the President.

And they came to this Indian field of dreams—up to a thousand of them by 1811 when William Henry Harrison gathered a thousand soldiers together to put down this latest threat from Indiana solidarity. Harrison’s troops arrived and agreed with The Prophet there would be no engagement until the next day. Tecumseh was away recruiting other tribes into the new unified structure and had left word to not get into any scrape with the whites. Harrison posted a strong guard around the camp in spite of the agreement with The Prophet. Sure enough, upon seeing a vision where the white’s bullets could not harm the Indians The Prophet rallied them into a 4AM surprise stack that met strong resistance immediately due to the guard around camp.

The Indians were dealt a hearty turning point defeat in the realm of what Gettysburg would later become for the Civil war. The Tippecanoe battle ground was the end of Indiana hopes to be a strong enough unified body able to negotiate with Washington DC on somewhat equal terms. The Indians left the battlefield defeated and Harrison eventually became President. The Indiana retreat in despair was a painful memory. When Tecumseh did return there was nothing there—no village, no Indians—just ruins of a dream.

Some of the Pottawatomie had fought at Tippecanoe so these travelers were perhaps recalling the humiliation and feelings of betrayal by The Prophet. But so did the whites remember it. General Tipton was an officer in the fight. Judge Polke had been wounded in the fighting. It was a place of powerful memories and meaning for both races.

Perhaps this is why when they made camp an hour after passing the battle ground (15 miles for the day) the expedition’s leaders did what they did. Breaking open the wagons of supplies they distributed dry goods to the Indians: cloth, blankets, calicos—it must have seemed like one gigantic birthday party. And not a little either. That day the expedition distributed $5469.81 worth of dry goods to the Indians—more than $5 per person, man woman and child. Did the leaders of the journey choose this day to shower these gifts on the Indians to make a special point? And, if so, what was that point?

One person died today, a very old womanthe mother of chief We-wiss-sa—who was said to be over 100 years old. How exactly does a 100 year old woman handle a forced trek from Indiana to Kansas? By dying, I suppose. As in plagues and times of trial the children go first, then the aged.

AS FOR ME my day was happy without the calico cloth. Rising an hour before dawn I walked in the dark then twilight and when the sun actually rose I was a long way toward Battle ground where Sharon drove to meet me near Interstate 65. After a weekend together I shall return to the trail on Sunday afternoon and walk into Illinois next week.

By the way, the Tippecanoe Battlefield also has another tie to our story. General Tipton, the leader of the Indiana State militia, and a well known Indian hater was in command of this entire removal to the Indiana border. We will reflect more on this man when we get rid of him at he Illinois border, but for now we will mention here that he had amassed enough wealth that we was eventually able to purchase the battlefield site and give it as a gift to the state. If this good deed balances his evil deeds will be left to you to decide.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

best of wishes in your endeavor!

Grace and Peace, may you continually depend on God for your stamina!

5:14 PM  
Blogger Nikki said...

Glad that you are getting a break! Enjoy your weekend...

7:19 AM  
Blogger Kathy Drury said...

The photos add so much. I love seeing those. Really neat how you are tying the real story with where you are -- really retracing the steps and the story at the same time. Stay well and away from those 18 wheelers. We usually pray your safety from bears and snakes but this time we pray you don't get hit by a truck!

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will be following your journey and kudos for entering the historical documents of those times!
Will leave you uppermost on my blog, which, hopefully others will have their curiosity about the history of this area peaked!
Cheers from N Manchester!

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry: Envelopes Of Sound blog! )

10:51 AM  
Blogger Keith.Drury said...

Thanks to all of you for the comments... after a restful weekend I'm returning to Battl;eground Sunday afternoon where I will pick up the trail for another week. This first weekend was close enough to home to go home--from now on when Sharon comes we'll stay on the trail.

5:28 AM  
Blogger David Drury said...

Cheers to your continued journey. All of us usually live vicariously through you while you're on your summer treks... this time all the more because of this awesome blog!

Keep up the good walking, great history and facinating blogging.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Bononymous said...

Native American Justice??

It looks like some Native Americans will get some justice by way of a Federal accounting. I thought you might like to catch up on this related topic when you get back to civilization.

Here's the Indian side of the story:
Indian Trust Link

4:18 PM  
Blogger Marie said...

Stay on the side of the road and out of harms way. I will be chacking back on occasion to see how your journay is going.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Susan Campbell said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences with the rest of us. This trek is so familiar--my Ancestors made it in 1838 and I made it in 1992, 1993 and 1998, though not by foot. Just remember--you don't walk alone.

Susan Campbell

1:06 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

Incredible story, Keith. I have visited the battleground, and it is an eerily powerful place even now.

I have also been to the Menominee monument, near Plymouth--a rather humble marker, compared to the gaudy glorification of the slaughter at Battleground.

I had not idea these sites were connected. Tx.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Joe Larson said...

My name is Joe Larson and I'm a summer intern for the Danville Commercial-News. We're interesetd in doing a story on you, but we're having trouble tracking you down. I left a few messages on your cellphone but didn't get a reply. If you check this source more often, please email me back at We'd really like to run a story about your walk along the trail of death.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Keith.Drury said...

Thanks Marie—I face the traffic (except when I’m “balancing” for the crown of the road by walking on the other side on deserted gravel roads).

SUSAN CAMPBELL! Woah! Great hearing from you! I love your writing! THANKS for all you have done with Shirley Willard to dig up and keep alive this history! Thanks for coming along in spirit.

Larry—Neat! It is so neat when we find a connecting point in history. Remember the show “connections” on the learning channel—I liked that!

Joe: Thanks—I was in a 24 hour dead spot for my cell phone—no wonder, hardly anyone lives in the region near Gopher Hill Cemetery/State Line city. We connected tonight.

8:10 PM  

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