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and some of the infantrv. The militia advanced about a


fourth of a mile across the creek bottom and camped on high
ground. It had been a hard day"s march and it was near 8
o'clock before the scanty mess was cooked. The soldiers,
tired and worn, were soon sleeping heavily. Capt. Slough of
the First battalion of levies was sent out with some thirty
picked men with instructions to advance one, two or three
miles along the trail in search of Indians. About midnight
they returned, with the report that they had fired on a party
of six or seven savages, killing one, and had been passed by
a much larger party later going toward the camp. The re-
port, according to Capt. Slough's testimony, was made to
Maj.-Gen. Butler, w'ho then dismissed him for the night with-
out instructions to inform St. Clair. Col. Oldham of the
militia also predicted an attack in the morning. Gen. St.
Clair had observed on the afternoon previous that he did not
expect an attack yet and in the evening concerted plans with
Major Ferguson of the artillery for throwing up a small earth-
work, wherein to have deposited the knapsacks and heavj-
luggage. He then intended to make a forced march to the
Maumee village, which he thought to be about fifteen miles,
but which was, in fact, some fifty miles distant, as soon as
the First regiment came up. He was permitted to do neither,
for on the 4th about sunrise, just after the regular morning-
parade, and while the soldiers were preparing breakfast, the
swarming savages, who had been camping but a short dis-
tance beyond the militia, made a sudden attack on the pickets
of the militia across the creek. A few shots were exchanged,
but fear seized the Kentuckians, and thev rushed pell mell
into the main camp, pursued by a large party of Indians,
whooping and yelling fiercely. A volley from the artillery in
the front drove the latter back to cover but they soon renewed
their fire and gradually encircled the encampment, conceal-
ing themselves behind trees, brush and logs and pouring in
a galling fire. The soldiers were cramped for room and ex-
posed because of the nature of the ground on which they were
encamped and made an easy target for the savages, who were
expert marksmen. The main fire was directed against the
men at the guns in the center of the encampment and they
were driven away again and again with great slaughter. This
was kept up for perhaps an hour and a half until nearlv every
officer of the artillery had been killed or wounded and all the
guns silenced. The roar of the artillery and rattle of the
muskets of the regulars may have tended to awe the savages.


but much ammunition was wasted by the random shooting
of the untrained troops. Alen were falling in great numbers
in all parts of the camp, confusion was spreading, and the
Indians, becoming emboldened, swarmed forward to seize the
guns. Previously they had flitted from cover to cover under
the pall of smoke, but now they became more exposed at close
quarters. A spirited charge was made against them under
Col. Darke and they were driven back across the creek at the
point of the bayonet. For want of a sufficient number of
riflemen to follow up this charge, they were forced to return
and were gradually followed by the Indians, who pressed for-
ward from tree to tree and soon came into camp on the left
flank. Here they were met by a spirited charge from the Sec-
ond regiment, Butler's and Clark's battalions, and pushed
back. Again and again this was repeated, but with great loss,
especially of the officers, who had to expose themselves to rally
the raw and undisciplined troops. Early in these charges
Major Butler was dangerously wounded and all the officers
of the Second regiment fell except three. Both St. Clair and
Butler exhibited great bravery throughout, the latter, al-
though indisposed, having Ijeen mortally wounded, continued
to give orders while propped up in the center of the camp.
In spite of his advanced age and enfeebled condition, St. Clair
rode up and down the lines attempting to rally and reassure
the fearful troops. The fire was continued nearly three
hours on front and flank until the majority of the officers and
half of the army were either killed or wounded. The terri-
fied soldiers now crowded to the center of the camp, where
the wounded had previously been taken for safety, being
pressed gradually closer from all sides by the exulting sav-
ages. The remnant of the army became stupefied and be-
wildered and it became necessary to order a retreat. Accord-
ingly, about 9 o'clock Col. Darke was ordered to make a
charge and with a'number of the best men made a feint, driv-
ing the Indians beyond the road and thus making an opening
through which the balance of the troops hurried pell mell
with the militia in front. The Indians had been thrown into
confusion by the charge, but, discovering its object, soon
pursued the straggling army along the trail and harassed the
rear for four or five miles. Attracted by the rich booty, how-
ever, they soon returned to plunder the camp and mutilate,
torture and kill those of the wounded who had been left on
the field. Here a sickening sight presented itself. Huddled



in a comparatively small space were piles of the slain on the
frozen ground, the silent cannon, the deserted tents and val-
uable camp equipments all abandoned in the flight for life.
\\'hile the Indians were carousing, securing their plunder,
scalping and disfiguring the slain, and gloating over their
victims, the routed army continued its retreat and kept throw-
ing away arms and equipments in the panic of fear. Nearly
all the horses had been taken or killed and St. Clair, mounted
on a slow pack-horse, was unable to reach the front himself
and the other officers found it impossible to establish order
and check the flight. The rout continued along the rude trail
to Fort Jefferson, a distance of about thirty miles through
the dense wilderness, where the men arrived just after sun-
set. Here the First regiment, which had been sent back to
intercept the deserters, was met, but in view of the broken
condition of the troops, the lack of provisions in the fort, and
the strength of the enemy, it was decided to leave the wound-
ed here and continue the march toward Fort Washington.
-Accordingly the advance troops set out about ten o'clock,
marched until nearly daylight of the 5th, and halted until the
rear came up. The army moved on about 9 o'clock and soon
met the convoy, arrived at Fort Hamilton on afternoon of
6th. and at Fort Washington in afternoon of 8th.

The number of Indians, Canadians and half breeds in this
engagement has been variously estimated at from 700 to 2,500
or 3,000, but 1.000 or 1,500 is considered a conservative figure,
and the amount of government property either lost or de-
stroyed is put at about $34,000. The principal tribes engaged
were the Delawares, Shawanese, Wyandots, Miamis, Otta-
was. Chippewas and Pottawatomies. Litte Turtle, chief of
the JMiamis, was their leader, and was ably assisted by Blue
Jacket, Bukongehelas, Black Eagle, and the renegades Simon
Girty and Blackstaffe. The warriors had poured in from the
Wabash and the far north ; and it is even asserted that Captain
Brant with one hundred and fifty select Mohawk warriors
took part in this rem.arkable engagem.ent.

Their loss was estimated at about 150 killed and several
wounded, but because of their custom of carrying away or
concealing the slain it is difficult to ascertain their exact num-
ber. The Americans had thirty-nine officers killed and twen-
ty-one wounded, and their entire loss was estimated at 677
killed, including thirty or more women, and 271 wounded, a
loss probably as great as any suiTered in a single battle of


the Revolution. The remarkable number of officers killed
bears unmistakable testimony to the braver)- and patriotic
devotion of these men. The list is as follows: Gen. Rich-
ard Butler, Col. Oldham, of the militia; Majors Ferguson,
Hart and Clark ; Captains Bradford, Phelan, Kirkwood, Price,
Van Swearingen, Tipton, Purdy, Smith, Piatt, Gaither, Crebbs
and Newman; Lieutenants Spear, Warren, Boyd, McMath,
Burgess, Kelso, Read, Little, Hopper and Likens ; Ensigns
Cobb, Balch, Chase, Wilson, Brooks, Beatty and Purdy, be-
sides two quartermasters and two adjutants. Among the
wounded were: Col. Sargent (the Adj.-General) ; Lieut-Col.
Gibson (who died later at Ft. Jefferson) ; Major Thomas But-
ler and Viscount ]\Ialartie, volunteer aide-de-camp to St.
Ciair. It was Maj. Denny's opinion that Gen. Butler might
ha\e been saved if he could have been gotten off the field, but
his size precluded this action. On account of the indispo-
sition of both general officers the brunt of the campaign had
fallen on the Adjutant-General. Col. Sargent, who assumed
this difficult and serious task with alacrity. General Har-
mar had predicted defeat before the army set out because of
the poor material which composed the buk of the army, the
inexperience of the officers in fighting Indians, and the haste
in preparation. The ignorance of the presence of a large body
of the enemy also contributed materially to the result. Add-
ed to this was the Indian's advantage of fighting on his own
ground and in his own way.

The new government was experimenting in Indian war-
fare and had much to learn. Washington recalled Braddock's
defeat and had warned St. Clair before departing. The latter
sent his aide, Maj. Ebenezer Denny, with the news of the de-
feat to the President at Philadelphia. On account of high
waters and ice in the Ohio river and the .bad condition of
roads it took twenty days to reach \Anieeling from Fort Wash-
ington and ten more to reach Philadelphia. President Wash-
ington received the dispatch while eating dinner, but contin-
ued his meal and acted as usual until all the company had
gone and his wife had left the room, leaving no one but him-
self and Secretary, Col. Lear. He now commenced to walk
back and forth in silence and after some moments sat down
on a sofa. His manner now showed emotion and he ex-
claimed suddenly : "St. Clair's defeated — routed ; the offi-
cers nearly all killed, the men by wholesale, the rout com-
plete! Too shocking to think of — a surprise in the bargain."


Pausing again, rising from the sofa, and walking back and
forth, he stopped short and again broke out with great vehe-
mence : "Yes ! here on this very spot I took leave of him ;
I wished him success and honor. You have j-our instruc-
tions,' I said, 'from the Secretary of War. I had a strict e3"e
to them, and will add but one word, beware of a surprise !
You know how the Indians fight us !" He went off with that
as my last solemn warning thrown into his ears. And yet,
to suft'er that army to be cut to pieces — hacked by a surprise,
the very thing I guarded against! O God! he's worse than
a murderer. * * *'' The President again sat down on the
sofa and his anger subsided. At length he said: "This must
not go beyond this room." After a while he again spoke in
a lower tone: "General St. Clair shall have justice. I looked
hastily through the dispatches, saw the whole disaster, but
not all the particulars. I will hear him without prejudice:
he shall have full justice." A committee of the House of
Representatives investigated the cause of St. Clair's defeat
and acquitted him with honor because of the stupendous ob-
stacles encountered in forwarding the expedition and the
marked courage shown bj' St. Clair and the ofificers during
the terrible engagement. St. Clair retained the confidence of
AVashington to the last and continued to serve as Governor
of the new territory until the admission of Ohio as a state in
1803. He served his country well at his own personal loss
and died at Greensburg, Pa., in 1818 at an advanced age and
in comparative poverty, having seen the final overthrow of
the hostile tribes and the permanent founding of civilization
in this matchless region of the northwest. It has been pro-
posed by the Ohio State Historical Society to erect a suitable
memorial to his memory in the state house grounds at Colum-
bus, and such action deserves the hearty co-operation and
approval of all patriotic .Americans.


The defeat of St. Clair cast a gloom over the frontiers of
Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky and along the Ohio,
causing immigration to the northwest territory to cease ab-
ruptly. The tribes did not seem immediately disposed to
make a united stand, but predatory bands lurked about the
stations and attacked the scattered settlements north of the
Ohio. It was even found diiificult to hold and supply the
chain of army posts established by St. Clair because of the
marauding bands of savages, constantly interfering with the
operations of the few regular American troops stationed at
Fort Washington. The shock of defeat was also felt in the
new nation at large and the Eastern people were especially
conservative on the question of financing and equipping an
army to fight the Indians of the western border. The fron-
tier men naturally resented this indifl^erent policy and harassed
the federal authorities.

President Washington, however, sincerely desired peace,
and early in 1792 made overtures and took proper steps to
make the friendly disposition of his government known to the
sulking savages. In response to his urgent invitation fifty
warriors, representing the Six Nations, came to Philadelphia,
the new capital, early in March. The President and Com-
missioner Pickering addressed them, setting forth the just and
humane disposition of the Americans and urging them to use
their potent influence with the western tribes in order to con-
ciliate them and bring about peace without resort to arms.
This they promised to do, but did not set out for the of-
fended tribes until September.

Major Alexander Truman, of the First United States reg-
ulars, and Col. John Hardin, of the Kentucky Horse, were
dispatched to the Miami village (Fort Wayne) by way of
Fort Washington. Captain Hendrick, a Stockbridge Indian,
and Captain Brant, of the Mohawks, Avere urged to attend the
grand council of the tribes, to be held during the summer on
the Maumee, and make known the friendly attitude of the
new government with a view to peaceful negotiations.


Brigadier-General Rtifus Putnam was sent to the ^^'abash
tribe with an exceptional commission. He was given copies
of all the treaties which the new government had consum-
mated with various tribes and nations and instructed to con-
vince the Indians that peace is desired, all unjust land claims
renounced, to urge the treaty of Fort Harmar as a fair basis
of negotiations, insist on the safety of the outposts, and in-
sure the just, liberal and humane co-operation of the govern-
ment in all matters pertaining to their welfare. Captain
Feter Pond and William Steedman were sent as secret spies,
with instructions to mingle with the tribes on the ]\Iaumee
and Wabash in the guise of traders, ascertain their views and
intentions, and, if practicable, openly announce the peaceable
and benevolent intentions of the Great Father at Philadelphia.

The well laid plans of the new goverrnnent were doomed to
miscarry. The spies were intercepted at Niagara ; Truman
and tiardin were treacherously murdered. Brant arrived at
his destination after the council had broken up, and Hendrick
yielded to the wiles of the British agent, McKee, and failed
to attend the council.

Putnam, however, proceeded to Fort Washington, where
he met the Commandant, Brigadier-General James ^^'ilkinson,
who reported that a band of Indians had made an attack upon
a body of men near Fort Jefi'erson, capturing and killing six-
teen of the latter. This advanced post was closely watched
by the Indians who continually harassed its small garrison.
The murder of four other whites was reported and Putnam
hastened to Vincennes accompanied by Heckewelder, the
^Moravian missionarj'. Here he concluded a treaty with the
Wabash and Illinois tribes on September 27th, which, how-
ever, was not ratified by the Senate because it provided that
the tribes should retain all the lands to which they had a just
claim. It probably restrained the restless elements in these
tribes from engaging in the opening histilities.

In October, 1792, a grand council was held at Grand Glaize
(Defiance, Ohio). It was attended by the chiefs of all the
northwestern tribes, about fifty chiefs of the Six Nations, be-
sides many from remoter tribes. .\s usual, the Shawanese
chiefs clamored for war and then requested an explanation
of the instructions of Congress. Red Jacket, on behalf of the
Six Nations, plead for peace and reminded the Shawanese
that the Indians had sold all of their lands lying east o' the
Ohio to the British, and that they had assisted the latter


during the Revolution, at the termination of which the States
took possession of all the lands which the English had for-
merly taken from the French. The Shawanese then recalled
St. Clair's expedition and defeat; stated that peace messen-
gers, who had been treacherously killed on the way, had been
sent by this bloody road, and that, consecjuently, the voice of
peace must now pass through the Six Nations. They consent-
ed to treat with the President early in the following spring
and to lay aside the tomahawk until they should hear from
him through the Six Nations. The latter promptly informed
the President of these proceedings and urged him to send
suitable men to the coming council and to forward a mes-
sage to the western tribes without delay.

The armistice agreed upon was not kept, for at dawn, on
November 6th, 1792, a large party of Indians furiously at-
tacked a detachment of mounted Kentucky volunteers under
-Major John Adair, encamping near Fort St. Clair (Eaton,
Ohio), a post recently established between Forts Hamilton
and Jefferson, to assist in the transportation of forage and sup-
plies to the latter post. A desperate conflict followed in
which the Indians were severely punished and the Americans
lost ten men, six being killed and four missing, besides five
wounded. Adair's riflemen sought shelter in the fort and the
Indians retreated, carrying oS most of the horses belonging
to the detachment.

In spite of these hostile demonstrations the government still
confidently hoped to establish peace, and for this purpose sent
three distinguished commissioners. General Benjamin Lin-
coln, Beverly Randolph and Timothy Pickering, to meet the
tribes at the Maumee rapids early next spring. They were
instructed to insist on the provisions of the treaty of Fort, demand the relinquishment of certain posts estab-
lished beyond the stated boundary, and agree to pay to the
several tribes proportionately the sum of fifty thousand dol-
lars, besides ten thousand dollars annually forever in case
an amicable agreement should be reached.

Proceeding to Niagara in May, 1793, the commissioners
were detained until late in June, when they embarked for the
Detroit river to await the meeting of the Indians. They were
again detained at Erie b}' contrary winds, and on July 5th
Col. Butler, of the British Indian service, and Captain Brant,
with some fifty Indians, arrived from the !Maumee. The lat-
ter had been deputized by the assembled tribes to confer with


the commissioners in the presence of the Governor of Upper
Canada. Brant stated that the tribes had not assembled at
the time and place appointed because of their distrust of the
warlike movements of the United States and asked an ex-
planation of the same. He also inquired if the commission-
ers were properly authorized to establish a new boundary line
between the Americans and the Indians.

The commissioners replied that all hostilities had been for-
bidden until the result of the proposed treaty at Sandusky
should be known ; that peace was desired and that they were
authorized to establish boundaries. They further assured the
British agents that they would promptly inform the President
of the proceedings and request him to restrain the military
commanders, w'ho were at that time actively engaged in
strengthening and supplying the frcmtier posts and preparing
for contingent hostilities.

Being assured by the statements of the commissioners.
Brant agreed to deliver their peaceful message to the chiefs
in council on the ^lanmee and then accompanied them across
Lake Erie to the mouth of the Detroit river. From this place
the commissioners communicated with the assembled tribes
and patiently awaited their reply.

The Indians were suspicious of the Vvarlike preparations of
the Americans, of which they kept well informed by runners
and spies, and, after much serious deliberation and spirited
debate, delivered their grand ultimatum through Elliott and
Simon Girty, asserting that the tribes had not been properly
represented at former treaties, and insisting that the Ohio
river must be the final boundary line separating them from
the whites, as provided by the treaty of Fort Stanwix.

In answer the commissioners called their attention to the
inconsistency of their position in insisting on the first treaty
of Fort Stanwix as a basis of final adjustment, inas-
much as several treaties had been held since, at which large
tracts of land had been purchased in good faith and later
opened for settlement. Thev stated further that the treaty
with Great Britain in 1783 made the boundary run through
the center of the Great Lakes, instead of down the Ohio, but
that in spite of this fact the Americans were willing to make
reasonable concessions in boimdaries. give liberal hunting
privileges, and deliver annually large quantities of valuable
goods suited to the needs of the Indians, provided that the
terms could be arranged in a proper!}^ called general council.


After much delay, due to the divided sentiment of the
tribes, and, no doubt, to the machinations of ^NIcKee, Elliott,
Girty and the British agents, acting under the inspiration of
the Governor-General of Canada, the Indians finally replied
that the recent treaties had been held with a few irresponsi-
ble chiefs, representing only part of the tribes, and were,
therefore, not binding on the great confederacy ; that the
money offered did not appeal to them, but should be given to
the poor whites who had settled north of the Ohio to make
their homes on the Indians" lands ; that Great Britain had no
right to cede their lands to the Americans ; that they had al-
ready retreated to the last ditch : and that no agreement could
be reached unless the Ohio river was made the final boundary
between themselves and the United States, and all the whites
now settled north of that river moved south of it.

The commissioners replied that it was impossible to con-
cede this unreasonable demand and thus put an end to the
negotiations, which had occupied over three months of very
precious time.

From the standpoint of the Americans, the second treaty
of Fort Stanwix, in 1784. and those that followed at Forts
Mcintosh, Finney and Harmar, were xaUd and binding, and.
talcen in connection with the offer of further negotiations,
seemed reasonable ground for the procedure which followed.

With the exception oi the ^^'_vandots, Shawanese, jNIiamis
and Delawares, the tribes seemed mostly disposed toward
peace, and it seems very probable that a mutually satisfac-
tory treaty might have been made, but for the continued pres-
sure exerted on the savages by the scheming and aggressive
British agents from Detroit and Canada.

All hope of agreement being ended the commissioners re-
turned to Erie and dispatched messengers to the Secretary
of W'ar and the new commander of the American forces, in-
forming them concerning the results of their negotiations
with the northwestern tribes.

In order to understand the fears and the final decision of
the tribes, it is necessary to take note of the movements
of the Americans just prior to and during the peace nego-
tiations. Upon withdrawal of St. Clair after the defeat, the
President recommended Maj.-Gen. Anthony Wavne, of
Pennsylvania, to succeed him, and Congress confirmed the
selection. As usual in such cases the appointment caused some
dissatisfaction and disgust, especiallv in Virginia, among the


friends of Lee, ]\lorgan, Scott and Darke, who seem to have

Online LibraryThe Hobart publishing CompanyHistory of Darke County, Ohio, from its earliest settlement to the present time .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 8 of 57)