History Corner: The Forts of Western Ohio, 1790-1795: Part 2
Professional Surveyor Magazine - January 2006
This article is continued from the December issue.
Fort Greene Ville
General "Mad" Anthony Wayne was later chosen to lead the next expedition against the Indians. Wilk-inson was made second-in-command. Wayne's army (a.k.a. The Legion of the United States) was better trained and better disciplined than Harmar's and St. Clair's armies. Wayne also made good use of his frontier scouts.
On September 11, 1793, Wayne moved his legion northward from the Cincinnati area. By October 14, Wayne's legion was 5-6 miles north of Fort Jefferson. Here, Wayne saw a suitable site for a fort (present-day Greenville, Ohio). This site was located on ground that overlooked the confluence of the Greenville and Mud Creeks to the north and a broad prairie to the southwest.
Major Henry Burbeck, an artillery officer, was chosen by Wayne to design this fort, along with his other forts. Wayne named it Fort Greene Ville, after his Revolutionary War compatriot, General Nathaniel Greene.
This new fort would be much larger than the previous forts and was more like a military city. It measured about 900 feet by 1,800 feet and covered about 50 acres. The picketed walls were about 10 feet high. Each of the four corners had bastions with sentry boxes. Along the center of each wall was a blockhouse. Because of the presence of the creek and the topography, the northern and western walls were irregularly shaped.
While the fort was under construction, Wayne ordered each company to build six huts for themselves. These huts, which were located about 150 feet from the fort, served as both temporary shelters and fortifications. These buildings would later become council houses for the Indians during the Greenville Treaty talks in 1795.
The interior of the fort was divided into eight squared sections, which were more like city blocks. The roads between these squares were about 87 feet wide. The fort had barracks for 2,000 men, quarters for the officers and staff, gardens, bakeries, black-smith shops, hospital stores, a powder magazine, a tannery, a slaughterhouse, and frame houses for both Wayne and Wilkinson.
The enlisted men's barracks were arranged in two rows around the eastern and southern walls. Each of these barracks measured 14 by 17 feet and had fireplaces, chimneys, and clapboard roofs. One barrack hut held about 10 men.
Aside from building the main fort, eight blockhouses were constructed around the fort at distances of about 750 feet from the fort. Three of them were located in the front of the fort, three in the rear, and two along the sides. The two blockhouses that were located across the creeks had their own palisades. On November 21, the fort was completed.
Wayne's legion also built bridges over the nearby creeks and ravines and stables for some of the horses. Instead of building barracks and stables for his dragoons and their horses, Wayne sent them back to Kentucky for the winter.
Much of Wayne's army stayed at Fort Greene Ville throughout the winter. On July 28, 1794, after receiving more supplies and reinforcements, Wayne moved his army of 3,500 northward. He left Major John Buell with 150 men behind to man the fort.
On December 23, 1793, Major Burbeck and Captain Alexander Gibson led a detachment northwest from Fort Greene Ville to the site of St. Clair's 1791 defeat. With the distance being about 23 miles, Wayne decided to build a fort at that site (present-day Fort Recovery, Ohio).
Upon their December 24 arrival, the legion immediately began burying the bones of more than 600 dead from St. Clair's defeat. On December 25, after burying the dead, the legion began construction of the new fort. Wayne named it Fort Recovery because of the nearby recovery of the battlefield, the dead soldiers, and most of St. Clair's lost artillery. (Wayne had previously considered naming it Fort Defiance or Fort Restitution.)
This fort had a square design with four blockhouses that were each 20-foot square. Each of the corner blockhouses were placed at an angle so that three of the sides faced outward. All four blockhouses were built simultaneously in case of an Indian attack. The palisades were 15 feet high and were made of strong and sturdy timber. The walls also had shutters on the musket portholes so that they can be closed when the muskets are being reloaded. The adjacent land around the fort was cleared for about 100 feet in all directions. Although most of the men returned to Fort Greene Ville on December 27, some stayed behind to finish the fort. After the fort was completed, Captain Gibson remained behind with 300 men to man the fort. Captain Gibson and his men built a projecting second story on each blockhouse and a cupola on each roof for lookout posts. The men also dug a tunnel to the Wabash River for water and built a 12-foot by 14-foot icehouse.
On June 30, 1794, after a supply con-voy under Major William McMahon had arrived the fort the previous night, the Indians attacked the convoy. The Indians numbered nearly 2,000 warriors and the convoy party consisted of about 100 infantrymen and about 50 dragoons.
Soldiers from the fort ran out to assist the convoy but were overwhelmed by the Indians. The survivors all retreated into the fort. Most of the 300 pack animals were driven into the forest. The number of Americans killed were 22, including McMahon, Captain Hartshorn, and Lieutenant Craig. The number of Americans wounded were 30, including Captain Taylor and Lieutenant Darke.
Instead of looting the supplies, the Indians made a frontal attack on the fort and were repulsed with heavy losses. The Indians made another attack the following day and were again repulsed.
After their discouraging defeat, some of the Indian tribes from the northern Great Lakes region deserted and returned home. This desertion would mean fewer Indians for Wayne to fight.
On August 1, 1794, after leaving Fort Greene Ville, Wayne and his army stopped along the south side of the St. Marys River to build another fort, which was about 24 miles north of Fort Recovery (about eight miles southeast of present-day Rockford, Ohio). Initially named Fort Randolph, Wayne later re-named it Fort Adams, after Vice-President John Adams. This was the first fort built in the Maumee River watershed.
Here, the river was about 135-150 feet wide. Because of its low-lying location, this site was not suitable for a fort. This site, which was located in the Black Swamp area, was subject to flooding during the rainy season.
This small fort measured 24 feet square and had two 18-foot square blockhouses on opposite corners. The interior contained only the commandant's quarters and a guardhouse.
On August 4, while Wayne was sleeping in the tent of his aide, Captain Henry DeButts, a large tree fell on that tent. Although Wayne did suffer some bruises and some possible internal injuries, he miraculously survived because the trunk had landed on a stump, which held the tree away from him. Many still debate if this was an accident or an attempted murder.
On August 5, Wayne again moved north. He left Lieutenant James Underhill behind with 40 ill men to man and finish the fort. Both the palisades and the blockhouses were still uncompleted and most of the timber needed to complete the fort was on the north side of the river.
Because the Indians frequently scouted abandoned encampments, the remaining garrison feared for its safety because many of the men were too ill to fight. Fortunately for the garrison, the Indians never attacked this fort.
On August 8, Wayne and his army reached the confluence of the Auglaize and the Maumee Rivers (present-day Defiance, Ohio). The Indians had inhabited the area near this confluence for many years. Several tribes had been cultivating this land and had left behind large fields of corn and other crops. Some of the tribal chiefs had their villages at this location and some of the British Indian agents, such as Matthew Elliot, Alexander McKee, and Simon Girty, all had trading posts in this area.
At this spot Wayne built his fourth fort. Wayne named it Fort Defiance. His aide, Lieutenant John Boyer wrote that this fort would defy "The English, the Indians, and all the devils in hell to take it."
This fort measured 60 feet square. Each picket in the palisade was at least 1 foot in diameter and 15 feet long (three of those feet were set in the ground). Each corner bastion had 22-foot square blockhouses with each blockhouse having a fireplace and a chimney. This fort had two gates: one on the north side adjacent to the confluence and the other on the south side of the fort. The men also built a picket ravelin jutting out to the junction of these two rivers.
On August 15, Wayne moved his army down the Maumee River. He left Major Thomas Hill with 90 men behind to guard this new fort.
On August 23, Wayne and his army returned to strengthen the fort. Wayne wanted this fort to be able to withstand any British artillery.
He added another row of pickets and dug deep trenches around the fort. The trenches were 12-16 feet wide and were eight feet deep. One trench was dug down to the river. That trench was covered with timber for protection. The outside of the trenches had bundles of sticks bound together, called fraises or fascines, which prevented cave-ins. The trench by the north gate had a simple bridge and trench by the south gate had a drawbridge that could be raised and lowered by a pulley.
The soil from the trenches was used to fill wooden baskets (gabions). These gabions were placed around the walls and blockhouses of the fort to form a walled embankment (parapet). This parapet was six feet high and 10 feet thick.
Adjacent to the parapet was a row of 11-foot wooden stakes. The stakes were diagonally placed about one foot from each other. They were projected over the trenches to discourage any frontal assaults.
Aside from increased fortification, Wayne also added two storehouses and officers' quarters. The enlisted men slept in the blockhouses.
On August 18, Wayne and his army reached Roche de Bout (or Roche de Boeuf) on the north side of the Maumee River (present-day Waterville, Ohio). This spot was near a massive limestone outcropping where the Indians frequently held their council meetings. Here, Wayne built his fifth and last fort before the big battle. Wayne named it Fort Deposit because he wanted to leave any excess baggage and supplies in a safe spot from the battle. Wayne also wanted a fort as a refuge if he had lost the battle.
This temporary fort had three rectangular enclosures with several bastions. The largest enclosure measured approximately 1,950 feet by 1,080 feet. Two of the bastions were pentagonal-shaped. All of the enclosures averaged about seven feet in height.
Wayne left Captain Zebulon Pike with 200 men to guard this fort and its contents. After the battle, Fort Deposit was abandoned.
The following day, August 20, Wayne and his army engaged the Indians at Fallen Timbers, where he succeeded in routing the Indians. After the battle many Indians fled to the last remaining British fort of American soil.
In April of 1794, the British built Fort Miamis on the north side of the Maumee River (present-day Maumee, Ohio). This fort, designed by Lieutenant Robert Pilkington of the Royal Engineers, had 20-foot high pickets of timber that were at least 1-foot in diameter. The entire fort was built upon a high parapet and had a surrounding ditch.
The interior of this fort had officers' barracks, a guardhouse, a blacksmith shop, a carpenter's shop, a bakery, and storehouses for the artillery and the engineering equipment. The fort also had underground shelters for protection against artillery barrages.
Fort Miamis had four cannons that fired 9-pound cannonballs, six cannons that fired 6-pound cannonballs, two howitzers, and two swivel guns. Major William Camp-bell and about 250 men manned this fort.
The retreating Indians were disappointed to find the fort's gates closed to them. The British had not expected the Indians to lose this battle and Major Campbell did not want to start another war with the United States.
General Wayne asked the British to leave because they were on American soil. The British would not leave without proper authorization from their government. The Indians had already lost faith in the British and had returned to their villages. The British did not return to Canada until 1796.
After a few days of negotiation, Wayne and his army left the area and destroyed all of the Indian villages and crops outside of the fort. Wayne and his army traveled up the Maum-ee River towards Kekionga, destroying more Indian villages and croplands along the way.
At Kekionga, Wayne built another fort and named it Fort Wayne. After leaving a detachment behind to man this fort, Wayne returned to Fort Greene Ville for the winter. While at Fort Greene Ville, Wayne sent peace emissaries to all of the tribes, inviting them to a peace conference at Fort Greene Ville the following summer.
Wayne's Other Forts
During the summer of 1795, General Wayne hosted his peace conference at Fort Greene Ville, which culminated in the Treaty of Greenville on August 3. Under the terms of this treaty, the Indians ceded about 2/3 of Ohio to the United States. Of the remaining 1/3 of Ohio, several small parcels of land in northwestern Ohio were also ceded to the United States. Most of these parcels were located along navigable waterways.
Wayne built some smaller forts on these parcels. These forts were built to transfer supplies over a portage from the Ohio River to the Lake Erie watersheds. These forts, all built after the Greenville Treaty and all lined in a row, were Fort Piqua (present-day Piqua, Ohio), Fort Loramie (present-day Fort Loramie, Ohio), and Fort St. Marys (present-day St. Marys, Ohio). In 1796, after the British finally ceded Detroit to the Americans, most of the forts built in western Ohio during St. Clair's and Wayne's campaigns were abandoned. Fort Washington, the last remaining fort, was finally abandoned in 1804.
Images courtesy: Ohio Historical Society, unless otherwise noted.
About the Author
Gordon Mitchell graduated from the Ohio State University in 1973 with a B.S. in Natural Resources. He is currently employed by the Columbus Metropolitan Park District in the area of Resource Management where he is involved in eradicating invasive vegetation and restoring prair-ies and wetlands. He has a strong interest in both natural and cultural history of Ohio and adjacent states and is a contributing writer for the magazine.
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