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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Historian Discusses Several History Tidbits

Dallas Bogan on 29 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 392
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

War Roads

The first war road which led from Old Chillicothe into Kentucky is believed to have been one which passed down the east side of the Little Miami River to a point about a mile below the intersection of Caesar's Creek, then crossing the river at what is known as "fish pot ford." The ford was possibly called "fish pot" because John Sublett, who was known for his devices for catching fish, used a contrivance consisting of a stone net that in turn was called a fish pot. The ford was located at the head of a ripple about a mile below his home. The ford, however, existed long before the first white settlement in the country.
It is believed that an Indian trail from Old Chillicothe (Old Town, located in Greene County), to the Ohio River crossed the Little Miami at this location. The war road passed through Warren and Hamilton counties to the site of Fort Washington (Cincinnati) where it crossed the Ohio.
The first military expedition against the Indians at Old Chillicothe that used this trail was Colonel John Bowman in July 1779. A version of the battle was taken from The People's Express, Xenia, Ohio, dated November 21, 1826. It says:
"THE BATTLE OF OLDTOWN. In the month of May 1779, Col. John Bowman, with 160 men, marched against the Indian town called Chillicothe, situated about 60 miles from the mouth of the Little Miami and near the head of that river. The party rendezvoused at the mouth of the Licking, and on the second night got in sight of the town undiscovered. It was determined to wait until daylight in the morning before they would make the attack, but by the imprudence of some of the men, whose curiosity exceeded their judgment, the Indians before the officers discovered the party and men had arrived at the several positions assigned them.
"As soon as the alarm was given a fire commenced on both sides & was kept up, whilst the women & children were seen running from cabin to cabin in the greatest confusion, and collecting in the most central and strongest.
"At clear day-light it was found that Bowman's men were from 70 to 100 yards from the cabins, in which the Indians had collected, and which it appeared they intended to defend. Having no other arms than rifles and tomahawk, it was thought imprudent to attempt to storm strong cabins well defended by expert warriors, in consequence of the warriors collecting a few cabins contiguous to each other, the remainder of the town was left unprotected; therefore, whilst a fire was kept up at the port-holes, which engaged the attention of those within, fire was set to 30 or 40 cabins, which were consumed, and a considerable quantity of property, consisting principally of kettles and blankets, were taken from those cabins. In searching the woods near the town, 130 horses were collected.
"About 10 o'clock, Bowman and his party commenced their march homeward, after having nine men killed. What loss the Indians sustained was never known, except their principal chief, Black Fish, who was wounded through the knee, and died of the wound. Black Fish proposed to surrender, being confident that his wound was dangerous, and believing that there were among the white people surgeons that could cure him; but that none amongst his own people could do it.
"The party had not marched more than 8 or 10 miles on their return, before the Indians appeared in considerable force in their rear, & began to press hard on that quarter. Bowman selected his ground and formed his men in a square; but the Indians declined a close engagement, and only keeping up a scattering fire, it was soon discovered that their object was only to retard their march, until they could procure reinforcements from the neighboring villages.
"As soon as a strong position was taken by Col. Bowman, the Indians retired, and he resumed the line of march, when his rear was again attacked. Col. Bowman again formed for battle, again the Indians retired, and the scene was acted over several times; at length, John Bulger, James Harrod, and George Michael Bedinger, with about 100 more mounted on horseback, rushed on the Indian ranks and dispersed them in every direction; after which the Indians abandoned the pursuit.
"Bowman crossed the Ohio, at the mouth of the Little Miami, and after crossing the men dispersed to their several homes. Colonel Bowman had nine men killed, and one wounded. The loss sustained by the Indians was never ascertained, except the death of Black Fish."
A "possible" location of the retreat of Colonel Bowman's army and the battle is given by one source as taking place about five miles, a little to the east and north of Waynesville and near the Bellbrook and Waynesville road. Several tomahawks were found in this area, it being in Greene County.
Colonel Bowman's route is given as such: From Fort Washington the trail goes north over the Dixie Highway, Old U.S. 25 to Sharonville; thence, on U.S. 42 through Lebanon, crossing over to the east side of the Little Miami River and following it thru Waynesville, Spring Valley to Xenia, and then on U.S. 68; three miles north to Old Town (Old Chillicothe).

Gen. George Rogers Clark

Colonel George Rogers Clark made the second military expedition through Warren County with 100 regulars and 1,000 Kentucky volunteers. They crossed the Ohio River on August 1, 1780. The next day the army started on their way to the Shawnee Indian town of Old Chillicothe. This road was very similar to the one Colonel Bowman took the previous year.
On August 6th, the army reached Old Chillicothe and found a complete obliteration of the town. Apparently an alarm had been sounded that the angry Kentuckians were moving on them. The Indians had taken all their possessions and proceeded to burn their village. The town was never rebuilt. This village was considered the central town of the Shawnees west of the Scioto.
On August 8th, Colonel Clark and his army then proceeded to the Shawnee Indian village on the Mad River called Pickaway (Piqua). This town was completely destroyed by Clark and his avengers. Before the destruction, the Indians fought a vicious battle in defending their homes. Twenty whites were killed. It has been estimated that approximately five hundred acres of corn and edible vegetables were destroyed in the destruction of the two villages.
On August 10th, Clark and his army started the march home. They camped at Old Chillicothe that night and soon the army marched back toward Fort Washington. At the mouth of the Licking River, the army was released and each man was free to his own doing.
With his triumph over the Shawnees in 1780, Colonel Clark was again called upon to quell the uprising Indians in 1782. Because of the aiding and murder of the whites in Kentucky, Clark's assignment was to destroy the Indian towns on the Great Miami River.
Clark, with his 1050 riflemen, an estimated number, left the Cincinnati area on November 4, 1782, and reached the Indian towns on the 10th. (There is probability that this army followed the old Bowman and Clark trails for about two days, diverged from it and passed west of Lebanon, and crossed Mad River near Dayton, possibly using present S.R. 48.)
The principal target for Clark's army on the Great Miami River was Lower Piqua and Upper Piqua. Lower Piqua is the present site of Piqua and upper Piqua was about three miles north.
Viewing the more superior army, the red men fled to the woods, but not without ten killed and seven prisoners taken. Clark suffered only two casualties, one being killed and one wounded. The soldiers continued to burn and destroy the complete village. The ensuing army destroyed a majority of the corn and provisions. The Indians never again congregated a large force to intimidate the Kentuckians after this defeat, although small raiding parties were still to invade and ravage the southern settlers.

Gen. Josiah Harmar

Warren County had yet another leading military man to traverse its lands. General Josiah Harmar was the third Commander-in-Chief of the United States army, Washington being the first and Henry Knox the second. Lieutenant Colonel Harmar was brevetted Brigadier General in 1787.
At the time of Washington's inauguration there was in the United States army only one regiment of infantry, consisting of eight companies and one battalion of artillery consisting of four companies. This was the full strength of the defense of the United States.
The Indians were continually breaking treaties and some sort of retaliation was being discussed. The Northwest Territory needed a station or fort in which to centralize its operations.
Fort Washington was built on the present location of Cincinnati in 1789, this being a very important location for the harboring of the settlers who were continually being harassed by the Redman. The fort was also centralized and an ideal location, between the Miami Rivers, to deal with the defiant Indians.
General Harmar's army consisted of 1,453 men, those being regular army and militia from Kentucky and Pennsylvania. The militia had been drafted, and many who wanted no part in the proceedings hired substitutes. Young boys and old men were among the ones employed. These paid recruits presented a problem as to how to deal with them. The regulars looked upon the militia with scorn and refused to deal with them. The supplies were much more in accord than the previous armies. Cannons on wheels were more in style than General Clark's 1780 venture of carrying one cannon on a packhorse. Fresh beef was also the plan of General Harmar. Beef cattle were driven along on this expedition to allow the men to have fresh meat. The earlier settlers of Wayne Township reported wild cattle were found grazing in the woods, supposedly from General Harmar's army.
The junction of the St. Joseph's and St. Mary's Rivers, where the Maumee River begins (location of Fort Wayne, Indiana), was to be the point of contact. The Indian settlements in this area were to be destroyed. General Harmar selected the route best suited, according to his guides, and the shortest. The following was taken from The Western Star, dated June 8, 1908. The route was as follows:
"The course of the army from Fort Washington was directly up the Mount Auburn hill. Thence the direction was generally northeast to Old Chillicothe. The first day, seven miles to a branch of Millcreek. The second day, eight miles to another branch of Millcreek. The third day, fifteen miles, and says Captain John Armstrong's journal, encamped in a rich and extensive bottom of Muddy Creek, one mile from Colonel Hardin's camp and halted at Turtlecreek, about ten yards wide, where we were joined by Colonel Hardin's command. Here the line of march was formed two miles.
"The next morning at half past nine the army moved in a northeast direction about eight miles and at 3 o'clock crossed the Little Miami and moved up that river about a mile to Caesar's Creek and there encamped, the day's march being nine miles.
"On October 5 [1790], the army passed Old Chillicothe and re-crossed the Little Miami. [Simon Kenton was a Captain and a scout on this trip. Daniel Boone was also a scout. The place of encampment was about two miles up Caesar's Creek from the mouth of the Little Miami, close to the present dam area.]
"On October 7, the army crossed Mad River and moving northwestwardly crossed the Great Miami on the 10th.
"The Indian towns were reached on the 15th, but the redmen had all disappeared. The General ordered the Indian towns at the head of the Maumee, of which there were six or seven, to be burnt the orchard trees of which there were a great number, to be girdled and the property of the Indians of every description, including 20,000 bushels of corn, to be destroyed. Four days were spent in this work of destruction. This was, in fact, the main purpose of the expedition to destroy the enemy's means of subsistence and thus prevent active campaign against the white settlements."
This was an accomplishment without battle. However, some of the officers wanted bloodshed. General Harmar sent three detachments to find the Indians and was completely surprised. Being concealed in the high brush, the Indians brought complete disaster to the army. The militia, at the first attack, turned about and ran. A loss of several officers and men was the result of this massacre. General Harmar's army started its homeward march with only a few Indian reprisals.
The great Indian chief, Little Turtle, had won a decisive victory.

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