James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John B. Colvin, 26 November 1811

From John B. Colvin

Tuesday, Nov. 26th. 1811.


I have just seen two letters from gentlemen in Vincennes to Mr. Jennings, the Delegate in congress from that Territory, stating the particulars of a Battle between Gov. Harrison and the party of the Prophet. The Letters from Vincennes are dated the 12th instant,1 when the news had just arrived there. The United States troops were attacked unexpectedly at night, and maintained a conflict of two hours. The U. S. Regulars are represented as having sustained the brunt of the engagement, and supported the honor of our arms. They broke the Indian array of battle, fired the town of the prophet, destroyed the corn of his people, and consecrated their victory in the Blood of sixty of the enemy slain. The U. S. are said to have lost 30 killed and 100 wounded. Among the killed are Joseph H. Daviess,2 of Kentucky, a Mr. Randolph, a Mr. Spencer, and a Mr. Berry.3 I have the Honor to remain, Your true and faithful friend and servant.

J. B. Colvin.


1The two letters Colvin referred to were published in the National Intelligencer on 28 Nov. 1811. Their contents briefly described the Battle of Tippecanoe fought between forces led by Indiana territorial governor William Henry Harrison and the supporters of the Shawnee Prophet in the early morning hours of 7 Nov. 1811.

2Joseph Hamilton Daveiss was well known to JM for a number of reasons, including his role in the 1801 Supreme Court decision in Wilson v. Mason, which had undermined the legal basis of the Madison family’s Kentucky land claims. In the fall of 1811 Daveiss had been the most prominent member of a volunteer force of Kentucky Light Dragoons that had joined William Henry Harrison’s Indiana militia on the expedition to Tippecanoe (see Daveiss to JM, 4 Nov. 1801, PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (4 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends , 2:222–24 and n. 3; Alfred Pirtle, The Battle of Tippecanoe [Louisville, Ky., 1900], pp. 22, 79–82).

3Thomas Randolph had been serving as an aide to William Henry Harrison. Spier Spencer and Thomas Berry were officers in Harrison’s Indiana militia force (ibid., pp. 36, 73, 89).

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