The Battle of Mississinewa
It was the morning of December 18, 1812, the morning of the Battle of the Mississinewa. Above the sound of fighting, smell of gunpowder and feel of death rose one of the most significant chapters in the War of 1812 and dramatic moments in the history of Grant County, Indiana.
A search and destroy mission, the Battle of the Mississinewa was one of the major engagements fought during the War of 1812. It marked the first offensive victory of the American army during the war.
When war began, the entire Northwest Territory (present day Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin) became a disaster area for the United States. What had been a smoldering conflict between white settlers and the Indians erupted into full-scale war between the Indians and the United States. In swift succession, Forts Mackinac, Dearborn (Chicago) and Detroit fell to British and Indian forces.
Those Indians who had been neutral now began aligning themselves with the British and threatened the United States control of the Northwest Territory.
In September 1812, William Henry Harrison was put in command of the army. His orders: Protect the western frontier and recapture Detroit. Harrison believed the Indian villages along the Mississinewa River were being used as a staging area for Indian attacks on his army.
Against this background, on Nov. 24, 1812, Lt. Col. John B. Campbell led 600 mounted troops out of central Ohio on a secret mission to destroy the Indian villages on the river.
On December 17, 1812, Campbell's troops surprised the first of four Indian villages, killing 8 inhabitants and taking 42 prisoners. They continued north for three miles, destroying three more vacated villages before returning to the site of the first village to camp for the night.
Just before dawn on the 18th of December, an estimated 300 Indians counterattacked. When the shooting ended an hour later, 15 Miami and Delaware warriors lay dead; and untold number of wounded had been carried from the field.
The two-day engagement had cost the lives of 12 federal troops and another 48 had been wounded. As many as 45 Indians may have died in the conflict defending their lands.
Campbell's half-starved troops marched in knee-deep snow for seven days as they returned to Greenville, Ohio, resulting in 300 casualties from frostbite. In an act of compassion, Campbell allowed the Indian women and children to ride horseback to Greenville forcing some of his own troops to walk.
The Mississinewa Expedition was the most successful of Harrison's military actions in the fall of 1812. It eliminated the Mississinewa River area as a haven for Indian resistance, restored the people's confidence in the army, and secured the route of Harrison's army for the recapture of Fort Detroit.