William Wells and the Fort Dearborn Massacre.

Being from the Fort Wayne, Indiana area, middle August always takes me back to the Fort Dearborn Massacre.

It was during the War of 1812, with the British of course.  William Wells was a major player in these parts.  Quick background–Wells had been taken as a child by the Miami Indians.  He was raised as one of their own by the family of legendary Chief Little Turtle.

Defense, a sculpture by Henry Hering, marks the site of Fort Dearborn in present day Chicago (2010, Jeremy Atherton).

Wells would become a bit of an enigma, first fighting with the Miami against the American expansion west, then later against the Indians under General Anthony Wayne.  By 1812, he bridged the gap as Indian Agent for the Fort Wayne area.

Fort Dearborn was a fledgling garrison in present day Chicago.  By August 12, 1812, Potawatomi Indians, aligned with the British against the Americans, had surrounded the fort and its occupants.  Wells and 30 Miami warriors immediately left Fort Wayne to aid the American cause.

By August 14, an agreement was reached.  Wells, his Miami band and the fort’s occupants would have free passage from the garrison back to Fort Wayne, turning Fort Dearborn over to the Potawatomis.  The truce turned out to be a ruse as some 500 Potawatomi warriors soon attacked the caravan on the shores of Lake Michigan.  The massacre was on.

William Wells would not survive.  Because of his legendary status, Potawatomi warriors cut out his heart and ate it.  Wells County in Indiana and Wells Streets in both Fort Wayne and Chicago bare his name.

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