Wednesday marked the 220th anniversary of the Battle of Fallen Timbers, an event historians often cite as a turning point in Ohio history.
The battle took place Aug. 20, 1794, at a site near what now is the city of Maumee.
It was called "fallen timbers" because large trees that had been toppled by a tornado a few years before the battle served as shelter and hiding places during the battle that pitted Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne's Legion of the United States, with help from the Kentucky Militia, against American Indians who had joined a confederacy to fend off American westward expansion.
ILLUSTRATION FROM HISTORY.COM
The Battle of Fallen Timbers was the last major conflict of the Northwest Territory Indian War between Native Americans and the United States.
Wayne's victory in the brief battle led to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville, greater safety of European settlers moving into the area and, ultimately, to Ohio becoming a state.
"The Battle of Fallen Timbers is among the most historic conflicts fought on American soil," according to an account of the battle on a federal historic website (lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/legacies/
OH/200003440.html). "Some historians say that only the Revolutionary War's Battle of Lexington, Virginia, and Civil War's Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, outrank Fallen Timbers in significance."
Now in the Metroparks of the Toledo Area park system, the parks and partners commemorated the anniversary of the Battle of Fallen Timbers Saturday with a wreath-laying ceremony, guest speakers and tours of the battlefield in Maumee.
The metropark system owns the battlefield on Jerome Road on the north side of the Anthony Wayne Trail, and manages Fallen Timbers Battlefield Memorial Park, a historical monument owned by Ohio History Connection on the south side of the highway. The two are connected via a bike/pedestrian bridge.
A third site, Fort Miamis on River Road in Maumee, also is a Metroparks property and preserves the site of a British fort used during Fallen Timbers and again in the War of 1812.
A visitor center has been designed, which is to include restrooms and parking to provide access to the battleground and the nearby Wabash Cannonball Trail, a regional bike trail. Construction is to begin this fall, and the park is to be open to the public next spring.
In addition to this weekend's activities, events related to the battle anniversary include:
Sept. 6, noon-2:30 p.m., History Paddle, Maumee River.
Explore the Maumee River on a three-mile canoe paddle around Audubon Islands. Learn about Fort Miamis, the islands and Orleans Park. Online reservations required at metroparksprograms.com. Fee is $9.
Dorothy Price Lecture Series, funded by the Dorothy M. Price Fallen Timbers Education Fund. Free. Reservations are required at metroparksprograms.com
Sept. 24, 6 p.m., "The Role of Alexander McKee," by Larry Nelson, Wildwood Manor House.
Oct. 18, 2 p.m., "Cultural Impacts From the Battle of Fallen Timbers," by Dave Westrick, Oak Openings Lodge.
Nov. 15, 2 p.m., "The Role of Fort Recovery in Washington's Indian Wars," by Nancy Knapke, Wildwood Manor House.
The battle was the climax of a military campaign of Wayne against native tribes led by Chief Little Turtle, a Miami leader, and Chief Blue Jacket, a Shawnee leader, who were able to unify American Indians in their attempt to resist U.S. expansion.
Events in the years leading up to Fallen Timbers included several defeats of the U.S. Army under generals Arthur St. Clair and Josiah Harmer, according to the account on the Ohio History Central website (www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Battle_of_Fallen_Timbers?rec=473).
In 1792, President George Washington appointed Wayne as commander of the Army of the Northwest, then serving in the Northwest Territory and protecting American settlers from Indian attacks. Wayne prepared his soldiers, and in 1793, ordered the construction of Fort Greene Ville. His army remained at the fort for the winter of 1793-94, and some men stayed at Fort Recovery, which had been built on the site of St. Clair's defeat.
"Tensions escalated between the Americans and the natives during the summer of 1794," said the Ohio History Central website. "On June 30, 1,500 Shawnee natives, Miami natives, Delaware natives, Ottawa natives and Ojibwa natives led by Little Turtle attacked a supply train leaving Fort Recovery for Fort Greene Ville, killing or capturing many of the Americans."
Wayne moved into northwest Ohio in July 1794, and in early August, he ordered the construction of Fort Defiance to protect the army and serve as a supply depot. During this time, Wayne's men destroyed native villages and crops. Little Turtle of Miami tribe deferred his leadership to Blue Jacket, a Shawnee leader.
As Wayne moved toward the Maumee River, Indians prepared to attack at Fallen Timbers.
"The natives expected the Americans to arrive on Aug. 19, but the white soldiers did not arrive until the next day," the website stated. "The natives fasted before the battle for spiritual and cultural reasons and to avoid having food in their stomachs. The likelihood of infection increased if a person was wounded in the stomach and there was food in it. By Aug. 20, the natives were weak from hunger."
Thirty-three Army soldiers were killed and about 100 wounded, while the natives lost more than 60 men. Blue Jacket and warriors retreated to Fort Miamis to gain British protection, but were refused.
For the next year, Wayne stayed at Fort Greene Ville, negotiating a treaty with the Indians, which was signed Aug. 3, 1795. The Treaty of Greenville opened western expansion to white settlers, but not all Indians agreed and fighting continued for another 20 years.
The Jay Treaty officially forced British troops to leave forts Miami, Detroit, Mackinac Island, Erie, Pennsylvania and all other posts in the U.S. territory in 1796.
"If it had not been for the U.S. victory at Fallen Timbers, Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and most of the Great Lakes ports might have been developed as Canadian cities," the battle account states.
It wasn't until 1995 that research by archeologist Michael Pratt identified the battlefield on property owned by the city of Toledo, rather than on another site where it had been believed to have taken place.
In 1998, the re-identified site was threatened with plans for commercial development. A coalition of federal, state and local entities stopped development plans, and the Fallen Timbers Preservation Commission led the way to making the site a national park. In 1999, Congress passed a law making Fallen Timbers Battlefield a national historic site.
Pratt's finding were documented in a report that includes photos, numerous materials describing the historic battle and "The Archaeology of the Fallen Timbers Battlefield," an educational video documenting the battle.