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Fort Recovery State Museum

One Fort Site Street
Fort Recovery, OH

Phone: 419-375-4649 - Tty: - 800/551-FORT

Statement of Purpose

When the Revolutionary War ended, the citizens of the newly independent United States turned to a new challenge: settling the frontier beyond the Ohio River.

This westward movement set the stage for a new war. Indians who already lived in the area were disturbed by the white settlers' encroachment on what they considered Indian territory. Even the Treaty of Fort Harmar, signed in 1789, did not keep some Indians - who received guns and ammunition from British troops based in Detroit - from continuing attacks on settlers.

Two battles were fought two and a half years apart on the same spot in what is now northwestern Ohio. One ended in defeat for American forces; the other, in a victory over one of the largest Indian armies assembled in the war, which led to the end of Ohio's Indian battles.

A BITTER DEFEAT

In the fall of 1790, General Josiah Harmar led a force of more than 350 troops into the frontier to retaliate against Indians who had continued to attack settlements. But the Indians troops, comprising warriors of the Miami, Shawnee, Ottawas, Delawares, and many others who were led by Little Turtle, scored an increasing number of victories. In the final battle of the expedition near present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana, eighty-three percent of the American troops were killed. The Americans withdrew and the victorious Indians grew more aggressive, forming a confederacy of Northwest tribes to continue the war.

In the spring of 1791, Congress authorized an expedition through western Ohio country to deal with the problem, this one to be led by General Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory and a veteran of both the French and Indian Wars and the Revolutionary War.

From the beginning, the venture was beset with problems. St. Clair was 57 years old and suffered from gout. Those responsible for equipping the army embezzled money, leaving the troops badly supplied. Calls for infantry and militia yielded fewer men than expected, and those numbers were further thinned by illness as the expedition slowly marched northwest.

In early November, St. Clair's troops camped on the Wabash River (just east of the present Ohio-Indiana state line) after an exhausting two month trek. The weary soldiers were no match for the Indians who ambushed them at dawn of November 4, 1791. At day's end, the warriors led by Little Turtle and Blue Jacket had killed or wounded three-quarters of the American army. St. Clair, who had directed the army's efforts despite his gout and having four horses shot out from under him, was among the survivors who traveled thirty miles to safety at Fort Jefferson. During the long winter that followed the defeat, the Americans returned to the battle site to bury their dead.

Meanwhile, St. Clair became the subject of the first Congressional inquiry in American history. Because the investigation revealed the problems with supplies and St. Clair's personal bravery in battle, he was allowed to remain as governor of the Northwest Territory - but was relieved of military command.

Highlights & Collections

VICTORY AND PEACE

To replace St. Clair, President George Washington turned to Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War hero and strict disciplinarian. General Wayne drilled his troops diligently for almost a year before departing for the frontier in the spring of 1793.

To protect his supply lines from Indian attack, Wayne ordered the building of a new fort, which he named Greene Ville in honor of Nathaniel Greene, a Revolutionary War comrade. In December 1793, Wayne sent a force from Greene Ville to the site of St. Clair's defeat two years earlier with orders to construct a new fort. This one was dubbed Fort Recovery.

Meanwhile, the largest Indian force ever assembled - nearly 1,200 strong was gathering to attack the fort.

On June 30, 1794, the battle began when Indians attacked a convoy leaving Fort Recovery. Then they stormed the fort's walls, where American riflemen and cannon fire were relentless. The fighting continued throughout that day and the next, but the artillery fire forced the Indians to withdraw, having lost twice as many warriors as were killed in St. Clair's defeat. Disheartened by their loss and lacking provisions, the Indian forces began to break up.

The last fight in Ohio's Indian wars followed less than two months later, when Wayne quickly won the Battle of Fallen Timbers. It was the last time Indians organized a hostile force against Wayne: a year later, the Indians signed the Treaty of Greene Ville, ceding 25,000 square miles to the United States.

REMEMBERING A GREAT BATTLE

After the treaty signing, Fort Recovery was not needed. A small garrison remained at the fort for several years, but by the time settlement began in earnest in the early 1800s, the fort had been abandoned.

In 1851, some boys playing along the Wabash River found some bones. Further excavation revealed the skeletons of those who had been buried some sixty years before. In September, with great ceremony, the remains were re-interred in what came to be known as Bone Burying Day.

For the next forty years, the Fort Recovery Memorial Association organized commemorative events and petitioned the federal government for a monument to be placed on the site. In 1913, their efforts were rewarded as several thousand people witnessed the dedication of a monument and park at the fort site.

In 1936, the Ohio Historical Society began to re-create the fort's buildings based on earlier excavations of the site. Today, Fort Recovery State Memorial features two reconstructed blockhouses with connecting stockade, a monument, and a museum. Museum exhibits illustrate how Wayne's soldiers constructed the fort, used pack-horse cannons, and how Americans and Indian warriors dressed. Other exhibits display both historic and prehistoric Indian artifacts.

Current Exhibits and Upcoming Special Events

Hours:

May & Sept.: 12-5 p.m. Sat. & Sun.

June - Aug.: 12-5 p.m. daily.

For information about events and other places of interest around the state, please call toll-free 1 800 BUCKEYE.

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