Affairs on the Indian frontier still continued in an unsettled state. The commissioners appointed to negotiate with the hostile Northwestern tribes, accompanied by the missionary Heckewelder and by a deputation of Quakers, as the Indians had desired, on arriving at Fort Niagara, had been kindly received by Colonel Simcoe, commander, during the Revolutionary war, of a famous partizan corps in the British army, and just appointed governor of the newly erected province of Upper Canada. Embarking at Fort Erie, they landed presently at the entrance of the River Detroit, where they were met by a deputation from a preliminary council of the confederate Indians, then in session at the Maumee Rapids. These deputies desired to know if "their brothers the Bostonians," for so they designated the commissioners, were empowered to consent to the Ohio as a boundary. The commissioners replied that this was impossible, as settlements had been commenced north of the Ohio, which could not be abandoned; but they offered, if the Indians would confirm the limits established by the treaties of Forts McIntosh and Harmer, a larger present, in money and goods, than ever had been given at any one time since the white men sat foot in the country. They were authorized, in fact, to offer $50,000 down, and, in addition, annual presents forever to the amount of $10,000 a year. This answer of the commissioners having been reported to the Indian council, the question of accepting it was debated with a great deal of vehemence. The result was exprest in a written document sent to the commissioners, in which it was contended that the treaties of Forts McIntosh and Harmer, having been made by a few unauthorized chiefs, could not be considered as valid. As to confirming those treaties for money, that was of no value to them, while the land would afford means of subsistence to themselves and their children. This same money might better be employed in persuading the settlers north of the Ohio to remove. Since it was refused to concede the Ohio as a boundary, the negotiation was declared to be at an end.
The commissioners, much chagrined at this abrupt termination of their mission, without their having been admitted into the presence of the Indian council, ascribed the result to British influence. Very probably the inclination of the Indians was seconded by the advice of the Canadian traders and the British agents. Simcoe, however, had expressly denied having advised the Indians not to surrender any of their lands. He had also offered to act as mediator, but this offer the instructions of the commissioners would not allow them to accept.
Pending this negotiation, Wayne's troops had remained encamped in the vicinity of Cincinnati, where they suffered not a little from an epidemic influenza. Apprehending that the failure of the negotiation would be followed by an immediate attack upon the frontiers, Wayne marched with his army, and, leaving garrisons behind him at the intermediate posts, established himself, with twenty-six hundred regulars, in a fortified camp at Greenville, six miles in advance of Fort Jefferson. Here he was promptly joined by a thousand Kentucky volunteers, under General Scott,2 raised by dint of great exertions, but who arrived too late to be of any essential aid. These volunteers were soon dismissed; but, to serve as a protection to the frontier, and to be ready for ulterior operations in the spring, the army remained encamped at Greenville during the winter. As all the supplies had to be carried some seventy miles through the woods on pack-horses, the support of the troops in that position was an expensive affair. A part of the legionary cavalry, stationed for the winter in Kentucky, was placed at the disposal of Governor Shelby, for the suppression of any attempts, should such be made, to raise men, under French commissions, for an expedition against Louisianaa subject as to which information and orders had been sent to General Wayne and Governor St. Clair, as well as to Governor Shelby. . . .
Wayne had commenced operations early in the summer by pushing forward a strong detachment from his camp at Greenville to occupy St. Clair's battle-field, twenty-four miles in advance. Fort Recovery, built upon this spot, was presently attacked by a large body of Indians, who were repulsed, however, after a two days' fight. But the Indians were not entirely unsuccessful, since they carried off three hundred pack-mules, and inflicted a loss of fifty men upon an escort of three times that number, which had just guarded a provision train to the fort, and lay encamped outside. Meanwhile, General Scott was employed in Kentucky in raising a body of mounted militia to reenforce Wayne's legion, which, garrisons deducted, did not much exceed two thousand effective men. Upon Scott's arrival with eleven hundred of these volunteers, Wayne advanced to the confluence of the Au Glaize and the Maumee. The Indians had expected the advance in another direction. Taken by surprize, they fled precipitately, and this "grand emporium" of the hostile tribes, as Wayne styled it, was gained without loss. Here were fields of corn, planted by the Indians, more extensive than any which Wayne had ever seen. The fertile margins of these beautiful rivers, for several miles above and below their junction, appeared one continued village. For the permanent occupation of this important district, a strong stockade was built, called Fort Defiance, and another, called Fort Adams, on the St. Mary's, as an intermediate post, to connect it with Fort Recovery. The main body of the Indians had retired down the Maumee about thirty miles, to the foot of the rapids, where the British had recently built a new fort. Wayne sent a messenger proposing to treat, to which the Indians replied by asking delay for ten days. On receiving this answer the army was at once put in motion.
Two days they marched down the Maumee; a third was spent in reconnoitering the enemy, who were found encamped in a bushy wood, their left protected by the rocky bank of the river. The position of the Indians having been ascertained, the advance was resumed in the same order as before, the right flank of the legion leaning on the river, one battalion of the mounted volunteers on the left, another in the rear, and a strong detachment in front, to give notice when the enemy were found. As soon as the Indian fire was heard, the legion was formed in two lines, in the midst of a thick wood, the ground being covered with old fallen timber,3 prostrated in some tornado, a position very favorable to the enemy, since the mounted volunteers could hardly act. The Indians were in three lines, extending from the river at right angles within supporting distance of each other. They seemed, from the weight of their fire, to be endeavoring to turn the left flank of the legion, whereupon Wayne ordered the second line into position on the left of the first. He also directed the mounted volunteers to attempt to gain the enemy's rear by a circuitous route, and Captain Campbell, with the legionary cavalry, to push in between the Indians and the river, the ground there being somewhat more open. Orders, simultaneously given, for the first line to start the enemy from his covert at the point of the bayonet, were obeyed with such alacrity that, before the other troops could get into position the Indians were completely routed.
Wayne lost a hundred and seven men in killed and wounded. Neither the loss nor the number of the Indians was ever ascertained. The Indian cornfields were ravaged close up to the British fort, and the establishment of McKee, the British Indian agent, was burned with the rest. It was the universal opinion in the army that the British had encouraged the Indians to fight. It was even believed that some of the militia from Detroit had been in the action; but that was utterly improbable. Some very tart correspondence passed between Wayne and the commander of the British fort, to whom a deserter had reported that Wayne intended to attack him, for which, indeed, the army was sufficiently ready had a good excuse and opportunity occurred.
Three days after the battle, Wayne fell back to Fort Defiance. The defenses were completed, intermediate posts were established, garrisons were left in Fort Defiance and Fort Recovery, and, after a very successful campaign of ninety days, during which he had marched three hundred miles along a road cut by the army, had gained a victory, driven the Indians from their principal settlement, destroyed their winter's provisions, and left a post in the heart of their country, Wayne returned with the legion into winter quarters at Greenville. The mounted volunteers, who had suffered severely from sickness, had been dismissed some time before.
1 From HiIdreth's "History of the United States." Edition of 1852. Published by Harper & Brothers. After the Revolution Wayne, the hero of Stony Point, became Commander-in-Chief of the army (1792), and departed for the West, where he built Fort Wayne, and, having defeated the Indians, negotiated the peace of 1795.
2 Not General Winfield Scott, who gained distinction in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, and commanded for a time in the Civil War. Winfield Scott was not born until 1784.
3 Called for this reason the Battle of the Fallen Timber.