At a half hour before sunrise on the morning of November fourth, 1791, the army of St. Clair is at parade. The soldiers have just been dismissed and are returning to their tents, when the woods in front ring with the shots and yells of a thousand savages. On the instant the bugles sound the call to arms, but the front battalions are scarce in line, when the remnants of the militia, torn and bleeding, burst through them. The levies, firing, check the first mad rush of the oncoming warriors, but the Indians scattering to right and left, encircle the camp. The guards are down, the army in confusion, and under the pall of smoke which now settles down to within three feet of the ground, the murderous red men approach the lines. The yelling has now ceased, but from behind every tree, log and stump a pitiless fire rains on the troops. The officers shout, the men discharge their guns, but they see nothing. The artillery thunders with tremendous sound, but soldiers are falling on every hand.
St. Clair is valorous, but what can valor do in a tempest of death? He tries to mount a horse, but the horse is shot through the head, and the lad that holds him is wounded in the arm. He tries to mount a second, but horse and servant are both mowed down. The third horse is brought, but fearing disaster, St. Clair hobbles to the front lines to cheer his troops. He wears no uniform, and out from under his great three cornered hat flows his long gray hair. A ball grazes the side of his face and cuts away a lock. The weight of the savage fire is now falling on the artillery in the center. The gunners sink beneath their guns. The herculean lieutenant-colonel, William Darke, who has fought at Yorktown, is ordered to charge on the right front. The troops rush forward with levelled bayonets, the savages are routed from their coverts, are visible a moment, and then disappear. As the levies advance the savages close in behind. Darke is surrounded on all sides--his three hundred men become thirty, and he falls back.
In the absence of Darke, the left flank of the army is now pressed in.
Guns and artillery fall into the hands of the foe. Every artillery-man is killed but one, and he is badly wounded. The gunners are being scalped. St. Clair leads another charge on foot. The savages skip before the steel, disappear in the smoke and underbrush, and fire on the soldiers from every point as they make retreat. Charge after charge is made, but all are fruitless. The regulars and the levies, out in the open, unable to see the enemy, die by scores. The carnage is fearful.
The troops have fought for about three hours, and the remnants of the army are huddled in the center. The officers are about all down, for the savages have made it a point to single them out. Butler is fatally wounded and leaning against a tree. The men are stupefied and give up in despair. Shouts of command are given, officers' pistols are drawn, but the men refuse to fight. The wounded are lying in heaps, and the crossfire of the Indians, now centering from all points, threatens utter extermination. There is only one hope left--a desperate dash through the savage lines, and escape. "It was past nine o'clock," says Denny, "when repeated orders were given to charge towards the road. * * * Both officers and men seemed confounded, incapable of doing anything; they could not move until it was told that a retreat was intended. A few officers put themselves in front, the men followed, the enemy gave way, and perhaps not being aware of the design, we were for a few moments left undisturbed."
[Ill.u.s.tration: Another view of the Wabash, a land of great beauty.
Photo by Heaton]
In after years it was learned that Captain William Wells was in charge of a party of about three hundred young Indian warriors, who were posted behind logs and trees, immediately under the knoll on which the artillery stood. They picked off the artillery-men one by one, until a huge pile of corpses lay about the gun wheels. As the Indians swarmed into the camp in the intervals between the futile charges of the regulars, the artillery-men were all scalped. Wells belonged to a Kentucky family and had been captured by the Miamis when a child twelve years of age, and is said to have become the adopted son of Little Turtle. He had acquired the tongue and habits of a savage, but after the battle with St. Clair he seems to have been greatly troubled with the thought that he might have slain some of his own kindred. Afterwards when Wayne's army advanced into the Indian country he bade the Little Turtle goodbye, and became one of Wayne's most trusty and valuable scouts. After Fallen Timbers he returned to his Indian wife and children, but remained the friend of the United States. In General Harrison's day he was United States Indian agent at Fort Wayne, but was killed in the ma.s.sacre of Fort Dearborn, in 1812, by the faithless bands of Potawatomi under the chief Blackbird.
The retreat of St. Clair's army was very precipitate. "It was, in fact, a flight." The fugitives threw away their arms and accouterments and made a mad race for the walls of Fort Jefferson, twenty-nine miles away, arriving there a little after sunset. The loss of the Americans was appalling, and recalled the disaster of Braddock's defeat on the Monongahela. Out of an army of twelve hundred men and eighty-six officers, Braddock lost seven hundred and twenty-seven in killed and wounded. St. Clair's army consisted of fourteen hundred men and eighty-six officers, of whom eight hundred and ninety men and sixteen officers were killed or wounded. The slaughter of officers of the line had been so disastrous, that in the spring of the next year, Anthony Wayne, the new commander, found it extremely difficult to train the new troops. He had first to impart the military tactics to a group of young officers. "Several pieces of artillery, and all the baggage, ammunition, and provisions, were left on the field of battle, and fell into the hands of the Indians. The stores and other public property, lost in the action, were valued at thirty-two thousand eight hundred and ten dollars and seventy-five cents." The loss of the Indians was trifling. As near as may be ascertained, they had about thirty killed and fifty wounded.
The field of action was visited by General James Wilkinson about the first of February, 1792. An officer who was present relates the following: "The scene was truly melancholy. In my opinion those unfortunate men who fell into the enemy's hands, with life, were used with the greatest torture--having their limbs torn off; and the women had been treated with the most indecent cruelty, having stakes, as thick as a person's arm, drove through their bodies." In December, 1793, General Wayne, having arrived at Greenville, Ohio, sent forward a detachment to the spot of the great defeat. "They arrived on the ground, on Christmas day, and pitched their tents at night; they had to sc.r.a.pe the bones together and carry them out to make their beds. The next day holes were dug, and the bones remaining above ground were buried; six hundred skulls being found among them."
The whole nation was terribly shocked by the news of the defeat. The bordermen of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky were immediately exposed to a renewal of Indian attacks and the government seemed powerless. St. Clair came in for severe censure, more severe in fact, than was justly warranted. The sending back of Hamtramck's regiment, the unfortified condition of the camp on the night before the attack, the posting of the militia in advance of the main army, and the utter lack of scouts and runners, were all bad enough, but on the other hand, the delay and confusion in the quartermaster's department, the dereliction of the contractors, and the want of discipline among the militia and the levies, were all matters of extenuation. To win was hopeless. To unjustly denounce an old and worthy veteran of the Revolution, who acted with so much manly courage on the field of battle, ill becomes an American. A committee of Congress completely exonerated him.
The administration itself and the department of war, were sharply criticized. But the representatives of the people themselves were more to blame than the government. Thousands had deprecated the attempt of the President to protect the frontiers and to sustain the arm of the western generals. The mean and n.i.g.g.ardly support accorded the commander-in-chief, was largely instrumental in bringing about the lamentable result. The jealous and parsimonious states of the east, had regarded only their own selfish ends, to the utter exclusion of the national interest.
WAYNE AND FALLEN TIMBERS
--_Final triumph of the Government over Indians and British._
The great soul of Washington was sorely tried, but he did not falter.
The first thing to do was to raise an efficient army, and that was done.
Early in the year 1792, the forces of the United States were put on a new footing. The military establishment was now to consist of "five thousand one hundred and sixty-eight non-commissioned officers, privates and musicians." Enlistments were to be made for a period of three years, and the pay of the soldiers increased. General Anthony Wayne was appointed commander and instructed by Washington to spare neither powder nor ball, 'so that his men be made marksmen.'
Wayne was a fighter of fearless courage and daring brilliancy. He was now forty-seven years of age and had entered the revolution as a Colonel in the Continental Army. He had fought with Washington at Brandywine and Germantown, and had driven the Hessians at the point of the bayonet. "At Monmouth he turned the fortunes of the day by his stubborn and successful resistance to the repeated bayonet charges of the Guards and Grenadiers." The storming of Stony Point is ranked by Lossing as one of the most brilliant achievements of the Revolutionary war. He fought at Yorktown and later drove the English out of Georgia. His favorite weapon of offense was the bayonet. General William Henry Harrison, who was aide to Wayne at the battle of Fallen Timbers, said to him: "General Wayne, I am afraid you will get into the fight yourself, and forget to give me the necessary field orders." "Perhaps I may," replied Wayne, "and if I do, recollect the standing order of the day is, 'Charge the d.a.m.ned rascals with the bayonets!'"
In the month of June, 1792, Wayne arrived at Pittsburgh to take charge of his new command. Most of the new army were ignorant of military tactics, and without discipline, but the General at once entered vigorously upon his great task. On the twenty-eighth of November, the army left Pittsburgh and encamped at Legionville, twenty-two miles to the south. Here the great work of training the raw recruits proceeded.
"By the salutary measures adopted to introduce order and discipline, the army soon began to a.s.sume its proper character. The troops were daily exercised in all the evolutions necessary to render them efficient soldiers, and more especially in those maneuvers proper in a campaign against savages. Firing at a mark was constantly practiced, and rewards given to the best marksmen. To inspire emulation, the riflemen and the infantry strove to excel, and the men soon attained to an accuracy that gave them confidence in their own prowess. On the artillery the General impressed the importance of that arm of the service. The dragoons he taught to rely on the broadsword, as all important to victory. The riflemen were made to see how much success must depend on their coolness, quickness and accuracy; while the infantry were led to place entire confidence in the bayonet, as the certain and irresistible weapon before which the savages could not stand. The men were instructed to charge in open order; each to rely on himself, and to prepare for a personal contest with the enemy." The orders and admonitions of Wayne fell not on deaf ears. The Legion of the United States became a thing of life. In the battle at the Miami Rapids a soldier of the Legion met a single warrior in the woods and they attacked each other, "the soldier with his bayonet, the Indian with his tomahawk. Two days after, they were found dead; the soldier with his bayonet in the body of the Indian--the Indian with his tomahawk in the head of the soldier."
About the first of May, 1793, the army moved down the Ohio in boats and encamped near Fort Washington, Cincinnati, at a place which was named "Hobson's Choice." At this place the main body of the troops was halted until about the seventh of October, to await the outcome of the repeated attempts of the government to make peace with the Indian tribes.
The difficulties that beset the pathway of President Washington at the opening of the year 1792, seemed insurmountable. On the one hand, the people of the east regarded the westerners as the real aggressors in the border conflicts, and were extremely loath to grant aid to the government. The debates in Congress reflected their att.i.tude. On the other hand, the people of Kentucky regarded the efforts of the government to secure to them the navigation of the Mississippi, as procrastinating and futile. They even suspected the good faith of Washington himself, but in this they erred, for negotiations were on foot that finally secured to them the desired end. Moreover the failure of Harmar and the disaster of St. Clair had filled the backwoodsmen with misgivings and they had no faith in the regular army or its generals.
The extreme poverty of the government, the utter lack of support from all sections, would have brought dismay to the heart of any man but Washington. He, however, remained firm. Forced by what Roosevelt has termed as the "supine indifference of the people at large," he determined to make one more effort to secure peace, but failing in that, the army of Anthony Wayne should be made ready for the final appeal to arms.
On the seventh of April, 1792, Freeman and Gerrard, two messengers of peace, were sent forward to the Maumee, but both were killed. About the twentieth of May, Major Alexander Trueman, of the First United States Regiment, and Colonel John Hardin, of Kentucky, left Fort Washington with copies of a speech from President Washington to the Indians. The President expressed his desire to impart to the tribes all the blessings of civilized life; to teach them to cultivate the earth and to raise corn and domestic animals; to build comfortable houses and to educate their children. He expressly disaffirmed any intention to seize any additional lands, and promised that compensation should be made to all tribes who had not received full satisfaction. The threat of Simon Girty against Proctor, was now made good as against both Hardin and Trueman. Hardin was to go among the Wyandots at Sandusky, while Trueman proceeded to the Rapids of the Maumee. Months after they had departed, one William May, who had been captured by the Indians, testified that he saw the scalp of Trueman dangling on a stick, and that Trueman's papers fell into the hands of Alexander McKee, who forwarded them to Detroit.
Later he saw another scalp said to be the brave Colonel Hardin's, and Hardin's papers fell into the hands of Matthew Elliott. This was the answer of the savage allies to the flag of truce.
In May, 1792, General Rufus Putnam, of Ohio, and the Reverend John Heckewelder, of the Moravian missions, were sent to the Wabash tribes to make a treaty. The instructions to Putman were of the most pacific nature. He was told to renounce on the part of the United States, "all claim to any Indian land which shall not have been ceded by fair treaties, made with the Indian nations." "You will make it clearly understood, that we want not a foot of their land, and that it is theirs, and theirs only; that they have the right to sell, and the right to refuse to sell, and the United States will guarantee to them the said just right." Putnam carried forward with him about one hundred women and children captured by Scott and Wilkinson, and a number of presents for the Wea and other chiefs. A treaty was finally made with a small number of Weas, Kickapoos, and other Wabash and Illinois tribes at Vincennes on the twenty-seventh of September, but all attempts to induce the Miamis to join in the negotiations were unavailing. p.r.i.c.ked on by Elliott, the Girtys and McKee, the chiefs at Kekionga were threatening the Potawatomi and the tribes of the lower Wabash with the destruction of their villages, if they failed to oppose the advances of the Americans. The treaty at Vincennes had little, if any, effect, upon the posture of affairs.
Still other efforts were made by the government. Joseph Brant, the Mohawk chieftain, was induced to come to Philadelphia in June, 1792, and he received the most "marked attention," at the hands of the government officials. He remained at the capital some ten or twelve days, and it was sincerely hoped that he could be persuaded to undertake the office of a messenger of peace, but he was a pensioner of the British and thoroughly under their control. The next summer we find him urging the northwestern tribes to arms, and offering the aid of his tomahawk to Alexander McKee. The government next turned to Cornplanter and the chiefs of the more friendly Iroquois. In March, 1792, about fifty headmen of these tribes visited the city of Philadelphia and communed on terms of amity with the American officers. The Cornplanter, with forty-eight chiefs of the Six Nations, were now deputed to a grand council of the Miami confederates held at Au Glaize on the Maumee in the fall of 1792. "There were so many nations," says the Cornplanter, "that we cannot tell the names of them. There were three men from the Gora Nations; it took them a whole season to come, and twenty-seven nations from beyond Canada." Joseph Brant, who detested the Cornplanter, was not present, but Blue Jacket and the Shawnees were there filled with hate.
They accused the Iroquois with speaking 'from the outside of their lips,' and told their chiefs that they came with the 'voice of the United States folded under their arm.' Every word was haughty, proud and defiant, but in the end the Iroquois wrung a promise from them to suspend hostilities until the ensuing spring, when a council of peace should be held with the Americans. This promise was not kept. War parties of Shawnees constantly prowled along the Ohio stealing horses and cattle, burning cabins, and leading away captives to the Indian towns. On the morning of the sixth of November, an army of three hundred Indians composed of Miamis, Delawares, Shawnees and Potawatomi, commanded by the Little Turtle, attacked a party of about one hundred Kentucky militia under the walls of Fort St. Clair, situated on the line of march from Fort Washington to the Miami villages. They were under the command of Major John Adair, afterwards governor of the State of Kentucky. Little Turtle's object was to wipe out a white settlement at the mouth of the Little Miami, but capturing two men near Fort Hamilton, he learned that the Kentuckians were escorting a brigade of packhorses on their way to Fort Jefferson, and he determined to waylay them. The attack occurred just before daybreak and was opened by a hideous chorus of Indian yells, but the Kentuckians bravely stood their ground and repelled the a.s.sault. Six men were killed, including Lieutenant Job Hale, and five men wounded. The camp equipment and about one hundred and forty horses were lost. The Indians had two killed.
The spring of 1793 came, the time for the proposed council. The British had promised to give their aid and co-operation in the forming of a friendly compact. Full credence seems to have been given to their statements. The President appointed Benjamin Lincoln, of Ma.s.sachusetts, Beverly Randolph, of Virginia, and Timothy Pickering, of Pennsylvania, as commissioners. The basis of their negotiations was to be the treaty of Fort Harmar, of 1789, which the government considered "as having been formed on solid grounds--the principle being that of a fair purchase and sale." They were to ascertain definitely the Indian proprietors northward of the Ohio and south of the Lakes; to secure a confirmation of the boundary established at Fort Harmar, and to guarantee to the tribes the right of the soil in all their remaining lands. Liberal payment was to be made for all concessions, and annuities granted. The commissioners were to be accompanied by the Reverend John Heckewelder, who had gone with Putnam to Vincennes, and who was thoroughly conversant with the Delaware language. Some Quakers were also in the party.
The commissioners left Philadelphia in April, and arrived at Fort Niagara on the southern sh.o.r.e of Lake Ontario in the month of May.
Niagara was then in command of Colonel Simcoe, of the British army, who invited them to take up quarters at Navy Hall. This invitation was accepted, and the commissioners now awaited the termination of the preliminaries of a grand council of the northwestern tribes which was being held at the Rapids on the Maumee. On the seventh of June, the commissioners addressed a note to Simcoe, suggesting the importance of the coming conference, their wish to counteract the deep-rooted prejudices of the tribes, and their desire for a full co-operation on the part of the English officers. Among other things, they called the Colonel's attention to a report circulated by a Mohawk Indian to the effect that "Governor Simcoe advised the Indians to make peace, but not to give up any lands." The Colonel promptly replied, tendering his services in the coming negotiations, appointing certain officers to attend the treaty, and particularly denying the declaration of the Mohawk. But in his reply he used these words: "But, as it has been, ever since the conquest of Canada, the principle of the British government, to unite the American Indians, that, all petty jealousies being extinguished, the real wishes of the tribes may be fully expressed, and in consequence all the treaties made with them, may have the most complete ratification and universal concurrence, so, he feels it proper to state to the commissioners, that a jealousy of a contrary conduct in the agents of the United States, appears to him to have been deeply impressed upon the minds of the confederacy." In view of the subsequent results, the story of the Mohawk may not have been wholly without foundation.
On the fifth day of July, Colonel John Butler, of the British Indian department, Joseph Brant, and about fifty Indians from the council of the tribes on the Maumee, arrived at Niagara. On the seventh, the commissioners, and a number of the civil and military officers of the crown being present, Brant addressed the American envoys and said in substance that he was representing the Indian nations who owned all the lands north of the Ohio "as their common property;" that the treaty had been delayed on account of the presence of the American army north of the Ohio; that the tribes wanted an explanation of these warlike appearances, and desired to know whether the commissioners were authorized "to run and establish a new boundary line between the lands of the United States, and of the Indian nations." On the next day, the commissioners gave full answer. They informed the Indian deputation that the purposes of the United States were wholly peaceful; that the Great Chief, General Washington, had strictly forbidden all hostilities, and that the governors of the states adjoining the Ohio had issued orders to the same effect. However, to satisfy the tribes, they would immediately dispatch a messenger on horseback to the seat of the government, with a request that the "head warrior," General Wayne, be instructed to remain quietly at the posts until the event of the treaty could be known. This was faithfully done. With reference to the running of a new boundary line, the commissioners expressly stated that they were vested with full authority to that end, but that mutual concessions were necessary to a reconcilement, and that this should be plainly understood by both sides.
On the ninth of July, Brant gave a.s.surance that the answer of the commissioners had been satisfactory, "Brothers: We think, from your speech, that there is a prospect of our coming together. We, who are the nations at the westward are of one mind; and, if we agree with you, as there is a prospect that we shall, it will be binding and lasting.
Brothers; Our prospects are the fairer, because all our minds are one.
You have not spoken before to us unitedly. Formerly, because you did not speak to us unitedly, what was done was not binding. Now you have an opportunity of speaking to us together; and we now take you by the hand, to lead you to the place appointed for the meeting." In explanation of this peaceful language and his subsequent conduct, Brant afterwards wrote that, "for several years (after the peace of 1783), we were engaged in getting a confederacy formed, and the unanimity occasioned by these endeavors among our western brethren, enabled them to defeat two American armies. The war continued without our brothers, the English, giving any a.s.sistance, excepting a little ammunition; and they seeming to desire that a peace might be concluded, we tried to bring it about at a time when the United States desired it very much, so that they sent commissioners from among their first people, to endeavor to make peace with the hostile Indians. We a.s.sembled also, for that purpose, at the Miami River, in the summer of 1793, intending to act as mediators in bringing about an honorable peace; and if that could not be obtained, we resolved to join with our western brethren in trying the fortunes of war. But to our surprise, when on the point of entering on a treaty with the Commissioners, we found that it was opposed by those acting under the British government, and hopes of further a.s.sistance were given to our western brethren, to encourage them to insist on the Ohio as a boundary between them and the United States." Whatever the truth may be as to Brant's peaceful intentions on the ninth of July, his att.i.tude was certain on the fourth of the succeeding August. On that date, according to Roosevelt, the treacherous pensioner wrote to Alexander McKee that "we came here not only to a.s.sist with our advice, but other ways, * * *
we came here with arms in our hands." Following the advice of his British counsellors, he advised the northwestern Indians not to yield an inch, and to stand on the Ohio as their southern boundary.
The Commissioners of the United States were doomed to meet with a sudden and unexpected interruption of their proceedings. On the twenty-first of July they arrived at the mouth of the Detroit river. They immediately addressed a note to McKee informing him of their arrival, and expressing a desire to meet with the confederated tribes. On the twenty-ninth of July a deputation of over twenty Indians, among whom was the Delaware chief, Buck-ong-a-he-las, arrived with Captain Matthew Elliott. On the next day, and in the presence of the British officers, the Wyandot chief, Sa-wagh-da-wunk, after a brief salutation, presented to the Commissioners a paper writing. It contained this ultimatum, dictated beyond doubt by the British agents: "Brothers: You are sent here by the United States, in order to make peace with us, the confederate Indians.
Brothers: You very well know that the boundary line, which was run between the white people and us, at the treaty of Fort Stanwix, was the river Ohio. Brothers: If you seriously design to make a firm and lasting peace, you will immediately remove all your people from our side of that river. Brothers: We therefore ask you, are you fully authorized by the United States to continue, and firmly fix on the Ohio river, as the boundary between your people and ours?" This doc.u.ment was signed by the confederated nations of the Wyandots, Delawares, Shawnees, Miamis, Mingoes, Potawatomi, Ottawas, Connoys, Chippewas and Munsees, at the Maumee Rapids on the twenty-seventh of July, 1793.
The remaining pa.s.sages between the Commissioners and the Indian allies are briefly told. In vain did the Commissioners urge that settlements and valuable improvements had been made on the faith of past treaties; that it was not only impracticable but wholly impossible to consider the Ohio as the boundary; that the treaty of Fort Harmar had been made in good faith and with the very tribes who professed to own the lands ceded. In vain did they admit the former mistakes of the government in setting up a claim to the whole country south of the Great Lakes. The jealous and apprehensive chieftains, spurred on and encouraged by British promise of support, refused to listen to all appeals, contemptuously rejected all offers of money or compensation, and insisted to the last on the Ohio as the boundary.
That the full responsibility for this action on the part of the tribes must be laid at the door of the British, goes without successful challenge. If at the beginning they had only furnished a little ammunition, as Brant says, they were now fast becoming openly hostile.
The French Revolution had opened, and England and France were battling for supremacy. In order to cut off supplies of food from the French people, England had seized all cargoes of corn, flour and meal bound for French ports, and had purchased them for the benefit of his majesty's service. This action had greatly irritated the American merchants and had led to serious remonstrance on the part of the government. England had also a.s.serted the right to board neutral vessels and impress British seamen whenever found. Many an American ship had been hailed on the high seas, and forced to submit to a humiliating search. It was claimed that many American sailors had been seized and forced to enter the British service. Added to all this, the Citizen Genet had, in the early part of the year 1793, arrived in America. As the representative of the French Republic he was armed with numerous blank commissions for privateers, to be delivered "to such French and American owners as should apply for the same." An attack was to be launched on British commerce. Before he arrived at Philadelphia the British minister had laid before the President a list of complaints "founded princ.i.p.ally on the proceedings of Mr. Genet, who, at Charleston, undertook to authorize the fitting and arming of vessels, enlisting men, and giving commissions to cruise and commit hostilities on nations with whom the United States were at peace." Washington did everything in his power to preserve neutrality.
On the twenty-second of April, 1793, and twenty-three days before Genet arrived at Philadelphia, the President issued a proclamation, declaring that "the duty and interest of the United States required that they should, with sincerity and good faith, adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerent powers." But the vast majority of the people of the United States, including many high in public life, were in open sympathy with the French and utterly detested England. These sentiments were particularly marked in the western countries, for there the people had suffered from all the cruelty and savagery of the Indian warfare, and they fiercely denounced the British agents.
Under all these circ.u.mstances the relations between Great Britain and the United States had become tense and strained. The provincial officers at Quebec and the Indian partisans at Detroit quickly echoed the mood of the home government. In the event of a new war, England could again command the savage allies and ravage the frontiers as she had done during the revolution. The Indians would not only prove to be a useful barrier in the event of an American invasion of Canada, but they might help England to regain in part the territory she had lost. "Hence, instead of promoting a pacification, the efforts of the Canadian government were obviously exerted to prevent it." This, no doubt, accounts for what Brant has noted concerning the exchanges with the American commissioners at the mouth of the Detroit river. The western tribes were suddenly given a.s.surance by the British that England would come to their aid, and were told to insist on the Ohio as the limit of concession. This put an effectual stop to all further measures for peace.
Wayne was now free to go forward with his campaign again, but so much time had been consumed by the commissioners, and the militia were so slow in arriving from Kentucky that the army did not take up its march from Hobson's Choice until the seventh of October. The general now had about twenty-six hundred effective men, including officers, thirty-six guides and spies, and about three hundred and sixty mounted volunteers.
With these he determined to push forward to a position about six miles in advance of Fort Jefferson, and about eighty miles north of Cincinnati. He would thus excite a fear on the part of the savages for the safety of their women and children, and at the same time protect the frontiers. He expected resistance, for the Indians were "desperate and determined," but he was prepared to meet it. The savages constantly hung on his flanks, making attacks on his convoys of provisions, and picking off the packhorses. On the morning of the seventeenth of October, a force of ninety non-commissioned officers and men under Lowry and Boyd, who were escorting twenty wagons loaded with grain, were suddenly a.s.saulted about seven miles north of Fort St. Clair. Fifteen officers and men were killed, seventy horses killed or carried away, and the wagons left standing in the road. Nothing daunted, Wayne pushed on. On the twenty-third of October, he wrote to the Secretary of War that, "the safety of the western frontiers, the reputation of the Legion, the dignity and interests of the nation, all forbid a retrograde maneuver, or giving up one inch of ground we now possess, until the enemy are compelled to sue for peace."
In the meantime General Charles Scott had arrived from Kentucky with about one thousand mounted infantry and had camped in the vicinity of Fort Jefferson, but the season was so far advanced, that Wayne now determined to send the Kentuckians home, enter into winter quarters, and prepare for an effectual drive in the spring. Unlike his predecessors, Wayne entertained no distrust of the frontiersmen, but determined to utilize them with telling force. The hardy riflemen were quick to respond to a real leader of men. They looked on the wonderful bayonet practice, the expert marksmanship of the Legion, and the astonishing maneuvers of the cavalrymen with great admiration. When they went to their homes for the winter they were filled with a new confidence in the government, and in its ability to protect their firesides. The vigilance, the daring, and the unflinching discipline of the continental general, gave them a.s.surance. Fort Greenville was now erected on a branch of the Big Miami, and here Wayne established his headquarters. In December, eight companies of infantry and a detachment of artillery erected Fort Recovery, on the spot made memorable by St. Clair's defeat.
At the opening of the year 1794, "the relations between Great Britain and the United States had become so strained," says Roosevelt, "that open war was threatened." On the tenth of February, Lord Dorchester addressed a deputation of prominent chiefs of the northwestern tribes as follows: "Children: I was in the expectation of hearing from the people of the United States what was required by them: I hoped that I should be able to bring you all together, and make you friends. Children: I have waited long, and listened with great attention, but I have not heard one word from them. Children: I flattered myself with the hope that the line proposed in the year eighty-three, to separate us from the United States, which was immediately broken by themselves as soon as the peace was signed, would have been mended, or a new one drawn, in an amicable manner. Here, also, I have been disappointed. Children: Since my return, I find that no appearance of a line remains; and from the manner in which the people of the United States rush on, and act and talk, on this side; and from what I learn of their conduct toward the sea, I shall not be surprised, if we are at war with them in the course of the present year; and if so, a line must then be drawn by the warriors." Copies of this speech were circulated everywhere among the tribes. Alexander McKee, Lieutenant-Colonel John Butler, of the British army, and Joseph Brant were active. Large presents were sent up from Quebec, ammunition and arms were distributed, and the Ottawas and Chippewas summoned from the far north. In April, 1794, Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe, of Canada, openly advanced into the American territory, built a fort at the Miami Rapids, and garrisoned it with British redcoats. Ma.s.sive parapets were constructed on which were mounted heavy artillery. The outer walls were surrounded by a deep fosse and "frasing" which rendered it secure from escalade. The Indians, thus b.u.t.tressed, as they supposed, by British support, were openly defiant and refused to make peace.
The indignation of the American people may well be imagined. To a long train of secret machinations the British now added open insult.
Washington, justly aroused by England's long course of treachery and double-dealing, wrote to Jay concerning Simcoe's action as follows: "Can that government, or will it attempt, after this official act of one of their governors, to hold out ideas of friendly intentions toward the United States, and suffer such conduct to pa.s.s with impunity? This may be considered the most open and daring act of the British agents in America, though it is not the most hostile or cruel; for there does not remain a doubt in the mind of any well-informed person in this country, not shut against conviction, that all the difficulties we encounter with the Indians--their hostilities, the murder 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 its administration in Britain to disavow having given orders which will warrant such conduct, whilst their agents go unpunished; whilst we have a thousand corroborating circ.u.mstances, and indeed almost as many evidences, some of which cannot be brought forward, to know that they are seducing from our alliance, and endeavoring to move over the line, tribes that have hitherto been kept in peace and friendship with us at 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 whole with arms, ammunition, clothing, and even provisions to carry on the war; I might go farther, and if they are not much belied, add men also in disguise."
The President also called on the British minister, Mr. Hammond, for an explanation. Hammond, while admitting the authenticity of Dorchester's speech and the construction of the British fort on the Maumee, pointed to pretended acts of hostility on the part of the United States. This was the insolent tone a.s.sumed toward a government considered to be too weak to defend its lawful rights.
The British were now busy in a.s.sembling a savage army to oppose Wayne's advance. Two Potawatomi captured on the fifth of June, said that a message had been sent to their tribe to join in the war against the United States; that the British were at Roche de Bout on the Maumee with about four hundred troops and two pieces of artillery, exclusive of the Detroit militia, and that they "had made a fortification around Colonel McKee's house and store at that place, in which they had deposited all their stores and ammunition, arms, clothing and provisions with which they promised to supply all the hostile Indians in abundance, provided they would join and go with them to war; that about two thousand warriors had been a.s.sembled, and that Governor Simcoe had promised that fifteen hundred British troops and militia would join them in the attack on the Americans." They further related that this same Governor Simcoe had sent them four different invitations to join in the war, promising them arms, ammunition, provisions and clothing, and everything that they wanted. "All the speeches," said these Potawatomi, "that we received from him, were as red as blood; all the wampum and feathers were painted red; the war pipes and hatchets were red; and even the tobacco was red." The evidence furnished by two Shawnees, captured on the twenty-second of June, corroborated the Potawatomi. They testified that the British were always setting the Indians on, like dogs after game, pressing them to go to war, and kill the Americans, "but did not help them; that unless the British would turn out and help them, they were determined to make peace; that they would not be any longer amused by promises only." Asked about the number of warriors collected along the Maumee, they put the number of the Shawnees at three hundred eighty, the Delawares at four hundred and eighty, the Miamis at one hundred, and the Wyandots at about one hundred and fifty. The Chippewas, however, would furnish the greatest number of fighting men, and they were on the way to the council. That the question of whether there would be a fight or not depended upon the British; "that the British were at the foot of the rapids, and had fortified at Roche de Bout; that there was a great number of British soldiers at that place; that they told the Indians they were now come to help them to fight; and if the Indians would generally turn out and join them, they would advance and fight the American army; that Blue Jacket had been sent by the British to the Chippewas and northern Indians, a considerable time since, to invite them, and bring them to Roche de Bout, there to join the British and other hostile Indians in order to go to war."
On the last day of June, 1794, the premeditated blow fell on Fort Recovery, the scene of St. Clair's disaster in 1791. The garrison was under the command of Captain Alexander Gibson, of the Fourth Sub-Legion.
Under the walls of the fort were a detachment of ninety riflemen and fifty dragoons under the command of Major McMahon, who had escorted a train of packhorses from Fort Greenville on the day before, and who were now about to return. The Indians were, according to some authorities, under the command of the Bear chief, an Ottawa; others a.s.sign their leadership to the Little Turtle. That they had planned a coup de main and a sudden re-capture of the position is certain. Their army consisted of about fifteen hundred men; they had advanced in seventeen columns, with a wide and extended front, and their encampments were perfectly square and regular. They were attended by "a captain of the British army, a sergeant, and six matrosses, provided with fixed ammunition, suited to the calibre of two field pieces, which had been taken from General St. Clair, and deposited in a creek near the scene of his defeat in 1791." They expected to find this artillery, which had been hidden by the Indians, and turn it on the fort, but the guns had been recovered by their legitimate owners and were now used for defense. A considerable number of white men accompanied the savages, disguised as Indians and with blackened faces, and three British officers, dressed in scarlet, were posted in the rear and encouraged the Indians in their repeated a.s.saults.
The first attack on Major McMahon was successful. Nineteen officers and privates and two packhors.e.m.e.n were killed and about thirty men wounded.
Packhorses to the number of two hundred were quickly taken. But the Indians now made a fatal mistake. In a spirit of rashness, they rushed on the fort. The determined legionaries, aided by McMahon's men, poured in a murderous fire, and they fell back. Again they attacked, and again were they repulsed. All day long they kept up a constant and vigorous fire but it availed nothing. During the succeeding night, which was dark and foggy, they carried off their dead.
On the next morning the attack was renewed, but great numbers of the savages were now becoming disheartened. The loss inflicted by the American garrison had been severe, and was mourned for months by the Indian tribes. Forty or fifty red men had bit the dust and over a hundred had been wounded. Disgraced and crestfallen the savage horde retired to the Maumee. The first encounter with Wayne's army had proved disastrous.
On the twenty-sixth of July, Wayne was joined by sixteen hundred mounted volunteers from Kentucky under the command of Major-General Charles Scott. Scott was a man of intrepid spirit and his men knew it. Moreover, the Kentuckians now looked forward to certain victory, for they trusted Wayne. On the twenty-eighth of July, the whole army moved forward to the Indian towns on the Maumee. No finer body of men ever went forth into the wilderness to meet a savage foe. Iron drill and constant practice at marksmanship had done their work. Officers and men, regulars and volunteers, were ready for the work at hand. Unlike Harmar and St.
Clair, Wayne had in his service some of the most renowned scouts and Indian fighters of the day. Ephraim Kibby, William Wells, Robert McClellan, Henry and Christopher Miller, and a party of Chickasaw and Choctaw warriors, constantly kept him posted concerning the number and whereabouts of the enemy, and the nature of the ground which he was to traverse. "The Indians who watched his march brought word to the British that his army went twice as far in a day as St. Clair's, that he kept his scouts well out and his troops always in open order and ready for battle; that he exercised the greatest precaution to avoid an ambush or surprise, and that every night the camps of the different regiments were surrounded by breastworks of fallen trees so as to render a sudden a.s.sault hopeless." "We have beaten the enemy twice," said Little Turtle, "under separate commanders. We cannot expect the same good fortune always to attend us. The Americans are now led by a chief who never sleeps. The night and the day are alike to him; and, during all the time that he has been marching upon our villages, notwithstanding the watchfulness of our young men, we have never been able to surprise him.
Think well of it. There is something whispers me, it would be prudent to listen to his offers of peace."
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