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Archive for the ‘Anthony Wayne’ Category

Fort Washington, 1791, by Major Jonathan Hart. The city of Cincinnati grew up around the fort, which was active from 1789-1808. It is a major setting for our novel The Fairest Portion of the Globe.

As detailed in our novel The Fairest Portion of the Globe, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark met and had their first experiences as leaders of men while serving in the U.S. Army on the Ohio frontier. Their world was essentially defined by log forts, which stood as bastions of American military power amidst a vast wilderness dominated by Indians. The more I’ve learned about the frontier forts of the Wayne’s Legion period, the more I’ve been impressed by just how much Lewis & Clark were influenced by Anthony Wayne and his “by the book” approach to surviving on an Indian frontier.

The forts of the Ohio frontier varied in size, but were all built along the same general model, as log stockades that rose at least 12 feet high with four- and six-pound cannons protruding from the bastions, ready to blast grapeshot at any Indians attempting to scale the walls. Inside the fort’s walls lay the barracks and storerooms of the garrison. The roof sloped inwards so that the fort could capture rainwater in the event of a siege. When peaceful conditions prevailed, the men (and often their wives) planted vegetables and raised livestock outside the forts.

The first forts erected in the Ohio territory, such as Fort Harmar in 1785, allowed the army to establish a presence to repel the advance of settlers into the Ohio territory. Thanks to the efforts of George Rogers Clark, Ohio was part of the United States under the treaty that ended the American Revolution. However, the territory was considered indefensible with the small army of the fledgling republic. But nothing, not the Army and not even repeated massacres, seemed to deter the pioneers from venturing into Ohio’s cold, rough, rich terrain.

St. Clair's Defeat. From Stories of Ohio, by William Dean Howells, 1897.

Eventually, the conflict developed into a brutal quagmire, with British-backed Indians essentially carrying on the war of the British against American independence by other means. In 1791, President Washington decided to do something about it, sending out virtually the entire United States Army — some 1400 men — under the leadership of Arthur St. Clair to punish and defeat the Indians. The result, as we detailed in a previous post, was complete disaster for the United States.

The Battle of Fallen Timbers, Part 1

Over 600 of St. Clair’s men were killed by the forces of Little Turtle and Blue Jacket, and another 258 wounded—an astounding 62% casualty rate. (For comparison, about 200 died at Custer’s Last Stand in 1876 out of 2400 assigned to the campaign.) In essence, the United States Army was wiped out, a defeat comparable in magnitude to the Navy’s losses at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Anthony Wayne, a retired hero of the American Revolution, was called in to rebuild the Army (which he designated the Legion of the United States) practically from scratch. It was at this time that 22-year-old William Clark joined up and was commissioned an infantry lieutenant as Wayne worked to rebuild his officer corps.

Clark had a ringside seat as Wayne methodically trained his army, then moved them to Fort Washington at present-day Cincinnati to prepare for his mission, which was to avenge St. Clair’s Defeat and make Ohio safe for Americans once and for all. Clark kept a journal which is now one of the most important primary sources on the campaign. (It also exposes young Clark’s naive infatuation with none other than our old friend General James Wilkinson, whose machinations against Clark’s brother George Roger Clark helped lead to his final ruin, and who much later may have played a role in the death of Meriwether Lewis).

“William Clark’s Journal of General Wayne’s Campaign” was published in 1915 by the Mississippi Valley Historical Review and can be read on Google Books. One thing the journal documents is that Clark really didn’t like Anthony Wayne very much. Unbeknownst to Clark or anyone else in the officer corps, Wayne had sweeping authorization to wage total war against the Indians, even if it meant reigniting war with the British, who had built Fort Miamis in American territory near present-day Toledo in clear violation of the Treaty of Paris.

View of Fort Greeneville, active 1793-1814

With that kind of responsibility under his belt, and with an understanding of his opponent (namely, Little Turtle, one of the greatest military geniuses the American continent ever produced), Wayne proceeded with extreme deliberation. A primary reason for St. Clair’s defeat was poor preparation, and Wayne built a new fort, Greeneville (present-day Greenville, Ohio). Wayne promptly took the Legion into winter camp here and spent the cold months of 1793-94 drilling his army.

Provisioning the fort (as well as others built by previous generals) was always a challenge on the frontier. Though still young, William Clark was an experienced leader, woodsman, and river man, and was tasked with a great deal of responsibility during this period, leading large groups of troops and traders on long missions to and from centers of civilization like Louisville and Vincennes. With his usual flair for bluntness and creative spelling, Clark described his duties as “corn halling,” but it was dangerous work by any standard. In March 1794, Clark was in command of a pack train of 700 horses, 70 soldiers and 20 dragoons when it was attacked by Indians. Clark’s quick thinking and self-possession saved the day and the Indians were driven away after a battle lasting just 15 minutes.

According to his journal, Clark didn’t get the attaboys he expected from General Wayne after this incident, leading him to believe the general was playing favorites. “Kissing goes by favor,” he noted bitterly. In fact, Wayne was paying more attention than Clark realized, and within weeks he had named Clark as quartermaster for the entire Fourth Sublegion, in charge of seeing to the supply needs of some 500 men.

Coming soon: Wayne’s forts of the Fallen Timbers campaign

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By all accounts, Meriwether Lewis was a competent, respected and reliable army officer – otherwise, he would not have been selected as leader of the cross-continental exploring expedition. But when he was just starting out in the army, Lewis did not travel a golden road any more than any young person beginning a new career. In 1795, 21-year-old Ensign Lewis was in trouble so deep he could not have foreseen his later success. He had just joined the Fourth Sublegion of “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s army, and he was facing a potentially disastrous court-martial.

Officers at a court martial, circa 1835

Officers at a court martial, circa 1835

Courts-martial are as old as armies. To maintain army discipline in the field, the court martial deals with crimes committed by soldiers, especially uniquely military offenses. Then as now, courts-martial are not standing courts, but ad hoc bodies convened each time that charges are referred for trial. A military court may consist of a military judge, the prosecutor and defense counsel, and the members of the court who will decide guilt or innocence and pass sentence on the accused. In Lewis’s case, the outcome of the trial was being followed closely by General Anthony Wayne himself.

"Mad Anthony" Wayne

General "Mad Anthony" Wayne

One of the more comprehensive accounts of Lewis’s court-martial published to date is in Richard Dillon’s Meriwether Lewis: A Biography, originally published in 1965. (We eagerly await new research and a fuller account of the court-martial in Thomas Danisi’s forthcoming book, Uncovering the Truth about Meriwether Lewis, due out this month.)  Here is how Dillon describes the events of November 6, 1795:

Major Joseph Shaylor presided at [Meriwether Lewis’s] trial, the first such court-martial held in Wayne’s Legion. Testimony began on the 6th and did not close until the 12th because of an adjournment. The charges were brought against Lewis by a Lieutenant Elliott (perhaps Surgeon John Elliott, a New Yorker [or Lieutenant Joseph Elliott – ed.]). The first was the accusation that Lewis had made a direct, open and contemptuous violation of Articles One and Two of the Seventh Section of the Rules and Articles of War. To wit, that on September 24, 1795, Lewis had engaged in provocative speech and gestured in the Lieutenant’s quarters and had presumed, that same day, to send him a challenge to a duel. Elliott’s second charge was that of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. According to the accuser, Lewis, drunk, had burst into his room, uninvited and “abruptly and in an ungentlemanly manner.” He had then not only insulted the Lieutenant without provocation and offered to duel to the death with him, but had disturbed the “peace and harmony” of the officers who were Elliott’s guests that day.

It is believed that the conflict that triggered Lewis’s outburst was over politics. Then as now, politics made quick enemies. Lewis was, of course, a Jeffersonian Republican, and Elliott was evidently a Federalist.

See The Politics of Meriwether Lewis

Given the mores among the officers of Wayne’s Legion in the 1790’s, drunkenness and political disagreements were hardly uncommon, so perhaps the most serious of the infractions of which Lewis was accused was dueling. Gentlemen of the time, particularly Southern gentlemen, lived by the code duello, in which insults and other offenses to personal honor could not be tolerated. Such an insult must be quickly redressed – if not verbally, than with pistols at ten paces, in a ritual of carefully choreographed violence.

Dueling in the 18th century

Dueling in the 18th century

According to Alan D. Gaff’s Bayonets in the Wilderness, numerous duels had interrupted the Legion’s training and led to at least six fatalities amongst an already thin officer corps in the preceding years.  Even for Anthony Wayne — who had disagreed with George Washington’s remonstrances against dueling among officers during the Revolution – enough was enough. He was ready to dismiss officers who resorted to dueling when they could not get along. Article 2 of the Seventh Section of the Rules and Articles of War read: “No officer or soldier shall presume to send a challenge to any other officer or soldier, to fight a duel, upon pain, if a commissioned officer, of being cashiered.”

Bayonets in the Wilderness by Alan D. Gaff

Bayonets in the Wilderness by Alan D. Gaff (2008)

The battery of charges was stated to Lewis at the start of his court-martial, and he was asked to plead. According to Dillon, “The reply from the now stone-cold sober Virginian was a resounding ‘Not Guilty.'” The officers of the court called witnesses, studied the evidence, and finally issued their decision six days later. Lewis was indeed found not guilty of the charges against him. The court recommended that he be “acquitted with Honor,” a verdict that was upheld by Anthony Wayne, with the added “fond hope” that “as this is the first, that it also may be the last instance in the Legion of convening a Court for a trial of this nature.”

The fact that Meriwether Lewis was competent and reliable – adjectives that could not be applied to every officer in Wayne’s army – no doubt worked in his favor. As fate would have it, this unpleasant experience led to one of the most fortuitous events in Lewis’s life. To forestall any possible further conflict with Elliott, Lewis received a transfer. He was reassigned to the Chosen Rifle Company, a unit of elite sharpshooters commanded by another young officer, Lieutenant William Clark. The rest, as they say, is history.

More interesting reading from “The Art of Manliness” Blog: An Affair of Honor – The Duel

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Have you seen me? This portrait of young William Clark has been missing since the mid-1950s, when it was known to be in the possession of Mrs. William Bryce, who purchased it from the estate of Clark's granddaughter Eleanor Voorhis. If you know anything of its whereabouts, contact Carolyn Gilman, the special projects director at the Missouri History Society.

Our novel The Fairest Portion of the Globe is about how Lewis and Clark became such good friends. They met as young officers under the command of “Mad” Anthony Wayne during 1795-96, a time in which the army was occupying the Ohio territory and guarding against the many intrigues, foreign and domestic, that imperiled the western United States.

Before he met Lewis, Clark was involved in one of the most significant and underrated military campaigns in American history. Following the American Revolution, the British never withdrew their troops from the western territory of the United States. Instead, they formed an alliance with the Indian tribes of the region–Chippewa, Ottawa, Pottawatomi, Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo, and Wyandot–and waged unrelenting warfare against the civilian populace in the West (mostly settled in Kentucky). This war became a brutal “eye-for-an-eye” quagmire with seemingly no possible end.

The early campaigns to strike back against the Indians were led by militia leaders (including Daniel Boone and George Rogers Clark). Any success these campaigns had never lasted; the Indians, armed by British might, would regroup and launch more attacks. Finally, after the present Federal government was formed, the United States took on the responsibility for combating the Indian-British menace.

In 1790, General Josiah Harmar’s punitive expedition against the Wabash and Miami Indians was beaten badly by the forces of Little Turtle, the Miami chief whom historians consider one of the great military geniuses ever produced on the North American continent. Stung by the humiliating defeat, President Washington authorized a huge force under General Arthur St. Clair. St. Clair moved out of Cincinnati in the fall of 1791 at the head of 1400 men–virtually the entire United States Army as it existed at that time.

The result was utter disaster. Indian forces under Little Turtle and Blue Jacket ambushed St. Clair’s army and inflicted a defeat so overwhelming that it far eclipses Custer’s Last Stand in scope. Over 600 of St. Clair’s men were killed and another 258 wounded–an astounding 62% casualty rate. (About 200 died at Custer’s Last Stand in 1876 out of 2400 assigned to the campaign).

In essence, the United States Army was wiped out, a defeat comparable in magnitude to the Navy’s losses at Pearl Harbor. In the aftermath, international observers predicted that it was only a matter of time before the United States lost the west to Britain; the credibility of George Washington’s government was in a shambles.

The Fallen Timbers monument near Toledo, Ohio depicts Mad Anthony Wayne along with a Kentucky militiaman and an Indian combatant.

Enter Anthony Wayne, known since the Revolution as “Mad Anthony.” Wayne was named commanding general of the newly-formed Legion of the United States and given carte blanche to recruit, train, and outfit a force. While the Washington Administration tried and failed to negotiate a settlement with the Indians, Wayne meticulously prepared a campaign to seize the Ohio territory, defeat the Indians, and lay the groundwork for a lasting peace based on military might.

William Clark, who had previously served in the Kentucky militia and was lucky to have escaped getting mixed up in St. Clair’s Defeat, joined Wayne’s Legion as a lieutenant in March 1792, at the age of 21. It is interesting to note that Clark didn’t like Wayne very much. The army waited at Cincinnati and prepared for war until the summer of 1794. Young, eager for glory, and under the influence of Wayne’s arch-rival James Wilkinson, Clark was an enormously frustrated young man who complained constantly that Wayne was a sick, timid old granny who was unwilling to fight.

How do we know? Because Clark kept a journal at this time, now one of the only contemporary records of Wayne’s campaign. In the journal, William Clark at ages 23-24 comes off very differently than the thoughtful, loyal, and fun person that we know and love from the Lewis & Clark journals, written when he was 32-36 years old. Quite simply, Clark was immature. Like many a young person before and after, Clark was immensely critical of his elders, bitterly sarcastic, and in the thrall of a manipulative mentor (Wilkinson). Take this passage in which Clark alleges that Wayne has allowed the Indians to escape:

The head of the long talked of Hydra might have been so easily severed from his body, one of his heads at least, which must have greatly wekened him & perhaps saved the effusion of much blood, but this is no consideration with some Folks. I am now lead to a reflection which if indulged, would perhaps give me two great a disgust to a Military life, and embiter my present situation — Were subalterns of this army, in general, to forego such oppertunities of rendering theire Country a service & absolutely so far neglect their duty, as do some officers of higher rank, what merit would they find. Non.

On August 20, 1794, Clark and the Legion met the Indians in the forest near present-day Toledo, Ohio. After a short, pitched battle, the Indians realized they were up against a superior force and ran. Though not a spectacular fight, the Battle of Fallen Timbers would go down as one of the turning points in American history. What Clark hadn’t realized in his inexperience is that Wayne and the Legion had seized and fortified every significant portage point and river junction in the territory during their slow march north. Realizing this, the British declined to help the Indians, casting them back on their own devices. In the meantime, Wayne’s troops destroyed the Indians’ fall harvest and prevented them from regrouping in the villages over the winter.

The tribes had been outsmarted and had no choice but to come to the bargaining table. In the summer of 1795, Wayne and the Indian leaders negotiated the Treaty of Greeneville, which secured America’s hold on the Ohio territory. In terms of historical consequence, it was one of the great victories in American history.

This mural in Cincinnati's Union Terminal shows the town's beginnings as a military outpost. Fort Washington, where Lewis and Clark met and lived, is in the background.

And what did Clark and his new friend Meriwether Lewis think about all this as it unfolded? You’ll just have to read The Fairest Portion of the Globe to find out. Why not “Buy Now” at the top of this page? You know you want to.

More reading:

The Battle of Fallen Timbers, Part I
The Battle of Fallen Timbers, Part II
Three Diaries of William Clark

Mad Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers
Signing of the Treaty of Greeneville (includes the epic painting that hangs in the Ohio State House that depicts Lewis and Clark among the crowd — scroll down for the key)

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Cat o' nine tails

The dreaded cat o' nine tails

August 18, 1804 was Meriwether Lewis’s thirtieth birthday, and it was a lousy one. Moses Reed, a private in the Corps of Discovery, had been brought back into camp after deserting  two weeks earlier. Reed pleaded for leniency— and got it. As William Clark recorded in his journal, the court “only Sentenced him to run the Gantlet four times through the Party & that each man with 9 Swichies Should punish him and for him not to be considered in future as one of the Party.” Though he was facing a brutal beating and dishonorable discharge, Reed had gotten off easy. The more typical punishment for desertion was death.

Compared with modern standards of military discipline, the U.S. Army in Lewis and Clark’s time was a place of jaw-dropping brutality. The rules of military justice under which they operated had been in force since the Revolution. These “Rules and Articles of War” prescribed court-martial procedures and maximum punishments for such crimes as mutiny and desertion, disrespect and sedition, fraudulent enlistment, and a wide variety of lesser offenses. A surprising number of crimes carried a maximum penalty of death.

Fifty lashes well laid on

Fifty lashes well laid on

The Expedition journals and orderly book reveal that seven official courts-martial were convened by the Corps of Discovery between May 1804 and February 1805 to deal with breaches in discipline. The offenses included going AWOL, “behaving in an unbecoming manner,” getting drunk, sleeping on post, mutiny, and desertion. The sentences usually involved flogging. Indians who witnessed the punishments being carried out often broke into tears.

Lewis and Clark were considered to be fair and even kind-hearted commanders, but it is clear they were no softies. How could they be? As young officers, they apprenticed under General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, who whipped the army into shape—quite literally—following the disastrous defeats of Arthur St. Clair and Josiah Harmar.

"Mad Anthony" Wayne

"Mad Anthony" Wayne

When he assumed command of the army in 1792, Anthony Wayne inherited a defeated rabble of men, demoralized by the low pay, poor living conditions, and isolation of frontier service and traumatized by the terror of Indian warfare. Wayne instituted a regime of strenuous training and strict discipline. Minor infractions were punished swiftly—by assigning extra duty, docking the soldier’s pay, or depriving him of his daily whisky ration. Officers could expect no better. Misbehaving officers were reduced in rank, and one lieutenant who talked out of the side of his mouth at parade was cashiered and dismissed from Wayne’s service.

The more serious the crime, the more brutal and humiliating was the punishment. An enlisted man who was foolish enough to steal money from Wayne’s tent was sentenced to walk the gantlet naked at a slow step, to have his head and eyebrows shaved, to be branded on the forehead and the palms of both hands with the letter ‘T’, and to be drummed ignominiously out of camp. But the most common punishment for severe offenses was flogging. A hundred lashes on the bare back with a wire rope whip was standard for desertion; the flogging was sometimes spread out over three or four days to give the criminal more time to repent of his crime—and also because most soldiers simply could not bear to take the punishment all at once. The most infamous punishment one of Wayne’s courts ever imposed was against a group of five repeat deserters. Four of them were sentenced to be shot by the fifth.

British officer being hanged

British officer being hanged

By the standards of the time, the U.S. Army’s courts-martial were far more lenient than their British counterparts, which routinely assigned punishments of 500 to 1000 lashes for serious crimes. Anthony Wayne eschewed such punishments, because he needed every fighting man he could get. A soldier who was physically or mentally broken was of no use battling Indians on the frontier.

For Lewis and Clark, commanding a small force far from home, maintaining military discipline was critical. The general lack of problems in the Corps showed both their firmness and flexibility as leaders— and how much they had learned from “Mad Anthony.”

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By the spring of 1794, the Shawnees, Miamis, and Delawares had been joined by warriors from other western tribes who didn’t want to miss out on their chance to clobber Anthony Wayne and his Legion of the United States. Some 1500 warriors were assembled and ready to rumble. Though the British urged them to concentrate their attacks on the American supply line, they instead spent their time attacking the irresistible target of Fort Recovery, which Wayne had built on the very site of St. Clair’s Defeat. Though they inflicted some bad losses on the Americans, they sustained equal losses themselves, leading to stress and recriminations within the Indian confederacy.

Plan of Fort Defiance, 1794

Plan of Fort Defiance, 1794

On July 28, 1794, Wayne marched. He intended to destroy all the villages and crops on the “Grand Glaize,” and force the Indians to beg for British charity, believing a rapid capitulation and withdraw of the Indians from Ohio would soon follow. Carefully avoiding his predecessors’ mistakes (leading to the extreme slowness of the march which young William Clark interpreted as a lack of boldness), he found the Indian villages deserted at the confluence of the Auglaize and Miami Rivers. Here he stopped to build Fort Defiance. He also sent a message to the Indians, who were assembled near Fort Miamis, that the “bad white men [the British] at the foot of the rapids have neither the power nor the inclination to protect you.” Wayne was more right than the Indians knew.

On August 15, he moved out again towards Fort Miamis. At the same time, the Indians were mired in disagreement about how to proceed. Little Turtle argued that while white men blew away like leaves in the fall, they came back by spring, stronger and more numerous than ever. Blue Jacket accused Little Turtle of being a sellout. Faced with overwhelming opposition, Little Turtle had no choice but set aside his doubts and go along.

On August 18, at the falls of the Maumee, Wayne stopped to build Camp Deposit, a “citadel” of supplies, and prepared to fight the Indians. Spirits were high, even though Wayne promised to shoot anyone who ran away.

The British planned for the Indians to ambush the Americans in a tangled wooded area called the Wilderness, where a number of trees had been downed by a recent tornado. Expecting Wayne to come on, the Indians holed up in the Wilderness. Since they always fasted before battle, it was draining to them when Wayne spent three days getting ready for the battle.

Charge of the Dragoons at Fallen Timbers, by R.T. Zogbaum

Charge of the Dragoons at Fallen Timbers, by R.T. Zogbaum

On August 20, Wayne’s army finally entered the Wilderness. A volley of Indian fire came from the woods, decimating their ranks. The Kentucky volunteers immediately broke and ran towards the rear, running into the regulars…who fired on them on Wayne’s orders, shooting some of them down. Then the Indians charged from the woods before anyone could reload. Hand to hand combat was underway. Almost at once the regulars began to give ground.

But those many months Wayne had spent training his army was not wasted after all. He halted the retreat and quickly reformed battle lines. When the Indians withdrew to the protection of the woods, Wayne organized a bayonet charge. As the men of the Legion, including young William Clark, went screaming into the woods, the Indians did the only sensible thing they could do. They ran for the protection of Fort Miamis—where they found the gates closed and locked.

The British weren’t about to reopen war with the Americans. They had betrayed their Indian “allies.” The British-Indian alliance was over.

Most of the Indians escaped into the woods (known thereafter as Fallen Timbers), but the battle was far from over. Wayne’s troops destroyed the Indians’ villages and crops for fifty miles in every direction. The tribes suffered a terrible winter that year, and they had no choice but to come to the bargaining table.

Signing of the Treaty of Greeneville, 1795, by Howard Chandler Christy

Signing of the Treaty of Greeneville, 1795, by Howard Chandler Christy

In the summer of 1795, Wayne and the Indian leaders negotiated the Treaty of Greeneville, which secured America’s hold on the Ohio territory. Only Little Turtle refused to sign the treaty, but it was a personal protest only—he allowed another Miami chief to sign for the tribe. The road was open for American westward expansion toward the Mississippi. In terms of historical consequence, Fallen Timbers was one of the most significant military victories in American history.

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Ten years before the Lewis and Clark Expedition, William Clark was involved in one of the most significant—and underrated—campaigns in American military history. Following the end of the American Revolution, the British defied the terms of the 1783 Treaty of Paris and refused to withdraw their troops from the old Northwest Territory of the United States (present day Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois). Instead, the British formed an alliance with the Indian tribes of the region—Chippewa, Ottawa, Pottawatomi, Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo, Miami, and Wyandot—a coalition sometimes known as the Western Indian Confederacy. Together, the British and their Indian allies waged brutal, unrelenting warfare against American settlers moving west into the Northwest Territory and Kentucky.

This war became a brutal “eye-for-an-eye” quagmire that seemingly had no end. Militia leaders, including Daniel Boone and George Rogers Clark, attempted to strike back at the British-Indian alliance, but any gains were temporary. Armed by British might, the Indians would quickly regroup and hit back harder than ever. Finally, after the U.S. federal government was formed, George Washington took on the responsibility for combating the British-Indian menace.

General Josiah Harmar

General Josiah Harmar

In 1790, Miami chief Little Turtle—considered by many historians to be one of the greatest military geniuses ever produced on the North American continent—trounced a punitive expedition under General Josiah Harmar that George Washington had sent against the Wabash and Miami Indians. Humiliated, President Washington authorized another huge force under General Arthur St. Clair. St. Clair moved out of Cincinnati in the fall of 1791 at the head of 1400 men—virtually the entire United States Army.

General Arthur St. Clair

General Arthur St. Clair

The result was utter disaster. Indian forces under Little Turtle and Blue Jacket ambushed St. Clair’s army and inflicted a defeat so overwhelming that it far eclipses Custer’s Last Stand in terms of casualties. Over 600 of St. Clair’s men were killed and another 258 wounded—an astounding 62% casualty rate. (For comparison, about 200 died at Custer’s Last Stand in 1876 out of 2400 assigned to the campaign.)

In essence, the United States Army was wiped out, a defeat comparable in magnitude to the Navy’s losses at Pearl Harbor in 1941. In the aftermath, international observers predicted that it was only a matter of time before the United States lost the Northwest Territory to Britain. The credibility of George Washington’s government was in ruins.

General "Mad Anthony" Wayne

General "Mad Anthony" Wayne

Enter Anthony Wayne, known since the Revolution as “Mad Anthony.” Washington named Wayne the commanding general of the newly-formed Legion of the United States and gave him carte blanche to recruit, train, and outfit a force. While the Washington Administration tried and failed to negotiate a settlement with the Indians, Wayne meticulously prepared a campaign to seize the Ohio territory, defeat the Indians, and lay the groundwork for a lasting peace based on military might.

William Clark joined Wayne’s Legion as a lieutenant in March 1792, at the age of 21. Already a veteran of the Kentucky militia, Clark had been Indian-fighting for a couple of years and was lucky to have escaped being involved in St. Clair’s Defeat. As we noted in a previous post, Clark didn’t like Wayne very much. Young, eager for glory, and under the influence of Wayne’s arch-rival James Wilkinson, Clark was a frustrated young man who complained constantly that Wayne was a sick, timid old granny who was unwilling to fight.

While Clark chafed, the army drilled at Cincinnati, built a string of frontier forts and supply depots, and prepared for war. At their stronghold in Detroit, the British braced for the coming attack. They constructed a strong fort, Miamis, near present-day Toledo in April 1794, to prevent the Americans from marching on Detroit. Further, the British assured the Indians they could count on British supplies and support. The leaders of the Western Indian Confederacy, except for the cautious Little Turtle, were confident they would win the upcoming fight. They had no clue that the real British policy was to avoid any possibility of being drawn into another war with the United States. Wayne, on the other hand, had permission from President Washington to take any action necessary to defeat the Indians—even if he had to strike the British themselves.

Next: The Battle of Fallen Timbers and its aftermath.

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As Lewis and Clark fans know, William Clark was a journal-keepin’, letter-writin’ man. Well over half of the words of the Lewis & Clark journals were written by Clark, and he is acknowledged to be the more faithful journal-keeper of the pair. It was no anomaly. Clark kept journals at other times in his life too.

Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers

Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers

The summer he turned 24, Clark was a young lieutenant on the march with Anthony Wayne’s army to fight the Indians in the Ohio Valley. Clark started a journal of the campaign which is full of a sense of certainty, self-importance, and resentment of authority that only a young person can muster.  (In fact, his attitude earned him some ribbing from a fellow recruit, who labeled a book of company records,  “Company Book of Lt. Clark’s & Wayne’s Wars.”)  Personal resentments aside, Clark’s journal is a priceless record, one of only three first-hand primary-source accounts of this turning point in American history. Through the filter of his own perspective, Clark writes in detail about the intrigues among the officers, the march through the Ohio wilderness, and the climactic Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Reading young Clark’s diary, one thing is certain: he didn’t like Anthony Wayne very much. We enjoyed playing off this resentment in our upcoming book, The Fairest Portion of the Globe.

Clark also kept a journal in later years, when he was the federal superintendent of Indian affairs in St. Louis (1820-1838). This journal, which runs from May, 1826 (the time of a great flood along the Mississippi) to February 1831, appears to be the surviving volume of a set. It lacks the personal touch of the youthful diary, much less the rich observational details and profound humanity of the Lewis & Clark journals. For the most part, it’s a dry record of daily weather, river conditions, and the comings and goings of steamboats and visitors from his office in St. Louis. In fact, many of the entries in the book are in the handwriting of Clark’s clerk.

However, there are a few personal glimpses to be found in the diary. In March 1827, the diary notes, “On this day George R. Clark son of Genl Clark when Hunting with Henry (a yellow fellow)-by accident was wounded under the right eye-by the discharge of Henry’s gun 3 miles out.” Clark’s son was ten years old at the time, and it was thought for a time that he might lose his eye. Fortunately, the boy recovered, doubtless to the immense relief of his parents and poor Henry. No wonder Clark’s hair turned white!

A few months later comes another more heart-breaking entry, this time in Clark’s own handwriting: “Edmond Clark (my Infant Son) died at 81/2 A.M. . . .” This journal is now in the collection of the Kansas Historical Society.

Finally, here is a doozy of a parody of Clark’s expedition journals. Enjoy!

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