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Fallen Timbers Monument
Visiting an Almost-Forgotten Piece of American History
It may be hard to imagine but at one point early in U.S. history the country's western frontier wasn't the Pacific Ocean -- it was Ohio. The treaty that ended the Revolutionary War in 1783 was not recognized by the Native American nations in the region. The result was 10 years of battles and skirmishes between the U.S. and the Native Americans, who were supported by the British military.
The Battle of Fallen Timbers, on Aug. 20, 1794, was the final battle of the Northwest Indian War.
The true actual site of the fighting was only determined in the late 1990s. The battlefield is part of the Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis national historic site in Maumee, Ohio. It is well worth a visit to discover more about this little-known but important American battle.
Along the Trail at Fallen Timbers Battlefield
Visiting the Fallen Timbers Historic Site
The historic site is actually three separate places -- the battlefield, the monument, and Fort Miamis. They are far enough apart that you will need a car to travel between them.
If you are not using GPS, be aware that the signs pointing the way to the battlefield are very small -- smaller than the typical street sign. But once you are on the correct road it is easy to spot the entrance to the battlefield. Parking is free.
The visitor center was closed the day we were there, but that was not a problem. Along the 1.5 mile looping trail to the battlefield are numerous explanations on stand-alone signs. They do a very good job of explaining the situation leading up the battle, the fighting and its aftermath.
On August 20, 1794, mounted volunteers under Maj. Gen. Anthony Wayne of the Legion of the United States, as the U.S. army was known at the time, came upon a line of 1,100 Indian warriors from a confederation of Ohio and Great Lakes Indian tribes. The Indians and the legion's front guard exchanged fire, with the legion eventually retreating. The warriors pursued the soldiers of the front guard until a light infantry skirmish line forced the Indians to seek shelter amid timbers that had been felled a few years before by a tornado (which gave the battle its name of Fallen Timbers!).
The legion's right wing was under heavy fire from the concealed warriors, who broke down an effort to flank them from the river. The left flank of soldiers charged, inflicting heavy casualties on the Indians and driving them from the field.
Fortunately, the ravine that was the main site of the battle apparently was left mostly undisturbed over the centuries because the difficulty of the terrain.
All told, the U.S. had about 1,500 soldiers in the battle, the Indians 1,000. Only lasting about two hours, the battle ended up being a climactic one. Months later the two sides signed the Treaty of Greenville, which ultimately led to the United States’ settlement of the Northwest Territories.
It's actually a quite small land area for what turned out to be a very consequential battle.
The walk was fairly easy, though there are parts where there is no shade. So be careful if you visit during a hot summer afternoon like we did!
The Fallen Timbers Battlefield
A Monument In the Wrong Place
A short drive from the actual battlefield is the Fallen Timbers Monument, located on a bluff overlooking the Maumee River. For almost two centuries the bluff was thought to be the actual site of the battle, based on a map drawn by a British soldier who wasn't present during the fighting.
It was only in the mid-1990s that archaeological surveys determined the true site of the hostilities about a quarter-mile from the monument.
Dedicated in 1929, the monument itself is pretty impressive and the view of the river is magnificent. Presumably, it's way too big to even think about moving to the actual battle site.
Near the monument is Turkey Foot Rock. Legend has it that Indian Chief Turkey Foot of the Ottawa Indians rallied his troops during the battle and died at this rock, which was placed alongside the monument to represent the Indians' side of the battle.
Fallen Timbers Monument
Fort Miamis Earthworks, the Final Section of the Park
The final part of the park is the site where the former British Fort Miamis was located along the Maumee River. When the Indian warriors retreated from the Fallen Timbers battle they sought safety at the fort, but their British allies refused to let them in and they had to continue to flee along the river.
Built in 1794, the fort consisted of log stockade, a river battery, barracks, officers' quarters, supply buildings, and shops. A defensive ditch, 20 to 25 feet deep, ran along the land side of the fort.
The British were forced to abandon the fort under the Jay Treaty of 1796, but later re-occupied it during the War of 1812. They left the fort in 1814 and it was later demolished.
All that is left of the fort are some of the earthworks. While there are stairs to a raised platform that enables you to get a better sense of the earthworks, the fact is that there really isn't much to see here.
Fort Miamis Earthworks
The Best Reference Book on the Battle of Fallen Timbers
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