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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter IV. — Hostilities in the West. War with the Miamies and their Confederates.

ONE of the earliest objects of attention on the part of the Government, under the old articles of confederation, had been the incorporation of the Indian territory northwest of the Ohio. No sooner had the war terminated, than all eyes began to be directed to that quarter, as the future land of promise to the Union; which expectations have been most amply fulfilled; for it has been, emphatically, the Mother of States, the most prominent among them being the stalwart commonwealths of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. General Arthur St. Clair was appointed by Washington the first governor of the territory. The most important topic which called for his attention was the state of the Indian tribes, which question he found to be surrounded with peculiar difficulties. None of the tribes had suffered so little by the war as the Miamies, Weas, and Piankashaws, of the Wabash. On the tribes who had signed treaties of amity, but little reliance could be placed. For several years the Indians exceeded in numbers the settlers, who were located at prominent points, and, consequently, these frontier settlements were entirely at the mercy of the savages. It was, therefore, necessary to strengthen the bonds of amity with the Indians by treaty stipulations. Treaties furnish the very highest evidence of civilization among intellectual and polished nations; and, when the system was introduced in negotiations with the Indian tribes, who could neither read nor write, an expectation of security and advantage from such instruments was indulged, far beyond what the moral character of the aborigines, and their actual political appreciation of them, justified. Still, this system promised the surest means of attaining success. From the earliest traditionary times, it had been the custom of the Indians to hold formal meetings of their chiefs, for the purpose of adjusting their affairs, to which the greatest ceremony and solemnity was given, by smoking the sacred weed, and by the exchange of wampum belts. The like ceremony and solemnity was used by the commissioners and commanders, to whom these negotiations were entrusted, on concluding the treaties, by exchanging the muzzinieguns, 435 on

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which the verbal agreements had been written. To renew and extend these obligations was, according to Indian phraseology, to tighten the chain of friendship.

On the 9th of January, 1789, nearly three months before the adoption of the present constitution, General St. Clair concluded a treaty with a large delegation of the Six Nations, assembled at Fort Harmer, at the mouth of the Muskingum. The chief object of this treaty was to renew and confirm that entered into at Fort Stanwix, in 1784. To secure order, a body of United States troops was encamped there, under Colonel Harmer, and the treaty of Fort M'Intosh, of January 21st, 1785, was re-confirmed by the original parties to it, to whom was added a delegation from the Pottawattamies and Sacs.

From an explanatory article appended to this treaty, it appears that the Wyandots accused the Shawnees of having laid claim to lands that did not belong to them; these lands being a part of the Wyandot domain. The respected Wyanclot chief, TARHE, was present at the negotiation of this treaty. It was affirmed by the Wyandots, that the Shawnees, who signed the treaty of peace concluded at the Miami, had been guilty of injustice; and they further averred, that "the Shawnees have been so restless, and caused so much trouble, both to them and the United States, that if they will not now be at peace, they (the Wyandots) will dispossess them, and take the country into their own hands; for that the country is theirs of right, and the Shawnees are only living upon it by their permission." 436

In 1789, General St. Clair also negotiated a treaty with the Wyandots, Delawares, Ottawas, Chippewas, Sacs, and Pottawattamies, through the chiefs assembled at Fort Harmer. 437 This treaty has been called "a piece of Indian diplomacy, saying the Indians never intended to abide by it any longer than suited their convenience." 438 These assemblages, however, were convened in pursuance of the pacific policy of Washington, and had their effect.

The position of the Indian relations was at this time very critical. Emigration flowed over the Alleghanies with great rapidity, and the lands to which the Indian title had been extinguished were daily filling up. The nucleus of the future State of Ohio had been established at Marietta, in 1788. Collision could not be avoided between two races so antagonistic in habits and feelings as the Anglo-Saxon and the Indian. Murders were committed, which were retaliated by similar outrages. It became evident that an open Indian war must speedily ensue. The Delawares, the Shawnees, and the Wyandots having measured swords, to their cost, with the British, as also with the colonies, it was clear that the issue would not be with either of these tribes. Hostile demonstrations were apprehended from the Miamies, and their co-tribes, the Weas and Piankashaws. The residence of this tribe was located in the Wabash valley, one of the most favorable and genial regions in the West. Possessing an extraordinarily

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fertile soil, which yielded large quantities of corn, grain, and fruit, an exuberant forest, abounding in deer, bears, and other animals, their population was remarkably vigorous, while their insolence knew no bounds. Colonel Harmer was directed to advance into their country, and endeavor to bring them to terms. Such a march, encumbered with stores and supplies, through a wilderness destitute of roads, was, in itself, an arduous undertaking. The pioneer work of an army has always been one of the severest duties of a western campaign; it is the toil and the triumph of the quartermaster's department. Roads must be made, bridges built, provisions packed, arms and ammunition carried; every delay must be endured, every difficulty overcome. Colonel Harmer reached the eligible and elevated grounds, forming the present site of Fort Wayne, which are washed by the River Miami, of the Lakes, whose swift, but shallow rapids, are easily forded. Observations, made on the rising grounds beyond the stream, detected the presence of the enemy, whose demonstrations were intended to convey the idea that they were in force in that quarter. But this proved to be only a decoy; they had crouched down in the thick undergrowth and weeds, and were concealed along the western shore. The army was directed to cross the stream at this rapid, but had not proceeded far, when a heavy fire of musketry was poured in, accompanied by the most frightful cries. The men were rallied by spirited officers; Major Wyllis, and other brave officers, being killed in this effort. The Indian fire was continued, and well sustained, they being plentifully supplied with guns and ammunition. The line having faltered, and. fallen back, the retreating columns were marched to an elevated position, where they were reorganized. The loss among the regular troops amounted to 75 killed, and three wounded. Of the militia, 108 were killed, and 28 wounded. 439 So severe a defeat could not be repaired without a reinforcement; and Harmer determined to return to the banks of the Ohio, which he did without further molestation from the Indians.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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