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Situation of affairs on the Frontier.-General Wayne appointed to the command.-Gallant engagement of Major Adair with the Indians.-Commissioners appointed to treat with the North-western tribes.—Their instructions.—Their negotiations.—Improper interference of British officers and agents.-Failure of the negotiation.
The campaigns of Harmar and St. Clair, and the intermediate expeditions of Scott and Wilkinson, inflamed the rage and malice of the savages to the highest pitch; and prompted them to fill the country with marauding parties, whose depredations and cruelties were most distressing.
At that period the public service rendered it necessary to keep up a constant communication between Fort Washington, the head-quarters of the army, and the advanced posts, for the purpose of conveying supplies, or intelligence; sometimes by small parties, and often by single individuals, who were necessarily exposed to the attacks of those wandering savages.
While the army was on the frontier, the main body of the Indians were in its vicinity, watching its movements, and seeking opportunities to harass and annoy it; yet at the same time, they had parties incessantly lurking about the villages and stations, and watching the roads and paths, leading from one post and station to another. The attacks of those parties were frequent and extremely annoying, and were attended with serious losses, both of life and property. They were, however, always repelled with spirit, and most frequently with success. On some occasions, the assailants suffered severely, and had cause to regret their temerity,
Such being the state of affairs on the frontier, President Washington selected Anthony Wayne, of Revolutionary memory, to take command of the army; and for that purpose, in April, 1792, he was nominated and appointed a Major General. Being aware of some of the causes of the failure of the campaigns, under Harmar and St. Clair, and particularly that those officers had been ordered by the War Department, to advance prematurely into the Indian country, he accepted the appointment, with an express stipulation, that he should not be required to march into the wilderness, till the army was full, and so far disciplined as to justify him in assuming the responsibility, to which such a movement would subject him.
The misfortunes of those who preceded him, were known. He had investigated their causes, and ascertained that they were occasioned, principally, by a want of discipline, and a want of the material, necessary for an army. He had seen two of his Revolutionary associates censured, the one for a total defeat; and the other for heavy losses, under circumstances, which neither skill, nor bravery, could have prevented.
With these lessons before him, he determined to avoid the rock, on which they had made shipwreck, and therefore accepted the appointment, on the condition before stated. A few days after this appointment, James Wilkinson, then a Lieutenant Colonel in the army, was promoted to the rank of a Brigadier, and became the second officer in command. This organization having been made, measures were immediately commenced, to recruit the army, and perfect the arrangements necessary for the approaching campaign.
While these measures were in progress, information was received at the War Department, that on the 6th of November, 1792, a detachment of mounted Kentucky volunteers, encamped in the immediate vicinity of Fort St. Clair, twenty-six miles south of Greenville, near where Eaton, the county seat of Preble now stands, were suddenly and violently attacked by a large party of Indians, who rushed on the encampment with great fury. A bloody conflict ensued, during which Major Adair, the commandant of the volunteers, ordered Lieutenant Madison, with a small party, to gain the right flank of the enemy, if possible, and at the same time gave an order for Lieutenant Hall to attack their left; but learning that that officer had been slain, the Major, with about twenty-five of his men, made the attack in person, with a view of sustaining Lieutenant Madison.
The pressure of this movement caused the enemy to give way. They were driven about six hundred yards, through, and beyond the American camp, where they made a stand, and again fought desperately. At that juncture, about sixty of the Indians made an effort to turn the right flank of the volunteers. Major Adair, foreseeing the consequences of that maneuvre, found it necessary to order a retreat. That movement was effected with regularity, and, as was expected, the Indians pursued them to their camp, where a halt was called, and another severe conflict took place, in which the Indians suffered severely, and were driven from the ground.
After the conflict was over, it was ascertained that Lieutenant Madison, who had been sent to the right, was wounded on the first attack, and obliged to retreat into the Fort, leaving two of his command dead on the field. It was also found, that the Indians had carried off the greater part of the horses belonging to the detachment, and that six of the volunteers were killed, five wounded, and four missing. The loss of the enemy was about the same. Major Adair, the commander of the volunteers, was the same officer, who afterwards behaved so gallantly under Harrison and Shelby, in the north, and under Jackson, in Florida and Louisiana.
In the spring following, the arrangements for the cam
paign still going on, and before much progress had been made, a Board of Commissioners, consisting of Benjamin Lincoln, Beverly Randolph, and Timothy Pickering, was appointed by the President, and vested with ample powers to negotiate a treaty of peace and boundaries, with the North-western tribes of Indians, on just and equitable principles. From the high character of the Commissioners, and the liberal offers they were authorised to make, it was confidently expected, they would succeed in establishing peace, which would supersede the necessity of a campaign, for which the War Department was then preparing.
The Commissioners received their instructions in April, 1793, which were full and explicit, and enjoined it on them, to use every effort in their power, to obtain a confirmation of the treaty of Fort Harmar, made in 1789, and especially that part of it which defined the boundaries, and ceded to the United States the lands lying east, south and west of a line drawn up the Cuyahoga river, from its mouth to the portage of the Tuscarawas branch of the Muskingum; thence down that branch to the forks; thence west, to the portage of the Big Miami, called Loramies; thence along that portage to the Miami, sometimes called Ome, or Maumee, and down the same to its mouth; thence along the southern shore of Lake Erie, to the beginning. They were also instructed to secure to the United States the pre-emption right of the entire Indian country, against foreign nations, as well as individuals.
In consideration of those concessions, they were instructed to offer the Indians the guarantee of the United States, of the right of soil, to all the remaining lands in that quarter, and the relinquishment of the places, granted in the former treaty, for trading posts; and also, the abandonment of any military posts which had been established without the boundaries named in the treaty. In addition to this, they were directed to offer the payment of fifty
thousand dollars in hand, and an annuity of ten thousand dollars, forever.
Having received those instructions, the Commissioners proceeded, without delay, to Niagara, by Albany and Oswego. On their arrival at that place, they were received by Lieutenant Governor Simcoe, with much friendship, and pressed to take lodgings with him, at Navy Hall, the place of his residence, which offer was accepted, with proper acknowledgments. On the 30th of May, they wrote to Colonel McKee, Superintendent of Indian affairs, advising him of their appointment to hold a treaty with the Indians at Sandusky, and of their arrival at Niagara, on their way to that place. They politely requested his aid, and desired him to make known to the Indians, that they had arrived, and would meet them at Sandusky by the last of June. General Chapin, Superintendent of the Six Nations, was invited to attend the Commissioners, during the treaty at Sandusky, which he agreed to do, and was promised a reasonable compensation for his time and services.
On the 7th of June, they addressed a note to Governor Simcoe, suggesting the great importance of their mission, and the difficulties they apprehended from the existence of deep-rooted prejudices, and unfounded reports among the Indians, produced by the arts of a few bad men residing among them. They assured him of the liberal views and feelings of the United States, towards all the Indian tribes
—that they were prepared to make every concession, that the condition of their settlements would permit—and to make ample compensation for any concessions made to them by the Indians.
They solicited his influence in counteracting those reports, and disabusing the minds of the Indians; and for that purpose, requested him to designate some of the British officers, to accompany them to Sandusky, and attend the treaty. The Governor answered their note with great