The Battle Of Fallen Timbers

PrintPrintEmailEmail

On the morning of [August] twentieth [1793], with about three thousand men, including the mounted Kentuckians under [General Charles] Scott, [Wayne] marched down the north branch of the Maumee to attack the Indian position. A drizzling rain was falling and the clouds were dark.

The Indians had long been preparing for the conflict… A few miles south of the British fort, they had taken up a position at Presque Isle, a hill or ridge along which ran a mighty swath of fallen timber, felled years before by a tornado. Among the fallen trunks, many of which were twisted but not severed from their stumps, a second growth of trees had sprung up. The Indians cut off these smaller trees breasthigh and turned their sharpened ends toward the enemy. In the fortress thus formed by wild winds and men were gathered Little Turtle, Blue Jacket, and Tecumseh with from fifteen hundred to two thousand warriors, and about seventy French, English, and Tory Rangers under Captain Caldwell. Their line was about two miles long and lay at right angles to the river; a red foe crouched behind every stump …

The American infantry advanced in columns, with a battalion of mounted volunteers in front. The right wing was protected by the river: one brigade of mounted volunteers was stationed on the left and the other in the rear. After advancing about five miles, the vanguard was Bred upon and driven back by Indians secreted in the woods and the tall grass. The infantry was at once formed in two lines parallel with the enemy’s position. Wayne ordered the first line to advance, to rouse the Indians from their coverts, to fire and then to push them with the bayonet before they had time to reload. With both brigades of the mounted volunteers, General Scott was to take a circuitous route and fall upon the enemy’s right flank, and Captain Campbell with the regular cavalry was to charge their left flank next the river: Wayne had decided “to put the horse hoof on the moccasin.” The ground was unfavorable lor cavalry, but the dragoons galloped forward at full speed, cut down some of the enemy, and put to flight the others in that quarter. The infantry was equally successful. At the turning-point of the battle, Turkey Foot, the young chief of the Ottawas, standing on a rock that still bears his name, shouted to his braves to stand firm—the Great Spirit would make them strong. For an instant, the clouds parted and the sunshine fell upon him like the apurovina: smile of Heaven. But the clouds soon closed their rifts and shut out the sunshine; at that moment Turkey Foot fell pierced by a musket ball. Then panic swept down and slaughter surged where the tornado had destroyed. The Indians were driven from the field before Wayne’s second line and Scott’s volunteers were able to take much part in the action. The Indians “could not stand against the sharp ends of the guns” and “their moccasins tracked blood on the sand.” For seven miles along the river and through the woods the Americans pursued; it was the bayonet against the tomahawk and few prisoners were taken. Some of the fugitives lied to the River Raisin and some did not falter in their flight until they were safe in Canada. The American loss was one hundred and thirty-three, of whom forty-four were killed or mortally wounded. The enemy’s loss was probably two or three times as great and included several of Caldwell’s rangers, one of whom was captured. “It was,” says [Theodore] Roosevelt, “the most important victory ever gained over the Northwestern Indians, during the forty years’ warfare to which it put an end.”