Saint Charles, May 1804
The War of 1812 began with President Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1804. Westward expansion, Manifest Destiny, Louisiana Purchase are the same. Quite a deal had been cut because France needed the money. Saint Charles territory stretched northwest of the Missouri River to uncharted lands. After the Corps of Discovery departed that May, the Territory’s trickle of settlement began. We were far outnumbered though, by the Indian tribes as the Territory contained nearly the entire domain of the Sauk and Fox. We lived with the constant fear of attack.
When Sauk and Fox killed several settlers north of Saint Charles, they turned over one of the warriors involved in the incident, with a petition for pardon to Governor Harrison. The result was a Treaty, in 1804, that read,
“As long as the lands that are now ceded to the U.S. remain their property, the Indians belonging to the said tribes shall enjoy the privilege of hunting on them.”
Some questioned whether the U.S. even really had the right to Treaty as the acquisition was so freshly inked. The land involved included today’s Saint Charles County.
By 1812, we did not know that our young country had just officially gone to war for the first time, with President Madison’s signature. Without today’s internet, facebook, blogs and tweets, they were totally unaware that the House of Representatives had hotly debated the issue, behind closed doors, ending with the closest vote for war in our Nation’s entire history. For most of the United States, this war would be over the issues of trade embargoes and the capture and forced service of over 10,000 of our men into their British Navy. But for those living here on the frontier, it was the Indian War, and we had been fighting it here for years. The British used the Indian tribes, inciting them to harass and slaughter, because of our expansionist activities. Britain was involved in a fierce struggle with Napoleon in Europe. Our pride would not allow us to ignore these threats to our national honor, that most viewed as a continuation of our war for Independence.