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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Choctaw chief Pushmatahaw

PUSHMATAHAW, Choctaw chief, born in what is now Mississippi, in 1765 ; died in Washington, D. C., 24 December, 1824. He had distinguished himself on the war-path before he was twenty years old. He joined an expedition against the Osages west of the Mississippi, and was laughed at by the older members of the party because of his youth and a propensity for talking. The Osages were defeated in a desperate conflict that lasted an entire day. The boy disappeared early in the fight, and when he returned at midnight he was jeered at and openly accused of cowardice. "Let those laugh," was his reply, "who can show more scalps than I can" whereupon he took five from his pouch and threw them on the ground. They were the result of an onslaught he had made single-handed on the enemy's rear. This feat gained for him the title of "The Eagle." After spending several years in Mexico, he went alone in the night to a Torauqua village, killed seven men with his own hand set fire to several tents, and made good his retreat uninjured. During the next two years he made three additional expeditions into the Torauqua country, and added eight fresh scalps to his war costume For fifteen years nothing is known of his history, but in 1810 he was living on Tombigbee river, and enjoyed the reputation of being an expert at Indian ball-playing. He also boasted that his name was Pushmatahaw, which means "The-warrior's-seat-is-finished." During the war of 1812 he promptly took sides with the United States. The council that decided the course of the Choctaws lasted ten days. All the warriors counselled neutrality, excepting John Pitchlynn, the interpreter, and Pushmatahaw. Until the last day he kept silence, but then, rising, said: "The Creeks were once our friends. They have joined the English, and we must now follow different trails. When our fathers took the hand of Washington, they told him the Choctaws would always be the friends of his nation, and Pushmatahaw cannot be false to their promises. I am now ready to fight against both the English and the Creeks I and my warriors are going to Tuscaloosa, and when you hear from us again the Creek fort will be in ashes." This prophecy was duly fulfilled. The Creeks and Seminoles allied themselves with the British, and Pushmatahaw made war on both tribes with such energy and success that the whites called him "The Indian General." In 1824 he went to Washington in order, according to his own phraseology, to brighten the chain of peace between the Americans and the Choctaws. He was treated with great consideration by President Monroe and John C. Calhoun, secretary of war, and a record of his communications is to be found in the state archives. After a visit to General Lafayette he was taken seriously ill. Finding that he was near his end, he expressed the wish that he might be buried with military honors and that "big guns" might be fired over his grave. These requests were complied with, and a procession more than a mile in length followed him to his resting-place in the Congressional cemetery. Andrew Jackson frequently expressed the opinion that Pushmatahaw was "the greatest and the bravest Indian he had ever known"; while John Randolph, of Roanoke, in pronouncing a eulogy on him in the United States senate, declared that he was "wise in counsel, eloquent in an extraordinary degree and on all occasions, and under all circumstances the white man's friend."

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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