Briefly from Around the State

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Incident at Fort Dearborn

During the War of 1812, Great Britain was successfully capturing U.S. forts. When Fort Michilimackinac fell to the enemy army, U.S. Captain Nathan Heald was ordered to abandon Fort Dearborn, give away the fort's supplies to the Potawatomi Indians and withdraw to Fort Wayne. There were 93 people living in the fort, including women and children who were the families of some soldiers.

Captain Heald destroyed the liquor and weapons in storage rather than give them op to the natives, which angered the younger braves. William Wells, a legendary frontiersman, was the uncle of Rebekah Wells, Captain Heald's wife. Wells rode like the devil to Fort Dearborn to try averting a confrontation between the soldiers and the Potawatomi, but by the time he arrived, the distribution of stores was completed. The army no longer had enough provisions to stay holed up in the fort and the natives were already incensed by the destruction of the weapons and liquor.

Wells, who lived with the Miami tribe as a boy and was married twice to native women, painted his face with war paint and prepared for the worst. The worst came soon enough.

The convoy was hopelessly outnumbered by the Potawatomi and many were killed, including Wells and 12 of the 18 children in the group. The rest were taken prisoner and on the following day, the fort was burned to the ground.

Traditionally known as the Fort Dearborn Massacre, some are now referring to it as the Battle of Fort Dearborn.

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