Fort Dearborn Massacre

The Fort Dearborn Massacre presents a scene of remarkable violence and physical dynamism, in which the central figure of Margaret Helm, wife of the Fort’s commander, is shown caught between two partially clothed American Indian figures – one attacking her with a raised tomahawk, the other defending her against the  attacker. As she falls, caught between them, she attempts to steal the attacker’s dagger from the sheath strapped to his hip. A wounded American soldier is shown on the ground between their legs and an infant, his arms reaching out for aid, tries to escape the carnage.
Photo ©: Percy H. Sloan, Newberry Library, Chicago


Fort Dearborn Massacre




Carl Rohl-Smith (1848-1900)




Industrialist George Pullman (1831-1897) commissioned this monumental bronze figural group to be placed near his Prairie Avenue mansion — which was believed to be the site of the attack on the garrison evacuating Fort Dearborn during the War of 1812. The work shows Potawatomie chieftain Black Partridge intervening on behalf of Margaret Helm, wife of the fort's commander and the step-daughter of fur trader, John Kinzie. Danish sculptor Carl Rohl-Smith (in Chicago to create sculpture for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893), based his figures on sketches he made of Indian models who were held captive at Fort Sheridan in the aftermath of the massacre at Wounded Knee. Conceived in a sensationalist, luridly violent mode, the sculpture was long criticized by American Indian activists and was removed from public view in 1997.