Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 2
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: April 1939 Volume 2 Number 2, Pages 44–50
Wayne's last great service for his country
This is a story of events that happened in Ohio and Indiana. Why then does it appear in the history quarterly of Tredyffrin-Easttown which is primarily a magazine of local history? Because in studying this countryside, the student finds that it is linked up with many of the events on the larger stage of our national development. The story about to be told is the story of one of the great westward expansion phases of our national history. Right through the heart of our country-side here runs the Conestoga Road, the first, and perhaps one of the greatest highways to the West. Along this road moved hundreds of thousands of immigrants to settle the West. Another name given the covered wagon was the Conestoga wagon because of the thousands of them seen moving along this road. And again, the principal actor in this scene of westward expansion we are about to describe was Anthony Wayne, whose home is here in Easttown, nearby the Conestoga Road.
By the treaty of Paris in 1783 at the close of the Revolutionary War, the northern boundary of the United States ran from the forty-fifth parallel (about sixty miles below Montreal) along the middle of the St. Lawrence River and through the middle of the Great Lakes. Also by the terms of the treaty, the western boundary was the Mississippi River.
Ever since the defeat of the French and Indians twenty years before in the year 1763, the colonists had been looking forward to expanding across the Alleghenies into the rich Ohio country. Pioneer Daniel Boone had been one of the first to travel over into that country. He gave such glowing descriptions of it that the people thought that he had been "touched" by his hardships. Washington was interested in that country. He prophesied that Fort Detroit, now the city of Detroit, would some day be the center of the new nation. Today it is, in a way, the center of the great industrial area of the United States. Washington was very much interested throughout his life in developing a practical route of communication and trade between this great Ohio country and the eastern sea-board. His idea was to use the Potomac River, and by a series of canals, to connect with the Ohio. He, of course, had no idea of railroads and thought only in terms of water transportation. This would have meant that the Potomac would have been the great highway to the West and that the western trade would have come down the Potomac River to the Chesapeake on the sea-board. Perhaps this is why Washington advocated placing the city of Washington, the national capital, where it is. He probably thought that in so locating it, it would be on the great traffic artery between the East and the West.
But, in 1763, at the close of the French and Indian war, the British government drew a line along the tops of the Allegheny Mountains and forbade immigration west of that. The British government proposed that the great Ohio country be kept a game preserve where the Indians could trap animals for the fur trade with the North Western Fur Trading Company which had its headquarters at Montreal. It has been suggested that the king and some members of parliament were very much interested in the North Western Fur Trading Company. This restraint on the colonists angered them very much. Particularly did it arouse the antagonism of the frontiersmen. It was one of the causes of the Revolutionary War.
However, by the Treaty of 1783, at the close of the Revolutionary War, that great land was ours. Provisions were immediately made for its settlement. In 1785, the country which now composes the state of Ohio was surveyed in part and opened for sale and settlement. The survey was one which divided the country into sections, 640 acres per section. It was the beginning of the United States Geographical Survey which eventually surveyed the whole country to the Pacific. The land was soon offered for sale at $1.25 per acre and thousands of settlers flocked into Ohio, moving outward aLong the Ohio River and extending to the north.
The Indians living in that country were very much opposed to the settlement by the Americans and soon their resentment found expression in the Indian raids on the new frontier. Cattle were driven off, pioneers were killed, and the homes burned.
Meantime in 1787, the national congress organized the country north of the Ohio and west of Pennsylvania (now including tho states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin) into a territory and provided a territorial form of government to function until such time as population became sufficiently large to mark off states and set up state governments. The ordinance providing for this territorial organization was known as the Ordinance of 1787. The territory was named the North West Territory. In this ordinance many precedents were set, which were to be followed by the organization of other territories later as we expanded westward. One of the provisions of the ordinance was that there should be religious liberty in the new territory. This was a year before the Constitution was adopted, which secured religious liberty to all of the United States. Another measure provided that there should be no slavery in the North West Territory. Another measure provided that the center section, 640 acres, of each township, should be set aside for public school purposes. Enough of the land was to be kept for school grounds, and the balance sold for sufficient money to erect the school building. In some ways this can be considered tho beginning of our great public school system. The American people were very much proud of this new experiment in government in which the basic American principles of equality before the law, and the inalienable rights to life, liberty and property were so fully recognized.
So, when the whole experiment was threatened by the Indians, and the lives and property of the settlers was being destroyed, knowing that the first duty of a government is to protect the lives and property of its citizens, efforts were immediately made by the new government to function as it should in their defense.
Now the Indian attacks became very severe. The Indians were encouraged in their activities against tho Americans by the British fur traders. The British had not given up the fur trading posts along the southern part of the Great Lakes as they should have done according to the treaty of 1783. They claimed some violations of tho treaty by the Americans, which justified them in violating the phase of the treaty regarding the surrender of the North West forts. So, Fort Niagara, Fort Detroit, and many others on the American side of the line were still in the hands of the English. (See map Page 46). The English went further. About this time (1791) they built a fort on the Maumee River, a short distance up the river from its mouth.
Along the Maumee River were many villages of the Miami Indians. The English claimed that it was an outpost for defense of Fort Detroit. It was probably Just to encourage the Miami in their resistance to the American settlement. These forts were fur trading posts of the North Western Fur Trading Company. That company wished to keep the North West Territory as a game preserve and hoped to regain it from the American people.
General Harmar was the first man to move against the Indians in protection of the lives and property of the citizens of the new territory. He punished the Indians to some extent, but met with some reverses and retired back to the Ohio River. Next, General St. Clair, the first governor of the territory undertook to defeat the Indians in the year 1791. By this time the new Constitution of the United States had been adopted and George Washington, the first president, was in office. Washington told General St. Clair, when he sent him out to his post in the West, to be very alert in the defense of the settlers, and when he moved against the Indians to be very careful not to be ambushed. The national administration was very anxious that no attacks be made on the illegally held British posts, because negotiations were on foot at the time with Great Britain, by which Washington hoped to gain those posts by peaceable means. St. Clair was given an army of national troops with which he set out from Fort Washington, now Cincinnati, Ohio, and moved up into the Indian country. The troops were of poor quality and poorly drilled. St. Clair was surprised by the Indians, badly defeated, and only about one-third of his men escaped from the field uninjured. Washington was greatly chagrined at this defeat. It was a severe blow to the military prestige of the new nation, as well as a severe blow to the hopes of the people in regard to westward expansion. The pioneers fled out of the Ohio country back to the river.
So, at this time of national emergency, Washington called on Anthony Wayne. Wayne had been living in Georgia where he had received a large plantation from his admirers in that state, in return for his services in driving out the British and the Creek Indians. Washington appointed Anthony Wayne, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army, with the rank of Major General. The United States regular army was reorganized. It was to consist of one major general, four brigadier generals, their staffs, and necessary commissioned officers and five thousand, one hundred twenty, noncommissioned officers and privates. The army was to be called the Legion of the United States. It was subdivided into four sub-legions. Washington instructed Wayne to proceed to the North West Territory and make a treaty with the Indians which would guarantee the lives and property of the American citizens, and, to use force if necessary. He further cautioned Wayne not to attack any of the English posts if he could avoid it; but, if they were in his way and prevented the carrying out of Washington's policy of establishing a treaty with the Indians, that he was to reduce the British forts. Meantime the British had been very high-handed in encouraging the Indians. The governor of Canada, Hutchinson, had issued a statement which was circulated among the Indians that within one year the British would be at war with the Americans. This greatly incited the Indians. There is no doubt but that the English were supplying the Indians with arms, though probably in return for furs brought in. Brant, the great Indian chieftain, was friendly with the British and very much opposed to the American colonists.
Wayne went to Pittsburgh where a force of twenty-five hundred men was assembled. He moved down the river about twenty-five miles and set up a camp. He called the camp Legionairre. (See Map) He spent the winter in drill. He found his troops to be in very poor condition. They were mostly men from the eastern sea-board cities, rather worthless characters. It took long drilling before Wayne could make them into reliable soldiers. But Wayne, remembering his old lessons from Baron von Steuben at Valley Forge, persisted in drilling and drilling. The marksmanship of the men greatly improved. The maneuvers and formations were perfected. The morale was raised until the soldiers were veterans to the extent of the realization that their greatest safety was in keeping together and in driving their charges home.
In May, '93, Wayne moved his forces down the river to Fort Washington (Cincinnati). In the early fall, Wayne moved up to Greenville, about seventy-five miles north of Cincinnati. This is the present town of Greenville in Ohio. There he spent the winter of '93 - '94, continuing the drilling of the army, and building a fort which he called Fort Greenville.
It is interesting to note that when Wayne was appointed to the command of the Legion, he accepted on one condition. It was that it should not be put into action until it was recruited to full size and had been well drilled. The more one studies Valley Forge, the more one is impressed with the fact that the Revolutionary army was made over there, and infused with a new morale. The drilling and reorganization under Von Steuben's inspection resulted in an army that was never again to know defeat by equal numbers, and at the close of the war was to drive before it superior numbers of British with the British soldiers' own favorite weapon, the bayonet. In the West, Wayne taught well the old lesson taught by Von Steuben at Valley Forge.
It is also interesting to note that in Wayne's Legion was young Captain Clark who ten years later was to be the colleague of Lewis, on the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition. Before that expedition set out, it spent a winter in camp at drill until the men were a well organized unit. So the Valley Forge lesson was passed on.
During all the time that he had been in the West, Wayne kept up unrelenting efforts to treat with the Indians. However, he met with no success.
During this campaign, Wayne displayed great ability as a military leader.
"His correspondence at this time was most extensive, and on this point especially it is most instructive, 'His letters,' as one of his biographers says, 'when exposed to the most critical inspection, display extraordinary clearness of mind and felicity of expression, strength and soundness of judgment, admirable knowledge of the duties of his profession, of human nature, of the people of the frontiers whom he was to defend, and of the foes whom he was commissioned to subdue.'" *
* "Major-General Anthony Wayne and the Pennsylvania Line in the Revolutionary War." By Charles J. Stille.
In June, '94, Wayne was joined by sixteen hundred mounted militia from Kentucky. He then began a slow and cautious march northward into the Indian country. He had a good corps of skilled Indian fighters, of about thirty men whom he used as spies. They brought in very valuable information. As he marched he had his cavalry screen thrown out miles in front and miles on either flank,
thus making a surprise impossible. At night, he kept his patrols well out. He marched very much like a Roman legion, fortifying his camp. Wayne was a very ardent student of Caesar and many of his military ideas were based on the Roman legion and its maneuvers.
The Indians hovered around the out-skirts of Wayne's army, retreating slowly before him. But they never found an opportunity to surprise or ambush him. So they gave Anthony Wayne another to add to his series of nicknames. It was "the Chief that never Sleeps". Wayne moved north to the junction of the Maumee and Auglaise Rivers and there built a fort which he called Fort Defiance (at the present town of Defiance in Ohio.) Using this fort as a base, Wayne moved down the Maumee River toward the British Fort Miami, the Indians retreating before him. About two miles south of the British fort, the Indians halted and formed a battle line. They formed their lines in the protection of a piece of forest, that had been swept by a tornado. It was called the Fallen Timbers. The fallen trees made a natural fortification of which the Indians availed themselves. Their line extended at right angles to the river. Wayne moved to the attack as follows. The legion made a direct frontal charge. It was formed in two lines, with an unusually large distance between them. The legion cavalry was on the right and its assignment was turning the Indian left. The mounted militia was ordered to make a slight detour and then make an attack on the Indian right flank. The plan of battle worked well. The front line of the legion charged the position of the Indians, received their fire, charged home, delivered their fire at close range and followed it up with a bayonet charge. That broke the Indians, who fled. Simultaneously, the legion cavalry struck hard on the Indian left and rolled it back. Cavalry and Infantry drove the Indians through the fallen timbers and past the fort, completely routed. The second line of the legion never got into it. The battle, lasting but one-half hour, was over before the mounted militia could strike the Indian right.
Wayne's men burned all the Indian villages and even the property of the British Indian agent McKee to within pistol shot of the fort. The British commander protested in a note to Wayne. Wayne replied that he would carry out his orders, regardless of the fort. However, the fort was not molested. But British authority and influence was completely destroyed. The Indians lost confidence in the English and even went so far as to accuse them of treachery, for not coming to their aid.
Wayne then retired slowly back up the Maumee River to Fort Defiance. He advanced west to the source of the Maumee and erected a fort, calling if Fort Wayne. It is now the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
In the following year, 1795, Wayne made the treaty of Greenville with the Indians, establishing the boundary between the Americans and Indians, as shown on the map.
In 1795, the Jay Treaty was signed between England and United States. One of the provisions was the surrender of all forts south of the 1783 treaty line to the Americans. Wayne's vigorous occupation of the country made the English realize that their dream of gaining the north-west Ohio country back to England was a delusion.
After the treaty of Greenville, Wayne returned to Philadelphia, after an absence of three years. He received the enthusiastic plaudits of the nation. He returned to the Ohio country authorized to accept the surrender of the British posts as specified in the Jay treaty. He visited each post and accepted its surrender from the hand of the British Commander.
So, the great Ohio Country was saved to us from the danger of English imperialism. So the gateway was opened and made safe for westward expansion which was to continue across prairie, desert, and Rocky Mountains, until the nation had a frontage on the Pacific similar to that on the Atlantic.
The last fort that Wayne had to visit to receive the surrender was Fort Erie. It was on the site of the present city of Erie, Pennsylvania. Wayne's health was not good at this time. In fact, it was poor during the whole campaign. He suffered from gout, an hereditary ailment. It was aggravated by his wounds. He had had a musketball in his leg since Yorktown. The recent campaign had been very hard. The day of the battle of the Fallen Timbers, he was suffering so severely from the gout that he had to be lifted into the saddle. Wayne was now fifty-two years of age. The long horseback ride to Philadelphia and return had been very hard on him. On the way to Fort Erie, the last of the forts that he was to take over, a very severe attack of illness prostrated him. This time the illness extended above his legs to the waist line, vital organs were affected. He was lying in his tent looking out on the drill ground and across the lake, when told that he was dying. He said, "Boys, bury me out under the flag pole, on the drill grounds there." They did. He was buried on the shore of Lake Erie at the gateway he had opened to the West.
Today the visitor can see his burial site, covered by a block house of frontier type. And as the visitor standing there, at his grave side, looks up and sees the wide expanse of Lake Erie reaching to the western horizon, and lets his mind's eye travel on and on past the horizon to the Great American West, he may wish that Wayne's body had been left there in so appropriate a setting, instead of being disinterred at a subsequent date and buried at Old St. Davids in Radnor, near Philadelphia.
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