This was probably an over-estimate, but the Indians were formidable. The regular troops stationed at the frontier posts were less than six hundred. To organize and equip an army sufficient to extirpate the Indians and destroy their towns, would require the raising of nineteen hundred additional men, and an expenditure of two hundred thousand dollars. This was a sum of money, says the secretary, "far exceeding the ability of the United States to advance, consistently with a due regard to other indispensable objects." In the third place, the government vainly imagined that it was possible to effect a peace with the Wabash tribes. The views of Secretary of War Knox were very emphatic on this subject. "It would be found, on examination, that both policy and justice unite in dictating the attempt of treaty with the Wabash Indians; for it would be unjust, in the present confused state of injuries, to make war on those tribes without having previously invited them to a treaty, in order amicably to adjust all differences." With these views, Washington himself concurred, observing, "that a war with the Wabash Indians ought to be avoided by all means consistently with the security of the frontier inhabitants, the security of the troops, and the national dignity."
Accordingly, about the first of January, 1790, Governor Arthur St.
Clair, descended the river Ohio from Marietta, opposite Fort Harmar, to Losantiville, opposite the mouth of the Licking river. Here was located Fort Washington. He changed the name of Losantiville to Cincinnati, organized the county of Hamilton, and proceeded to Fort Steuben or Clarksville, at the Falls of the Ohio. There he dispatched a messenger to Major John Hamtramck, the commandant at Vincennes, with friendly speeches to be forwarded by him to the Indians of the Wabash. A sincere and honest effort was to be made to bring about peace, although St.
Clair himself had but little faith in an amicable adjustment and expressed the opinion that the Miamis and the renegade Shawnees, Delawares and Cherokees, lying near them, were "irreclaimable by gentle means." The heart "dried like a piece of dried venison" was ample proof that St. Clair was right.
The first peace messenger sent by Hamtramck was Fred Gamelin, a Frenchman. He proceeded no farther than the Vermilion river, where he was informed by an Indian that if he went any farther his life would be taken, and he returned to Vincennes. On the first of April, Hamtramck sent forward Antoine Gamelin, an intelligent French merchant. The first village he arrived at was close to Vincennes, and was named Kikapouguoi.
The Indians at this place were friendly, and he proceeded up the Wabash.
He next arrived at a town of the Vermilion Piankeshaws. The first chief of the village and all the warriors seemed to be pleased with the words of peace from the Americans, but said that they could not give a proper answer before consulting their "eldest brethren," the Miamis. They desired that Gamelin should go forward to Kekionga or Miamitown, and bring back a report of what the head chiefs should say. Gamelin had now fairly entered the sphere of British influence. He was told that the nations of the lake had a bad heart and were ill disposed toward the Americans; that the Shawnees of Miamitown would never receive his speech.
Gamelin now advanced to the large Indian village of the Kickapoos, situated on the Big Vermilion river, in what is now Vermilion County, Indiana. Their princ.i.p.al town was on the site of what is now known as "The Army Ford Stock Farm," a few miles from the present village of Cayuga. This farm has been in the possession of the old Shelby family for years. The house contains two or three old fireplaces and has been built for about a century. It stands on a high bluff facing the Vermilion river, and the view is very picturesque. In making recent excavations for gravel along the roadway to the west of the buildings, an Indian skeleton was unearthed. It was in a fair state of preservation and the teeth in the skull were still perfect. There were also several Indian arrowheads, remains of a leathern pouch with a draw-string, and parts of a gra.s.s-woven blanket. By the side of the skeleton of the savage were the bones of a dog, and also a small copper bell, which was probably worn about the dog's neck. The Kickapoos held the dog in especial veneration and at the time of the burial of the warrior, fully equipped with arms and tobacco for the happy hunting ground, the dog was probably slain to accompany his master.
No tribe of savages along the Wabash was more irreconcilable than the Kickapoos. "They were," says Beckwith, "pre-eminent in predatory warfare. Small parties, consisting of from five to twenty or more, were the usual number comprising their war parties. These would push out hundreds of miles from their villages, and swoop down upon a feeble settlement, or an isolated pioneer cabin, and burn the property, kill the cattle, steal the horses, capture the women and children and be off again before the alarm could be given." They were always strongly on the British side, and numbers of them fought against the Americans at Tippecanoe.
Gamelin at once encountered opposition. The Kickapoos first found fault with his speech and said that it contained a threat of war. Upon his eliminating the objectionable words, they said he could go farther up the river, but that they could not give a definite answer because some of their warriors were absent, and they had first to consult the Weas, who were the owners of their lands. They next found fault with Gamelin for coming among them empty-handed. They said that they expected "a draught of milk from the great chief, and the commanding officer of the post, for to put the old people in good humor; also some powder and ball for the young men for hunting, and to get some good broth for their women and children." They promised to keep their young men from stealing, and to send speeches to their nations in the prairies to prevent them from making expeditions.
On the fourteenth of April, Gamelin held a council with the Weas and Kickapoos at Ouiatenon. He found everything hostile. As a Frenchman he was welcome, but was plainly told that nothing could be done without the consent of the Miamis; that it was useless to ask them (the Indians) to restrain their young men, for they were "being constantly encouraged by the British." One of the chiefs said: "Know ye that the village of Ouiatenon is the sepulcher of all our ancestors. The chief of America invites us to go to him, if we are at peace. He has not his leg broke, having been able to go as far as the Illinois. He might come here himself; and we should be glad to see him at our village. We confess that we accepted the axe, but it is by the reproach we continually receive from the English and other nations, which received the axe first, calling us women; at the present time they invite our young men to war."
On the eighteenth of April, Gamelin arrived at Kenapacomaqua or L'Anguille. The head chief was absent, and the tribesmen would give no answer. However, they sent some of their men along to hear what the Miamis at Kekionga would say. On the twenty-third of April, Gamelin arrived at the head of the Maumee. The next day he got the Miamis, the Shawnees and a few Delawares in council. He presented each tribe with two branches of wampum, and began his friendly speeches before the French and English traders who had been invited to be present. After his speeches were delivered he displayed the treaty of Fort Harmar. This greatly displeased them.
Nothing can better display the treachery of the Miamis on this occasion than the statements of the princ.i.p.al chieftain, LeGris, made to Gamelin in a private conversation. After telling the Frenchman not to pay any attention to the Shawnees, as they were the "perturbators of all the nations," he said that he knew that the Miamis had a bad name on account of mischief done on the Ohio, but that this mischief was not occasioned by his young men, but by the Shawnees; that his young men had only gone out to hunt. This glaring falsehood was told in the face of the fact that the Little Turtle himself had been out on the warpath only the winter before, returning with captives and plunder.
On the twenty-fifth of April, Gamelin held a conference with the famous Shawnee chief, Blue Jacket. The chief was implacable. He informed Gamelin that no answer could be given to the American peace messenger without hearing from the British at Detroit. That the Shawnees had determined to give the two branches of wampum back, and to send Gamelin to Detroit, or detain him twenty days until an answer could be received from the British. The chief also stated that he believed that the Americans were guilty of deception. The next day after this conference five Potawatomi arrived at Miamitown with two captured negro slaves, which they openly sold to the British traders.
A day or two after the interview with Blue Jacket, Gamelin was told by LeGris to call at a French trader's house and receive his answer. He was there told that he might go back to Vincennes when he pleased, and that no definite answer could be given to his speeches "Without consulting the commandant at Detroit." LeGris professed to be pleased with Gamelin's address, and said that it should be communicated to all the confederates, but declared that the nations had resolved not to do anything without the unanimous consent of the tribes.
"The same day, Blue Jacket, chief of the Shawnees, invited me to his house for supper; and, before the other chiefs, told me that, after another deliberation, they thought necessary that I should go myself to Detroit, for to see the commandant, who would get all his children a.s.sembled for to hear my speech. I told them I could not answer them in the night; that I was not ashamed to speak before the sun."
"The twenty-ninth of April, I got them all a.s.sembled. I told them that I was not to go to Detroit; that the speeches were directed to the nations of the river Wabash and the Miami; and that, for to prove the sincerity of the speech, and the heart of Governor St. Clair, I have willingly given a copy of the speeches, to be shown to the commandant at Detroit; and, according to a letter wrote by the commandant of Detroit to the Miamis, Shawnees, and Delawares, mentioning to you to be peaceable with the Americans, I would go to him very willingly, if it was in my directions, being sensible of his sentiments. I told them I had nothing to say to the commandant; neither him to me. You must immediately resolve, if you intend to take me to Detroit, or else I am to go back as soon as possible."
"Blue Jacket got up and told me, 'My friend, we are well pleased with what you say. Our intention is not to force you to go to Detroit: It is only a proposal, thinking it for the best. Our answer is the same as the Miamis. We will send, in thirty nights, a full and positive answer, by a young man of each nation, by writing to Post Vincennes.' In the evening, Blue Jacket, chief of the Shawnees, having taken me to supper with him, told me, in a private manner, that the Shawnee nation was in doubt of the sincerity of the Big Knives (Americans), so called, having been already deceived by them. That they had first destroyed their lands, put out their fire, and sent away their young men, being a hunting, without a mouthful of meat; also, had taken away their women; wherefore, many of them would, with great deal of pain, forget the affronts. Moreover, that some other nations were apprehending that offers of peace would, maybe, tend to take away, by degrees, their lands; and would serve them as they did before; a certain proof that they intend to encroach on our lands, is their new settlement on the Ohio. If they don't keep this side (of the Ohio) clear, it will never be a proper reconcilement with the nations Shawnees, Iroquois, Wyandots, and perhaps many others."
On the journey back to Vincennes, every indication along the way was threatening. At L'Anguille, Gamelin was told that one of the Eel river chieftains had gone to war with the Americans; that a few days before his arrival a band of seventy Indians, Chippewas and Ottawas from Michillimacinac, and some Potawatomi, had pa.s.sed through the village on the way to the American frontier. At Ouiatenon, the Weas said that the English commandant was their father, and that they could do nothing without his approbation. "On the eighth day of May, Gamelin returned to Fort Knox, and on the eleventh, some traders arrived from the upper Wabash, bringing the intelligence that war parties from the north had joined the Wabash Indians; that the whole force of the savages had gone to make an attack on the settlements, and that three days after Gamelin left the Miamis, an American captive had been burned in their village."
[Ill.u.s.tration: Map of the Harmar, St. Clair and Wayne Campaigns.
Drawing by Heaton]
Reluctant as was the government of the United States to engage in war with the Wabash Indians, no doubt now remained of their warlike intentions. Every savage town from the Vermilion Piankeshaws to ancient Kekionga, was under British control. On the first of May, 1790, Governor Arthur St. Clair transmitted to the war department a part of the report of Antoine Gamelin, written from Tippecanoe, and observed as follows: "By this letter, you will perceive that everything seems to be referred to the Miamis, which does not promise a peaceable issue. The confidence they have in their situation, the vicinity of many other nations not very well disposed, and the pernicious counsels of the English traders, joined to the immense booty obtained by the depredations upon the Ohio, will most probably prevent them from listening to any reasonable terms of accommodation, so that it is to be feared the United States must prepare effectually to chastise them." Shortly afterwards, St.
Clair hastened to Fort Washington at Cincinnati, and there held a military conference with General Josiah Harmar. Being empowered to call upon Virginia, then including Kentucky, for one thousand militia, and upon the State of Pennsylvania for five hundred more, it was resolved to concentrate three hundred of the Kentucky troops at Fort Steuben (Clarksville), to march from that place to Post Vincennes. From thence an expedition under Major John F. Hamtramck was to be directed against the villages on the lower Wabash, so as to prevent them from aiding the Miamis higher up. The remaining twelve hundred militiamen were to join the regulars at Fort Washington and strike directly across the country to the princ.i.p.al Miami village at Kekionga. No permanent military post was to be established, however, at the forks of the Maumee. Secretary of War Knox was fearful of results. While admitting that the Miami village presented itself "as superior to any other position," for the purpose of fixing a garrison to overawe the Indians at the west end of Lake Erie, on the Wabash and the Illinois, still, he was apprehensive that the establishment of a post at this place would be so opposed to the inclinations of the Indians generally as to bring on a war of some duration, and at the same time render the British garrisons "so uneasy with such a force impending over them, as not only to occasion a considerable reinforcement of their upper posts, but to occasion their fomenting, secretly, at least, the opposition of the Indians." How any official of the government with the report of Antoine Gamelin in his hands, could hope to soften the animosity of the tribes by the taking of half measures, or to propitiate the British by a display of timidity, is hard to conceive. Four months later the hesitating secretary changed his course.
The army with which General Harmar marched out of Fort Washington in the latter days of September, 1790, to strike the Indian towns, was a motley array. Pennsylvania had only partly filled her quota. She had sent forth subst.i.tutes, old and infirm men, and boys. The troops from Kentucky had seemingly brought into camp every old musket and rifle in the district to be repaired. There was a scarcity of camp kettles and axes. The commissariat was miserably deficient. To add to the confusion, the Kentucky militia were divided in their allegiance between a certain Colonel William Trotter and Colonel John Hardin. Hardin was fearless, but extremely rash; Trotter was wholly incompetent. In two or three days the Kentuckians were formed into three battalions, under Majors Hall, McMullen, and Ray, with Trotter at their head. Harmar, an old army officer of the revolution, who felt a contempt for all militia, was in sore dismay, for the hasty muster was totally lacking in discipline, and impatient of restraint.
In numbers, as Colonel Roosevelt observes, this army was amply sufficient to do its work. It consisted of three battalions of Kentucky militia, one battalion of Pennsylvania militia, one battalion of light troops, mounted, and two battalions of the regular army under Major John Plasgrave Wyllys, and Major John Doughty; in all, fourteen hundred and fifty-three men. There was also a small company of artillery, with three small bra.s.s field pieces, under Captain William Ferguson. But to fight the hardy and experienced warriors of the wilderness in their native woods, required something more than hasty levies, loose discipline, and inexperienced Indian fighters. Harmar was not a Wayne. The expedition was doomed to failure from the very beginning.
The details of the march along Harmar's trace to the site of the present city of Fort Wayne it is not necessary to give. The army moved slowly, and gave the British agents under Alexander McKee plenty of time to furnish the redskins with arms and ammunition. The star of the Little Turtle was in the ascendant. He was now thirty-eight years of age, and while not a hereditary chieftain of the Miamis, his prowess and cunning had given him fame. The Indians never made a mistake in choosing a military leader. He watched the Americans from the very time of their leaving Fort Washington and purposed to destroy them at the Indian town.
On the fourteenth of October the army reached the River St. Marys, described by Captain John Armstrong as a pretty stream, and Hardin was sent forward with a company of regulars and six hundred militia to occupy Miamitown. He found the villages on both banks of the St. Joseph deserted by the foe. The English and French traders had fled from the main Indian town on what is now known as the Lakeside sh.o.r.e of the St.
Joseph, and had carried away most of their valuables. John Kinzie and Antoine Laselle were among the refugees. The savages had burned the houses in their main village to prevent their occupation by the Americans, and had buried vast quant.i.ties of corn and vegetables in Indian caches. One hundred and eighty-five houses of the Delawares, Shawnees and Miamis, were still left standing in the neighboring villages. All of these were destroyed by the torch after Harmar's arrival.
On Sunday the seventeenth, the main army crossed the Maumee river from the south and encamped on the point of land formed by the junction of the St. Joseph and the Maumee. It was a beautiful spot covered by the Indian corn fields and gardens. The Kentucky militia in parties of thirty and forty, throwing aside all discipline, wandered about in search of plunder. The Indians were wary. They lurked in the woods and thickets, biding the time when they might destroy the army in detail.
Major McMullen now discovered the tracks of women and children in a pathway leading to the northwest. Harmar resolved to locate the Indian encampment and bring the savages to battle. On the morning of the eighteenth, Colonel Trotter was given the command of three hundred men, equipped with three days' provisions, and ordered to scour the country.
The detachment after pursuing and killing two Indian hors.e.m.e.n, marched in various directions until nightfall, and returned to camp. Colonel Hardin was now given command of the expedition for the two remaining days.
An event now took place that at once exhibited both the wily strategy of the Little Turtle as a military leader, and the blundering bravado of Colonel John Hardin. On the morning of the nineteenth, Hardin moved forward over the Indian trail leading to the northwest. At a distance of some five or six miles from the main army, the detachment came upon an abandoned Indian camp. Here a halt was made, probably to examine the ground, when Hardin hurriedly ordered another advance, thinking he was close on the heels of fleeing red men. In the confusion attending this second movement, Captain Faulkner's company was left in the rear. Hardin now proceeded about three miles, and had routed two Indians out of the thicket, when he suddenly discovered that he had left Faulkner behind.
He now dispatched Major James Fontaine with a part of the cavalry to locate that officer. About this time Captain John Armstrong, who was in command of a little company of thirty regulars marching with the militia, informed Hardin that a gun had been fired in front of them which he thought was an alarm gun, and that he had discovered the tracks of a horse that had come down the trail and had returned. Hardin with a dare-devil indifference paid no attention. He moved rapidly on without scouts and without flankers. Armstrong now warned Hardin a second time.
He said that he had located the camp fires of the Indians and that they must be close at hand. Hardin rode on, swearing that the Indians would not fight.
All at once the army marched into the entrance of a narrow prairie, flanked on each side by heavy timber. At the far end of the prairie a fire had been kindled and some trinkets placed in the trail. The front columns came up to these baubles and halted--the whole detachment, save Faulkner's company, was in the defile. To the right and left of them, concealed in the underbrush, were three hundred Miamis, led by the Little Turtle. The Indians had divided and "back-tracked" the trail, and were now watching the Americans enter the trap. At the moment the army halted, a furious fire was opened, and all but nine of the militia at once fled, carrying Hardin along with them. The company of Faulkner, coming up in the rear, suddenly saw two hors.e.m.e.n approaching. Each of them had a wounded man behind him covered with blood. The fugitives were yelling: "For G.o.d's sake retreat! You will all be killed! There are Indians enough to eat you all up!" The regulars, however, true to tradition, stood their ground. All were stricken down in their tracks except five or six privates, and their captain and ensign. Captain Armstrong sank to his neck in a mora.s.s, and the savages did not find him. "The Indians remained on the field; and the ensuing night, held the dance of victory, over the dead and dying bodies of their enemies, exulting with frantic gestures, and savage yells, during the ceremony."
The captain was a witness of it all. The scene of this conflict was at what is now known as h.e.l.ler's Corners, eleven miles northwest of Fort Wayne, at the point where the Goshen road crosses the Eel river.
On the day of Hardin's defeat the main body of the army had moved down the north bank of the Maumee about two miles and had occupied the Shawnee village of Chillicothe. On the twentieth, Harmar ordered the burning and destruction of every house and wigwam in the town, and censured the "shameful cowardly conduct of the militia who ran away, and threw down their arms without firing scarcely a single gun." He was in a fury, and was now determined to march back to Fort Washington, and on the twenty-first of October the whole army moved back for a distance of seven miles and encamped at a point south and east of the present site of Fort Wayne.
Hardin was chagrined. He determined if possible to retrieve his own credit and that of the Kentucky militia. In the night he approached Harmar. He told the general that the Indians had probably returned to their towns as soon as the army had left them. Now was the time for a grand surprise. Harmar, after much importunity, gave his consent to a second expedition. Late in the night, three hundred and forty picked militiamen and sixty regulars started back for Kekionga. The detachment marched in three columns, the federal troops in the center with Captain Joseph Asheton, a brave officer and a good fighter at their head; the militia were on both flanks. Major John P. Wyllys and Colonel Hardin rode at the front.
The sun has risen, and the advance guards of the small army now ascend the wooded heights overlooking the Maumee. Beyond lie the brown woods, the meadows, and the Indian corn fields. A few savages appear, digging here and there for hidden treasures of corn. All are seemingly unaware of hostile approach. Wyllys now halts the regulars, with the militia in the advance, and forms his plan of battle. Major Hall with his battalion is to swing around the bend of the Maumee, cross the St. Marys and come in on the western side of the Indian towns. There he is to wait for the main attack. Major McMullen's battalion, Major Fontaine's cavalry and Wyllys with his regulars are to cross the ford in front, encompa.s.s the savages on the south, east and north, and drive them into the St.
Joseph. Hemmed in on all sides, exposed to a murderous crossfire, their escape will be impossible. Strict orders are given that the troops are on no account to separate, but the battalions are to support each other as the circ.u.mstances may require.
What a terrible fate awaits the regulars. The Little Turtle had observed that in Trotter's expedition on the morning of the eighteenth, the four field officers of the militia had left their commands to pursue a lone Indian on horseback. As the militia emerge on the northern bank of the Maumee a few warriors expose themselves, and the Kentuckians disregarding all orders, instantly give chase. The Indians fly in all directions, the militia after them, and the regulars are left alone.
This is the opportune moment. As the regulars cross the ford and climb the opposite bank, the painted and terrible warriors of the Miami chief arise from their hiding places and fire at close range. Wyllys falls, his officers fall, all but a handful are remorselessly mowed down, scalped and mutilated, and the day is won. Thus for the second time has the cunning Little Turtle completely outwitted his paleface antagonists.
The remaining details of this disordered conflict are soon told. The parties of militia under McMullen and Fontaine, sweeping up the east side of the St. Joseph, drove a party of Indians into the river near the point of the old French fort. Fontaine was. .h.i.t by a dozen bullets and fell forward in his saddle. The Indians were now caught between Hall's battalion on the west and McMullen's riflemen and Fontaine's cavalry on the east. A brief ma.s.sacre ensued, and Captain Asheton and two soldiers killed a number of the savages in the water with their bayonets. The red men finally charged on Hall's battalion--it gave way--and they made their escape.
Captain Joseph Asheton in commenting on this last battle at the Maumee, makes the following observation: "If Colonel (Major) Hall, who had gained his ground undiscovered, had not wantonly disobeyed his orders, by firing on a single Indian, the surprise must have been complete." The question of whether there was any surprise at all or not, remains in doubt. The Fort Wayne Ma.n.u.script, which possesses some historical value at least, says that about eight hundred Indians were present; three hundred Miamis under the Little Turtle, and a body of five hundred more savages, consisting of Shawnees, Delawares, Potawatomi, Chippewas and Ottawas. That the Shawnees were commanded by Blue Jacket, and the Ottawas and Chippewas by an Ottawa chief named Agaskawak. The battle itself, was skillfully planned on the part of the savages. They must have known that the militiamen were in the vanguard and would cross the Maumee first. They rightly calculated that the impetuosity of the Kentuckians and their lack of discipline, would lead them at once into a headlong charge. This would make the destruction of the regulars comparatively easy and lead to the demoralization of the whole detachment. A plan so well designed as this, and so skillfully executed, is not formed on the instant. Besides, it is not probable that the Little Turtle remained out of touch with the American army while it was in the immediate vicinity of the Indian towns.
On November sixth, Governor St. Clair wrote to the secretary of war that the savages had received "a most terrible stroke." It is true that they had suffered a considerable damage in the burning of their cabins and the destruction of their corn, but the total loss of warriors was only about fifteen or twenty. The American army, on the other hand, had lost one hundred and eighty-three in killed, and thirty-one wounded. Among the slain were Major Wyllys and Lieutenant Ebenezer Frothingham, of the regular troops, and Major Fontaine, Captains Thorp, McMurtrey and Scott, Lieutenants Clark and Rogers, and Ensigns Bridges, Sweet, Higgins and Thielkeld, of the militia.
"The outcome of the campaign," says B. J. Griswold, the Fort Wayne historian, "considered from the most favorable angle, gave naught to the American government to increase its hopes of the pacification of the west." On the other hand, the savages, their spirit of revenge aroused to the white heat of the fiercest hatred, a.s.sembled at the site of their ruined villages, and there, led to renewed defiance of the Americans through the fiery speech of Simon Girty, set about the work of preparation to meet the next American force which might be sent against them. In a body, these savages, led by Little Turtle, LeGris and Blue Jacket, proceeded to Detroit, where they "paraded the streets, uttering their demoniac scalp yelps while bearing long poles strung with the scalps of many American soldiers."
Governor St. Clair expressed regret that a post had not been established; it would be the surest means of obliging the Indians to be at peace with the United States. On December second, 1790, Major John Hamtramck, writing from Vincennes, gave it as his opinion that "nothing can establish peace with the Indians as long as the British keep possession of the upper posts, for they are daily sowing the seed of discord betwixt the measures of our government and the Indians." He further summed up the situation as follows: "The Indians never can be subdued by just going to their towns and burning their houses and corn, and returning the next day, for it is no hardship for the Indians to live without; they make themselves perfectly comfortable on meat alone; and as for houses, they can build with as much facility as a bird does his nest." Speaking of this campaign and of its effects on the Miamis, Roosevelt says that "the blow was only severe enough to anger and unite them, not to cripple or crush them. All the other western tribes made common cause with them. They banded together and warred openly; and their vengeful forays on the frontier increased in number, so that the suffering of the settlers was great. Along the Ohio people lived in dread of tomahawk and scalping knife; the attacks fell unceasingly on all the settlements from Marietta to Louisville."
The expedition of Hamtramck against the Kickapoo towns on the Vermilion river was a failure. He destroyed the Indian village at the site of the old Shelby farm, near Eugene, but the warriors being absent, he returned to Vincennes. Some local historian has written a bloodcurdling description of the merciless ma.s.sacre of old men, women and children by Hamtramck's army, but this tale is an injustice both to the worthy Major and the soldiers under him. The only truthful part of this sketch is that "the adjoining terrace lands were filled with thousands of the greatest varieties of plum bushes and grape vines and it was known as the great plum patch." Since General Harrison's march to Tippecanoe the crossing at this river has been known as "the Army Ford."
SCOTT AND WILKINSON
--_The Kentucky raids on the Miami country along the Wabash in 1791._
The effects of Harmar's campaign were soon apparent. In the closing months of 1790, the citizens of Ohio, Monongahela, Harrison, Randolph, Kanawha, Green-Briar, Montgomery, and Russel counties, in western Virginia, sent an appeal for immediate aid to the governor of that state, stating that their frontier on a line of nearly four hundred miles along the Ohio, was continually exposed to Indian attack; that the efforts of the government had hitherto been ineffectual; that the federal garrisons along the Ohio could afford them no protection; that they had every reason to believe that the late defeat of the army at the hands of the Indians, would lead to an increase of the savage invasions; that it was better for the government to support them where they were, no matter what the expense might be, than to compel them to quit the country after the expenditure of so much blood and treasure, when all were aware that a frontier must be supported somewhere. On the second of January, 1791, between "sunset and daylight-in," the Indians surprised the new settlements on the Muskingum, called the Big Bottom, forty miles above Marietta, killing eleven men, one woman, and two children. General Rufus Putnam, writing to President Washington, on the eighth of the same month, said that the little garrison at Fort Harmar, consisting of a little over twenty men, could afford no protection to the settlements.
That the whole number of effective men in the Muskingum country would not exceed two hundred and eighty-seven, and that many of them were badly armed, and that unless the government speedily sent a body of troops for their protection, they were "a ruined people." Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, were all being sorely pressed by savage incursions.
It was a fortunate circ.u.mstance for the future welfare of the great west, that George Washington was president of the United States. Great numbers of the people in the Atlantic states, according to Secretary of War Knox, were opposed to the further prosecution of the Indian war.
They considered that the sacrifice of blood and treasure in such a conflict would far exceed any advantages that might possibly be reaped by it. The result of Harmar's campaign had been very disheartening, and the government was in straitened circ.u.mstances, both as to men and means. But by strenuous efforts, President Washington induced Congress to pa.s.s an act, on the second day of March, 1791, for raising and adding another regiment to the military establishment of the United States, "and for making further provision for the protection of the frontiers."
Governor Arthur St. Clair was appointed as the new commander-in-chief of the army of the northwest, and Colonel Richard Butler, of Pennsylvania, was promoted and placed second in command. St. Clair was authorized to raise an army of three thousand men, but as there were only "two small regiments of regular infantry," the remainder of the force was to be raised by special levies of six months' men, and by requisitions of militia. In the meantime, the government, owing to the pressing demands of the western people, had authorized the establishment of a local Board of War for the district of Kentucky. This Board was composed of Brigadier-General Charles Scott, leader of the Kentucky militia, Harry Innes, John Brown, Benjamin Logan and Isaac Shelby, and they were vested with discretionary powers "to provide for the defense of the settlements and the prosecution of the war." The government had now fully determined on a definite plan of action. First, a messenger was to be dispatched to the Wabash Indians with an offer of peace. This messenger was to be accompanied by the Cornplanter, of the Seneca Nation, and such other Iroquois chiefs as might be friendly to the United States. Second, in case this mission of peace should fail, expeditions were to be organized to strike the Wea, the Eel river and the Kickapoo towns, in order to prevent them from giving aid to the main Miami and Shawnee villages at the head of the Maumee. Third, a grand expedition under the command of St. Clair himself, was to capture Kekionga, establish a military post there, and check the activities of both the Indians and British in the valleys of the Wabash and the Maumee. The instructions of the secretary of war to General St. Clair with reference to Kekionga were specific.
"You will commence your march for the Miami village, in order to establish a strong and permanent military post at that place. In your advance, you will establish such posts of communication with Fort Washington, on the Ohio, as you may judge proper. The post at the Miami village is intended for the purpose of awing and curbing the Indians in that quarter, and as the only preventive of future hostilities. It ought, therefore, to be rendered secure against all attempts and insults by the Indians. The garrison which should be stationed there ought not only to be sufficient for the defense of the place, but always to afford a detachment of five or six hundred men, either to chastise any of the Wabash, or other hostile Indians, or to secure any convoy of provisions.
The establishment of such a post is considered as an important object of the campaign, and is to take place in all events."
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