While the United States was busy trying to relieve the First Nations of their lands peacefully and on their terms General Wayne was busy preparing for their “just” war. He moved steadily west establishing Forts Washington and Recovery along the way. They would serve his supply lines during the upcoming battles. In October 1793 he reached the southwest branch of the Great Miami River where he camped for the winter. The Confederacy made two successful raids on his supply lines that autumn then returned to the Glaize for the winter.
Meanwhile, Britain had gone to war with France in Europe. Sir Guy Carleton, Canada’s new Governor, was sure that the United States would side with France and this would mean war in North America. He met with a delegation from the Confederacy in Quebec and reiterated his feelings on a coming war with the Americans. He informed them that the boundary line “must be drawn by the Warriors.” He then ordered Fort Miami to be re-established on the Maumee River just north of the Glaize as well as strengthening fortifications on a small island at its mouth.
Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe visited the Glaize in April 1794 and informed the council that Britain would soon be at war with the United States and they would reassert jurisdiction over lands south of the Great Lakes and tear up the Treaty of Fort Harmer. Several years before the Americans talked some minor chiefs and other warriors into signing that treaty turning all lands formerly held by the British over to the United States of America for a paltry $ 9,000 and no mention of an “Indian” border. Meanwhile, Indian Agents McKee and Elliott encouraged their Shawnee relatives with the likelihood of British military support. All of this was very encouraging indeed.
General Wayne had his army of well-trained and disciplined men. They numbered 3,500 including 1,500 Kentucky Militiamen. This army was not the lax group of regulars and volunteers the Confederacy had defeated at the Wabash and Maumee Valley. Neither was the Confederacy the same fighting force of three years earlier. Many warriors had left to return to their homelands in order to provide for their families.
The American Army left their winter quarters and moved toward the Glaize. Little Turtle saw the handwriting on the wall. H advised the council “do not engage ‘the General that never sleeps’ but instead sue for peace”, but the young men would have none of it. When he could not convince them he abdicated his leadership to the Shawnee War Chief Blue Jacket and retired.
Blue Jacket moved to cut Wayne’s supply lines. He had force of 1,200 warriors when he neared Fort Recovery which was poorly defended. Half of his warriors were from the Three Fires Confederacy and they wanted to attack and destroy Fort Recovery for psychological reasons. Another defeat for Wayne to think about. But Blue Jacket was against this plan. The day was wasted taking pot shots at the fort and they never cut off Wayne’s supply line. Blue Jacket’s warriors returned to the Glaize deeply divided.
In the first week of August an American deserter arrived at the Glaize and informed Blue Jacket of Wayne’s near arrival. He had moved more quickly than anticipated and had caught them off guard. Many the Confederacy’s 1,500 warriors were off hunting to supplement their food supply. Others were at Fort Miami picking up supplies of food and ammunition. Blue Jacket ordered the villages at the Glaize to evacuate. Approximately 500 warriors gathered up-river to make a defence at place known as Fallen Timbers. It was an area where a recent tornado had knocked down a great number of trees.
Out-numbered six to one the warriors fought bravely. They established a line of defence and when they were overcome by the disciplined advance of American bayonets they retreated only to establish a new line. This happened over and over again until they reached the closed gates of Fort Miami where they received the shock of their lives!
The fort was commanded by Major William Campbell and he only had a small garrison under his charge. He was duty bound to protect the fort if it was attacked but not to assist the King’s allies. If he opened the gates to the pleading warriors he risked not only his own life but the lives of the soldiers under him. Not only that but there would be a good chance of plunging England into a war with the United States, a war they could not afford being fully extended in Europe. He made his decision quickly. He peered over the stockade at the frantic warriors and said “I cannot let you in! You are painted too much my children!” They had no choice but to flee down the Maumee in full retreat.
It was not the defeat at Fallen Timbers that broke the confederacy. They could always regroup to fight another day. It was instead the utter betrayal of their father the British they did not know how to get over. It also established the United States as a bona fied nation because it defeated Britain’s most important ally along the frontier. One chronicler wrote that it was the most important battle ever won by the United States because it was the war with the First Nations’ Confederacy that would make or break the fledging nation. It also showed just how trustworthy the British could be as an ally. Years later Blue Jacket would complain “It was then that we saw that the British dealt treacherously with us”.
NEXT WEEK: A New Round of Land Cessions!