News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 12, 2012

Historical Treasure: Aug. 12, 2012 : Remembering the last survivor

Jan Buffington
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — While digging through the Museum’s files on Fort Harrison in preparation for the Annual Dinner on Sept. 2, I found a copy of the obituary of the last survivor of the Battle of Fort Harrison. This survivor was Mrs. Hannah Burnett (maiden name not printed) who was 80 at the time of her death. The article included some of her recollections of the battle.

Born in 1805, Hannah was brought to Franklin County, Ind., at a young age. The family moved to Fort Harrison for protection while her father took up duties as a soldier under Harrison. Hannah’s family was living at Fort Harrison when The Prophet and his army attacked. She remembered hearing the first shots and watching as the few soldiers prepared for battle.

During the fierce fighting, she recalled how she and the other women and children helped. Being only 7 at the time, she was not strong enough to carry the long guns, so she dragged the fired guns from her father to her mother who loaded the guns. Then Hannah dragged them back to her father.

At a lull in the fighting, she climbed up one of the ladders to where her father stood and looked out a port hole. A big flash of lightning hit at the same time, and she spotted a large Indian who had a silver crescent nose ring. She asked her dad to go get the ring for her but he waited until the next morning to get the ornament. After the battle, she and her cousin, Susan Crist, went outside the main gate and collected a hatful of flattened lead balls that had hit the nail heads on the huge wooden gate and had fallen to the ground.

Hannah was proud of the fact that she had met two future presidents and had a long family history of military service. Her grandfather was a brigadier general in the Revolutionary War; her father was promoted to captain at the Battle of Tippecanoe; several relatives fought in the War of 1812; eight relatives served in the Black Hawk War; and four sons and two nephews served in the “War of the Rebellion.”

Her obituary closed with the following statement: “With the death of this old lady goes out the last living link that united those of the present time in the Wabash Valley with the sanguinary period in which old Fort Harrison played the prominent part, for she was the last survivor who was with that brave band who held the fort against the savage hunters of men on the memorable occasion mention above.”