Monday, August 1, 2011
Indiana Native Americans: Kekionga (Fort Wayne, Indiana) and the Miami Indians Seat of Power
We have now to consider those Indian tribes and confederacies, which at the close of the Revolutionary war, inhabited the northwest territory.
Chief among them were the Wyandots, Miamis, Shawnees, Delawares, Ottawas, Chippewas and Potawatomi. These were the seven tribes known in after years as the "western confederacy," who fought so long and bitterly against the government of the United States, and who were at last conquered by the arms and genius of General Anthony Wayne in the year 1794.
The Ottawas, Chippewas and Potawatomi formed a sort of loose confederacy known as the Three Fires, and Massas, a Chippewa chief, so referred to them at the Treaty of Greenville.
The Miamis, the most powerful of the confederates, were subdivided into the Eel Rivers, the Weas, and the Piankeshaws. The Kickapoos, a small tribe which lived on the Sangamon, and the Vermilion of the Wabash, were associated generally with the Potawatomi, and were always the allies of the English. The Winnebagoes of Wisconsin were of the linguistic family of the Sioux; were [Pg 45]generally associated with the confederates against the Americans, and many of their distinguished warriors fought against General Harrison at Tippecanoe. The decadent tribes known in early times as the Illinois, did not play a conspicuous part in the history of the northwest.
While the limits of the various tribes may not be fixed with precision, and the boundary lines were often confused, still there were well recognized portions of the northwest that were under the exclusive control of certain nations, and these nations were extremely jealous of their rights, as shown by the anger and resentment of the Miamis at what they termed as the encroachment of the Potawatomi at the Treaty of Fort Wayne, in 1809.
The Wyandots, for instance, were the incontestable owners of the country between the Cuyahoga and the Au Glaize, in the present state of Ohio, their dominion extending as far south as the divide between the waters of the Sandusky river and the Scioto, and embracing the southern shore of Lake Erie from Maumee Bay, to the mouth of the Cuyahoga. Large numbers of them were also along the northern shores of Lake Erie, in Canada. Their territory at one time probably extended much farther south toward the Ohio, touching the lands of the Miamis on the west, but certainly embracing parts of the Muskingum country, to which they had invited the ancient Delawares, respectfully addressed by them as "grandfathers." Intermingled with the Wyandots south and west of Lake Erie were scattered bands of Ottawas, [Pg 46]but they were tenants of the soil by sufferance, and not as of right.
The Miamis have been described by General William Henry Harrison as the most extensive landowners in the northwest. He stands on record as saying that: "Their territory embraced all of Ohio, west of the Scioto; all of Indiana, and that part of Illinois, south of the Fox river and Wisconsin, on which frontier they were intermingled with the Kickapoos and some other small tribes." Harrison may have been right as to the ancient and original bounds of this tribe, but Little Turtle, their most famous chieftain, said at the Treaty of Greenville, in 1795: "It is well known by all my brothers present, that my fore-father kindled the first fire at Detroit; from thence, he extended his lines to the head-water of Scioto; from thence, to its mouth; from thence, down the Ohio, to the mouth of the Wabash, and from thence to Chicago, on Lake Michigan." The truth is, that the ancient demesne of the Miamis was much curtailed by the irruption of three tribes from the north in about the year 1765, the Sacs and Foxes, the Kickapoos and the Potawatomi, who conquered the old remnants of the Illinois tribes in the buffalo prairies and divided the country among themselves.
Says Hiram Beckwith, in speaking of the Potawatomi: "Always on friendly terms with the Kickapoos, with whom they lived in mixed villages, they joined the latter and the Sacs and Foxes in the exterminating war upon the Illinois tribes, and afterwards obtained their allotment of the despoiled domain." The Potawatomi [Pg 47]advancing by sheer force of numbers, rather than by conquest, finally appropriated a large part of the lands in the present state of Indiana, north of the Wabash, commingling with the Kickapoos at the south and west, and advancing their camps as far down as Pine creek. The Miamis were loud in their remonstrances against this trespassing, and denounced the Potawatomi as squatters, "never having had any lands of their own, and being mere intruders upon the prior estate of others," but the Potawatomi were not dispossessed and were afterwards parties to all treaties with the United States government for the sale and disposal of said lands. The Miamis also lost a part of their lands on the lower west side of the Wabash to the Kickapoos. Pressing eastward from the neighborhood of Peoria, the Kickapoos established themselves on the Vermilion, where they had a village on both sides of that river at its confluence with the main stream. They were, says Beckwith, "Greatly attached to the Vermilion and its tributaries, and Governor Harrison found it a difficult task to reconcile them to ceding it away."
To the last, however, the Miamis remained the undisputed lords and masters of most of the territory watered by the two Miamis of the Ohio, and by the Wabash and its tributaries down to the Ohio. The great head and center of their power was at Kekionga (now Fort Wayne), always referred to by President Washington as "the Miami Village." It was a pleasant situation in the heart of the great northwest, at the junction where the swift flowing St. Joseph and the more gentle stream of the Saint Marys, formed the headwaters of the [Pg 48]Maumee. On the eastern side of the St. Joseph was the town of Pecan, a head chief of the Miami, and the same savage who had supplied deer and buffalo meat for Brigadier General Harmar on his mission to Kaskaskia in 1787. Pecan was an uncle of the famous chief, Peshewah, or Jean Baptiste Richardville, who after the death of Little Turtle in 1812, became the head chief of the Miami tribe, and was reputed to be the richest Indian in North America. The southern end of this town was near the point of juncture of the St. Marys and St. Joseph, and the village extended north along what is now known as Lakeside, in the present city of Fort Wayne, a pleasant drive revealing at times the rippling waters of the river to the west. To the south of this village lay the Indian gardens, and east of the gardens the extensive corn fields and meadows. On the northern side of the town more corn fields were found, and north and west of it extended the forests. The banks of the Maumee just below the junction, and south of this old village, are quite high and steep, and along the northern side now runs the beautiful avenue known as Edgewater. Traveling down Edgewater to the eastward one comes to a great boulder with a brass tablet on it. You are at Harmar's Ford, and at the exact point where the regulars crossed the river just after sunrise of October 22nd, 1790, to attack the Indians. Here it was that Major John Wyllys fell leading the charge. Along the southern bank of the Maumee the ground is elevated and crowning these elevations were the forests again. It was through these forests that Hardin's forces approached the fatal battlefield.
[Pg 49]On the western bank of the St. Joseph was a mixed village of French and Indians known as LeGris' Town, and it in turn was surrounded by more corn fields. LeGris was also an important chief of the Miamis, and named in Henry Hay's journal as a brother-in-law of the Little Turtle. He signed the treaty of Greenville under the Indian name of Na-goh-quan-gogh. Directly south of this village ran the St. Marys, and to the west of it was a small wooded creek known as Spy Run.
To these villages in August, 1765, came George Croghan on his way to Detroit. He describes the carrying-place between the Wabash and the Maumee systems to be about nine miles in length, "but not above half that length in freshes." He reported navigation for bateaux and canoes between the carrying place and Ouiatenon as very difficult during the dry season of the year on account of many rapids and rifts; but during the high-water time the journey could be easily made in three days. He says the distance by water was two hundred forty miles and by land about two hundred ten. Within a mile of Miamitown he was met by a delegation of the Miami chiefs and immediately after his entrance into the village the British flag was raised. He describes the villages as consisting of about forty or fifty cabins, besides nine or ten French houses. He entertained no very high opinion of the French and describes them as refugees from Detroit, spiriting up the Indians against the English. He describes the surrounding country as pleasant, well watered, and having a rich soil.
Recently another account of these villages has been [Pg 50]given to the world by the publication of the diary of one Henry Hay, who, as a representative of certain merchants and traders of Detroit, visited these villages in the winter of 1789-1790, while they were still under the influence of the British agents at Detroit, although the soil was within the jurisdiction of the United States government. It was then one of the most important trading places for the Indian tribes in the northwest, and in close proximity to the great council grounds of the northwestern Indian confederacy in the valley of the Maumee. Le Gris, was there, and Jean Baptiste Richardville, then a youth; also the Little Turtle himself, about to become the most famous and wily strategist of his day and time.
Let there be no mistaken glamour cast about this scene. Already the disintegration of the Indian power was setting in. The traders among them, both English and French, seem to have been a depraved, drunken crew, trying to get all they could "by foul play or otherwise," and traducing each other's goods by the circulation of evil reports. Hay says, "I cannot term it in a better manner than calling it a rascally scrambling trade." Winter came on and the leading chiefs and their followers went into the woods to kill game. They had nothing in reserve to live upon, and in a hard season their women and children would have suffered. The French residents here seem to have been a gay, rollicking set, playing flutes and fiddles, dancing and playing cards, and generally going home drunk from every social gathering. The few English among them were no better, and we have the edifying spectacle of one giving away his daughter to [Pg 51]another over a bottle of rum. The mightiest chieftains, including Le Gris, did not scruple to beg for whiskey, and parties of warriors were arriving from the Ohio river and Kentucky, with the scalps of white men dangling at their belts.
There was still a considerable activity at this place, however, in the fur trade, and the English thought it well worth holding. Raccoon, deer, bear, beaver, and otter skins were being brought in, although the season was not favorable during which Hay sojourned there on account of it being an open winter. Constant communication was kept up with Detroit on the one hand and the Petit Piconne (Tippecanoe) and Ouiatenon on the other. La Fountaine, Antoine LaSalle, and other famous French traders of that day were doing a thriving business in the lower Indian country.
That these Miami villages were also of great strategical value from the military standpoint, and that this fact was well known to President Washington, has already been mentioned. The French early established themselves there, and later the English, and when the Americans after the Revolution took dominion over the northwest and found it necessary to conquer the tribes of the Wabash and their allies, one of the first moves of the United States government was to attack the villages at this place, break up the line of their communication with the British at Detroit, and overawe the Miamis by the establishment of a strong military post.
To the last, the Miamis clung to their old carrying place. Wayne insisted at the peace with the Miamis [Pg 52]and their allies, at Greenville, Ohio, in 1795, that a tract six miles square around the newly established post at Fort Wayne should be ceded to the United States, together with "one piece two miles square on the Wabash river, at the end of the portage from the Miami of the Lake (Maumee), and about eight miles westward from Fort Wayne." This proposal was stoutly resisted by the Little Turtle, who among other things said: "The next place you pointed to, was the Little River, and you said you wanted two miles square at that place. This is a request that our fathers, the French or British, never made of us; it was always ours. This carrying place has heretofore proved, in a great degree, the subsistence of your younger brothers. That place has brought to us in the course of one day, the amount of one hundred dollars. Let us both own this place and enjoy in common the advantage it affords." Despite this argument, however, Wayne prevailed, and the control of Kekionga and the portage passed to the Federal government; that ancient Kekionga described by Little Turtle as "the Miami village, that glorious gate, which your younger brothers had the happiness to own, and through which all the good words of our chiefs had to pass from the north to the south, and from the east to the west."
Returning to the Potawatomi, it will be seen that this tribe, which originally came from the neighborhood of Green Bay, was probably from about the middle of the eighteenth century, in possession of most of the country from the Milwaukee river in Wisconsin, around the south shore of Lake Michigan, to Grand River, "extending [Pg 53]southward over a large part of northern Illinois, east across Michigan to Lake Erie, and south in Indiana to the Wabash." The Sun, or Keesass, a Potawatomi of the Wabash, said at the treaty of Greenville, that his tribe was composed of three divisions; that of the river Huron, in Michigan, that of the St. Joseph of Lake Michigan, and the bands of the Wabash. In the year 1765, George Croghan, Indian agent of the British government, found the Potawatomi in villages on the north side of the Wabash at Ouiatenon, with a Kickapoo village in close proximity, while the Weas had a village on the south side of the river. This would indicate that the Potawatomi had already pushed the Miami tribe south of the Wabash at this place and had taken possession of the country.
Far away to the north and on both shores of Lake Superior, dwelt the Chippewas or Ojibways, famed for their physical strength and prowess and living in their conical wigwams, with poles stuck in the ground in a circle and covered over with birch bark and grass mats. The Jesuit Fathers early found them in possession of the Sault Ste. Marie, and when General Wayne at the treaty of Greenville, reserved the post of Michillimacinac, and certain lands on the main between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, Mash-i-pinash-i-wish, one of the principal Chippewa chieftains, voluntarily made the United States a present of the Island De Bois Blanc, at the eastern entrance of the straits of Mackinac, for their use and accommodation, and was highly complimented by the general for his generous gift. A reference to the maps of Thomas G. Bradford, of 1838, shows the whole upper [Pg 54]peninsular of Michigan in the possession of the Chippewas, as well as the whole southern and western shores of Lake Superior, and a large portion of northern Wisconsin. One of their principal sources of food supply was wild rice, and the presence of this cereal, together with the plentiful supply of fish, probably accounts for their numbers and strength. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, they expelled the Foxes from northern Wisconsin, and later drove the fierce fighting Sioux beyond the Mississippi. They were the undisputed masters of a very extensive domain and held it with a strong and powerful hand. One of their chiefs proudly said to Wayne: "Your brothers' present, of the three fires, are gratified in seeing and hearing you; those who are at home will not experience that pleasure, until you come and live among us; you will then learn our title to that land." Though far removed from the theatre of the wars of the northwest, they, together with the Ottawas, early came under the British influence, and resisted the efforts of the United States to subdue the Miamis and their confederate tribes, fighting with the allies against General Harmar at the Miami towns, against St. Clair on the headwaters of the Wabash and against Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers on the 20th of August, 1794.
The rudest of all the tribes of the northwest were the Ottawas, those expert canoemen of the Great Lakes, known to the French as the "traders," because they carried on a large trade and commerce between the other tribes. They seem to have had their original home on Mantoulin Island, in Lake Huron, and on the north and [Pg 55]south shores of the Georgian Bay. Driven by terror of the Iroquois to the region west of Lake Michigan, they later returned to the vicinity of L'Arbe Croche, near the lower end of Lake Michigan, and from thence spread out in all directions. Consulting Bradford's map of 1838 again, the Ottawas are found in the whole northern end of the lower Michigan peninsula. Ottawa county, at the mouth of Grand river, would seem to indicate that at one time, their towns must have existed in that vicinity, and in fact their possessions are said to have extended as far down the eastern shore of Lake Michigan as the St. Joseph. To the south and east of these points "their villages alternated with those of their old allies, the Hurons, now called Wyandots, along the shore of Lake Erie from Detroit to the vicinity of Beaver creek, in Pennsylvania." They were parties with the Wyandots and Delawares and other tribes to the treaty of Fort Harmar, Ohio, at the mouth of Muskingum, in 1789, whereby the Wyandots ceded large tracts of land in the southern part of that state to the United States government, and were granted in turn the possession and occupancy of certain lands to the south of Lake Erie. The Ottawa title to any land in southern Ohio, however, is exceedingly doubtful, and they were probably admitted as parties to the above treaty in deference to their acknowledged overlords, the Wyandots. Their long intercourse with the latter tribe, in the present state of Ohio, who were probably the most chivalrous, brave and intelligent of all the tribes, seems to have softened their manners and rendered them less ferocious than formerly. Like the Chippewas, their warriors were of [Pg 56]fine physical mould, and Colonel William Stanley Hatch, an early historian of Ohio, in writing of the Shawnees, embraces the following reference to the Ottawas: "As I knew them, (i. e., the Shawnees), they were truly noble specimens of their race, universally of fine athletic forms, and light complexioned, none more so, and none appeared their equal, unless it was their tribal relatives, the Ottawas, who adjoined them. The warriors of these tribes were the finest looking Indians I ever saw, and were truly noble specimens of the human family." The leading warriors and chieftains of their tribe, however, were great lovers of strong liquor, and Pontiac, the greatest of all the Ottawas, was assassinated shortly after a drunken carousal, and while he was singing the grand medicine songs of his race.
But the wandering Ishmaelites of all the northwest tribes were the Shawnees. Cruel, crafty and treacherous, and allied always with the English, they took a leading part in all the ravages and depredations on the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia during the revolution and led expedition after expedition against the infant settlements of Kentucky, from the period of the first pioneers in 1775, until Wayne's victory in 1794. These were the Indians who kept Boone in captivity, made Simon Kenton run the gauntlet, stole thousands of horses in Kentucky, and who for years attacked the flatboats and keel boats that floated down the Ohio, torturing their captives by burning at the stake.
General William Henry Harrison, in speaking of the migrations of this tribe, says: "No fact, in relation to [Pg 57]the Indian tribes, who have resided on the northwest frontier for a century past, is better known, than that the Shawnees came from Florida and Georgia about the middle of the eighteenth century. They passed through Kentucky (along the Cumberland river) on their way to the Ohio. But that their passage was rather a rapid one, is proved by these circumstances. Black Hoof, their late principal chief (With whom I had been acquainted since the treaty of Greenville), was born in Florida, before the removal of his tribe. He died at Wapocconata, in this state, only three or four years ago. As I do not know his age, at the time of his leaving Florida, nor at his death, I am not able to fix with precision the date of emigration. But it is well known that they were at the town which still bears their name on the Ohio (Shawneetown, Ill.), a few miles below the mouth of the Wabash, some time before the commencement of the Revolutionary war; that they remained there some years before they removed to the Scioto, where they were found by Governor Dunmore, in the year 1774. That their removal from Florida was a matter of necessity, and their progress from thence, a flight, rather than a deliberate march, is evident from their appearance, when they presented themselves upon the Ohio, and claimed the protection of the Miamis. They are represented by the chiefs of the latter, as well as those of the Delawares, as supplicants for protection, not against the Iroquois, but against the Creeks and Seminoles, or some other southern tribes, who had driven them from Florida, and they are said to have been literally sans provat et sans culottes."
Drawing by Frank Morris
Location of the Indian Tribes of the NorthwestToList
[Pg 58]Later writers have mentioned that while they originally dwelt in the south, that one division of the tribe lived in South Carolina, while another and more numerous division lived along the Cumberland river, and had a large village near the present site of Nashville. The Cumberland river was known on the early maps preceding the Revolution as the Shawnee river, while the Tennessee was called the Cherokee river. This Cumberland division is said to have become engaged in war with both the Cherokees and Chickasaws, and to have fled to the north to receive the protection of the powerful nations of the Wabash.
Notwithstanding the magnanimous conduct of the Miamis, however, they, together with the Wyandots of Ohio, always regarded the Shawnees with suspicion and as trouble makers. The great chief of the Miamis told Antoine Gamelin at Kekionga, in April, 1790, when Gamelin was sent by the government to pacify the Wabash Indians, that the Miamis had incurred a bad name on account of mischief done along the Ohio, but that this was the work of the Shawnees, who, he said, had "a bad heart," and were the "perturbators of all the nations." To the articles of the treaty at Fort Harmar, in 1789, the following is appended: "That the Wyandots have laid claim to the lands that were granted to the Shawnees, (these lands were along the Miami, in Ohio), at the treaty held at the Miami, and have declared, that as the Shawnees have been so restless, and caused so much trouble, both to them and to the United States, if they will not now be at peace, they will dispossess them, and take the [Pg 59]country into their own hands; for that country is theirs of right, and the Shawnees are only living upon it by their permission."
From the recital of the above facts, it is evident that the Shawnees could never justly claim the ownership of any of the lands north of the Ohio. That, far from being the rightful sovereigns of the soil, they came to the valleys of the Miamis and Wyandots as refugees from a devastating war, and as supplicants for mercy and protection. This is recognized by the Quaker, Henry Harvey, who was partial to them, and for many years dwelt among them as a missionary. Harvey says that from the accounts of the various treaties to which they were parties, "they had been disinherited altogether, as far as related to the ownership of land anywhere." Yet from the lips of the most famous of all the Shawnees, came the false but specious reasoning that none of the tribes of the northwest, not even the Miamis who had received and sheltered them, had a right to alienate any of their lands without the common consent of all. "That no single tribe had the right to sell; that the power to sell was not vested in their chiefs, but must be the act of the warriors in council assembled of all the tribes, as the land belonged to all—no portion of it to any single tribe." This doctrine of communistic ownership was advocated by Tecumseh in the face of all the conquests of the Iroquois, in the face of the claim of the Wyandots to much of the domain of the present state of Ohio, and in the face of all of Little Turtle's claims to the Maumee and the Wabash valleys, founded on long and undisputed [Pg 60]occupancy and possession. It never had any authority, either in fact or in history, and moreover, lacked the great and saving grace of originality. For if any Indian was the author of the doctrine that no single tribe of Indians had the power to alienate their soil, without the consent of all the other tribes, the first Indian to clearly state that proposition was Joseph Brant of the Mohawk nation, and Brant was clearly inspired by the British, at the hands of whom he was a pensioner.
The savage warriors of the northwest were not formidable in numbers, but they were terrible in their ferocity, their knowledge of woodcraft, and their cunning strategy. General Harrison says that for a decade prior to the treaty of Greenville, the allied tribes could not at any time have brought into the field over three thousand warriors. This statement is corroborated by Colonel James Smith, who had an intimate knowledge of the Wyandots and other tribes, and who says: "I am of the opinion that from Braddock's war, until the present time (1799), there never was more than three thousand Indians at any time, in arms against us, west of Fort Pitt, and frequently not half that number."
Constant warfare with the colonies and the Kentucky and Virginia hunting shirt men had greatly reduced their numbers, but above all the terrible ravages of smallpox, the insidious effects flowing from the use of intoxicants, and the spread of venereal disorders among them, which latter diseases they had no means of combating, had carried away thousands and reduced the ranks of their valiant armies.
[Pg 61]Woe to the general, however, who lightly estimated their fighting qualities, or thought that these "rude and undisciplined" savages, as they were sometimes called, could be met and overpowered by the tactics of the armies of Europe or America! They were, says Harrison, "a body of the finest light troops in the world," and this opinion is corroborated by Theodore Roosevelt, who had some first hand knowledge of Indian fighters. The Wyandots and Miamis, especially, as well as other western bands, taught the males of their tribes the arts of war from their earliest youth. When old enough to bear arms, they were disciplined to act in concert, to obey punctually all commands of their war chiefs, and cheerfully unite to put them into immediate execution. Each warrior was taught to observe carefully the motion of his right hand companion, so as to communicate any sudden movement or command from the right to the left, Thus advancing in perfect accord, they could march stealthily and abreast through the thick woods and underbrush, in scattered order, without losing the conformation of their ranks or creating disorder. These maneuvers could be executed slowly or as fast as the warriors could run. They were also disciplined to form a circle, a semi-circle or a hollow square. They used the circle to surround their enemies, the semi-circle if the enemy had a stream on one side or in the rear, and the hollow square in case of sudden attack, when they were in danger of being surrounded. By forming a square and taking to trees, they put their faces to the enemy in every direction and lessened the danger of being shot from behind objects on either side.
[Pg 62]The principal sachem of the village was seldom the war chief in charge of an expedition. War chiefs were selected with an eye solely to their skill and ability; to entrust the care and direction of an army to an inexperienced leader was unheard of. One man, however, was never trusted with the absolute command of an army. A general council of the principal officers was held, and a plan concerted for an attack. Such a council was held before the battle of Fallen Timbers, in which Blue Jacket, of the Shawnees, Little Turtle of the Miamis, and other celebrated leaders participated. The plan thus concerted in the council was scrupulously carried out. It was the duty of the war chief to animate his warriors by speeches and orations before the battle. During the battle he directed their movements by pre-arranged signals or a shout or yell, and thus ordered the advance or retreat. The warriors who crept through the long grass of the swamp lands at Tippecanoe to attack the army of Harrison, were directed by the rattling of dried deer hoofs.
It was a part of the tactics practiced by the war chiefs to inflict the greatest possible damage upon the enemy, with the loss of as few of their own men as possible. They were never to bring on an attack without some considerable advantage, "or without what appeared to them the sure prospect of victory," If, after commencing an engagement, it became apparent that they could not win the conflict without a great sacrifice of men, they generally abandoned it, and waited for a more favorable opportunity. This was not the result of cowardice, for Harrison says that their bravery and valor were [Pg 63]unquestioned. It may have been largely the result of a savage superstition not to force the decrees of Fate. Says Harrison: "It may be fairly considered as having its source in that particular temperament of mind, which they often manifested, of not pressing fortune under any sinister circumstances, but patiently waiting until the chances of a successful issue appeared to be favorable." When the Great Spirit was not angry, he would again favor his children. One tribe among the warriors of the Northwest, however, were taught from their earliest youth never to retreat; to regard "submission to an enemy as the lowest degradation," and to "consider anything that had the appearance of an acknowledgment of the superiority of an enemy as disgraceful." These were the Wyandots, the acknowledged superiors in the northwestern confederacy. "In the battle of the Miami Rapids of thirteen chiefs of that tribe, who were present, only one survived, and he badly wounded."
The well known policy of the savages to ambush or outflank their enemies was well known to Washington. He warned St. Clair of this terrible danger in the Indian country, but his advice went unheeded. A pre-concerted attack might occur on the front ranks of an advancing column, and almost immediately spread to the flanks. This occurred at Braddock's defeat. The glittering army of redcoats, so much admired by Washington, with drums beating and flags flying, forded the Monongahela and ascended the banks of the river between two hidden ravines. Suddenly they were greeted by a terrible fire on the front ranks, which almost immediately spread to [Pg 64]the right flank, and then followed a horrible massacre of huddled troops, who fired volleys of musketry at an invisible foe, and then miserably perished. When St. Clair started his ill-fated march upon the Miami towns in 1791, his movements were observed every instant of time by the silent scouts and runners of the Miamis. Camping on the banks of the upper Wabash, and foolishly posting his militia far in the front, he suddenly saw them driven back in confusion upon his regulars, his lines broken by attacks on both flanks, and his artillery silenced to the last gun. The attack was so well planned, so sudden and so furious, that nothing remained but precipitate and disastrous retreat. Out of an army consisting of fourteen hundred men and eighty-six officers, eight hundred and ninety men and sixteen officers were killed and wounded. St. Clair believed that he had been "overpowered by numbers," and so reported to the government. "It was alleged by the officers," says Judge Burnet, "that the Indians far outnumbered the American troops. That conclusion was drawn, in part, from the fact that they outflanked and attacked the American lines with great force, and at the same time on every side." The truth is, that St. Clair was completely outwitted by the admirable cunning and strategy of Little Turtle, the Miami, who concerted the plan of attack, and directed its operation. Nor is it at all likely that the Indians had a superior force. They often attacked superior numbers, if they enjoyed the better fighting position, or could take advantage of an ambush or surprise. A very respectable authority, who has the endorsement of historians, says: [Pg 65]"There was an army of Indians composed of Miamis, Potawatomis, Ottowas, Chippewas, Wyandots, Delawares, Shawnees, and a few Mingoes and Cherokees, amounting in all to eleven hundred and thirty-three, that attacked and defeated General St. Clair on the 4th of November, 1791. Each nation was commanded by their own chiefs, all of whom were governed by the Little Turtle, who made the arrangements for the action, and commenced the attack with the Miamis, who were under his immediate command. The Indians had thirty killed and died with their wounds the day of the action and fifty wounded."
Of such formidable mould, were the redmen of the northwest, who went into battle stripped to the skin, and with bodies painted with horrible stripes of vermilion. So disastrous had been the result of their victories over the armies of Harmar and St. Clair, and so illy equipped with men, money and supplies was the infant government of the United States, that immediately prior to the campaign of General Anthony Wayne, a military conference was held between President Washington, General Knox, Secretary of War, and General Wayne, to devise a system of military tactics that should thereafter control in the conduct of all wars against the Indians of the northwest.
The development of this system of tactics has been outlined by General William Henry Harrison, who was an aide to Wayne, in a personal letter to Mann Butler, one of the historians of Kentucky.
It was determined that in all future contests with the tribes, that the troops employed should, when in the [Pg 66]Indian country, be marched in such manner as that the order of march could be immediately converted, by simple evolution, into an order of battle. In other words, that the troops while actually in the line of march, could be almost instantly formed in lines of battle. This was to prevent any sudden or unexpected attack, and this was always liable to occur in the thickly wooded country. The troops were also taught to march in open formation, each file to be more than an arm's length from those on the right and left. The old European system of fighting men shoulder to shoulder was entirely impracticable in a wilderness of woods, for it invited too great a slaughter, interfered with the movement of the troops, and shortened the lines. The great object of the Indian tactics was always to flank their enemy, therefore an extension of the lines was highly desirable when entering into action. "In fighting Indians, there was no shock to be given or received, and a very open order was therefore attended with two very great advantages; it more than doubled the length of the lines, and in charging, which was an essential part of the system, it gave more facility to get through the obstacles which an action in the woods presented."
A system was also developed whereby, in case the Indians attempted to flank the enemy, they were met by a succession of fresh troops coming from the rear to extend the lines. When encamped, the troops were to assume the form of a hollow square, with the baggage and cavalry, and sometimes the light infantry and riflemen, in the center. A rampart of logs was to be placed around [Pg 67]the camp, to prevent a sudden night attack, and to give the troops time to get under arms, but this rampart was not intended as a means of defense in daylight. "To defeat Indians by regular troops, the charge must be relied upon; the fatality of a contest at long shot, with their accurate aim and facility of covering themselves, was mournfully exhibited in the defeats of Braddock and St. Clair. General Wayne used no patrols, no picket guards. In Indian warfare they would always be cut off; and if that were not the case, they would afford no additional security to the army, as Indians do not require roads to enable them to advance upon an enemy. For the same reason (that they would be killed or taken), patrols were rejected, and reliance for safety was entirely placed upon keeping the army always ready for action. In connection with this system for constant preparation, there was only a chain of sentinels around the camps, furnished by the camp guards, who were placed within supporting distance."
The outline and adoption of this system of tactics shows that both Washington and Anthony Wayne were fully aware of the dangerous nature of their savage adversaries; that they had a wholesome respect for both their woodcraft and military discipline, and that they regarded the conquest of the western wilderness as a task requiring great circumspection and military genius.