THE INDIANS WHO OPPOSED HARMAR
By OTHO WINGER
We have a few original sources of information about the
Indians of the Northwest in and about Kekionga, now Fort
Wayne, at the time of Harmar's expedition in the fall of 1790.
George Croghan in 1765 traveled the length of the Wabash to
Kekionga and gave an excellent report to his superiors in the East.
In the winter of 1789-90 Henry Hay, representing British mer-
chants in Detroit, visited Kekionga and kept a diary of his stay
in the Miami village, and of his visits roundabout. In the spring
of 1790 Colonel Hamtramck, commander at Vincennes, sent
Antoine Gamelin, a Frenchman, with a message of good will to
the Indians along the Wabash and to Kekionga. One of the finest
of recent histories reviewing all this and adding much information
is the book, The Land of the Miamis, by Judge Elmore Barce.
The leading tribe was that of the Miamis, with several divi-
sions. Their chief town and capital, if it may be so called, was at
Kekionga. There were strong divisions of this tribe along Eel
River and the Mississinewa, called Eel Rivers and Mississinewas,
the Weas at Ouiatenon near the present Lafayette, and the Pianka-
shaws near Vincennes. The Miamis, who once claimed all of
Indiana and western Ohio as their ancient domain, still held the
Wabash and the strategic center here at the junction of the St.
Mary's and the St. Joseph. To the north in the Michigan penin-
sulas were the tribes composing "The Three Fires," the ancient
Chippewa with their kindred, the Ottawa and the Potawatomi.
The Potawatomi had spread over northern and western Indiana,
where they were closely connected with the Kickapoo from Illinois.
The Ottawa had spread over northwestern Ohio, north of the
Maumee. The Hurons, or Wyandots, were masters of the land
east of the Auglaize and south of Lake Erie. South of them were
the ancient Delawares. The Shawnees, having been driven from
their former homes in the South, had settled chiefly in southern
56 OHIO ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Ohio, where their great chief, Tecumseh, was born on Mad River
about 1770. There were general, but not absolute, boundary lines
between the tribes. At one time or another various tribes had
villages around Kekionga.
Antoine Gamelin, on his visit in the spring of 1790, found
much opposition to the Americans and much sympathy for the
British in all the villages. Here at Kekionga, besides the Miamis,
he found both Shawnees and Delawares. The Shawnee chief,
Blue Jacket, and the renegade Girty brothers among the Delawares
prevented any friendly response. The number of warriors in these
villages was not given. The secretary of war, General Knox,
estimated that the number of warriors on the Wabash would be
more than fifteen hundred, but some think that number was too
large. One writer, James Smith, said there were not more than
three thousand Indian warriors in all, west of Pennsylvania.
Gamelin's report of conditions here in Kekionga was about
the same as George Croghan reported twenty-five years earlier,
and similar to the conditions reported by Hay the year previous.
There were a few French and British traders here, among whom
was John Kinzie, noted for his connection twenty years later with
Fort Dearborn and the massacre there. Trade was at a low
level. Whiskey was already beginning to have its terrible effect
upon the Indians.
H. S. Knapp, in his history of the Maumee Valley, tells of
seven villages here at the time of Harmar's expedition. First of
all, there was the main Miami village at Lakeside at the junction
of the St. Joseph and Maumee. There was another Miami village
across the river between St. Mary's and the St. Joseph with thirty
houses. Two miles down the Maumee was the Shawnee village,
Chillicothe, with fifty-eight houses. Across the river was another
Shawnee village with eighteen houses. There were two Delaware
villages two miles up the St. Mary's with forty-five houses and
another Delaware village three miles up the St. Joseph. The total
number of houses, or cabins, in all these villages was given at one
hundred eighty-five, although the original number was not known,
for the Indians had burned many of their houses before Harmar's
MAUMEE VALLEY HISTORICAL PROCEEDINGS 57
From all these accounts, it would seem that the number of
Indians here varied from time to time and was never very large.
Those who fought Harmar were largely the Miamis in and about
Kekionga and from Eel River.
Little Turtle, the Miami, was by far the most important op-
ponent of Harmar. The Little Turtle village was on Eel River
about sixteen miles northwest of Kekionga. Here his father, the
great Chief Aquenacque, had made this an important Indian
center. Here Little Turtle was born. Two miles up the river
from this village was the famous Eel River trading post, where
furs were collected by the traders to be transported to Fort Wayne
The first battle with Harmar's forces occurred on Eel River
eleven miles northwest of Fort Wayne on the old Indian trail that
led to Fort Dearborn. It is now known as the Goshen Road, or
U. S. Route 33. While some of Harmar's men thought the forces
were very large, others had put the number of Little Turtle's army
at only about a hundred. But whereas Hardin's division of
Harmar's army was poorly made up and poorly equipped, they
were opposed by some of the finest of all Indian warriors, com-
manded by the greatest Indian general who ever opposed the
white man. Although outnumbered two to one, Little Turtle
annihilated Hardin's forces by strategy unequaled for cleverness
of conception and efficient execution. Thomas Irvin, one of the
soldiers in that expedition, wrote that Little Turtle had prepared
the ambuscade "as neatly as one sets a trap for a rat."
Three days later Little Turtle and these same Indians set a
similar trap at the Maumee and annihilated the regulars under
Captain Willys and so crippled the entire force of Harmar's army
that he returned at once to Fort Washington. Although Harmar
reported victory over the Indians, most historians believe he was
defeated by the superior generalship of the Miami chief, Little
Turtle. Theodore Roosevelt, in Winning of the West, Vol. I,
page 91, wrote, "The net result was a mortifying failure." It is
true that the troops were poor specimens of soldiers and poorly
equipped and that the brave but rash Hardin was at odds with the
inefficient Colonel Trotter, but Roosevelt criticizes Harmar for
58 OHIO ARCH EOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
allowing divisions among his men and subordinate generals and for
keeping his main army inactive only seven miles away while the
brave Willys and other brave men were being cut to pieces in
small, uncoordinated divisions.
These conflicts with Harmar gave excellent training for Little
Turtle and his Indians to meet the combined forces of St. Clair
one year later on the Wabash at what is now Fort Recovery, Ohio.
Harmar's expedition plainly showed Little Turtle that a large
army would soon be sent against Kekionga, "the glorious gateway
of the West." Warriors came from all the chief tribes of the
Northwest to be trained by Little Turtle for the coming conflict.
With a thousand warriors, well trained, this "Napoleon of the
Red Men" met a much larger force under St. Clair on November
4, 1791. Little Turtle outgeneraled and outfought St. Clair, who
had the largest and best equipped army ever sent against the In-
dians, and inflicted upon them the greatest defeat the white men
ever suffered at the hands of the Indians.
After all, Little Turtle, with his genius and greatness, was
worth a whole army of either whites or Indians and was the
chief explanation of the defeat of Harmar and St. Clair. He de-
feated more white armies than any other Indian, but his greatness
is not shown by that alone. After he had done all he could to
protect the land of his fathers, he made peace with Wayne at
Greenville and spent the remaining seventeen years of his life as
the friend of the Americans and tried to get his people to adopt
the best ways of the white man's civilization.
At Wayne's suggestion, he visited President George Washing-
ton, who received him as a great warrior and patriot and conferred
upon him the highest honors possible. Little Turtle later visited
Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in the interests of
the Indians. He endeavored to introduce among his people tem-
perance, agriculture, vaccination for smallpox, and the arts of
peace. That fine monument on the battle field of Fallen Timbers
has a worthwhile suggestion for us all. While it gives due credit
to General Wayne for his great ability and his service to the
Northwest and similar praise to the hardy pioneers who supported
General Wayne in his conquest, there is also generous praise for
MAUMEE VALLEY HISTORICAL PROCEEDINGS 59
Little Turtle, who bravely defended the land of his fathers against
the conquering white men. We shall all be glad to see a fine
monument erected here in Fort Wayne to that great general after
whom the city is named. But some day we shall also recognize the
greatness of Little Turtle and either here or somewhere along his
native Eel River, the Ke-na-po-co-mo-co, we shall erect a suitable
monument for him also.