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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 VII. — Campaigns of General Wayne Against the Western Indians.

THE effect produced in Philadelphia, then the capital, by the intelligence of this defeat, was electric. Washington had never counselled half-way measures with the Indians, and this result had disappointed his expectations. Knox, his Secretary of War, had no personal experience in Indian warfare. It was of the utmost moment to make another effort, as early the following spring as possible, to gain the ascendency in the West. An examination of the list of officers experienced in savage military manoeuvres, resulted in the choice of General Wayne, whose decision of character was well known. He had, in 1782, led a successful cavalry charge against a night attack of the Creeks, near Savannah. Firm and cautious, but of chivalrous daring, nature had bestowed on him the talents and energy necessary to cope with the western Indians.

Prior to the march of General Wayne, Washington resolved to make another attempt to bring the hostile Indians of the West to terms by negotiation. For this purpose, Colonel Hardin and Major Trueman, two experienced men, were appointed commissioners, and directed to visit the towns on the Scioto. But these gentlemen were both waylaid and killed while descending the Ohio, and thus the overture failed. General Wayne's movements were also delayed by another object of pressing moment, which was to intercept a threatened invasion of Louisiana from Kentucky. For this purpose, he was detained at Fort Massac during a portion of the year '93; after which, he contented himself with ascending the Miami valley, six miles above Fort Jefferson, where he established himself in a fortified camp, called GREENVILLE.

It will be unnecessary to detail the process of organizing the new army, or the difficulties and delays it encountered. Wayne was determined not to be defeated; and this, when operating against an enemy so subtile as the Indians, and so intimately acquainted with the peculiar geographical features of the surrounding country, could only be guarded against by the most untiring vigilance, prudence, and caution. The season for active operations elapsed in collecting the forces, on a remote frontier, and bringing them into the field. It was necessary to proceed slowly, as roads must

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be opened, bridges built, and blockhouses erected, to serve as points of supply and communication. A large corps of pioneers was required to be constantly employed, which it was necessary to protect by a strong force of cavalry and riflemen. The delays arising from these causes were the subject of unjust complaint in the diurnal press of that period. Two armies had been defeated in endeavors to penetrate the great wilderness to the Wabash; a country well suited to the operations of a savage foe, but abounding in obstacles to the progress of a civilized army, encumbered with baggage, cannon, and stores; who must have a passable road, and could not cross a stream of even the third magnitude without a bridge. The army was systematically employed in this difficult and laborious service, ever distasteful to volunteers, who composed a part of the forces. This labor, however, was the forerunner of success. Every day devoted to these toils, and to the discipline of the army, rendered it more active, efficient, and fit for the purpose in view. Wayne then took possession of the grounds on the banks of the St. Mary's, where St. Clair had been defeated in 1791, and having built Fort Recovery, there wintered his army.

On the 30th of the following June, this fort was invested by a large body of Indians, whose spies had closely reconnoitred it, while the main force lay near by, under cover. They had noticed that, at certain times, the horses of the officers were admitted into the fort through the sally-port, and on one of these occasions they followed them with a desperate onset, knowing that the outer gates would be opened. The troops, however, being well disciplined, repelled this assault of a prodigious force of the hitherto concealed Indians. The following day they made the forest echo with their whoops, renewing the attack in greater force, and with greater violence; but they were again repulsed with loss.

Fort Recovery was located at the head of the Miami of the Lakes, and formed the key of the route to the north-west, this valley being, at that time, the great thoroughfare of the north-western Indians, from Detroit and the upper lakes, through which, with great vindictiveness, they had so long poured their infuriated hordes over the fertile regions of the Ohio valley, and the settlements west of the Alleghany chain. The area of attack embraced not only the present limits of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, but all western Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, and part of Tennessee. It was from these States that Wayne drew all his levies and volunteers, who were imbued with such hatred of the savages, consequent upon a vivid remembrance of Indian cruelties, that it required a man like Wayne to restrain them. Rash courage and vindictiveness are but poor qualifications for an encounter with Indians in a forest, as many a partisan commander has realized to his cost.

A fortnight after the last Indian attack, Wayne continued his march down the Miami valley. An impenetrable forest lay before him, through which nothing but an Indian footpath, or a trader's trail could be discerned. But every company of his men was in itself a phalanx; and the order of march was such as to set surprise at defiance.

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In four days he reached the junction of the river Au Glaize with the Miami, where he built Fort Defiance. Crossing the Miami at this point, to its west banks, he continued his march to the head of the first rapids, called Roche du Bout, or the Standing Rock. At this place a temporary work was constructed, wherein to deposit the heavy stores and baggage; and he then pushed forward in the same order, and with like vigilance, for the principal Indian towns at the lower rapids.

Using the figurative language of the Indians, General Wayne's army resembled a dark cloud moving steadily and slowly forward. He had driven them 150 miles from their successful fighting-ground on the River St. Mary's, and the sources of the Wabash, and it appeared impossible for them to oppose him in battle. At every point of attack they had found him prepared. They said of him that he was a man who never slept, and they named him the STRONG WIND. 462 They had found it impossible to stay the impetuosity of his march, and it was doubted, in their councils, whether a general battle should be hazarded, 463 but after much discussion, this measure was resolved on. 464 The place selected was Presque Isle, a thickly-wooded oasis, such as is common to prairie districts in the West, encompassed by low and grassy meadow-lands, the upper part of which was encumbered by old, fallen timbers, where horses could not be employed. On the 20th of August the Indians arranged their forces in three lines, within supporting distance, and at right angles with the river. Wayne knew not whether they would fight, or negotiate, as offers of peace had been made to them. His army marched in compact columns, in the usual order, preceded by a battalion of volunteers, so far in advance that timely notice could be given to the troops to form, in case of an attack. This corps had progressed about five miles, when they received a heavy fire from the concealed enemy, compelling them to fall back on the main army, which immediately formed in two lines. General Charles Scott, with his mounted volunteers, was directed to turn the right flank of the enemy by a circuitous movement, while Captain Campbell, with the legionary cavalry, effected the same object on the left flank, by following an open way close to the banks of the river, and between it and the cliffs of Presque Isle. The first line of infantry was ordered to advance with trailed arms, rouse the Indians from their coverts in the grass, at the point of the bayonet, and then deliver a close, well-directed fire. These troops were promptly followed by the second line; the martial music of drums and trumpets giving animation to the scene. The whole of these movements were executed with alacrity and entire success. The Indians fled precipitately, and could not be rallied by their leaders. The army pursued them for two miles through the woods, and the victory obtained was complete. Wayne had about 2000 men under his command in this contest, not one half of whom were engaged. His loss in killed and wounded was 133

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men. Captain Campbell was killed at the head of his legion, and Captain Van Renselaer was shot through the body, but recovered. For a distance of two miles, the forest was strewed with the dead bodies of the enemy, among which were recognised some of their white allies. They were denied entrance into the British fort at Maumee, the officers of which were compelled to witness the burning of the towns, and the destruction of the Indian settlements in the valley. General Wayne was highly incensed against the garrison of Fort Maumee, and sought to give them cause to open hostilities. There being a fine spring near the fort, the conversations at which could be overheard on the ramparts, the general rode around the fort to it with his staff, dismounted, took off his hat, and drank of the water, at the same time using expressions of indignation against the allies of the Indians, who had first incited them to attack him, and then closed their gates against them. Those who are aware of the general's enthusiastic character, need not be told that he expressed himself energetically. The savages made no further effort to oppose the course of the victorious army, which, finally, returned to Greenville, where it went into winter quarters.

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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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