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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > American Age of Discovery, Colonization, Revolution, & Expansion > American Age of Formative Expansion

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American Age of Formative Expansion 1789-1830 To begin with the 1st US President & extend through the Whiskey Rebellion, Quasi War with France, War of 1812, & southeastern Indian wars,

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Old 22 Dec 08, 17:02
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The Weapon That Killed Tecumseh

How's this for a few items of Americana, circe 1813.


I stumbled across this at ancestory.com as posted at Whilliam Whitley fille about an 1874 article about my anscestor's rifle. This is the weapon that killed Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames. It now resides at the William Whitley House in Crab Orchard, Kentucky. .



Story of William Whitley's Rifle
Replies: 1
Story of William Whitley's Rifle
Glennda (View posts) Posted: 23 Oct 2006 10:34AM

Classification: Query
Surnames:
I found this while researching PhilipSublette as he married Isabell Whitley.


Fort Wayne Daily Sentinel
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Friday, November 27, 1874


An Old Indian Killer.

INTERESTING EVENTS IN THE HISTORY
OF AN ANCIENT RIFLE.

[From the Louisville Courier-Journal.]
Mr. Andrew Whitley, of St. Louis,
en route to Lexington, visited the
Courier-Journal office yesterday with a
rare relic of the earliest days of Kentucky.
It was a rifle, made by Jacob
Young, of Virginia, in 1741, and
owned by Mr. Whitley's grandfather,
Wm. Whitley, who was one of the first
white men that came to Kentucky, and
was a companion of Daniel Boone.
The Gun is as much a curiosity, on
account of its great length, as it is a
prize on account of its great age, its
history, and recent associations. It is
the old-time flintlock pattern, about
five feet five inches in length, with a
siIver plate mounting on the stock,
bearing the inscription: "W. and
E. W.," which stands for William and
Easter Whitley.
The gun, in the days of its useful-
ness, was a piece of the family prop-
erty, and the wife learned as well as
the husband to coolly draw the bead
on a deer or an Indian, whenever occa-
sion required. The weapon is of large
bore, with perfect rifle, and the stock
and ferruled rammer are apparently in
perfectly sound condition.
Accompanying the gun is a large
powder-horn of beautiful shape, carry-
ing a large supply of powder, and suit-
ing the use of the hunter as well as
the ordinary small hunting flask or
horn, its shape being as well adapted
to the purpose. The horn is well
known throughout the State, and bears
on one side the following verses, carved
in the bony substance. The words
were composed, by Wm. Whitley him-
self, and will doubtless be remembered
by many readers of the Courier-Journal
familiar with the lives of the early
settlers:
William Whitley, I am your horn;
The truth I love, a lie I scorn.
Fill me with, best of powder,
Ile make your rifle crack the lowder.
See how the dread terrifick ball
Makes Indians bleed and toreys fall.
You with powder Ile supply
For to defend your Liberty.

The belt to which the horn is at-
tached is heavily ornamented with
beads made of the quills of porcupines,
which are said to have been killed in
Kentucky.
After passing through all the scenes
of terror enacted on the dark and
bloody ground, incident to the settle-
ment of the commonwealth by the
whites, the faithful old rifle was asso-
ciated with events which add great in-
terest to its history.
William Whitley was a soldier in
the war of 1812, and directed the bul-
lets of his old-time friend against the
British and Indians at the battle of
the Thames, Canada. Here he was
killed in the thick of the fight, but
the gun was preserved and returned to
his people in Kentucky.
Some time before the recent civil
war the present owner came to this
State, found the gun in the possession
of Mrs. Sallie Ann Higgins, near Crab
Orchard, and purchased it at a cost of
$150. He carried the relic to his home
in St. Louis, where he kept it until
the breaking out of the war, when he
was arrested at Camp Jackson during
the demonstration there on the llth
day of May, 1861, and was for some
time a prisoner in Federal hands. A
short time previous to this occurrence,
while contemplating entering the Con-
federate army, he placed the gun in
the keeping of a man named Bates, the
janitor of Wyman's Museum, St.
Louis. A short time afterward the
museum changed hands, and Bates
went to Canada, taking the gun with
him.
At the close of the war Whitley re-
turned home, and immediately after-
ward commenced looking after Bates
and his gun, but all efforts to find the
man proved fruitless until about twelve
months ago, when Bates returned to
St. Louis, and was engaged in the busi-
ness of stuffing birds and animals for a
natural history depot. His name ap-
peared soon after in the public prints,
and by this means his whereabout was
revealed to Mr. Whitley. He went im-
mediately to the place, found Mr.
Bates, who readily recognized him as
the owner of the gun, and in due time
delivered to him the valuable family
relic, which he had kept in good order
for twelve years.
On returning to Kentucky on a visit
a few days ago, Mr. Whitley went
down to Crab Orchard and obtained
from Mrs. Higgins the horn and belt,
which were the only acconterments be-
longing to the highly prized piece.
Mr. Whitley has refused an offer of
$500 for the gun, and would be loth
to part with it at any price.
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  #2  
Old 22 Dec 08, 21:15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lance Williams View Post
Mr. Whitley has refused an offer of
$500 for the gun, and would be loth
to part with it at any price.
I would say!

Great find. Thanks for sharing this!

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Old 22 Dec 08, 23:32
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It sounds as if Whitley was a member of the "Forlorn Hope" that charged Tecumseh's position on horseback, knowing in all probability they would not survive.
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Old 23 Dec 08, 16:54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnbryan View Post
It sounds as if Whitley was a member of the "Forlorn Hope" that charged Tecumseh's position on horseback, knowing in all probability they would not survive.

He led the charge and was killed by Tecumseh, who shot him at near point blank range with one of the pistols given him by General Issac Brock. After Whitley fell a Pvt. King picked up Whitley's still unfired rifle and killed Tecumseh.

That's the truth of the question "who killed Tecumseh?" Not Johnson or any other politician trying to gain fame..........
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Old 24 Dec 08, 02:02
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Who is Whitley? American or English?
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Old 24 Dec 08, 10:23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by General Brock View Post
Who is Whitley? American or English?
William Chapman Whitley is my g-g-g-g-grandfather and decidedly American. One of Kentucky's founding fathers. he built the first brick house west of the Alleghany's (still standing) and the first racetrack in Kentucky. The Battle of the Thames was his 13th battle with the Natives. Though a militia colonel in Kentucky, he volunteered at 64 as a private in the army. He led the charge of the "forlorn hope" against Tecumseh's position.


http://www.e-archives.ky.gov/_govpat...s/wmwhitly.htm

http://parks.ky.gov/findparks/histparks/ww/

I have a photo of the rifle mentioned in the article from a visit to the house. It is not easy to locate or i would try and scan it.
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Old 26 Dec 08, 11:27
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The topic of who killed Tecumseh is very controversial. John Sugden is the leading authority on Tecumseh and makes it clear that it is impossible to say with absolute certainty who killed him. He believes the strongest claim is that it was Richard M. Johnson but no one can be certain that it was not someone else.
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Old 26 Dec 08, 14:55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taco View Post
The topic of who killed Tecumseh is very controversial. John Sugden is the leading authority on Tecumseh and makes it clear that it is impossible to say with absolute certainty who killed him. He believes the strongest claim is that it was Richard M. Johnson but no one can be certain that it was not someone else.
Johnson was nowhere near the place Tecumseh was killed, he was on the other side of the battlefield. I know this to be fact! I'm basing this on 195 years of family oral history, plus the oral tradition of the Shawnee Nation.

If you would like a scholar comparable to Sugden I would recommend A Sorrow In Our Heart by Allan W. Eckert. If you look closely in the footnotes it mentions Pvt. King using William Whitley's rifle to shoot Tecumseh.
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Old 26 Dec 08, 19:28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lance Williams View Post
Johnson was nowhere near the place Tecumseh was killed, he was on the other side of the battlefield. I know this to be fact! I'm basing this on 195 years of family oral history, plus the oral tradition of the Shawnee Nation.

If you would like a scholar comparable to Sugden I would recommend A Sorrow In Our Heart by Allan W. Eckert. If you look closely in the footnotes it mentions Sgt. King using William Whitley's rifle to shoot Tecumseh.
This book by Eckert is considered an historical novel by scholars and as such is not held in high regard by them. I obtained the book shortly after it was published, but I always understood that it blended fact with fiction.

Eckert claims that King shot Tecumseh with Witley's rifle and in the endnotes, actually called amplification notes, he includes part of a letter published in the Louisville Journal on October 22, 1859 as supporting evidence for his conclusion. The letter was written by James Davidson who was King's company commander.

Davidson states that "Because Tecumseh was killed where Johnson made his charge, Johnson got the credit of killing him...." However, even though he acknowledges that Johnson was in the area of the battlefield where Tecumseh was killed, he states that Johnson had already been carried off because of his wounds and Tecumseh was killed later.

John Sugden in his book Tecumseh: A Life mentions the claim about King and states:

""King's claim was published as early as 1816, and may have been a respectable one, but unfortunately a close analysis of the different statements of it made by James Davidson only invite suspicion. His was far from dispassionate narrative of events , and he falsified details in order to square them with what was known, or presumed to be known, about Tecumseh's death. In that Daividson resembled so many others who professed to know the secrets surrounding the end of Tecumseh but who deepened the mystery." (p. 378)

Donald R. Hickey, one of the best historians on the War of 1812 also believes that we don't know for certain who killed Tecumseh, but it was likely Johnson.
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Old 26 Dec 08, 22:41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lance Williams View Post
Johnson was nowhere near the place Tecumseh was killed, he was on the other side of the battlefield. I know this to be fact! I'm basing this on 195 years of family oral history, plus the oral tradition of the Shawnee Nation.

If you would like a scholar comparable to Sugden I would recommend A Sorrow In Our Heart by Allan W. Eckert. If you look closely in the footnotes it mentions Sgt. King using William Whitley's rifle to shoot Tecumseh.
Quote:
Originally Posted by taco View Post
The letter was written by James Davidson who was King's company commander.

Davidson states that "Because Tecumseh was killed where Johnson made his charge, Johnson got the credit of killing him...." However, even though he acknowledges that Johnson was in the area of the battlefield where Tecumseh was killed, he states that Johnson had already been carried off because of his wounds and Tecumseh was killed later.
Taco, doesn't Davidson's statement support Lance's assertation?
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Old 26 Dec 08, 23:25
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Taco, doesn't Davidson's statement support Lance's assertation?
The only way you can assume that Davidson's 1859 letter supports Lance's statement is if you believe Johnson was taken to the other side of the battlefield after he was wounded. There is no evidence I have read that makes that claim.

The question is one of whom do you believe in all the many claims. Apparently, according to Sugden, Davidson "falsified details in order to square them with what was known, or presumed to be known, about Tecumseh's death." That puts everything that Davidson says into question.

Most historians seem to believe that it is just not possible in good conscience to unequivocally claim that any one person killed Tecumseh. They do believe, however, that it appears that more evidence points to Johnson.
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Old 26 Dec 08, 23:31
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Most historians seem to believe that it is just not possible in good conscience to unequivocally claim that any one person killed Tecumseh. They do believe, however, that it appears that more evidence points to Johnson.
Was he killed by a committee?

I would say, that unequivocally, I believe one person did kill Tecumseh. But the identity of that person would be hard to prove. On the other hand, I would take the word of the company commander over any historian's belief.

I am not trying to start an argument. I have no personal expertise to shed on the situation. I just thought the language you posted from Davidson seemed to give credence to Lance's statement that Johnson could not have killed Tecumseh, since he was not in that part of the battlefield at the time.

Just parsing the language. I will bow to your expertise in this area, as you have proved yourself to me in the 1812 thread. Many times over!
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Old 26 Dec 08, 23:51
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There is no dispute that William Whitley led the charge of the 20 man "forlorn hope" that attacked the portion of the defensive line at the Battle of the Thames. To have been in the area to have killed Tecumseh you would have had to have been a part of the charge, or at the very least the infantry that followed into the break in the enemy line (I've heard conflicting stories as to what force Pvt. King was part of).

Johnson by this time was already wounded on a different part of the battlefield.

The reason the use of Whitley's gun is known by the nature of Tecumseh's wounds. Whitley by habit known to his companions used a "double ball" load, two full caliber rounds for close encounters. When Whitley was killed by Tecumseh at close range. Pvt. King kneeled next to Whitley's body and picked up Whitley's rifle and in the same motion cocked and fired at Tecumseh. The range only 10-12 feet. Shawnee oral tradition confirms that Tecumseh had two wounds, one just under the nipple, with another wound just under the throat.

As far as Eckert goes........your right that he has written some of the better historical fiction that out there, but A Sorrow.... is a nonfiction work. Just because an author has written historical fiction it doesn't necessarily taint them as writers of historical works. Just look at Shelby Foote.

BTW, I've read Sudgen too, not bad stuff, but a lot drier than Eckert.
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Old 27 Dec 08, 00:10
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Was he killed by a committee?

I would say, that unequivocally, I believe one person did kill Tecumseh. But the identity of that person would be hard to prove. On the other hand, I would take the word of the company commander over any historian's belief.

I am not trying to start an argument. I have no personal expertise to shed on the situation. I just thought the language you posted from Davidson seemed to give credence to Lance's statement that Johnson could not have killed Tecumseh, since he was not in that part of the battlefield at the time.

Just parsing the language. I will bow to your expertise in this area, as you have proved yourself to me in the 1812 thread. Many times over!
It is possible that Tecumseh was shot by more than one person so maybe that is your committee. My point is that given the lack of any definitive evidence historians are not in a position to declare who it was. They can only say who they think was the most likely person.

James Davidson was not the only person there who later made claims about what happened. Some of the Indians who were with Tecumseh gave testimony and some thought it was Johnson.

I don't see this as a case of historians against the claims of a company commander. Most people are going to question what any person has to say if they have been found to falsify information.

I don't see this type of exchange as an argument. We're just giving our differing views.
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Old 27 Dec 08, 00:54
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Lance,

I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one. We don't know that the claim that Johnson had already been wounded and had left the battlefield is accurate. That is an unsubstantiated claim from James Davidson.

As Sugden points out there were some of the so-called "forlorn hope" soldiers who thought William Whitley shot Tecumseh before he (Whitley) was killed.

Sugden also tells the story of an Indian who fought along side of Tecumseh and later stated that he saw Tecumseh shot by a horseman. This claim was published in 1816 long before Johnson was running for Vice-President. King was on foot so it could not have been him if that claim is true.

As for Eckert's book, I have to disagree with you. In my view it is definitely a historical novel. Donald Hickey does not even reference it in his most recent book, Don't Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812.

Sugden states: "Between them Allan W. Eckert's The Frontiersmen (1967) and A Sorrow in Our Heart, The Life of Tecumseh (1992), both of which had the effrontery to present themselves as historically accurate..." (p. 399-400)

Jon Latimer in his book 1812: War with America (2007) states: "Allan W. Eckert's A Sorrow in Our Heart is a biography that succeeds better as fiction by an author who also wrote a play based on his hero." (p. 423)

As I said, we will have to agree to disagree on this.

Thanks,

Gary
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