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[St. Clair County Marriges & Deaths]

Extracted from
History of St. Clair County, Michigan
by A.T. Andreas

History of Michigan

Chapter V

Military History.


[48] In the Spring of 1763 Pontiac determined to take Detroit by an ingenious attack. He had his men file off their guns so that they would be short enough to conceal under their blanket clothing as they entered the fortification. A Canadian woman who went over to their village on the east side of the river to obtain some venison, saw them thus at work on their guns, and suspected they were preparing for an attack on the whites. She told her neighbors what she had seen, and one of them informed the commandant, Major Gladwyn, who at first slighted the advice, but before another day had passed he had full knowledge of the plot. There is a legend that a beautiful Chippewa girl, well-known to Gladwyn, divulged to him the scheme which the Indians had in view, namely, that the next day Pontiac would come to the fort with sixty of his chiefs, each armed with a gun cut short and hidden under his blanket; that Pontiac would demand a council, deliver a speech, offer a peace-belt of wampum, holding it in a reverse position as the signal for attack; that the chiefs, sitting upon the ground, would then spring up and fire upon the officers, and the Indians out in the streets would next fall upon the garrison, and kill every Englishman but spare all the French.

Gladwyn accordingly put the place in a state of defence as well as he could, and arranged for a quiet reception of the Indians and a sudden attack upon them when he should give a signal. At 10 o'clock, May 7, according to the girl's prediction, the Indians came, entered the fort, and proceeded with the programme, but with some hesitation, as they saw their plot was discovered. Pontiac made his speech, professing friendship for the English, etc., and without giving his signal for attack, sat down and heard Major Gladwyn's reply, who suffered him and his men to retire unmolested. He probably feared to take them as prisoners, as war was not actually commenced.

The next day Pontiac determined to try again, but was refused entrance at the gate unless he should come in alone. He turned away in a rage, and in a few minutes some of his men commenced the peculiarly Indian work of attacking an innocent household and murdering them, just beyond the range of British guns. Another squad murdered an Englishman on an island at a little distance. Pontiac did not authorize the proceedings, but retired across the river and ordered preparations to be made for taking the fort by direct assault, the headquarters of the camp to be on "Bloody Run," west of the river. Meanwhile the garrison was kept in readiness for any out-break. The very next day Pontiac, having received reinforcements from the Chippewas of Saginaw Bay, commenced the attack, but was repulsed; no deaths on either side. Gladwyn sent ambassadors to arrange for peace, but Pontiac, although professing to be willing, in a general way, to conclude peace, would not agree to any particular proposition. A number of Canadians visited the fort and warned the commandant to evacuate, as 1,500 or more Indians would storm the place in an hour; and soon afterward a Canadian came with a summons from Pontiac, demanding Gladwyn to surrender the post at once, and promising that, in case of compliance, he and his men would be allowed to go on board their vessels unmolested, leaving their arms and effects behind. To both these advices Major Gladwyn gave a flat refusal.

Only three weeks' provisions were within the fort, and the garrison was in a deplorable condition. A few Canadians, however, from across the river, sent some provisions occasionally, by night. Had it not been for this timely assistance, the garrison would doubtless have had to abandon the fort. The Indians themselves soon began to suffer from hunger, as they had not prepared for a long siege; but Pontiac, after some maraudings upon the French settlers had been made, issued "promise to pay" on birch bark, with which he pacified the residents. He subsequently redeemed all these notes. About the end of July, Capt. Dalzell arrived [50] from Niagar with reinforcements and provisions, and persuaded Gladwyn to undertake an aggressive movement against Pontiac. Dalzell was detailed for the purpose of attacking the camp at Parents' Creek, a mile and a half away, but, being delayed a day, Pontiac learned of his movements, and prepared his men to contest his march. On the next morning, July 31, before day-break, Dalzell went out with 250 men, but was repulsed with a loss of fifty-nine killed and wounded, while the Indians lost less than half that number. Parents' Creek was afterward known as "Bloody Run."

Shortly afterward, the schooner "Gladwyn," on its return from Niagara, with ammunition and provisions, anchored about nine miles below Detroit for the night, when in the darkness about 300 Indians in canoes came quietly upon the vessel and very nearly succeeded in taking it. Slaughter proceeded vigorously until the mate gave orders to his men to blow up the schooner, when the Indians understanding the design, fled precipitately, plunging into the water and swimming ashore. This desperate command saved the crew, and the schooner succeeded in reaching the post with the much-needed supply of provisions.

By this time, September, most of the tribes around Detroit were disposed to sue for peace. A truce being obtained, Gladwyn laid in provisions for the Winter, while Pontiac retired with his chiefs to the Maumee country, only to prepare for a resumption of war the next Spring. He or his allies the next season carried on a petty warfare until in August when the garrison, now worn out and reduced, were relieved by fresh troops, Major Bradstreet commanding. Pontiac retired to the Maumee again, still to stir up hate against the British. Meanwhile the Indians near Detroit, scarcely comprehending what they were doing, were induced by Bradstreet to declare themselves subjects of Great Britain. An embassy sent to Pontiac induced him also to cease belligerent operations against the British.

In 1769 the great chief and warrior, Pontiac, was killed in Illinois by a Kaskaskia Indian, for a barrel of whisky offered by an Englishman named Williamson.


Gov. St. Clair, on his arrival at Fort Washington from Kaskaskia, had a long conversation with Gen. Harmar, and concluded to send a powerful force to chastise the savages about the head-waters of the Wabash. He had been empowered by the President to call on Virginia for 1,000 troops and on Pennsylvania for 500, and he immediately availed himself of this resource, ordering 300 of the Virginia militia to muster at Fort Steuben, and march with the garrison of that fort to Vincennes, march up the Wabash and attack any of the Indian villages which he might think he could overcome.

[51] The remaining 1,200 of the militia were ordered to rendezvous at Fort Washington, and to join the regular troops at that post under Gen. Harmar. At this time the United States troops in the West were estimated by Gen. Harmar at 400 effective men. These, with the militia, gave him a force of 1,450 men. With this army Gen. Harmar marched from Fort Washington, September 30, and arrived at the Maumee, October 17. They commenced the work of punishing the Indians, but were not very successful. The savages, it is true, received a severe scourging, but the militia behaved so badly as to be of little or no service. A detachment of 340 militia and sixty regulars, under the command of Col. Hardin, were sorely defeated on the Maumee October 22. The next day the army took up the line of march for Fort Washington, which place they reached November 4, having lost in the expedition 183 killed and thirty-one wounded; the Indians lost about as many. During the progress of this expedition Maj. Hamtramck marched up the Wabash from Vincennes, as far as the Vermillion river, and destroyed several deserted villages, but without finding an enemy to oppose him. Although the savages seem to have been severely punished by these expeditions, yet they refused to sue for peace, and continued their hostilities. Thereupon, the inhabitants of the frontier settlements of Virginia took alarm, and the delegates of Ohio, Monongahela, Harrison, Randolph, Greenbriar, Kanawah and Montgomery counties sent a joint memorial to the Governor of Virginia, saying that the defenseless condition of the counties, forming a line of nearly 400 miles along the Ohio river, exposed to the hostile invasion of their Indian enemies, destitute of every kind of support, was truly alarming, for, notwithstanding all the regulations of the General Government in that country, they have reason to lament that they have been up to that time ineffectual for their protection; nor indeed could it be otherwise, for the garrisons kept by the Continental troops on the Ohio River, if of any use at all, must protect only the Kentucky settlement, as they immediately covered that country. They further stated in their memorial, "We beg leave to observe that we have reason to fear that the consequences of the defeat of our army by the Indians in the late expedition will be severely felt on our frontiers, as there is no doubt that the Indians will, in their turn, being flushed with victory, invade our settlements and exercise all their horrid murder upon the inhabitants thereof whenever the weather will permit them to travel. Then, is it not better to support us where we are, be the expense what it may, than to oblige such a number of your brave citizens, who have so long supported, and still continue to support, a dangerous frontier (although thousands of their relatives in the flesh have in the prosecution thereof fallen a sacrifice to the savage inventions) to quit the country, after all they have done and suffered, when you know that a frontier must be supported somewhere?"

This memorial caused the Legislature of Virginia to authorize the Governor of [52] that State to make any defensive operations necessary for the temporary defense of the frontiers, until the General Government could adopt and carry out measures to suppress the hostile Indians. The Governor at once called upon the military commanding officers in the western counties of Virginia to raise by the first of March, 1791, several small companies for this purpose. At the same time Charles Scott was appointed Brigadier-General of the Kentucky Militia, with authority to raise 226 volunteers, to protect the most exposed portions of that district. A full report of the proceedings of the Virginia Legislature being transmitted to Congress, that body constituted a local Board of War for the district of Kentucky, consisting of five men. March, 1791, Gen. Henry Knox, Secretary of War, sent a letter of instructions to Gen. Scott, recommending an expedition of mounted men not exceding 750 men, against the Wea towns on the Wabash. With this force Gen. Scott, accordingly, crossed the Ohio, May 23, 1791, and reached the Wabash in about ten days. Many of the Indians, having discovered his approach, fled, but he succeeded in destroying all the villages around Ouiatenon, together with several Kickapoo towns, killing thirty-two warriors and taking fifty-eight prisoners. He released a few of the most infirm prisoners, giving them a "talk," which they carried to the towns further up the Wabash, and which the wretched condition of his horses prevented him from reaching.

March 3, 1791, Congress provided for raising and equipping a regiment for the protection of the frontiers, and Gov. St. Clair was invested with the chief command of about 3,000 troops, to be raised and employed against the hostile Indians in the territory over which his jurisdiction extended. He was instructed by the Secretary of War to march to the Miami village and establish a strong and permanent military post there, also such posts elsewhere along the Ohio as would be in communication with Fort Washington. The post at Miami Village was intended to keep the savages in that vicinity in check, and was ordered to be strong enough in its garrison to afford a detachment of 500 or 600 men in case of emergency, either to chastise any of the Wabash or other hostile Indians or capture convoys of the enemy's provisions. The Secretary of War also urged Gov. St. Clair to establish that post as the first and most important part of the campaign. In case of a previous treaty, the Indians were to be conciliated upon this point, if possible; and he presumed good arguments might be offered to induce their acquiescence. Said he: "Having commenced your march upon the main expedition, and the Indians continuing hostile, you will use every possible exertion to make them feel the effects of your superiority; and, after having arrived at the Miami village and put your works in a defensible state, you will seek the enemy with the whole of your remaining force, and endeavor by all possible means to strike them with great severity."

"In order to avoid future wars, it might be proper to make the Wabash and thence [53] over to the Maumee, and down the same to its mouth, at Lake Erie, the boundary between the people of the United States and the Indians (excepting so far as the same should relate to the Wyandots and Delawares), on the supposition of their continuing faithful to the treaties; but if they should join in the war against the United States, and your army be victorious, the said tribes ought to be removed without the boundaries mentioned."

Previous to marching a strong force to the Miami town, Gov. St. Clair, June 25, 1791, authorized Gen. Wilkinson to conduct a second expedition, not exceeding 500 mounted men, against the Indian villages on the Wabash. Accordingly, Gen. Wilkinson mustered his forces and was ready July 20, to march with 525 mounted volunteers, well armed, and provided with 30 days' provisions, and with this force he reached the Ke-na-pa-com-a-qua village on the north bank of Eel River, about six miles above its mouth, Aug. 7, where he killed six warriors and took 34 prisoners.

This town, which was scattered along the river for three miles, was totally destroyed. Wilkinson encamped on the ruins of the town that night, and the next day he commenced his march for the Kickapoo town, on the prairie which he was unable to reach owing to the impassable condition of the route which he adopted and the failing condition of his horses. He reported the estimated result of the expedition as follows: "I have destroyed the chief town of the Ouiatenon nation, and have made prisoners of the sons and sisters of the king. I have burned a respectable Kickapoo village, and cut down at least 400 acres of corn, chiefly in the milk."


The Indians were greatly damaged by the expeditions of Harmar, Scott and Wilkinson, but were far from being subdued. They regarded the policy of the United States as calculated to exterminate them from the land; and, goaded on by the English of Detroit, enemies of the Americans, they were excited to desperation. At this time the British Government still supported garrisons at Niagara, Detroit and Michilimackinac, although it was declared by the second article of the definite treaty of peace of 1783, that the King of Great Britain would, "with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction or carrying away any negroes or property of the American inhabitants, withdraw all his forces, garrisons and fleets from the United States, and from every post harbor and place within the same." That treaty also provided that the creditors on either side should meet with no lawful impediments to the recovery to the full value, in sterling money, of all bona fide debts previously contracted. The British Government claimed that the United States had broken faith in this particular understanding of the treaty, and in consequence refused to withdraw its forces from the territory. [54] The British garrisons in the Lake Region were a source of much annoyance to the Americans, as they afforded succor to the hostile Indians, encouraging them to make raids among the Americans. This state of affairs in the territory northwest of the Ohio, continued from the commencement of the Revolutionary war to 1796, when under a second treaty all British soldiers were withdrawn from the country.

In September, 1791, St. Clair moved from Fort Washington with about 2,000 men, and November 3, the main army, consisting of about 1,400 effective troops, moved forward to the head-waters of the Wabash, where Fort Recovery was afterward erected, and here the army encamped. About 1,200 Indians were secreted a few miles distant, awaiting a favorable opportunity to begin an attack, which they improved on the morning of Nov. 4, about half an hour before sunrise. The attack was first made upon the militia, which immediately gave way. St. Clair was defeated and he returned to Fort Washington with a broken and dispirited army, having lost 39 officers killed, and 539 men killed and missing; 22 officers and 232 men were wounded. Several pieces of artillery and all the baggage, ammunition baggage and provisions were left on the field of battle and fell into the hands of the victorious Indians. The stores and other public property lost in the action were valued at $32,800. There were also 100 or more American women with the army of the whites, very few of whom escaped the cruel carnage of the savage Indians. The latter, characteristic of their brutal nature, proceeded in the rush of victory to perpetrate the most horrible acts of cruelty and barbarity upon the bodies of the living and the dead Americans who fell into their hands. Believing that the whites had made war for many years merely to acquire land, the Indians crammed clay and sand into the eyes and down the throats of the dying and the dead!


Although no particular blame was attached to Gov. St. Clair for the loss in this expedition, yet he resigned the office of major-general, and was succeeded by Anthony Wayne, a distinguished officer of the Revolutionary war. Early in 1792, preparations were made by the General Government for re-organizing the army, so that it should consist of an efficient degree of strength. Wayne arrived at Pittsburgh in June, where the army was to rendezvous. Here he continued actively engaged in organizing and training his forces until October, 1793, when with an army of about 3,600 men, he moved westward to Fort Washington.

While Wayne was preparing for an offensive campaign, every possible means was employed to induce the hostile tribes of the Northwest to enter into a general treaty of peace with the American Government; speeches were sent among them, and agents to make treaties were also sent but little was accomplished. Major [55]