Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tippecanoe: The 20-Year Curse

This curse is known as The Tippecanoe or Tecumseh Curse. It is one of the enduring legends connected to American history.

Chief Tecumseh
It started with William Henry Harrison who was a Major General in the U.S. Army. While he was Territorial Governor of Indiana Harrison faced off with a Shawnee Native American, named Tecumseh in the Battle of Tippecanoe.

Tecumseh, the leader of the Shawnee tried in the early part of the 1800s to form a Confederation of Tribes to resist the white settlers.

During the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, Harrison managed to hold off a surprise attack from Tecumseh’s half-brother, Tenskwatawa--known by the Shawnee as The Prophet.

Battle of Tippecanoe

Harrison considered this battle to be “a decisive victory.” Afterwards he gained the nickname, “Old Tippecanoe.”

Two years later, Harrison once more fought Tecumseh, an ally of the British, during the War of 1812. During the Battle of Thames Tecumseh was slain and Harrison once more claimed victory.

Harrison was elected president of the United States in 1840.

William Henry Harrison

 The Legendary Curse

The story states The Prophet, bitter and seeking revenge for his half-brother’s death placed a curse upon Harrison and future “Great Chiefs” of the U.S. in 1840.

Shawnee Prophet
In a politically incorrect statement by today’s standards, a 1931 edition of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, printed their version of Tenskwatawa’s curse:

“Harrison will win next year to be the Great Chief. He will die in his office. I, who caused the sun to darken * and Red Men to give up firewater **, tell you Harrrison will die. And after him, every Great Chief chosen every 20 years thereafter will die. And when each one dies, let everyone remember the death of our people.”

* “Sun to darken” refers to an eclipse that The Prophet accurately predicted.

** One of The Prophet's teachings was that Native Americans should give up “firewater” or alcohol.

Real or Coincidence

According to the Library of Congress there is not any real evidence that The Prophet actually placed a curse on Harrison. But what happened next--every 20 years--is eerie to say the least.

William Henry Harrison used his nickname, Tippecanoe in a campaign slogan while running for president--Tippecanoe and Tyler Too. Tyler was his running mate.

Harrison became the 9th president of the United States in 1840. But he was only in office for 30 days before he became ill and died of Pneumonia.

Abraham Lincoln
In 1860--20 years later--Abraham Lincoln was elected president. He was assassinated shortly after being re-elected in 1864.

In 1880--20 years later--James Garfield was elected president. After serving 200 days in office he was assassinated as well.

James Garfield

William McKinley
In 1896, William McKinley was elected president. Then in 1900 he was re-elected--this made it 20 years later. He was also assassinated while in office.

In 1920--20 years later--Warren G. Harding was elected president. He died of either a heart attack or stroke while still in office.

Warren G. Harding

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to an unprecedented four terms: 1932, 1936, 1940--20 years later--and 1944. He died while in office of a Cerebral Hemorrhage.

In 1960--20 years later-- John F. Kennedy was elected. He was assassinated while in office.

John F. Kennedy

Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter when he ran for re-election in 1980 was asked about this curse at a campaign stop, he stated that he was not afraid--what will be, will be. He lost his bid for re-election.

In 1980--20 years later--Ronald Reagan, Carter’s opponent was elected president. He was shot in an assassination attempt but survived.

Ronald Reagan

Some feel the curse was lifted at this point but when George W. Bush was elected president in 2000--20 years later--an assassination attempt was made against him in 2005 while he held office.
George W. Bush
Did this curse ever really exist? Or were these stories just a coincidence? Since most legends have grains of truth--one has to wonder.

No comments: