Gateway to the Classics: Boy's Book of Indian Warriors by Edwin L. Sabin
Boy's Book of Indian Warriors by  Edwin L. Sabin

Little Turtle Fears the Big Wind (1792–1812)

and it Blows him into Peace

President Washington was almost beside himself when he got the frank report from General Saint Clair. Another American army—as good a selection as had opposed the British themselves in many a battle of the Revolution—had been fairly out-witted and fairly defeated, by Indians.

General Anthony Wayne was appointed to try next. "Mad Anthony," soldiers and citizens had styled him, because of his head-long valor in the Revolution. He was a good man for the job, if he did not act too fast and get ambushed.

He took his time. The army of the United States was reorganized into the Legion of the United States. He was placed in command.

There were four Sub-legions, or corps, each composed of artillery, dragoons, infantry and riflemen. The enlisted men wore round caps like helmets.

The badge of the First Sub-legion was white binding, with short plumes of white wool and black horse-hair.

The badge of the Second Sub-legion was red binding, with short plumes of red wool and white horse-hair.

The badge of the Third Sub-legion was yellow binding, with yellow wool and black horse-hair.

The badge of the Fourth Sub-legion was green binding, with green wool and white horse-hair.

"Another defeat will be ruinous to the reputation of the United States," had said President Washington. With this in mind, General Wayne declared for drilling his troops hard, at Legionville, below Pittsburg. Infantry, artillery and cavalry were kept busy at target practice, broad-sword practice, and battle formations.

In the spring of 1793 he moved down to Fort Washington at Cincinnati. On August 8, he marched north, with two thousand troops the equal of any troops in the world, to invade the country of the Miamis.

Meanwhile there had been fighting, but the warriors of Little Turtle showed no signs of letting up. A message from the British had told them that war with the United States was due this year, and that the Indians were expected to hold their ground.

Now the great warrior "Mad Anthony" was advancing. Him, the Indians much respected. His reputation was known. They had named him "Black Snake," and "Big Wind" or "Whirlwind." From the methods with which he made his marches—his men deployed in open order, his dragoons sweeping the flanks, his scouts before, and every night's camp pitched early and surrounded by a log breast-works—they saw that he was wise.

He established more forts. He erected a new one near the site of Fort Jefferson at Greenville, Ohio; and spent the winter there. He built Fort Recovery on the skull-dotted field where General Saint Clair had been routed. There the Wayne men defeated the Little Turtle men. The Indians spent two nights in carrying off their dead and wounded. But the British from Detroit had come southward and built another fort for themselves—Fort Maumee—at the Maumee River Rapids, in northwestern Ohio, south of modern Toledo.

That was a rallying-place for the allied Indians, and encouraged them. The "Big Wind" continued, laying waste the villages and fields. He built Fort Defiance in the very heart of the Miami country, and proceeded down the Maumee River toward the British fort.

Within seven miles of the British fort he built Fort Deposit. He had two thousand Legionaries, and eleven hundred mounted Kentucky riflemen; Little Turtle's army was being driven back upon the British fort, and must fight or quit.

So far, the "Big Wind" had proved himself the master.

By this time Little Turtle had lost his brother-in-law, "Black Snake" or William Wells, whose blood was the white blood, and who could no longer fire upon his race.

When he had heard that another American army was on its way, he had led Little Turtle apart.

"I now leave your nation for my own people," he had said. "We have been friends. We are friends yet until the sun is an hour higher. From that time we are enemies. Then if you wish to kill me, you may. If I want to kill you, I may."

William Wells plunged into the forest, and found General Wayne. He became a valuable scout with the United States column.

From Fort Deposit General Wayne sent word to the Miamis that they must make peace at once, or be attacked. Little Turtle called a council. Some of his men were dubious.

"It is no use fighting that man. His eye is never shut," they complained.

Little Turtle himself was dubious. The council debated upon whether to try another "Saint Clair" surprise, or to choose their ground, and wait.

Blue-jacket the Shawnee was for fighting.

"Listen," spoke Little Turtle. "We have beaten the enemy twice, under separate generals. We cannot expect the same good fortune always. The Americans are led now by a chief who never sleeps. The night and the day are alike to him. During all the time that he has been marching upon us we have watched him close but we have never been able to surprise him. Think well of it. Something whispers to me that we could do well to treat with him."

Somebody accused Little Turtle of being afraid, at last. That was enough. He objected no more, and the council decided to form battle array and wait, at Presq' Isle, near the British fort. Blue-jacket took charge.

It was good ground for defense. Another "Big Wind" had passed through the timber, and laid the trees crisscross in great confusion. Amidst this maze Little Turtle, Blue-jacket, Simon Girty, and the other leaders stretched three lines of warriors and half-breeds, in a front two miles long. Their left rested at the river, their right was protected by a thicket, the British fort was behind them.

The British commander had said that he would open his gates to them, if they were again driven back.

The "Big Wind," who never slept, had not delayed. This morning of August 20, 1794, he marched right onward, in battle array. At noon he struck the Fallen Timbers, at Presq' Isle.

Now he was "Mad Anthony," again. He made short work of the Little Turtle army of fifteen hundred. He sent his Kentucky mounted riflemen against their right flank; he sent his dragoon regulars against their left flank; he sent his regular infantry in a bayonet charge straight through their center. They were not to fire a shot until the Indians had broken cover; then they were to deliver a volley and keep going so hard that the enemy would have no time to reload.

For once, Little Turtle's warriors did not stand. They feared this mad general. The trained infantry Legionaries moved so fast that they outfooted the cavalry; and they alone drove the warriors helter-skelter back through the timber, to the very walls of the British fort.

There the mounted riflemen and the dragoons smote with their "long knives," or broad-swords—for the gates of the fort were not opened, and the walls proved only a death-trap.

The Battle of Fallen Timbers was over in about an hour. The Americans lost thirty-eight killed, one hundred and one wounded. The loss of the Miamis and their allies numbered several hundred. Nine Wyandot chiefs had been slain.

Their warriors were scattered, their villages and corn-fields were destroyed, the British had not helped them, United States forts occupied their best ground from the Ohio River right through north to Lake Erie, and the long war had ended.

The Miamis and eleven other nations signed a treaty of peace, at Greenville, in August of the next year, 1795.

"I am the last to sign," said Little Turtle, "and I think I will be the last to break it."

Ever after this, Little Turtle lived at peace with the Americans.

The United States built him a house on his birth-place at the Eel River twenty miles from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He tried to adopt civilization and bring his people to agriculture and prosperity.

He was opposed by jealous chiefs, who envied him his house and accused him of having been bought by the Americans. But he was wiser than they.

He had been the first of the great chiefs to frown upon the torture of captives; give him a good mark for that. Now he frowned upon liquor. With Captain William Wells, his friend, he appeared before the Kentucky legislature, and asked for a law against selling liquor to the Indians. In the winter of 18011802 he asked to be vaccinated, at Washington, and took some of the vaccine back with him, for his people.

He frequently visited Philadelphia. There he met the famous Polish patriot Kosciusko. They had many talks. Kosciusko presented him with a fine pair of pistols and a valuable otter-skin robe.

Chief Little Turtle died July 14, 1812, while on a visit at Fort Wayne. The notice in a newspaper said:

"Perhaps there is not left on this continent, one of his color so distinguished in council and in war. His disorder was the gout. He died in a camp, because he chose to be in the open air. He met death with great firmness. The agent for Indian affairs had him buried with the honors of war."

His portrait, painted by a celebrated artist, was hung upon the walls of the War Department at Washington.

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