Northwest Indian War: Battle of Fallen Timbers

Battle of Fallen Timbers. Photograph Source: Public Domain

Battle of Fallen Timbers - Conflict:

The Battle of Fallen Timbers was the final battle of the Northwest Indian War (1785-1795).

Battle of Fallen Timbers - Date:

General Anthony Wayne's forces defeated Blue Jacket and his allies on August 20, 1794.

Armies & Commanders:

United States

Western Confederacy

  • Blue Jacket
  • Buckongahelas
  • Little Turtle
  • 1,500 men

Battle of Fallen Timbers - Background:

As part of the treaty ending the American Revolution, Great Britain ceded to the new United States the lands over the Appalachian Mountains as far west as the Mississippi River.

In Ohio, several Native American tribes came together in 1785, to form the Western Confederacy with the goal of dealing jointly with the US. The following year, they decided that the Ohio River would serve as the border between their lands and the US. In the mid-1780s, the Confederacy began a series of raids south of the Ohio into Kentucky to discourage settlement.

To deal with the threat posed by the Confederacy, President George Washington instructed General Josiah Harmar to attack into Shawnee and Miami lands. As the US Army had essentially been disbanded after the American Revolution, Harmar marched west with approximately 1,500 militia. Fighting two battles in October 1790, Harmar was defeated by Confederacy warriors led by Little Turtle and Blue Jacket. The following year, another force was dispatched under Major General Arthur St. Clair. His forces clashed with the Confederacy at the Battle of the Wabash on November 4 and were routed, with 632 of his 920 men killed.

Battle of Fallen Timbers - Wayne Prepares:

In 1792, Washington turned to General Anthony Wayne and asked him build a force capable of defeating the Confederacy. An aggressive Pennsylvanian, Wayne immediately began assembling a new force near Ambridge, PA. Realizing that previous forces had lacked training and discipline, Wayne spent much of 1793, drilling and instructing his men.

Titling his army the Legion of the United States, Wayne's force included light and heavy infantry, as well as cavalry and artillery. Marching north from present-day Cincinnati in 1793, Wayne built a series of forts to protect his supply lines and the settlers in his rear.

Battle of Fallen Timbers - The Americans Strike:

As Wayne's 3,000 men moved north, Little Turtle became concerned about the Confederacy's ability to defeat him. Following an exploratory attack near Fort Recovery in June 1794, Little Turtle began to advocate in favor of negotiating with the US. Rebuffed by the Confederacy, Little Turtle ceded complete command to Blue Jacket. Moving to confront Wayne, Blue Jacket assumed a defensive position along the Maumee River near a copse of fallen trees and close to British-held Fort Miami. It was hoped that the fallen trees would slow the advance of Wayne's men.

On August 20, 1794, the lead elements of Wayne's command came under fire from Confederacy forces.  Quickly assessing the situation, Wayne deployed the his troops with his infantry led by Brigadier General James Wilkinson on the right and Colonel John Hamtramck on the left.  The Legion's cavalry guarded the American right while brigade of mounted Kentuckians protected the other wing.

  As the terrain appeared to preclude the effective use of cavalry, Wayne ordered his infantry to mount a bayonet attack to flush the enemy from the fallen trees.  This done, they could be effectively dispatched with musket fire.

Advancing, the superior discipline of Wayne's troops quickly began to tell and the Confederacy was soon forced out of its position.  Starting to break, they began to flee the field when the American cavalry, charging over the fallen trees, joined the fray. Routed, the Confederacy's warriors fled towards Fort Miami hoping that the British would provide protection. Arriving there found the gates closed as the fort's commander did not wish to start a war with the Americans. As the Confederacy's men fled, Wayne ordered his troops to burn all of the villages and crops in the area and then withdrawal to Fort Greenville.

Battle of Fallen Timbers - Aftermath & Impact:

In the fighting at Fallen Timbers, Wayne's Legion lost 33 dead and 100 wounded. Reports conflict regarding the Confederacy's casualties, with Wayne claiming 30-40 dead on the field to the British Indian Department stating 19. The victory at Fallen Timbers ultimately led to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, which ended the conflict and removed all Confederacy claims to Ohio and the surrounding lands. Among those Confederacy leaders who refused to sign the treaty was Tecumseh, who would renew the conflict ten years later.

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Your Citation
Hickman, Kennedy. "Northwest Indian War: Battle of Fallen Timbers." ThoughtCo, Oct. 1, 2015, Hickman, Kennedy. (2015, October 1). Northwest Indian War: Battle of Fallen Timbers. Retrieved from Hickman, Kennedy. "Northwest Indian War: Battle of Fallen Timbers." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 19, 2018).