Battle of Fallen Timbers

Battle of Fallen Timbers

The Battle of Fallen Timbers (August 20, 1794) was the final battle of the Northwest Indian War, a struggle between American Indians and the United States for control of the Northwest Territory (an area bounded on the south by the Ohio River, on the west by the Mississippi River, and on the northeast by the Great Lakes). The battle, which was a decisive victory for the United States, ended major hostilities in the region until "Tecumseh's War" and the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.


The Western Lakes Confederacy—one of the strongest Native American alliances to date—had achieved major victories over the United States in 1790 and 1791, alarming the administration of President George Washington. In 1792, Washington called upon Revolutionary War veteran General "Mad Anthony" Wayne to build and command a new army. Wayne believed the previous expeditions against the Indians had failed because of the poor training and discipline, and so he began rigorous preparations.

Wayne had plenty of time to train his new army, as peace negotiations were undertaken in the summer of 1793. The Americans sought to confirm possession of lands north of the Ohio River that they had claimed from Great Britain after victory in the American Revolutionary War. Indeed, the Americans were already moving into the Ohio territory.

However, Shawnee war chief Blue Jacket and Delaware (Lenape) leader Buckongahelas, encouraged by their recent victories over the United States and the hope of continued British sponsorship, pressed for the Ohio River boundary line established by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768; they rejected subsequent treaties that had ceded lands north of the Ohio River to the United States. A faction of Indians led by the influential Mohawk leader Joseph Brant attempted to negotiate a compromise, but Blue Jacket and his allies would accept nothing less than an Ohio River boundary, which the United States refused.


Wayne's new army, the Legion of the United States, marched north from Fort Washington (Cincinnati, Ohio) in 1793, building a line of forts along the way. Wayne commanded more than 4,600 men, with some Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians serving as scouts.

Blue Jacket's army took a defensive stand along the Maumee River (in present-day Maumee, Ohio and not far from present-day Toledo, Ohio), near a number of uprooted trees ("fallen timbers") that had been leveled by a tornado or heavy storm. They reckoned that the trees would hinder the advance of the army, if they came. Nearby was Fort Miami, a British outpost from which the Indian confederacy received provisions. The Indian army, about 1,500 strong, consisted of Blue Jacket's Shawnees and Buckongahelas's Delawares, Miamis led by Little Turtle, Wyandots, Ojibwas, Ottawas, Potawatomis, Mingos, and even some Canadian militia.

The battle did not last long. Not only were the Indians greatly outnumbered—many were getting provisions from the fort when the battle began—they were also outflanked by American cavalry. The Indians were quickly routed, and fell back to Fort Miami, only to find the gates closed. The British commander, not authorized to start a war with the Americans, refused to give shelter to the fleeing Indians. The American troops destroyed Indian villages and crops in the area, and then withdrew. 33 of Wayne's men were killed and 100 were wounded. The victorious Americans claimed to have found 30-40 enemy dead on the field. According to Alexander McKee of the British Indian Department, the Indian confederacy had 19 men killed. McKee's figure may or may not include the casualties of a group of Canadian volunteers under Captain Alexander McKillop, who fought alongside the Indians.


The defeat of the Indians led to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, which ceded much of present-day Ohio to the United States, paving the way for the creation of that state in 1803. One veteran of Fallen Timbers who did not sign the Greenville treaty was a young Shawnee war leader named Tecumseh, who would renew Indian resistance in the years ahead.


See also


  • Sudgen, John. Blue Jacket: Warrior of the Shawnees. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
  • Sword, Wiley. President Washington's Indian War: The Struggle for the Old Northwest, 1790-1795. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985.
  • Gaff, Allan D. Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne’s Legion in the Old Northwest. University of Oklahoma Press, May 2004, ISBN-10: 0806135859, ISBN-13: 978-0806135854

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