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The Battle of Fallen Timbers which involved the United States Army against Native American Indians in the North West territory marked an important moment in the history of the United States. The lands over the Appalachian Mountains, extending to the Mississippi River was ceded to the United States by Great Britain as part of the treaty which saw the end of the American Revolution. However, several native Indian tribes gathered in 1785 in Ohio to form the Western Confederacy so as to jointly oppose the United States advances. They held that the Ohio River would serve as the border separating their territory from that of the United States. The natives begun a campaign meant to discourage settlement south of the Ohio in the mid-1780s. To counter this threat, President George Washington commissioned General Josiah Harmar to lay an attack in Miami lands and Shawnee. This however came after the disbandment of the United States Army with the end of the American Revolution. With the aid of around one thousand five hundred militias, Hermar marched west. However, his campaign was not successful as he was defeated by the Confederates.
Another force got dispatched the following year under General Arthur St. Clair. They were also to suffer humiliating defeat at the Battle of the Wabash on forth November with almost three quarter of the force being killed. With these series of defeat, George Washington asked General Anthony Wayne in 1792 to institute a force strong enough to defeat the Confederacy (Washington, 1786). Wayne took up the assignment immediately, assembling a new force near Ambridge. He realized that the previous forces failed because they lacked sufficient training and thus spent much of the year drilling and instructing his men. He named the army Legion of the United States which included both light and heavy infantry together with a cavalry and artillery. He marched north while establishing forts for the protection of his supply lines and the settlers.
Protecting and defending American settlers from Indian attacks was to be the main purpose of the army and Washington hoped that Wayne would succeed especially after the defeat that Harmar and St. Clair suffered in the hands of the Indians. In May 1793, Wayne arrived with his troops to back the Army of the Northwest. This army was positioned near Cincinnati at Fort Washington. Having realized that the previous armies had suffered defeat due to lack of training, Wayne drilled and instructed his troops repeatedly to avoid encountering what Harmar and St. Clair had encountered at the hands of the Indians. He left Cincinnati in October, heading towards Fort Jefferson. He ordered the construction of Fort Greenville where his army stayed for the rest of winter. His men also built on the site where St. Clair was defeated another fort which was named Fort Recovery.
Tensions continued to build during the summer of 1794 between the natives and the Americans which exploded into an attack by the Indians on a supply train which had left for Fort Greenville from Fort Recovery. This took place on 30 June when under the command of Little Turtle, a combination of Ojibwa Indians, Delaware Indians, Miami Indians, Shawnee Indians and Ottawa Indians made their first move on Wayne’s supplies. Wayne was at the center of the Indian Territory by late July. Fort Defiance was constructed in early August to serve as a supply deport as well as protecting the army. Crops and villages of the natives were also destroyed during this time. The leader of Miami Indians, Little Turtle, declined to lead the tribes into battle believing that the Indians had to pursue peace. He deferred the Shawnee leader, Little Turtle who later assumed command of the natives.
The Indians readied to attack the Legion of the United States army at the Fallen Timbers as it proceeded toward Maumee River. A tornado had fallen many trees in this area and the natives hoped that these would provide sufficient cover against the enemies. The Indians had anticipated that Wayne’s soldiers would reach the place on nineteenth August but this did not happen. The soldiers arrived the following day to find the starving natives still at the Fallen Timber. The Indians were driven from the battlefield even though they attempted to use the fallen trees for cover. The battle came to be known as the Battle of the Fallen Timber. Hoping for the protection and assistance of the English, the natives retreated to Fort Miamis. However, the English did not offer them any assistance and Wayne pursued them to the fort. On his arrival, he told the British to evacuate the Northwest Territory, an order that the British commander obliged. Rather than engage the English, Wayne withdrew to Fort Greenville.
Wayne remained at Fort Greenville for the following year negotiating with the Indians a treaty. The natives realized that that were not favored with the Americans especially after the refusal of England to offer them support. On third August seventeen ninety five, a treaty was signed between the Americans and the Natives which made the natives consent to moving to the northwestern part of Ohio. However, not all Indians consented to the terms of the treaty and thus bloodshed went on for the next twenty years as the Americans and Indians struggled for domination.
The treaty of Fort Greenville
The leaders of the native tribes and the United States general Anthony Wayne signed the treaty of Fort Greenville on third August seventeen ninety-five at Fort Greenville. Some portions of the Northwestern territory were to be opened to white settlement as a result of the treaty. This treaty accompanied Wayne’s decisive victory at the Battle of the Fallen Timber. Much of what is today known as Ohio, southeastern Indiana, Chicago and Detroit was ceded to the United States by the Native Americans at the cost of twenty thousand dollars in goods of trade and a yearly sum of nine thousand five hundred dollars. As a result, the natives consented to moving westwards making settlers to occupy the place in large numbers.
The treaty served to facilitate friendly relations between the United States and the Indian tribes, oversee the settlement of all controversies, restore harmony and stop destructive war. In order for these ideals to be achieved, some articles were agreed upon between Wayne and the leaders of the native tribes. The first article established peace between the United States and the Indian tribes which was held to be perpetual.
The second article concerned the prisoners of war. It called for the restoration of prisoners from both sides. The Indian prisoners who were held by the United States were to be freed immediately while those Americans who were captured by the Indians were to be delivered ninety days from the signing of the treaty. Ten of the Indian chiefs were to stay at Greenville as hostages until the American prisoners were delivered.
The third article which was very important drew the boundary between the United States and the natives. It held that the drawn boundaries were to be respected by both the concerned parties and were not to cause any future conflict between the United States and the native Indians. To show their commitment to the treaty, the natives further ceded various portions of land to the United States. They also guaranteed free passage of the American people by land and water through their land whenever it was convenient for them. This article specified the Indian and United State’s boundaries so as to avoid future conflicts and thus it was the responsibility of both sides to honor the provisions of the treaty. As such, the Indians guaranteed that they would not attack American travelers and traders.
Article four on the other hand outlined the commitment of the United States to the established peace through the relinquishment of her claim to some portions of Indian lands. This was meant to render the peace treaty strong and perpetual. The United States also agreed to offer some quantity of goods valued at twenty thousand dollars which were to be delivered annually as long as the United States stood as a nation and the Indians existed. The Wyandots, Delawares, Shawanese, Miamis, Ottawas, Putawatimes and Chippewas were to receive one thousand dollars each while the Kickapoo, Kiskaskias, Weea, Eel-river and Piankashaw tribes were to receive five hundred dollars each. This was to be so unless a given tribe desired that their share be translated into goods of trade or other services.
Article five defined the meaning of the concept of relinquishing so as to avoid misunderstanding about the lands which had been relinquished to the Indians by the United States as mentioned in the fourth article. The Indian tribes who essentially had the rights to enjoy the relinquished lands could use them in any way they pleased without any interference from the United States. However, the lands were only to be sold to the United States if any of the tribes decided to dispose part of the land. The United States was to protect the Indian tribes from its citizens or any white person who would intrude them until the land is sold. The Indian tribes were also to acknowledge that they were under the protection of no other power but the United States.
The sixth article made it clear that no settler was allowed to settle in the relinquished lands and as such, the native tribes whose land the settlers settled had the right to drive them away and the United States had no obligation to protect them. In other words, no white person could settle in lands which the treaty had identified as belonging to the natives. Such settlements were prohibited by the United States and hence they could also punish the settlers in ways they deemed probable. As such, the United States had the responsibility to protect the Indian lands.
Article seven made provision for the Indian tribes who were party to the treaty to carry out their activities within the lands which they had ceded to the United States without any interference as long as they conducted them peacefully and if their activities did not pose any harm to the people of the United States of America.
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Article seven made provisions for trade between the United States and the Indian tribes. Traders were allowed to reside within these territories but with a valid license.
Article nine concerned the treatment of individuals who dishonored the provisions of the treaty. As such, whoever interfered with the established peace and friendship was not to be subjected to private revenge but rather, the complaint shall be made by the injured party and deliberated upon by the relevant authority. In a situation where a given tribe opts to wage war on the United States, the article holds that they have a responsibility to notify the general or the officer commanding the United State’s troops. Mistrust and suspicion was to be avoided at all cost and thus situations which are likely to lead to such circumstances were to be avoided.
The tenth article canceled all the treaties which had been signed prior to the Battle of the Fallen Timber thus making them null and void. As such, all the treaties that had been made between the Indians and the United States or any which had been made since 1783 between the United States and Britain were nullified (Treaty of Fort Greenville, 1795).
Aftermath of the Battle of Fallen Timber
With the majority of Indians consenting to the terms of the treaty, the wish of the United States’ president George Washington of a peaceful coexistence of the Indians and the United States’ citizens was guaranteed. Even though not all Indians agreed to the terms, with others proceeding to fight, most of the major tribes ceded their lands to the United States. As such, the Battle of the Fallen Timber was important in ascertaining peaceful coexistence between the native tribes and the citizens of the United States. Had the battle been lost, the Indians would have proceeded to claim part of the settled lands. The dispute that existed between the natives and some parts of the United States and the accompanying hostility would have not escaped the considerations Congress and thus, the Battle of the Fallen Timber was very important.
It was unanimously agreed that the safety and well being of United States depended on the maintenance of a good correspondence between the American citizens and the several Indian nations (Ordinance for the Regulation of Indian Affairs, 1786). The United States on its part had the power and the capacity to regulate trade and handle the Indians who were not part of any state. This however could have not been possible without defeating the Indians at the Battle of the Fallen Timber. With the defeat of the Indians at the battle of the Fallen Timber, the Indians had no choice but to sign the treaty since it was only by signing the treaty that they could be guaranteed peaceful coexistence with the United States.
Besides being free to carry out their activities within the relinquished lands, the Indians were guaranteed trade partnership, something which hitherto was condemned by the United States. Instead of viewing themselves as enemies, the Americans and the Indians were to adopt a new level of cooperation and the United States was to act as their protector against any foreign force. With this regard, the Battle of the Fallen Timber was important in defining the relationship between the native Indians and the United States.
- “Treaty of Fort Greenville.” American Indian History Online. Facts on File, Inc.
- U.S. Congress. “Ordinance for the Regulations of Indian Affairs.” American State Papers. American Indian History Online. Facts on File, Inc.
- Washington, George. “Letter to the Senate on Indian Hostilities.” Geo. Washington American State Papers. American Indian History Online. Facts on File, Inc. 2008).