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Battle of Fallen Timbers

Fought on August 20, 1794, the Battle of Fallen Timbers is considered by many historians to have been one of the most significant battles ever fought on American soil. The battle climaxed a military campaign that pitted the United States Army against the most successful and stable Native American army ever assembled to resist U.S. expansion. Had the United States not won the battle, it is quite possible that much of what we now know as Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan would be part of Canada instead of the United States.

Although the Treaty of Paris in 1783 ceded the region northwest of the Ohio River to the United States, the British were allowed to remain in the area until the United States resolved land issues with the Native Americans. The British took advantage of this provision to keep their border forts and to incite the Indians to attack the American settlers. What may have been the strongest confederation of native tribes to ever stand against the United States was assembled in an effort to prevent American expansion into the Northwest Territory. Chippewa, Ottawa, Pottawatomi, Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo, and Wyandot tribes united under the leadership of Little Turtle, a chief of the Miami tribe. This confederation put together a long string of victories against U.S. forces between 1790 and 1794 and appeared to be on the brink of actually keeping the United States out of the region.

In 1792 the United States sent Revolutionary War hero General Anthony Wayne to the area with orders to negotiate with the Indians. Over the better part of the next two years Wayne trained his men and established forts along the Ohio River. Meanwhile he and his superiors continued negotiations with Little Turtle and his allies, hoping to reach a peaceful conclusion to the conflict. But in June 1794 Little Turtle led some 2,000 Indians against Fort Recovery (Ohio). Although Little Turtle lost the battle and was forced to relinquish his leadership, Wayne decided it was time for negotiations to end and force to begin.

In August 1794 Wayne established Fort Defiance (now Defiance, Ohio). He sent one more letter to four tribes with a final offer to negotiate, but received no positive responses. He then led about 2,000 soldiers to the mouth of the Maumee River (just south of present-day Toledo), where about 1,300 Indians had assembled. The site was called Fallen Timbers because dozens of trees had been felled by a tornado, creating a natural fortress. Wayne waited three days, until the Indians had exhausted their food supplies and had dispatched a hunting party to obtain game. He then attacked the remaining Indians, defeating them in a two-hour battle. Casualties totaled 50 killed and 100 wounded between the two sides, but the Indians were completely routed and forced to flee. The fleeing Indians raced toward Fort Miami, where the British had promised protection, but they were turned away because the British did not want to risk war with the United States.

After the battle Wayne and his army marched along both sides of the Maumee River, destroying Indian villages and crops along the way. He eventually reached the confluence of three rivers, where he established Fort Wayne (in present-day Indiana), which was dedicated on October 22, 1794. Peace with the Indian tribes was finally achieved with the Treaty of Greenville, negotiated by Wayne and signed on August 3, 1795.

signing the Treaty of Greenville

Wayne's victory at Fallen Timbers forced the British to abandon their outposts, and the Indians to relinquish most of their Ohio lands to the United States.

SEE ALSO
Indiana
Michigan
Canada
Little Turtle
Anthony Wayne

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The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: Local History and Description >> Old Northwest >> Ohio

This page was last updated on May 20, 2017.