Tuesday, March 20, 2012

About General Anthony Wayne's Defeat of the Miami Indians

The commissioners of the United States appointed to confer with the Indian tribes at the West, proceeded on their way, arriving at Niagara the latter part of May, 1793. Here they were very kindly entertained by Governor Simcoe until the council was ready to receive them.
While here they were visited by a large deputation from the council at Miami Rapids, who desired an explicit answer to the inquiry whether they were authorized to run and establish a new boundary? Which they answered in the affirmative, at the same time reminding the Indians that in almost all disputes there were wrongs on both sides, and that, at the approaching council, both parties must expect to make some concessions.
This reply was well received and sanguine hopes were entertained of a favorable termination of their mission.
The Indians returned again to their council at Miami, and the commissioners supposing they would now be prepared to receive them, proceeded on their voyage westward. Arriving at the mouth of Detroit river they were obliged to land, being forbidden by the British authorities to proceed any farther toward the place of meeting.
They were met here by another Indian deputation, bringing a paper with a written statement of their determination, to make the Ohio the boundary line between the Indian country and the United States, and requiring the latter, if sincere in their desires for peace, to remove their settlements to the south side of that river. To this the commissioners were desired to give an explicit written answer.
They replied, referring to the understanding from their conference at Niagara, that some concessions were to be made on both sides, and giving a brief history of the treaties by which a title had been acquired to land north of the Ohio, on the faith of which, settlements had been formed which could not be removed; hence they answered explicitly.—"The Ohio river cannot be designated as the boundary line."
They expressed the hope that negotiations might proceed on the basis of these treaties, closing with some concessions, and liberal offers for some lands still held by the Indians.
The debate at this council, it is said, ran high. Thayendanegea, and others of the Six Nations were strenuous in their advocacy of peace. The offer of the commissioners to establish a boundary line that would include the settlements already made north of the Ohio, they regarded as reasonable, and that farther concessions ought not to be required. Quite a number of tribes were influenced to adopt this view, which at one time it was thought would prevail. But there were certain ruling spirits present determined to make no concession, and the council broke up without allowing the commissioners, or any other white person, not in sympathy with Britain, to be present.
Previous to the holding of this council, the army had been re-organized under the command of General Anthony Wayne, an officer of untiring energy and vigilance; a larger number of soldiers had been called into the field, and as they were placed under a severe discipline, to inure them to the dangers and hardships of the campaign, it was undertaken with flattering prospects of success.
Pittsburgh had been made the place of rendezvous; but fearing the influence of an encampment near a town, and wishing to inspire in his soldiers a feeling of self reliance, General Wayne, on the 27th of November, 1792, marched his army to a point twenty-two miles distant on the Ohio, which he called Legionville, fortifying it and taking up his quarters there for the winter.
On the 30th of April, 1793, as spring had opened, he broke up his garrison at Legionville, and led his army down the river, to Fort Washington, its site being that of the present beautiful and flourishing city of Cincinnati.
Here he remained while the negotiations were going on with the Indians at the West. As soon as they were ended and the result known, he took a more advanced position, marching in October in the direction pursued by, General St. Clair, to a point on the south-west branch of the Miami, six miles beyond Fort Jefferson, and eighty from Fort Washington, which he fortified and called Greenville.
On the 23d of December, a detachment of the army commanded by Major Burbeck took possession of the ground where the army of General St. Clair, two years before on the 4th of the preceding November, had sustained a terrible defeat. Here they gathered up sadly and sacredly the bones that marked this as a place of human slaughter, put in order the field-pieces that were still upon the ground, served them with a round of three times three, over the remains of their fallen comrades, and erected a fortress, appropriately naming it Fort Recovery.
The army at different points had skirmishes with the enemy that were not serious, but they served to create confidence and inspire courage in the minds of the soldiers.
It was not until the 20th of August, 1794, that General Wayne had a regular engagement with the Indians. Yet like a true gladiator he had been preparing for the struggle, and his wariness, which had gained for him the title of "Black Snake" may be gathered from the speech of Little Turtle, chief of the Miamis, and one of the most active and brave warriors of his time. He counselled his countrymen to think favorably of the proposals of peace offered by General Wayne before giving them battle; saying,—"We have beaten the enemy twice 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 he has been marching on our villages, notwithstanding the watchfulness of our young men, we have never been able to surprise him. There is something that whispers to me,—it would be prudent to listen to his offers of peace."
But this counsel was rejected by the Indians, who determined to give battle to the Americans the next day. They fought in the vicinity of a British fort, which Governor Simcoe of Canada had caused to be erected at the foot of the rapids of the Miami emptying into the lakes, far within the acknowledged territory of the United States.
The ground occupied by the Indians was well chosen, being a thick wood, where were old fallen trees that marked the track of some ancient hurricane, where the use of cavalry would be impracticable, a place suited to afford them shelter and well adapted to their peculiar mode of warfare. But the order of General Wayne to advance with trailed arms, and rouse the Indians from their covert at the point of the bayonet, and when up deliver a close and well directed fire on their backs, followed by a brisk charge, so as not to give them time to load again; was executed so promptly, and with so much effect that the Indians were driven in one hour more than two miles, and soon dispersed in terror and dismay, leaving the ground in full and quiet possession of the victorious army.
This battle, which terminated within reach of the British guns, decided the fate of the campaign. The Indians after this were dispirited and unable to make a general rally. The distrust awakened by the coolness of their supposed friends, the gates of whose fort remained unopened while they were fleeing thither for a covert, served not less than the victory to dishearten them, and incline their thoughts toward peace.
The few days spent by the army on the battle ground after its victory, were occupied in destroying the property of the Indians in that vicinity, including also the extensive possessions of Colonel McKee, an officer of the British Indian Department, whose influence had been exerted in promoting these hostilities, whose effects were now being experienced. The fort itself was poised in the General's mind, as was also the torch of the gunner, who was only restrained by his commanding officer from firing upon Wayne, who, as he thought came too near, in making his observations on one of His Majesty's forts. Prudence prevailed. The fighting was confined to a war of words in a spirited correspondence between General Wayne, and the officer in command of the fort.
General Wayne after laying waste their principal towns in this region, continued in the Indian country during the following year, bringing his campaign to a close by a treaty with the North-western tribes, which was entirely agreeable to the wishes of the United States.