Thursday, August 13, 2009

Little Turtle's War

After the Revolutionary war, the Indians of the Ohio river valley formed an alliance to halt the westward (and by treaty, illegal) expansion of white settlers into their lands (1785)... This western alliance of Indians consisted primarily of Huron, Miami, and Shawnee, plus some Cherokee.

In 1790, new US President George Washington sent General Josiah Harmar with 1,400 soldiers to neutralize the Indians, who had been raiding white settlements. Instead, Harmar was the one who was routed, being decisively defeated by Little Turtle, a Miami chief. This battle in present day Indiana killed at least 135 soldiers. (Its called "Harmars defeat")

Washington sent another force against Little Turtle. General Arthur St. Clair advanced with 1,800 men into the Ohio valley, and at dawn, on November 4, 1791, his force was nearly wiped out- the General lost about 630 soldiers, plus about 200 camp followers were killed. Only about 66 Indians were killed...Called "St. Clair's defeat", it was a devastating blow for the new American government- this was the greatest Indian victory over the U.S. (or English) , ever

(St.Clairs troops were mostly raw recruits..as the Indians attacked at dawn, the inexperienced soldiers fell back inward of the camp, and crowded out the artillery, which was uselessly positioned in the camp center. After two hours, St. Clair finally managed to muster a bayonet charge, but the Indians merely fell back into the forest, and then picked off their confused pursuers...)

For comparison, Custer at Little Bighorn in 1876 lost about 260 troopers.

Little Turtle, Blue Jacket, and Tecumseh were the war chiefs during this war... but they could not continue their successes. They were finally beaten by US General "Mad" Anthony Wayne in 1794 at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (Little Turtle did not participate). Tecumseh would later go on to fame, leading another confederacy, ten years later..

This war created a severe crisis for the presidency of George Washington, yet history usually overlooks this event; many textbooks omit this war for the Ohio/North West altogether.

Little Turtle eventually realized that further resistance was futile- the Brits refused to support him, the whites were too well armed, and were too numerous.

Little Turtle personally met with three American presidents- Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, sort-of becoming their friends. He tried to get his people to stop using alcohol, and learn how to farm...Near the end of his life, Little Turtle ran afoul of Governor Harrison during the War of 1812; he retired to his ancestral home, near Spy Run by Fort Wayne Indiana, where he is buried (died July 14, 1812). His grave was lost until a construction crew found it again in 1911...Today, many streets, towns, creeks, etc., are named after Little Turtle.

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