Ohio History Journal

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120        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


tablets, in the city of Greenville, Ohio, commemorating the establishment

of the fort there in 1793, the first treaty with the Indians August 3, 1795,

and the second treaty July 22, 1814, together with statues of General St.

Clair, General Anthony Wayne and General William H. Harrison, the hero

of the victory of the battle of the river Thames, which resulted in the death

of Tecumseh and the restoration of a permanent peace with the Indians.

This society has a work to perform, and as you have done for us, so do

likewise for others who also need your kind assistance.

May you always have ready hands and willing minds to labor suc-

cessfully in his great work.





The county historical society and the citizens of this community are

to be congratulated upon the building of this boulder monument and the

placing of this historic tablet marking the ancient site of Fort Jefferson.

The building of this fort by General Arthur St. Clair was an import-

ant historical event-important not only in the history of this county,

but of the whole Northwest Territory.

Here was built the first permanent structure within the limits of

what is now Darke county. And from here the army of volunteers

and regulars under St. Clair marched forth to meet the most crushing

defeat in all the history of Indian warfare.

The intimate connection of Fort Jefferson with St. Clair's defeat has

marked it for obscurity. The illfated expedition is never dignified as

St. Clair's campaign nor the engagement as St. Clair's battle, but is

designated in all the histories as "St. Clair's Defeat".

It must be remembered, however, that the historical importance of

a battle or engagement does not depend wholly upon success.

Bunker Hill was a great defeat for the colonists, yet, historically,

it marked the beginning of the struggle for independence.

The defeat of the Union forces at Bull Run aroused the North and

made Appomattox possible.

The defeat of St. Clair aroused the national government, inspired the

preparation and reorganization of an army which, under General Anthony

Wayne, achieved brilliant and complete victory in the battle of the Mau-

mee wilderness and brought the Indian chieftains, humiliated, to the

council ending in the Greenville treaty.

The Ohio valley and the Lake Erie region was the scene of the

most formidable and sanguinary of all the Indian conflicts. They began

with the struggles between the French and English traders; they devel-

oped into the French and Indian war; broke out again after the treaty

of peace between the French and English, in Pontiac's conspiracy; in

Monument at Fort Jefferson

Monument at Fort Jefferson.                   121


the raids leading to Lord Dunmore's war and a long list of less notable

but bloody conflicts up to the outbreak of the War of the Revolution.

At this time the British secured the Indians as their allies, and from

Canadian forts inspired and directed a mercenary warfare against their

own kindred.

From the time of French dominion the Ohio territory was a part of

Canada. And even after the cession of the French possession to the

English in 1763 the Ohio river was still the Canadian boundary.

To the achievements of George Rogers Clarke, in surprising and

reducing the English posts upon the Wabash; the foresight of Wash-

ington, who had himself crossed the Ohio country; and the persistence

of John Adams, one of the American commissioners, is due the cession

of the Northwest Territory at the close of the Revolutionary War. Then

for the first time the Canadian border extended only to the Great Lakes.

The Ohio country  passed thereby under the dominion of the United

States, subject only to the Indian title.

To obtain a cession of the Indian titles immediately became the aim

of the national government.

In 1784 the treaty of Fort Stanwix was signed by the Six Nations, or

Iroquois, ceding title to all lands east of the present western boundary

of Pennsylvania.

In the following year the treaty of Fort McIntosh was made with

the chiefs of the Delawares, Wyandots, Chippewas and Ottawas, ceding

all lands east and south of the Cuyahoga and Great Miami rivers and

a line extending from the Indian portages upon the head waters of

these streams over a certain defined course, comprising in extent a large

part of the present territory of Ohio.

Upon the faith of this treaty Congress provided for the opening up

of the lands for settlement.

Some of the Indians, notably the Shawnees and Miamis, were not

represented, and all the tribes for one pretext or another became dis-

satisfied and repudiated the treaty.

In 1789 another treaty was made at Fort Harmar with the Wyan-

dots, Chippewas, Pottawatomie and Sac nations, confirming the treaty

of Fort McIntosh. But the very same year this treaty was violated and

hostilities resumed.

In the meantime several expeditions had been made into the Indian

country, resulting for most part in failure.

In 1778 an expedition under General McIntosh was planned against

the Detroit villages. The expedition moved as far as the Tuscarawas,

built and garrisoned Fort Laurens, and then returned. The fort itself

was abandoned the following year. Shortly after the evacuation of the

fort an expedition was sent against the Shawnee villages, but resulted

in defeat.

In 1780 the Coshocton campaign under General Broadhead against

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the Indian villages at the Muskingum forks was unimportant in results.

While in the same summer General Clarke led a body of 970 Ken-

tuckians against the Shawnees on the Little Miami and Mad rivers,

burned their villages and defeated them in battle.

In September, 1782, General Clarke led a second expedition against

the Shawnees, burning their villages and destroying their corn.

There were other minor expeditions to the Indian country, but with-

out any permanent results.

In March, 1782, occurred the Moravian massacre, and in June fol-

lowing the unsuccessful expedition of Colonel Crawford.

In June, 1789, Major Dowty with 140 men from Fort Harmar com-

menced the building of Fort Washington, on the present site of Cincin-

nati. A few months later General Harmar with 300 men arrived and

took command of the fort.

In September, 1799, General Harmar, with a force of 1,300 men, led

an expedition against the Indian villages on the Miamis and Maumee.

While near the villages on the Maumee, an advance detachment of 300

militia fell into an ambush and met with severe loss. Later a detach-

ment under Colonel Hardin was repulsed with great loss and driven back

to the main army. Dispirited by these reverses, General Harmar returned

to Fort Washington, his expedition a failure.

In May, 1791, General Scott with 800 men penetrated into the Wabash

country and destroyed several Indian villages. In August of the same

year General Wilkinson with 500 men destroyed the Kickapoo villages

upon the lower Wabash. The only effect of these expeditions was to

exasperate and inflame the Indians.

The time had now come for more determined action by the national

government.  The sturdy pioneers from the older colonies had three

years before planted civilization at Marietta, and were rapidly pushing

their settlements along the Ohio and into the interior. Israel Ludlow

and others had planned a permanent settlement at Fort Washington, and

government surveyors had extended government lines between the two

Miamis almost to the Indian villages.

The Indians fully realized that town building and pioneer settlement

meant the ultimate destruction of their hunting grounds, and that the

forest fellers and farm builder would gradually but surely drive them

toward the open prairies of the west and the frozen lakes of the north.

Impressed with this belief and goaded by instances of wrongs, imagin-

ary and real, they inaugurated a border warfare of the most intense and

deadly character.

The chieftains of the Six Nations, with all the fire of Indian oratory,

told the story of their being driven from their rich hunting grounds and

the graves of their ancestors in the Mohawk valley. The Delawares, with

equal eloquence, told how their council fires on the banks of the Delaware

and Susquehanna had been extinguished before the onrushing tide of

Monument at Fort Jefferson

Monument at Fort Jefferson.                  123


the white man's civilization. And the Shawnees, noted for the eloquence

of their chieftains, told the story of twenty-five years of border warfare.

The Ohio river, from time immemorial, had been an open highway;

separating the territory of the hostile tribes north and south. It was the

Mason and Dixon line. And no Indian tribe had the hardihood or daring

to plant its villages upon its banks.

The villages of the northern tribes were built upon the upper waters

of its tributaries and upon those of the Great Lakes, while the southern

tribes found security in the fastnesses of the mountains of Tennessee

and in the plains beyond.

This natural and traditional boundary the Indians fondly hoped to

establish as the permanent boundary between them and the whites. And

this hope furnished the inspiration for their quick and ready repudiation

of the treaties ceding portions of the Ohio territory.

The chieftains proclaimed the re-establishment of the Ohio river

boundary as their purpose. This declaration found ready response among

the savages and became the slogan under which all the tribes were now

united. Their hostility threatened every settler. Indian bands roamed

the forests from river to lake. The conflict was constant. It was a duel

to the death. The shooting down of men and the massacre of women

and children were of almost daily occurrence. The passing of boats

upon the rivers was interrupted; the blockhouses themselves attacked,

and tradition has it that Indian spies were seen skulking in the streets of

Cincinnati by night with a view to its attack.

It must not be supposed that the confederacy of Indian tribes con-

fronting the Ohio river settlements at this time were weak numerically

or lacking in martial spirit. On the contrary, they were the most power-

ful, determined and warlike ever encountered in the onward march of


Chief among all the tribes was the Wyandot, whose villages were

near the present site of Detroit and along the Sandusky river, the islands

of Lake Erie forming a line of communication.

Their youths were taught that flight or surrender even to a superior

force was disgraceful. This trait is exemplified in the incident related

of General Wayne requesting the capture of an Indian from Sandusky.

The scout of whom this request was made replied that it was impossible,

as the Indians there were Wyandots, and could not be taken alive. In

the battle of the Fallen Timber it is reported that of the thirteen Wyan-

dot chiefs present but one survived the battle, and he was badly wounded.

They were indeed the Spartans of the Indian tribes.

To the warlike Wyandots was intrusted the Grand Calumet, the sym-

bol of union and of power. By this emblem they had the power to call all

the tribes and nations together and to kindle the council fires.

Next in importance were the Shawnees. They came originally from

south of the Ohio river and established their villages on the banks of

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the Scioto, near its midwaters. From their central location they radiated

in every direction. Their neighbors were the fierce Wyandots. The

Shawnees were restless and aggressive. They were conspicuous in every

Indian conflict from the times of the French and Indian wars down to

the last Indian treaty. They were in the direct front of immigration, and

beat an ugly and reluctant retreat. They were the special object of the

war of Lord Dunmore and of the expeditions of General Clarke and

others, and were conspicuous in the campaigns of Harmar, St. Clair

and Wayne.

They produced the greatest chieftains:  Cornstalk, who led the

Indian forces at Point Pleasant; Blue Jacket, prominent in the battles

of the Miami country, and who spoke for war in the great council of

all the Indian nations and tribes at the Auglaize; Black Hoof, the old

man eloquent, who was with the victors at Braddock's defeat, was in

all the wars of the Ohio country, and was famed far and wide as a war-

rior of great sagacity and energy and daring; and Tecumseh, the George

Washington of the Indians, who later united all the tribes north and south

for final defense against the whites.

The Delawares were originally from east of the Blue Ridge and were

driven west, settling first in the Muskingum valley and later on in the

Auglaize. They were formerly said to be peaceful, but finally assimil-

ated the spirit of their more warlike neighbors. They marked Colonel

Crawford for the stake and carried the sentence into execution.

Their chieftain was Buck-on-gehelas. Some idea of his character

may be formed by an incident occurring the day after Wayne's victory

at Fort Defiance, fought under the guns of the British fort. Buck-on-

gehelas had assembled his tribe in canoes and was passing up the stream

to make terms with the victors. Upon approaching the British fort an

officer hailed the chieftain and said that the commander wished to speak

to him. The chieftain, disgusted with the false promises of the British,

said, "In that case, let him come to me." "That will never do," was the

reply, "and he will not allow you to pass the fort unless you comply with

his wishes."

"What shall prevent my passing?" the chieftain responded.

"These guns," answered the officer, pointing to those commanding

the stream.

"I fear not your cannon," the chief replied. "After suffering the

Americans to insult your flag without firing upon them, you must not

expect to frighten Buck-on-gehelas."

With this scornful reply the canoes passed the fort without moles-


The Ottawas formerly occupied the valley of the Ottawa river of

Canada; they were driven westward, beyond Lake Michigan, thence from

place to place until a fragment settled in the Maumee country. Although

held among the Indians to be a cowardly tribe, yet they produced the

Monument at Fort Jefferson

Monument at Fort Jefferson.                   125


great Pontiac, who is acknowledged to have been one of the foremost

chiefs and warriors of Indian history. Like the Delawares, they were

ready pupils in the school of the fierce Wyandots and the aggressive


The Miamis were the original inhabitants of all the section north of

the Ohio and between the Scioto and Wabash rivers. Their principal vil-

lages were upon the two Miamis and the Miami of the Lake (now Mau-


To this tribe belonged Little Turtle, who commanded the Indian

forces in the campaigns of Harmar, St. Clair and Wayne, and was con-

spicuous at the signing of the treaty of Greenville where he plead ele-

quently for the domain of his ancestors.

In addition to these tribes specially prominent in the frontier history

of Ohio, the confederacy included the Kickapoos, Pottawatomie and

Chippewas of the Michigan and upper lake regions.

The aggressive chieftains at the time of St. Clair's campaign were

Little Turtle, chief of the Miamis; Blue Jacket, chief of the Shawnees;

Buck-on-gehelas, chief of the Delawares; and also Simon Girty, the rene-

gade who had attained the rank of chief among the Mingo, and whose

atrocities made him the terror and dread of all the frontier settlements.

And it has been reported that Joseph Brant, the Mohawk chief, with

150 of his warriors were present at the battle.

The extent of the confederacy at this time was not definitely known,

but may be inferred from the gathering of the next year at the council

of the Auglaize, of which Corn Planter, the Iroquois chieftain, said,

"There were so many nations we could not tell the names of them."

This was to be their last desperate stand and their rendezvous was to be

in the Miami and Maumee country. Such was the situation which con-

fronted Washington when Congress authorized him to act. Washington

was himself an Indian fighter. He was in the defeat of Braddock and

later on led the English forces to decisive victories against the combined

forces of French and Indians.

Washington planned the compaign. General St. Clair, an officer in

the old French wars, a major-general of the war of the revolution, presi-

dent of the Continental Congress and at that time governor of the North-

west Territory, was chosen to command.

The object was to build a strong military post at the junction of the

St. Mary's and St. Joseph with the Maumee, near the Miami villages, to

be connected with Fort Washington by an intermediate chain of forts.

The purpose was to overawe the Indians and enforce submission.

From January, 1791, St. Clair was engaged in collecting men and

supplies. On May 15 he arrived at Fort Washington. By September

he had 2,300 available men, of whom 600 were militia. The main army

on September 17 moved forward twenty-five miles to a point on the bank of

the Great Miami, where Fort Hamilton was built.

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The country was then reconnoitered, and on October 12 this point,

forty-four miles from Fort Hamilton, was selected for the second fort,

and named in honor of Jefferson. Two hundred men under Major Fergu-

son began the work of constructing the fort, block houses and stockade.

Leaving a strong garrison here, the main army, on the morning of

the 24th, again took up the march. They followed an old Indian trail

to the present site of Greenville and thence into the unbroken woods.

From the hour the army left this fort misfortune beset it at every turn.

On the day before leaving Fort Jefferson three men-two deserters and

one mutineer-were drawn up before the army and shot. Notwithstand-

ing this, desertions occurred almost daily, and on October 31 sixty militia-

men deserted in a body. Fearing they would capture and plunder the

wagon trains, St. Clair dispatched the first regiment of regulars to pursue

them, save the wagon convoy, if possible, capture the deserters. Thus

weakened the remnant of the army pursued its toilsome journey.

Indian scouts "hawkeyed and wolf-hearted," peered from the hills

overlooking this fort, and skulked along the line of march. They saw every

defection and knew every division. They counted the remnant of the

army that on November 3 encamped on the spot of dry ground made

famous by the following dawn.

They saw the tired men lie down without a ditch or wall of logs

to protect them from attack. The Indian chieftians knew this was the

time to strike. Tomorrow the defenses would be put up, and soon the

regulars would return. The whole available force of the Indians were

now ready for the attack. At the opportune moment, upon the early

dawn, it opened with great fury. The onset was terrific. The militia-

men, who occupied a position a quarter of a mile in advance, were swept

back upon the main army before they could scarcely fire a shot, and the

whole army was in consternation. The men, after recovering from the

surprise, fought most valiantly. St. Clair, although suffering from the

gout, behaved splendidly. He and General Butler, who was second in

command, rode up and down the line encouraging the men.

The Indians maintained an advantageous position and kept up a

galling crossfire upon our troops who were in the open. They picked

off the officers in uniform. Almost all the officers and half the army

had been killed or wounded and the remnant was surrounded.     The

only hope was to cut through the Indian lines. An advance was made,

the Indian lines gave way, the retreat began, and soon developed into an

utter rout, which continued until Fort Jefferson,-29 miles from the field

of action,-was reached. The scene following the beginning of this re-

treat beggars discription. No parallel is found in the annuals of history.

The Indians were indeed savages. Their brutality and fiendishness knew

no bounds. They revelled in human blood. They followed the fleeing

army for several miles, putting to torture and to death the wounded and

the exhausted.

Monument at Fort Jefferson

Monument at Fort Jefferson.                  127


Upon reaching Fort Jefferson, General St. Clair ordered the retreat

continued to Fort Washington. The sick and wounded were quartered

and cared for at Fort Jerfferson. The available army, however, left the

same night and arrived at Fort Hamilton on the afternoon of the 6th

and at Fort Washington on the 8th.

Thus ended, in dreadful disaster, the campaign so carefully planned.

The army was disheartened and almost destroyed, the settlers alarmed

and panic-stricken, and the Indians encouraged and emboldened.

General Butler, second in command, Major Ferguson, whose de-

tachment built this fort, and upwards of 900 men were left upon the

field of battle.

The country was alarmed, congress aroused, and a new army was

raised, which under Wayne the "Sleepless Chief," struck terror into the

hearts of the Indians and made them sue for peace.

The reputation of St. Clair never emerged from the clouds of his

defeat. He retained the governorship of the Territory, but his prestige

and influence were gone. Under the creation of the new state, he re-

turned to his native state of Pennsylvania and there, within sight of the

estates he had sacrificed to the cause of the revolution, spent his last

days in poverty.

In January, following the battle of St. Clair's defeat, General Wil-

kinson accompanied a detachment to the battlefield for the purpose of

burying the dead. The bodies showed most cruel torture. They were

collected and there, amid the snows and blasts of winter and in the

wilderness they sought to recover for civilization, were consigned to


One hundred and sixteen years have passed since the white man's ax

rang out in the unbroken wilderness in the construction of this fortifica-

tion. A transformation has occured beyond the wildest dreams of the men

then living. The Indians have been extirpated, the forests cleared, the

lands drained and improved to the highest state of cultivation, homes built

and every convenience and comfort installed.

Wayne, upon his arrival here, considered this fort unsafe because

of the hills overlooking it, and because of the ease with which it might

be attacked, and marched five miles further and built Fort Greenville,

where his army was established for the winter.

From this new fort, after thorough preparation, Wayne moved into

the wilderness, and to the new fort in triumph he brought the Indians,

thoroughly subdued, for final treaty.

Every great event has its influence  The Great Miami was the

natural boundary of the first state to be carved out of the Northwest

Territory. The early Indian treaties extended to this line. Congress, in

providing for the opening up of the lands for settlement, and St. Clair, in

fixing the limits of Hamilton county, made the Great Miami the western

boundary. But in the mind of Wayne, Fort Recovery-within whose shad-

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ows slept the heroic dead of two armies-stood forth as the more ap-

propriate and fitting monument. Fort Recovery, therefore, became the

future landmark for treaties and state lines.

Every age has its peculiar problem. The pioneers dealt with the

problems of poverty. They struggled for the future. They laid the

foundations of a new state. And as we look about in this day of plenty,

we should remember the sacrifices and suffering of those who rescued

the country from the wilderness and built deep and strong the foundation

of our present prosperity.





No doubt after hearing of the many depredations by the Indians

towards the whites, you wonder why the Little Turtle Tribe of Red Men,

an order which was named after the red man, have been invited to assist

and participate upon this occasion. And indeed you have cause to wonder,

from the fact, as I have said, that we were named after the red men of the

forest, and at the time this fort was built the red man and the whites were

engaged in a frightful war.

If this was a debate I assure you that I could quote you some history

in defense of the red men that would cause many of you to change your

minds and your opinions, but as this is not a debate I will just call to

mind a few instances that might correct some of your minds in regard

to why you are here.

When Columbus discovered and landed on our Eastern shores,

his report upon his return was that he had discovered a country inhabited

by a copper colored race of people, who, upon the first sight of the white

man, became frightened and ran away; but upon repeated efforts became

more friendly and showed them much hospitality. That is the first in-

stance in history that we have of the red man. History also teaches us

that the primitive red men of the forest were a people who loved their

freedom above all things. They were a people who considered their word

and promise as sacred as their lives. They were a people to whom vice

and treachery were perfect strangers. They were also a God-fearing

people, who, history tells us, never entered upon any important duty

without offering up an invocation and prayer asking The Great Spirit for

his protecting power. When rain failed to descend and the buffalo had

forsaken their hunting grounds they gathered together and for days offered

up incantation and prayer and smoked the pipe of peace, believing that

their words would ascend to Him in the smoke and cause the rain to fall

and the buffalo to return. That society at that time was not named the

Red Men's Order, but the same people-the same society descended on

down until it became the Improved Order of Red Men. And we were