The Shaking of the Earth
“Your blood is white!” he said. “You have taken my talk and the sticks
and the wampum and the hatchet, but you do not mean to fight. I know the
reason. You do not believe the Great Spirit has sent me. You shall know.
I leave Tuckabatchee directly and shall go to Detroit. When I arrive
there, I will stamp on the ground with my foot, and shake down every
house in Tuckabatchee!” –Tecumseh
All the signs had been given. The comet streaked across the sky as
predicted. The Earth had shaken. It had shaken in a way no one had ever
seen before. The Great River of the Mississippi had flown backward. In
some places, like Cerulean, Kentucky, the water had changed colors to a
bright sulfuric blue. The chaos and magnitude of the thing were immense:
In the south of Canada, in the villages of the Iroquois, Ottawa,
Chippewa and Huron, it came as a deep and terrifying rumble. Creek banks
caved in and huge trees toppled in a continuous crash of snapping
In all of the Great Lakes, but especially Lake Michigan and Lake Erie,
the waters danced and great waves broke erratically on the shores,
though there was no wind.
In the western plains, there was a fierce grinding sound and a
shuddering, which jarred the bones and set teeth on edge. Earthen
vessels split apart and great herds of bison staggered to their feet and
stampeded in abject panic.
To the south and west, tremendous boulders broke loose on hills and cut
swaths through the trees and brush to the bottoms. Rapidly running
streams stopped and eddied, and some of them abruptly went dry and the
fish that had lived in them flopped away their lives on the muddy or
To the south, whole forests fell in incredible tangles. New streams
sprang up where none had been before. In the Upper Creek village of
Tuckabatchee, every dwelling shuddered and shook, and then collapsed
upon itself and its inhabitants.
To the south and east, palm trees lashed about like whips, and lakes
emptied of their waters, while ponds appeared in huge declivities which
suddenly dented the surface of the earth.
All over the land, birds were roused from their roosting places with
scream of fright and flapping wings. Cattle bellowed and kicked, lost
their footing, and were thrown to the ground where they rolled about,
unable to regain their balance.
In Kentucky, Tennessee and the Indiana Territory, settlers were thrown
from their beds, heard the timbers of their cabins wrench apart, and
watched the bricks crumble into heaps of debris masked in choking clouds
of dust. Bridges snapped and tumbled into rivers and creeks. Glass
shattered, fences and barns collapsed and fires broke out. Along steep
ravines, the cliff side slipped and filled their chasms, and the country
was blanketing with a deafening roar.
In the center of all this, in that area where the Ohio River meets the
Mississippi, where Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois
come together, fantastic splits appeared in the ground and huge tracts
of land were swallowed up. A few miles from the Mississippi, near the
Kentucky-Tennessee border, a monstrous section of ground sank as if some
gigantic foot had stepped on the soft earth and mashed it down. Water
gushed forth in fantastic volume and the depression became filled and
turned into a large lake, to become known as Reelfoot Lake. The whole
midsection of the Mississippi writhed and heaved and tremendous bluffs
toppled into the muddy waters. Entire sections of land were inundated,
and others that had been riverbed were left high in the air. The
Mississippi itself turned and flowed backwards for a time. It swirled
and eddied, hissed and gurgled, and at length, when it settled down, the
face of the land had changed. New Madrid was destroyed and the tens of
thousands of acres of land, including virtually all that was owned by
Simon Kenton, vanished forever; that which remained was ugly and
Such was the great sign of Tecumseh.
Despite all this, however, there were still those who were jealous of
Tecumseh and refused to join his cause. It mattered not what happened or
evidently whether or not the Great Spirit itself had come– there was
simply too much pride in the hearts of the people who would not join.
The unfortunate consequence of this, however, was for Tecumseh to have
to join in league with the British instead of having his all Indian
confederacy. This was not an unusual alliance because it had been made
before during the Revolutionary War. The Shawnee had been on better
terms with the Redcoats for the simple reason that they had not insisted
on taking the land in the way the white settlers were.
Comes the Pale White Horse
Others however, heeded the sign of Tecumseh. They met with him as he had
instructed. Issac Broc and Tecumseh took Detroit without hardly a fight:
The British bombardment killed seven Americans before the surrender,
including Lieutenant Porter Hanks, the former commander of Fort Mackinac
who was awaiting a court martial. The answering fire from the guns of
Fort Detroit wounded two British gunners.
The army Tecumseh and Issac had defeated was far larger. Tecumseh rode
upon a white horse. Issac, however, was the pale rider.