Ohio History Journal








FIELD. FT. RECOVERY, O., OCT. 16, 1891.*

It is said that for more than six hundred years after the

battle of Morgarten the Swiss peasantry gathered on the field of

battle to commemorate those who had fallen for freedom. We

have assembled to-day in the same spirit to do honor to the gallant

dead, who, one hundred years ago, gave their lives for their

country in this fatal field, and amidst their hallowed ashes to per-

petuate the story of their unselfish patriotism. A great Republic,

mighty in its perfect unity, guards with tender care the memory

* NOTE.--(From the Cincinnati [Daily] Enquirer. October 17,


FT. RECOVERY, O., Oct. 16. -The grand centennial celebration of

the battle of St. Clair closed to-day, and the expectations of the Mon-

umental Association have been realized fully. Great crowds of people

have assembled each day to pay homage to the dead heroes.

This morning dawned with a clear sky, seemingly the act of

Providence to prepare a perfect day for the crowning event of the

exercises. Fully 15,000 people assembled to-day on the old battle ground

of Ft. Recovery to witness the sad rites of placing the remains of the

dead heroes in their third and last resting place. It will be remembered

that the bones of the old soldiers were discovered in a pit, where they

had been placed by their comrades after the battle. The first skull

was found by the late Judge Roop by mere accident after a rain, which

had washed them out to view. This was in June, 1851, and they lay

in that state until October of the same year, when they were interred

in a private cemetery amid grand ceremonies. They rested in their

earthly abodes until a few days ago, when they were again taken up

to prepare for their final resting place. It was to-day this rite was

performed. The exercises this forenoon were: Speaking at the grounds

and military parade, Colonel Bundy, of Cincinnati, being the prin-

cipal orator.

General J. P. C. Shanks, of Portland, Ind., delivered an inter-

esting address relative to the defeat of Arthur St. Clair. At noon Judge-

Samuel F. Hunt, of Cincinnati, Senator Godfrey, of Celina, and Mayor


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374        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.

of every man, whether on land or on sea, who has lifted up his

hand for his country and the glory of the flag.

We here reverently do honor not only to the memory of the

gallant Butler and those who fell with him on that day of dread-

ful disaster under St. Clair, but to those tried and patriotic men

who followed Anthony Wayne and perished at last at the Fallen

Timbers, and those hardy pioneers who protected the frontier

before civil authority was established, and saved defenseless set-

tlements from the tomahawk and scalping knife of the Indian.




When George Washington, on the 25th day of November,

1758, - then in his twenty-sixth year,- planted the British flag

on the deserted ruins of the fortress at the junction of the Monon-

Blackburn, of Cincinnati, arrived. The procession was then formed

at the Christian Church, where the remains were lying in state. The

Sidney Cornet Band headed the procession, playing a slow march, fol-

lowed by the military company from Portland, Ind. The Sons of

Veterans came next, followed by the G. A. R. Post of this city. Then

came the catafalque on which the remains were placed, drawn by four

horses. The Executive Board of the Monumental Association followed

the catafalque and a procession of young ladies, representing the dif-

ferent states of the Union, brought up the rear. The procession slowly

marched from the church through the city to the park, where the grave

had been prepared to receive the remains. Prayer was offered by

Rev. O. S. Green, after which General Shanks delivered the dedication

address. Three salutes were fired by the military over the graves of the

soldiers. The scene was an impressive one, and will be remembered

by all who witnessed it. Amid the tolling of the church bells throughout

the city the remains of the five hundred soldiers, together with those

of General Butler, were consigned once more to the silent tomb, never

to be again disturbed. The park is a most beautiful one, and was

purchased by the city for the site of a monument, which will no doubt

some day be erected. The monument will be placed directly in the

center of the park over the graves of the dead soldiers. The remains

of General Butler were discovered and interred in 1876, and a few

years later his sword was found nearly on the same spot. His name

and the crown of England were engraved upon it. The address of

Judge Hunt this afternoon was listened to by 10,000 people. Thus closed

an event of national importance. The fact that visitors were here from

half the states of the Union showed what an interest has been taken

in the event throughout the country.


St. Clair's Defeat.               375

gahela and the Allegheny rivers, the banners of England floated

for the first time over the Ohio. This was the extreme western

post of British rule in North America, and from the gateway of

the west there stretched toward the setting sun the solemn and

mysterious forest. There was nothing but an endless space of

shadowy woodland. The forests crowned the mountains from crest

to river-bed and extended in melancholy wastes toward the dis-

tant Mississippi. It has been well expressed that the sunlight

could not penetrate the roof-archway of murmuring leaves while

deep in its tangled depths lurked the red foe, hawk-eyed and

wolf-hearted. Here and there were great prairies with copses of

woodland like islands in the sunny seas of tall, waving grass. In

all that solitude there was no sound save that of the woodman's


The English had been driven from every cabin in the basin

of the Ohio. France had her posts on each side of the Lakes,

and at Detroit, at Mackinaw, at Kaskaskia and at New Orleans,

and the claim of France to the valleys of the Mississippi and the

St. Lawrence seemed established by possession. The flag of the

Bourbon dynasty which floated from the battlements of Quebec

was the emblem of sovereignty over this vast territory.

The victory of Wolfe over Montcalm on the heights of

Abraham, on September 9, 1759, decided whether the vast central

valley of North America should bear throughout all coming time

the impress of French or English civilization. The continent

was saved from French domination, and the dying hero praised

God for the victory over the French as his spirit escaped in the

blaze of its glory. The historian says that night, silence, the rush-

ing tide, veteran discipline, the sure inspiration of genius, had

been his allies; his battle field, high over the ocean-river, was the

grandest theatre on earth for illustrious deeds; his victory, one

of the most momentous in the annals of mankind, gave to the

English tongue and the institutions of the Germanic race the

unexplored and seemingly infinite West and North. He crowded

into a few hours actions that would have given lustre to length of

life; and fulfilling his day with greatness, completed it before

its noon.

376 Ohio Arch

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The North Western Territory, after the conquest of the

French possessions in North America by Great Britain, was

ceded to Great Britain by France by the treaty of Paris in 1763.

By an act of Parliament of Great Britain passed in 1774, the

whole of the North Western Territory was annexed to and made

a part of the Province of Quebec as established by royal procla-

mation of October 1763, and by the treaty of peace, signed at

Paris, September 3, 1783, the claim of the English Monarch to

the North Western Territory was ceded to the United States.

The title claimed by Virginia, Massachusetts, New York and Con-

necticut was vested in the United States by the several deeds

of cession.

Congress now proceeded to perfect its title to the soil and

jurisdiction by negotiation with the Indian tribes-the original

owners and rightful proprietors-notwithstanding charters and

grants and treaties of peace. The Indian title to a large part

of the territory within the limits of the State of Ohio having been

extinguished it became necessary for Congress to provide a form

of government for the territory northwest of the Ohio river. This

led to the adoption of the ordinance of 1787.




Arthur St. Clair, an officer in the old French war, a Major

General in the army of the revolution and President of the Con-

tinental Congress, was appointed Governor of the North Western

Territory in 1788, with Winthrop Sergeant as Secretary, and

who also acted as Chief Magistrate in the absence of the Gov-

ernor. When St. Clair came to the territory in July, 1788, the

tribes on the Wabash were decidedly hostile. They continued

to invade the Kentucky settlements, while George Rogers Clark,

at the head of the Kentucky Volunteers, in return, destroyed their

villages and waged a relentless warfare against them. Immigra-

tion was retarded by the fear of the tomahawk and the scalping



St. Clair's Defeat.              377




At the close of the revolution the "regular army" had been

reduced to less than seven hundred men, and no officer was re-

tained above the rank of captain. This force was soon after

reduced to twenty-five men to guard the mighty stores at Pitts-

burg, and fifty-five men to perform military duty at West Point and

other magazines.

It was estimated that all the tribes in the territory at this time

numbered twenty thousand souls. They were continually inflamed

by British emissaries and agents and a feeling of hostility enkind-

led. These emissaries and agents made their headquarters at

the frontier forts which had not been given up by Great Britain

according to the terms of the treaty with the United States.

The military force of the territory consisted of about six hundred

men under the command of General Harmar who had been

appointed a Brigadier General on the 31st day of July, 1787.

In the early part of 1789 Governor St. Clair held a council

at Fort Harmar, at the mouth of the Muskingum, with the

Chiefs and Sachems of the Six Nations, and with the represen-

tatives of the Indian tribes from the Mohawk Valley to the

Wabash, when old agreements were confirmed and boundaries

established. Many of the tribes refused to acknowledge the

Treaty as binding, and within a short period after the Council

at Fort Harmar bands of maurading Indians threatened the

frontiers of Virginia and Kentucky.




It became evident that permanent peace with the Indians

was an impossibility. They waylaid the boats and wounded

and plundered the immigrants all along the river from Pittsburg

to the Falls of the Ohio. General Harmar endeavored to chastise

them, but his expedition was a disaster, and his command

defeated at the Maumee Ford in October, 1790.

The Federal Government proclaimed that the occupation

of the territory meant peace and friendship and not war and

bloodshed. These appeals were only answered by renewed depre-

378 Ohio Arch

378      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.

dations on the part of the Indians, who were largely instigated

by the infamous Simon Girty-a renegade white man, at the

mention of whose name for more than twenty years the women

and children of the Ohio country turned pale.

The tribes of the West under Little Turtle, Chief of the

Miamis, Blue Jacket, Chief of the Shawnees, and Buck-onga-a-

helos, Chief of the Delawares, now confederated to resist the

whites and drive them, if possible, beyond the Ohio river which

the Indians regarded as the boundary of their territory. Corn-

planter, a famous Chief, at the table of General Wayne, at Legion-

ville, in 1793, said, "My mind is upon that river," pointing to the

Ohio, "May that water ever continue to run and remain the

boundary of lasting peace between the Americans and Indians

on the opposite side."




The expeditions of Harmar and Scott and Wilkinson were

directed against the Miamis and Shawnees, while the burning

of their towns, the destruction of their corn-fields and the cap-

tivity of their women and children only seemed to exasperate

them and aroused more desperate efforts to defend their hunting

grounds and to harass the invaders. In the meantime prepara-

tions were going forward for the main expedition of St. Clair,

the purpose of which was to secure control over the savages by

establishing a chain of forts from the Ohio river to Lake Erie

and especially by securing a strong position in the heart of the

Miami country. The defeat of Harmar proved the necessity

of some strong check upon the Indians of the North West.




Indeed the main object of the campaign of 1791 was to build

a fort at the junction of the St. Mary and the St. Joseph's Rivers

which was to be connected by other intermediate stations with

Fort Washington and the Ohio. The importance of this posi-

tion was recognized in a letter of General Knox, Secretary of

War, to St. Clair, dated September 12, 1790, and the Secretary of

War in his official report of St. Clair's defeat, dated December


St. Clair's Defeat.              379

26, 1791, says, "that the great object of the late campaign was

to establish a strong military post at the Miami Village-Maumee

at the Junction of the Joseph and the St. Mary." This object,

too, was to be attained, if possible, even at the expense of a con-

test which otherwise he avoided.

The Secretary of War, under the authority and direction of

President Washington, issued full and complete instructions to

General St. Clair for the conduct of the campaign. It was de-

clared to be the policy of the general government to establish a

just and liberal peace with all the Indian Tribes within the limits

and in the vicinity of the territory of the United States; but if

lenient measures should fail to bring the hostile Indians to a

just sense of their situation, it would then be necessary to use

all coercive measures to accomplish the result.

General St. Clair was informed that by an Act of Congress,

passed September 2, 1790, another regiment was to be raised and

added to the military establishment and provision made for rais-

ing two thousand levies for the term of six months for the service

of the frontiers. It was contemplated that the mass of regulars

and volunteers should be recruited and rendezvous at Fort Wash-

ington by the 10th of July following, so that there would be a

force of three thousand "effectives" at least, besides leaving small

garrisons on the Ohio, for the main expedition.



In order to prevent the Indians from spreading themselves

along the line of the frontiers, in the event of the refusal of peace,

Brigadier General Charles Scott, of Kentucky, was authorized to

make an expedition against the Wea or Oniatenon towns, with

mounted volunteers, or militia from Kentucky, not exceeding the

number of seven hundred and fifty, officers included.

In his advance to the Miami Village St. Clair was directed to

establish such posts of communication with Fort Washington

on the Ohio, as should be deemed proper, while the post at the

confluence of the St. Mary and the St. Joseph was intended for

the purpose of awing and curbing the Indians in that quarter

and as the only preventive of future hostilities. It was necessary

that it should be made secure against all attempts and insults of

380 Ohio Arch

380     Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


the Indians. The garrison to be stationed there was not only

to be sufficient for the defense of the place, but always to afford

a detachment of five or six hundred men, either to chastise any

of the Wabash or other hostile Indians, or to secure any convoy

of provisions.


It was left to the discretion of the Commanding General to

employ, if attainable, any Indians of the Six Nations, and the

Chickasaws or other Southern Nations, with the suggestion that

probably the employment of about fifty of each, under the direc-

tion of some discreet or able chief, might be advantageous.

There was a caution that they ought not to be assembled before

the line of march was taken up, for the reason that they soon

became tired and would not be detained.

The Secretary of War presumed that disciplined valor would

triumph over the undisciplined Indian. In that event the Indians

would sue for peace, and the dignity of the United States Gov-

ernment required that the terms should be liberal. In order to

avoid future war it was thought proper to make the Wabash,

and thence over to the Miami-the Maumee-and down the

same to its mouth at Lake Erie, the boundary, except so far as

the same might relate to the Wyandots and the Delawares, on the

supposition of their continuing faithful to their treaties. But if

these tribes should join in war against the United States they

should be removed beyond this boundary.




There was also a discretion given to General St. Clair to

extend the boundary from the mouth of the river Au Panse of the

Wabash in a due West line to the Mississippi, since but few

Indians, besides the Kickapoos, would be affected by such line,

but there was an admonition that the whole matter should be

tenderly managed. The policy of the United States dictated

peace with the Indians, for peace was of more value than millions

of uncultivated acres.


St. Clair's Defeat.               381




It was thought possible that the establishment of a post at

the Miami Village might be regarded by the British officers on

the frontier as a circumstance of jealousy. It was suggested,

therefore, that such intimations should be made at the proper

time, as would remove all such dispositions. It was the judg-

ment of the Secretary of War that such intimations should rather

follow than precede the possession of the post.




It is interesting-after the lapse of one hundred years-to

know the feeling entertained by the Federal Government toward

Great Britain in the campaign of the North Western territory.

Within twenty-one years after the defeat of St. Clair on this fatal

field there was a formal declaration of war between the United

States and Great Britain, and within twenty-one years General

Harrison heard the thunder of Perry's guns as they proclaimed

that the American arms had undisputed possession of Lake Erie.

In the very instructions to which we have alluded it was

declared that it was neither the inclination nor the interest of the

United States to enter into a contest with Great Britain, and

that every measure tending to any discussion or altercation

should be prevented. General Knox said, "The delicate situa-

tion, therefore, of affairs, may render it improper, at present to

make any naval arrangements upon Lake Erie. After you shall

have effected all the injury to the hostile Indians of which your

force may be capable and after having established the posts and

garrisons at the Miami Village and its communications, and

placing the same under the orders of an officer worthy of such

high trust you will return to Fort Washington on the Ohio."





"It is proper to observe," continued the Secretary of War,

"that certain jealousies have existed among the people of the

frontiers relative to a supposed interference between their interest,

382 Ohio Arch

382      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


and those of the marine States; that these jealousies are ill founded

with respect to the present government is obvious. The United

States embrace, with equal care, all parts of the Union and,

in the present case, are making expensive arrangements for the

protection of the frontier, and partly in the modes, too, which

appear to be highly favored by the Kentucky people. The high

station you fill as Commander-in-Chief of the troops and Governor

of the Northwestern Territory, will afford you pregnant oppor-

tunities to impress the frontier citizen of the entire good dispo-

sition of the general government toward them in all reasonable

things, and you will render acceptable service by cordially em-

bracing all such opportunities."




General St. Clair proceeded to organize his army under these

instructions. He was in Pittsburg in the following April, toward

which point horses and stores and ammunition were goingforward.

On the 15th of May St. Clair reached Ft. Washington (now Cincin-

nati) and at that time, the United States troops in the West

amounted to but two hundred and sixty-four non commissioned

officers and privates fit for duty. On the 15th of July the first

regiment, containing two hundred and ninety-nine men reached

Fort Washington.

General Richard Butler-who fell in the engagement and

for whom Butler County was named--was appointed second in

command, and during the months of April and May was engaged

in obtaining recruits, but when obtained there was no money

to pay them, nor to provide stores for them. There was great

inefficiency in the quartermaster's department. Tents, pack

saddles, kettles, knapsacks and cartridge boxes were all deficient

both in quantity and quality. The powder was poor or injurea,

the arms and accoutrements out of repair and not even proper

tools to mend them. Of six hundred and sixty-five stand of

arms at Fort Washington, designed by St. Clair for the militia,

scarcely any were in order; and with two traveling forges furnished

by the Quartermaster, there were no anvils. The troops gath-

ered slowly at Fort Washington, and there were vexatious deten-

tions at Pittsburg and upon the river. Intemperance prevailed to


St. Clair's Defeat.              383

a great extent. St. Clair then ordered the soldiers removed,

now numbering two thousand men, to Ludlow Station, about six

miles from the fort.



The army continued here until September 17, 1791, when,

being two thousand three hundred strong, moved forward to

a point on the Great Miami river when Fort Hamilton was built,

the first in the chain of fortresses.

On the 13th of September General St. Clair reconnoitred

the country and selected the ground to erect another fort for the

purpose of a deposit. Two hundred men were employed the

following day under the direction of Major Ferguson, at the new

fort. This was the second in the chain of fortifications and was

called Fort Jefferson. The army took up the line of march

on the morning of the 24th and pursued an old Indian path

leading north through a fine open woods, and, after advancing

six miles encamped along the bank of a creek with a large prairie

on the left. This camp was afterwards called Fort Greenville by

General Wayne, and marks the site of the town of Greenville.

On the 3rd day of November the army encamped on pleasant

dry ground, on the bank of a creek about twenty yards wide,

said to be the Pickaway fork of the Omee, but known since

to be a branch of the Wabash. This was ninety-eight miles

from Fort Washington. It was later than usual when the army

reached the ground that evening, and the fatigue of the men pre-

vented the general from having some works of defense imme-

diately erected. Major Ferguson, commanding officer of the

artillery, was sent for and a plan agreed upon for work to com-

mence early next morning. Indeed it was the intention of St.

Clair to leave the heavy baggage at the place and move on

with the army to the Miami Village. The high dry ground

was barely sufficient to encamp the army so that the lines

were contracted. The front line was parallel with the creek,

which was about twenty yards wide. There was low wet ground

on both flanks, and along most of the rear. The militia advanced

across the creek about three hundred yards. The frequent firing

of the sentinels through the night had disturbed the camp, and

384 Ohio Arch

384      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.

excited some concern among the officers, while guards had

reported the Indians skulking about in considerable numbers.

At ten o'clock at night General Butler, who commanded the

right wing, was directed to send out an intelligent officer and

party for information. There was much bitter controversy on

this subject afterwards. An aid-de-camp to General St. Clair

states that he saw Captain Slough, with two subalterns and

thirty men parade at General Butler's tent for that purpose,

and heard General Butler give Captain Slough very particular

orders how to proceed. The aid-de-camp with two or three offi-

cers, remained with General Butler until a late hour, and then

returned to the Commander-in-Chief, who was unable to be up

and whose tent was at some distance on the left. General St.

Clair had been indisposed for some days past with what at

times appeared to be "a billious colic, sometimes a rheumatic

asthma, and at other times symptoms of the gout."




In the Military Journal of Major Ebenezer Denny, an officer

in the Revolutionary and Indian Wars, and an aid-de-camp to

General St. Clair, published by the Historical Society of Penn-

sylvania, will be found, perhaps, the best account of the engage-

ment itself.

A light fall of snow lay upon the ground -so light that it

appeared like hoar frost. On a piece of rising ground, timbered

with oak, ash and hickory, the encampment was spread with a ford-

able stream in front. The army lay in two lines, 70 yards apart,

with 4 pieces of cannon in the center of each. Across the stream,

and beyond a rich bottom land 300 yards in width, as an

elevated plain, covered with an open front of stately trees. There

the militia, three hundred and fifty independent, half-insub-

ordinate men, under Lieutenant Colonel Oldham, of Kentucky,

were encamped.

The troops paraded on the morning of the fourth of Novem-

ber, 1791, at the usual time. They had been dismissed from the

lines but a few minutes, and the sun had hardly risen, when the

woods in front resounded with the fire and yells of the savages.

The volunteers who were but three hundred yards in front had


St. Clair's Defeat.              385


scarcely time to return a shot before they fled into the camp of the

enemy. The troops were under arms in an instant, and a brisk

fire from the front line met the enemy. The Indians from the

front filed off to the right and left and completely surrounded the

camp, and, as a result, cut off nearly all the guards and approaches

close to the lines. The savages advanced from one tree, log,

or stump to another under cover of the smoke of the guns of

the advancing army. The artillery and musketry made a tremen-

dous noise, but did but little execution. The Indians braved

everything, and when the army of St. Clair was encompassed

they kept up a constant fire which told with fatal effect, although

scarcely heard. The left flank, probably from the nature of the

ground, gave way first. The enemy got possession of that part

of the encampment but were soon repulsed because the ground

was very open and exposed.

General St. Clair was engaged at that time toward the right.

He led in person the party that drove the enemy and regained

the ground on the left.

The battalions in the rear charged several times and forced

the enemy from the shelter, but the Indians always turned and

fired upon their backs. The savages feared nothing from the

Federal troops. They disappeared from the reach of the bayonet

and then appeared as they pleased. They were visible only when

raised by a charge. The ground was literally covered with the

dead and dying. The wounded were taken to the centre where it

was thought most safe, and where a great many had crowded

together after they had quitted the posts. The general, with

other officers, endeavored to rally these men, and twice they

were taken out to the lines. The officers seemed to be singled out

and a great proportion fell or retired from wounds early in the


The men, being thus left with few officers, became fearful,

and, despairing of success, gave up the battle. To save them-

selves they abandoned their ground, and crowded in toward the

centre of the field. They seemed perfectly ungovernable, and

no effort could again place them in order for an attack.

The Indians at length secured the artillery, but not until the


Vol. VIII-25.

386 Ohio Arch

386       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.

officers were all killed, save one, and that officer badly wounded.

The men were almost all cut off and the pieces spiked. As the lines

of St. Clair's army were gradually deserted the lines of the

Indians were contracted. The shots then centered, and with

deliberate aim the execution was fearful. There was, too, a

cross-fire, and officers and men fell in every direction. The dis-

tress and cries of the wounded were fearful. A few minutes later

and a retreat would have been impossible. The only hope was

that the savages would be so taken up with the camp as not to

follow the retreating army.  Delay was death. There was no

opportunity for preparation. Numbers of brave men must be

left on the field as a sacrifice. There was no alternative but

retreat. It was after nine o'clock when repeated orders had been

given to retreat. The action had continued between two and

three hours. Both officers and men were incapable of doing

anything. No one was aroused to action until a retreat was

ordered. Then a few officers advanced to the front and the men

followed. The enemy then temporarily gave way because there

was no suspicion of the retreat. The stoutest and most active

now took lead, and those who were foremost in breaking the

lines of the enemy were soon left in the rear.




When the day was lost one of the pack-horses was procured

for General St. Clair. The general delayed to see the rear.

This movement was soon discovered by the enemy and the

Indians followed for not more than four or five miles. They

soon returned to share the spoils of the battle field. Soon after

the firing ceased an order was given to an officer to gain the front

and, if possible, to cause a halt that the rear might reach the army.

A short halt was caused, but the men grew impatient and would

move forward. By this time the remainder of the army was

somewhat compact, but in the most miserable and defenseless

state. The wounded left their arms on the field, and one-half

the others threw them away on the retreat. The road for miles

was covered with fire-locks, cartridge boxes and regimentals.

It was most fortunate that the pursuit was discontinued for a


St. Clair's Defeat.              387

single Indian might have followed with safety on either flank.

Such a panic had seized the men that they were ungovernable.

In the afternoon a detachment of the first regiment met the

retreating army. This regiment, the only complete and best dis-

ciplined portion of the army, had been ordered back upon the

road the 31st of October. They were thirty miles from the battle

ground when they heard distinctly the firing of the cannon, were

hastening forward and had marched about nine miles when met

by some of the militia who informed Major Hamtramck, the

commanding officer, that the army was totally destroyed. The

major judged it best to send a subaltern to obtain some knowl-

edge of the situation, and to return himself with the regiment to

Fort Jefferson, eight miles back, and to secure at all events that

post. Stragglers continued to come in for hours after the main

army had reached the fort.

The remnant of the army, with the first regiment, was now at

Fort Jefferson, twenty-nine miles from the field of action, without

provisions, and the former without having eaten anything for

twenty-four hours. A convoy was known to be upon the road,

and within a day's march. The general determined to move with

the first regiment and all the levies able to march. Those of the

wounded and others unable to go on, were lodged as comfortably

as possible within the fort. The army set out a little after ten

o'clock that night and reached Fort Hamilton on the afternoon

of the 6th, the general having reached there in the morning.

On the afternoon of the 8th the army reached Fort Washington.




St. Clair behaved gallantly during the dreadful scene. He

was so tortured with gout that he could not mount a horse with-

out assistance. He was not in uniform. His chief covering was

a coarse crappo coat, and a three cocked hat from under which

his white hair was seen streaming as he and Butler rode up and

down the line during the battle. He had three horses killed

under him. Eight balls passed through his clothes. He finally

mounted a pack-horse, and upon this animal, which could with

difficulty be spurred into a trot, he followed the retreat.

388 Ohio Arch

388       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


That evening Adjutant General Sargent wrote in his diary,

"The troops have all been defeated and though it is impossible

at this time to ascertain our loss, yet there can be no manner of

doubt that more than one-half the army are either killed or


Atwater in his History of Ohio says that there were in the

army, at the commencement of the action, about two hundred and

fifty women, of whom fifty-six were killed in the battle, and the

remainder were made prisoners by the enemy, except a small

number who reached Fort Washington.




The true causes of the disaster have been the subject of much

controversy. The Committee of the House of Representatives,

as stated in the American State Papers (Vol. XII, 38) exonerated

St. Clair from all blame in relation to everything before and dur-

ing the action.

The real reasons were doubtless the surprise of the army and

the consequent confusion and plight of the militia who were

first attacked. The militia, as St. Clair says, were a quarter of a

mile in advance of the main army, and beyond the creek; still

further in advance was Captain Slough, who, with volunteer party

of regulars sent to reconnoitre; and orders had been given to

Colonel Oldham, who commanded the militia, to have the woods

thoroughly examined by the scouts and patrols as Indians were

discovered hanging about the outskirts of the army. The want

of discipline and inexperience of the troops, doubtless, contrib-

uted to the result. The battle began at six o'clock in the morn-

ing and lasted until about half past nine. They were not over-

whelmed, as St. Clair supposed, by superior numbers. The

Indians, according to the best accounts, did not exceed one thou-

sand warriors. They fought, however, with desperate valor,

and at a great advantage from the nature of the ground and from

the facilities the forest afforded for their favorite mode of attack.

They were led, too, by the greatest chieftain of that age. It has

been the received opinion that the leader of the confederated

tribes on that fatal day was Little Turtle, the Chief of the

Miamis; but from the family of that celebrated warrior and


St. Clair's Defeat.              389

statesman, it is ascertained that Joseph Brandt (Stone's Brandt,

II, p. 313) with one hundred and fifty Mohawk braves were pres-

ent and commanded the warriors of the Wilderness. Colonel

John Johnston, long the Indian Agent, thinks that the number of

the Indians could not have been less than two thousand men,

but this estimate is not accepted as accurate. General Harmar

not only refused to join the expedition, but the relations between

St. Clair and Butler were not of the most cordial character. It

is evident from the events connected with the campaign, as well

as from his subsequent career as Governor of the North Western

Territory, that St. Clair was dictatorial in manner and spirit.




The battle which took place here on that eventful day in

November, 1791, seems to pale before the mighty achievements

of the late civil war when great armies were picked up on the

banks of the Potomac and dropped on the banks of the Cumber-

land and the Tennessee, and when the shouts of more than a

million of men, mingled with the roar of the Atlantic and Pacific

as they passed onward in the ranks of war. The defeat of St.

Clair was the most terrible reverse the American arms ever

suffered from the Indians. Even the defeat of Braddock's army

was less disastrous. Braddock's army consisted of twelve hun-

dred men and eighty-six officers, of whom seven hundred and

fourteen men and sixty-three officers were killed and wounded.

St. Clair's army consisted of fourteen hundred men and eighty-

six officers, of whom thirty-seven officers and five hundred and

ninety-three privates were killed and missing, and thirty-one offi-

cers and two hundred and fifty-two privates wounded. It is true

that when the army advanced from Fort Jefferson it numbered

about two thousand men, but discharges and desertions reduced

the effective strength on the day of action to only about fourteen

hundred men. The second regiment had but one battalion with

the army. It was well appointed, but inexperienced. The

officers and men, however, did their whole duty; they, with the

battalion of artillery, were nearly all cut off.

Bancroft, in speaking of Braddock's defeat, says that the

forest field of battle was left thickly strewn with the wounded and

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the dead. Never had there been such a harvest of scalps. As

evening approached, the woods around Fort Du Quesne rung

with the halloos of the red men; the constant firing of small

arms, mingled with the peal of cannon from the Fort. The next

day the British artillery was brought in, and the Indian warriors,

painting their skin a shining vermilion, with patches of black and

brown and blue, gloried in the laced hats and bright apparel of

the English officers. This language, but for the British artillery

and the English officers, would be descriptive of the field.




The people of the Western Counties of Pennsylvania and

Virginia memorialized their Governors for protection. "In con-

sequence of the late intelligence of the fate of the campaign to the

Westward," says a committee of the citizens of Pittsburg, "the

inhabitants of the town of Pittsburg have convened and appointed

us a committee for the purpose of addressing your Excellency.

The late disaster to the army must greatly affect the safety of this

place. There can be no doubt but that the enemy will now come

forward and with more spirit and greater confidence than they

ever did before, for success will give confidence and secure allies."

"The alarming intelligence lately received," said the people

of the Western portion of Virginia, "of the defeat of the army of

the Western country, fills our minds with dreadful fear and

apprehension concerning the safety of our fellow citizens in the

country we represent, and we confidently hope will be an excuse

for your Excellency, whose zeal has been so frequently evinced

in behalf of the distressed frontier counties for the request we are

compelled to make."




But the comparative losses of the two engagements, says

a writer in the Western Annals, represents very inadequately

the crushing effect of the defeat of St. Clair. An unprotected

frontier of a thousand miles, from the Allegheny to the Mississippi,

was at once thrown open to the attack of the infuriated and

victorious savages. The peace enjoyed for the several preced-

St, Clair's Defeat

St, Clair's Defeat.               391

ing years had wrought a great change in the western settlements.

The Indian hunters of the Revolutionary war had laid aside their

arms and their habits and devoted themselves to the cultivation

of the soil; the block houses and forts around which the first

settlers had gathered were abandoned, and cabins, clearings and

hamlets instead were scattered in exposed situations all along

the border. Everywhere the settlers unprotected and unpre-

pared, were expecting in terror the approach of the savages,

and everywhere abandoning their homes, or awaiting in helpless

despair the burnings, massacres and cruelties of Indian wars.




General Harmar was at Fort Washington in September,

1791, to solicit a court of inquiry to examine info misconduct

in the last campaign. The court was orderd - with General Rich-

ard Butler as President- and a report was made highly honor-

ble to General Harmar. He was then determined to quit the

service and positively refused to take any command in the cam-

paign of St. Clair. He conversed frequently and freely with a few

of his friends on the probable results of the campaign and predicted

defeat. He suspected a disposition in Major Denny to resign

but discouraged the idea. "You must," said he, "go in the

campaign; some will escape, and you may be among the number."

It was a matter of astonishment to General Harmar, who had

experience in fighting the Indians, that General St. Clair, who

had an excellent military reputation, should think of hazarding

that reputation and even his life, and the lives of so many others,

with an army so completely undisciplined, and with the officers so

totally unacquainted with Indian warfare, and with not a depart-

ment sufficiently prepared. There, too, was an absolute ignor-

ance of the collected force and situation of the enemy. Indeed

the scouts who left camp on the 29th of October under com-

mand of Captain Sparks, and composed chiefly of friendly Indians,

missed the enemy altogether and knew nothing of the battle, and

but for an Indian runner whom they met after the engagement

would probably have all been captured. It was unfortunate, too,

that both the general officers had been disabled by sickness.

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The popular clamor against St. Clair was loud and deep.

He had suffered a great reverse and was, therefore, accused by the

public voice of great incompetence. He asked from the President

the appointment of a court of inquiry, but the request was

denied because there were not officers enough in the service of the

proper rank to constitute such a court. He then offered to re-

sign his commission on condition that his conduct should be

investigated, but the exigencies of the service would not permit

of the delay, and his request was again refused.

Governor St. Clair continued to exercise the office of Gov-

ernor of the territory until 1802, and to the last, says Marshall in

his life of Washington, retained the undiminished esteem and

good opinion of Washington.



In a letter to Jonathan Dayton from John Cleves Symmes,

dated North Bend, August 15, 1791, the writer says that noth-

ing is known when the present army is to be put into motion.

They are encamped at the Ludlow Station, five miles from Fort

Washington, on account of better food for the cattle, of which they

have near one thousand head from Kentucky. Many and import-

ant are the preparations to be made previous to their general

movement. Not long since I made General St. Clair a tender

of my services on the expedition. He replied, "I am very will-

ing that you should go, sir, but, by God, you do not go as a Dutch

deputy." I answered that I did not recollect the anecdote of

the Dutch deputation to which he alluded. His Excellency

replied: "The Dutch, in some of the wars, sent forth an army

under the command of a general officer, but appointed a depu-

tation of burghers to attend the general to the war, that they

might advise him when to fight and when to decline." I inferred

from this that I should be considered by him rather as a spy

upon his conduct than otherwise, and therefore do not intend

to go, though I should have been happy to have seen the country

between this and Sandusky.


St. Clair's Defeat.              393

It is needless to add that had Judge Symmes accompanied

the army his opportunity for observing the country in the neigh-

borhood of Fort Recovery would have been too limited for

any practical use.





"In May, 1815," says a writer, "four of us called on Arthur

St. Clair on the top of Chestnut Ridge, eastwardly eight or ten

miles from Greensburg, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania.

We were travelling on horseback to Connecticut, and being in-

formed that he kept tavern, we decided to call for entertainment

for the night. We alighted at his residence late in the afternoon,

and on entering the log house saw an elderly, neat gentleman,

dressed in black broad cloth, with stockings and small clothes,

shining shoes, whose straps were secured by large silver buckles,

his hair clubbed and powdered. On closing his book he arose

and received us most kindly and gracefully, and pointing us to

chairs he asked us to be seated. On being asked for enter-

tainment, he said: 'Gentlemen, I perceive you are travelling and

though I should be gratified by your custom, it is my duty to

inform you I have no hay or grain. I have good pasture, but

if hay and grain are essential, I cannot furnish them.' "

"There stood before us a Major General of the Revolution -

the friend and confidant of Washington - late Governor of the

territory northwest of the Ohio river, one of nature's noble-

men, of high, dignified bearing, whom misfortune, nor the ingrati-

tude of his country, nor poverty, could break down nor deprive

of self-respect: keeping a tavern but could not furnish a bushel

of oats nor a loch of hay. We were moved principally to call

upon him to hear him converse about the men of the Revolution

and of the North Western Territory, and our regret that he could

not entertain us was greatly increased by hearing him converse

about an hour. The large estate which he sacrificed for the

cause of the Revolution was within a short distance of the top

of Chestnut Ridge - if not in sight." He died on the thirty-first

day of August, 1818, near Greensburgh, Pennsylvania, in the

eighty-fourth year of his age. His best eulogist speaks of him as

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an enemy to the Indian tribes in war, but more frequently their

friend and counsellor in peace.



In January, 1792, General James Wilkinson, who then com-

manded at Fort Washington, made a call for volunteers to accom-

pany an expedition to the scene of St. Clair's defeat, for the

purpose of burying the dead. Ensign William Henry Har-

rison- afterwards President of the United States- was attached

to one of the companies of the regular troops. The volunteers

numbered more than two hundred and fifty mounted men, and

two hundred regular soldiers from Fort Washington. They be-

gan the march on the 25th day of January, 1792, from Fort Wash-

ington and afterwards completed the organization by electing

Captain John S. Gano as Major. They crossed the Big Miami

on the ice, with horses and baggage, at Fort Hamilton, on the

twenty-eighth day of January. The general in command issued

an order at Fort Jefferson abandoning one of the objects of the

campaign, which was a demonstration against an Indian town on

the Wabash, not far distant from the battle ground of St. Clair.

The regular soldiers, all on foot, returned to Fort Washington.

The expedition reached the scene of disaster at eleven o'clock,

but for a long distance along the road and in the woods, the

bodies of the slain could be seen scalped, in many instances, and

mutilated by the wild beasts.

It is said that the body of General Richard Butler was rec-

ognized where the carnage had been the thickest and among a

group of the slain. The bodies were gathered together, and in

the solitude of the forest, and amidst the gloom of winter, were

given a last resting place.



The field of honor is measured by the cause and the self-

consecration. It may mean the field of defeat as well as the field

of victory. It is the self-sacrifice which determines the reward.

It is not possible to call the list of the slain in any engage-

ment. Many must be left to catch the tears of mothers and wives


St. Clair's Defeat.              395

and sisters shed in desolated homes and by vacated firesides.

The officers who fell in the battle were Major General Butler,

second in command; Major Ferguson, Captain Bradford, and

Lieutenant Spear, of the artillery; Major Heart, Captain Phelon,

Newman and Kirkwood, Lieutenant Warren and Ensign Cobb

of the second regiment; Captains Van Swearingen, Tibton and

Price, Lieutenants McMath and Boyd, Ensigns Wilson and

Reeves, Brooks and Chase, Adjutant Burges and Doctor Gray-

son, of the first regiment of Levies. Captains Cribbs, Piatt,

Smith and Purdy, Lieutenants Kelso and Lukens, Ensigns

McMichle, Beatty and Purdy, and Adjutant Anderson of the

second regiment of Levies. Lieutenant Colonel Gibson of the

Bayonets died of his wounds at Fort Jefferson; and also Lieu-

tenant Colonel Oldham, Captain Lemon, Lieutenant Briggs and

Ensign Montgomery of the Kentucky Militia. General William

Darke, for whom Darke county was named, was Lieutenant

Colonel of the first Regiment of Levies and was wounded in the

engagement. He died on the 20th day of November, 1801.

The death roll shows five hundred and ninety-three privates

killed and missing in the engagement. They are dead on the

field of honor.



The National Government is gathering together the remains

of those who fell under the flag and reinterring them in cem-

eteries with appropriate memorials to commemorate their names

and their deeds. A sacred duty to the dead of the battlefield

will not have been discharged by the Federal Government until

a stately shaft of magnificent proportions shall be erected to tell

not only of that eventful day in November, but to teach the

coming generations as well, by their example, when duty re-

quires, to die for their country.



We turn from the ashes of the heroic dead to contemplate,

with a supreme affection, the country for which they died. One

hundred years have passed since that day of disaster for the

whole North Western Territory. It has been a century crowned

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by the blessings of liberty and order and law. The gently

flowing Wabash traverses almost a continent where the English

tongue is the language of Freedom until its quiet waters mingle

with the gulf. The harvests are peacefully gathered to their

garners and the songs of home are uninvaded by the cries and

terrors of battle. The principle of civil and religious liberty

upon which five great Republics of the Northwest have erected

their law and constitution is strong in the hearts of a people who

breathed the inspiration of freedom from the very air of heaven

and whose soil was never cursed by the unrequited toil of the

bondman. We may well have faith in the greatness and perma-

nence of our political creations and in unbroken unity, prophecy,

unconquerable strength.

Talleyrand characterized the United States, in speaking to

the Emperor Napoleon, as a giant without homes. If the dip-

lomat were here today he would find the National sentiment

stronger than at any period since the Revolution; nor will the

pages of history show a more splendid example of self-sacrifice in

vindication of National integrity than the late civil war. It is the

crowning glory of the century, and a free people, having an

abiding faith in the strength and permanency of their political

institutions, may look forward with supreme confidence as they

march onward under the guidance of Him who was with the

fathers in the path to imperial greatness.