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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Gen. Josiah Harmar

The Commander in Chief of the Army of the United States.

Leads an Expedition Against the Indians from the Site of Cincinnati and Crosses to the East Side of the Little Miami on His way to the Maumee River
--His Daily Marches.

June 11, 1908

Dallas Bogan on 26 August 2004
article from the book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow." by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

There may be intelligent citizens of Lebanon who have never heard that the commander-in-chief of the United states army in 1790 led the whole available force of the army re-enforced with Kentucky and Pennsylvania militia, thru Warren county and on his outward march twice encamped on Turtlecreek, one of his encampments being within or near the presents limits of Lebanon. This commanding general was Josiah Harmar, who was the third commander-in-chief of the army of the United States, Washington being the first and Henry Knox, the second.
This army, it is true, would now be considered insignificant. From the close of the Revolutionary war until the first year of Washington's administration, there was practically no United States army. Only one regiment of infantry and one battalion of artillery had been retained to guard the public stores and property to occupy the posts vacated by the British on the northwest boundary of the country. On September 29, 1789, by act of congress, a force consisting of a regiment of infantry (eight companies) and a battalion of artillery (four companies) was "recognized to be the establishment of the troops in the service of the United States."
Lieutenant Colonel Josiah Harmar, who was brevetted brigadier general in 1787, was commander of the military establishment of the country from August 12, 1784, until March 4, 1791.

Campaign of 1790.

The expedition of Gen. Harmar in 1790 against the hostile Indians of the northwest was the first one organized after the inauguration of Washington as president. There had been repeated aggressions of the savages after treaty upon treaty had been made with them and broken by them. Gen. Harmar had been stationed for some months at the mouth of the Muskingum where he awaited the arrival of men and military supplies from the upper country. In 1789 Fort Washington had been constructed at Cincinnati and it was the most extensive and important military work in the western country.
The army was organized at Fort Washington and consisted of two battalions of regular troops amounting to 320 men, three battalions of Pennsylvania militia and one battalion of Kentucky mounted riflemen. The total force of the expedition consisted of 1,453 men. Of the regulars was a small artillery company having three cannon.
The militia had been drafted into the service. Many drafted men had employed substitutes, largely boys or old and infirm men. The detachments of militia were looked upon by the officers of the regular army as the most in- efficient ever seen on the western frontiers. Many brought arms unfit for use, many muskets and rifles being without locks. In addition to all this, the militia were unwilling to operate harmoniously with the regulars and the regulars looked with contempt on the militia.
The objective point of the expedition was the Indian settlements at the junction of the St. Joseph's and St. Mary's forming the Maumee river, the place where Ft. Wayne, Indiana, now stands, yet Harmar determined to march northeastward and cross to the east side of the Little Miami. Whether this was partly to deceive the Indians as to the objective point and partly because of the road cut by Gen. Clark in 1780, I am unable to say. Jacob Burnet says Harmar followed the route reported by his guides to be the shortest and the best. The army seems to have marched northeastwardly for the first seven days, following generally Clark's old trace as far as Old Chillocothe, north of the site of Xenia. On the eighth day it began west of north. Thomas Irwin, of Butler county, who was in the expedition, says that after reaching the site of the Pickaway towns on the great Miami which had been destroyed by Gen. Clark in 1782, they had a tolerably good Indian trace to the Old French Store, and a good Indian trace from that point to the Maumee towns.

Beef Cattle and Pack Horses.

This was the largest army that ever marched up the Little Miami and the first that had cannons transported on wheels, the one small cannon of Gen. Clark in 1780 having been carried on a pack horse. It was also probably the first that made provisions for supplying the men with fresh beef on the march. For this purpose cattle were driven along with the army to be slaughtered as they were needed. The beef cattle would often stray from the camps at night and were found with difficulty. I have heard the tradition that the early settlers of Wayne township found wild cattle in the woods which were supposed to have strayed from this army.
Thomas Irwin says: "There were perhaps 130 of the Kentucky militia mounted; one third armed with sword and pistols and the balance with rifles. They were remarkably useful in that campaign, being found active and efficient in hunting up pack horses and beef cattle which were apt to stray off after night, scouring the woods for that purpose and sometimes rousing from their concealment Indians who were watching our movements. On account of their services they were exempt from camp duty at night."
In the last week of September General Harmar ordered Colonel Hardin with six hundred of the Kentucky troops to advance along Clark's old trace about twenty- five miles and there to halt. On September 26, 1790, Colonel Hardin started and proceeded to Turtlecreek west of where Lebanon now is and encamped. General Harmar commenced his march with the main army on September and on the fourth day reached the camp of Colonel Hardin and the two commands were united the next day.

Harmar's Route.

The course of the army from Fort Washington was directly from Fort Washington up the Mount Auburn hill. Thence the direction was generally northeast to Old Chillocothe. The first day 7 miles to a branch of Millcreek. The second day 8 miles to another branch of Millcreek, the third day 15 miles and says Capt. John Armstrong's journal, "encamped in a rich and extensive bottom of Muddy creek, one mile from Col. Hardin's command." On October 3, says the same journal: "The army at eight o'clock passed 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 9 miles. On October 5, the army passed Old Chillocothe and re-crossed the Little Miami.
I have never been able to trace the exact route followed by the army or to locate the place of encampment near Lebanon. A.H. Dunlevy came to this vicinity in 1797 when a boy and his father first lived southwest of the site of Lebanon. He wrote: "Near where we first lived was a camp of Gen. Harmar as he led his army toward the Maumee in 1790. He had probably remained there for a week or ten days, as there were three or four graves there and some half acre or more cut off and the brush piled in heaps around the camp. These brush heaps were decayed in 1798, but afforded fine harbors for snakes, and as the warm sun of spring came out, I think hundreds of them could be seen in an hour passing from brush heap to another." This may have been Harmar's camp for some days.At The Indian Towns.
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 red men 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 campaigns against the white settlements.
It would have been well had the commanding general, knowing the inefficiency of his own forces, been content with this works of desolation, but the officers were unwilling to return without some fighting. Three detachments were sent out in succession to hunt up the enemy. Two of these were surprised, attacked by concealed Indians and defeated with great loss of officers and men. The militia acted cowardly, taking to their heels on the first fire. The savages at night held a dance of victory over the fallen bodies of the whites. The Indians pursued the army on its homeward march but without inflicting much injury.
In an order issued on the night of October 22, Harmar put the best face on the matter he could and said his own men "have laid very many of the enemy dead upon the spot. Altho our loss is great, still it is inconsiderable in comparison with the slaughter among the savages." But in the fighting the victory was evidently with Little Turtle, the commander of the red man.
Harmar went to the seat of government, resigned his command and obtained a court of inquiry into his conduct of the campaign. The court of inquiry pronounced him without blame. His expedition was certainly not so disastrous as that of St. Clair the next year.
Many pioneers of the Miami valley who did not know who Harmar was or whether he was living or dead were familiar with "Harmar's trace" and used it as a road.

Letter From Geo. Sale.
Corwin, Warren Co, O., June 1, 1908.
Mr. Morrow-JosiahJosiah Morrow,
Lebanon, O.
Dear Sir:
I have been reading with great interest your many historical articles published in the Lebanon Star, particularly the one in regard to the old military road, locally known as Clark's or Harmar' Trace. The printers sometimes make havoc of a well written article. I notice in your article above mentioned, they make you say that the Little Miami river, at the place where Harmar crossed it was forty rods wide, when it is evident that you must have said forty yards, if you followed the notes of the authority quoted. I have been familiar with that crossing all my life and my judgment in regard to the width of the river at that place is, that distance across, from bank to bank, is about 80 yards. I think we may account for the seeming discrepancy of the actual distance and Capt. Armstrong's state of 40 yard, in this way. The river being low (for it was about the first of August) he records the distance across the water in the channel. So likewise at Caesar's Creek, at the place where Harmar must have crossed it is 120 feet or 40 yards in width, but the journal says eighty yards. That day's march from Caesar's Creek to the mouth of Glade Creek, is just ten miles by R.R. as the Captain has stated it. The marshy ground spoken of is about the Greene Co. line just east of the village of Mount Holly.
Now something about the Bowman expedition. .Thos. J. Brown, late editor of the Waynesville Gazette, has told me he once owned the farm on which the final skirmish with the pursuing Indians took place. If Mr. Brown is correct, and I have no doubt of the correctness of his statement, then the battle took place about five miles, a little to the east of north of Waynesville and near the Bellbrook road.
I have not had an opportunity to interview Mr. Brown since reading your article but my recollection is that he bases his evidence on the fact that several tomahawks have been found in that locality.
The locality above indicated, would certainly not be on the line of Harmar's Trace to Old Chillicothe, but it is on the straight line from the old Indian town to Waynesville, where he may have reached the old Clark road.
The road traveled by Rev. James Smith to Old Town after spending the night with Mr. Heighway at Waynesville in 1797 was certainly by this line. See his "Tours" where he speaks of passing through prairies before reaching his objective point.
Very Truly Yours, Geo. Sale

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