The Dilemma—Can Invalids at Fort Jefferson Hold the Fort?


GREENVILLE — On Nov. 4, 1791, St. Clair’s army was in shambles from the defeat on the Wabash. They were scattered and in full retreat. Weapons and packs were discarded as they ran and the soldiers did what they could to help the wounded back to Fort Jefferson.

Almost no rations were available at the fort. After a two-hour rest, General St. Clair and the soldiers that were able moved on to Ft. Washington leaving 40 wounded men and about 100 soldiers to hold the fort. The next four days wounded men from the battle straggled into Fort Jefferson. One man made it back even though he had been scalped. The only food available was a small amount of flour and part of a dead pack horse to eat. There was a supply of rations promised on the way, but no way to confirm it was still coming. Fortunately, enough rations arrived to feed the soldiers until the end of December.

With only six days of rations left on Dec. 24, evacuation of the fort was contemplated. At that moment, a large supply of rations and a reinforcement arrived. Fort Jefferson had not been forgotten.

Note: All correspondence between army posts was difficult and was done by messenger. For example, it took a month to relay the bad news to President Washington that the worst defeat ever handed to a United States Army, had just taken place at the hands of the Indians on the Wabash.

On the 1st of February 1792, then in charge General Wilkinson brought 150 Federal troops and about 150 State Militia to Fort Jefferson. Soon after that, on the 18th of March, 200 men began building Ft. St. Clair (present day Eaton) halfway between Ft. Hamilton and Ft. Jefferson which made it easier to support Ft. Jefferson. About this time work began at Ft. Jefferson to add an addition onto the fort to hold rations, supplies, and food for the animals. Fort Jefferson was becoming more secure but was still under continual siege by the Indians. The Native tribes discussed attacking Fort Jefferson but felt the cost to their lives would be too great. It became their goal to harass anyone that left the fort. The supply chain, messengers, mowing parties and hunters were always at risk. Occasional raids were carried out to steal cattle or pack horses.

It was a long two years for the U.S. soldiers to hold onto Ft. Jefferson. General Anthony Wayne eventually moved his large army six miles north of Fort Jefferson and decided to build his army headquarters on a creek he then called the Southwest branch of the Miami River. Later he stated, “In full confidence that the fame of this place will at one day furnish a page in the history of America, I have called it Greene Ville?’ —- A. Wayne Nov. 17, 1793. Wayne named it after his close friend Nathaniel Greene.

The next in this series of articles will deal with the reasons that St. Clair’s army did not have a chance for victory.

No posts to display