BATTLE OF FALLEN TIMBERS CONFIRMS AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE-CONCLUSION

Continued from Part IV

The Indians lost many of their leaders in this fight and those remaining lost their enthusiasm with the British betrayal.  Facing a well-trained and disciplined force, something the Indians never before experienced, they withdrew when overwhelmed.  Chased by mounted soldiers, who struck them down with sabers, the retreat became a rout.  When the British troops at Fort Miamis closed the gates, literally in their faces, their morale collapsed.

I previously mentioned the desire for peace by Little Turtle before the battle; he did not counsel peace alone.  American renegades and Loyalists persuaded many reluctant Indians into engaging the Americans in combat.  Particularly the previously mentioned Alexander McKee, who tried rallying the defeated Indians behind Fort Miamis.  This lasted only a few minutes as they broke again and headed for their families camped some distance away.  A week after the battle McKee tried rallying them with the uncorroborated story of the American troops desecrating the Indian graves.  This possibly occurred given the years of hatred between the “long knives” and the Indian tribes, but nothing official mentions it.  Even this horrific story did not inspire revenge in the face of the American victory and British inaction.

Wayne eventually regrouped his Legion at the previously established Fort Defiance after a difficult march.  The only Indians the soldiers encountered scavenged through vacated American campsites, searching through abandoned items.  Wayne believed these represented scouts for a new Indian advance; however, they merely searched for food and other necessities.

At Fort Defiance the Legion rested and refit, anticipating another battle with the Indian confederacy, and possibly the British.  Wayne now concentrated on what we call today an “after action report” and a report for Secretary Knox.  Not every soldier acted bravely and with honor during the battle and he commenced several courts-martial.  Records exist of the trials of at least two junior officers and at least two enlisted men for “leaving their posts.”

The soldiers, as all soldiers in all times, immediately wrote their families and friends that they survived the battle.  And as all soldiers, they probably embellished their roles in the battle, however we must forgive them this weakness.  Truthfully, these men volunteered and advanced against an enemy who previously defeated two expeditions, the last one a disaster.  They further described the new territory they explored and the Indian settlements they subsequently destroyed.

One thing unforgivable, the secret dispatches Wilkinson sent, criticizing Wayne and deliberately lying about Wayne’s conduct of the campaign.  This merely continued Wilkinson’s continuing conspiracy against Wayne, and the newspapers eagerly published them.  Officers of the “Wilkinson camp” continued writing anonymous letters and stoked controversy in Philadelphia.  Fortunately, both Washington and Knox wrote letters expressing their support for Wayne and openly defended their Revolutionary War comrade.

Another unforgivable situation occurred with many of the residents of Cincinnati against the American allies, the Choctaw.  Although they did not participate in the final battle, the defeat of their enemies ended their service.  They returned home “with honor” for telling of their bravery among their brethren, who stayed home.  They reached Cincinnati among rumors that they brought with them a white female child, “naked bound, and suffering.”  Unfortunately only one of them spoke a little English and he proved inadequate for explaining away this rumor.

Winthrop Sargent, the acting governor of the Northwest Territory, investigated the rumor, but found no evidence that this child existed.  Whipped into a frenzy by free-flowing liquor many of the local men, who did not join the campaign, armed themselves against the Choctaw.  They attacked and injured several of these warriors and searched their camp for the non-existent child.

Sargent called out the Cincinnati militia, which proved inadequate, and probably unwilling, at defending the Choctaw from the mob.  He then requested help from Captain John Peirce, who commanded the small federal garrison at nearby Fort Washington.  Peirce dispatched a detachment of regulars for guarding the Choctaw camp until they departed Cincinnati.  Sargent met with the Choctaw and assured them of the “sincere Friendship of the united States,” and punishment of those involved.  However, the shameful actions of the territorial judiciary only indicted two men, and those escaped any punishment for their crimes.  Unfortunately, such shameful conduct continued throughout the American nation’s interactions with its first citizens, even those who served as allies.

While the “courageous” men of Cincinnati vented their anger on the friendly Choctaw, the Legion’s contact with hostiles virtually ended.  Fort Defiance existed in the heart of the Auglaize camps, making this area useless for the hostile tribes as a base of operations.  However, it set at the end of a very precarious line of communication, hindered by the wilderness terrain.  Wayne struggled for getting his troops the proper supplies, and kept his quartermaster department as busy as before.

Meanwhile the troops of the Legion suffered from the boredom and inactivity suffered by all soldiers following the battle.  Throughout military history we find evidence that soldiers with “too much time on their hands” often contemplate too much on their circumstances.  This proved particularly troublesome with Scott’s Kentuckians, hardly the model for discipline in the first place.  They eagerly anticipated their approaching discharges and resented the labor involved in fortifying Fort Defiance and other routine camp details.

Wayne tried keeping them busy with scouting missions and escort duty for supply convoys; however they performed these duties haphazardly.  With the August 31st report showing 1,611 Kentuckians serving in some capacity with the Legion, they proved excellent at consuming provisions.  Their repeated acts of insubordination frustrated the lenient attitude of Scott toward his fellow Kentuckians, who court-martialed an unknown, but high, number.

Even the regulars experienced this declining morale, as much from the indifference and insufficient support from Congress as from the fatigue details.  As the Legion advanced against the Indians a steady stream of discharged soldiers and deserters left the column.  No “stop loss” existed at that time and when soldiers reached the end of their enlistment, they simply left.  With no incentive for reenlistment, and reduced pay from the parsimonious Congress, critically needed veterans left the service.

All of this placed Wayne at a serious disadvantage deep in enemy territory, or so he thought.  Although he sent out extensive scouting parties, they encountered no Indian or British activity.  Before Napoleon’s military strategy became legendary, Wayne employed one of Napoleon’s maxims, summarized, “in the absence of adequate intelligence, always assume your enemy will do the correct thing.”

Because of the length of time that the army stayed at Fort Defiance, the large number of troops soon depleted the captured Indian food stocks.  Many men grew sick eating unripe vegetables as they lived on half-rations of meat and flour.  By September 10th foraging parties ranged almost fifteen miles in search of food.  Part of the supply problem occurred because of the declining health of packhorses, forcing the abandonment of their cargoes.

Quartermaster O’Hara soon made numerous journeys up and down the line of communication for fixing this problem.  Wayne sent his contractors a scathing letter about the inadequate amount of supplies arriving in his camp.  He further offered the mounted Kentuckians three dollars for every hundred pounds of flour they carried forward, deducted from the contractors’ payments.

Despite his mounting problems, Wayne developed plans for constructing another fort deep in the heart of the Indian country.  Following detailed reconnaissance Wayne decided on moving his command near the old village of Kekionga. However, he must first ensure that his quartermaster department knew of this move and forwarded adequate supplies.  For this he depended on Scott’s Kentuckians, who still served as a mounted force, although the health of their horses declined.

Wayne then took a gamble and offered the Indians a chance for peace, releasing the captured Indian women with a message.  In this message he reminded the Indian chiefs of their “wrong choices” and offered a “path for peace.”  He suggested a conference and exchange of prisoners as a sign of “good will,” and “fair & equitable terms of peace.”

Without waiting for a reply Wayne left a significant garrison at Fort Defiance, supplemented by a large number of sick and wounded.  He left command of the post under Major Thomas Hunt and about 200 men “fit for duty.”  The remainder of the Legion marched southwest on the northern bank of the Maumee River on September 14th in a steady rain.  After a hard march, in which part of the command became lost, they arrived near Kekionga on September 18th.  Observers called this the largest Indian village in the region with about 500 acres of land cleared for agriculture.  Here Wayne selected the site for his new fort, Fort Wayne, again near modern Fort Wayne, Indiana.  He further dispatched Barbee’s Kentuckians for bringing forward supplies from Fort Recovery on September 20th.

While Wayne’s men constructed Fort Wayne, Hunt forwarded four British deserters from Fort Miamis.  They reported that the British did try reinforcing Fort Miamis, sending a company of the 5th Regiment of Foot and some Queen’s Ranges from Fort Niagara.  Upon arrival the British soldiers found Fort Miamis surrounded by the Americans and retreated toward Fort Erie.  They erroneously reported that 1,600 Indian warriors camped eleven miles northeast of Fort Miamis along Swan Creek.  The British Indian Department records indicated issuing provisions for 2,500 Indians, with only 860 as warriors.  However, Wayne did not know this and must take the proper precautions for his rapidly shrinking Legion.  The deserters also mentioned that about 25 American deserters arrived in Fort Miamis providing the British with intelligence.

The lull in operations also provided Wayne opportunities for sending Knox an updated report of his intentions and his problems.  Of importance he emphasized the problems of supplying his force in the field, something that always hindered western operations.  He further informed the secretary of war of the pending resignation of one of his critical contractors, Major John Belli.

Wayne further mentioned the critical problem with expiring enlistments, particularly in the longest serving units, the 1st and 2nd Sub-Legions.  Previously the 1st and 2nd US Regiments, the bulk of these men enlisted for the St. Clair expedition in 1791.  He pointed out that within six weeks time each of these units might number no more than “two companies each.”  Furthermore most of the enlistments of the 3rd and 4th Sub-Legions expired in the coming summer of 1795.  He described his Legion as “nearly Annihilated” by expiring enlistments, forcing the abandonment of “all we now possess” in the West.

Looking back from the advantage of hindsight and knowing the situation of both sides me may dismiss Wayne’s concerns.  However, he sat on the farthest reaches of American “civilization,” indeed beyond that civilization in the middle of enemy territory.  Furthermore, he must send his reports and receive his orders from distant Philadelphia using horses and man-powered boats.

Creating additional problems, when Barbee’s men returned with the supply convoy, it brought with it several sutlers.  These sutlers brought with them live cattle, sheep and other supplies for purchase by the soldiers.  Unfortunately the soldiers lacked money with their pay not arriving, and often engaged in stealing.  The sutlers also brought a significant amount of liquor, which further increased the disciplinary problems.

Again, the Kentuckians proved the worst of the offenders because they demanded their discharges, although their enlistments continued until November.  Since the days of the Viet Nam War many stories endure regarding “short-timers,” those soldiers ending their tours of duty.  These “short-timers” traditionally feel themselves above military discipline and often “push the envelope” with their conduct.  The Kentucky militiamen, living on half-rations and fortified by liquor, often refused the orders of their officers and bordered on mutiny.  Wayne visited their camp and told them “what they might expect should they disobey his order.”  However, only a few officers and men followed Barbee on his next escort mission on October 10th.

Barbee’s men returned on October 12th with only enough rations for three days and Wayne made another gamble.  He decided that his Kentucky militia served no further purpose and he informed Scott of his intention of sending them home.  The Kentuckians departed camp on October 14th leaving Wayne with fewer than one thousand regulars.  The homesick Kentuckians made good time on their return arriving at Fort Washington on October 20th.  One unnamed regular stated that Scott’s men “rendered their Country more Services than any Volunteers have done before.”  One may determine whether the soldier intended this as a compliment, or sarcasm regarding how he felt about these men.

On October 27th the Legion marched at sunrise bound for Fort Greenville leaving Hamtramck in command with about 300 men.  Hamtramck issued his first order, naming the new post Fort Wayne and his men settled into their new quarters.  Meanwhile the Legion marched back along the road they previously cut with the weather turning cold and frosty.  The Legion reached Fort Greenville, and winter quarters, on November 3, 1794 amid the cheering of the garrison.  Celebrations by both officers and enlisted men lasted until midnight and morale miraculously appeared very high.  Gaff records the accurate prophesy of one soldier, who entered in his journal, “AMERICA!  What glorious Days mayest thou soon hope for, when thy Armies shall excel the Veterans of Alexander-thy Fleets command the Ocean and give Laws to the World.”

Upon establishing winter quarters, Wayne tried reducing his quartermaster problems as much as possible.  First he discharged as many of the scouts as possible, including the valuable Wells, whose wound permanently disabled him.  When the scouts returned home they received heroes’ welcomes wherever they appeared, as did anyone who served in the Legion.

Veteran soldiers continued leaving the Legion when their enlistments expired and officers asked for furloughs.  As these men journeyed home they received heroes’ welcomes wherever they went for achieving the independent nation’s first military victory.  An adequate historical analogy may compare the celebration of these veterans with that received by those returning from World War II.  The western settlers rejoiced that finally, after almost twenty years, someone decisively defeated the Indians.  Furthermore, the faraway federal government addressed one of their major problems, seriously damaging the secession movements.

For all the jubilation felt among the American settlers, the Indians felt totally broken by their defeat.  In a period of less than two hours they degenerated from an invincible fighting force into a defeated and routed mob.  The great Miami Confederacy dissolved as the defeated tribes returned home, those who still possessed homes.  Those who previously lived in the path of Wayne’s Legion found their villages unattainable, now occupied by American troops.  With their villages and crops destroyed they faced a harsh winter surviving through the largess of the British.  The betrayal by the British at Fallen Timbers made them doubt the reliability of receiving sustenance from them.  They must seek terms with Wayne for ensuring the survival of their families, even at the cost of much of their land.

On December 17, 1794 a small group of French Canadians and Indians approached Fort Wayne for a conference.  Within two weeks delegations from the Pottawatomie, Chippewa, Wyandot and Ottawa arrived and promised peace.  The Miami arrived in the middle of January, 1795 seeking terms as their tribe faced starvation.  Only the Shawnee and Delaware, strongly under the influence of the trader, McKee, remained reluctant.

Finally on February 7, 1795 Wayne received a delegation of Shawnee and Delaware led by the war chief, Blue Jacket.  As the tribes that preceded them they signed a truce on the frontier and promised no further hostilities.  Wayne scheduled a grand council for June 15, 1795 for ensuring the participation of as many hostile tribes as possible.  He further allowed the resettling of those Indians in their destroyed villages near the forts that dominated the terrain.

The late arrival of some of the tribes delayed the grand council until July and required several weeks of ceremony.  Participating tribes included the Wyandot, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, Pottawatomie, Miami, Eel River Miami, Wea, Kickapoo, Piankashaw and Kaskaskia.  Some of these tribes did not join the Miami Confederacy and previously established peace with the Americans; however they desired further peace.

Known as the Treaty of Greenville it established an almost twenty-year period of peace between the settlers and Indian tribes.  It further surrendered most of the modern state of Ohio as well as locations for military forts on Indian land.  In return the Indians received a one-time grant of goods worth $20,000 and an annuity worth about $9,500.  Subsequent articles addressed hunting rights, trade and establishing a system of mediating complaints between the parties.

It further broke the hold the British held on the region and American traders established posts among the tribes.  Little Turtle regained some of his former prestige in peace and became an advocate for allying with the Americans.  He subsequently visited three American presidents, Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and received the treatment of a foreign dignitary.

Wayne journeyed east almost immediately following the signing of the treaty for several reasons.  With the fighting over and his troops engaged in mostly routine work the time seemed ripe for this visit.  First he lobbied in Congress for the ratification of this treaty without relying on messengers.  Second he contradicted the stories, mostly circulated by Wilkinson, of his mismanagement of the Legion and the campaign in general.  Third, he hoped for circumventing the efforts of some members of Congress for reducing the size of the Legion.  It seems that the Congress always traditionally, and irresponsibly, reduces the size of our military forces without considering the strategic implications.  On a personal level, Wayne hoped that he might succeed Knox as Secretary of War.

Meanwhile on the international front the US achieved some diplomatic success against its immediate foreign threats, England and Spain.  With both nations at war with France since 1793 they did not need a war with the US.  On November 19, 1794 Chief Justice John Jay signed what historians now call the Jay Treaty with England.  This treaty merely confirmed most of the terms of the original peace with England in 1783, however now England followed them.  The most important, they evacuated the military posts they illegally held and removed their control over American territory.

With the knowledge of Jay’s Treaty, Spanish officials began negotiations with Thomas Pinckney, the American ambassador for England.  Spain previously suffered some military defeats in the Caribbean and did not need another war in the region with the US.  On October 27, 1795 both nations signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo, sometimes called Pinckney’s Treaty.  It surrendered military forts that Spanish troops occupied in American territory, and opened the Mississippi River for commerce.  It further provided American merchants with duty-free transportation through New Orleans, which delighted the western settlers.

Historians may argue that events in Europe forced the negotiations for these two treaties; regardless of Fallen Timbers.  However, I believe that this demonstration of American power strongly influenced these two nations into defusing a potential “second front” neither of them needed.

Wayne achieved some success during his Philadelphia visit, and received a hero’s welcome, even from his critics.  The Senate ratified the Treaty of Greenville on August 3, 1795 and Washington signed it on December 22nd.  This occurred before Wayne’s arrival in Philadelphia, on February 6, 1796, and he then focused on the other issues.  With his popularity, Congress avoided any criticism of his conduct as commander-in-chief of the Legion.  He further won concessions regarding the post-war strength of the military forces:  four regiments of infantry, two companies of dragoons and one “corps” of artillery.  This force became known as the United States Army, effective on October 31, 1796, with few other changes.

However, Washington did not select Wayne as Secretary of War because of his “financial troubles,” and selected James McHenry.  Described by Jacobs as someone “Without unusual talents,” McHenry possessed “considerable means,” meaning he did not need the low salary.

Upon achieving success Wayne returned west, for continuing his duties and supervising the peace.  When he arrived at Fort Greenville he found Wilkinson, who now desired a journey east.  Wayne performed his duties on the frontier, including the occupation of Detroit and other posts evacuated by the British.  He further addressed the supply problems of both his troops and the Indians, now under his care.

Meanwhile Wilkinson collected evidence against Wayne, mostly false, and renewed his charges against Wayne.  He found allies among his political cronies, mostly from western delegations, and tried damaging Wayne’s reputation.  Furthermore, Wilkinson did not like McHenry, describing him as a “mock minister,” and used his recent appointment against him.

Unfortunately Wayne died on December 15, 1796 while at Fort Erie and, like a true soldier, requested burial at the foot of the flagpole.  Mercifully, he did not know of the treachery Wilkinson planned for him, or at least no historical source references it.  When he learned of Wayne’s death, Wilkinson wisely withdrew his charges and McHenry easily granted his request.  Wilkinson now achieved his ambition and became the new commander-in-chief of the Army, his tenure as troubled as the man.

Wayne, like Patton, died before his laurels faded and without the spectacle of a public investigation.  Also like Patton, he revealed himself as a controversial and somewhat eccentric figure with many critics.  Both men proved themselves strict disciplinarians, accepting only the highest standards and military geniuses of their own right.  Perhaps the greatest endorsement of both men, soldiers who served with them bragged of this service for years afterward.  Unfortunately today few Americans know of the great service Wayne gave his country, both during the Revolution and the Indian war.

The Battle of Fallen Timbers did not solve all of America’s problems, but it did guarantee the young nation’s survival.  It further established the power and authority of the new constitutional government and thwarted the secessionist movements.  Through the use of military force, the nation defended its frontier settlements from the depredations of Indian raids.  It further ended the unhindered movement of foreign agents sowing mischief through American territory.  The victory also provided a measure of respect from those foreign nations, who previously sought our destruction.

Domestically, most Americans realized a new pride in their nation, and its new form of government.  While they still suspected the power of governments, they appreciated its power in defending them.  They further accepted the supremacy of federal law in regional and interstate differences, perhaps grudgingly, but they accepted it.

With the Indian threat subdued for the time, a tide of migration across the Appalachian Mountains almost tripled the population of the West.  The main road through the mountains from Bedford, Pennsylvania became a thickly settled major highway.  Pittsburgh became the “gateway to the Ohio Valley” and experienced good economic times from the increased value of land.  Hundreds of boats traveled the Ohio River in safety and settlers cleared both riverbanks without fear.  An economic boom transformed former frontier settlements like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Louisville into booming cities.

This economic boom benefited the entire country as western residents advertised in the East for “skilled tradesmen.”  With the promise of “work plenty, and good wages” these skilled workers developed the vast natural resources of the region.  Furthermore, within a few years western farmers developed the fertile land into a dominant agricultural region.  Eastern markets flourished from the western development as did the transportation industries, and all associated enterprises.

Therefore, Wayne’s victory at Fallen Timbers made the United States of America a united, politically solvent nation.  It furthermore created the conditions for economic solvency as well, and the US Treasury no longer sat empty.  July 4th marks the day when American leaders formalized their break with England, like when a somewhat naïve adolescent leaves a parent’s home.  August 20th marks when we made the world accept our independence, as when the adolescent earns the respect of adults.  The US proved itself capable of self-government, defending its citizens, establishing its sovereignty and meeting the challenges of a harsh world.

The Americans that lived in our new nation survived economic hard times, domestic disputes, a “war of terror,” foreign threats and an uncertain future.  Our military personnel of that time suffered immense hardships in a “foreign” land facing a competent, ruthless enemy.  They further faced administrative mismanagement, insurmountable logistical problems, political interference and dissensions among their leaders.  Furthermore, they recently experienced a devastating defeat in which about half of the force died a hideous death.  Yet more Americans volunteered, suffered the hardships and defeated this competent enemy in a quick, decisive victory.

I strongly recommend that we maintain July 4, 1776 as our national Independence Day and that we enthusiastically celebrate it.  However, I recommend that we celebrate August 20, 1794 as the day that our nation reached maturity and self-reliance.  Without the victory at Fallen Timbers the future growth of the US remains doubtful, and even its independence seemed at risk.  Wayne and his troops established America’s perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and deserve a place of respect in our history.

Today our history educators barely acknowledge the challenges faced by the newly independent United States of America.  Furthermore, it almost never mentions the individuals who met these challenges, and whose sacrifices overcame them, unless it disparages them.  Our failure at understanding these challenges does not prepare us for our current, and future, challenges.  These individuals bequeathed on us a promising national future and our challenge becomes maintaining that national promise for future generations.

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s