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The True Story of the Deadly Encounter at Fort Dearborn

For nearly two centuries, the events that transpired in Chicago on August 15, 1812, had been known as the Fort Dearborn Massacre. With the dedication of a new park, the bloody encounter between 95 soldiers and settlers and some 500 Potawatomi has been recast as the Battle of Fort Dearborn. What really happened on that hot August morning in Chicago 197 years ago?

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Illustration by Lisel Ashlock
Chicago, 1812: This illustration is inspired by a diorama from the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition showing an unnamed Native American, the Kinzie house, Fort Dearborn, and the dunes at the lakeshore on the horizon.
 

It didn’t matter that the snowdrifts stood tall as a man nor that an intense cold battered his tiny cabin. Simon Pokagon was hot. For most of his 67 years he had heard the tales of Potawatomi savagery at Fort Dearborn. Now, pacing the floor of his Michigan home and fulminating at a reporter from the Chicago Daily Tribune, the old man—the son of a great Potawatomi leader—vowed to fire back using the same weapon as others before him: a book.

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