Governor Henry Harrison and the Battle of Tippecanoe
Successful leadership on a battlefield can be measured in different ways. It is possible for a good, successful leader to lose a battle. Conversely, it is possible for an ineffective leader to win a battle, given the right circumstances. What distinguishes a successful leader from an unsuccessful one is his/her ability to oversee an operation using effective mission command. In ADP 6-0, mission command as a philosophy is defined as “as the exercise of authority and direction by the commander using mission orders to enable disciplined initiative within the commander’s intent to empower agile and adaptive leaders in the conduct of unified land operations” (ADP, 1). William Henry Harrison, Governor of the Indiana Territory, executed good mission command in the Battle of Tippecanoe because of his ability to effectively utilize the doctrinal tasks of “understand, visualize, describe, direct, and lead” operations.
Overview and Implications
The Battle of Tippecanoe was fought on November 7, 1811 in Battleground, Indiana between a confederacy of Native Americans and American forces. The confederacy of Native Americans was led by Tenskwatawa, often referred to as the Prophet, in lieu of his brother Tecumseh who was absent from the battle. The United States forces were commanded by William Henry Harrison, governor of the Indiana Territory. Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet, were massing Native American warriors at Prophetstown because they were opposed to cessations of Native American land carried out by the United States government. Governor Harrison marched 1000 troops to Prophetstown as a demonstration of force and in order to eliminate the enemy if necessa...
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...he Battle of Tippecanoe. Though the Americans took severe losses during the surprise assault on their camp, the damage would have been much worse if not for Harrison’s good execution of mission command using the doctrinal tasks of “understand, visualize, describe, direct, and lead” operations. He gained a good picture of his operational environment and determined a desired end state—to neutralize the threat of Tecumseh’s warriors at Prophetstown. Then, he made a detailed plan and directed its execution. Throughout the entire process, he led his men from the front with determination and calm.
Walker, Adam. A Journal of Two Campaigns of the Fourth Regiment US. Infantv in the Indiana and Michigan Territories. Keene, NH: Sentinel Press, 18 16.
Whickar, Wesley J., ed. “Shabonee’s Account of Tippecanoe.” Indiana Magazine of History 17 (1921): 353-63.
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