The Battle of Fallen Timbers

Painting of the Battle of Fallen TimbersFollowing the end of the American Revolution, white settlers and land speculators began flooding into Ohio Country, causing conflict with the Indian tribes who lived there. The young American nation, under the leadership of President George Washington, attempted to suppress the native resistance. A coalition of tribes from the Ohio and Great Lakes Region destroyed two military expeditions sent against them. Encouraged by the defeat of the U.S. Forces, the British government sought to reassert their influence and built Fort Miamis in what was clearly U.S. territory.

Alarmed at the potential loss of the Northwest territory, Washington appointed Major General Anthony Wayne to raise and train a professional United States army. Wayne’s army, organized on the model of the Roman Legions, began moving north from Cincinnati in late 1793, building a series of supporting forts as they went. On August 10, 1794, the actions that became known as the Battle of Fallen Timbers occurred.

Ambush, Victory, and Betrayal

Leaving a force behind to guard their supplies at Roche De Boeuf, near current day Waterville, Ohio, Wayne moved forward to meet the enemy. After a five-mile march, a mounted militia unit on Wayne’s right flank encountered some of the estimated 1,100 Indian warriors waiting in ambush in an area where a tornado had torn down the trees. The militia came under heavy fire and were driven back. Initially, the legion’s front guard also began to fall back. Wayne’s regulars formed up and rallied. The regulars then pressed into the Indian line with fixed bayonets. After a period of intense close quarter fighting, the Indians were driven back. Wayne pursued the scattered Indians for several miles into what is now Maumee, Ohio. Wayne halted and regrouped his army and prepared for an Indian counterattack.

The Indians fell back to Fort Miamis and sought protection in the Fort. Fearing an international incident, the Commander at Fort Miamis barred the gates and refused to allow the Indians in. The Indians viewed this English action as a betrayal.

When the Indians did not counterattack, Wayne moved forward to Fort Miamis. Wayne and the fort commander, Colonel William Campbell, exchanged a series of tense letters and threats but avoided actual combat. After two days of taunting, the fort commander withdrew, burning the Indian cornfields and villages behind him.

The Treaty of Greenville

The battle left the Indian Coalition defeated and the English authority humiliated. The following summer representatives of the major tribes signed the treaty of Greenville, giving up most of the Ohio territory and much of their rights in the Great Lakes Region.

Painting of the 1795 Treaty of Greenville

The 1795 Treaty of Greenville

Legacy of the Battle

Though casualties were light (less than 100 dead on each side), the Battle of Fallen Timbers is considered one of the most decisive battles in American history. Many historians rank it below only Gettysburg and Yorktown in importance. By destroying the American Indian Alliance and putting an end to English claims on the Northwest territory, the battle secured the future states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio and sealed the fate of the native tribes living there.

Fort Miamis during the War of 1812

On May 5, 1813, during the siege of Fort Meigs, a force of Kentucky militia under the command of Colonel William Dudley were overwhelmed by a Native American and British force on the site of the current day Maumee Public Library. Survivors were stripped and marched to the site of Fort Miamis, which had fallen into ruin. Here some of the Indians began massacring the prisoners. According to survivors, Tecumseh arrived on the scene and forcibly stopped the massacre.

Though Tecumseh is remembered by historians as a great leader and warrior, it was his humane actions at Fort Miamis which contributed to his image in popular culture as a noble and merciful figure.

Notable Figures
from Fallen Timbers

As a pivotal event, the Battle of Fallen Timbers involved many key figures in the early history of the United States.

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