Fort Recovery State Museum History

Fort Recovery, Ohio - Changing History 1790 - 1795

Battle on the Wabash

Arthur St. Clair. - circa 1782
On a small triangle of land on the banks of the Wabash River in the late 1700's, the course of United States history was changed forever! It was on this plot of land that two significant battles took place. The first battle (1791), "The Battle on the Wabash" or "The St. Clair Massacre," was the largest confrontation ever to take place between Native Americans and the U.S. Army. Even to this day that battle stands as the greatest loss ever suffered by the United States Army! Nine hundred of the 1200 soldiers were killed or mortally wounded. Over 150 camp followers suffered the same fate at the hands of nearly 1500 warriors under the effective tactical and strategically brilliant command of Little Turtle of the Miami's and Blue Jacket of the Shawnee's. This was a shining moment in Native American history!

The Aftermath

The repercussions of this battle were felt around the world. At this point the Northwest Territory was clearly not within the control of the fledgling United State. England, France and Spain each coveted this rich and strategically important territory, and without an army the very survival of the United States was in question.

The first cabinet meeting and the first congressional investigation in U.S. history took place after that battle. When, in the course of the investigation, the "evidence" began to implicate members of President Washington's own cabinet, the investigation was called off.

Anthony Wayne's Legion

Anthony Wayne
Fortunately the 1791 massacre and incredible embarrassment of the United States Army was not the end of the story. President Washington called Revolutionary War leader, Anthony Wayne back into service. He was given broad authority to raise and equip a "real" army. Wayne modeled it after the old Roman Legions, and under his authoritative hand, this Legion of the United States developed into a well equipped, well-trained and disciplined force.

The fort of "Recovery"

In 1793, Wayne ordered soldiers to construct a fort on the site of the disastrous "'91 massacre." Choosing this land, Wayne was sending a psychological message to the natives that the army and the United States were back! Unlike the previous forts which were named for war heroes, he ordered that this fort be called "Recovery!"

The Battle of Fort Recovery

Little Turtle
The second conflagration (1794), "The Battle of Fort Recovery," took place on the same triangle of land as St. Clair's loss on the banks of the Wabash. However, with the protection of the fort, nearly 250 soldiers were able to resist a two day relentless attack by 2500 warriors again under the command of Little Turtle and Blue Jacket. After the defeat of the natives, Little Turtle said he would never again fight the American Army. He said, "To do so would be suicide to my people." It was this battle that ultimately broke the back of Indian resistance, led to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville (August, 1795) and opened up the lands of the Northwest Territory for settlement by the Americans. The success of the US Legion at Fort Recovery proved that the United States had a viable army, that it was in control of its territories, and that its very survival was at last assured!