I became a volunteer of a company of riflemen and, on September 19 1811, we commenced our march towards Vincennes, and arrived there in about six days, marching one hundred and twenty miles. We remained there about one week and took up the line of march to a point on the Wabash river, where we erected a stockade fort, which we named Fort Harrison. This was two miles above where the city of Terre Haute now stands. Col. Joseph H Daviess, who commanded the dragoons, named the fort. The glorious defense of this fort nine months after by Capt. Zachary Taylor was the first step in his brilliant career that afterward made him President of the United States. A few days later we took up our line of march for the seat of the Indian warfare, where we arrived on the evening of November 6, 1811.
When the army arrived in view of Prophet's Town, an Indian was seen coming toward General Harrison, with a white flag suspended on a pole. Here the army halted, and a parley was had between General Harrison and an Indian delegation who assured the General that they desired peace and solemnly promised to meet him the next day in council to settle the terms of peace and friendship between them and the United States.
Gen. Marston G. Clark, who was then brigade major, and Walter Taylor, one of the judges of the general court of the Territory of Indiana, and afterward a senator of the United States from Indiana (as one of the General's aides), were ordered to select a place for the encampment, which they did. The army then marched to the ground selected, about sunset. A strong guard was placed around the encampment commanded by Capt. James Bigger and three lieutenants. The troops were ordered to sleep on their arms. The night being cold, large fires were made along the lines of encampment and each soldier retired to rest, sleeping on his arms.
Having seen a number of squaws and children at the town, I thought the Indians were not disposed to fight. About ten o clock at night, Joseph Warnock and myself retired to rest, he taking one side of the fire and I the other - the members of our company being all asleep. My friend Warnock had dreamed, the night before, a bad dream which foreboded something fatal to him or to some of his family, as he told me. Having myself no confidence in dreams, I thought but little about the matter, although I observed that he never smiled afterwards.
I awoke about four o'clock the next morning, after a sound and refreshing sleep, having heard in a dream the firing of guns and the whistling of bullets just before I awoke from my slumber. A drizzling rain was falling and all things were still and quiet throughout the camp. I was engaged in making a calculation when I should arrive home.
In a few moments I heard the crack of a rifle in the direction of the point where now stands the Battle Ground House, which is occupied by Captain DuTiel as a tavern. I had just time to think that some sentinel was alarmed and fired his rifle without a real cause, when I heard the crack of another rifle, followed by an awful Indian yell all around the encampment. In less than a minute I saw the Indians charging our line most furiously and shooting a great many rifle balls into our camp fires, throwing the live coals into the air three or four feet high.
At this moment my friend Warnock was shot by a rifle hall through his body. He ran a few yards and fell dead on the ground. Our lines were broken and a few Indians were found on the inside of the encampment. In a few moments they were all killed. Our lines closed up and our men in their proper places. One Indian was killed in the back part of Captain Geiger's tent, while he was attempting to tomahawk the Captain.
The sentinels, closely pursued by the Indians, came to the line of the encampment in haste and confusion. My brother, William Naylor, was on guard. He was pursued so rapidly and furiously that he ran to the nearest point on the left flank, where he remained with a company of regular soldiers until the battle was near its termination. A young man, whose name was Daniel Pettit, was pursued so closely and furiously by an Indian as he was running from the guard line to our lines, that to save his life he cocked his rifle as he ran and turning suddenly around, placed the muzzle of his gun against the body of the Indian and shot an ounce ball through him. The Indian fired his gun at the same instant, but it being longer than Pettit's the muzzle passed by him and set fire to a handkerchief which he had tied around his head. The Indians made four or five most fierce charges on our lines, yelling and screaming as they advanced, shooting balls and arrows into our ranks. At each charge they were driven back in confusion, carrying off their dead and wounded as they retreated.
Colonel Owen, of Shelby County, Kentucky, one of General Harrison's aides, fell early in the action by the side of the General. He was a member of the legislature at the time of his death. Colonel Daviess was mortally wounded early in the battle, gallantly charging the Indians on foot with sword and pistols according to his own request. He made this request three times before General Harrison would permit it. This charge was made by himself and eight dragoons on foot near the angle formed by the left flank and front line of the encampment. Colonel Daviess lived about thirty-six hours after he was wounded, manifesting his ruling passion in life - ambition and a patriotism and ardent love of military glory. During the last hours of his life he said to his friends around him that he had but one thing to regret - that he had military talents; that he was about to be cut down in the meridian of life without having an opportunity of displaying them for his own honor, and the good of his country. He was buried alone, with the honors of war, near the right flank of the army, inside the lines of the encampment, between two trees. On one side of the tree the letter 'D' was plainly visible many years. Nothing but the stump of the other tree remains. His grave was made here to conceal it from the Indians. It was filled up to the top with earth and then covered with leaves. I presume the Indians never found it. This precautionary act was performed as a mark of special respect for a distinguished hero and patriot of Kentucky.
Captain Spencer's company of mounted riflemen composed the right flank of the army. Captain Spencer and both of his lieutenants were killed. John Tipton was elected and commissioned captain of his company in one hour after the battle, as reward for his cool and deliberate heroism displayed during the action. He died at Logansport in 1839, having been twice elected senator of the United States from Indiana.
The clear, calm voice of General Harrison was heard in words of heroism in every part of the encampment during the action. Colonel Boyd behaved very bravely after repeating these words: 'Huzza! My sons of gold, a few more fires and victory will be ours!'
Just after daylight the Indians retreated across the prairie toward their own town, carrying off their wounded. This retreat was from the right flank of the encampment, commanded by Captains Spencer and Robb, having retreated from the other portions of the encampment a few minutes before. As their retreat became visible, an almost deafening and universal shout was raised by our men. 'Huzza! Huzza! Huzza!' This shout was almost equal to that of the savages at the commencement of the battle; ours was the shout of victory, theirs was the shout of ferocious but disappointed hope.
The morning light disclosed the fact that the killed and wounded of our army, numbering between eight and nine hundred men, amounted to one hundred and eight. Thirty-six Indians were found near our lines. Many of their dead were carried off during the battle. This fact was proved by the discovery of many Indian graves recently made near their town. Ours was a bloody victory, theirs a bloody defeat.
Soon after breakfast an Indian chief was discovered on the prairie, about eighty yards from our front line, wrapped in a piece of white cloth. He was found by a soldier by the name of Miller, a resident of Jeffersonville, Indiana. The Indian was wounded in one leg, the ball having penetrated his knee and passed down his leg, breaking the bone as it passed. Miller put his foot against him and he raised up his head and said: 'Don't kill me, don't kill me.' At the same time five or six regular soldiers tried to shoot him, but their muskets snapped and missed fire. Maj. Davis Floyd came riding toward him with dragoon sword and pistols and said he would show them how to kill Indians, when a messenger came from General Harrison commanding that he should be taken prisoner. He was taken into camp, where the surgeons dressed his wounds. Here he refused to speak a word of English or tell a word of truth. Through the medium of an interpreter he said that he was coming to the camp to tell General Harrison that they were about to attack the camp. He refused to have his leg amputated, though he was told that amputation was the only means of saving his life. One dogma of Indian superstition is that all good and brave Indians, when they die, go to a delightful region, abounding with deer, and other game, and to be a successful hunter he should have his limbs, his gun and his dog. He therefore preferred death with all his limbs to life without them. In accordance with his request he was left to die, in company with an old squaw, who was found in the Indian town the next day after he was taken prisoner. They were left in one of our tents. At the time this Indian was taken prisoner, another Indian, who was wounded in the body, rose to his feet in the middle of the prairie and began to walk towards the wood on the opposite side. A number of regular soldiers shot at him but missed him. A man who was a member of the same company with me, Henry Huckleberry, ran a few steps into the prairie and shot an ounce ball through his body and he fell dead near the margin of the woods. Some Kentucky volunteers went across the prairie immediately and scalped him, dividing his scalp into four pieces, each one cutting a hole in each piece, putting the ramrod through the hole, and placing his part of the scalp just behind the first thimble of his gun, near its muzzle. Such was the fate of nearly all of the Indians found dead on the battle-ground, and such was the disposition of their scalps.
The death of Owen, and the fact that Daviess was mortally wounded, with the remembrance also that a large portion of Kentucky's best blood had been shed by the Indians, must be their apology for this barbarous conduct. Such conduct will be excused by all who witnessed the treachery of the Indians and saw the bloody scenes of this battle.
Tecumseh being absent at the time of the battle, a chief called White Loon was the chief commander of the Indians. He was seen in the morning after the battle, riding a large white horse in the woods across the prairie, where he was shot at by a volunteer named Montgomery, who is now living in the southwest part of this state. At the crack of his rifle the horse jumped as if the ball had hit him. The Indian rode off toward the town and we saw him no more. During the battle The Prophet was safely located on a hill, beyond the reach of our balls, praying to the Great Spirit to give victory to the Indians, having previously assured them that the Great Spirit would change our powder into ashes and sand.
We had about forty head of beef cattle when we came to the battle. They all ran off the night of the battle, or they were driven off by the Indians, so that they were all lost. We received rations for two days on the morning after the action. We received no more rations until the next Tuesday evening, being six days afterwards. The Indians having retreated to their town, we performed the solemn duty of consigning to their graves our dead soldiers, without shrouds or coffins. They were placed in graves about two feet deep, from five to ten in each grave.
General Harrison, having learned that Tecumseh was expected to return from the south with a number of Indians whom he had enlisted in his cause, called a council of his officers, who advised him to remain on the battlefield and fortify his camp by a breastwork of logs, about four feet high. This work was completed during the day and all the troops were placed immediately behind each line of the work when they were ordered to pass the watchword from right to left every five minutes, so that no man was permitted to sleep during the night. The watchword on the night before the battle was 'Wide awake, wide awake.' To me it was a long, cold, cheerless night.
On the next day the dragoons went to Prophet's Town, which they found deserted by all the Indians, except an old squaw, whom they brought into camp and left her with the wounded chief before mentioned. The dragoons set fire to the town and it was all consumed, casting up a brilliant light amid the darkness of the ensuing night. I arrived at the town when it was about half on fire. I found large quantities of corn, beans and peas. I filled my knapsack with these articles and carried them to the camp and divided them with the members of our mess, consisting of six men. Having these articles of food, we declined eating horse flesh, which was eaten by a large portion of our men.