The Indian Wars And Wayne's Victory


The Indians who had been so well generaled and had fought so ably, failed as usual to follow up their victory by moving on the American settlements in force. They kept on harassing the pioneers in small war parties, but gave the country time to send an army, thoroughly equipped and thoroughly disciplined, against them. They made a second attack on the Americans on the old battle ground where General Wayne had built his Fort Recovery, but they were beaten off with severe loss, though in their attack they had the aid of many white Canadians and even of some British officers, or at least of men wearing the uniform of British officers.

By the treaty of 1783 Great Britain agreed to give us the whole West below a certain line, but when the time came for the surrender, she refused to yield the forts south of this line. With the bad faith of wanton power she kept her posts at Oswego, Niagara, Detroit, and Mackinaw, because we were weak and she was strong; and from these points her agents abetted the savages in their war upon the American frontiers. Just before the battle of Fallen Timbers, where Wayne won his victory, the Lieutenant Governor of Canada marched a force of Canadian militia and British regulars into the Ohio country, and built a fort on the Maumee, near the battle ground, which he held until 1796, when Great Britain at last gave up all the places she had unrightfully kept. The Indians expected this fort to open its gates to them, when they fled before Wayne's men, and were astonished and indignant at the behavior of then-British friends in denying them refuge. This was not from want of ill will toward the Americans, who taunted them as they passed, and whom the garrison wished to fire upon for approaching the post in force. Sharp letters passed between the American general and the British commandant, but it ended in nothing worse, and our jealous army, which remained in the neighborhood laying waste the Indian fields and villages, could not perceive that the British gave any aid or comfort to the savages.

The battle of Fallen Timbers was fought on the 20th of August, 1794, on the banks of the Maumee, near a rising ground called Presque Isle, about two miles south of the present Maumee City, and four miles from the British Fort Miami. The place was called Fallen Timbers because it was covered with trees blown down long before in a tornado. These formed a natural stronghold for the savages, but Wayne had every other advantage, especially in numbers; he had almost twice as many men, well drilled, armed, and clothed, while the miserable and disorderly army of St. Clair had fallen a prey to a far greater force of Indians.

On the morning of the battle, Wayne sent a flag of truce to the united tribes, offering peace, but he did not wait for its return. He met his envoy coming back with an evasive answer, and he pushed on to Fallen Timbers without stopping. As soon as he reached the battlefield, he ordered his infantry to beat up the covert of the enemy, who were hidden among the logs, brush, and grass, with the bayonet, and as they rose to deliver their fire. His order was carried out so thoroughly and promptly that this charge of nine hundred men began and ended the fight. Two thousand; Indians, Canadian militia and volunteers fled before them, and the rout was complete.

The affair was so quickly over that there was no time for the incidents of heroism and suffering which heightened the tragedy of St. Clair's defeat. At the beginning of the action, General William Henry Harrison, afterwards President of the United States, but then one of Wayne's aids, said to him, "General Wayne, I'm afraid you will get into the battle yourself, and forget to give us the necessary field orders." "Perhaps I may," said Wayne, "and if I do, recollect the standing order for the day is, Charge the rascals with the bayonets!" Wayne had got his nickname of Mad Anthony in the Revolution from his habit of swearing furiously in battle, and now he called the Indians something more than simply rascals. We have seen how his men carried out the spirit of his instructions, and it is told of one of them who got astray from the rest that he met an Indian alone and gave him the bayonet. At the same time the Indian gave the American the tomahawk, and they were found dead together, one with the blade in his breast, the other with the hatchet in his skull.

A runaway negro who had followed the Kentucky horsemen to the battle, saw three Indians swimming the river from the shore where the cavalry were posted, and shot one of them. The other two tried to swim on with the body. The negro fired again with deadly aim, and the only Indian left was now in water so shallow that he was dragging the bodies to land when once more the negro fired and killed his man. Then he ran up to look at the dead men and found them so like one another that he knew they must be brothers.

A strange and romantic incident of the campaign, before the battle, occurred while three American scouts, Wells, McClellan, and Miller, were ranging the woods to bring in some Indians for Wayne to question. They came upon a party of three Indians; Wells shot one, and Miller another, while McClellan, who was very swift of foot, ran down the third. Pursuer and pursued both stuck in the oozy bottom of a stream, and when Wells and Miller came up, they were threatening each other with knife and tomahawk. Miller had been taken captive when a child with one of his brothers; he had escaped, but this brother had remained with the savages, and somehow Miller felt that the Indian confronting Mc-Clellan was his brother. They seized him and washed off his paint; he was white; he was Miller's brother. They persuaded him, with much trouble at first, to join Wayne's army, and he fought through the rest of the war on the American side.

At another time as Wells and a party of his scouts came to the banks of a stream, they saw on the opposite shore a family of savages who began to cross the river towards them in a canoe. The scouts, taking them for Indians, were about to fire on them when Wells suddenly called out that the first who fired should have a bullet through his own head. He had recognized the Indians, and he said that when he was a captive in their tribe, this family had fed and clothed him, and nursed him in sickness, and treated him as tenderly as one of themselves. The backwoodsmen joined Wells in talk with his friends, urging them to do what they could for peace among their people, and left them to paddle away in their canoe unharmed.

Wells had been the adoptive son of Little Turtle, who led the Indians at St. Clair's defeat, and he had fought on the side of the savages in that battle. But after it was over he foresaw that the war must end in favor of the white men, and he decided to abandon his wild brethren. He spoke first with Little Turtle as they were walking in the woods together and warned him in words that a real Indian might have used. "When the sun reaches the meridian, I leave you for the whites; and whenever you meet me in battle you must try to kill me, as I shall try to kill you."

But the real Indians had not Wells's forecast, and they continued the war till they were beaten by Wayne, in whose army Little Turtle might have found his adoptive son. Little Turtle was himself one of the last chiefs to yield, but he came in with the rest at Greenville, and one year after the battle of Fallen Timbers signed the treaty by which ninety chiefs and the deputies of twelve tribes gave up the Ohio River as the Indian border, and ceded half the Ohio lands to the United States.

Little Turtle, or Moshokonoghua, as he was called in the tongue of his nation, the Miamis, lived for thirty years after signing the treaty, and then died of gout at Fort Wayne. He traveled through the Eastern States in the first years of the peace, and gave people there a different impression from that received by those who knew him before the defeat of St. Clair, and saw him leading the victors in that battle. He struck all who met him as a man of intelligence and wit; he got the habit of high living and bore himself like the gentlemen whose company he loved to frequent. At Philadelphia the famous Polish exile and patriot Kosciusko gave him his pistols and bade him shoot dead with them any man who attempted to rob him of his country.

His business in the East was to interest people in the civilization of his tribe, but he had no purpose of living among the whites. In Philadelphia, he said, "When I walk through the streets I see every person in his shop employed about something: one makes shoes, another pots, a third sells cloth. I say to myself, which of these things can you do? Not one. I can make a bow or an arrow, catch fish, kill game, and go to war; but none of these things is of any use here. To learn what is done here would require a long time. Old age comes on. I should be a useless piece of furniture, useless to my nation, useless to myself. I must go back to my own country."

This was what he did, and as long as he lived he was steadfast for peace, for he remembered that it would be foolish for the Indians to fight the Americans, and Little Turtle was not a fool. Even before the battle of the Fallen Timbers, he urged his people to treat with Wayne rather than fight. "We have beaten the enemy twice under separate commanders," he said, referring to Har-mar and St. Clair. "The Americans are now led by a chief who never stops; the night and the day are alike to him. And during all the time that he has been marching upon your villages, notwithstanding the watchfulness of our young men, we have never been able to surprise him. Think well of it. There is something which whispers to me that it will be prudent to listen to his offers of peace."


facebook share button twitter share button reddit share button share on pinterest pinterest

Add The Indian Wars And Wayne's Victory to your library.

Return to the William Dean Howells library , or . . . Read the next short story; The Magic Of A Voice

© 2022