St. Clair's Defeat

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Little Turtle.jpg
Portrait of LittleTurtle, also known as Mich-I-kin-I-Qua, a war chief of the Miami Tribe, ca. 1790-1812. Little Turtle and Shawnee chief Tecumseh led the Miami and Shawnee people to resist white settlers in the western part of Ohio. They successfully defeated United States soldiers led by Josiah Harmar in October 1790 and soldiers led by Arthur St. Clair in 1791. An attack on Fort Recovery failed in 1794 and Little Turtle wanted to negotiate with the settlers. Other chiefs wanted to continue fighting. The Native Americans lost at the Battle of Fallen Timbers and in 1795 they signed the Treaty of Greenville ceding most of Ohio to the settlers.

St. Clair's Defeat was a major confrontation between the armed forces of the United States and the Native Americans of the Northwest Territory. It was the worst defeat of the United States Army at the hands of Native Americans.

To protect settlers and to force the Indians to abide by the Treaty of Fort Harmar, Arthur St. Clair, the governor of the Northwest Territory, ordered the construction of forts in what is now western Ohio. St. Clair moved against the Indians living near present-day Ft. Wayne Indiana, in September 1791. His men left Fort Washington, near Cincinnati, on September 17. The men marched twenty miles in two days and then built Fort Hamilton. St. Clair's army then advanced forty-five miles northward, where his men built Fort Jefferson. Leading primarily untrained militiamen, St. Clair faced problems with desertion from the beginning of his campaign. Although it was still early fall, his men faced cold temperatures, rain and snowfall. St. Clair also had a difficult time keeping his soldiers supplied with food. His men became demoralized. Despite these problems, St. Clair continued to advance against the Miami Indians. By November 3, his men had arrived on the banks of the Wabash River, near some of the Miami villages.

Little Turtle led his warriors against the Americans on the morning of November 4. Many of the militiamen under St. Clair immediately fled. St. Clair led the regular soldiers in a bayonet charge. St. Clair had two horses shot out from under him. Several bullets passed through his clothing and one took off a lock of his hair. The Indians surrounded the Americans camp. After three hours of fighting, the remaining American soldiers fought through the Indians and began a lengthy retreat. The survivors reached Fort Jefferson late that afternoon and evening. With limited quantities of food and supplies at Fort Jefferson, St. Clair ordered his forces to Fort Washington. Of the 1,400 men who served under St. Clair, 623 soldiers were killed and another 258 wounded. One of the survivors stated, "The ground was literally covered with the dead." The Indians had soundly defeated St. Clair's army.

President George Washington demanded that St. Clair resign from the army. St. Clair did so on April 7, 1792, but remained governor of the Northwest Territory. He still faced problems with the natives. In 1794, Washington dispatched General Anthony Wayne to succeed where St. Clair had failed. Wayne defeated the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in August 1794. In 1795, most natives in modern-day Ohio signed the Treaty of Greeneville, relinquishing all of their land holdings in Ohio except what is now the northwestern corner of the state. [[Category:{$topic}]]