Ohio History Journal

Fort St

Fort St. Clair                515

For purchase of Site of Fort St. Clair, Preble County,

Ohio, for historical and forestry purposes (Title to

be vested in The Ohio State Archaeological and

Historical Society for State of Ohio) ........... $10,000

Buildings      .........................................  4,000

Roadway      ........................................                                                   1,000

Total Site  of  Fort  St.  Clair  ...................                                    $15,000

For this commendable action the good people of

southeastern Ohio and tourists from other parts of the

state are under lasting obligations to the General As-

sembly and especially to Honorable Harry D. Silver,

State Representative from Preble County and chairman

of the Finance Committee of the House, who in this

result has crowned his excellent record of service to his

state and county. The effective work that he inaugu-

rated in the House was ably supported in the Senate by

Honorable G. M. Kumler of Preble County, who repre-

sents the Preble-Montgomery District.




At the time when my story begins, Ohio was prac-

tically unsettled. The few settlers already here were

in constant danger of the Indians, who were not at all

pleased with the white man's presence in their Hunting


Prior to the organization of civil government, cam-

paigns directed by the settlers, against the Indians, had

failed to secure peace.    The National Government,

however, wishing to subdue the hostile Indians in the

Territory, organized a number of military campaigns.


* Read at the St. Clair celebration, November 6, 1922, Eaton, Preble

County, Ohio.

516 Ohio Arch

516     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications

The first of these, led by General Harmar, then com-

mander-in-chief of the armies in the West, met with

defeat at Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1790.

In 1791, General St. Clair, governor of the territory,

organized the second expedition.  About this time,

several Indian chiefs, among whom was the famous

Little Turtle, were planning a confederacy. By this

action, they hoped to be strong enough to drive the set-

tlers beyond the Ohio River. It was St. Clair's pur-

pose to stop this movement by erecting a chain of forts

from the Ohio River to Lake Erie, and in particular,

to gain possession of the headwaters of the Maumee


He organized his army at Pittsburgh in April and

moved westward, arriving at Fort Washington, now

Cincinnati, in May. After some delay, he marched north

in September to a point on the Great Miami and erected

the first of the proposed chain of forts, Fort Hamilton,

on the present site of Hamilton.

Leaving a small portion of his army in charge, he

again moved forward, this time marching forty-four

miles. At this point, just six miles south of the present

site of Greenville, he erected the second fort, Fort Jef-

ferson.  It was on this march that he first passed

through Preble county, his route being along Seven Mile


After the completion of this fort, his next advance

was to the Indian villages on the Maumee. Due to de-

sertion, his army was much smaller than when he

started his campaign and upon his arrival at Fort Re-

covery, numbered only 1400 men. It was here that St.

Clair was overwhelmingly defeated by the Indians on

November 4, 1791.

Fort St

Fort St. Clair             517

This was the most disheartening disaster in the an-

nals of American border warfare. The loss of men

here was even greater in proportion to the number en-

gaged than the loss in Braddock's defeat. Out of 1400

men and 86 officers, 890 men and 16 officers were either

killed or badly wounded. After four hours of serious

fighting, the remnant of St. Clair's army fled pellmell

into the woods, going south over the same route that

two days before they had marched, a well organized

army. As a result of this defeat, the whole territory

was thrown open to the savage attacks of the Indians.

Although this battle was fought many miles from

the place in which we are interested, a knowledge of it

is necessary for a proper appreciation of the condition

of the country at the time when Fort St. Clair was built.

During the winter of 1791-92, just after St. Clair's

defeat, Fort St. Clair was erected upon the order of

General Wilkinson, who had succeeded St. Clair as

commander of Fort Washington. It was to serve as a

stepping stone of refuge between Fort Hamilton and

Fort Jefferson. The work was under the supervision

of Major Gano of the state militia. Another prominent

person present at the erection of this fort was Ensign

Harrison, later, President Harrison, who had charge of

one shift of the alternate night guards.

Like most of the forts, Fort St. Clair was a stock-

ade, covering a few acres of ground, containing block-

houses and officers' quarters. About forty acres of for-

est were cleared away from around the fort.

In October, 1792, a great council of Indians, the

greatest of its kind, was held at Fort Defiance and an

armistice was entered into which the Indians agreed to

observe until the following spring. Peace was not very

518 Ohio Arch

518     Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications

faithfully observed, however, and was first broken

within the boundaries of Preble County at Fort St.

Clair on the sixth day of November, 1792.

One hundred Kentucky mounted riflemen, under the

command of Major Adair, were acting as an escort for

a brigade of pack horses from Fort Washington to Fort

Jefferson. They were to make the trip past Fort St.

Clair and return in six days, staying each night under

the protection of one of the forts. At this same time,

Little Turtle and two hundred and fifty warriors were

planning an attack on a small settlement just north of

Fort Washington. However, upon hearing of the pack

train, the chief decided to attack it instead upon its re-

turn trip, and with this in view, took to ambush just

north of Fort Hamilton. According to schedule, the

train was to arrive at Fort Hamilton on Monday. Dis-

regarding the schedule, Adair laid over at Fort Jeffer-

son on Sunday, and on Monday night, he pitched camp

just outside of Fort St. Clair. Little Turtle heard of

this through spies and at once left ambush with the in-

tention of attacking the camp yet that night.

It was just breaking dawn when, with a volley of

shots and a roar of hideous yells, they surprised the

camp. The yells frightened the horses and many of

them broke loose. The Indians, desiring to capture the

horses and to gather up all the loot possible, seemed, for

a moment to forget about the militia. Adair took ad-

vantage of this and called his men together. This done,

he formed his men into three divisions. Lieutenant

Madison was to attack the left flank, Lieutenant Hale,

the center, and the Major with his division, on the right.

As soon as it was light enough to distinguish the whites

from the Indians, the attack was made. It was in this

Fort St

Fort St. Clair             519

attack that Lieutenant Hale was killed and Madison

was wounded. The Indians were forced to retreat some

distance where they then took a stand and, in turn,

forced the militia back. This zigzag method of fight-

ing was carried on for some time until the Indians and

all but six of the horses were lost sight of at about the

place where Eaton is now located.

The exact number of Indians killed in this battle is

not definitely known, though two were left and are

buried at the fort. Besides the graves of the Indians at

the fort, there are the graves of Lieutenant Hale,

Orderly Sergeant English, and Privates Bowling, Jett,

Clinton, and Williams.

It is because of this battle that the Historical So-

ciety of Preble County has set aside November 6th as

St. Clair Day.





All peoples delight to discover and preserve the

history of their pioneers, especially the sturdy, courage-

ous, aggressive, primary pioneers who ventured into the

wilds of the farther frontiers and seized and subdued

the wilderness for themselves and their posterity.

The history of the primary military and civil pio-

neers of Preble County has been rather fully developed

and preserved by various records and documents and

in much part by oral traditions.

One historical mention, however, has remained

somewhat obscure to the general inquiring public and


* Read at the St. Clair celebration, November 6, 1922, Eaton, Preble

County, Ohio.