Tuesday, March 20, 2012

1,000 American Soldiers Massacred on the Wabash River by the Miami Indians

1,000 American Soldiers Massacred on the Wabash River by the Miami Indians
Greatest Indian General Little Turtle
History Not Taught in Schools

Indian hostilities still continued to destroy the peace and safety of our frontier settlements. And Congress with a view to provide relief, resolved to increase our military force, and place in the hands of the Executive, more ample means for their defense. A new expedition was therefore projected. General St. Clair, governor of the territory west of the Ohio, was appointed commander-in-chief of the forces to be employed.
President Washington had been deeply pained by the disasters of General Harmar's expedition to the Wabash, resulting from Indian ambushes. In taking leave of his old military comrade, St. Clair, he wished him success and honor; at the same time to put him on his guard, said,—"You have your instructions from the secretary of war. I had a strict eye to them, and will add but one word—Beware of a surprise! You know how the Indians fight. I repeat it—Beware of a surprise!" With these warning words sounding in his ear, St. Clair departed. [Footnote: Irving's life of Washington.]
On the seventh of September, 1791, General St. Clair set out for the Indian country. The American banner was unfurled and waved proudly over two thousand of her soldiers, as with sanguine hopes and bright anticipations, they took up their line of march for the Miami, designing to destroy the Indian villages on that river, expel the savages from the region, and by establishing a line of posts to the Ohio river, prevent the Indians from returning to a point, where they had been the occasion of great mischief. On their way they constructed two forts, Hamilton and Jefferson, and advanced but slowly, having to open for themselves a way through the forest. Too many of those composing this little army were deficient in soldier-like qualities. They had been recruited from the off- scourings of large towns and cities, enervated by idleness, debauchery, and every species of vice, which unfitted them for the arduous service of Indian warfare. Hence insubordination, and frequent desertion, were among the difficulties encountered.
Under the command of the Miami Chief Little Turtle, 700 Americans are slaughtered on the Wabash River.  Why has this battle kept secret and not found in any history books?

Not until the third of November, did they come near the Indian villages on the Miami. On the evening of that day they selected a position on the bank of a creek, which favored their purpose, and bivouacked for the night. Their number, from desertion, and those left to garrison the forts, amounted to but fourteen hundred. The place of their encampment was surrounded by close woods, dense thickets, and the trunks of fallen trees, affording a fine cover for stealthy Indian warfare.
It was the intention of St. Clair to throw up a slight work on the following day, and then move on to attack the Indian villages. The plan of this work he concerted in the evening with Major Ferguson, of the artillery. In the mean time, Colonel Oldham, an officer commanding the militia, was directed to send out that evening, two detachments, to explore the country and gain what knowledge they could of the enemy. The militia showed signs of insubordination, complained of being too much fatigued, and the order apparently could not be enforced. The militia were encamped beyond the stream, about a quarter of a mile in advance, on a high flat, a position much more favorable than was occupied by the main body. The placing of sentinels, about fifty paces from each other, formed their principal security against surprise.
At an early hour the next morning, the woods about the camp of the militia, swarmed with Indians, and a terrific yell, followed by sharp reports of the deadly rifle, were startling sounds, in the ear of the newly recruited soldier. The militia returned a feeble fire, and immediately fled toward the main body of the army. They came rushing in, pell-mell and threw into disorder the front rank, drawn up in the order of battle. The Indians, still keeping up their frightful yell, followed hard after the militia, and would have entered the camp with them, but the sight of troops drawn up with fixed bayonets to receive them, checked their ardor, and stopping short they threw themselves behind logs and bushes, and poured in a deadly fire upon the first line, which was soon extended to the second. Our soldiers were mown down at a fearful rate.
The Indians fought with great desperation. They charged upon the center of the two main divisions commanded by General Butler, and Colonel Darke with unexampled intrepidity. They aimed a destructive fire upon the artillerists from every direction, and swept them down by scores. The artillery if not very effective, was bravely served. A quantity of canister and some round shot were thrown in the direction whence the Indians fired; but concealed as they were, and seen only occasionally, as they sprang from one covert to another, it was impossible to direct the pieces to advantage; and so effective was the fire upon them, that every artillery officer, and more than two-thirds of the men, were killed or wounded.

The greatest Indian general was Little Turtle, who massacred three military expeditions to take the Lake Erie-Wabash Portage.

St. Clair, unable to mount his horse, was borne about on a litter, and in the midst of peril and disaster, gave his orders with coolness and judgment. Seeing to what disadvantage his troops fought with a concealed enemy, he ordered Colonel Darke, with his regiment of regulars, to rouse the Indians from their covert with the bayonet, and turn their left flank. This was executed with great spirit; the enemy were driven three or four hundred yards; but for want of cavalry or riflemen, the pursuit slackened, and the troops were forced to give back in turn, and the Indians came on with a deadlier aim, the moment pursuit was relinquished. Strenuous efforts were made by the officers, early in the engagement, to restore order, which resulted in making themselves a mark, and they were cut down by the quick-sighted enemy.
All the officers of the Second regiment were cut off except three. The contest disastrous from the first, had now continued for more than two hours and a half. The loss of so many officers, and the hopeless condition of the army, the half of them killed, and the situation of the remainder desperate, brought discouragement to many a brave heart. It was useless to make further effort, which promised only a more fatal result. A retreat therefore was ordered, Colonel Darke being directed to charge the Indians that intercepted the way toward Fort Jefferson, and Major Clark with his battalion to cover the rear; these movements were successfully made, and the most of the troops that remained collected in a body, with such of the wounded as could possibly hobble along with them; thus they departed, leaving their artillery and baggage.
The retreat, though disorderly, was accomplished without difficulty, as the Indians did not pursue them far, from a desire to return for plunder. Yet the entire way, for near thirty miles, the distance to Fort Jefferson, bore the marks of a trepidation that seemed to characterize the entire engagement. The soldiers continued to throw away their guns, knapsacks, or whatever else impeded their flight, even when at a wide remove from all danger.
The army reduced by killed, wounded and desertion to about one-half its original number, fell back upon Fort Washington, the point of starting, and thus unfortunately closed a campaign, concerning which the highest expectations had been entertained. It was a heavy blow upon our infant republic, and spread over our country a gloom, which was greatly deepened by a sorrow for the loss of many worthy and brave men, who though they freely sacrificed their lives, could not avert these disasters.
The Indians, on account of this further victory, were elated beyond endurance, and conducted more haughtily than ever before. Their incursions were more frequent, their depredations more extensive, and their cruelties more excessive. The frontier inhabitants, especially of Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, never felt more insecure, and were never more exposed to loss of life, plunder and burning. In some instances whole settlements were broken up, by those who left their homes and sought, in the more densely peopled sections of the east, places of greater security.