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.
THE STORY OF FORT ST. CLAIR *
BY RALPH B. EHLER
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
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. 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. 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. 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.
"FORTY FOOT PITCH"*
BY A. C. RISINGER
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