Siege of Fort Wayne
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|Siege of Fort Wayne|
|Part of the War of 1812|
|Commanders and leaders|
William Henry Harrison
3,000 (relief force)
|Casualties and losses|
|about 25 killed||?|
The Siege of Fort Wayne was a battle that took place Sept. 5 - 12, 1812 during the War of 1812, between the United States military garrison at Fort Wayne and Potawatomi and Miami Indians, within what is now the modern city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Indians suffered a severe loss and withdrew on Sept. 12. A vast force under Gen. William Henry Harrison arrived later that day to relieve the fort, ending the siege. The victory was one of two (the other being the battle of Fort Harrison which ended on the same day) which secured Indiana Territory for the United States in the war.
Since 1811, after the severe defeat at the Battle of Tippecanoe, Native American tribes on the Northwest frontier had been growing bitter at the U.S. presence there. Encouraged by other British/Native American victories at places such as Fort Dearborn and Detroit, native tribes began to undertake campaigns against other smaller U.S. outposts.
Fort Wayne, in northeast Indiana Territory, had fallen into disrepair in the years leading up to 1812. As a frontier outpost stationed in a busy Native American town, the garrison was often insubordinate, and Captain James Rhea had allowed many of the buildings to deteriorate. The walls, once strong enough to withstand cannonballs, had not been maintained. Although there was a good well inside the fort, the food stores had gotten low by September.
The garrison first learned of the fall of Fort Dearborn on 26 August, when Corporal Jordan returned after escaping the massacre. On 28 August, Stephen Johnston, the assistant trade factor at Fort Wayne, was killed a mile away from Fort Wayne. The news was met with alarm, and John Johnston sent Shawnee Captain Logan to help evacuate women and children to the relative safety of Ohio.
In September 1812, Indians from the Potawatomi and Miami tribes, led by Chief Winamac, gathered around Fort Wayne. Captain James Rhea sent letters to John Johnston and Ohio Governor Return Meigs to ask for assistance. The growing Indian threat outside the fort led Rhea to begin drinking heavily. On several occasions Rhea invited Indian delegates into the fort to discuss terms of peace with the Indians.
On 4 September, Potawatomi chiefs Winamac and Wannangsea approached the fort under a flag of truce and asked to speak to Captain Rhea. Rhea, who had been drinking, met them at the gate and asked if they were meeting for peace or war. Winamac replied "I don't know what to tell you, but you know that Fort Mackinac is taken, Detroit is in the hands of the British, Fort Dearborn has been taken, and you must expect to fall next, probably in a few days."
Morning 5 September, the siege began when Chief Winamac's forces attacked two soldiers returning from an outhouse. The Native Americans assaulted the fort from the east side and burned the homes of the surrounding village. The Indians constructed two wooden cannons and were able to trick the garrison into thinking they had artillery besieging the fort as well.
Captain Rhea was again drunk, and "took to his quarters, sick." The Indian Agent at Fort Wayne, Benjamin Stickney, was recovering from an illness, but took command of the fort with Lieutenants Daniel Curtis and Phillip Ostrander organizing the defense. Chief Winamac came to the gate again, that evening, and was admitted- unarmed- with thirteen of his men. As they talked, Winamac revealed a knife that he had hidden, and a fur trader, Antoine Bondie, jumped forward to save the life of Stickney. Winamac left the fort, and the Native American forces opened fire at about eight o'clock PM. Winamac's forces tried to set the fort on fire, and while the garrison- about 70 soldiers and some civilians- tried to keep the walls wet, they returned fire with muskets and howitzers. The battle lasted until three o'clock in the afternoon on 6 September, when the American Indian forces retired to a safe distance from the fort. The fighting resumed at nine o'clock that night.
Efforts were already underway to reinforce Fort Wayne after the news of Fort Detroit[clarification needed] reached Newport Barracks. General James Winchester was commander of the Northwestern Army, but Kentucky Governor Charles Scott had just appointed Indiana Territory Governor William Henry Harrison as Major General of the Kentucky Militia and authorized him to relieve Fort Wayne, and Harrison was at Newport Barracks to assume command of the militia. Harrison wrote a letter to Secretary of War William Eustis explaining the situation and apologizing for taking unauthorized action, then quickly organized a militia force of 2,200 men and marched North to the fort. A small scouting party led by Fort Wayne settler William Oliver and Ohio Shawnee Captain Logan arrived at Fort Wayne during a lull in the fighting, and raced through Winamac's army into the fort. They delivered the news that a relief effort was underway, and again rode through Winamac's siege to report to Harrison that the Fort was still under U.S. control.
Although the scouting party came with welcome news, Harrison also received a report that a force of 400 Native Americans and 140 British regulars under Tecumseh was marching towards Fort Wayne. Harrison now raced North in an attempt to beat Tecumseh to Fort Wayne. By 8 September, Harrison had reached the village of Simon Girty on the St. Marys River, and was joined by 800 men of the Ohio militia under Colonel Adams and Colonel Hawkins at Shane's Crossing.
On 11 September, Winamac attempted one last attack on Fort Wayne, and suffered severe casualties. Suddenly, on 12 September, the attack was broken off, and Winamac's forces crossed the Maumee River and disappeared into the woods. Harrison's relief army marched towards the fort, uncontested by Winamac. The Potawatami/Miami force retreated into Ohio and Michigan Territory.
The siege of Fort Wayne prompted Harrison to order punitive expeditions against the Miami which culminated in the Battle of the Mississinewa in December, 1812. Influential Miami Chief Pacanne had remained neutral in this latest war, but after the destruction of so many Miami villages (many were also neutral), he openly declared for the British.
The defeats at Fort Harrison and at Fort Wayne caused many Native Americans to lose confidence in their chiefs. Many of them turned instead to the influential leadership of Tecumseh and joined his confederacy. No major Indian attacks occurred in the Indiana Territory for the rest of the war, but it was not until Tecumseh's defeat at the Battle of the Thames that the Indian threat was really eliminated.
Three active battalions of the current 3rd Infantry (1-3 Inf, 2-3 Inf and 4-3 Inf) perpetuate the lineage of the old 1st Infantry Regiment, which had a detachment at Fort Wayne.
- Lossing, Benson (1868). The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812. Harper & Brothers, Publishers. p. 315.
- Allison, 212
- Allison, 200
- Poinsatte, 61–63
- Allison, 201
- Poinsatte, 63
- Edmunds, 189-90
- Allison, 202
- The soldiers made it back inside the fort, but were badly wounded and died by early afternoon. Allsion, 202
- Allison, 203
- Allison, 204
- Allison, 205
- Allison, 206
- Allison, 208
- Allison, 207
- Allison, 209
- Allison, 211-12
- Allison, Harold (1986). The Tragic Saga of the Indiana Indians. Turner Publishing Company, Paducah. ISBN 0-938021-07-9.
- Edmunds, R.D (1988). The Potawatomis: Keepers of the Fire. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-2069-X.
- Poinsatte, Charles (1976). Outpost in the Wilderness: Fort Wayne, 1706–1828. Allen County, Fort Wayne Historical Society.