General Anthony Wayne

The following is taken from The Whiskey Rebellion by Thomas P. Slaughter, 1986, by Oxford University Press:

The debacles suffered by Generals Harmar (1790) and St. Clair (1791) did not end the federal government's efforts to crush the Indian menace in the Northwest. The defeats did, however, affect the confidence, deplete the resources, and slow the progress of America's army on the frontier. On May 25, 1792, General Anthony Wayne received orders to proceed against the nation's savage enemies. These instructions included President Washington's personal warning that "another defeat would be inexpressibly ruinous to the reputation of the government." Since the army was decimated (almost literally) in the previous encounters, Wayne's legion had to be recruited virtually from scratch. Most of the experienced officers who were not slain in combat resigned shortly after St. Clair's defeat. Wayne had to find new ones competent for the job. In addition, he had to recruit and train 5120 non-commissioned officers and enlisted men in the rigors of warfare. These tasks could not be accomplished overnight. Hundreds of fresh recruits deserted during the march from Carlisle to Pittsburgh. Once in the field, according to Wayne, "such was the defect of the human heart that from excess of cowardice one-third of the sentries deserted from their stations."

Constant drill, daily marksmanship practice, and a system of rewards and punishments whipped Wayne's army into a credible force. Frontier civilians complained that as the army rehearsed its crafts, Indians plied their trades of plunder, torture, and murder across the countryside. But the soldiers continued to practice for months that stretched into years, and the general even invited some Indian chiefs to witness the martial displays. Months in the field produced the usual divisions within officer ranks, with some questioning whether Wayne's harsh hierarchical discipline was appropriate in the age of liberty, fraternity, equality, and the French Revolution. The government added delays on top of Wayne's cautious preparation, refusing combat authorization throughout 1793 due to its preoccupation with other affairs and out of a desire to exhaust all avenues of negotiated settlement. Influenza and smallpox depleted the effective forces by half toward the end of the year. Slow communications, irregular arrival of supplies, and harsh weather delivered the clinching blows to any plans for movement before the summer Of 1794.

Indeed, the Indians moved first with an attack on Fort Recovery on June 30, 1794. Wayne's army repulsed them, thus besting the enemy on the very ground of St. Clair's defeat. By mid-July, with the arrival of mounted reinforcements from Kentucky, Wayne was ready to counterattack. Finally, on August 8 the main force secured a position about seventy miles in advance of Greenville, in the heart of Indian country. Were it not for the treachery of a lone deserter from Wayne's army, the Indians would have been totally surprised. As it was, his troops "gained possession of the grand emporium of the hostile Indians in the West without loss of blood."

Greater victory came on August 20, but with much bloodshed on both sides. At about eight o'clock that morning, the army advanced in the tight columns they had practiced for so many months. After traveling in this fashion for about five miles, the left flank came under heavy fire from an invisible enemy secreted in the woods and high grass. The ground was strewn for miles around with the dead trees that would later give the Battle of Fallen Timbers its name, and the Indians utilized the natural conditions to advantage. Wayne issued a complicated series of commands designed to roust the enemy from its cover, to flank them, and pin them between the American troops and the Maumee River. To the general's glee, "all those orders were obeyed with spirit and promptitude, but such was the impetuosity of the charge by the first line of infantry that the Indians ... were drove from all their coverts in so short a time that although every possible exertion was used by the officers of the second line of the legion ... to gain their proper positions . . . [only part of the reinforcements] could get up in season to participate in the action, the enemy being drove in the course of one hour more than two miles through the thick woods."

The victory was accomplished against a foe that outnumbered Wayne's troops by about two to one and that occupied a superior tactical position. About 2000 Indians had been routed by 900 novice combatants, The victors suffered 107 deaths; the vanquished lost about twice that many. News of the battle reached England in time to help John Jay secure a treaty that dictated removal of the British frontier forts. The definitive articles of peace with the Indians were exchanged the following year in the Treaty of Greenville, effectively eliminating the threat to white Frontiersmen in western Pennsylvania and Ohio. Thus with one dramatic blow in August 1794 Wayne's army set in motion a series Of events that within a year fulfilled two of the western country's conditions for loyalty to the Union.

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