By: Christine K. Thompson, Erin A. Steinwachs, and Kevin C. Nolan
Principal Investigators: Christine K. Thompson and Kevin C. Nolan
Reports of Investigation 94 Volume 1, Applied Anthropology Laboratories, Ball State University
This document maps the battlefield landscape of the Battle of the Wabash (also known as St. Clair’s Defeat) in 1791 and the Battle of Fort Recovery in 1794. Fought between American forces and a Native American alliance, these two historically significant battles occurred at the site of the present-day village of Fort Recovery, Ohio. The two battles are among the largest engagements of the United States Army and Native American forces in the history of the United States. They were important in defining the course of the nascent American nation and continued to contribute to loss of significant territory and independence for the Native Americans of the Northwest Territory. The first battle, known variously as St. Clair’s Defeat, Little Turtle’s Victory, or the Battle of the Wabash, occurred on November 4, 1791. The United States Army, led by General Arthur St. Clair and consisting of approximately 1,400 soldiers, was swiftly devastated by a Native American alliance of approximately 1,500 Native Americans. Sources vary on the exact number, but it is estimated that around 800 American officers, soldiers and civilians were killed and another 350 were wounded. The exact casualty numbers for the Native American alliance are unknown. It is estimated that their causalities were around a tenth of the American's, with some estimates as low as 30 Native American skilled. The stunning victory by the Native American forces was attributed to the skilled tactics of Mishikinakwa (Little Turtle) of the Miami and Weyapiersenwah (Blue Jacket) of the Shawnee coupled with missteps by the U.S. forces including a corrupt army quartermaster providing subpar supplies, poorly trained American soldiers, and unpreparedness on St. Clair’s part. The Native American victory at the Battle of the Wabash ultimately only delayed Euro-American settlement in the Northwest Territory. In 1793, General Anthony Wayne built a fort at the site of the defeat and it was named Fort Recovery. Between June 30 and July 1, 1794, an alliance of over 2,000 Native Americans with British support attacked the fort. Mishikinakwa (Little Turtle) again led the Native American alliance. This time the American forces held, and the Native Americans retreated. The second battle marked the defeat of one of the largest Native American forces ever assembled. The victories at Fort Recovery and at the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794, marked the end of the period of conflict known as the Northwest Indian War.