Last updated: February 22, 2021
The Frontier Moves West as Indians Lose Homeland
The Battle of Fallen Timbers was the culminating event that demonstrated the tenacity of the American people in their quest for western expansion and the struggle for dominance in the Old Northwest Territory. The events resulted in the dispossession of American Indian tribes and a loss of colonial territory for the British military and settlers.
The Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis National Historic Site is managed by Metroparks of the Toledo Area. It is also an Affiliated Unit of the National Park Service. The national historic site consists of three separate areas:
- The Fallen Timbers Battlefield, site of a 1794 battle between the United States military and a confederacy of American Indians backed by the British.
- The Fallen Timbers Monument, erected in 1929 to commemorate the battle.
- The site of Fort Miamis, a British fort used during the 1794 campaign and again in the War of 1812.
History & Culture
The 1783 Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War, but it contained a provision that allowed the British to remain in the Northwest Territory until the United States resolved a land issue with Native Americans, who had been British allies. The Chippewa, Ottawa, Pottawatomi, Shawnee, Delaware, Miami, and Wyandot tribes formed a federation to halt further U.S. incursions into their territory. After a stunning defeat of General Anthony St. Clair's American troops in 1791 by the Native American federation under Chief Little Turtle, George Washington put General Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War hero, in charge of the Legion of the United States. The subsequent Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 became the decisive point for resolving U.S. jurisdiction of the Old Northwest Territory.
The Battle of Fallen Timbers
On August 20, 1794, Maj. Gen. Anthony Wayne led troops of the Legion of the United States from their fort at Roche de Bout. The left wing and flanking militia from Kentucky crossed level but poorly drained land containing dense forest and underbrush. After a five-mile march, the mounted volunteers came upon a line of 1,100 Indian warriors from a confederation of Ohio and Great Lakes Indian tribes. The militia volunteers retreated around the legion's front guard. The front guard returned fire while retreating but eventually fled. The warriors closely pursued the soldiers of the front guard until a light infantry skirmish line forced the Indians to seek shelter amid timbers that had been felled a few years before by a tornado.The legion's right wing was under heavy fire from the concealed warriors, who broke down an effort to flank them from the river. The left flank of soldiers charged, inflicting heavy casualties on the Indians and driving them from the field. Wayne's scouts tracked the Indians to the mouth of Swan Creek, but they were not engaged. After regrouping his troops, Wayne held his position into the afternoon. With no Indian counter-attack, Wayne set up camp on high ground overlooking the foot of the rapids, within sight of Fort Miamis.In the following days Wayne's men returned to the battlefield to collect the wounded and equipment. Two officers and 15 to 17 soldiers were buried, but hard soil conditions deterred soldiers from burying more men. The entire legion marched back through the battlefield on August 23 as they returned to Roche de Bout.
The War of 1812
As a result of the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the Indians signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, which ceded strategic areas, including Detroit, and control of most of the river crossings in the Old Northwest Territory to the United States. This essentially guaranteed U.S. domination over the Indian tribes. The 1796 Jay Treaty formally ended the British presence in the Old Northwest Territory, and troops withdrew from Fort Miamis and the other forts. However, these treaties did not resolve the underlying issue. British naval power continued to dominate Lake Erie and the lower Maumee River, while the Americans controlled the interior. The War of 1812 finally settled the boundary and jurisdictional disputes. In 1813 General William Henry Harrison had Fort Meigs constructed as a winter encampment and supply base for the U.S. Army on the south bank of the Maumee River, at present-day Perrysburg, Ohio. In the spring of 1813 the British landed troops and artillery at Fort Miamis; while the fort was too deteriorated to be reoccupied, the British camped at the site and used it as a base of operations. The Indians who gathered in support of the British were led by the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. An army of British soldiers and Indians attacked Fort Meigs in April 1813, but the Americans held firm, and the attackers withdrew in early May.
During this battle, Tecumseh is credited with saving the lives of American soldiers caught in an ambush. In July, the Indians persuaded the British to attack again, but this attack also failed. Britain's failure to drive the Americans from the region convinced Harrison to go on the offensive. In October 1813, Harrison defeated a joint English and Indian army at the Battle of the Thames. British occupation of the American Northwest ended as a result, and with the death of Tecumseh in the battle, hopes of building an Indian confederation ended.The Treaty of Ghent in 1815 ended the war, the British withdrew from American Territory, and Fort Meigs was abandoned.
The British, with the support of the Indian Confederation, had constructed Fort Miamis in spring 1794 to hold the Maumee Valley and stop Wayne's advances towards Detroit. It also afforded the British additional means to solidify Indian support against the U.S. settlers moving into the Ohio Territory. The fort consisted of four bastions surrounded by a 25-foot-deep trench lined with rows of stakes. The British also placed 14 cannon in the fort to thwart any attackers. Despite the promise from the British that the fort would offer protection to the Indians, warriors retreating to the fort were not allowed to enter and instead had to proceed to the mouth of Swan Creek. After the battle, General Wayne felt that Fort Miamis was too strong to be forced, and he returned to Roche de Bout.
General 'Mad' Anthony Wayne was the commander of the legion of the United States at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. He was born in Pennsylvania on January 1, 1745. After growing up in Waynesborough, Pennsylvania Anthony Wayne was commissioned a colonel and assisted General Benedict Arnold in his retreat from Quebec. He held various positions with the Continental Army and even shared the long winter of 1777 - 1778 at Valley Forge with General George Washington. Wayne was recalled as a major general by Washington in 1792 to lead the Legion of the United States against the Native American forces in Ohio and Indiana. Wayne's troops defeated the Native Americans at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which led to the Wayne's Treaty of Greenville in 1795. This opened the Northwest Territory to white settlement. A year later 'Mad' Anthony Wayne died on December 15, 1796.
Michikinikwa or Little Turtle was born in 1752 near Fort Wayne in Little Turtle Village. As a young warrior, he participated in defense of his village in 1780. He later led a small confederation of American Indian tribes in defeating federal army forces in 1790 and 1791. Michikinikwa urged people to seek peace prior to the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, where his forces were defeated by Anthony Wayne. He later died in Fort Wayne on July 14, 1812.
Other partners of Michikinikwa during the Battle of Fallen Timbers were Tecumseh, Chief Blue Jacket and Chief Bukongahelas. Tecumseh was one of the most famous leaders during the resistance, but refused to sign the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.