On November 14, 1791, First Nations warriors from a coalition of nations to include the Shawnees, Miamis, Delawares and Potawatomis surprised an American Army under General Arthur St. Clair in the territory of the Northwest Frontier, handing the nascent United States a terrible defeat, causing almost 1,000 casualties for the cost of a few dozen wounded or dead. The loss of St. Clair’s army shocked the nation, resulting in a congressional investigation, the strengthening of American military power through the creation of the Legion of the United States, and the dispatch of a strong force into the Northwest territory to bring the First Nations to battle once more. The second campaign resulted in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which ended American and Native conflict in the Northwest Territory. Steven P. Locke, historian, educator, and veteran is a son of Ohio and the right author to bring this story to life.
Locke goes in depth describing the background of events that culminated in the Battle of the Wabash. He explains how indigenous nations fought against increasing encroachment of American settlers into the territory that would become the state of Ohio, ultimately fielding a military force to make a stand to defend their homes. These nations represented a sophisticated confederation, the Northwestern Confederacy or United Indian Nations, that assembled in the wake of the American Revolution to protect native interests in the region. The American response is covered in an equally comprehensive manner. He discusses the career of the leader of the American forces, Major General Arthur St. Clair, focusing on his career in the American Revolution and his role in abandoning Fort Ticonderoga during the Saratoga Campaign in 1777. He also goes into St. Clair’s political career and his responsibility for governing the Northwest Territory after America achieved Independence and received rights over the land from the British in the Treaty of Paris.
The bulk of the book describes how both the Americans under St. Clair and indigenous peoples led by warriors Little Turtle, Buckongahelas, and Blue Jacket prepared for a campaign in the Northwest Territory. St. Clair raised two regiments of regulars, augmented by volunteers and militia, constituting approximately 2000 troops. These forces dwindled through disease and desertion as the Americans experienced exposure and supply problems as they advanced westward in search of the indigenous force. At the time of the battle, St, Clair commanded roughly 1,400 troops. Little Turtle and his compatriots led a combined force of just of 1,000 men.
The native force invested the area around the American camp throughout the evening of 3 November 1791, and struck in the early morning of 4 November. Within three hours, they had routed the American army, which retreated eastward with the few survivors. St Clair described the retreat as a “flight.” Locke’s descriptions of the preliminary campaigning, the fight along the Wabash and subsequent retreat of the defeated Americans, as well as the political fallout do full justice to this fascinating episode in American history.
As can be expected from a quality publisher like Casemate, the book itself is a delight. It is well illustrated and accompanied by maps that layout the area in which the campaign occurred and illustrated the tactical situation on 4 November. The book also contains portraits and sketches of the key players on both sides, as well as illustrations that show how both the American and indigenous forces arrayed themselves for war. Finally, the text is well footnoted and backed up by an extensive bibliography. War Along the Wabash is very well written and will engross readers familiar with the period and novices alike.
War Along the Wabash is available at Casemate Publishers and from a variety of retailers.