ST. CLAIR'S DEFEAT.
AN ORATION DELIVERED BY JUDGE SAMUEL F. HUNT ON THE CENTEN-
NIAL, OF THE DEFEAT OF GENERAL ARTHUR ST. CLAIR AND ON
THE OCCASION OF THE RE-INTERMENT OF THE DEAD
WHO FELL IN THE ENGAGEMENT ON THE BATTLE-
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-
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
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.
THE ILLIMITABLE WEST.
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
376 Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE NORTH WEST.
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
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 APPOINTED GOVERNOR.
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
THE REGULAR ARMY AND THE INDIAN TRIBES.
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
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.
PERMANENT PEACE WITH THE INDIANS IMPOSSIBLE.
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. 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.
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.
THE CAMPAIGN OF GENERAL ARTHUR ST. CLAIR.
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.
GENERAL CHARLES SCOTT AND THE KENTUCKY MILITIA.
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. 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
FRIENDLY INDIANS EMPLOYED.
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.
THE BOUNDARIES TO BE ESTABLISHED.
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
JEALOUSY OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT.
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.
THE FEELING TOWARD GREAT BRITAIN.
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."
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND THE PEOPLE OF
"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. 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."
ORGANIZATION OF ST. CLAIR'S ARMY.
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
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 MARCH IN THE WILDERNESS.
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. 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."
THE STORY OF AN EYE-WITNESS.
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-
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,
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
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.
THE RETREAT OF THE ARMY.
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.
GALLANTRY OF ST. CLAIR.
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. 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 CAUSE OF THE DEFEAT.
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 EFFECT OF THE DEFEAT.
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
390 Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.
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.
ALARM IN PENNSYLVANIA AND VIRGINIA.
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."
BRADDOCK'S DEFEAT NOT SO DISASTROUS AS THAT OF ST. CLAIR.
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. 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.
THE DISSENSION IN ST. CLAIR'S ARMY.
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.
392 Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.
CLAMOR AGAINST ST. CLAIR.
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.
JOHN CLEVES SYMMES AND ST. CLAIR.
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.
THE DEATH OF ARTHUR ST. CLAIR.
"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
394 Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.
an enemy to the Indian tribes in war, but more frequently their
friend and counsellor in peace.
THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD OF ST. CLAIR'S ARMY.
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 DEAD OF THE BATTLEFIELD.
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 DUTY OF THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT.
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.
THE COUNTRY FOR WHICH THEY DIED.
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
396 Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.
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,
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.