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  • This Week In Army History
  • Jini Ryan reports with some background of how Maj. Gen. Anthony Wayne defended Fort Recovery.

Currently, U.S. Army convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan are confronted with attacks from insurgents trying to disrupt the flow of supplies to critical outposts. Major General Anthony Wayne's Legion of the United States faced similar problems sustaining the U.S. Army's frontier fortifications in the campaign to secure America's Northwest Territory from Indian depredations in 1793. These forts provided security for the Legion's advance to capture the native villages and subdue their warriors. On June 30, some 1,500 Indians attacked a large packhorse convoy as it left the protective walls of Fort Recovery, the Legion's farthest advanced post.

Native tribes preferred to attack such convoys because they did not have cannons to breach the wooden walls of Wayne's forts. In January 1791 the Indians had attacked Dunlap Station, a small wooden fort with a garrison of only one officer and 13 enlisted U.S. regulars with a few settlers. This small post was able to hold off some 200 natives. Some tribes avoided attacking forts after this and concentrated on attacking the Legion's convoys.

Keeping Fort Recovery's garrison supplied was a constant challenge due to the losses of rations and packhorses from successful native attacks. As a result, Wayne decided to increase the size of the guard force protecting the convoys. Even the empty convoy returning from Fort Recovery to its supply base on June 30 continued to be accompanied by the 90 riflemen and 50 mounted dragoons who had escorted it to the fort.

Just after 7:00 A.M. on June 30, Indian warriors attacked the convoy near the fort. The convoy's escort of dragoons counterattacked, with the riflemen following in support. These soldiers were overwhelmed and forced to retreat to the protection of the fort, permitting the natives to capture the packhorses. This made their leaders overconfident. They forgot their experience at Dunlap Station and actually attacked the American stronghold itself. Fort Recovery had been built on the site of Major General Arthur St. Clair's defeat on November 4, 1791. General Wayne expected an attempt by the natives to reclaim the site of their great victory, and had ensured that the fort was properly constructed, garrisoned, and provisioned. The Indian attack failed, causing a crisis in leadership among the tribes. The disgruntled Lake area tribes left after the battle, significantly reducing Indian strength.

The loss of these warriors and a shortage of provisions to feed even a smaller force led the remaining tribes to retreat north towards the British Fort Miamis. The remaining Delawares and Shawnees had to abandon their campaign of attacking forward convoys and instead were forced into fighting -- and losing -- a pitched defensive struggle against Wayne's Legion on August 20, 1794, at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. That victory broke the back of Indian resistance, and the Treaty of Greenville the next year confirmed the pacification of the region.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16