"The descent was noiselessly resumed, and the spies followed their intrepid leader for a half mile in the most profound silence, when the barking of a dog at a short distance apprised them of new danger. The almost simultaneous click of the spies' rifles was heard by the girl, who stated that they were now in the midst of the Indian camps, and their lives now depended on the most profound silence and implicitly following her footsteps. A moment afterward the girl was accosted by a squaw from an opening in her wigwam; she replied in the Indian language, and without stopping, still pressed forward. In a short time she stopped, and assured the spies that the village was now cleared, and that they had passed the greatest danger. She knew that every leading path was guarded safely by the Indians, and at once resolved to adopt the bold adventure of passing through the center of the village as the least hazardous, and the sequel proved the correctness of her judgment. They now steered a course for the Ohio River, and, after three days' travel, arrived safely at the block-house. Their escape and adventure prevented the Indians from their contemplated attack. The rescued girl proved to be the sister of the intrepid Corneal Washburn, celebrated in the history of Indian warfare and as the renowned spy of Captain Simon Kenton's bloody Kentuckians."
After their failure on the part of the savages in their attempted surprise of Fort Harmar, the western tribes again withdrew to their villages on the Maumee and Auglaize rivers. General Harmar now resolved to punish them in their own country. He advanced cautiously from Fort Washington in October, 1790, to destroy their villages on the Maumee. Upon reaching the Indian towns which lay around the forks of this river (now Fort Wayne, Indiana), he began to destroy the Indian fields and huts in the outskirts of their camp, whereby his troops became so much divided, that they were separately attacked and routed by the savages under their war-chief Little Turtle. General Harmar, after this disaster, thought it prudent to retire again to Fort Washington. He had instructions for the erection of a fort on the Maumee, but his troops after the defeat became unreliable, and, as the supplies were short, and the season being too far advanced to bring forward others, the enterprise was dropped. General Harmar, the next year, was dismissed from the service.
The savages, intoxicated with joy over the defeat of their adversaries, now swarmed all over the country and around the settlements, striking terror into the hearts of even the hardiest of the pioneers. A cry went up to the general government, demanding energetic measures in the premises, Harmar's disastrous defeat having demonstrated the necessity of imposing some strong check upon the aggressions of the northern Indians; and new measures were devised for the attainment of that end. Governor St. Clair was at once appointed a major-general in the service of Congress, and vested with the power of a commander-in-chief of the United States forces. Orders were given for the recruiting of a large and effective army, and besides, the militia of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky were called into action.
While this powerful army was organizing and concentrating at Fort Washington, Colonels Scott and Wilkinson were sent in the summer of 1791 on an expedition into the lower Wabash country, where they succeeded in destroying several Indian towns and fields, which, coupled with the same policy pursued by Harmar, led the Indians, stimulated by the British, to the belief that the government policy was to exterminate the race and seize their lands. In this belief they were confirmed when they witnessed the extensive preparations making by St. Clair for his expedition. Still, flushed with their success achieved over General Harmar, they continued to devastate the settlements on the borders of the territory from one end to the other, carrying murder and pillage everywhere, even to the very walls of the strongly garrisoned Fort Washington. St. Clair used every endeavor to entreat them to a peaceful disposition. He urged them to take part in a council at Cincinnati, so that the troubles daily augmenting more and more might be adjusted in a peaceable manner.
The settlers, however, believing that the meek and timid policy of the government was the very cause of the threatening situation, became highly indignant at these treaties and parleys. "While the governor is holding peace conferences," they said, "the savages are destroying our homes and our fields, stealing or killing our animals, and murdering our wives and children." These complaints on the part of the whites were not far from the truth. "On the evening of the 2d [January, 1791]," writes Rufus Putnam to the President, "between sunset and daylight, the Indians surprised a new settlement of our people at a place on the Muskingum called the Big Bottom, nearly forty miles up the river, in which disaster eleven men, one woman, and two children were killed; three men are missing, and four others made their escape. Thus, sir, the war, which was partially waged before the campaign of last year, is, in all probability, become general."
Nor were the hardy pioneer women any less severe in their criticism of the fatal policy pursued by the authorities. It was chiefly they that threatened to storm Fort Washington when the celebrated ranger Lewis Wetzel was a prisoner therein. And when Wetzel was released upon a habeas corpus, they escorted him in procession to Columbia, where the ladies arranged a banquet and ball in honor of the liberation of the great hunter, "who had killed more Indians than any other man." Thus, at the time when these peace councils were held, the white settlers used all their influence to compel the authorities to a strong policy and to a war of extermination. Women would rush into the council meetings and complain of the murder of their husbands and relatives, crying aloud for revenge, and uttering sometimes threats of masculine terseness, inciting thereby the Indians to violence. Inflamed by these utterances, and urged on by jealousy and hatred, what else could be expected but that the Indians would not only continue, but increase, their depredations upon the frontier settlements?
Yet some of the Indian chiefs actually desired peace. Even Joseph Brant, the great war-chief of the Five Nations, advised a general peace, "by all means, if it could be effected upon honorable and liberal terms." On the other hand, the western tribes, doubtless instigated by the British agents and under their control, urged on the quarrel about to burst forth.
At last the numerous appeals reached the ear of the general government, as we have seen, and preparations were made for a powerful assault upon the war-thirsty tribes of the west. Governor St. Clair, at the head of an army of upwards of three thousand strong, marched against them. Early on the morning of the 4th of November, 1791, the advance of this expedition about fourteen hundred strong, was surprised in its camp on the banks of the Wabash, in the south-west part of Mercer county Ohio, and entirely dispersed, with a loss of more than six hundred men.
This aroused Congress to a different policy. The commanding officers of the hitherto fatal expeditions might have been good generals, and undoubtedly were, in a combat with civilized armies, but they were entirely unaccustomed to an Indian warfare. How General Washington, who was reared to this class of fighting from his youth, could have committed the fatal blunder of selecting generals devoid of training in the peculiar duties demanded of them, is quite inexplicable. The lessons received were, however, not in vain. A new commander was selected, and this time a man, who had fought both whites and Indians, who possessed not only unquestioned courage, but likewise a keen conception and quick resolve in his actions, the intrepid hero of Stony Point, General Anthony Wayne. This selection was made despite the opposition of, or as Governor Lee of Virginia puts it, "to the extreme disgust among, all orders in the Old Dominion." But the President had selected Wayne not hastily, nor through partiality or influence, and no idle words affected him.
In June, 1792, Wayne moved westward to Pittsburgh, and proceeded to organize the army, which was to be the ultimate arbitrator between the Americans and the Indian confederation. Through the summer of 1792 the preparations of the soldiers were steadily attended to. "Train and discipline them for the service they are meant for," said Washington, "and do not spare powder and lead, so the men be made marksmen." In December 1792, the forces, now recruited and trained, were gathered at a point about twenty-two miles below Pittsburgh, on the Ohio, in a camp which was called Legionville, the army itself having been denominated the Legion of the United States.
While Wayne's army was gathering and practicing target-shooting, the peace measures of the United States were pressed with equal perseverance. In the first place, an expedition was sent to examine the field of the late disastrous conflict. This body reached the place of their destination in February, 1792, and from the letter of Captain Buntin to St. Clair, relative to what was found there, we take the following passage: "In my opinion, those unfortunate men who fell into the enemy's hands with life were used with the greatest torture--having their limbs torn off; and the women have been treated with the most indecent cruelty, having stakes as thick as a person's and drove through their bodies." Next there were peace commissioners sent to the various tribes. In the spring of that year Colonel Trueman repaired to the Miami villages with friendly messages, offering reasonable terms. Other peace messengers were sent to the Indians on the lower Wabash, accompanied by the Moravian missionary, John Heckewelder, to effect a friendly adjudication of the difficulties with the tribes.
On the part of the Indians these peace-offerings were received with a diversity of opinions. While some of their chiefs, among them the Wyandot war-chief Little Turtle, were urging the acceptance of the terms offered, others, as yet intoxicated with their easy victories obtained over largely superior armies, were unwilling to listen to any argument offered. In vain did Little Turtle say to them: "Brothers, we heretofore had opposed to us chiefs that were sleeping, but I say to you, the 'Great Wind' [the name given by the Indians to General Wayne] is a chief who never sleeps." They, urged on by the British, who secretly promised them succor, would hear of no terms whatsoever.
General Wayne's "Legion" had passed the winter 1792-3 at Legionville until the last of April, 1793, when it was taken down the river to Cincinnati. There it encamped in the vicinity of Fort Washington, on a high plateau, selected for that purpose by Wayne's quartermaster-general, Colonel Hobson, from whom the camp received the name of "Hobson's Choice." It had been urged by some on General Wayne, that the camping-ground was too far distant from Fort Washington and the town, it being located, on account of the high water in the river, in what is now the western part of Cincinnati. Wayne, upon inquiry as to who had chosen the place, learning that it was Colonel Hobson, said: "Then it is Hobson's choice, and we must take it."
After encountering many obstacles General Wayne, during the summer of 1793, was perfecting the discipline of his army at Hobson's Choice. Profiting by the errors of his predecessors, he at the same time tried to acquaint himself with every thing pertaining to the disposition of the Indians, their location, number, chiefs, and all other matters of interest to a commander of an invading army in a hostile country. He knew that he had a bold, vigilant, and dexterous enemy to contend with. It became, therefore, indispensable to him to use the utmost caution in his movements to guard against surprise. To secure his army against the possibility of being ambuscaded, he organized a body of spies or rangers, selecting for it the best woodsmen the camp afforded. This corps was placed under the command of Captain Ephraim Kibby, one of the first settlers at Columbia, who had distinguished himself as a bold and intrepid soldier in defending that infant settlement. The corps was divided into two companies, one commanded by Kibby in person, the other by Captain William Wells, who had been taken a prisoner by the Indians when quite a boy, as narrated in a previous chapter, and had grown up to manhood with them, and consequently was well acquainted with all their wiles and stratagems.
Of Captain Wells's birth and family nothing is known. He was captured at the age of twelve years, when he was an inmate of the family of Nathaniel Pope (the grandfather of General Pope), in Kentucky. The Miamis, who had taken him, finally adopted Wells into the tribe, and he lived to manhood among them. His Indian name was "Black Snake." He became quite an influential man among them, and married a sister of the celebrated chief "Little Turtle." He fought by the side of this chief in the contests with Generals Harmar and St Clair. "Afterwards," writes Hon. J. L. Williams, in his Historical Sketch of the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Wayne, "in time of calm reflection, with dim memories still of his childhood home, of brothers and playmates, he seems to have been harassed with the thought that among the slain by his own hand may have been his kindred. The approach of Wayne's army in 1794, stirred anew these conflicting emotions based upon indistinct recollections of early ties, of country and kindred on the one hand, and existing attachments of wife and children on the other. He resolved to make his history known. With true Indian characteristics, the secret purpose of leaving his adopted nation was, according to reliable tradition, made known in this manner: Taking with him the war-chief 'Little Turtle' to a favorite spot on the banks of the Maumee, Wells said: 'I now leave your nation for my own people. We have been friends. We are friends yet until the sun reaches a certain height,' which he indicated. 'From that time we are enemies. Then if you wish to kill me, you may. If I want to kill you, I may.' At the appointed hour, crossing the river, Captain Wells disappeared in the forest, taking an easterly direction to strike the trail of Wayne's army. Obtaining an interview with General Wayne, he became ever afterward the faithful friend of the Americans."
Next to Wells in importance was Robert McClellan, whose name has been immortalized by Washington Irving in his graphic picture of "Astoria." he was one of three brothers, William, Robert, and John McClellan, the sons of one of the pioneer farmers of Pennsylvania, who lived at the time of the Revolutionary war in that part of Cumberland County which now belongs to Franklin County, where the boys were schooled in all the arts of woodcraft and inured to the hardships of frontier life. As soon as the boys had obtained a sufficient age, they began their turbulent careers as pack-horse boys, conveying salt over the mountains. At the opening of the Indian conflict in the west, about the year 1790, Robert and William engaged as scouts or rangers, first in the service of General Harmar, and next in that of Generals St. Clair and Wayne. "Robert was one of the most athletic and active men on foot," writes McDonald, "that appeared on the globe. On the parade ground at Fort Greenville, where the ground was very little inclined, to show his activity, he leaped over a road wagon with the cover stretched over; the wagon and bows were eight and a half feet high."
Henry Miller and a younger brother named Christopher (brothers of Joseph and John Miller, in Kibby's company), had been made captives by the Indians when quite young, and were adopted into an Indian family. Henry lived with them until he attained the age of about twenty-four years. Although he had become quite Indianized and had adopted all their manners and customs, he now began thinking of returning home to his family and relatives among the whites. His thoughts finally grew into resolution. He communicated his intention to his brother Christopher, and tried with all endeavor to get him to join in the flight, but in vain. Christopher was quite a child when made a captive. He was now a good hunter, an expert woodsman, and in the full sense of the word, the true type of an Indian warrior. Failing to induce his brother to join him, Henry set off alone through the woods, and arrived safe among his friends in Kentucky. Captain Wells was well acquainted with the Millers during their captivity, and knew the intrepidity of Henry, which would render him a valuable companion in time of need; so, meeting him among Kibby's scouts, he asked and received Miller's transfer into his company. How Henry Miller found his brother Christopher, and had him join the company of Wayne's scouts commanded by Wells, is related by McDonald, as follows:
The headquarters of the army being at Fort Greenville, in the month of June, 1794, General Wayne dispatched Captain Wells and his company with orders to bring into camp an Indian as a prisoner, in order that be might interrogate him as to the future intentions of the enemy. Captain Wells proceeded with cautious steps toward the Indian country. He crossed the river St. Mary, and thence to the river Auglaize, without meeting any straggling party of Indians. In passing up the Auglaize they discovered a smoke; they then dismounted, tied their horses, and proceeded cautiously to reconnoiter the enemy. They found three Indians camped on a high, open piece of ground, clear of brush and underwood. As it was open woods, they found it would be difficult to approach the camp without being discovered. Whilst they were reconnoitering they saw not very distant from the camp a tree which had lately fallen. They returned and went round the camp so as to get the top of the fallen tree between them and the Indians. The tree-top being full of leaves, would serve as a shelter to screen them from observation. They went forward upon their hands and knees, with the noiseless movement of the cat, until they reached the tree-top. They were now within seventy or eighty yards of the camp. The Indians were sitting or standing about the fire, roasting their venison, laughing and making other merry antics, little dreaming that death was about stealing a march upon them.
"Arrived at the fallen tree, their purpose of attack was soon settled; they determined to kill two of the enemy and make the third prisoner. McClellan, who, it will be remembered, was almost as swift as a deer of the forest, was to catch the Indian, whilst to Wells and Miller was confided the duty of shooting the other two. One of them was to shoot the one on the right, the other the one on the left. Their rifles were in prime order, the muzzles of their guns were placed on the log of the fallen tree, the sights were aimed for the Indians' hearts--whizz went the balls, and both Indians fell. Before the smoke of the burnt powder had risen six feet, McClellan was running at full stretch, with tomahawk in hand, for the Indian. The Indian bounded off at the top of his speed, and made down the river; but by continuing in that direction he discovered that McClellan would head him. He turned his course and made for the river. The river here had a bluff bank about twenty feet high. When he came to the bank he sprang down into the river, the bottom of which was a soft mud, into which he sunk to the middle. While he was endeavoring to extricate himself out of the mud, McClellan came to the top of the high bank, and, without hesitation, sprang upon him as he was wallowing in the mire. The Indian drew his knife--McClellan raised his tomahawk--told him to throw down his knife, or he would kill him instantly. He threw down his knife and surrendered without any further effort at resistance.
By the time the scuffle had ceased in the mire, Wells and his companions came to the bank and discovered McClellan and the Indian quietly sticking in the mire. As their prisoner was now secure, they did not think it prudent to take the fearful leap the others had done. They selected a place where the bank was less precipitous, went down and dragged the captive out of the mud and tied him. He was very sulky, and refused to speak either Indian or English. Some one of the party went back for their horses, whilst the others washed the mud and paint from the prisoner. When washed, he turned out to be a white man, but still refused to speak or give any account of himself. The party scalped the two Indians whom they had shot, and then set off with their prisoner for head-quarters. Whilst on their return to Fort Greenville, Henry Miller began to admit the idea that it was possible their prisoner was his brother Christopher, whom he had left with the Indians some years previous. Under this impression he rode alongside of him, and called him by his Indian name. At the sound of his name he started and stared around, and eagerly inquired how he came to know his name. The mystery was soon explained--their prisoner was indeed Christopher Miller.
"Captain Wells arrived safely with their prisoner at Fort Greenville. He was placed in the guard-house, where General Wayne frequently interrogated him as to what he knew of the future intentions of the Indians. Captain Wells and Henry Miller were almost constantly with Christopher in the guard-house, urging him to leave off the thought of living longer with Indians, and to join his relatives among the whites. Christopher for some time was reserved and sulky, but at length became more cheerful, and agreed, if they would release him from confinement, that he would remain with the whites. Captain Wells and Henry Miller solicited General Wayne for Christopher's liberty. General Wayne could scarcely deny such pleaders any request they could make, and, without hesitation, ordered Christopher Miller to be set at liberty, remarking that should he deceive them and return to the enemy they would be but one the stronger. Christopher was set at liberty, and appeared pleased with his change of situation. He joined the company of Captain Wells, and with his brothers fought bravely against the Indians during the continuance of the war."
On the 7th of October, 1793, Wayne's army left their camping-ground at Hobson's Choice, and removed to Fort Greenville, which, under Wayne's direction, was strongly fortified. Here they went into winter-quarters, having been sufficiently provisioned to that end. Nothing particular occurred here, excepting a skirmish had with a party of Indians, who made an attack upon some soldiers conveying a train of supplies. The Indians were, however, easily repulsed, with some loss on both sides.
During the next Spring negotiations were again opened, with no perceptible change in the situation. General Wayne then pushed his advance further into the Indian country to the place of St. Clair's defeat, where he erected a work of defense, which was called Fort Recovery, signifying that they now had again recovered the heretofore lost ground. The place was at once strongly fortified and well provisioned, and made the basis of future operations. Wayne was now steadily engaged in preparing every thing for a sure blow when the time came, and, by means of his several spies, kept himself well informed of the plans and movements of the savages. All his information showed that the Indians relied upon British assistance, which faith still animated the doomed race. Early in July Captain Wells and his scouts were ordered to bring in new prisoners. They pushed through the country, always dressed and painted in Indian style, crossing the River St. Mary, and then passed into the country near to the Auglaize River, where they met a single Indian, and called him to surrender. The man, notwithstanding the whites were six to one, refused to surrender, and leveled his rifle as the whites neared him on horseback, fired, but missed his mark, whereupon he took to his heels to effect his escape. He gained upon his pursuers, on account of the thick underbrush of the country, when McClellan and Christopher Miller dismounted. McClellan soon overhauled him. The Indian, finding himself overtaken by his pursuers, turned around and made a blow at McClellan with his rifle, which was parried. As the intention was to take the Indian alive, McClellan kept him at bay until Christopher Miller came up, when they closed in upon him and made him a prisoner without receiving an injury. Their prisoner was reputed to be a Pottawattomie chief, whose courage and prowess were scarcely equaled. As Christopher Miller had performed his part on this occasion to the entire satisfaction of the brave spirits with whom he acted, he had, as he merited, their entire confidence. This confidence was soon extended to head-quarters, and on August 13, 1794, General Wayne selected him as a special messenger to the Indians, once more offering terms of friendship. Miller returned with evasive and dilatory answers.
Unwilling to waste time, the troops moved forward to within about forty miles of the Grand Glaize, and, being now near the long-looked-for foe, began to throw up some light works, which they called Fort Deposit, wherein to place the heavy baggage during the expected battle. General Wayne, again wishing to be informed of the intentions of the enemy, sent out Captain Wells, with four men, to bring in some prisoners. The party consisted of Wells, Henry Miller, McClellan, May, and Mahaffy. The distance from Fort Defiance to the British fort at the mouth of the Maumee River was only forty-five miles, and they would not have to travel far before they would find Indians. As their object was to bring a prisoner, it became necessary for them to keep out of the way of large parties, and endeavor to fall in with some stragglers, who might be easily subdued and captured.
Wells and his party went down the Maumee River until they were only about two miles above the British fort, then called Fort Campbell. On the left bank of the river was an Indian village. Wells and his party rode into the village as if they had just come from the British fort. Being dressed and painted completely in Indian style, they rode through the village, stopping now and then to talk to some Indians in their own language. They created no suspicion whatever, under the belief that they were Indians from the distance, that had come to take part in the battle which all knew was imminent. As auxiliary warriors, they were welcome to them. After they had passed the village some distance, they fell in with an Indian man and woman on horseback, who were returning to the town from a hunting party. These were both made captives without resistance, and then the party set off for Fort Defiance with their prisoners.
As they were rapidly proceeding up the Maumee River, a little after dark, they came near a large encampment of Indians, who were merrily amusing themselves around their camp-fires. While they passed around the camp with their prisoners, they ordered them to be silent, under pain of instant death. After they got about half a mile above the camp, they halted for a consultation, when it was proposed to have some fun with the savages, and give them a volley, in which each should kill his Indian. They deliberately got down, gagged and fastened their prisoners to trees, rode boldly into the Indian encampment, and halted, with their rifles lying across the pummels of their saddles. The Indians were surprised at their nightly visitors, who asked of them when last they had heard of General Wayne and the movements of his army, how soon and where it was expected the battle would be fought. The Indians who gathered around Wells and his daring comrades were very communicative, answering all their interrogatories, without suspecting any deceptive movements on the part of their strange visitors, who, as they thought, belonged to some of the numerous tribes that had gathered to take part in the conflict with the whites. Their appearance at length aroused the suspicion of an Indian, who was sitting some distance from them, and who remarked, in an undertone, that he had his doubts about the strangers, and that he believed their visit to mean mischief. Wells, however, overheard these remarks, and at once gave the preconcerted signal, when each one fired his rifle into the body of an Indian, and then set spurs to their horses, dashing off into the darkness. The Indian who had uttered his suspicion about them and several others, at once arose, grasping their rifles, and levelling them at Wells and his party, who just then galloped away, and for greater security laid their breasts upon the horses' necks, so as to lessen the mark for the savages to fire at. They, however, were not yet out of the light of the camp-fire when the Indians fired a volley after them, wounding McClellan and Captain Wells, hitting the first under the shoulder-blade, so that the ball came out at the top of the arm, and the latter was shot through the arm on which he carried his rifle, the arm being broken, so that his trusty weapon fell to the ground. On their retreat they were immediately followed by some of the savages, who had at once mounted their horses for pursuit. While the scouts were crossing the river, May's horse slipped on a smooth rock and fell, and before May could recover himself, the Indians came upon him and took him prisoner. They knew him well, as he had before been among them, when he was sent by General Wayne to inquire after Colonel Trueman. At that time he had pretended to desert to the Indians, riding into their camp, where he remained some time, and was held as a prisoner, but finally had effected his escape. This time, however, his career was irretrievably destined to end. The Indians took him to the British fort, and the next day tied him to a tree, made his breast a target, and riddled his body with bullets, thus ending the life of one of the bravest rangers of the west.
The others, after having performed this act of wanton supererogation, rode at full speed to the place where they had left their captives, untied them, mounted them on the front of their horses, and set off for Fort Defiance. Captain Wells and McClellan were severely wounded, and the distance to Fort Defiance being about thirty miles, it was indeed a road of suffering before they could rest or receive the aid of a surgeon. As their march would be slow and painful, Mahaffy was dispatched at full speed to the fort for a guard and a surgeon. As soon as the messenger arrived with tidings of the wounds and the perilous situation of the heroic spies, general sympathy was manifested by all. General Wayne's feeling, for the suffering soldiers was, at all times, quick and sensitive; and his solicitude became intense when he learned the sufferings and perils of his confidential band. Without a moment's delay a company of dragoons was dispatched with a surgeon, to meet, assist, and guard these brave fellows to head-quarters, where they safely arrived and were healed of their wounds. The next day the army moved from Fort Defiance down the Maumee, and, at a place known as "the Fallen Timbers" a tornado having broken down a streak of the forest--General Wayne inflicted one of the most severe punishments upon the Indians they had ever received, and which broke their power in the Northwestern Territory forever. It was, indeed, a brilliant victory won, and to the spies of Wayne's army belongs a large portion of the credit due to the heroic body that achieved it. This little band of rangers performed more real service during the campaign than any other corps of equal numbers. "I have no doubt," writes McDonald, "that Captain Wells and the few men he commanded, brought in not less than twenty prisoners and killed as many more."
After the treaty of Greenville (1795) and the establishment of peace, Captain Wells was joined by his Indian wife and family, and, as Brice in his "History of Fort Wayne" writes, "settled at the 'Old Orchard,' a short distance from the confluence of the St. Mary and St. Joseph, on the banks of a small stream there, afterward called 'Spy Run,' and which still bears that name. The government subsequently granted him a pre-emption of some three hundred and twenty acres of land, including his improvement, the Old Orchard, etc. Wells afterward also became, by appointment of the government, Indian agent at Fort Wayne, in which capacity he served several years."
The following account is given of his tragic end: "In the War of 1812 Captain Wells was in command at Fort Wayne. When he heard of General Hull's orders for the evacuation of Fort Dearborn (now Chicago), he made a rapid march to re-enforce Captain Heald, and to assist in defending the fort, or prevent his exposure to certain destruction by an attempt to reach the head of the Maumee. But he was too late. All means for maintaining a siege had been destroyed a few hours before, and every preparation had been made to leave the post next day. On the morning of the 15th of August the little company of Captain Wells and his Miamis evacuated the fort and moved along the shore till they came to Sand Hills, when they were attacked by five hundred cowardly and treacherous Pottawattomies. That conflict was short, desperate, and bloody. Two-thirds of the whites were slain or wounded, and all the horses, provisions, and baggage lost. Only twenty-eight strong men remained to brave the fury of about five hundred Indians, who had lost but fifteen in the conflict. Captain Wells displayed the greatest coolness and gallantry. He was by the side of his niece (Mrs. Captain Heald), when the conflict began. 'We have not the slightest chance for life,' he said, 'and we must part to meet no more in this world--God bless you.' With these words he dashed forward with the rest. In the midst of the fight he saw a young warrior, painted like a demon, climb into a wagon in which were twelve children of the white people, and tomahawk them all. Forgetting his own immediate danger, Wells exclaimed, 'If that is their game, butchering women and children, I'll kill too.' He instantly dashed toward the Indian camp, where they had left their squaws and little ones, hotly pursued by swift-footed young warriors, who sent many a rifle-ball after him. He lay close to his horse's neck, and turned and fired occasionally upon his pursuers. When he had got almost beyond the range of their rifles, a ball killed his horse and wounded himself severely in the leg. The young savages rushed forward with a demoniac yell to make him a prisoner and reserve him for torture, for he was to them an arch-offender. His friends, Win-ne-meg and Wau-bau-see, vainly attempted to save him from his fate. He knew the temper and the practices of the savages well and resolved not to be made a captive. He blackened his face with wetted powder, and taunted them with the most insulting epithets to provoke them to kill him instantly. At length he called one of the fiery young warriors Per-so-tum (a squaw), which so enraged him that he killed Wells instantly with his tomahawk, jumped upon his body, cut out his heart, and ate a portion of the warm and half-palpitating morsel with savage delight."
Robert McClellan, after the peace of Greenville, settled on the Ohio River, near its mouth, where he erected quite a number of log-houses and acted as a trader until the year 1806. After that he associated with Ramsay Cook, an adventurous young Scotchman, in a trading business with the Indians on the Missouri River, which partnership lasted until the year 1810, when McClellan continued the trading upon his own account. In 1811 he joined the celebrated Wilson P. Hunt, the commander of Astor's American Fur Company, at the mouth of the Nodowa River, and finding his old friend Crook there, he joined the company upon its expedition to the far-distant Northwest. He died after an adventurous life in the summer of 1814 at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where he lies buried. His brother William, after manifold pursuits, settled in Butler County, Ohio, where he died in the autumn of 1827. The brothers Miller (Henry and Christopher), were likewise in the employ of the "Astor American Fur Company," and some of their after-adventures, like those of Robert McClellan, are related by Washington Irving in his romantic "Astoria."
The battle of the "Fallen Timbers," that had so recklessly been fought and lost by the Indians, urged on by their haughty chief "Blue Jacket," against the serious advice of "Little Turtle," ended the power of the savages in what is now the State of Ohio, and the southern part of the rest of the Territory; and the treaty of Greenville, in 1795, left them politically in a scattered condition. While the Six Nations made their principal home in Canada, retaining but few small reservations in the dominion of the United States, the most warlike tribes of the west moved toward what is now the northern part of the States of Indiana and Illinois and into the later Territories of Michigan and Wisconsin, where they established new hunting grounds. Some tribes, it is true, remained in the southern portion of the Northwestern Territory, but these, for the most part, were peaceably disposed.
Another result of the victory of General Wayne was the evacuation by the British of the forts still occupied by them within the boundaries of the United States, such as Detroit, the Maumee Fort, and others. Thereby the entire territory ceded in the treaty of 1783 came, for the first time, into the full possession of the American government. And now, relying on themselves, and relieved from British intrigues, the American people earnestly began the occupation of the lands of their own as rapidly as the influx of the hardy pioneers would permit.
As the population of the Territory increased new settlements were formed, and the governor proceeded, from time to time, as the convenience of the inhabitants required, to lay out and organize other counties, under the power delegated by the ordinance of 1787; in each of which courts of common pleas and general quarter-sessions of the peace, rested with civil and criminal jurisdiction, were established. The general court consisted of three judges, appointed by the President of the United States, with the advice and consent of the Senate. It was the highest judicial tribunal in the Territory, and was vested with original and appellate jurisdiction in all civil and criminal, and of capital cases; and on questions of divorce and alimony its jurisdiction was exclusive.
Up to the year 1797 there were but five counties in the Territory: Washington, with its seat of justice at Marietta; Hamilton, with Cincinnati as its capital city; Knox, with Vincennes on the Wabash; St. Clair (now Illinois), with Kaskaskia near the Mississippi; and the new county of Wayne (organized 1796), with Detroit as the county seat. A glance on the map will at once convey an idea of the relative positions of the seats of justice of the different counties, as they were at that time, separated from each other by extensive tracts of uninhabited wilderness, stretching from each other a hundred and fifty to two hundred miles, without roads, bridges, or ferries. According to our present views of communication, it would be reasonable to suppose that the legal business of each county was done exclusively by those professional men residing at its seat of justice. That, however, was not the case. The judges, as well as the lawyers, and frequently their clients and witnesses, had to travel from the most extreme settlements of the Territory to where the court trying their cases was held.
The journeys of the court and bar to those remote places, through a country in its primitive state, were unavoidably attended with fatigue and exposure. They generally traveled in larger or smaller companies, and with pack-horses to transport such necessaries as their own horses could not conveniently carry, because no dependence could be placed on obtaining supplies on the route; although they frequently passed through Indian camps and villages, it was not safe to rely on them for assistance. Occasionally small quantities of corn could be purchased for horse-feed; but even that relief was precarious and could not be relied on. The routes were necessarily circuitous, and their progress slow. They were often, from one county to the other, from six to ten days in the wilderness, and at all seasons of the year were compelled to swim every water-course in their way which was too deep to be forded. That fact made it common, when purchasing a horse, to ask if he was a swimmer, which was considered the most valuable quality of a saddle-horse.
Other fatigues and troubles were connected with these excursions during the early days of the settlement of the country. Although they were connected with privations and exposure and often with great personal danger, yet they were not destitute of interest or amusement. The exploration of the rich luxuriant forest and prairie, through which they passed, could not fail to produce the most pleasurable sensation. To enliven the monotony of a tour through the boundless forest the parties would ride in groups together, telling adventures of their lives, and yarns, to their mutual entertainment. Now and then, during good weather, the one or the other, who had a taste and some knowledge of music, would unpack a flute or a fiddle from his saddle-bag, and strike up the melody of some popular air, or a song of the time, in which the company would often join in with a hearty chorus. Their nightly encampments or rests in some lonesome cabin, which would furnish them a meager shelter, were not unfrequently enlivened with this sort of amusement, which all readily enjoyed.
In the year 1803 Ohio was admitted as a State and the other part of the Northwestern Territory was divided into four Territories, which now compose the States of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Gradually civilization entered and dispersed the romances and tragedies connected with the pioneer life in the country northwest of the Ohio River.
Retyped and reformatted by Ray and Kathy Leigh
Created November 25, 2001
Web design and graphics by Kathy Leigh