Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Arthur St. Clair
Chapter III. Indian Affairs in the Northwest 1787 - 1802

The growth of Marietta as well as the establishment of other new settlements was considerably retarded by the prevailing unrest among the Indians of that locality. On the other hand, the Indians were excited to hostility as they saw the white settlers moving across the Ohio, the squatters encroaching on their hunting grounds and the government surveyors staking out 'new purchases. Nor was their hostility mitigated by the British who still retained their posts in the northwest contrary to the treaty of 1783. United States officers repeatedly claimed that the British told the Indians that the territory was never ceded by England to the United States, except as respected the jurisdiction and putting the Indians under the protection of the United States, as their lands must be purchased of them; reports which were circulated among the tribes by Joseph Brant who was trying to confederate the Indians against the United States.

Joseph Brant, the great Mohawk chief who had assisted the British against the Americans in the revolution, had, after the signing of the peace moved with his nation into Canada. They had not, however, withdrawn from the confederacy of the Six nations, nor had Brant resigned the headship of the whole. He was now trying to keep the western tribes excited against the United States, in which he was aided by the British.

The British, desirous of keeping the good will of the Indians and yet not wishing to go so far in that direction as to incur war with, the United States, tried to follow a middle course which often placed them in an embarrassing position. They were clearly under obligations to their former savage allies who had received no mention in the treaty of 1783, yet their own interests were a stronger influence for favoring the Indians than any debt of gratitude. Their policy, it has been suggested, was to have the Indians remain an independent power and a permanent barrier between the United States and the British provinces hut back of every motive was the jealous guarding of their fur trade which was of great value.

For this they had really retained their posts in the northwest, and for this they desired to secure the friendship of the Indians to whom they made annual presents. The surrender of the posts, the reduction of the Indians, and the loss of their fur trade they thought so bound up in each other that the event of any one of these three contingencies meant a triple loss.

They did not venture, however, to directly assist the Indians and avow war against the United States. When Brant in 1786 inquired how much support the Indian confederacy might expect from England in a case of a dispute with America, he received the non committal answer that the king was always ready to attend to their future welfare and "anxious upon every occasion, wherein their interests and happiness may be concerned, to give them such further; testimonies of his royal favor and countenance, as can, consistently with a due regard to the national faith, and the honor and dignity of his crown, be afforded them. Orders were given that Indian deputies be prevented from coming to Quebec, if it could be done without injuring them, and given to understand that no power there could begin war. But to avoid their resentment they were to be sent off warmly clothed and bountifully supplied. Thus, as the British claimed, there was probably no official encouragement of the Indians but no great exertion could have been made to restrain unofficial encouragement or there would not have been occasion for so many accusations as were made during those years. ,

These accusations were numerous; not an encounter between the Americans and Indians took place in which the British were not reported concerned in some way or other, and of course seen through the eyes of the United States officers their every act looked suspicious. But aside from the charges made by the United States officers, the Indians themselves often urged as an excuse for their raids that the British encouraged their young men. On the whole, there was evidence enough to call forth a few years later the emphatic statement from Washington "there does not remain a doubt that all the difficulties as encounter with the Indians, the hostilities, the murders of helpless women and innocent children along our frontiers, result from the conduct of the agents of Great Britain in this country. In vain is it then for the administration in Britain to disavow having given orders, which will warrant such conduct, whilst their agents go unpunished; whilst we have a thousand corroborating circumstances, and indeed almost as many evidences,-- to prove, that that are seducing from our alliance, and endeavoring to remove over the line, tribes that have hitherto been kept in peace and friendship with us at a heavy expense, and who have no causes of complaint, except pretended ones of their creating; whilst they keep in a state of irritation the tribes, who are hostile to us, and are instigating those, who know little of us or we of them, to unite in the war against us; and whilst it is an undeniable fact, that they are furnishing the w&ole with arms, ammunition, clothing, and even provisions, to carry on the war; might go further, and, if they are not much belied, add men also in disguise.

The English clearly realized the weakness of the federal government, which forced them to endure these provocations, and perhaps even exaggerated it, for they saw the federal government at its weakest point, the West, They had an opportunity to see how the new constitution was dividing the country in the dissatisfaction of the people of Vermont, who, allied to England by their situation and commercial interests, plainly intimated that if the United States should try to force them into the new government, they would become a province of England, a proposal 'which the British did not see fit to discourage. They also knew that the connection of the west with the federal government was weak and tried to make advances on commercial grounds to the new settlements on the Ohio through General Parsons.

The only two outlets for the trade of the west were through Canada and by the Mississippi which was closed to them by Spain.

In case of war between Spain and Great Britain, the United States might be persuaded to join the latter on the inducement of gaining the Mississippi or Spain might prevail on them to ally themselves with her in hope of gaining the posts. Eor this reason the English at Canada watched the American movements in the West closely for evidences of friendship between them and the Spaniards. Some of the Kentuckians did at one time contemplate a separation from the eastern states, planning that if Great Britain would furnish them with arms so that they could take flew Orleans, they would deliver it to her in return for freedom and protection of their trade down the Mississippi. Thus realizing that the federal government was too weak to undertake a war against them, the officials at Canada could close their eyes to any assistance the British subjects might render the tribes.

When St. Clair became governor, the most pressing question was the Indian problem, which according to his instructions was to be solved by a new treaty, the primary objects of which were to gain harmony between the United States and the Indians, to regulate trade and to settle boundaries. A new boundary line was to be stipulated and any white person crossing it without license from the proper officers of the United States might be dealt with as the Indians claimed they were made without authority.

St. Clair was also instructed to ascertain who were the chief men of the tribes and attach them to the United States, to make all efforts to defeat confederations among the tribes and to conciliate the white people of the frontiers towards them.

There was a large group of tribes between the Great Lakes, the Ohio and the Mississippi who came under St. Clair's attention.

South east of Lakes Erie and Ontario were the Six Nations, including the Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, Tuscaroras and Mohawks.

To the west of them between Lake Erie and the Ohio were the Delaware ranging from the Muskingum to the Alleghany. Still farther west the Miamies occupied the valley of that name, extending from the Wabash to the Scioto River, where the Shawanese lived. The Weas, Kickapoos and Pottawatomies were on the Wabash River, while the Wyandots and Ottawas lived on the Maumee River though they often came south to hunt. Still farther north than the latter, to the west of Lake Michigan were established the Sacs and Eoxes, north of whom in turn the Chippewas had their dwellings.

Various causes operated to delay the treaty so that it did not reach completion till January 1789. St. Clair had set about at once preparing for it, but owing to the severity of the winter 1787-88 his messengers to the tribes were delayed. State interference also tended to postpone it. New York State called the Six Nations to a meeting for state purposes at the very time they were called ±o a different part of the country for this general treaty, which distracted as well as delayed them. Again in October when preparations fcr the treaty had long been under way, General Gibson, a commissioner from Pennsylvania, arrived at Port Pitt, who with General Butler had been appointed by that state to treat with the Senecas and make them compensation for a tract of country on Lake Erie, including Presqu' Isle which the state had purchased of congress. Moreover, the tribes for their part wished to hold a general council near Sandusky before coming on to the Muskingum where the treaty was to be made. It was also said that they had been scared away by the reports on good authority that the whiskey intended for them was poisoned and that small pox infection had been put in the blankets to be given them.

Meanwhile during the summer and fall of 1788 hostilities continued on both sides. The colonies lived in a state of defense, the working parties going armed to the fields, where a small patrol was daily stationed about them. Attacks were made on small bands of militia which were ably revenged. The Indians even went so far as to attack those guarding the provisions for the council, so that they had to be moved into Fort Harmar, and a few days later an attack was made on the party building the council hall. These outrages were not committed on the Indian side alone, however, for plans were made by some vagabonds about Wheeling to attack the Six Nations on their way to the council, which were defeated by General Harnar's by providing an escort for them.

By December most of the tribes had arrived and the council opened with representatives present from all the Six Nations except the Mohawks, from the Wyandot, Delaware, Ottawa, Chippev/a, Pottiwatomie and Sac Nations. Their principal complaint was that the Americans had cheated them in the past. They were willing, they said, to abide by their old treaty which established the Ohio as a boundary line, in token of which an old Wyandot chief presented a large belt of wanpum with a black stripe running through the middle representing the Ohio. The governor replied that he could not deviate from the treaties of Port Stanwix and Port McIntosh. He explained to the Indians how they had forfeited their country by joining England in the late war who had ceded to the United States all the country south of the Great Lakes. As an extra inducement, he added, if they would r^new their old treaties, he would add an article allowing them the privilege of hunting in United States territory and would give them a certain quantity of goods.

Two separate treaties were finally negotiated under these conditions, one with the Six Nations and one with the Wyandot and more westerly tribes, St.Clair stating that a jealousy existed between them which he did not wish to lessen by considering them as one people. The treaty with the Six Nations renewed that of Fort Stanwix (October 22). The boundary line was confirmed in return for presents and a quantity of goods valued at $3,000.

The treaty with the Wyandots, Delawares, Ottawas, Chippewas, Potti-watomies and Sacs confirmed the boundary of tie treaty of Port McIntosh in consideration of goods and presents amounting in value to $6,000: The clause of the latter treaty stating that all prisoners would be given up was also renewed, and two Wyandot given as hostages till this should be performed. The Indians were allowed to hunt in the territory ceded the United States if they were peaceable.

Then followed other regulations concerning the trial of murder, the punishment of horse thieves, the rights of traders, etc. Thus the United States government paid again for lands already purchased by the treaties of Fort Stanwix and Fort McIntosh, with no further guarantee that the terms would be regarded.

That they would be regarded seemed extremely doubtful even at the time. General Harmar, before the treaty began, expressed his opinion that it was "all idle business. One half will come in, sign articles and receive presents, while the others are killing, scalping and doing us every possible damage they can." Major Denny's entry in his journal for January 11, 1789 reads: "This was the last of the farce. The articles were signed". So he too regarded the treaty as a farce and even•St.Clair, who was generally sanguine, thought that Brant might be able to incite some of the tribes he had prevented from coming forward, to mischief. This stroke he thought would fall in Kentucky. Moreover, he expected danger to the Virginia frontiers from the Miami and Wabash Indians, who, though invited^to the treaty, did not attend but continued their depredations. In fact even before the treaty was under way, congress had at the suggestion of St. Clair, authorized Virginia and Pennsylvania to furnish him militia if necessary. These doubts concerning the effectiveness of the treaty were soon realized and if the negotiations were intended to protect the frontiers they failed. Few tribes placed more faith in the treaty of Fort Harmar than in the earlier ones; it has even been^claimed that such a treaty was not held.

Depredations were continued in the Northwest and during the years 1789 and 1790 congress was beseiged with complaints against the Indians. il8st of the letters accused the government of negligence, and inattention to the safety of the West, threatening that because of want of confidence in it, they would resort to measures for their own protection. The delay of the government to act did indeed tempt the frontiers people to take matters into their own hands. Representatives of the frontier counties of Virginia wrote the president that, although they had a high opinion of St. Clair’s integrity, he was so often called to visit the different posts on the Ohio, that he was unable to render them the necessary aid nor could they always find him in the hour of their distress. St. Clair himself was very much afraid that the Kentuckians would march through his territory against the Wabash Indians, which meant danger to his government and a chance of the peaceful tribes being involved, which would lead them to think that the United States did not regard treaties.

The western version of affairs was well stated in a letter from Judge Innes to the War Department in July in which he said that he had been in the territory since 1783, and the Indians had always been the aggressors, while any incursions into their country were produced by reiterated injuries, and their mode of war fare rendered it impossible to tell to which tribe the offenders belonged Since November 1783, he continued, 1,500 persons had been killed and taken prisoners, and 20,000 horses had been carried off besides other property. Meanwhile the settlers were decreasing and new ores deterred from joining them. The result would be volunteer expeditions into the Indian country, which would not distinguish between peaceful and hostile tribes, and so would undo all congress1 work.

While thus seemingly neglectful of the westerners, the government was following the policy of trying pacific measures first and force afterwards. Their dealings with the Indians for the next six years after the Treaty of Fort Harmar consisted of a series of expeditions, each preceded by unsuccessful eribassies of peace, which were finally temporarily concluded by the Treaty of Greenville 1795.

In accordance with this policy St. Clair during the summer of 1790 sent Antoine Gamelin with speeches to the western tribes, a last effort at pacification. Their answers in the main were anything but pacific, one chief stating that their young men were constantly encouraged by the British, and that the French traders were leaving them because they were plundered by the Americans, another that the treaty at the Muskingum was not made by the chiefs, and still another inquiring why St. Clair did not come to them instead. of asking them to come to him as "he has got his leg broke, being able to go as far as the Illinois." Many of the tribes wished Gamelin to go to Detroit with them and consult the British commander but naturally he refused.

The failure of Gamelin's mission convinced St. Clair that coercion was necessary and in August 1790 he announced his plans for an expedition. Part of the militia with Major Hamtramck were to march up the Wabash against the villages there, while the main body under General Harmar was to march across the country to the Miami villages. If the movements were made in concert, they would prevent the tribes from aiding each other.

These measures were approved by the President Washington though he regretted that war was necessary. Through General Knox instructions were given St. Clair that, since the British officers in Canada were jealous of the designs of the United States respecting the posts in the northwest, he should "at a proper time" inform them of the real object of the expedition. He was also to inform the tribes with whom they had treaties of their pacific disposition towards them. On September 19, 1790 St. Clair accordingly wrote Major Murray at Detroit, as curing him that the expedition was not intended against any of the English posts but to chastise certain hostile tribes. The letter closes with this suggestion, "there is every reason to expect both from your own personal character and from the regard you have for that of your nation, that those tribes will meet with neither countenance nor assistance from any under your command, and that you will do what lies in your power to restrain the trading people, from whose instigations there is too good reason to believe much of the injuries committed by the savages has proceeded. Washington disapproved of the sending of this letter as premature in which he was right, if, as he thought, the British were encouraging and assisting the Indians with powder and ammunition.

In October 1790 Harmar set out from Fort Washington on his expedition to the Miami country where he burned five villages, that these instructions were inspired by General Knox rather than by the president.

The other explanation seems more probable, namely, that as the date on which the letter was to be sent the British officers was not definitely designated, St.Clair erred in his judgment as to what was the "proper time".

Though the general purpose of the expedition was thus accomplished, the unexpected loss of troops, 183 being reported killed and missing, makes St. Clair’s report to the Secretary of War seem too optimistic: he writes: "I have the pleasure to inform you of the entire success of General Harmar's etc. And again in November when he announced the return of the army he says, "One thing, however, is certain, that the savages have got a most terrible stroke, of 'which nothing can be a greater proof than that they have not attempted to harrass the army on its return".

Later when he hears that Major Hamtramck has also destroyed four villages and the Indians' provisions, he prophesies that there will soon be a humble supplication for peace.

St. Clair's outlook was much too sanguine. The Indians could not be subdued by just going into their towns, burning their houses, and corn and returning the next day, for houses and corn they could do without. "The blow was only severe enough to anger.

The British were also accused of issuing ammunition and presents to the savages just at the time of the Harmar expedition but they denied knowledge of this, claiming that it could not be done officially, and unite them, not to cripple or crush them. Raids and depredations, almost identical with those of 1789-90, followed the expedition and attacks on the settlements became even more general than before.

It was now necessary that congress take further measures to protect the settlers, so a more extensive campaign than the last was determined on, for which 3,000 men were employed under the command of St. Clair himself. While this was preparing it was decided to order a "temporary expedition entirely of militia, to surround the Indians and prevent further deprecations."

Brigadier General Scott who had command of this "temporary expedition" was not allowed to inarch till another effort at pacification was made by sending Colonel Procterjto the Miami Indians by way of Niagara where he was to solicit the aid of the Six Nations to effect a peace with the Miamies. His mission failed, however, for when Colonel Butler, the British commandant at Niagara, found he could not dissuade the Senecas from accompanying Proctor, he refused to recognize the latter in his official character and prohibited the passage of the Indian deputies at Sandusky in any vessel on the lake. Later another conference was held with the Six Nations by Colonel Pickering at Painted Port, some distance from the theater of war to prevent their joining in hostilities.

As no word came from Procter, General Scott marched in May 1791 for the Outatanon village with 750 men. His expedition was similar to Harmar's but more successful, for he not only burned several Indian villages but took 57 prisoners without any losses on his own part. In one of the villages destroyed there were many French inhabitants, among whose possessions letters and papers were found showing a correspondence with the leading men of Detroit.

The success of this expedition encouraged St. Clair to try another under Colonel Wilkinson, as he saw it would be a long time before the general campaign sould be ready. Colonel Wilkinson's expedition was made against the Wabash villages in August. He also destroyed three villages, took 34 prisoners, and released a white captive found in one of the villages.

St. Clair had hoped to make his expedition a collateral one with Colonel Wilkinson's but in this he was disappointed, for he was not ready to start till September. This delay was owing to the failure of the quarter master, Hodgden, and General Butler, the second in command, to arrive. The latter was detained at first by his orders from the war department to protect the frontiers with the troops under his command and, when directed by General Knox to hasten forward, he met with difficulties because of the lowness of the water and the lack of transportation boats. The former for some unaccountable reason did not come on from port Pitt where he had been since June. Nor were his preparations satisfactory, complaints being made of the quality of the equipments provided, and many of the necessities of the campaign having to be repaired or manufactured at Port Washington. Gun carriages had to be remounted, axes, camp kettles, canteens, knapsacks, kegs, boxes, cordage, splints, and bells for the horses had to be made, in fact, almost every art was going forward, and Fort Washington has as much the appearance of a large manufactory on the inside, as it had of a military post on the outside. Much of the contractor's work had to be done by St. Clair himself, even to the purchase of the transportation horses.

President Washington was seriously disturbed at the delay of the expedition and repeated orders were sent both St. Clair and General Butler to hasten their departure. As the season was advancing, he feared the campaign would fail of its object. This was general to establish a line of forts from Fort Washington on the Ohio River straight north to what is now Fort Wayne, Indiana, where a strong fortification was to be built "for the purpose of awing and curbing the Indians of that quarter". After the establishment of the posts, if the Indians were still hostile, St. Clair might go on. Any modification of boundary was left to his discretion, with the single observation that peace was more valuable than a disputed right to millions of uncultivated acres.

By the end of August there were assembled 2000 troops in all, with whom St. Clair marched to Ludlow's Station, six miles in advance, as the cattle needed fresh forage and the soldiers were drinking too heavily at Fort Washington. In about two weeks their actual march began, although some of the militia had not yet arrived, or, as one writer puts it "in one way or another the army got on its feet, and, though a cripple, it was able to hobble away from the Ohio on September 17th.

The progress of this unfortunate army was exceedingly slow and laborious, seven or eight miles being the average day's march. The forts to be constructed occupied more time than had been expected, for instance fifteen days were spent in building Fort Hamilton though St. Clair had allowed but ten in his calculations. Fort Jefferson was finally the only post established, owing to the lateness of the season. Frequent halts were also made for supplies, the provisions for their transportation proving so inadequate that the army was kept on half and quarter rations much of the time.

St. Clair sent back 280 or 290 horses from the quarter master's department to bring on a supply of flour but this of course crippled the transportation of baggage. Lack of provisions was but one of the troubles which assailed the expedition. General insubordination ruled, due in part to the lack of provisions and to the rain which fell constantly, and desertion was prevalent. On October 23rd three men were hanged, two for desertion and one for shooting a comrade. The term, for which the levies, who were more satisfactory than the militia, had been enlisted, began to expire and they were being discharged, a few at a time. This caused more confusion because, though their enlistment was for six months, it was not clearly specified whether J the six months "began with their enlistment or their assembling at the rendezvous. On October, 31st one third of the militia determined they would go back and the officers had little influence with them. Sixty or seventy actually marched off. As a convoy of supplies was on the road which the general feared they might cease, the first regiment, the most dependable of all the forces, was dispatched after them to protect the supplies and capture the deserters if possible. It was also difficult to get forage because of the lateness of the season, the first severe frost reported in Denny's Journal falling on October 21st, so that the army had to turn out to bring grass from the prairies. By the 27th there was snow and hail. Moreover, the commandant who was expected to meet these troubles, St. Clair, was so ill as hardly to be able to keep up with the army.

Finally on November 3rd after a hard march through the cold on short rations the army arrived at a branch of the Wabash about evening, where they determined to await the return of the first regiment. Though they had seen fresh signs of savages during the day, riflemen who were detached after them returned without success, and so it was later than usual when they reached camp and the men were much fatigued, St. Clair did not have works of defense immediately erected but agreed with. Major Ferguson in a plan to be put into operation the next morning. The high dry ground chosen for the camp was barely sufficient so the lines were rather contracted.

In front ran the creek, about twenty yards wide, on both flanks and along most of the rear was low wet ground. The militia were stationed across the creek, about 300 yards in advance, further than could have been wished, Denny says, but no place short of it was suitable. During the night the frequent firing of the sentinels disturbed the camp. Tne guards reported that Indians were skulking about in considerable numbers, so about ten o'clock at night General Butler was desired to send out a party. Captain Slough with thirty two men was given particular verbal orders for this mission at General Sutler's tent, the commander-in-chief being too ill to be about.

The next morning the disaster befell, which was the culmination of the whole unhappy affair, a half hour before sunrise and just after the troops had been dismissed from parade the woods were filled with the yells and fire of the savages. The first attack was made on the militia who fell back into the main camp, throwing part of the regulars into disorder. Then the struggle became general, the Indians surrounding the camp and cutting off the guards. Prom tree to log, from log to stump, they crept in nearer under the smoke of the fire, quietly taking effective aim while the artillery of the troops boomed away without doing much damage.

Bayonet charges by the different lines drove the enemy back, but for want of enough men to maintain the advantage gained, they soon recovered their ground. Finally the artillery was captured, but not till all the officers but one were killed and the guns spiked.

The ground was soon covered with the dead and the wounded were carried to the center, where many of the unhurt crowded. Most of the officers had fallen owing to their exposure in rallying the troops, and the panic stricken soldiers crowded to the center where employed. A rather naive explanation is given by Major Samuel when they were under the cross fire of the enemy, who contracted their lines as the troops deserted theirs.

By nine o'clock it was apparent that a retreat must be executed at once if at all, so a successful charge was made on the enemy and the road gained. The militia led, followed by the federal troops, Major Clark with his batallion covering the rear. General St. Clair waited until the rear was under way, one of the few remaining pack horses having been procured for him. The retreat soon became a flight, the men throwing away their arms long after pursuit had ceased. The Indians, however, followed only four or five miles when they returned to share the booty. Benny, who was sent forward to check the front until the rear came up, tells us it took him two hours to reach the front and then it was difficult to cause a halt, such was the panic. The flight was continued to Bert Jefferson, twenty seven miles from the battle ground, where they arrived about dark. At Port Jefferson they found the first regiment. Returning from their mission of October 31st, they heard the firing, when thirty miles from the battle field. They had marched on nine miles in haste, when they met some of the militia who informed them that the army was totally destroyed, whereupon they returned to Port Jefferson (eight miles) hoping to secure that post anyway.

St. Clair thought that on the whole it was best as it was, as the superior numbers of the enemy would have caused defeat anyway, which would only have been greater, had this regiment been present. Major Hamtrarrtck was afterwards charged and tried for cowardice in not advancing to the attack.

The first regiment had failed to bring up the supplies so the remnant of the army who had not eaten for twenty four hours found themselves at Port Jefferson without supplies. Accordingly a council of the officers decided that, as they knew provisions were on the road, they had better return and meet them. So at ten o'clock at night the first regiment and all the levies able to march were put in motion. The next day they met the convoy. They continued to Port Washington where they arrived November 8th, all the wounded that could following from Port Jefferson in ten days.

The expectations of this campaign cannot be realized till one sees the chagrin and anger its failure brought. St. Clair's dispatches which were sent by Lieutenant Lenny did not reach Philadelphia until late on the 19th, owing to the river’s being swollen and covered with ice. Washington was at dinner when he received the news and managed to contain himself till his guests were gone when he burst forth in a fit of rage against St. Clair, exclaiming "To suffer that army to be cut to pieces, hacked, butchered, tomahawked by a surprise, the very thing I guarded him against God! 0 God! he's worse than a murderer! How can he answer it to his country! The blood of the slain is upon him- the curse of widows and orphans - the curse of heaven! Later when he had a little recovered himself the president said that St. Clair should have justice, he would listen to him unprejudiced and this he did. Madison wrote a friend at the time that he could "administer no balm to the wound".

The public were exceedingly roused and the question arose as to who or what was responsible for the disaster. St. Clair in his report said he had nothing to lay to the charge of the troops but want of discipline which it was impossible for them to acquire in their short service; this rendered it difficult to bring them to order when once they were thrown into confusion. He himself was too ill to mount his horse but still had made every exertion. They were overpowered by superior numbers. The postscript of this letter caused considerable comment. In it St. Clair said some important orders given to Colonel Oldham over night were not executed and "some very material intelligence was communicated by Captain Slough to General Butler in the course of the night before the action, which was never imparted to me, nor did I hear of it until after my arrival here. This last reference, as explained in a later letter, related to Captain Slough’s errand the night preceding the engagement. Finding Indians approaching in great numbers, he reported to General Butler and proposed to give the same report to General St. Clair, but General Butler told him to rest and he would inform St. Clair, which he did not do.

St. Clair was very greatly censured for the defeat. In December 1791 he went on to Philadelphia, though still ill, and early the next year asked the president to institute an inquiry into his conduct that he night be rectified in public opinion. This request could not be complied with because there were not enough officers in the service of competent rank to form such a court, but the House of Representatives did after some debate appoint a committee to inquire into the causes of the failure of the campaign. St. Clair was anxious to keep his commission till the inquiry was over, so that if any misconduct on his part appeared he might be amenable to court martial, and because he felt it might be said that he chose to shelter himself in a private station. The establishment of the troops, however, allowed but one Major General and public interests required that his successor be appointed at once, so St. Clair resigned. .

The unanimous report of the committee to inquire into the failures of the campaign stated these three causes: first, delay in furnishing the materials and passing the act for the protection of the frontiers, the time after this being hardly sufficient to complete and discipline an army for such an expedition; secondly, delays because of mismanagements in the quarter master's and contractor's departments; thirdly, want of discipline and experience in the troops. They cleared St. Clair of all blame, alleging that he showed peculiar ability and zeal in arrangements, coolness and intrepidity in action.

Other reasons have been assigned for St. Clair's failure besides the negligence of the war department. General Harmar before the army set out prophesied its defeat from his experience. The bulk of the army he saw was composed of men collected from the streets and the prisons of the cities and the officers were unacquainted with their business; but what kind of men could be procured when the wages of the private were only three dollars a month?

More might have been done to get knowledge of the enemy. Some few scouts were sent out but to no great distance. A scouting party which left the camp October 26th. under Colonel Sparks, composed of friendly Indians, missed the enemy altogether, joining the army the morning after the defeat. Then too the absence of the first regiment considerably weakened the army; by it and desertions and discharges the force was reduced the day of action to 1400.

Reynolds takes the ground that there was a want of military talents in the general, who was old and sick. "To be surprised by Indians", he says, "is an argument against the sagacity of the general. The British opinion was also that St. Clair was not a man of much capacity. Certainly he did not understand Indian warfare, and was criticised for clinging to the military rule and placing too much confidence in his artillery which formed part of the lines and had the tendency to render the troops stationary, not only were the main troops massed hut the militia, the weakest part of the army, was sent by itself across the creek where two or three pickets would have been sufficient. There was no lack of bravery exhibited on November 4th, 1791 hut it was misdirected and thus occurred that great disaster so often paralleled with Braddock's defeat.

Although St. Ciair was no longer commander-in-chief of the north western army, he was still superintendent of Indian affairs in the Northwest, a fact of which it was necessary to remind the military officers and deputies, as they often overlooked him. Some minor matters did, however, come under his attention, as arranging for militia at the settlements, checking the frontiers people from attacking the Indians while Wayne's treaty was pending, and arranging for the distribution of the Indian goods and presents.

The main attention of the war department and of the country in general was centered on the preparations for a new Indian campaign. St. Clair's defeat had thrown the westerners into great apprehension of Indian invasions, and steps were taken at once to guard the frontiers. In April 1792 Anthony Wayne was appointed St. Clair’s successor us head of the army and proceeded to organize and discipline his troops at Pittsburgh during the winter of 1792-93.

Both before and after Wayne3s appointment efforts were again attempted to gain the Indians by pacific measures. To guard against surprise, means were taken to learn the purpose of a great council called on Buffalo Creek, and to ascertain the intentions of the tribes on the Wabash and the Miami. This was done partly through the agency of Reverend Samuel Kirkland, the Iroquois missionary, and partly through Captain Peter Pond and William Stedman, who could, however, get no farther than Niagara. Cornplanter, the Seneca leader had been invited to Philadelphia and through Mr. Kirkland this invitation was pressed and one also extended to Brant. Messages were even sent them by General Knox himself. In March about fifty of the Five nations arrived in Philadelphia, who were desired to bring about a peace with the hostile tribes and departed to carry these directions into execution. Besides abundant presents, $1500 annually were stipulated to these Indians for the purpose of attempting to civilize them. Five individual messengers were dispatched to the different tribes; it was hoped thus to bring about a truce, while two chiefs from each tribe should go to Philadelphia and conclude a permanent treaty. General Putnam was, however, the only messenger to reach his goal. He did form a treaty with several of the western tribes which was never ratified by the senate. All other propositions for peace were rejected for one reason or another. Even Brant who had been finally persuaded to come on to Philadelphia and was treated with great distinction, from sickness or caution did not attend the western council as had been expected.

The council held at the mouth of the Anglaize through the efforts of the Six nations did not produce the intended effect. Everything was referred to another council to be held in the spring. In November, soon after this meeting, Major Adair, commander of the mounted Kentucky infantry was attacked twenty miles north of Fort Hamilton, and only with great bravery reposed the savages. This, however, did not prevent the United States from meeting the Indians in the spring. Lincoln, Randolph and Pickering were in 1793 appointed to the meeting to be held at Sandusky. After three months of tedious negotiations the commission failed. The Indians still insisted on the Ohio as the boundary, even though the commissioners agreed not to claim all the land south of the lakes by the 1783 treaty, but only the right of preemption to it.

This of necessity closed the attempts of the United States to make peace. What led the Indians to stake their all in a contest when liberal terms were offered were, first, their previous success; secondly, their hope of aid from England; and thirdly, a hope of aid from Spain. Just at this time Great Britain had come to fresh trouble with the United States. In trying to cut off the commerce of revolutionary France, she had passed orders injurious to that of the United States which had caused considerable irritation in the latter country. Now it was also claimed that the Indians would have entered into a treaty with the United States commissioners had not the English deputies by inducements of farther assistance encouraged them to insist on the Ohio as a boundary. A strong assurance of this aid was given the tribes in the erection of a fort at the rapids of the Maumee within the acknowledged territory of the United States. The British explanation of this encroachment was that, although the Maumee was not included in Canada, yet the country extending to the Ohio was the domain of the Indians and until transferred to the United States by treaty could not be regarded as a portion of their territory.

Notice of the end of negotiations was at once sent Wayne at his camp, "Hobson's Choice", where he was struggling with volunteers, sickness and desertion. On October 7th, 1773 he began his march and fortified Fort Greenville where he remained that winter. In December a detachment went forward and built Fort Recovery on St. Clair's battlefield. Here an assault was made on the following June by Little Turtle with 1500 warriors and although repelled, the assailants rallied and returning to the charge kept up the attack the whole of that day and part of the next. Evidence of British assistance in ^his assault was not lacking.

In August the army moved on to the junction of the Maumee where Port Defiance was constructed. From this point Christopher Miller, who had been captured by Wayne's spies, was sent forward to the Indians as a special messenger of peace. The army, following Miller, met him on his return and received his answer that if they would wait ten days the Indians would decide on peace or war. Wayne, who, unlike St. Clair, knew the strength and plans of his enemy, marched on without delay.

About forty one miles from Grand Glaize he halted and established a magazine for supplies and baggage, called Fort Deposit.

Then on August 20th he moved down the north bank of the Maumee and encountered the Indians in the battle of Pallen Tumbers, beneath the glins of Fort Miami. The victory was complete. General Wayne closely examined the British fort and it was the opinion of those with him that he sought to provoke the British commandant to some hostile step which would justify him in attacking it. A very sharp correspondence passed between him and Major Campbell, the Commander. The object of the campaign being accomplished, the troops returned to Fort Greenville in the fall.

The Indians of the northwest had finally been subdued and during the following winter and spring they began to come in to make peace. The British made one more effort to prevent it by inviting the Indians to a treaty October 1, 1794. Here Simcoe advised them to make only a truce till a general council could be called in the spring. Meantime they could convey their lands to the king in trust that he might have a pretext for assisting them. Yet notwithstanding, the warriors were divided for peace and war. They had been disappointed in the conduct of their white allies, and their fields laid waste by Wayne, while at the same time their respect for the United States had increased.

By the middle of June, enough tribes were represented so that negotiations began which ended August 10th, 1795 in the treaty of Greenville, at which 1130 Sachems and warriors were present. By it the Indians ceded to the United States about 25,000 square miles of territory, besides sixteen separate tracts, including lands and forts. In return they received goods to the value of $20,000 and were promised an annual allowance of $9,500 to be equally divided among the parties to the treaty. Thus the United States vindicated its former disasters and peace was again restored which was strengthened through the surrender of the posts by the British the next year, and so the tide of immigration again turned to the Uorthwest.

Even during the Indian troubles some land purchases and settlements were made in the Northwest. In 1787 the 265,878 square miles which comprise the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin were for the great part an unbroken wilderness', while in 1800, two years before St. Clair's duties as governor ceased, the census reported 51,006 people in the Horthwest. Though for a time the Indian wars delayed settlement, the navigable rivers, fertile soil and natural resources of the country soon made it the home of a progressive people.

The land policy here was destined to differ essentially from that in the Southwest, as was evidenced in the congressional discussion in the ordinance of 1787, the northern members preferring to have the territory systematically surveyed and sold in townships, while the southerners favored indiscriminate locations, such as had been made by the pioneers of Kentucky and Termessee. The former method eventually prevailed and the plan finally adopted was that congress should provide for a systematic survey of the region. The country was to be divided into ranges of townships six miles square, subdivided into lots one mile square each. The basis for public education was also laid in providing that in every township lot No.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus