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Weyapiersenwah "Blue Jacket" Shawnee War Chief

Birthplace: Pennsylvania, United States
Death: circa 1809 (66-82)
Wyandotte, Wayne County, Michigan, United States
Place of Burial: Wyandotte, Wayne County, Michigan, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Lawaquaqua Pride Opessa and Sarah "Techacha" Morning Star Rising Sun, Shawnee
Husband of Older daughter of Young Rising Sun; Clearwater "Baby" Shawnee Indian and "Peggy" Captive Of Shawnee Indians Bluejacket
Father of James "Thu Cus Ca Tea Skoo" Bluejacket; Young Whirlpool (1) Bluejacket; Spybeech Bluejacket; Wayweleapee Bluejacket; Sally Bluejacket and 6 others
Brother of Wabete-Elk Opessa; Sarah Opessa and Lawagqua Opessa
Half brother of Sarah Shekatha Colwell; Marie Louise Sanschagrin; Watmeme "Pekowi" Blackfish and Red Pole "Mio-Qua-Goo-Na-Gaw"

Managed by: Lloyd Alfred Doss, Jr.
Last Updated:

About Blue Jacket

Blue Jacket or Weyapiersenwah

(c. 1743 – c. 1810) was a war chief of the Shawnee people, known for his militant defense of Shawnee lands in the Ohio Country. Perhaps the preeminent American Indian leader in the Northwest Indian War, in which a pan-tribal confederacy fought several battles with the nascent United States, he was an important predecessor of the famous Shawnee leader Tecumseh.

Early life

Little is known of Blue Jacket's early life. He first appears in written historical records in 1773, when he was already a grown man and a war chief. In that year, a British missionary visited the Shawnee villages on the Scioto River and recorded the location of Blue Jacket's Town on Deer Creek (present Ross County, Ohio).

Struggle for the Old Northwest

Blue Jacket participated in Dunmore's War and the American Revolutionary War (allied with the British), always attempting to maintain Shawnee land rights. With the British defeat in the American Revolutionary War, the Shawnee lost valuable assistance in defending the Ohio Country. The struggle continued as white settlement in Ohio escalated, and Blue Jacket was a prominent leader of the resistance.

On November 3, 1791, the army of a confederation of Indian tribes, led by Blue Jacket and Miami Chief Little Turtle, defeated an American expedition led by Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory. The engagement, known as the Battle of the Wabash or as St. Clair's Defeat, was the crowning achievement of Blue Jacket's military career, and the most severe defeat ever inflicted upon the United States by Native Americans. Traditional accounts of the battle tend to give most of the credit for the victory to Little Turtle. John Sugden argues that Little Turtle's prominence is due in large measure to Little Turtle's self-promotion in later years.

Blue Jacket's triumph was short-lived. The Americans were alarmed by St. Clair's disaster and raised a new professional army, commanded by General Anthony Wayne. On August 20, 1794, Blue Jacket's confederate army clashed with Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, just south of present-day Toledo, Ohio. Blue Jacket's army was defeated, and he was compelled to sign the Treaty of Greenville on August 3, 1795, ceding much of present-day Ohio to the United States.

In 1805, Blue Jacket also signed the Treaty of Fort Industry, relinquishing even more of Ohio. In Blue Jacket's final years, he saw the rise to prominence of Tecumseh, who would take up the banner and make the final attempts to reclaim Shawnee lands in the Ohio Country.

Van Swearingen legend

In 1877, decades after Blue Jacket's death, a story was published which claimed that Blue Jacket had actually been a white man named Marmaduke Van Swearingen, who had been captured and adopted by Shawnees in the 1770s, around the time of the American Revolutionary War.[1] This story was popularized in historical novels written by Allan W. Eckert in the late 1960s.[2] An outdoor drama based on the Van Swearingen story, Blue Jacket, White Shawnee War Chief, was performed in Xenia, Ohio, beginning in 1981.[2] Performances of the play ended in 2007.

Beginning with historian Helen Hornbeck Tanner in 1978,[3] a number of historians have argued that it is unlikely that Blue Jacket and Van Swearingen were the same person.[2] The historical record indicates that Blue Jacket was much older than Marmaduke Van Swearingen and was already an established chief by the time that Van Swearingen was supposedly captured. Furthermore, no one who personally knew Blue Jacket left any records referring to him as a white man. According to Blue Jacket biographer John Sugden, Blue Jacket was undoubtedly a Shawnee by birth.[4]

DNA testing of the descendants of Blue Jacket and Van Swearingen has given additional support to the argument that Blue Jacket was not Van Swearingen. After an initial test in 2000, results of a DNA test using updated equipment and techniques was published in the September 2006 edition of The Ohio Journal of Science. The researchers tested DNA samples from four men descended from Charles Swearingen, Marmaduke's brother, and six who are descended from Blue Jacket's son George Blue-Jacket. The DNA from the two families did not match, and so the study concluded that, "Barring any questions of the paternity of the Chief's single son who lived to produce male heirs, the 'Blue Jacket with-Caucasian-roots' is not based on reality."[5]



  • 1. Sugden, p. 1
  • 2. Sugden, p. 2
  • 3. Tanner, Helen Hornbeck. "The Glaize in 1792: A Composite Indian Community." Ethnohistory 25, no. 1 (Winter 1978), pp. 15–39.
  • 4. Sugden, p. 3
  • 5. C. Rowland, R. Van Trees, M. Taylor, and D. Krane. Was the Shawnee war chief Blue Jacket a Caucasian? The Ohio Journal of Science. 2006;106(4):126-129.
  • Bibliography Sugden, John. Blue Jacket: Warrior of the Shawnees. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8032-4288-3.

Further reading

  • Cave, Alfred. "Blue Jacket: Warrior of the Shawnees". Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, summer 2001. Review of Sugden's biography.
  • Horsman, Reginald. "Weyapiersenwah". Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • Johnson, Louise F. "Testing Popular Lore: Marmaduke Swearingen a.k.a. Chief Blue Jacket". National Genealogical Society Quarterly 82 (September 1994): 165–78.


1808 Blue Jacket is reported to have enjoyed the friendship of the Wyandots in the area south of Detroit and had a cabin where he would sit and watch the boats on the Detroit River and have a drink. By the writer’s estimate, the Shawnee War Chief must have been about 70 years of age and his cabin was located near the intersection of Orange Street and Biddle Avenue in present-day Wyandot, Michigan just across the river from the northern tip of Grosse Ile. This would have afforded Blue Jacket a sweeping view of the Detroit as he enjoyed a glass of Autumn Leaves and cogitated his counsel to forty year old Tecumthe. The old chief’s son, George, lived a few miles south of Blue Jacket’s cabin near the present-day intersection of Van Horn Road and West Jefferson Avenue with a view of the Detroit River. Chief Blue Jacket may have died in the winter of 1808 according to an interview Lyman C. Draper reported having with Captain William Caldwell. The Indian agent, John Johnston, informed Draper he thought Blue Jacket died in 1810.

1809 According to page 321 of "Historical Collections of the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society" Vol. XIII (1889), Blue Jacket and the Wyandot chief, Walk-In-The-Water, were buried not far from the Blue Jacket cabin. This writer speculates, but has no proof positive, that the old chief died in late January of 1809. However, the mortal remains of the latter were removed to Canada later and the writer is of the opinion those of Blue Jacket may also have been moved to Sandwich (Windsor, Ontario) where relatives of his wife, Clear Water Baby or Baubee--a Metis daughter of Jacques Duperon Baby--lived. This may account for some reports that Blue Jacket was buried in, or near, Sandwich in Ontario.

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Blue Jacket's Timeline

Pennsylvania, United States
Age 21
Ohio, United States
Age 23
Ohio, United States
Age 25
Age 28
Ohio, United States
Age 30
Ohio, United States
Age 30
Hampshire County, West Virginia, United States
Age 35
Ohio, United States