His father was chief of the tribe. Tecumseh was born in 1768 at Piqua Indian Village, near the site of Springfield, Ohio. Of all the Indians, the Shawnees had been most energetic and farseeing in their opposition to the encroachments of the whites. But the flood of invasion was too strong for them. The old chief fell, battling for home and people, at Point Pleasant, in 1774. His eldest son followed the father's footsteps, and the second met death in a hopeless fight with Wayne in 1794, leaving young Tecumseh war chief of his tribe. At once he became a national figure. He devoted his whole life and strength to the task of saving his people from the invaders, and to that end resolved that first he must effect a national federation of the Redmen. Too often tribe had been pitted against tribe for the white men's advantage. In union alone he saw the way of salvation and to this end he set about an active campaign among the tribes of the Mississippi Valley.
His was no mean spirit of personal revenge; his mind was too noble for that. He hated the whites as the destroyers of his race, but prisoners and the defenceless knew well that they could rely on his honor and humanity and were safe under his protection. When only a boy - for his military career began in childhood - he had witnessed the burning of a prisoner, and the spectacle was so abhorrent to his feelings that by an earnest and eloquent harangue he induced the party to give up the practice forever. In later years his name was accepted by helpless women and children as a guaranty of protection even in the midst of hostile Indians. He was of commanding figure, nearly six feet in height and compactly built; of dignified bearing and piercing eye, before whose lightning even a British general quailed. His was the fiery eloquence of a Clay and the clear-cut logic of a Webster. Abstemious in habit, charitable in thought and action, he was brave as a lion, but humane and generous withal - in a word, an aboriginal American knight-errant, whose life was given to his people.- (14 Ann. Rep. Ethn. p., 681).
During the four years 1807 to 1811 he went from tribe to tribe urging with all his splendid powers the need for instant and united resistance.
His younger brother, Tenskwatawa the Prophet, was with him and helped in his way by preaching the regenerated doctrine of the Indian fife. The movement was gaining force. But all Tecumseh's well-laid plans were frustrated by the premature battle of Tippecanoe, November 7, 1811. In this his brother, the Prophet, was defeated and every prospect of an Indian federation ended for the time.
The War of 1812 gave Tecumseh a chance to fight the hated Americans. As a British general he won many battles for his allies, but was killed leading his warriors at Moraviantown, near Chatham, Ontario, on October 5, 1813. His personal prowess, his farseeing statesmanship, his noble eloquence, and lofty character have given him a place on the very highest plane among patriots and martyrs.
If ever the great Hiawatha was reincarnated it must have been in the form of Tecumseh. Like Hiawatha, he devoted his whole life to the service of his people on the most heroic lines. Like Hiawatha, he planned a national federation of all Redmen that should abolish war among themselves and present asolid front to the foreign invader. " America for the Americans" was his cry, and all his life and strength were devoted to the realization of his dream. Valiant as Pontiac, wise as Metacomet, magnificent as Powhatan, kind and gentle as the young Winona, he was a farther-seeing statesman than they ever had had before, and above all was the first leading Redman to put an end to the custom for which they chiefly are blamed, the torturing of prisoners. His people were always kind to their own; his great soul made him kind to all the world. He fought his people's battles to the end, and when he knew the cause was lost he laid aside his British uniform, girded himself in his Indian war-chief dress for the final scene, bade good-bye to his men and went forth, like King Saul on Mt. Gilboa's fatal field, to fight and fighting die. And the Star of his race had set.
Measured by any scale, judged by any facts, there can be but one verdict: He was a great man, an Indian without guile, a mighty soldier and statesman, loved and revered by all who knew him. More than a Red nobleman, he was acclaimed by all his kin who knew his life as in very truth a Son of God.