Robert B. (Robert Breckinridge) McAfee.

History of the late war in the western country online

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of the

Late War in the Western Country


By Robert B. McAfee

Historical Publications Company

C. S. Van Tassel, Manager

(Home Office) Bowling Green, Ohio

■ M


Copyright 1919

C. S. Van Tassel

Aft 7 m

Great American
Historical Classics Series


Considerably over one hundred years have passed since
this story of the war of 1812 was written. Peace was pro-
claimed February 18, 1815. This work came from the
press in 1816, and in preparing the manuscript Captain
McAfee had the direct assistance of General Harrison,
Colonels Croghan and Todd and many others and had
access to the journal of Colonel Wood, the engineer who
built Fort Meigs and who kept a remarkable diary of an
imi)ortant period of these events as they transpired. With
such an array of material and backed by the ability of the
author himself to portray events and movements of troops.
Captain IMcAfee has undoubtedly given the most valuable,
authentic and close-up narrative, especially of the western
operations in this struggle ever written. Franklin would
have called it the War of Independence, for it is related
that when he heard some one speak of the "War of Inde-
pendence" (1776) he said, "Sir, you mean the Revolution,
the War of Independence is yet to come."

It is with a view of perpetuating this valuable work to
the people that the publisher is lei.d to reproduce the
same complete, and in full with some explanatory field
notes, as the original copies of the book are fast passing
out of existence. And while many later historians, per-
haps -nearly all, have used the work as a basis for their
writings, historians and readers, we believe, will welcome
the complete narrative. In commenting on the same. Dr.
Kendric Charles Babcock in his bibliography in Albert
Bushnell Hart's "American Nation" puts McAfees work


in a higli and distinct class and says "the History of The
Late War In the Western Country is one of the very best
accounts of the conditions of the army on the frontier and
of the methods of organization, transportation and hand-
ling of troops during the war."

Captain McAfee was a Kentuckian. He was born Feb-
ruary 17, 1784, and died March 12, 1849. One writer calls
him a "soldier, statesman, historian and banker." He
enlisted in the service of 1812 along Avith some of the most
prominent citizens and best blood of Kentucky. He was
captain of a company in the first battalion of a mounted
Kentucky regiment organized by Col. R. M. Johnson under
orders of Governor Shelby. Captain McAfee served
throughout the campaign with honored distinction and, as
stated, writes much of his story from personal knowledge.
He was Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky 1820-1824 and
was connected with one of the first banks at Harrodsburg,
Ky., in 1818.


The author of the following history will not detain the
reader with many prefatory reraarks. It was written
during those hours of leisure which he was able occa-
sionally to reserve from other necessary occupations ; and
he therefore wishes to be regarded, not as advancing any
lofty pretensions to literary merit. His object has chiefly
been, to give a plain and correct statement of the facts,
and to make only such reflections upon them, as they would
obviously authorize; and he can conscientiously say, that
he has in no case intentionally distorted or concealed

He has no private friendships or enmities to gratify —
nothing but a rational attachment to his country and hos-
tility to his enemies according to their deserts. Being a
native of Kentucky and having lost many of his friends
in the Indian wars, during the iirst settlement of this
country, he has necessarily imbibed an abhorrence of those
principles and practices of the savages, and their British
allies, by which the western settlements have suffered
so much in both wars.

If any of his expressions should be deemed too acri-
monious and intemperate for dignified and impartial his-
tory, the reader will excuse them on this account, together
with the consideration that the feelings excited by the
occurrences described are still fresh and vigorous in his
bosom. He believes, however, that he has said nothing
which is not strictly true and just, though perhaps not
entirely agreeable to the taste of every reader.

In procuring the material for this work, the author is
greatly indebted to General Harrison and Governor Shelby,


(Kentucky) for the many valuable documents they fur-
nished, particularly their correspondence with the war de-
I>artment and with each other. He is also indebted to
Governor Edwards for his correspondence but it unfor-
tunately arrived too late to be used.

Colonels Croghan and Todd with many other officers
of the northwestern army have also laid him under great
obligations by the cheerfulness with which they furnished
and assisted him in collecting all the information mthin
their power. To the latter he is indebted to the journal
of Colonel Wood of the engineers, who justly attained a
lofty character for military genius and service before his
untimely but glorious fall.

Most of these papers will remain in the possession of
Colonel C. S. Todd, subject to be examined by any person
who may wish to see the authorities on which any state-
ment in this history is founded.

In preparing this work for the press I have to acknowl-
edge the assistance I received from Dr. Joseph Buchanan,
who first undertook it's publication. He carefully
examined and compared all the materials from which it
has been compiled, and in fact attentively revised it in
every respect. In some instances he has made alterations,
on the propriety of which I have differed with him in
opinion ; however, there is no material fact which I am not
satisfied is correctly stated; and as for reflections, the
reader will no doubt judge for himself.

In describing the operation against the Creek Indians
I have had to rely chiefly on official reports, which, how-
ever correct, are insufficient for fullness for a complete

As to the campaign at New Orleans, besides the com-
mon sources of information I have had recourse to Major
Thomas Curry and I acknowledge with pleasure the assisi-


ance lie has given me. He served in the Kentucky militia
in that campaign and was able as an eye witness to furnish
im.portant matter.

In justice to our late enemies as well as to myself, it
may be proper to add that much information with respect
to them has unavoidably been very imperfect and hence I
may have made erroneous statements respecting them in
many instances. Their own official reports which they
published are so notoriously false that no reliance can be
placed in them and the unofficial anonymous reports which
circulated in our public prints concerning them were not
much better authority. But with respect to our own opera-
tions I have authentic documents or the evidence of highly
respectable witnesses to substantiate every statement I
have made.

Robert B. McAfee.






At the close of the American revolution, many persons
in England entertained an opinion that the American col-
onies were not irretrievably lost to the mother country.
They hoped that Great Britain would be able, at some favor-
able moment, to regain the sovereignty of these States; and
in this hope it is highly probable the British ministry

From calculations and sentiments like these, as well
as from the irritation caused by the failure of their arms,
may have proceeded their unjustifiable conduct on the in-
terior frontiers of the new States. The military posts of
Niagara, Detroit, and Mackinaw were detained under
various pretences, for many years, in violation of the
treaty of peace. The Indian tribes on our borders were
at the same time supplied with munitions of war, and
instigated to commit depredations and hostilities on the
frontiers of Kentucky, and the settlements northwest of
the Ohio. This fact is fully established by the letters of
Colonel M'Kee, the British commandant of Fort Miami at
the foot of the Rapids, written previous to the visit of
General Wayne to that place in '94, and published during


the late war in the American journals, the originals having
then fallen into the hands of our Government.

This unwarrantable interference with the Indians re-
siding within the limits of the United States was continued
by the British from the peace of '83, quite down to the com-
mencement of the late war. During a great part of that
time, they kept the Indians in hostility with our western
settlements; and when the probability of a new war be-
tween the two countries became very strong, they so ex-
cited the savages, as to make a battle with them the neces-
sary i^relude to general hostilities. Although this interfer-
ence with the Indians was not an obvious and ostensible
cause of the war, yet it may fairly be considered as a very
efficient cause. Much of that resentment against the Brit-
ish, which prevailed so strongly in the western States, the
principal advocates for the war, may fairly be attributed
to this source.

President Washington was apprised of the intrigues
of the English agents, and endeavored by negotiation to
obtain redress; and nothing but the exhausted state of
the country after the revolutionary war, prevented that
great man from resorting to arms to punish British per-
fidy. His policy however was wise ; it was consistent with
the genius of our government, and the condition of our
country. It would certainl}^ have been hazardous, to ven-
ture on a new war, so soon after we had established our
independence, and instituted an untried form of govern-

Several campaigns, however, were conducted against
the Indians northwest of the Ohio. General Harmer
commanded one, in the year 1790, against the Miami vil-
lage, at tlie junction of the rivers St. Marys and St. Jos-
ephs, where Fort Wayne was subsequently built. It
eventuated in burning the town; and afterwards in the


defeat of several detachments of his army, with the loss of
many of his men.

In the following year another army was conducted in
the same direction, from Kentucky and the back parts of
Pennsylvania and Virginia, by General Arthur St. Clair.
The object of this expedition, was to destroy the Miami
and ShaAvanoe settlements, on the Auglaize and Miami
rivers ; but it was late in the season before the necessary
arrangements were made, and the Indians having received
intelligence of his march, and anticipating his views,
advanced and met him near the place where Fort Recovery
now stands. On the 7th of November, they attacked his
army in its encampment, when a total rout ensued, and
the greater part of the army was destroyed. The Indian
mode of warfare was not well understood by this general,
and the panic produced by the savage yells in the time of
action, threw the whole into confusion.

For several years previous to this disastrous campaign,
the people of Kentucky had remonstrated against the
manner in which the general government was conducting
the war against the Indians; and President AVashington
had so far regarded their representations, as to authorize
certain eminent citizens, Messrs. Scott, Innes, Brown,
Logan, and Shelby to send expeditions against the Indians
in their own way. Accordingly in the spring and summer
preceding the defeat of General St. Clair, two expeditions
of volunteer militia from the district of Kentucky, were
s'ent by those gentlemen against the Indians on the Wabash
— the first under the command of general Charles Scott,
and the other under general James Wilkinson. They were
both completely successful. The Indian country was laid
waste, many lives were destroyed, and many prisoners
were taken, without much loss on the part of the Ken-
tuckians. Yet in the autumn of the same year, the old


method of sending regulars, under a general unskilled
in savage warfare, was again employed in tlie case of St.
Clair's campaign, with the disastrous consequence of a
total defeat.

After this disaster, affairs with the Indians wore a
gloomy aspect. It was extremely difficult to procure
supplies from the scattered settlements of the frontiers,
to subsist a regular ai'my sufficient to humble the savages.
General Washington hence determined to attempt a
negotiation with them ; and Colonel Hardin was accord-
ingly sent to them with a flag. All that is known about
him after his departure, is that he was met and massacred
by the Indians. A predatory, skirmishiug warfare was
then continued for several years, without any important
and decisive action being fought, until in the year '91 a
formidable and successful expedition was conducted
against the savages by General Anthony Wayne, a distin-
guished revolutionary officer from Pennsjdvania, who was
then commander-in-chief of the American army. He was
accompanied by Generals Wilkinson and Scott of the same
character from Kentucky. The principal part of the troops
were assembled at Cincinnati in the month of June, and
thence marched by the way of Forts Hamilton, Greenville,
Recovery, Adams, and Defiance, which had been built by
the regulars under Wayne, during several preceding years
of preparation for this decisive campaign.

In the meantime, the British commandant at Detroit
had seized a commanding spot in the American territory
on the north side of the Miami of the lakes, below the
Rapids, where he had erected a strong fort, from which
the Indians were notoriously fed and supplied with ammu-
nition, under the pretense of paying them annuities. They
also were secretly counselled in relation to their manage-
ment of the war. The following extracts from the letters


of Colonel M'Kee, the superintendent of Indian affairs for
the districts of Detroit and Mackinaw, which were ad-
dressed from this fort to Colonel England, the military
commandant at Detroit, are worthy to be preserved as
evidence of the conduct of the British government in this
case. The letters were written from one British officer to
another, and were endorsed "on his Majesty's service."

"Rapids, July 2d, '94
"By the same channel I learn that a large body of

troops, supposed to be 3000, ^^dth wagons, etc., crossed the

Ohio some days ago and marched towards the forts in the

Indian country.

"I am much pressed for tobacco and ammunition (for

the Indians) which I hope I may receive by the return

of the boat."

"Rapids, July 5th, '94.

"Sir — I send this by a party of Saganas, who returned
yesterday from Fort Recovery, where the whole body of
Indians, except the Delawares, who had gone another
route, imprudently attacked the fort on Monday, the 30th
of last month, and lost IG or 17 men, besides a good many

"Everything liad been settled, prior to their leaving the
Fallen Timber, and it had been agreed upon to confine
themselves to taking convoys, and attacking at a distance
from the forts, if they should have the address to entice
the enemy out; but the impetuosity of the Mackinaw In-
dians, and their eagerness to begin with the nearest, pre-
vailed with the others to alter their system, the conse-
quences of which, from the present appearance of things,
may most materially injure the interest of these people;
both the Mackinaw and Lake Indians seeming resolved on
going home again, having completed the belts they carried
with scalps and prisoners, and having no provision there,
or at the Glaze to subsist upon ; so that his Majesty's post
will derive no security from the late great influx of In-
dians into this part of the country, should they persist in
their resolution of returning so soon.


"Capt. Elliott writes that they are immediately to hold
a council at the Glaze, iu order to try if they can prevail
on the Lake Indians to remain; but without provisions,
ammunition, etc., being sent to that place, I conceive it
will be extremely difficult to keep them together."

"Rapids, August 13th, '94.

"Sir — I was honored last night with your letter of the
11th, and am extremely glad to find you are making such
exertions to supply the Indians with provisions.

"Captain Elliott arrived yesterday; what he has
brought will greatly relieve us, having been obliged all day
yesterday to take the corn and flour which the traders had

"Scouts are sent up to view the situation of the army,
and we now muster 1,000 Indians. All the Lake Indians
from Sagana downward, should not lose one moment in
joining their brethren, as every accession of strength is
an addition to their spirits.'

"Camp near Fort Miami, August 30, '94.
"Sir — I have been employed several days in endeavoring
to fix the Indians, (who have been driven from their vil-
lages and corn fields) between the fort and the bay. Swan
Greek is generally agreed upon, and will be a very con-
venient place for the delivery of provisions, etc."

As General Wayne advanced, the Indians retired, leav-
ing their villages and corn, on the Miami and Auglaize
rivers, to be burned and destroyed. Through the medium of
his spies, the general often tendered them terms of peace,
which they as often rejected. They at length determined
on making a stand about two miles above the British gar-
rison to give Wayne battle. An engagement accordingly
took place on the 20th of August, '94 — the result was a
complete discomforture of the Indians. A number of
British Canadians fought with the Indians in this battle.
On the next day, the general reconnoitred the British fort,
and demanded in peremptory terms the reasons for their
intrusion. The British officer commanding, replied that


he was there by the orders of his government, and would
abandon the place as soon as he was ordered to do so by
his superiors; and that he hoped the general would not
proceed to extremities till their respective governments
were consulted. General Wayne then retired up the
Miami and erected Fort Wayne.

This victory over the Indians laid the foundation of
a general peace with them. They had believed, that the
British would protect them, but they found themselves
deceived, for the gates of the British fort were shut against
them as they retreated after the battle. In the following
year, '95, General Wayne held a general council, with all
the Indians northwest of the Ohio, at Greenville, which
eventuated in a treaty, by which they ceded us an extensive
tract of country, as an indemnity for past injuries, and in
consideration of annuities to be paid to them by the United

In the year '94, a treaty was also negotiated by Mr. Jay
with the British government. It was signed on the 19th
of November, a few months after Wayne's battle with the
Indians. In pursuance of this treaty, in the year '9G, all
the military posts, held by the British, on the American
side of the lakes, were given up to the American authorities.

These treaties and events secured our interior frontiers
from the active hostility of the Indians, and promoted the
commercial enterprise of our citizens on the ocean. Our
western settlements in consequence, rapidly advanced in
population and the improvement of their country, while
our Atlantic citizens were fast accumulating wealth by
their trade with foreign nations. This prosperity, how-
ever, was not permitted to advance uninterrupted by Brit-
ish aggressions. The British continued their intercourse
with the Indians within our limits, so as to keep them
attached to British interests, and hostile in their feelings


towards the United States. But the evils we experienced
on the ocean, were now infinitely more intolerable tlian
those of the interior.

The war in Europe, which had originally been insti-
gated by the British against the revolution in France,
continued to rage with unabated violence. England and
France, the leading parties in the war, used every species
of artifice and violence, to involve all other nations in the
contest. Orders and decrees were published, by wliicli the
mai'itime rights of neutral nations were infringed, and
extensive coasts declared in a state of blockade, without
any adequate means of enforcement. By the British
orders in council, our vessels were required, under the
penalty of being liable to capture, to call at a British port,
on their way to any place belonging to France and her
allies. By way of retaliation, Bonaparte decreed, that all
vessels which had submitted to this British regulation,
should be subject to capture by his cruisers. And thus no
vessel of the United States could sail, either to Britain
or France, or to any of their allies including all Europe,
without being subject to capture by one or the other of the
belligerents. At the same time the British naval officers
carried on the practice of impressing American seamen,
in a manner so extensive and vexatious, as to cause much
distress among our seafaring people, and much incon-
venience and risk to our merchants.

An endless course of negotiation was pursued, on these
different subjects of complaint, without the prospect of
success becoming any brighter. The American govern-
ment could obtain in this way neither, indemnity for the
past nor security for the future. No alternative was left,
but a resort to arms, to vindicate our honor and our right^i,
and to protect our interests on the ocean. Our losses by
captures and impressments nearly equalled the expenses


of a war in men and money. A formal declaration of war
was accordingly made on the ISth of June, 1812. But
previous to this declaration, hostilities had commenced
with the Indians, and the battle of Tippecanoe had been

A preliminary view of Indian affairs will enable us to
understand this commencement of the war. By the com-
bined counsels and schemes of the British agents, and some
of the principal chiefs among the Indians, the seeds of
hostility were sown among them soon after the peace of
Greenville, and were gradually nurtured into war. At
ihat time, Little Turtle and Blue Jacket were the leading
chiefs among the northwestern tribes. They had disagreed
about the manner of opposing Wayne's army. The plan
of Blue Jacket was adopted, and eventuated in the total
defeat of the Indians, as predicted by the other. After
this event. Little Turtle continued friendly to the United
States. He was of opinion, that the Indian tribes were
unable to contend against the Americans ; that no material
aid would be furnished them by the British ; and that
would only be the means of their losing more of their lands.
Blue Jacket had more confidence in the British ; he thirsted
for revenge against the Americans ; and he wished to regain
the lands which had been ceded by the treaty of Green-
ville. His influence increased, whilst the Little Turtle
became unpopular. He found in Tecumseh, a Shawanoese
Indian, whom he associated with him in his views and
projects, an able and persevering coadjutor. The leading
principles in their policy vvere, to combine all the tribes
together in one confederacy; to prevent the sale of their
lands by any single tribe; and to join the British in the
event of war, with a view to revenge and the recovery of
their lands. They contended, that by the treaty of Green-
ville, the United States had acknowledged the right to


their lands to reside jointly in all tribes; and that of
course the United States had no right to purchase lands
from any single tribe, without the consent of the others.
Blue Jacket did not live to execute his schemes; but they
were diligently pursued by Tecumseh, in which he was
encouraged and supported by the British agents.

The various tribes, who were in the habit of visiting
Detroit and Sandwich, were annuallj^ subsidized by the

Online LibraryRobert B. (Robert Breckinridge) McAfeeHistory of the late war in the western country → online text (page 1 of 46)