Ft. Jefferson after St. Clair’s defeat – Part 4


By Friends of Ft. Jefferson

GREENVILLE — The Native Americans felt they were disrespected and insulted by the audacity of the United States for invading their territory and building forts without first asking permission from the rightful owners of their land. Fort St. Clair was built the 18th of March 1792, about halfway between Ft. Hamilton and Ft. Jefferson. The Indians made it clear that there would be no talks of treaties until Fort Jefferson and Fort St. Clair were abandoned. The siege of Ft. Jefferson continued.

On June 24, 1792, an unfortunate incident occurred while 14 men were cutting hay for the horses at Ft. Jefferson. Reports of the engagement differ. General Wilkinson was on his way to Ft. Jefferson with supplies when the attack took place. Wilkinson did investigate the affair and sent this report to defense secretary Henry Knox. “The party employed in cutting and securing the hay, consisted of a Serjeant (sic), corporal, and twelve, and for their protection I annexed-a serjt (sic) and twelve mounted infantry-of these the serjeant (sic), one infantry, and two horsemen were certainly killed. The corporal and eleven infantry are missing.” Wilkinson also concluded that the enemy number was between eighty and one hundred. “One of these was dressed in scarlet-the rest of the party wore clean white shirts.” (Note: Henry Knox, Sec. of War, later speculated the Indian in scarlet may have been Simon Girty).

From this account it seems a total of 16 men were killed or captured.

A letter dated 23 July 1792, from Capt. Doyle, commanding at Michilimackinac, states ”The Grand Sable has just returned from the Miamis. He surprised a party of Americans consisting of an officer and 14 men, close to Ft. Jefferson, who were all taken. There was some disagreement among the Indians about the distribution of the prisoners. Occasioned, 10 of the unfortunate men with their officer to be put to death, four survivors were given to the and are at Chippewa Village 30 leagues from here, who I have sent for, and have every reason to suppose will be given up to me, when they will be sent to Detroit.”

Another letter from John Harris-Fort Washington, July 15 1792, states, “On the morning of the eighth, Indians broke the enclosure which held the cattle at Fort Jefferson and drove off all 15 head not more than 60 yards from the Garrison.”

“Two men, one taken on Harmar’s expedition, name is Schaeffer, and William Dever taken on the 4th last, come into Fort Jefferson.” In their interrogation, they stated, “The Indians will not treat unless Fort Jefferson and Ft. St. Clair are given up.” They say, “The Indians now kill every man who comes to them whether as Flags or desertion.” They say Indians have gathered several times to attack Ft. Jefferson but have always been prevented by tne backwardness of some Nation.

Meanwhile, the United States had started building another army under the command of Maj. General Anthony Wayne. Wayne would only accept command if he could run the campaign his way. He demanded respect, discipline, and a well-supplied trained army, nothing less.

Part 5 will follow with more confrontations.

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