July 2 ~ Tecumseh & Tecumseh What’s in a Name?
What Makes a Name Scary or Celebrated?
Throughout history, figures have come and gone that have lent their names to future generations. Some good and some a bit more scary.
Names like Washington, Lincoln, Churchill and Armstrong arouse feelings of joy and triumph while names like Vlad, Rasputin, Attila, Genghis, and Adolph are often thought of as dark and sinister.
For centuries, mothers have scared their children into compliance by invoking scary names. Roman mothers would warn their children to be good because Hannibal was at the Gate and would get them. If they weren’t.
Fictional names from both classical and modern pop culture also create fear that is often comparable to historical figures: The Headless Horseman, Freddie Krugger, Daenerys, and Bettlejuice, Bettlejuice, Beetlejuice just to name a few.
And sometimes a name can be both celebrated or hated …depending upon where you live.
William Tecumseh Sherman, who marched his union armies through the South during the American Civil War continues to rile up inherited memories of death and destruction in some southern states.
Stories of his exploits have been passed down from generation to generation as if he were the boogie man lurking behind the tree ready to strike one more…just like Hannibal at the Gates.
In the north, however his name invokes the opposite feelings. He is celebrated as a hero of the Union who helped bring about the end of the war by….breaking the backbone of the confederacy.
Perhaps William Tecumseh Sherman was destined to be both feared and celebrated.
His namesake, Tecumseh, an early 19th century American Indian Shawnee chief from the Ohio Valley, similarly conjures thoughts of pride and determination by many and brutality and slaughter by others.
Tecumseh adamantly wanted to retain his peoples independence from the European Americans.
He spoke out against dependence on white governments and called for a return to traditional Indian ways.
He once lashed out at future President William Henry Harrison about the stupidity of land treaties:
“Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children? How can we have confidence in the white people?”
Harrison was impressed by Tecumseh and even referred to him in one letter as “one of those uncommon geniuses.”
Tecumseh would lead a confederation of Indian Nations against U.S. encroachment on native lands. His Indian Confederacy successfully delayed further white settlement in the region, but was eventually destroyed at the Tippecanoe River.
During the War of 1812, he sided with the British. When the Americans attempted an invasion of Canada during the war, Tecumseh fought alongside his British allies. Today, Canadians remember Tecumseh as a defender of Canada.
Tecumseh’s fight against the Americans, however, would eventually cost him his life at the Battle of Thames in 1813.
William Tecumseh Sherman would be born in Ohio in 1820 on land that had once been part of Tecumseh’s Ohio Indian Confederation.
Sherman’s father gave him his unusual middle name as a nod to chief Tecumseh.
Little did he know that his son’s name alongside that of the great Indian Chief would be remembered as a hero to some and the villain by others.
Perhaps, it was destiny, or perhaps it was all in the name.