778, Governor Hamilton’s army, advancing from Detroit against the forces of George Rogers Clark in southern Indiana, passed over the portage. The only military action, however, which occurred here during the Revolutionary War is known as La Balme’s Massacre.
Augustus La Balme, one of the volunteer French officers who had accompanied the Marquis de LaFayette to America, was commissioned a colonel in General Washington’s army. In October he appeared at Kaskaskia, then under American domination since its capture by George Rogers Clark. He gathered a considerable force of Frenchmen and Indians and advanced northward, his objective being the expulsion of the British from Detroit. Arriving at the Indian settlement at Three Rivers, La Balme and his men plundered the village and destroyed a great deal of property. At close of day he retired with his 103 men and camped on the Aboite River. In the dead of night an Indian force under the leadership of Little Turtle attacked 11the invader, destroyed nearly a half of the little force and compelled the remainder to flee. The incident has little significance except as the initial engagement in a series of bloody victories won by Little Turtle and the Miami Indians against the Americans.
The Treaty of Paris in 1783 made the United States nominally paramount in the Ohio Valley. However, the British, on the pretext of bad faith on the part of the American Government, continued to occupy forts in the area which they had contracted to evacuate under terms of the treaty. Among the forts they still held illegally were Presque Isle, Mackinac, Detroit, and Fort Miami near Toledo.
From the vantage point of these forts, British military officers and diplomatic representatives continued friendly relations with the local Indians. By moral suasion the Indian was influenced to believe that his friends were British rather than American. Through gifts of food, equipment and arms, the Indian was relieved of problems of logistics which might place him at a disadvantage with any American military force. The Indians massacred hundreds of American settlers on the western frontier, and burned and pillaged their homes. Under the leadership of Little Turtle and others in 1790 and 1791, Indian warriors inflicted overwhelming defeats upon the armies of American Generals Harmar and St. Clair.
Chief Little Turtle (Me-she-kin-no-quah)
The above likeness was made from a cut out of a very old book which had been reproduced from a painting made for him while in Philadelphia. This painting was destroyed when the Capitol building at Washington was burned by the British in the war of 1812. Head dress on the forehead, contains three rattles from at least three rattlesnakes; has always been considered a splendid likeness of the famous Chief.
American influence and prestige were at a low ebb, indeed, and it appeared that the Ohio Valley with the portage at Three Rivers might fall by default to the British after all. In order to prevent this calamity, General Wayne undertook his campaign westward into the Indian country from Pittsburgh. He soundly defeated the Indians at Fallen Timbers in 1794. Wayne’s expedition culminated in the building of the fort which bears his name and in the formal occupation under the American flag in September and October, 1794.
Silently corrected a few typos.
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