Illinois Genealogy Trails

Fort Dearborn
interior picture of fort dearborn
Interior View of Ft. Dearborn

Native Americans in the War of 1812

During the War of 1812 most Chicago Potawatomis favored the British, and on August 15, 1812, when federal troops abandoned Fort Dearborn, hostile Potawatomis led by Siggenauk and Mad Sturgeon attacked the garrison. More than 50 Americans and about 15 Indians were killed in the lakefront battle, which took place near modern Burnham Park. Some of the American prisoners were rescued by friendly Potawatomis, including Black Partridge and Métis Alexander Robinson, who later relinquished the captives to British or American officials. Following the attack, many of the Chicago Potawatomis joined Tecumseh and the British on the Detroit frontier, or sporadically raided American settlements, but in 1813, after American officials built Fort Clark at Lake Peoria, Potawatomi attacks upon southern Illinois diminished. By late 1814 most of the Potawatomis at Chicago had abandoned the British and sought peace with the United States.

Following the War of 1812, the Potawatomis at Chicago were joined by significant numbers of Ottawas and Chippewas (Ojibwas), and Métis leaders assumed a more important role. Particularly prominent was Billy Caldwell, a Métis elected as justice of the peace at Chicago in 1825. Many of the Métis were merchants who played key roles in the region's fur trade.
(Source: http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1001.html)

The 1812 Massacre

History
List of Victims
Muster Roll of the Garrison prior to the Attack - and therefore, possible victims of the massacre
Eye-Witness Letter from Walter Jordan
Other possible, unconfirmed, survivors
Shaubena's Adventure At Chicago - (The Native American perspective)



fort dearborn picture
Located at what is now the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue.


Fort Dearborn, named in honor of Henry Dearborn was built on the Chicago River in 1803 under John Whistler on the site of present-day Chicago, Illinois (On the current section of Central Station that abuts the Prairie Avenue Historic District)

In 1810, when Whistler was recalled to Detroit, Michigan, he was succeeded by Captain Nathan Heald.

During the War of 1812, General William Hull ordered the evacuation of Fort Dearborn in August of 1812.



SANDWICH July 29th 1812
Capt. Nat. Heald.

Sir: It is with regret I order the Evacuation of your Post owing to the want of Provisions only
a neglect of the Commandant of [word illegible-possibly Detroit].

You will therefore Destroy all arms & ammunition, but the Goods of the Factory you may give
to the Friendly Indians who may be desirous of Escorting you on to Fort Wayne & to the Poor &
needy of your Post. I am informed this day that Makinac & the Island of St. Joseph will be Evacu-
ated on acct of the scarcity of Provision & I hope in my next to give you an acct. of the Surrender
of the British at Maiden as I Expect 600 men here by the beginning of Sept.

I am Sir
Yours &c
Brigadier Gen. Hull.
Addressed; Capt. Nathan Heald, Commander Fort Dearborn by Express.



[Source: "CHICAGO AND THE OLD NORTHWEST"]:

"The evacuation order closed with the expression by Hull of the hope, destined never to be realized, of being able to announce in his next communication the surrender of the British at Maiden. Instead of this, on August 8 he abandoned Sandwich and recrossed the river to Detroit. The next day the Indian runner, Winnemac, delivered to Captain Heald at Fort Dearborn his order for the evacuation. Hull also sent word of the intended evacuation to Fort Wayne, ordering the officers there to co-operate in the movement by rendering Captain Heald any information and assistance in their power. In consequence of this, Captain William Wells, the famous Indian scout, set out for Fort Dearborn at the head of thirty Miami warriors to assist in covering Heald's retreat.


(Transcriber's Note:
View Letter from one of the Fort Wayne soldiers to his wife where he describes the Fort Dearborn battle)

Apparently Kinzie sought to dissuade Heald from obeying Hull's order to evacuate. There must be powerful reasons to justify him in taking this step, yet if sufficiently convincing ones pertaining to the safety of the garrison existed, it is clear that Heald should have assumed the responsibility on the ground that the order had been issued in ignorance of the facts of the situation confronting the Fort Dearborn garrison.

There were several reasons to be urged against an evacuation. The fort was well situated for defense. With the garrison at hand it could probably be held indefinitely against an attack by Indians alone, providing the supply of ammunition and provisions held out. The surrounding Indians outnumbered the garrison ten to one, it is true, but success against such odds when the whites were sheltered behind a suitable stockade was not unusual in the annals of border warfare. The situation was complicated, too, by the private interests at stake. Evacuation would mean financial ruin to Kinzie, the trader, and Lee, the farmer. These considerations Heald properly ignored of course. But the danger to the families of the soldiers and of the civilians clustered around the fort was greater and more appalling than to the garrison itself. There could be no thought of abandoning these helpless souls, yet the attempt to convey them away with the garrison would render the retreat exceedingly slow and cumbersome.

Heald oversaw preparations for the evacuation, On August 13 Captain Wells arrived from Fort Wayne with his thirty Miami warriors to act as an additional escort for the troops in their retreat. Probably on this day a council was held with the Indians at which Heald announced his intention to distribute the goods among them and evacuate the fort, and stipulated for their protection upon his retreat. On the fourteenth the goods in the factory were delivered to the Indians, together with a considerable quantity
of provisions which could not be taken along on the retreat. The stock of liquor was destroyed, however, as were also the
surplus arms and ammunition. To the resentment kindled among the Indians by the destruction of these stores the immediate cause of the attack and massacre on the following day has often been ascribed. Yet that but for the destruction of the powder and whisky there would have been no attack on the garrison seems most improbable. Heald stated under oath several years later that prior to the evacuation the Indians had made "much application" to him for ammunition, and expressed the opinion that but for the
destruction which took place not a soul among the whites would have escaped the tomahawk.

All was now ready for the departure, which was to take place on the morning of the fifteenth. At this juncture there came to the commander a belated warning.
Black Partridge, a Pottawatomie chief from the Illinois River, came to him with the significant message that "linden birds" had been singing in his ears and they ought to be careful on the march they were about to make. At the same time he surrendered his medal, explaining that the young warriors were bent on mischief and probably could not be restrained.

It was now too late to withdraw from the plan of evacuating the fort, even if the commander had desired to do so. The next morning dawned warm and cloudless. Inside the stockade the last preparations for the toilsome journey had been made.... without, in the marshes and prairies and woods that stretched away from the fort to south and west and north, the representatives of another race were encamped. Several hundred red warriors, many of them accompanied by their squaws and children, had gathered about the doomed garrison. For them, doubtless, the preceding days had been filled with eager debate and anticipation. The former had concerned the momentous question whether to heed the advice of the Americans to remain neutral in the war between the white nations, or whether to follow their natural inclination to raise the hatchet against the hated Long Knives and in behalf of their former Great Father. The latter had hinged about the visions of wealth hitherto undreamed of to flow from the distribution of the white man's stores among them; or about the prospect, equally pleasing to the majority, of taking sweet if belated revenge for the long train of disasters and indignities they had suffered at the hands of the hated race by the slaughter of its representatives gathered here within their grasp. As day by day the runners came from the Detroit frontier with news of the ebbing of lull's fortunes and with appeals from Tecumseh to strike a blow for their race, the peace party among them dwindled, doubtless, as did the hope of Hull's army. Now, at the critical moment, on the eve of the evacuation when, if ever, the blow must be struck, had come a final message from Tecumseh with news of Hull's retreat to Detroit and of the decisive victory of August 4 over a portion of his troops at Brownstown. With this the die was cast, and the fate of the garrison sealed. The war bands could no longer be restrained by the friendly chiefs, to whom was left the role of watching what they could not prevent and saving such of their friends as they might from destruction.

And now the stage is set for Chicago's grimmest tragedy. Before us are the figures of her early days. Let us pause a moment to take note of some of the actors before the curtain is lifted for the drama. John Kinzie, the trader, vigorous and forceful and shrewd, with more at stake financially than anyone else in the company, but, of vastly greater importance, with a surer means of protection for the lives of himself and family in the friendship of the Indians. Chandonnai, the half-breed, staunch friend of the Americans, whom all authorities unite in crediting with noble exertions to save the prisoners. The friendly Pottawatomie chiefs, Alexander Robinson, who was to pilot the Healds to safety at Mackinac, and
Black Partridge, who had warned Captain Heald of the impending attack, and who soon would save the life of Mrs. Helm. Among the hostile leaders were Black Bird, probably the son of the chief who had assisted the Americans in plundering St. Joseph in 1781; and Nuscotnemeg, or the Mad Sturgeon, already guilty of many murders committed against the whites. Then there were the officers and their wives. Heald, the commander, old in experience and responsibility if not in years; his beautiful and spirited young wife, whose charm could stay the descent of the deadly tomahawk, and whose bravery extort the admiration of even her savage captors; Lieutenant Helm and his young wife, who preferred to meet the impending danger by the side of her husband. Of the younger men, Van Voorhis and Ronan, the former has left of himself a winning picture, sketched in a letter a fragment of which has been preserved ; With them but not of them was William Wells, the famous frontier scout, the true history of whose life surpasses fiction.... He alone of all the company, therefore, was present from choice rather than from necessity. His arrival at Fort Dearborn on the thirteenth must have afforded the only ray of cheer and hope which came to the settlement in this time of trial and danger. [Transcriber's Note: He apparently had brought one of the soldiers of Fort Wayne with him, Walter K. Jordan. Read his letter to his wife.]

All preparations being complete, about nine o'clock the stockade gate was thrown open and there issued forth the saddest procession Michigan Avenue has ever known. In the lead were a part of the Miamis, and Wells, their leader, alert and watching keenly for the first signs of a hostile demonstration. In due array followed the garrison, the women and children who were able to walk, and the Chicago militia, the rear being brought up by the remainder of the Miamis. Most of the children, being too young to walk, rode in one of the wagons, accompanied, probably, by one or more of the women. Mrs. Heald and Mrs. Helm were mounted and near or with their husbands, though each couple became separated early in the combat. The other women and children were on foot around the baggage wagons, which were guarded by Ensign Ronan, Surgeon Van Voorhis, the soldiers who had families, and the twelve Chicago militia.

The route taken was due south, parallel with the river until its mouth was reached and then along the beach, not far, probably, from the present Michigan Avenue, for most of the land to the east has been filled in since the beginning of modern Chicago. On the right of the column moved an escort of Pottawatomies. Below the mouth of the river began a row of sand hills, or ridges, which ran between the prairie and the beach, parallel to the latter and distant from it about one hundred yards. When these were reached the soldiers continued along the beach, while the Pottawatomies disappeared behind the ridges to the right. The reason for this soon became apparent. When a distance of about a mile and a half had been traversed by the soldiers Captain Wells, who with his militia was some distance in advance, discovered that the Indians had prepared an ambush for the whites and were about to attack them from their vantage point behind the bank. Aware of a favorable position for defense a short distance ahead, he rode rapidly back toward the main body to urge Heald to press forward and occupy it, swinging his hat in a circle around his head as he went, as a signal that the party was surrounded. The heads of the warriors now became visible all along the line, popping up "like turtles out of the water." The troops immediately charged up the bank, and with a single volley followed home with a bayonet charge scattered the Indians before them. But this move proved as futile as it was brave. The Indians gave way in front only to join their fellows in another place, on the flank or in the rear, and the fight went on.

Meanwhile a deadlier combat, which we may perhaps think of as a separate battle, was raging around the wagons in the rear. Here it was that the real massacre occurred. Apparently in the charge up the sand hills and in the ensuing movements the main division of the regulars under Heald became separated from the rear division, and yet it was precisely here, where the provisions
and the helpless women and children were placed, that protection was most urgently needed. The Indians, outnumbering the whites almost ten to one, swarmed around, some, apparently, even coming from the front to share in the easier contest at this point. Here were the junior officers, Ronan and Van Voorhis, and here, apparently, Kinzie had elected to stay. Around the wagons too were the militia, twelve in number, comprising the male inhabitants of the settlement capable of bearing arms, who had been organized and armed by Heald at the time of the April murders. The combat here was furious, being waged hand to hand in an indiscriminate melee. Fighting desperately with bayonet and musket-butt the militia were cut down to a man. But one, Sergeant Burns, escaped instant death, and he, grievously wounded, was slaughtered an hour after the surrender by an infuriated squaw. Ronan and Van Voorhis shared their fate as did the regular soldiers, Kinzie being the only white man at the wagons who survived. Even the soldiers' wives, armed with swords, hacked bravely away as long as they were able. In the course of the melee two of the women and most of the children were slain.

The butchery of these unfortunate innocents constitutes the saddest feature of that gory day. The measure which had been taken to insure their welfare was responsible for their destruction; for while the conflict raged hotly, a young fiend broke through the defenders of the wagons and climbing into the one containing the children quickly tomahawked all but one of them. Of the women slain one was Mrs. Corbin, the wife of a private soldier, who is said to have resolved never to be taken prisoner, dreading more than death the indignities she believed would be in store for her. Accordingly she fought until she was cut to pieces. The other was Cicely, Mrs. Heald's negro serving-woman. She and her infant son, who also perished, afford two of the few instances of which we have authentic record of negroes being held in slavery at Chicago.

While this slaughter was going on at the wagons Captain Wells, who had been fighting in front with the main body of troops, seems to have started back to the scene to engage in a last effort to save the women and children. His horse was wounded and he himself was shot through the breast. He bade his niece farewell, when his horse fell, throwing him prostrate on the ground with one leg caught under its side. Some Indians approaching, he continued to fire at them, killing one or more from his prostrate position. An Indian now took aim at him, seeing which Wells signed to him to shoot, and his stormy career was ended. The foe paid their sincerest tribute of respect to his bravery by cutting out his heart and eating it, thinking thus to imbibe the qualities of its owner in life. Wells was the real hero of the Chicago massacre, giving his life voluntarily to save his friends. The debt which Chicago owes to his memory an earlier generation sought to discharge by giving his name to one of the city's principal streets. But to its shame a later one robbed him in large part of this honor, by giving to that portion of the street which runs south of the river the inappropriate and meaningless designation of Fifth Avenue.

The close of another brave career was dramatic enough to deserve separate mention. During the battle Sergeant Hayes, who had already manifested the greatest bravery, engaged in individual combat with an Indian. The guns of both had been discharged, when the Indian ran up to him with uplifted tomahawk. Before the warrior could strike Hayes ran his bayonet into his breast up to the socket, so that he could not pull it out. In this situation, supported by the bayonet, the Indian tomahawked him, and the foemen fell dead together, the bayonet still in the red man's breast.

Meanwhile what of Captain Heald and the troops under his immediate direction? The Miamis had abandoned the Americans at the first sign of hostilities. After a few minutes of sharp fighting Heald drew off with such of his men as still survived to a slight elevation on the open prairie, out of shot of the bank or any other cover. Here he enjoyed a temporary respite, for the Indians refrained from following him, having no desire, apparently, to grapple with the regulars at close range in the open. The fight thus far had lasted only about fifteen minutes, yet half of the regulars had fallen, Wells and two of the officers were dead and the other two wounded, and the Americans were hopelessly beaten. The alternatives before them were to die fighting to the last, or to surrender and trust to the savages for mercy. After some delay the Indians sent a half-breed interpreter, who lived near the fort and was friendly with the garrison, and who in the commencement of the action had gone over to the Indians in the hope of saving his life, to make overtures for a surrender. Heald advanced alone toward the Indians and was met by the interpreter and the chief, Black Bird, who requested him to surrender, promising to spare the lives of the prisoners. The soldiers at first opposed the proposition, but after some parleying the surrender was made, Captain Heald promising, as a further inducement to the Indians to spare the prisoners, a ransom of one hundred dollars for every one still living. The captives were now led back to the beach and thence along the route toward the fort over which they had passed but an hour or so before. On the way they passed the scene of the massacre around the wagons.

Helm records his horror at the sight of the men, women, and children "lying naked with principally all their heads off." In passing the bodies he thought he perceived that of his wife, with her head severed from her shoulders. The sight almost overcame him, and we may readily believe that he "now began to repent" that he had ever surrendered. He was happily surprised, however, on approaching the fort to find her alive and well, sitting crying among some squaws. She owed her preservation to the friendly
Black Partridge, who had claimed her as his prisoner.

In the action the white force numbered fifty-five regulars and twelve militia in addition to Wells and Kinzie, the latter of whom did not participate in the fighting. Against these were pitted about five hundred Indians. The white men were better armed, but the Indians had the advantage of position and of freedom from the incumbrance of baggage and women and children to protect. Under the circumstances the odds were overwhelmingly in their favor, and their comparatively easy victory was but a matter of course. Their loss was estimated by Heald at about fifteen. The Americans killed in the action comprised twenty-six regular soldiers, the twelve militia and Captain Wells, with two of the women and twelve children. A number of the survivors, too, were wounded. Following the surrender came the customary scenes of savage cruelty. The friendly Indians could answer only for the
prisoners in their possession. Some of the wounded were tortured to death, and it is not improbable that some of the prisoners were burned at the stake.

THE FATE OF THE SURVIVORS

Twenty-nine soldiers, seven women, and six children remained alive at the close of the battle among the sand dunes to face the
horrors of captivity among the Indians. These figures do not include Kinzie, the trader, and the members of his family, who were regarded as neutrals and were not included by the Indians in the number of their prisoners. Concerning the fate of some of the survivors we have full information, but of others not even the names can be given with certainty, and of their fate we can speak only in general terms.

The Darius Heald narrative states that the Indians were believed to have gone off down the lake shore on the evening of the massacre day to have a "general frolic," torturing the wounded soldiers. Woodward gives the names of two of these victims, Richard Garner and James Latta, both private soldiers. By a process of comparison of all the sources concerning those who perished in captivity we get the names of the other three, Micajah Denison, John Fury, and Thomas Poindexter...

Ultimately the majority of the prisoners were to find their way back to civilization, but for several death offered the only avenue of escape from their captivity. For some, indeed, death must have come as a welcome relief from sufferings far more dreadful. Such must have been the case with Mrs. Needs, the wife of one of the soldiers. Her husband, her child, and herself all survived the massacre, only to die in captivity. The husband died in January, 1813 the brief record left us contains no indication
of the cause of his death. Annoyed by the crying which hunger forced from the child, the savages tied it to a tree to perish of starvation or to become the prey of some wild beast. Still later the wretched mother perished from cold and hunger. Another prisoner, William Nelson Hunt, was frozen to death. Hugh Logan, an Irishman, unable to walk because of excessive fatigue, was tomahawked; such, also, was the fate of August Mortt, a German, and for a similar reason.....

The names of the nine men who were thus restored to their countrymen almost two years after the massacre deserve a place in our narrative. They were James Van Horn, Dyson Dyer, Joseph Noles, Joseph Bowen, Paul Grummo, Nathan Edson, Elias Mills, James Corbin, and Fielding Corbin. With the exception of Grummo, no record has been found of the further career of these men."
[Source: "CHICAGO AND THE OLD NORTHWEST 1673-1835 BY MILO MILTON QUAIFE, PH.D. , © 1913]



Walter K. Jordan

[Source: "Indiana Magazine of History", submitted by Dale Jordan, transcribed by K. Torp]

..."Jordan had left his family in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and had become a member of the garrison at Fort Wayne, indiana Territory. When Hull's order reached that garrison asking that cooperation be given to Captain Heald in carrying out the evacuation of Fort Dearborn, Captain William Wells, a famous Indian scout and the uncle of Mrs. Heald, volunteered his services. At the head of a band of Miami warriors he left Fort Wayne for Fort Dearborn. Jordan, who bore the rank of corporal, also accompanied him. Apparently they started on August 8, arrived on the 13th and departed on the 15th. Jordan was present at the massacre. Being among the survivors, he became a prisoner of the Indians, escaped and returned to Fort Wayne. He was present when that fort was besieged and when it was relieved by William Henry Harrison. After these harrowing experiences he wrote two or possibly three letters. On October 12, 1812, he wrote to his wife "Betcy" and on December 17, 1812, he wrote to Joseph Hunter of Mercer County, Penn. He may also have written a second letter to his wife on October 19.



[Note: Items in brackets were unreadable in the original letter and were supplemented from a newspaper clipping in the possession of the family. Original spellings and punctuation are maintained]

Letter of October 12, 1812....
Betcy I now lift my pen to inform you that I am in a good State of health after a long and (sore) Journy threw the indian Cuntry I Started (from) fort wayn on the 1 of august With Cap Wells and (100) pretended indian friends to goe to fort dearbourn on lake michigan wich is 200 miles from fort wain to gard in Cap Hell [Heald] and his Company to fort wain as he was in danger of Being takin By the British and had received orders to avacuate that fort and march to fort wayn. Wee got to fort dearbourn (on the 10th of) august unmolested destroyd all that wee Could not fetch With-us and prepard for a march on the morning of th[e] 15 the morning of the 15 now arives the Most Limentable Day I Ever Saw

Heels men Consists of 100 men 10 -- woman and 20 Children total amounting --130--. Wels and my-Self and our 100 pretended friends making in all 232 now Wee leave fort dearbourn about 8 O Clock inthe morning Bound for fort Wayne and Marched about 1 mile when we wore atacked with 500 kikepoos and winabagoes indians and our pretended friends (joined) them. our engagement last about 10 (minutes) When there was Every man wooman and Chid (killed) But 15 and thanks be to god I was one of them tha first Shot the fether out of my Cap the nex Shot the appolet of my Shoulder and the 3 Broke the handle of my Sword I had to Surrender My Self to 4 Damd yallow indians that Marche up to whar Wells Lay and one of them Spok English and Said Jordan I now you you gave me some to Bacco at fort wain you Shant Be kild but See What I will doe with your Captain.

He then Cut of his head and Stuck it on a pol while another tuck out his hart and divided it among the Cheiffs and tha Eate it up raw When that Cupled [scalped] all tha gatherd in a round ring with With [sic] us poore Devils in the midle and had like to fall out hoo Should have the prisoners But my old Chief The White Racoon held me by the hand th[ey] striped all of us to our Shirts and Trowsers and Evyry family tuck one as long as wee Lasted and then Steard for thare Towns Evyry man to his tent O Israel but I will Just inform you when I got to my strange lodging I loke about Like a cat in a Strange garrett. (But I) made My Self as Comfortable as possible I [could] under My present SircumStance nite Came on tha [tied me] hard and fast and plased a guard over me I laid down [and] slep Sound till morning for I was tired tha untied me in the Morning and Set me to parching Corn. I worked all day very atentive at nite my old Chief told that if I would Stay and not run away that I Should be a Chief But if atemped to run away tha would Catch me and Burn me alive I told him a fine Story So th[ey] did not ty me that nite as for the particulars I havnt room to [write them] but I [made my escape] on the 19 and Stole one of thare horses and Came to fort Wayn on 26th Being 7 days in the wilderness Whare I was recvd Joyfully on 28th the indians attacked fort wain so tha Cut of all interCours tha thaut to Starve us out but one friend indian Came in and wee Sent him to govrnor harrison Witch Cam to our relief on the 16 of Septem With 3 thousand volenteers When the governor came on he Broke our Captain for Cowardise I Just mention this that if it is my lot to fall that you may now how to Comat at my rite I Belong to Captain James Rhay the 1 Ridgement of infantry our paymaster was [manuscript torn] Detroit So I have not recevd one Cent of pay but half of [my bounty] witch was 8 dollars I now am 3 Sargent my pay if [7 dollars] a month I onely Served 15 days as a privet What Spare time [I have] I assist the Comosary So that keps me in tee Sugar and so forth after all my funn I weigh 190 one word to you Betcy for if I was now speaking to you it would my Languague I have two litters of yourn Before me and Some of the soft hair of yor head and Some in a Small plat round mY neck I must just that I am Sorry to See your pen Breath ridicule for if I diserve it it wont cure it dont conclud from those words that I am tired of your letters But tell me how you live and the Childern is and fo God Sake try to Send Mountford to scool it ant on time in ten that I can rite to you But you Can rite When you pleas. I gave 50 cents for this paper. Dirct your Letter to the Care of Lieutanant ostrander for we have no Cap now tell me if the men is Drafted in your Cuntry You will do W K Jordan favor if you send Hunter a copy of this Leter So give my Comps to all inquiring friends give my Best respects to your father and mother and all your brothers and this Line of kises to my Harts Delite ----------------
and the Boys tell them what you please and these for your Self ----------------
- So I ConClud With My Best Resects to you till death or till I see [you] So I Subscribe My name this 12 nite of October 1812.
W.K. Jordan Sergent


The letters were in the possession of Howard and Catherine Keach of Bedford, Indiana - Mr. Keach being a great-great-grandson of Walter K. and "Betcy" Jordan. The letters were brought to a history class at Indiana University by Mrs. Virginia Toole of Bedford.... The appearance of the letters today tend to confirm the belief that they are very old. They are written on good substantial paper in the same poor handwriting and are torn along the folds from much handling.
According to the records of the War Department, Walter K. Jordan was born at Washington, Penn. and was enlisted on March 10, 1812 at Pittsburgh, age 29. The family bible lists the marriage of William Jordan and Elizabeth Wort and the members of her family from 1748 to the present. The Orderly Books of the garrison of Fort Wayne contain several references to him. He was appointed corporal on July 24, 1812 by Captain J. Rhea, the commandant. On December 26, 1812 he was charged with neglect of duty on the previous evening, to which he pled guilty and prayed the mercy of the court. He was reduced to the rank of a private, but was reinstated as a corporal on Jan. 7, 1813, at the request of the officers of the company. ... He served as a witness at a court martial on January 25 and June 16. On August 23, 1813, he was charged with couterfeiting and forging a permit to buy one pint of whiskey. For this he was again reduced to the rank of a private. [The last pages of the orderly book are missing and it is not known whether he was reinstated or not.]... Jordan did not live to rejoin his family, his death occurring on April 6, 1814. ...


One of the accounts previously referred to narrates the departure of Captain Wells from Fort Wayne for Fort Dearborn and refers to "one of our soldiers" who went with him. Since the other accounts of the massacre do not mention Jordan, this reference to "one of our soldiers" is the only known confirmation of his claim to have gone to Fort Dearborn that has come to light. [Source: "Indiana Magazine of History", submitted by Dale Jordan, transcribed by K. Torp]



[Here is a letter submitted from researcher Jason Foster who says it's from Walter Jordan (though the writer does not sign the letter with that name), sent to Joseph Hunter, who the researcher says is Walter's brother. The original of the letter has been donated to the Wisconsin State Historical Society.
From Researcher Mary W. Bowden: the original of this letter appeared in the "Niles' Weekly Register" for May 8, 1813, p. 160]


Sir after my respects
I now lift my pen you all that I am just now sitting by a good fire in a warm room in Fort Wayne Garrison after a troublesom (sic) summer with the Indians, I wrote a full account of my being taken prisoner with the Indians. I told Betsy to send you the letter or the copy of it, and I wished one of you to send an answer and as yet I have got none, I now will just mention some of the particulars. I started from Fort Wayne on the 4th of August to go to Chicago 200 miles distant from Fort Wayne with Capt Wills and 100 friend Indians to conduct Captain Hull and his company to this place. We arrived there on the 9th and started on the 15th for Fort Wayne. Marched about two 2 miles when we were attacked with about 500 Indians and then our friend Indians joined them. Then there was 600 Indians against 100/30 men women & children. Our engagement lasted about 20 minutes then our 130 was reduced to 15 souls of which thank God I was one. During the engagement the feather was shot out of my cap the epullet off my shoulder and the handle broke of my sword, but received no bodily harm. They scalped all of the dead and wounded and then joined to divide the prisoner?? When one Indian came up to me and said Jordan no hurt you. You gave me tobacco at Fort Wayne but see what I will do to your captain he then cut off his head and stuck it on a pole then cut him open and took out his heart and gave a piece of it to each chief that stood around him. Now the prisoners are divided and I go to the River ?Depas? With my chief the White Racoon. When I came to the camp I look like a cat in a strange garret, as for what happened I can't now tell you all. I stayed 3 days & nights the 4th night I started now being about 300 miles distant from Fort Wayne. I need not stop here to tell you how I got to Fort Wayne but it is thank God I got safe here where I was received with joy this being the 28th day of August. On the 29th the garrison was surrounded with about 9010? hundred Indians they kept us in the garrison till the 14th September during this time we lost 10 men all our intercourse was cut off here in the woods hemmed up by the Indians. The Indians had taken 2 forts before and was determined that Fort Wayne should be the same. There was only 45 fighting men in the garrison Officers and all. I don't know what you may think of the fight but I thought it long enough. The garrisons that was taken is Mackinaw and Chicago when to the latter I was witness but Governor Harrison came to our relief with 3000 volunteers which soon dispatched the Indians and gave us liberty to see the out side of the garrison again. There is one thing that I am sorry to say that my Captain Rhay broke for cowardice our 2 lieutenants and ensign confined him to his room and when the General came he was broke. I have nothing to tell only that I was raised from a private to a sargent. I would not wish to live better than I do. I have good warm cloths (sic) and plenty of them and the solders (sic) has to cut wood and cook so that all I have to do is to ?momet?? guard every 5 nights I can't give you news about our army for we have not had an express for this two months on the account of the high water. We now send an express today to hear what they are doing. Please to write concerning the drafts whether they are heavy or not and don't forget to tell me how the last election ?went? I have not read one cent of pay as yet, but I will have a hand full when it comes I was appointed sargent last July I assist the commissary some and that helps me some in pocket money. One request is to try and to find out how the children is coming on and don't write any thing about them you don't know to be true if God spares us both it is likely we will talk face to face in about 5 years. Yes please to excuse the silence of my pen to you ?slugh? I long for a line from your hand for I suppose ?walls? To full of fun Sally, Robert, & John is to little. If you get this letter give Betsy word of it and see if she got any that I sent her and let me know with this I conclude with my best respects to all inquiring friends N.B. I am commanded by Capt ?Hugh? More.
To Joseph Hunter Send Betsy this letter
Walter K Hunter Sargent
Dec 17th, 1812






dearborn massacre painting
The Potawatomi captured Capt. Heald and his wife, Rebekah, and ransomed them to the British. Of the 148
[by some accounts] soldiers, women and children who evacuated the Fort, 86 were killed in the ambush. The Potawatomi burned the fort to the ground the next day.



Ft. Dearborn Massacre Victims' Names

The Names of the Victims are not known for sure - it is not even positive how many people started out and how many died. This particular book says 93 started out.... other sources say as many as 148.

Survivors were taken prisoner by the Native Americans and were held captive as long as two years before making their way to freedom, adding to the confusion of trying to figure out who survived

Casualty List Compiled from two sources:

Source #1:
Heroes and Heroines of the Fort Dearborn Massacre" Lawrence, Kan.: Journal Pub. Co., 1896)

Source #2: "
Payroll of a Company of Infantry Commanded by Capt. Nathan Heald of the First Regiment of the U.S. for the Months of april, May and June 1812" written by Albert G. Overton and published in the ISGS Quarterly XXV:1 in the Spring of 1993

KILLED IN BATTLE

From Heroes & Heroines:


Joseph (or James) COOPER

Van VOORHIS

Two children - BURNS

Mrs. CORBIN

LEE Family
(except the mother and infant and possibly a 10 or 12 y.o. girl by the name of Lillian Lee)

Mrs. Heald's slave CICELY and her male infant son
[The printed sources of information concerning Cicely and her child are Darius Heald's narrative of the massacre in Magazine of American History, XXVIII, and the Heald petition to the Court of Claims for compensation for property lost in the massacre, in Chicago Tribune, December 8, 1883. The author has a memorandum prepared by Mrs. Heald for the guidance of her son, Darius, on the occasion of his visit to Chicago in 1855 for the purpose of procuring testimony in support of the claim for compensation for the Heald property lost in the massacre. It contains the following allusions to Cicely and her son:
"John Kinzie at Chicago .... he knew the negro girl Cicely. He came to buy the negro girl offered me $600. he probably knows about the horses three in number. He knows about the negro woman being killed and also her male infant killed in the battle by the Indians Mrs. Baubee [Beaubien] Knew Capt. Heald and his wife and the negroes and horses which they had in possession at the time of the defeat, knows of the killing of the negroes Mrs. Helium [Helm] Get these two Ladies to relate all their knowledge as regards the loss of the two slaves the horses and other personal property in their possession " ]


Captain WELLS

Sgt. HAYES

SIMMONS (soldier) and his child, David SIMMONS

From Albert Overton's transcription of
the
Company Payroll
(which does not list any civilian deaths)
:

George Ronan, Ensign
Isaac V. VanVoorhis, Surg. Mate
Isaac Holtt, Sergeant
Otho Hayes, Sergeant
George Burnett, Fifer
Hugh McPherson, Drummer
John Hamilton, Drummer
John Allin, Private
George Adams, Private
Prestly Andrews, Private
Asa Campbell, Private
Stephan Draper, Private
Rhodias Jones, Private
David Kinison, Private
Samuel Kilpatrick, Private
John Kelso, Private
Jacob Landon, Private
Frederick Locker, Private
Duncan McCarty
William Moffett
Peter Miller, Private
William Prickett, Private
Frederick Peterson, Private
David Sherror, Private
James Starr, Private

KILLED AFTER BATTLE

  • Richard GARNER (private soldier)

  • James LATTA

  • Sgt. BURNS was killed an hour after battle

    3 wounded soldiers were tortured and killed by the Native Americans after the battle:

  • Micajah DENISON
  • John FURY
  • Thomas POINDEXTER
  • Richard Garner, Private

  • James Latta, Private - Killed after the surrender (the next night)

  • Michael Lynch, Private

  • Hugh Logan, Private (In the winter)

  • Thomas Poindexter, Private, Supposed to have been killed while a prisoner

  • John Suton field, Private, Killed while a prisoner

DIED IN CAPTIVITY

  • 3 members of the NEEDS family - Mrs. Needs, her soldier husband and child.

  • William Nelson HUNT

  • Hugh LOGAN (Irishman)

  • August MORTT (German)
  • John Needs, Private - Died while a prisoner with the Inds

  • William N. Hunt, Private - Died while a prisoner

  • August Mortt, Private, Killed while a prisoner
 

Altogether (by this book's account), there were killed in battle:

26 regular soldiers
12 Militia
12 children


Left alive after the battle were:
29 soldiers
7 woman
6 children
(Not including Kinzie and his family, who were considered to be neutral by the Native Americans)

Those Rescued after 2 Years of Captivity:

James VAN HORN
Dyson DYER
Joseph NOLES
Joseph BOWEN
Paul GRUMMO (aka De Garmo)
Nathan EDSON
Elias MILLS
James CORBIN
Fielding CORBIN

Others Eventually Rescued:

Sgt. William GRIFFITH
Captain HEALD and his wife
Lieut. HELM
Mrs. SIMMONS and her daughter Susan. Susan Simmons Winans lived to be the last survivor of the massacre, dying at Santa Ana, CA on April 27, 1900


Other possible survivors:

David KENNISON
(However, he's listed on the payroll transcription as KIA)

Job WRIGHT

Walter K. JORDAN



This is a Muster Roll of Fort Dearborn
prior to the evacuation.
The 1896 book notes that those with * by their names, "probably" were in the attack.

Listed in 1896 "Heroes and Heroines"

Listed in Overton's 1993
Pay Roll Transcription

NAMES

RANK

APPOINTED OR ENLISTED

REMARKS AND CHANGES SINCE LAST MUSTER

Fate
(from Albert Overton's 1993 article which are based on Captain Heald's attempts to find out the fate of his men)

X

X

*Nathan Heald

Captain

31 Jan 1807

On furlough in Mass

Escaped from the Inds. and got to Mack.

X

 

Philip O'Strander

2nd Lieut.

1 May 1808

Present. Of Capt. Rhea's Co. Ass. M y Agt. Sick.

Not on Overton's list

X

 

Seth Thompson

"

? Aug 1808

Present

Not on Overton's list

 

X

Lina T. Helm

"

   

Escaped down the Illinois River

 

X

George Ronan

Ensign

   

Killed in the action at Chicago 15 Aug 1812

X

 

*John Cooper

Surg. Mate

13 June 1808

"

 
 

X

Isaac V. VanVoorhis

Sug. Mate

   

Killed in the action at Chicago 15 Aug 1812

X

 

Joseph Glass

Sergt

18 June 1806

"

 
 

X

William Griffith

"

   

Enlisted 1 May 1812, Escaped with Capt. Heald

 

X

Isaac Holtt

"

   

Killed in the action at Chicago 15 Aug 1812

 

X

Otho Hayes

"

   

Killed in the action at Chicago 15 Aug 1812

X

X

*John Crozier

"

2 July 1808

"

Escaped & got into Fort Wayne

X

 

Richard Rickman

"

10 May 1806

"

 

X

X

Thomas Forth

Corporal

6 July 1807

"

Discharged previous to payment. The table shows Forth received no disbursement from the company payroll funds on 30 June 1812. He had pay due him up to the date of his discharge which he would have received on the payday if he had been at the fort to claim it.

 

X

Joseph Bowen

"

   

Bot from the Inds. at Chicago & sent to Fort Malden (on the Canadian side of the Detroit River at Amherstburg, south of Windsor, Ontario. This was the headquarters of Col. Proctor, the British commander of operations in the west.

X

X

*Asa Campbell

"
(Listed as a PVT by Overton)

26 Jan 1810

"

Killed in the action

X

X

*Rhodias Jones

"
(Listed as a PVT by Overton)

9 Dec 1807

"

Killed in the action

X

 X

*Richard Garner

"
(Listed as a PVT by Overton)

2 Oct 1810

"

 Killed after the action

X

X

George Burnet

Fifer

1 Oct 1806

"

Killed in the action

X

X

John Smith

"

27 June 1806

"

Got into Canada

X

X

*John Hamilton

Drummer

5 July 1808

"

Killed in action

X

X

*Hugh McPherson

"

20 Oct 1807

"

Killed in action

X

X

*John Allen

Private

27 Nov 1810

"

Killed in action

X

X

George Adams

"

21 Aug 1806

"

Killed in action

X

X

Prestley Andrews

"

11 July 1806

" (sick)

Killed in action

X

 

Thomas Ashbrook

"

29 Dec 1805

Term expired 29 Dec 1810

 

X

 

Thomas Burns

"

18 June 1806

Present

 

X

 

Patrick Burke

"

27 May 1806

" (sick)

 

X

 

Redmond Berry

"

2 July 1806

"

 

X

 

William Best

"

22 April 1806

Present unfit for service

 

X

 

James Chapman

"

1 Dec 1805

Time expired 1 Dec 1810

 

X

X

James Corbin

"

2 Oct 1810

Present

Bot at Chicago sent to Malden

X

X

Fielding Corbin

"

7 Dec 1805

Time expired - 7 Dec 1810

Bot at Chicago sent to Malden

X

 

Silas Clark

"

15 Aug 1806

On command at Ft. Wayne

 

X

 

James Clark

"

4 Dec 1805

Time expired 4 Dec 1810

 

X

X

*Dyson Dyer

"

1 Oct 1810

Present (sick)

Bot at Chicago & sent to Malden

X

X

Stephen Draper

"

19 July 1806

"

Killed in the action

X

X

*Daniel Dougherty

"

13 Aug 1807

"

Promoted to Corporal 16 June 1812. Found

(The remarks are written in cramped script indicating they were added after the notes above and below were written. The full statement is "Found on board the British fleet on Lake Erie when it was taken by Comm. Perry")

X

X

Michael Denison
(aka Michiyah Denison)

"

28 Apr 1806

"

"The remarks column is definitely blank following Denison's name. There is no evidence of faded ink or erasure. He evidently did not return to civilization or was he accounted for among the KIA. The blank space in the remarks column shows Capt. Heald could learn nothing of his fate.

X

X

*Nathan Edson

"

6 April 1810

"

Bot at Chicago & sent to Malden

X

X

*John Fury

"

19 March 1808

"

Found in the British Fleet on Lake Erie. (The remarks are written in cramped script indicating they were added after the notes above and below were written. The full statement is "Found on board the British fleet on Lake Erie when it was taken by Comm. Perry")

X

X

*Paul Grummo

"

1 Oct 1810

"

Bot at Chicago & sent to Malden

X

X

*William N. Hunt

"

18 Oct 1810

"

Died while a prisoner

 

X

Nathan A. Hurtt

     

Escaped & got into Fort Wayne

X

X

John Kelsoe

"

17 Dec 1805

Time expired 17 Dec 1810

Killed in the action

X

X

*David Kennison
(aka David Kinison)

"

14 March 1808

Present

Killed in the action

X

X

*Sam'l Kirkpatrick

"

20 Dec 1810

Re-enlisted 20 Dec 1810

Killed in the action

X

X

*Jacob Landon

"

28 Nov 1807

Unfit for service

Killed in the action

X

X

*James Lutta
(aka James Latta)

"

10 Apr 1810

 

Killed after the surrender (the next night)

X

X

*Michael Lynch

"

20 Dec 1810

Re-enlisted 20 Dec 1810

Killed after the surrender (the next night)

X

 

*Michael Leonard

"

13 April 1810

Present

 

X

X

Hugh Logan

"

5 May 1806

"

Killed after the surrender (in the winter)

X

X

*Frederick Locker

"

13 April 1810

"

Killed in the action

X

 

Andrew Loy

"

6 July 1807

"

 

X

X

August Mott
(aka August Mortt)

"

9 July 1806

"

Killed while a prisoner

X

 

Ralph Miller

"

19 Dec 1805

Term expired 19 Dec 1810

 

X

X

Peter Miller

"

13 June 1806

Present, unfit for service

Killed in the action

 

X

Elias Milles

     

Bot at Chgo & sent to Malden

X

X

*Duncan McCarty

"

2 Aug 1807

Present

Killed in the action

X

 

Patrick McGowan

"

30 April 1806

"

 

X

 

James Mabury

"

14 Apr 1806

"

 

X

X

William Moffit

"

23 Apr 1806

"

Killed in the action

X

 

John Moyan

"

28 June 1806

"

 

X

X

*John Neads
(aka John Needs)

"

5 July 1808

"

Died while a prisoner with the Inds

X

X

*Joseph Noles

"

8 Sept 1810

"

Bot at Chgo & sent to Malden

X

X

*Thomas Poindexter

"

3 Sept 1810

"

Supposed to have been killed while a prisoner

X

X

William Pickett
(aka William Prickett)

"

6 June 1806

"

Killed in the action

X

X

*Frederick Peterson

"

1 June 1808

"

Killed in the action

X

X

*David Sherror

"

1 Oct 1810

"

Killed in the action

X

X

*John Sutton field

"

8 Sept 1807

"

Killed while a prisoner

X

X

*John Smith

"

2 April 1808

"

Bought off at Michilimackinac
(Michilimackinac was a British fort on the present site of Mackinaw, MI)

X

X

*James Starr

"

18 Nov 1809

"

Killed in the action

X

 

Phillip Smith

"

30 April 1806

"

 

X

 

*John Simmons

"

14 March 1810

" (sick)

 

X

X

*James Van Horne

"

2 May 1810

" (sick)

Bot at Chgo & sent to Malden

X

 

Anthony L. Waggoner

"

9 Jan 1806

"

 

"In October 1816, two men engaged in the reconstruction of the fort were scouting for timber north of Chicago where they encountered a white man living with three Indian "squaws". The man told the scouts he was a member of Heald's garrison and had been saved from death by the squaws who had dragged him off to a hiding place under some bushes. He refused to return to civilization preferring to remain with the squaws who had tended his wounds and nursed him back to health. A report was made including his name and personal details to the adjutant at the fort who somehow misplaced it. Was this man Micajah Denison?" - Albert G. Overton -

Rebuilt Fort Dearborn
2nd Fort Dearborn

Fort Dearborn was rebuilt in 1816 after the Fort Dearborn Massacre and closed in 1823, though it was periodically reopened in times of perceived danger from American Indian warfare. Part of the fort was demolished when a new channel for the Chicago River was created, and by the time this photograph was taken in 1857, little remained. Its last remnants burned in the Great Fire of 1871.

Part of the fort outline is marked by plaques and a line embedded in the sidewalk and road near the Michigan Avenue Bridge and Wacker Drive. A few boards from the old Fort were retained, and are now in the Chicago Historical Society in Lincoln Park.




Shaubena's Adventure At Chicago

Reminiscences of Bureau County : in two parts.
Matson, N.. Princeton, Ill.. Republican Book and Job Office. 1872.


Shaubena, while in conversation with the writer, gave an account of a visit to Chicago, in 1812, at the time of massacreing the troops under Capt. Heald. He said "It was in the afternoon of the fatal day, a few hours after the battle, when in company with twenty-two warriors, he arrived at Chicago. Along the beach of the lake, where the battle was fought, lay forty-one death bodies - the remains of soldiers, women and children, all of which were scalped, and more or less mutilated. The body of Capt. Wells was lying in one place, and his head in another; these remains were gathered up by Black Partridge, and buried in the sand where he fell. The prisoners were taken to the Indian encampment and closely guarded, to prevent their escape. John Kinzie, an Indian trader, whose house stood on the north side of the river, opposite Fort Dearborn, had been for some years trading with the Indians, and among them he had many friends. By special favor, he was allowed to return to his own house, accompanied by his family, and the wife of Lieut. Helm, who was badly wounded."

"That evening about sundown, a council of chiefs was called to decide the fate of the prisoners; and it was agreed to deliver them up to the British commander at Detroit, in accordance with the terms of capitulation. After dark, many warriors from a distance came into camp, who were thirsting for blood, and were determined to murder the prisoners, regardless of the stipulated terms of surrender. Black Partridge*, with a few of his friends, surrounded Kinzie's house, to protect the inmates from the tomahawks of these blood-thristy savages". Shaubena further said "that he, with other warriors, were standing on the porch, with their guns crossing the doorway, when a body of hostile warriors, with blackened faces, rushed by them forcing their way into the house."

"The parlor was now full of Indians, who stood with their tomahawks and scalping knives, awaiting the signal from their chief, when they would commence the work of death. Black Partridge said to Mrs. Kinzie, "We have done everything in our power to save you, but all is now lost: you, and your friends, together with all the prisoners at the camp, will be slain." At that moment a canoe was heard approaching the shore, when Black Partridge ran down to the river, trying in the darkness to make out the newcomers, and at the same time shouted, "Who are you friend or foe?"

In the bow of the approaching canoe, stood a tall, manly personage, with a rifle in his hand; and as the canoe came to shore, he jumped off on the beach, exclaiming, in a loud clear voice, the musical notes of which rang forth on the still night air: "I am the Sau-ga-nash!" +

"Then," said Black Partridge, "hasten to the house, for our friends are in danger, and you along can save them." Billy Caldwell, for it was he, ran to the house, entering the parlor, which was full of hostile Indians, and by threats, and entreaties, prevailed on them to abandon their murderous designs; and by him Kinzie's family, with the prisoners at the fort, were saved from death."

+Billy Caldwell, called by the Indians Sau-ga-nash, was a half-breed, and said to have been a son of Col. Caldwell, a British officer. He was one of the principal chiefs among the Pottawatamies, and was well known by the early settlers of Chicago.

*Black Partridge had a village on the Illinois river, a short distance below the present site of Henry. According to the statement of Shaubena, he was an Indian of more than ordinary intellect, and was always a friend of the whites. The reader will recollect an account of him, given in Mrs. Kinzie's book, saving the life of Mrs. Helm, at the Chicago massacre, by taking her away from a savage, and bearing her off, wounded and bleeding, into the lake. Also his interview with Capt. Heald, on the morning of the fatal day. On entering the fort, Black Partridge said to the commanding officer, Capt. Heald: "I have come to deliver up to you this metal which was given to me by your people, as a token of friendship. Our young warriors are resolved to imbrue their hands in blood: I cannot restrain them, and I will not wear an emblem of friendship while I am compelled to act as an enemy." Notwithstanding Black Partridge's friendship for the whites, a few weeks afterwards, his village and cornfield were destroyed, ponies and camp equipage carried off, many of his people killed, and the remainder of his band driven off to a strange country. A brief account of the destruction of Black Partridge's village, communicated to the writer by an eye-witness, Gen. Whitesides, will be found in another part of this work.




Back to the Main Index Page for Cook County

Transcribed by © K. Torp, 2006-2007
Genealogy Trails