|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
Acting Indiana Territory Governor John Gibson had grown concerned about activity by the Amerindian tribes in the Territory during 1813. In response, he urged the Indiana Territorial Assembly to pass an act in early December, 1813 to increase the militia. On December 27, 1813, new Indiana Territory Governor Thomas Posey issued general orders to the newly formed militia companies. General Washington Johnston would lead the new regiments.
John Gibson (May 23, 1740 – April 10, 1822)
Native to Lancaster, Pennsylvania John was the son of George and Elizabeth de Vinez Gibson. Historians know little of his childhood, only that he served in several political positions and worked as a merchant. He served in the Forbes Expedition that occupied Fort Duquesne in 1758 when the French abandoned it. He served admirably during the Revolutionary War, rising from regiment commander to the commander of Fort Pitt, the former Fort Duquesne that he had occupied during the French and Indian War. While at Fort Pitt, he lent aid to George Rogers Clark's thrust into the Wabash River area in what would become Indiana. After the war, he retired to private life until President Thomas Jefferson appointed him Secretary of the Indiana Territory. Gibson moved to Vincennes in July 1800 to act as acting governor until Governor William Henry Harrison arrived in January 1801. During this first tenure, Gibson organized the first census of the territory. This yearlong process revealed a population of around 5000 people in 1802. When Harrison arrived, Gibson occupied several territorial offices. His knowledge of several native languages made him an invaluable asset to Harrison during the many treaties concluded with the natives during that period. When Harrison departed on military campaigns during the War of 1812, Gibson again served as acting governor. His last official act was overseeing the move of the Territorial Capital from Vincennes to Corydon. Upon completion of his term, Gibson, at seventy-two years old, retired to Braddock's Field near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where he died.
William Henry Harrison resigned as governor of the Indiana Territory on December 28, 1812 to pursue a military career against the Amerindian tribes in the Northwest Territory. President James Madison appointed Thomas Posey governor on March 3, 1813, disappointing many members of the Indiana Territorial assembly who wanted the new governor to be a northerner that opposed slavery. Posey would not arrive in Vincennes until December 1813.
The Battle of Tippecanoe in November 1811 had not ended the native threat. Tecumseh still lived and many of the tribes in the Indiana Territory still opposed American settlements in the area. The Pigeon Roost Massacre had occurred in 1812. During 1813, the natives did not attack any of the forts maintained in the Territory. Incidents did occur, however. Warriors would gather quietly near a fort and wait. When a man came out to tend his fields or perform some other duty, they would attack him, killing him most of the time. Incidents occurred near Vallonia, in Franklin County and near Vincennes. Several men died during these various attacks. A Colonel Russel had led an expedition of several hundred men out of Fort Vallonia, near Brownstown, Indiana, to attack villages on the Mississinewa River. He found only empty villages. Tecumseh had died during the Battle of the Thames on October 6, 1813. After his death, native activity slowed, but did not cease. Eastern areas near the Ohio border were fairly safe, but areas to the west, mainly near the Wabash, were not. The Assembly hoped that the increased militia presence would further secure the Territory. The main problem being that so many men were already serving in various militia and ranger units, most of the male population was already engaged.
General Washington Johnston (November 10th, 1776 - October 26, 1833)
Native to Culpepper, Virginia, Johnson migrated to Vincennes, probably along the Vincennes Trace from Louisville, in 1793. His parents named him for General Washington. Historians know little of his early years in Virginia. Johnson's lengthy career in Indiana included a number of firsts, the first postmaster of Vincennes in 1800, the first lawyer in Vincennes and organizer of the Knox County Bar Association. Voters elected him to the first Territorial Assembly in 1810 and as a member of Vincennes University board of trustees. He was one of the commissioners that formed Dubois County in 1818. Johnson had served as a private in Harrison's army that won the Battle of Tippecanoe. Johnson had served as an aide to Gibson, who recommended Johnson be promoted to major. He would command the new militia as adjutant general, issuing the first general orders on December 27, 1813.
The New Militia Units
The orders organized the new force into twelve regiments, six brigades, and three divisions. A treaty signed by the various tribes on July 22, 1814 at Greenville, Ohio reduced the native threat and the militia disbanded.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning