Why is this historic site important?
The events at Fort Recovery were pivotal in the relationships between the Native people of the area and the European-American soldiers and settlers. They set the course for the determination of land ownership in contemporary Ohio.
The battle of Wabash or St. Clair’s Defeat
On November 4, 1791, a confederacy of Indian warriors led by Little Turtle (Miami) and Blue Jacket (Shawnee) surprised and overwhelmed an American army of about 1,600 men under Major General Arthur St. Clair. The Battle of Wabash, which is also known as St. Clair’s Defeat, became the most dominating victory for American Indians over US Army forces.
“In 1791, Revolutionary War commander Arthur St. Clair led a hastily recruited American army into Ohio in an attempt to wrest control of the area from its Indian inhabitants. Hindered by geographical ignorance, difficult terrain, bad weather, and a lack of supplies, the Americans advanced slowly through the wilderness…On a cold November morning, the Indians attacked at dawn and three hours later the Americans fled, having suffered more than 60 percent casualties.”
John F. Winkler, Wabash, 1791: St. Clair’s Defeat, Osprey, 2012.
The establishment of Fort Recovery
In December 1793, Major General Anthony Wayne sent a detachment to the former battlefield to begin construction of a four-sided picketed-post fort with a projecting blockhouse at each corner. Completed the following March, it was christened Fort Recovery to signify it was no longer under Indian control. Major General Anthony Wayne did not want a repeat of the first battle and believed the fort was necessary for protection of the area.
The Battle of Fort Recovery
About seven months later, on June 30, 1794, what is believed to be the largest-ever assemblage of Indian warriors east of the Mississippi River attacked the fort. These 1,500 Native warriors included men from the Shawnee, Delaware, Ottawa, Miami, and Ojibwa. The Native troops were driven away by the American defenders at the battle of Fort Recovery after a fierce two day encounter. The battle led to the signing of the Treaty of Greeneville, the eventual settlement of the Northwest Territory and eventually statehood for Ohio in 1803.
Wayne continued to use Fort Recovery for his operations and continued to claim the land and rebuff the Native people. Wayne's triumph at Fallen Timbers later that summer on August 20 caused most of the Native people to realize they had little chance in stopping white settlement of their lands. In August 1795, many Native Americans agreed to sign the Treaty of Greeneville. By doing so, they gave up all claims to land south and east of a line that extended south from Lake Erie, along the Cuyahoga River, to the Tuscarawas River, and then to Fort Laurens. From Fort Laurens, the line ran west to Fort Loramie, then northwest to Fort Recovery, and then straight south to the Ohio River. Anthony Wayne had secured from the natives the majority of modern-day Ohio with the exception of the northwestern corner of the state.” For more about Fort Recovery, see: http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=715
Fort Recovery is the site of the two largest Indian battles ever fought in the US against the European-Americans. The fort built under Wayne's command was named Fort Recovery and that remains the name of the village today. The village of Fort Recovery has a population of 1,430 residents and now covers the site of the Battle of Wabash and the Battle of Fort Recovery. The Fort Recovery historic site and museum has many artifacts from the battles. Fort Recovery monument is dedicated to the US army soldiers who died in the battle.
Today the Fort Recovery State Memorial and museum offers visitors a glimpse of the 1790s with two reconstructed blockhouses and connecting stockade wall, an obelisk monument, and newly renovated museum exhibits.
Fort Recovery Exhibits, 2010
During 2010, with assistance from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission, the military history exhibits at Fort Recovery were completely updated. Emphasis was placed on providing a balance between the American military and Native American perspectives on the two battles, the Battle of the Wabash on November 4, 1791 and the Battle of Fort Recovery on June 29–30, 1794, which occurred at the site. The exhibits also incorporate the social and political significance these engagements held for the new United States and the Native American nations.
The clash of cultures that preceded the military expedition under Major General Arthur St. Clair in the fall of 1791 provides an introduction to the new exhibits. This leads to an explanation of the first battle—long known as St. Clair’s Defeat but which was identified at the time as the Battle of the Wabash—and features contemporary mapping, quotations from participants, and artwork of the battleground. The discussion of the aftermath focuses on the harsh American criticisms—including the first Congressional investigation—and the reinvigoration of the Shawnee–led confederacy under Red Pole and Blue Jacket which aligned against the US government. The period of American military rebuilding that occurred under Major General Anthony Wayne’s leadership is covered as a build-up to the second battle, the Battle of Fort Recovery, and its aftermath in the subjugation of tribes under the Treaty of Greeneville in 1795.
Panels through the center of the redesigned exhibits feature portraits of American and Native American leaders during the two campaigns, including a newly discovered contemporary profile of Miami chief Little Turtle. Other panels relate to the widows created on both sides of the conflict as well as excerpts from an eighteenth-century Shawnee dictionary assembled at the request of President George Washington.