November 3, 1791 Bank of a Wabash tributary, 12 miles from Miami Towns
As the army of General Arthur St. Clair moved northward toward the Miami, Delaware, and Shawnee towns on the Maumee and Wabash Rivers, with his large army consisting of Regular Troops, Conscripts, and Militia plus artillery and cavalry, the Native American warriors had watched his progress. His progress was slow, ox carts bogged down, supplies were short and provisions were not adequate, and the majority of his men being conscripts and newly joined militiamen, discipline was breaking down. Men were deserting. Progress was slowed even more when St. Clair stopped at two forts, first Fort Hamilton and later, Fort Jefferson. After leaving Fort Jefferson, a group of 200 militia decided that it was not to the their benefit to continue this venture, knowing they faced an enemy that was known to be very cunning, crafty, and courageous. St. Clair’s men were demoralized by this desertion, and St. Clair had to send a regiment back to prevent them from stealing and destroying the stores at Fort Jefferson. St Clair was left with about twelve hundred troops at this point. On the evening of November 3rd, St Clair set up camp on some ground that commanded the Wabash river. He dug some earthworks for protection and sent out sentries. He had his men in two lines, seventy yards apart, and between the river and a creek. More infantry flanked his lines. All were under the direct command of Major General Butler, a soldier of high reputation. St. Clair had his men up and parading before daylight as a show should the enemy consider attacking. As daybreak approached, he dismissed the men back to their tents where some returned to sleep, others sat about. He they sat resting, St. Clair hoping that if he made enough noise and put on enough of a show, the “savages” would be too frightened to do anything. So here they sat in the early morning hours. Suddenly……………………
“My God, we need to keep running. Where are they coming from. Savages everywhere. The air is so full of gunpowder I can all but see The hostiles are running in bunches right along with us into the camp. There is shooting everywhere. My friends running next to me are dropping, their heads split with tomahawks from the howling warriors. They are completely mixed in with us. Nobody is making a stand. They are pushing into the camp, slaughtering everyone in their path. I need to keep running. I don’t have to time to load my musket and shoot again. My God, some of the men are mounting a bayonet charge. I heard St. Clair himself shouting the orders. They are running to some tall grasses and now there are just swarms of the enemy jumping up and cutting our men to pieces. The bayonet attack has totally failed. The men are routed. The Indians keep falling back, and when our men chase them, they put up a fatal fire. I must continue to run from these warriors who are all around me, giving the scalp yell and brandishing tomahawks. i cannot stop to fight one, as I will be quickly overwhelmed. St Clair is calling everyone to form one large Crops. He is having Lt Colonel Darke make a direct charge against the enemy in order to open a hole for all of us to escape. I pray God that Darke succeeds…… It’s working, we are getting out. The warriors and their captains are turning their attention to the hundreds of horses that we abandoned, along with our sacks and supplies. We’ve got to make it to Fort Jefferson. Oh God, it’s over twenty miles from here. I’m stepping over dead and dying men. Blood everywhere. Men are screaming for help. We can’t stop. They will end up scalped. It’s a horror. So many dead. Those officers who fought in the war against England, they are strong and if not for them, none of us would have made it out alive.”
Jacob Palmer, Settler and militiaman
NOTE: Upon returning to Fort Washington (Cincinnati), General St. Clair had to report to General Washington that 37 of his officers and 593 of his men had been slaughtered by the warriors of the confederation under Little Turtle. This remains the greatest defeat in all history of an American army by a Native American force. There we three times more American soldiers killed in this battle than in Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn. St. Clair was forced to resign.