Ohio History Journal







The student of history is generally attracted by

events which occurred at some remote place.  It is

another illustration of distance lending enchantment.

In Europe I have seen Americans tramping over the

scenes of battles which had no significance in the world's

history. They were simply scenes of conflicts between

rival factions in local disturbances. Some of these same

Americans have passed by battlefields near their own

homes, without pausing for a moment to visualize

what these conflicts meant in American history. For

the same reason the American traveler is lured to for-

eign lands in search of scenic beauty, when more beau-

tiful panoramas can be found within a short journey of

his own habitation.

It is not necessary for a resident of Northwest Ohio

to journey to distant fields in search of places of absorb-

ing historical interest. Within the twenty counties of

this section of our great commonwealth occurred battles

between red man and white, and between rival white

races, which have left their permanent impress upon

American history in the western march of the empire.

There is scarcely a foot of the bank of the Sandusky or

the Maumee river which is not pregnant with virile his-

tory. At Fort Stephenson there was displayed a spirit

which savors of that heroism shown by the Greeks at

Thermopylae. The Girty brothers contributed the vil-


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lains, the ingrates, whose presence seems as necessary

to make the drama complete as the heroes, who, in this

instance, include General Anthony Wayne, General

William Henry Harrison, Captain Croghan, Commo-

dore Perry and many others.

The Northwestern Territory was the first experi-

ment by the new United States in expansion. Hereto-

fore the Americans had made little effort to subdue the

wilderness beyond the Alleghenies. The Northwestern

Territory offered a new and inviting problem, but be-

fore this vast and fertile tract could be utilized it was

necessary to conquer the original occupants of the soil.

The collision naturally came in Ohio, which was then

the frontier region, and the fiercest contacts between

the reds and whites took place in Northwest Ohio.

Here it was that the French and English contended for

the mastery of this region. Here it was that the on-

coming Americans waged their battles for supremacy

with the British, and here it was that they were com-

pelled to subdue the red men.

Northwest Ohio has produced many great men. It

has furnished a Justice of the Supreme Court and two

Presidents, including the present chief executive, of

whom we are proud, and many other men who contrib-

uted to our country's welfare. But the red men also

produced some outstanding leaders in this same region,

who ranked high in savage history. It was in Sandusky

County that Chief Nicholas of the Wyandotte tribe

lived, and he was the brains of the movement which had

for its purpose to drive the French from the western

country. The greatest Indian chief of which we have

knowledge was Pontiac, who engineered that remark-

able. movement known as Pontiac's conspiracy, which

Colonel James Kilbourne 33

Colonel James Kilbourne         33

aimed to break the British power. Pontiac was born

and lived the greater part of his life near Defiance.

Although Tecumseh was not born within Northwestern

Ohio, yet the larger part of his activities in opposing

the march of the whites into the hunting-grounds of his

ancestors occurred in this same region.

History becomes vivid to the imaginative mind when

one considers the truly remarkable events that have

occurred in Northwestern Ohio. Here at Bucyrus we

are on or near the ground over which Colonel Crawford

and his Pennsylvania Volunteers traveled on their way

to meet the Wyandottes. They were full of hope as

they journeyed westward, but it was a sadder, a wiser

and a less numerous force that retreated over this same

ground a few days later.

Ohio had long been the stronghold of the savages,

since the woods and streams abounded in game which

furnished sustenance. Their numbers were augmented

by the broken tribes which were compelled to move

westward.  President Washington realized that this

power of the savages must be broken, and he decided to

take decisive measures leading to this end. He en-

trusted the first expedition to General Harmar. This

officer started from Cincinnati and proceeded toward

what is now Fort Wayne. It was there that he met a

disastrous defeat. In his forward march and his re-

turn also he passed through portions of Northwest Ohio.

The second expedition was placed in the hands of Gen-

eral St. Clair, a personal friend of the President, with

the specific instructions to avoid every possibility of

ambuscade. The result of this expedition was the

bloody encounter in Mercer county, which was followed

by the horrible butchery of hundreds of his troops.

Vol. XXXI-3.

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They had been outwitted by the savages, even after the

definite warning of his superior. This encounter at

Fort Recovery is one of the most horrible savage re-

prisals that American history records.

President Washington realized that the savage

power must be broken or the Northwestern Territory,

rich as it might be in natural resources, would be useless

to the new republic. He decided upon General Anthony

Wayne to head the third expedition. In this instance

he had selected the proper man. General Wayne left

nothing to chance. He carefully surveyed the situation

and prepared himself for every possibility. In easy

marches he proceeded from near Cincinnati northward

to the Auglaize River. He then followed this stream to

Defiance and, after complete preparations, followed the

Maumee toward its mouth. Between Maumee and

Waterville he encountered the savages in a hollow where

the timber had been destroyed by a hurricane. Here

the savages had prepared to meet the white soldiers, and

the Battle of Fallen Timbers followed. The result was

an overwhelming defeat for the Indians. It forever

broke their power and made them willing to enter into

the Greenville Treaty in the following year. It was prob-

ably the most decisive defeat that the Indians ever expe-

rienced. It made possible the oncoming of thousands

of white pioneers into the western country, many of

whom settled in Northwest Ohio along the Sandusky

and Maumee Rivers within the next few years.

During the War of 1812 Northwest Ohio was the

scene of the most significant events that occurred in the

western country.  It was here that the Americans

clashed with the British and their savage allies in a

series of conflicts.  General Harrison, Commodore

What We Owe to the Past 35

What We Owe to the Past          35

Perry and George Croghan are the outstanding figures

in these impacts. The heroism of these commanders

and their followers equals that exhibited in any inci-

dents in American history. Warned by the disastrous

experiences of General Hull, who basely surrendered at

Detroit, and General Winchester, who was caught un-

prepared at Monroe, General Harrison carefully planned

his campaign. As a result the year 1813 retrieved the

failures of 1812. British and savages alike learned at

Fort Meigs that the American commander who opposed

them was a man of skill, foresight and courage. Their

bitter experiences at Fort Stephenson only deepened the

impression that the Americans could not be driven from

this country by force and they could not be intimidated

by threats of butchery by the savages in the event of

defeat or capture. Their numbers were terribly deci-

mated. They gained nothing excepting the scalps of

Colonel Dudley's brave Kentuckians and a few strag-

glers. Fear of the savages no longer existed. The vic-

tory at the Thames River was only the finishing touch,

the death stroke, upon the body which had received its

fatal wound in Northwest Ohio. With the capture of

the British fleet by Commodore Perry, the power of

both the British and Indians was forever broken in this

fair region. Those Indians who remained for from

twenty to thirty years longer buried the tomahawk and

resigned themselves to the supremacy of the white man.

What lessons may we learn from the history of

Northwest Ohio? It seems to me that there are very

significant lessons. When a boy I regretted that I had

not been born earlier, for all history seemed to have

been made. The year 1914 dispelled that illusion per-

manently. The making of history has not ended, and

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the demand for courage, both physical and moral, is

probably greater today than ever in the world's history.

Great as was the courage of the early pioneers, who

threaded the forests and faced death from lurking sav-

ages, I doubt whether the heroism demanded of them

was as great as that required today in facing some of

the problems that have been developed by civilization.

They were lured partly by the spirit of adventure. The

trackless forests, the abundance of game, the novelty of

the experiences, the hope of bettering their fortunes, the

element of the wild that exists in man's nature -all

contributed their share of the compelling forces that

led to their voluntary exile from friends and civilization.

Today we face the dangers of luxury resulting from

wealth, and the lure of following the line of least resist-

ance. Money can buy everything that satisfies the phys-

ical cravings. We are tempted to rest satisfied when

these demands are appeased. But there are ever great

moral and political problems that need pioneering, and

for these the highest possible degree of physical and

moral courage is needed. There are tempters on every

hand who assail the pioneer more insidiously and more

treacherously than did the waiting savage waylay the

pioneer in the wilderness.

When General Wayne was asked by one of his sub-

ordinates, just before the attack was ordered at Fallen

Timbers, what his field orders would be, his answer

was: "The standing order for the day is to charge the

enemy." When Captain Croghan was asked by the

emissary of the British general to surrender Fort Ste-

phenson, because his savages could not be restrained if

victory fell to them, as it certainly must, the reply was:

"When the fort is taken, there will be no survivors left

What We Owe to the Past 37

What We Owe to the Past          37

to massacre. It will not be given up so long as there is

a man able to resist." These words might be taken as

the watchwords of those who are fighting for the right.

Always face the enemy and charge him with the bay-

onet, and never yield so long as there is anyone left who

is able to fight. We will then be able to repeat the mem-

orable words of Commodore Perry to those who

anxiously await the result of the struggle: "We have

met the enemy and they are ours."