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|Battle of Fallen Timbers|
|Part of the Northwest Indian War|
An 1896 depiction of the battle from Harper's Magazine
|Commanders and leaders|
(including native scouts)
(including 1 British company)
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Fallen Timbers (August 20, 1794) was the final battle of the Northwest Indian War, a struggle between Native American tribes affiliated with the Western Confederacy, including support from the British led by Captain Alexander McKillop, against the United States for control of the Northwest Territory (an area north of the Ohio River, east of the Mississippi River, and southwest of the Great Lakes). This land had been ceded to the United States in accordance with the Treaty of Paris (1783), but the Native Americans (who had not been party to the treaty) refused to comply with the treaty and relinquish control. British army bases were maintained there to support their Native allies. This ultimately led to the American offensive and subsequent British-Indian withdrawal from the territory altogether following the Treaty of Greenville. The battle, which was a decisive victory for the United States, ended major hostilities in the region until Tecumseh's War and the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.
The Ohio River boundary line established by Britain in the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix recognized certain lands as belonging to the Native American nations. After the American Revolution, however, the United States government maintained the Native American nations no longer owned the Ohio lands, since in an article in the Treaty of Paris of 1783 Britain agreed to cede to the United States the lands owned by the indigenous nations. The Native Americans involved rejected the idea of the British or Americans to dispose of their tribal lands without their consent. They had no representation at the Paris Treaty negotiations, had not signed the treaty, and refused to recognize the British give-away of their land. As American settlers began moving into the Ohio Country, the Native Americans viewed them as unwelcome intruders. The United States government, on the other hand, insisted it had the right to occupy the lands, since it had been gained in battle and was agreed to by the treaty with Britain.
The Western Confederacy, an alliance of Native American nations, was formed to defend their traditional lands. The confederacy achieved several victories over poorly led United States military forces in 1790 and 1791, alarming the administration of President George Washington. Washington understood that the settlers were to blame for much of the violence. Nevertheless, he took steps to defeat the alliance as the conflict became more serious. In 1792, Washington ordered Revolutionary War hero General "Mad" Anthony Wayne to build and lead a new army to crush resistance to American settlement in the Ohio country. Wayne realized that the previous campaigns had failed because of poor training and a lack of discipline. Peace negotiations were undertaken in the summer of 1793, which meant he had time to build and train his army.
Shawnee war chief Blue Jacket and Delaware (Lenape) leader Buckongahelas, encouraged by their previous victories and hoping for continued British support, argued for a return to the Treaty of Fort Stanwix of 1768. They rejected the subsequent treaties awarding the lands north of the Ohio River to the United States, since they had never signed them. A faction led by the influential Mohawk leader Joseph Brant attempted to negotiate a peaceful compromise, but Blue Jacket would accept nothing less than everything north of the Ohio River, which the United States refused to accept. The American government found itself fighting a war over Ohio under the direction of Secretary of War Henry Knox.
Matters came to a head in what became known as Little Turtle's War (1790-1794). As more American settlers moved into the eastern part of the area following its division under the Land Ordinance of 1785, the Native Americans retreated westward. The Miami chieftain Michikinikwa (Little Turtle) led a confederation of tribes against ill-conceived expeditions led by General Josiah Harmar in 1790 and General Arthur St. Clair in 1791, defeating both incursions. Harmar's and St. Clair's armies consisted mainly of untrained militia, frontiersmen with rifles but little training or discipline. The green soldiers often broke ranks and ran when confronted by Native American warriors.
In late August 1794, Little Turtle and his Shawnee ally, Weyapiersenwah (Blue Jacket), faced a new U.S. Army, including a core of nearly 5,000 professionals trained and led by General "Mad" Anthony Wayne. Wayne had spent the better part of two years turning his soldiers into professionals.
Wayne's new army, the Legion of the United States, marched north from Fort Washington in Cincinnati in 1793, building a line of forts along the way. Wayne commanded about 2,000 men, with Choctaw and Chickasaw men serving as his scouts.
Blue Jacket took a defensive position along the Maumee River, not far from present-day Toledo, Ohio, where a stand of trees (the "fallen timbers") had been blown down by a recent storm. They thought the trees would slow the advance of Wayne's Legion. Fort Miami, a nearby British outpost on American soil, had supplied the Native American confederacy with provisions. The Native American forces, numbering about 1,500, were composed of Blue Jacket's Shawnees, Buckongahelas's Delawares, Miamis led by Little Turtle, Wyandots led by Roundhead (Wyandot), Ojibwas, Ottawas led by Turkey Foot, Potawatomis, Mingos, and a British company of Canadian militiamen under Captain Alexander McKillop.
The battle ended fairly quickly. Wayne's soldiers closed and pressed the attack with a bayonet charge. His cavalry outflanked Blue Jacket's warriors, who were easily routed. The Indian warriors fled towards Fort Miami but were surprised to find the gates closed against them. Major William Campbell, the British commander of the fort, refused to assist them, unwilling to start a war with the United States. Wayne's army had won a decisive victory. The soldiers spent several days destroying the nearby Native American villages and crops, then retreated. Wayne's army had lost 33 men and had about 100 wounded. They reported that they had found 30-40 dead warriors.Alexander McKee of the British Indian Department reported that the Indian confederacy lost 19 warriors killed, including Chief Turkey Foot of the Ottawa. 6 white men fighting on the Native American side were also killed, and Chiefs Egushaway and Little Otter of the Ottawa were wounded.
The Battle of Fallen Timbers had ramifications that stretched all the way to Europe. News of the American victory helped negotiator John Jay secure a treaty with the British that promised British withdrawal from the frontier forts--securing the area for the Americans. The Treaty of Greenville, negotiated between Wayne and Little Turtle the following year, secured most of what is now Ohio for American settlement. The victory reduced fears of frontiersmen about Native American raids and secured the area's allegiance to the United States. From a long-term perspective, the Battle of Fallen Timbers secured American access to the western Great Lakes and the western Ohio River valley, giving farmers in the area access to international markets for their produce. The conclusion of a treaty between the British and Americans also helped to spur the signing of Pinckney's Treaty with Spain, as the Spanish feared that the United States and Great Britain would collude to take Spanish territory. Pinckney's Treaty delineated the United States-Spain border and gave the United States the right to export goods via New Orleans, which controlled the trade of the Mississippi River. Though hostilities with Native Americans would continue in the Old Southwest, the Northwest would remain largely peaceful until the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe.
Before withdrawing from the area, Wayne began the construction of a line of forts along the Maumee River, from its mouth at present-day Toledo, Ohio to its origins in today's Indiana. Wayne then returned to Fort Presque Isle (present day Erie, Pennsylvania), where he died in 1796. The last of these forts along the Maumee was named Fort Wayne in his honor. The fort eventually developed into the modern city of Fort Wayne. Behind this line of forts, white settlers moved into the Ohio country, leading to the admission of the state of Ohio in 1803. Tecumseh, a young Shawnee veteran of Fallen Timbers who refused to sign the Greenville Treaty, would renew American Indian resistance in the years ahead.
On September 14, 1929, the United States Post Office Department issued a stamp commemorating the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The post office issued a series of stamps referred to as the 'Two Cent Reds' by collectors, issued to commemorate the 150th Anniversaries of the many events that occurred during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and to honor those who were there.
For 200 years, the site of the Battle of Fallen Timbers was thought to be on the floodplain on the banks of the Maumee River, based upon documentation such as the map above and to the right (location of Fallen Timbers Monument). Dr. G. Michael Pratt, an anthropologist and faculty member at Heidelberg University (Ohio), correctly surmised the battlefield was 1/4 mile above the floodplain after considering documentation that described a ravine. The City of Toledo owned the area which was desirable for development. Although the City of Toledo initially refused archaeological exploration, in 1995 and 2001, Pratt was able to conduct archaeological surveys, which relied primarily on metal detection, which revealed musket balls, pieces of muskets, uniform buttons and a bayonet, confirming that major fighting had taken place at the site.
Because of Pratt's archaeological work and advocacy the Fallen Timbers Preservation Commission, the land was granted National Historic Site status in 1999. A federal grant allowed the Metroparks of the Toledo Area to purchase the land where the artifacts were found in 2001, and the site was developed into a park in affiliation with the National Park Service.
The Ohio Historical Society maintains a small park at the site originally believed to have the main fighting (similar historic picture above and right). The site that features the Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument, honoring both Major General Anthony Wayne and his army and Little Turtle and his warriors. Additionally, there are plaques describing the Battle of Fallen Timbers and honoring the several Indian tribes that participated. The main monument has tributes inscribed on each of its four sides honoring in turn, Wayne, the fallen soldiers, Little Turtle, and his Indian warriors. The park is located near Maumee in Lucas County. Turkey Foot Rock, marking the death place of Turkey Foot, is also at the site.