Fort Jefferson after St. Ctair’s Defeat — part 2


By Friends of Ft. Jefferson

After St. Clair’s defeat, the Native Tribes gathered to explore how to proceed dealing with the United States invading their lands without permission. The United States wanted to hold peace treaties. The Native Americans knew the papers, writings, belts and messages drawn up by the elder brothers of the United States did not work out well for the Indians.

The Natives emphatically stated that no peace negotiations would take place until Fort Jefferson and the newly built Ft. St. Clair were abandoned.

The Indian Nations had to decide whether to attack these forts head on. They could not reach a unanimous decision. They feared the loss of life would be too great. They did not like the fort cannons! They decided on a plan to lay siege on these places and attack any supply train, scouts, hunters, or messengers that attempted to reach or support the forts. We will examine many of these attacks later in more detail.

Meanwhile, President Washington, reeling from the effects of two of his armies (Harmar and St. Clair), being defeated at the hands of the Indians aboVe the Ohio River, felt the necessity of building another army to force the Indians into negotiations. Initially, Washington asked Anthony Wayne to head the army and said, “This time we must succeed”. Wayne refused. Washington could not find a suitable leader and again asked Wayne to form the army. Wayne agreed, but only if he could manage the army his way and demanded that he get respect and credit for the success. Wayne knew the reason for St. Clair’s defeat was lack of training, bad equipment, insufficient supplies, and lack of discipline. Washington agreed.

There was no standing army at that time. Defense of the country was left to each state’s militia. Wayne had been promised he could raise 4,000 men for the army. Henry Knox, secretary of defense, recommended that Wayne organize the army as a legion. Wayne agreed and set out to raise the troops and get them all appropriate uniforms. He started his training camp down stream from Pittsburgh in an isolated area where the men would not be distracted and could concentrate on their training. The men learned discipline and army maneuvers. His legion had four sub legions, each trained as a separate fighting unit.

It was late in the year and Washington was eager to see Wayne begin his campaign. He sent a message to Wayne and Wayne answered, “The men are not ready yet”. Time went by, it was now two years after St. Claire’s defeat, and worried Washington suggested to Knox, “Why don’t you ask Wayne when he will start the campaign. I don’t think he liked it when I asked.” Knox asked Wayne and was surprised by the answer. Wayne stated, “The men are ready, there is not a Quaker in the lot(bunch)”.

Part 3 will continue with Indian attacks on Fort Jefferson and harassment of the troops.

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