Mihši-maalhsa Wars Part IV – The Battle of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi

January 1, 2016

meekaalankwiki mihši-maalhsa – mikaalitioni taawaawa siipionki
Mihši-maalhsa Wars Part IV- The Battle of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi

This article is the fourth of a five-part series on the history of our wars with the Mihši-maalhsa (Americans), which occurred from 1778-1794 and from 1812-1814. This fourth article focuses on the Battle of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi (Maumee River), also known as Fallen Timbers. If you want to hear the pronunciation of the Myaamia terms in this article, please visit our online dictionary – www.myaamiadictionary.org

In our last article on the Mihši-maalhsa Wars we looked at the Battle of the Wabash, also known as St. Clair’s Defeat. This battle was a near catastrophic disaster for the still very young United States, but the victory did not leave the allied villages of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi in a very strong position.[1] The British still refused to commit troops and especially artillery to aid the allies. More importantly, poor harvests in the summer of 1791 and floods in the fall of that same year left the allied villages in a terrible state. The continued presence of a large concentration of men from communities throughout the Great Lakes only further strained the limited agricultural stores and forced hunters to go farther from the Taawaawa Siipiiwi in order to bring in enough game.

In the fall of 1791, following the victory at the Battle of the Wabash, the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance held a council. They wanted to meet before all the villages temporarily split up into their winter hunting camps. During the council there was an active and lively debate over whether to continue to pursue the path of war against the Mihši-maalhsa or to use the recent victory over the U.S. Army as an opportunity to negotiate peace from a position of relative strength. The records of the council do not make clear what side Myaamia leaders took in this debate, but it seems that around the time of this council they became divided on whether to pursue peace to continue the war.[2]

The years of disruption and warfare were beginning to take their toll on Myaamia villages. The fall harvest in 1790 was destroyed by Harmar’s invasion and the following year’s crop was poor due to weather. As a result, in the winter of 1791-92, the tribes of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance were reduced to begging for food from the British. Within Myaamia villages, some were beginning to wonder whether their communities could continue to sustain a seemingly never-ending conflict.

Following the fall council, many of the Myaamia people living at Kiihkayonki decided to relocate to a more isolated location downstream on the Taawaawa Siipiiwi (Maumee River). This location would be more difficult for future invading armies to reach, provided great farmland, and offered better hunting and gathering than the depleted lands around Kiihkayonki.[3]

This new village, often called Little Turtle’s Village, was located on the north bank of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi about two miles upstream from its confluence with the Auglaize River. The entire region around this confluence was often called “the Glaize” in English. The name appears to have been a reference to the large clay cliffs on the western bank of the Auglaize River near its confluence with the Taawaawa Siipiiwi.[4]

Around the same time, three villages of Shawnee and two villages of Delaware also relocated to the Glaize. By the spring of 1792, most the communities central to the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance had relocated the Glaize and the population of the area rose to around 2,000. There was also a small community of European traders located on the Auglaize River. Through these traders the British could supply the villages with food, arms, and other trade goods. By 1794, the ability of these traders to supply the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance increased when the British decided to construct Fort Miami about forty miles northeast of the Glaize. The villagers living at the Glaize also hoped that the British would eventually support them by committing their own troops and artillery into battle against the Mihši-maalhsa.[5]

In the spring of 1792, villagers from the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance captured three separate small groups of Mihši-maalhsa traveling north. All three groups of captives professed to be peace emissaries, but in each case their behavior led their captors to assume they were spies and they were killed. Their claims of peaceful intent were confused by the fact that nearly all the American messengers were military men who had participated in the previous attacks on alliance villages. During the same period that these men claimed to be pursuing peace, the Mihši-maalhsa built yet another new fort north of the Kaanseenseepiiwi (Ohio River). This new fort, Fort St. Clair (#3 in the map below), was between Fort Hamilton and Fort Jefferson, and made it possible for pack trains to move halfway to the Taawaawa Siipiiwi while traveling only during the day. Each night, they could camp in the protection of a fort. The Taawaawa Siipiiwi communities realized that this chain of forts made it increasingly difficult and dangerous to surprise the Mihši-maalhsa as was done to St. Clair’s invading army.[6]

In the early summer of 1792, a force of fifty men moved south from the Taawaawa Siipiiwi with the goal of ambushing a pack train or small force of Mihši-maalhsa moving to or from Fort Jefferson, which lay about twenty-three miles south of the headwaters of the Waapaahšiki Siipiiwi (#4 on map below). After fourteen days of travel and scouting, the Taawaawa Siipiiwi force successfully ambushed a party of fifteen Mihši-maalhsa who were cutting hay at some distance from the fort. The allies killed four of the Mihši-maalhsa soldiers in the attack and took eleven captive. Eventually, the allies executed seven of the captives. They took the remaining four to Ojibwe villages in the north.[7]

The Taawaawa Siipiiwi Alliance made a few more small raids throughout summer. But the challenges of feeding their communities kept them from making more sizeable attacks until fall. Early in the fall of 1792, the allies gathered at the Glaize for a large council that would work to determine a course of action over the coming year.

The main debate of the council took place between those strongly associated with the Taawaawa Siipiiwi Alliance and representatives of the Six Nations and the Seven in Nations in Canada. The Six Nations representatives, and to a lesser extent the Seven Nations in Canada, pushed the Taawaawa Siipiiwi villages to negotiate peace with the Mihši-maalhsa while the leaders of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi, represented by the Shawnee speaker Painted Pole, stopped just short of verbally assaulting their elder brothers. Painted Pole argued that the Six Nations were working for the benefit of the Americans and only pretending to offer help to the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance. In short, they accused the Six Nations of being traitors to effort they had once agreed to support.

After a private conference, representatives of the factions returned to a more friendly tone and agreed to work together to convene a peace council on the Sandusky River in the spring of 1793. The representatives of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi put in place some demanding conditions that most probably knew the Americans could not meet. They started by demanding that all forts north of the Ohio be demolished before negotiations could begin. Later they added that they would accept no other boundary but the Kaanseenseepiiwi (the Ohio River), which was a condition that the Mihši-maalhsa would never accept.

On the last day of the council, war leaders and their followers from within the alliance took to the space next to the council fire and conducted a war dance. This dance recounted each individual’s experiences in war and in this period of time was usually used to symbolize a group’s violent intent. The dance was a strong indication that most of those living along the Taawaawa Siipiiwi still felt strongly inclined towards war with the Americans.[8]

Less than a month after the Grand Council of the Glaize, around 200 men from Myaamia and Shawnee villages headed south from the Taawaawa Siipiiwi to attack the Mihši-maalhsa. Snake and Blue Jacket probably led the Shawnees and Mihšihkinaahkwa the Myaamia. As with previous campaigns, the three leaders found a way to coordinate their efforts and create a surprise attack that yielded high return with very little risk. These leaders knew that without cannon the forts were too difficult to capture, however the allies realized that without food the soldiers in each of the forts could be starved into submission. Their attention then turned to the Mihši-maalhsa supply lines, which at that time stretched around sixty-five miles between the four forts that had been built (#1-4 on the map below).

After about two weeks of scouting, captives alerted the Taawaawa Siipiiwi men that a large pack train was moving south toward the newest of the American forts (Fort St. Clair, #3 on the Map). The allies moved quickly, and with two days they reached the area and observed the pack train setting camp some 200 yards from the protection of the fort. During the hours of total darkness before dawn, the allies covered three sides of the camp. As the sentries were called in shortly before daylight, the initial attackers followed on their heels, entered the camp, and opened fire. Within minutes, absolute chaos reigned in the American camp and the majority of the Mihši-maalhsa men fled toward the fort. In the brief battle, the allies killed six of the Mihši-maalhsa and wounded five. The men of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi lost two men in the struggle. The main goal of the attack, however, was to kill or capture the 100 horses that were the backbone of the supply chain. In this, they were extremely successful. They killed twenty-six horses, wounded ten, and drove off the remaining seventy. Eventually, the Mihši-maalhsa recovered twenty-three of these lost animals, but the attack still produced a large disruption in the delivery of food and goods to the forts.[9]

This attack was the last large-scale military effort of the fall. As winter settled in, the men of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi villages again dispersed to winter hunting camps. The allies would gather together in the spring to see if the Mihši-maalhsa would accept their terms and come to the negotiating table.

In the spring of 1793, the Taawaawa Siipiiwi communities waited for the Mihši-maalhsa to fulfill their terms and send ambassadors to negotiate peace. Word did reach the Taawaawa Siipiiwi that ambassadors had been sent, but they did not observe the evacuation and destruction of the string of forts. In fact, late in the spring of that year the exact opposite occurred as nearly 2,000 Mihši-maalhsa soldiers arrived at Fort Washington (#1 on the map below) and set up camp along the Kaanseenseepiiwi (Ohio River). Once the communities of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi learned that another army was encamped on the Kaanseenseepiiwi they became fairly certain that a third invasion of their homelands was likely to follow.[10]

Image 1 Invasion Route

This map details Myaamia village locations, the Myaamia heartland on the upper Wabash (large red oval) and the relocated center of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance at the Glaize (small red oval). The dashed line marks the advance of the Mihši-maalhsa army in 1793 and 1794, the American forts, and the red “x” marks the location of the Battle of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi on August 19, 1794, which is also known as the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The Forts are as follows: #1. Fort Washington at Cincinnati #2. Fort Hamilton #3. Fort St. Clair #4. Fort Jefferson #5. Fort Greenville #6. Fort Recovery #7. Fort Adams #8. Fort Defiance. Base map by Joshua Sutterfield.

Following the arrival of the Mihši-maalhsa army, the communities of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi must have set a careful watch as they nervously awaited an attack on their villages. Previously, the Mihši-maalhsa had attacked villages in late fall or early winter and there was no reason to think this time would be any different.

The fears of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi villages seemed realized on October 7, 1793 when the Mihši-maalhsa broke camp along the Kaanseenseepiiwi (Ohio River) and took up the march north. On October 8, they reached the Fort Hamilton on the banks of the Ahsenisiipi (Great Miami River, #2 on the above map). The Mihši-maalhsa constructed this fort during the first stage of St. Clair’s failed campaign in the fall of 1791.[11]

By October 17, the Mihši-maalhsa army had advanced to the last outpost in their chain of protective forts (Fort Jefferson, #4 on the above map). From this point onward, the Americans would be moving beyond the protection of already constructed forts. This potentially provided the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance with their first real opportunity to attack the Mihši-maalhsa army. It would also further extend the Mihši-maalhsa supply lines, which were already stressed, and open their pack trains to additional attacks.[12]

In late October, the American army began construction of a fortified camp on a creek about six miles north of Fort Jefferson (#5 on above map). This fortified camp eventually evolved into a full-blown fort and was named Fort Greenville by the Americans. The Mihši-maalhsa were forced to halt there after advancing such a short distance because the army was critically short of food and other necessary supplies.[13]

The Taawaawa Siipiiwi communities were unable to take full advantage of the American supply problems and failed to organize an attack on the camp. The allies were taken by surprise when a force of 300 Mihši-maalhsa arched north on December 23 and began construction of a new fort on the banks of the Waapaahšiki Siipiiwi on the exact site of the Battle of the Wabash (Fort Recovery, #6 on the above map). Over four days, the Mihši-maalhsa finished the first phase of construction of the fort and successfully located seven of the cannon that had been hidden by the men from the Taawaawa Siipiiwi after their victory in 1791. After the initial construction phrase of the fort was finished, the bulk of the force returned to the site of Fort Greenville. A small force remained at Fort Recovery and construction on the fort continued all the way into the spring. By May, the fort was solid enough to withstand serious attack.[14]

The remainder of the winter of 1793 passed with no major moves by either group. The Taawaawa Siipiiwi communities had been certain that an attack would come that fall and had evacuated some of their villages and put out a call for help from their allies living to the north and west. They likely kept up a constant surveillance of the Mihši-maalhsa army and waited for an ideal opportunity to attack. They may have been planning a large ambush in the difficult swampland to the south of the Glaize, but the opportunity for this kind of attack never materialized that fall. In fact, the unpredictability of the Mihši-maalhsa advance kept the allies from making any serious attacks until the summer of 1794.

In the middle of the summer of 1794, the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance attempted a large-scale raid on Mihši-maalhsa supply lines. This force involved nearly 1,500 men, which was around 50% larger than the force that was victorious at the Battle of the Wabash in 1791. The Mihši-maalhsa had increased the number of guards on supply convoys to 500 soldiers, and in order to successfully cutoff the American supply lines, the allies needed overwhelming numbers.

Half of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi force came from their northern allies among the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomi. The leaders of the alliance knew that they could not feed this increased population for very long. They needed to make an attack on the Mihši-maalhsa before their own supply issues forced their allies to return home. To address the lack of food, the leaders of Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance may have been planning a sustained siege of the supply lines linking Fort Recovery and Fort Greenville. If successful, they could live off of the food they would capture from the supply convoys.

On the evening of June 29, a supply convoy arrived at Fort Recovery and encamped just outside its walls. The next morning, while the packhorses grazed about a mile from the fort, the men from the Taawaawa Siipiiwi attacked the convoy. After only fifteen minutes of fighting, the entire Mihši-maalhsa contingent broke and ran for the safety of the fort. In the brief initial engagement, the allies killed around thirty men, wounded another thirty, captured a few individuals, drove off the entire train of packhorses, and took the garrison’s entire stock of thirty head of cattle. The original plan, at that point, was to surround the fort and maintain a siege at a safe distance from its walls. While surrounding the fort, the allies also searched for the cannon that they had hidden in 1791. This search was mostly in vane as the Americans had recovered seven of the eight cannon over the past winter and spring.

Unfortunately for the alliance, large numbers of individuals and probably a few war leaders sought to press what they saw as an advantage and rushed the walls of the fort. The Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance had nearly always fought with a loose command structure. Individual men usually only owed loyalty to their specific war leader – what was called neenawihtoowa in Myaamiaataweenki or a “war captain” in English. But even these war leaders could not force individuals to obey their commands. More often than not, this loose structure allowed large forces to move quickly and overwhelm opponents to dramatic effect, like at the Battle of the Wabash in 1791. On this occasion the failure to coordinate and follow the agreed upon plan led to the deaths of about seventeen men as they fruitlessly assaulted a fortified position and were relentlessly fired upon by cannon and muskets.

Over the night, the army of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi maintained the siege of Fort Recovery and continued to search for the remaining hidden cannon. Before dawn, they did locate one cannon. There was small unit of British soldiers traveling with army, but they had not been adequately supplied with the gunpowder and shot necessary to use the cannon in attacking the fort.

After dawn, a few men kept up a light barrage of sniping attacks on the fort while the rest of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi army withdrew. The army had been unable to capture enough food to sustain itself and the deaths, while not numerous from a Euro-American military point of view, were demoralizing to the allies. That day, arguments erupted among the various communities within the force. Each group blamed the other for the previous day’s failure.[15]

Following the failed siege, the Taawaawa Siipiiwi army returned north to the Glaize and then quickly disintegrated as the 800 men from the northern communities, mostly Ottawa and Ojibwe, returned home. The failure of the siege of Fort Recovery left the villages at the Glaize severely weakened.

Within a month of this terrible loss, word reached the Taawaawa Siipiiwi that a large Mihši-maalhsa army had marched north from Fort Greenville. Thrown once again into a panic, the villages prepared to evacuate their noncombatants while the military leaders put out yet another call for help from their allies and gathered in council to discuss strategy.[16]

Image 2 Final Advance

This maps shows the final advance of the Mihši-maalhsa army in the fall of 1794. The blue squares are American forts, the red circle is the Myaamia village called Turtle’s Village, the red triangles are Shawnee and Delaware villages, the red “x” is the site of the battle, and the black square is the British Fort Miamis. Base map by Joshua Sutterfield.

Over the course of the following two weeks, the Mihši-maalhsa army built a smaller fort on the Nameewa Siipiiwi (Fort Adams on the St. Mary’s River on the above map). The allies were unable to organize any resistance as Fort Adams was built or as the Mihši-maalhsa quickly advanced through the Great Black Swamp all the way to the Glaize village sites on the Taawaawa Siipiiwi.[17]

On August 7, the Mihši-maalhsa struck a massive blow against the allies as their entire army encamped at the center of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance. The communities of the alliance had been forced into abandoning all of their homes and agricultural fields and were understandably shaken and unable to organize an immediate response. The disagreements produced by the failure of the attack on Fort Recovery in June had multiplied, and many of the allied leaders wanted the British to send troops and artillery to join in the fight before they would commit themselves and their young men to battle.

On August 9, the Americans began construction of a new fort on the southwest bank of the confluence of the Auglaize with the Taawaawa Siipiiwi (Fort Defiance on the above map). The fort was completed by the middle of the month and the allies watched closely as the Mihši-maalhsa army crossed the Taawaawa Siipiiwi and began to advance down the river.[18]

As the Mihši-maalhsa advanced, the leaders of the alliance gathered together at the foot of the rapids of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi to hold a council. They met to decide how they would respond to a peace message from the commander of the Mihši-maalhsa army. The American commander, General Anthony Wayne, sent a message to the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance requesting that a peace council be held without delay. If they would agree to meet quickly, Wayne promised to return the villages at the Glaize to their control. The implied threat was that if they did not agree to negotiate he would burn their homes and their agricultural fields. Most critically, in his letter Wayne planted further seeds of doubt regarding British support for the alliance. He described the British as deceitful and lacking both ability and the will to assist the allies in battle. This language played off of the fears of many alliance leaders that the British would abandon them.

At the council, the highly regarded Myaamia war leader, Mihšihkinaahkwa (Little Turtle), argued that the alliance should pursue a path of peace. Since the 1780s, Mihšihkinaahkwa had been a highly successful war leader. He led his Myaamia relatives in the successful defeats of LaBalme, Harmar, and St. Clair as well as on numerous successful smaller attacks and raids. At first glance, it seems surprising that this successful military leader would argue for peace, but this apparent change of heart had its roots that stretched back nearly two years.[19]

In the fall of 1792, Mihšihkinaahkwa met with his son in law Eepiihkaanita and discussed the future of their people’s resistance to the Mihši-maalhsa. Eepiihkaanita had just returned from a long journey to free Weenankapita, his wife and Mihšihkinaahkwa’s daughter, from captivity at Fort Washington. His journey took him to Cincinnati, Kentucky, and Vincennes and as a result of his travels Eepiihkaanita became convinced that the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance could not defeat the Mihši-maalhsa over the long term. Eepiihkaanita had a unique perspective of the conflict because he was an American by birth.

Prior to his capture and adoption at fourteen years old, Eepiihkaanita was known as William Wells and he had family among the settlers in Kentucky. In the summer of 1792, Eepiihkaanita toured the American forts and visited with his American family. He heard about the war efforts of the Mihši-maalhsa and came to believe that the alliance could not resist the Americans forever. In a private meeting near Kiihkayonki in the fall of 1792, Eepiihkaanita convinced his father-in-law to begin to work for peace.

That fall, Mihšihkinaahkwa and Eepiihkaanita formed what the historian Harvey Lewis Carter has called “the family compact.” They agreed that they would both pursue an end to the war, but from opposite sides of the conflict. Mihšihkinaahkwa would continue to serve among the military leaders of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance and Eepiihkaanita would go to work for the Mihši-maalhsa army. They realized that there would still be violent conflict ahead, but they vowed not to physically attack each other. Eepiihkaanita also made a similar agreement with his adopted father, Aakaawita, who was a civil leader for the Kineepikomeekwa Siipiiwi village (Eel River).[20]

Throughout 1794, the Mihši-maalhsa were able to move wherever they chose and at times they moved with great speed. For this reason, the Myaamia gave the American commander Anthony Wayne the name Alaamhsenwa (the Wind). They had been unable to completely sever the Mihši-maalhsa supply lines and without British help they could not successfully attack any of the larger forts. Following the failure of the attack on Fort Recovery, Mihšihkinaahkwa visited the British at Detroit and became further convinced that they would never commit actual troops and cannon into battle against the Americans.[21]

All of these factors combined to convince Mihšihkinaahkwa that the council at the foot rapids was the perfect moment to push publicly for peace. He was the first to speak that evening in August and he must have stood knowing that his words would not be popular. Many of his own people were still unwilling to consider peace, and he knew that rivalries within the alliance would make any decision difficult. After fourteen years of resisting the Mihši-maalhsa, Mihšihkinaahkwa was asking his allies to face up to failure, and to acknowledge that their enemies would gain control of land north of the Kaanseenseepiiwi (Ohio River). [22]

Mihšihkinaahkwa opened the council by recounting the long struggle against the Mihši-maalhsa. He acknowledged the alliance’s past successes, but pointed to the costs they paid while traveling the “long and bloody” road of war. He called on his allies to recognize that the numbers of Mihši-maalhsa were too many for them to overcome and that each army they defeated was replaced by another the following year, like the leaves returning to the trees every spring. He concluded his speech by recommending that the alliance open peace negotiations with the American commander.[23]

When he finished, no one spoke. At that moment, Mihšihkinaahkwa must have known that he had failed to convince the group. In response, a speaker stood to make the case for continued war. The next speaker was either the Shawnee leader Blue Jacket or the Ojibwe leader Egushawa. This speaker argued that Wayne did not seek peace but instead sought to continue the “walk in a bloody path.” He then challenged his audience by asking them if they intended to “defend the council fires and graves of their fathers?” The crowd responded by loudly and forcefully acknowledging their support for continued war. After the council’s decision was made clear, Mihšihkinaahkwa stated that he would respect the council’s choice and continue to lead Myaamia people in the coming battle.[24]

The allies then organized a strategy for defeating the Mihši-maalhsa. They planned an ambush within a large stand of fallen timber, which had been knocked down in a tornado some years earlier. This location would provide cover from which to fire upon the Mihši-maalhsa as well as serving to potentially disrupt the organization of Mihši-maalhsa army and limit the movement of their cavalry. This location also was also within four miles of the British fort, which would allow for easy communication and delivery of supplies via horseback. The British unofficially committed about seventy Canadian militiamen to the battle. Many of these men had family connections to Taawaawa Siipiiwi villages and all of them were to be dressed in “Indian fashion,” and could be officially disavowed. This protected the British from committing an official act of war against the United States.[25]

Three days after the council, on August 17, the allies observed the Mihši-maalhsa arrive at the foot of the rapids, and on the following day they ambushed American scouts moving through the heavy timber. The presence of the scouts convinced the leaders of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance that the attack would come the next morning (August 19) and in preparation between 1,300-1,400 men from the alliance dispersed in a long front hidden within the fallen timber waiting for an advance that day that never came. Instead, the Mihši-maalhsa spent the day constructing a small fortified camp at the foot of the rapids.[26]

The next morning (August 20) a large thunderstorm broke over both armies, and around 500 men from the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance defensive line pulled back to the British fort to eat and resupply. Some of the men had been fasting for three days in anticipation of battle and they mistakenly thought that the rain would prevent the Mihši-maalhsa from attacking that day.

Much to their surprise, about three hours after dawn, advance scouts of the Mihši-maalhsa army ran into the center of the allies’ defensive line. The war leaders Egushawa and Little Otter led the Ottawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi in this part of the line. Initially the allies took the Mihši-maalhsa by complete surprise and the Americans fell back in disorder. Egushawa and Little Otter’s forces closely pursued them, but this took them out of the fallen timber and into the relatively open forest. Most critically, this advance was not planned and the rest of their allies did not immediately follow.

Battlefield Today 2

The location of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi Battlefield remained misidentified until the 1990s when G. Michael Pratt and a team of archeologists identified the actual location (marked with a red “x” on this map). For more on the identification of the battlefield see G. Michael Pratt “Remote Sending Surveys at the Fallen Timbers Battlefield” (2003) in note 27 below. 

Within minutes, the battle shifted from a disorganized sprint forward through the fallen timber to a standstill in which the Mihši-maalhsa formed ranks. In the center, the Ottawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi under Egushawa and Little Otter paused in the tall grass and open forest to reorganize and fire on their enemy. At this point they were joined in the fight by the Wyandot and Canadian militia on their right, led by Tarhe and other unnamed Wyandot war leaders; the Shawnee and Delaware on their left, likely led by Blue Jacket and Buckongahelas; and the Myaamia on the extreme left by the river, led by Mihšihkinaahkwa. All surprise had been lost, and the allies from the Taawaawa Siipiiwi stood facing the entire army of the Mihši-maalhsa, which after forming ranks, began to quickly advance with fixed bayonets.

Order of Battle

The Myaamia under Mihšihkinaahkwa fought on the extreme left of the allied line. The fiercest fighting was on the right with the Wyandot, Ottawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi suffering the worst loses.

The Mihši-maalhsa advanced most rapidly at the center of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance line. Without the full cover of the fallen timber, the allies could not successfully break up the American advance. Once the allies saw cavalry and felt the impact of the Mihši-maalhsa artillery, their lines began a somewhat organized retreat towards the British fort. Upon reaching Fort Miamis, they found the doors barred. The commander would not allow them to seek shelter within the fort. He had been ordered to avoid war with the United States at nearly all costs. Much as Mihšihkinaahkwa and others had feared, the British had abandoned them in their time of need.

The entire battle lasted for about an hour, but a few participants claimed that the fighting was really intense for only about fifteen minutes. In the fight, the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance lost around fifty men and had unknown numbers of wounded. The Mihši-maalhsa army suffered eighty-nine wounded and forty-four dead.[27]

After the battle, the men of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance retreated northeast to a refugee camp built for the women and children who had evacuated their villages. In the days that followed the battle, the Mihši-maalhsa burned all the villages and cornfields up and down the Taawaawa Siipiiwi for nearly fifty miles. The allies must have watched with great sorrow as smoke filled the sky. Many of the Myaamia woman and children had fled to a village on the Saakiiweesiipi (St. Joseph’s River, Michigan) so they were farther from the violence, but the destruction of their cornfields and homes meant that once again they would be facing winter without shelter and food.[28]

Mihšihkinaahkwa and other Myaamia leaders would not forget the British betrayal leading up to and after the Battle of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi. In the decades that followed, many of these leaders maintained a steady suspicion of their former British “fathers.” After the Treaty of Greenville established peace in 1795, these leaders would never again support calls for war against their new fathers, the Mihši-maalhsa.

In the aftermath of the battle, Mihšihkinaahkwa was ideally positioned to lead the peace effort for his people. His prominence as a spokesman rose because he advocated for peace and publicly expressed his doubts about the British prior to the battle. This allowed him to make the transition from war leader to civil leader in a manner that few before him had been able to do. Additionally, his son-in-law Eepiihkaanita had earned the trust of the Mihši-maalhsa commander, Anthony Wayne, and was positioned to serve as a key translator and assistant for Mihšihkinaahkwa in the coming negotiations. For the rest of their lives, these two men would work together to forge a new tribal nation out of the relatively independent villages that stretched down the Waapaahšiki Siipiiwi. This recreated Miami Tribe was born out of the fires of war, but was built to endure the challenges of peace. For as Mihšihkinaahkwa, Eepiihkaanita, and their successors would learn, living in peace within the United States would prove to be far greater test of survival than the decade and a half of war brought to an end by the Battle of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi.

In our next article, we will look at the first Treaty of Greenville and the negotiations that created a new path of peace between the members of Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance and the Mihši-maalhsa. After exploring this new path of peace, we will return to covering the Mihši-maalhsa Wars in part five of this series with an in depth look at the War of 1812.

If you would like to comment on this story, ask general historical questions, or request a future article on a different topic, then please make a comment below. Our history belongs to all of us and I hope we can use this blog as one place to further our knowledge and or strengthen connections to our shared past. You can also email George at ironstgm@miamioh.edu.

 

NOTES

[1] When generally speaking about the alliance centered on Taawaawa Siipiiwi (Maumee River) I use the title “Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance.” At the time, Americans gave this alliance numerous different titles, but two of the most common were the “Western Indians” or the “Western Confederacy.” However, these geographical titles are based on the perspective of the United States who saw our ancestors as being west of Atlantic seaboard states that formed the core of the first generation of the United States. These names do not necessarily reflect the villages’ perceptions of themselves. Because we have no solid references that reflect how Myaamia people described this alliance in their own language, I’ve chosen to use geographical references focused on where the alliance was centered rather than how it was viewed from the periphery. Because the heart of the alliance was centered on the Taawaawa Siipiiwi and most of the major counsels occurred along that river, I’ve used the title the “allied villages on the Taawaawa Siipiiwi.” In the interests of readability, I also use the “Taawaawa Siipiiwi alliance” as shorthand for the longer title. Much thanks to my relative Laura Nagy for asking me to more clearly explain the reasoning behind this title.

[2] Minutes of Debates in Council, on the Banks of the Ottawa River, November, 1791 (Baltimore: Warner & Hanna, 1800), 5-23 accessed online through Sabin Americana. Wiley Sword, President Washington’s Indian War: the Struggle for the Old Northwest, 1790-1795 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 196. Harvey Lewis Carter, The Life and Times of Little Turtle: First Sagamore of the Wabash (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 109.

[3] Michael McCafferty, “A Fresh Look at the Place Name Chicago,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 96, no. 2 (Summer 2003), 82.

[4] mihši-neewe (big thanks) to Michael McCafferty for steering me around the folk etymologies of the Glaize and providing the original French for the river: “la rivière aux Glaises,” which likely references the abundance of clay or salt licks along the river. Historically, there were also large clay embankments at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee Rivers.

[5] Mihšihkinaahkwa requested cannon while visiting Detroit in 1794, see Carter, Little Turtle, 132.

[6] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 218.

[7] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 219.

[8] White, Middle Ground, 458-61.

[9] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 220-21; Oliver M. Spencer, The Indian Captivity of O.M. Spencer, Milo Milton Quaife ed. (Chicago: R.R. Donnelley, 1917), online facsimile edition at the Hathi Trust Digital Library (http://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.32044011694817). Accessed August 6, 2015, 115-120. Alan D. Gaff, Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne’s Legion in the Old Northwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004), 84-87.

[10] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 232. Gaff, Bayonets in the Wilderness, 113.

[11] Gaff, Bayonets in the Wilderness, 157-58.

[12] Carter, Little Turtle, 126. Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 250. Gaff, Bayonets in the Wilderness, 166.

[13] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 251-52. Gaff, Bayonets in the Wilderness, 175-77.

[14] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 255-256. Gaff, Bayonets in the Wilderness, 184-186.

[15] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 273-79. Carter, Little Turtle, 131-32. Gaff, Bayonets in the Wilderness, 241-53.

[16] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 232-237. Carter, Little Turtle, 124-135.

[17] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 281.

[18] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 283.

[19] John Graves Simcoe, The Correspondence of Lieut. Governor John Graves Simcoe, Vol. II, ed. E. A. Cruikshank (Toronto, The Ontario Historical Society, 1924), 372-73. Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, Historical Collections, Vol. 25 (Lansing, MI: Robert Smith and Co., State Printers and Binders, 1896), 10-11. Available online through at Archive.org – https://archive.org/stream/michiganhistoric25mich#page/10/mode/2up

[20] Carter, Little Turtle, 112-121.

[21] Carter, Little Turtle, 132, 140 n.37. Carter mistranslates “alomseng” or alamhsenwa as “Big Wind (i.e. tornado),” but he is incorrect. Alamhsenwa simply means “the wind.”

[22] Carter, Little Turtle, 134.

[23] Carter, Little Turtle, 134. Wallace A. Brice, History Of Fort Wayne, From The Earliest Known Accounts Of This Point, To The Present Period (Fort Wayne, Indiana: D.W. Jones & Son, Printers, 1868), 148. Not all historians agree that Mihšihkinaahkwa made the public turn towards peace at this council. Gaff asserts, based on a Wyandot report, that Mihšihkinaahkwa was aligned with the war faction. Gaff, Bayonets in the Wilderness, 293.

[24] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 291.

[25] William Campbell to Alexander McKee, August 13, 1794 in Simcoe, Correspondence, Vol. II, 380. Antoine Laselle’s Interrogation, August 28, 1794, in American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Vol. 4, Indian Affairs, no. 1 (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1832), 494.

[26] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 295.

[27] Sword, President Washington’s Indian War, 299-305. G. Michael Pratt, “Remote Sensing Surveys at the Fallen Timbers Battlefield,” Ohio Valley Historical Archaeology, Vol. 18 (2003), 74-85.

[28] Carter, Little Turtle, 136-37.

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