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5.0 out of 5 stars This is an excellent account of the campaign and battle,
This review is from: Wabash 1791 (Campaign) (Paperback)From the Author's Introduction -
"In 1791, the Federal government of the United States faced its first crisis. Two years into the presidency of George Washington and four years after ratification of the US Constitution, raids by American Indians living in what is now Ohio had become intolerable. Unless the United States acted to take control of the area between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, the new nation would have no future west of the Appalachian Mountains.
The federal government's 300-man US Army was too small to undertake a campaign against the Ohio Indians. To create a sufficient force, the government recruited soldiers from across the United States. To lead them in a difficult mission on the remote Ohio River frontier, Washington looked to men who had proven their ability to command. He summoned from retirement the Continental Army officers with whom he had won American Independence at Yorktown ten years before.
Major-General Arthur St. Clair, who had been one of Washington's principal lieutenants, assembled at Cincinatti about 2,000 badly trained and ill-equipped soldiers. He then led them into dense and trackless Ohio forests. Hindered by geographical ignorance, difficult terrain, bad weather, illness, and a lack of supplies, the Americans advanced as far as the Wabash River. There, at what is now Fort Recovery, Ohio, an Indian army awaited them.
On November 4th 1791, more than 3,000 Americans and Indians met at the battle of the Wabash. Few engagements in American military history are more dramatic: Revolutionary War heroes, legendary frontiersmen and celebrated Indian chiefs and warriors fought in the Ohio woods the greatest of all battles between Americans and Indians. Three hours of combat tested the armies' very different tactics and weapons. Concentrated Americans faced dispersed Indians. American artillery and bayonets confronted Indian muskets, bows, and tomahawks. By the time it ended, about 800 Americans were dead, more than had fallen in any battle of the Revolutionary War, and more than would fall on any battlefield before the Civil war. Hundreds more were wounded."
The Contents are -
P06: The Strategic Situation
.The Ohio River frontier; The Northwest Territory; Harmar's Campaign
P18: Opposing Commanders
P23: Opposing Armies
P31; Opposing Plans
P38: The Campaign and Battle
.The Americans advance; The battle of the Wabash; The Americans retreat
P92: The Battlefield Today
The Colour Plates -
P04: Map - "The situation in eastern North America in 1791". The colour registers are off as the map is coloured slightly differently to the colour key - Vermont appears to be independent, for example, and the Spanish and Indian territories don't match the key.
P33: Map - "American lines of communication and supply". This is centred on a line roughly following the Ohio to Fort Steuben.
P36: Map - "The area of operations". This is covering the area roughly between the Ohio and Lakes Erie and Michigan.
P40: Map - "The beginning of the campaign, January 8 to October 4, 1791" This is a ¾ page map, roughly centred on Fort Washington, reaching to Fort Hamilton.
P45: Map - "The American advance, October 5 to November 3, 1791". This is the area from Fort Hamilton north to the Wabash River.
P58-59: ¾ view map (i.e. looking down from but at an angle) - "The Indian Attack on November 7, on the American camp, 6.45 - 7.15 AM". The Indians overrun the outposts and the Kentucky militia's camp, and surround the main camp.
P62-63: ¾ view map - "The American Camp, 7.15 - 8.30 AM" - The Indians invade the camp and are attacked by American bayonet charges.
P66-67: a two-page painting - "The Wabash Ravine, November 4th 1791, 7.15 AM: This artwork shows the scene a half-hour after the first Indian attack. Indians now surround the camp. Those in the foreground are Miami Indians, in positions across the Wabash from the end of St. Clair's Trace."
This is an excellently designed and executed atmospheric and informative plate; the highlight of the artwork in this book.
P70-71: A two-page painting - "The Center of the American Camp, November 4 1791, 8.15 AM. After an hour and a half of battle the Americans tried to drive the Indians from their rear lines in a wheeling charge to the right... As the Americans charged, Shawnee and then Wyandot Indians broke through the weakly held south-eastern corner of the American perimeter. After racing into the interior of the American camp, they massacred the wounded and civilians and looted the army's supplies... The artwork shows three companies of 2nd Infantry Regiment soldiers charging to expel them. The figures in the foreground are in the center of the American camp, where the army's wagons and supplies were located, and where the women, children and wounded have been sent to what was believed to be an area of safety."
Another atmospheric painting, second only to the previous one (pun unintended but unavoidable).
P78-79: a two-page painting - "The Last Charge, November 4 1791, 9.30 AM. After almost three hours of battle, the Americans, stunned by the failure of repeated bayonet charges and Indian infliction of massive casualties, have retreated into an area of about 3 acres at the northern end of the camp... After 15 minutes of slaughter in the confined area, the few surviving American officers have realized that the entire army will be lost unless it now flees from the field... The figures in the foreground are near the northern end of the rear line... In the distance, Ojibwe Indians occupy positions opposite them. American officers are desperately trying to persuade the demoralized soldiers to form a line to charge the Ojibwe with bayonets".
P82: Map - "The American retreat, November 4-8, 1791." From the battlefield back to Fort Washington- a lot quicker than the advance.
P86-87: ¾ view map - "The American Collapse. The Americans are forced to abandon their perimeter and retreat."
As well as the plates described above, there are numerous excellent illustrations and photographs in colour and monochrome.
This is an excellent account of the campaign and battle. The illustrations are superb, far above the quality of the (admittedly) few other Campaign volumes I have seen. Highly recommended
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about the "Battle of a Thousand Slain" and also an excellent glimpse into the early history of United States,
This review is from: Wabash 1791 (Campaign) (Paperback)I never heard about the battle of Wabash before buying this book and by reading it I learned a mighty lot about early years of United States, just after the War of Independence, beginning with the fact that in those times the formerly French Louisiana (a territory which went as far north as North Dakota!) was in fact owned and managed by Spain!! Before reading this book I also didn't have a clue about this kind of "low intensity indirect war" recently independent USA and Great Britain waged in the territory of Ohio for no less than 30 years, between 1783 and 1813... Finally, I also learned a lot about the internal tensions (separatist rebellions) and external expansion (Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio) of the young American republic...
Other than points mentioned above, this book also contains extremely interesting information about the unique society which existed in the large Ohio Territory in the times between the French and Indian War and the War of 1812-14. Numerous Indian tribes of different origins lived there, some sticking strictly to the old ways and some adapting easily and with enthusiasm Europeans style of life (Christianity, farming, timber and brick houses, etc.). French settlers lived there also since 150 years in some numbers and they easily intermarried with Indians. Other than those settled folk there were also quite a lot of "coureurs de bois", French speaking trappers and/or hunters, frequently "half-bloods", who mixed easily as well with Indians as with French farmers. Some escaped black slaves found there safe refuge and freedom - some other black people were still held in slavery by their French or Indian masters. A handful of English settlers and American renegades were also present and last but not least there were also "white Indians", little English or American children captured and raised by tribes. Some of those "white Indians" even became famous Indian chiefs...
With the treaty of Paris giving the sovereignty over the large Ohio Territory to United States, more and more American settlers started to fix themselves in this area. Indian warriors saw in those people an easy prey and went on an unending series of raids to gather loot, capture slaves, take scalps and earn renown. Between 1783 and 1791 no less than 1500 white settlers were killed in various raids and massacres and in 1790 a first military expedition by the recently formed US Army was soundly defeated.
Incensed by the news of this defeat president Washington ordered a second, stronger expedition and put in command of the whole force Major-General Arthur St. Clair, a renowned veteran of the War of Independence. This book tells the story of St. Clair's campaign against an Indian alliance of Miamis, Shawnees, Delawares and other minor tribes and especially describes in detail the battle of Wabash, which was to be the greatest and bloodiest defeat ever inflicted to US Army by Native Americans, with American casualties more than three times higher than at Little Big Horn!
It is clear that American army was not ready for the fight when engaging Indians (poor training, lack of appropriate food, poor quality clothes and tents causing exhaustion from cold) and which is even worse, very sick and very diminished general St. Clair was in 1791 only a shadow of his former self... Indians on another hand have been supplied by the British with lots of weapons and munitions and even more importantly with food which allowed their huge army to concentrate in one area in unprecedented numbers for an exceptionnally long campaign...
This book points also very acurately towards the great difference between Americans and Indians who fought in this campaign. With the exception of officers, NCOs and a handful of veterans, most of American soldiers were recently arrived immigrants who joined the Army first and before anything else to get "three hot and a cot" - in their great majority they had no war experience at all... The situation was the same amongst the militiamen, who made half of the whole St. Clair's army - even if their ranks included a handful of trappers, hunters and veterans, most of them were simple farmers who spend every day of their life farming... With the Indians the situation was radically different. Indian males were trained from childhood to do just three things - wage war, hunt and produce weapons for war and hunt. ALL other work was done by women and captured slaves. And with the weapons available being mostly similar on both sides, this difference between an Indian "professional army" of war hardened veterans and American force composed mostly of "part time" farmer militia and poorly trained fresh farmer recruits was the major reason behind St. Clair's crushing defeat.
There were also however other factors which gave Indians their great victory. St. Clair's intelligence gathering completely failed during this campaign, both at the tactical and the strategical level - in the hours preceding the battle not only had he no idea that an unprecedented large gathering of Indian warriors was camping near his force, but as you will see he was even gravely mistaken as of where exactly his own army was! His dispositions for the posting of troops in the last camp were abysmally wrong and Indian chiefs exploited it brilliantly - may be with the little help of two British officers who, disguised and painted as natives, accompanied Indians during the battle as "military advisors"...
As it was already said, both sides had mostly the same weapons as almost every combattant on both sides had a musket and a close combat weapon (tomahawks and war clubs for Indians and militiamen, short swords for soldiers), with some Indians and militiamen carrying also an extra pistol or two. The only combattants not armed with muskets were American regular Army officers who carried pistols and swords and a handful of American cavalrymen and gunners who were armed with carbines, pistols and short swords. Some Indians carried also bows and arrows as additional weapons to use after running out of bullets for their muskets. Finally, virtually everybody on the battlefield (with the exception of American regular officers) had also a knife.
American regular soldiers had however also two weapons, which their enemies hadn't - bayonets and a handful of little field guns. It is in this context that Indian commanders - chiefs Little Turtle, Blue Jacket (who was possibly a "white Indian") and Buckongahelas - must receive the greatest credit for their skillful leadership, as they masterfully neutralized those two American trump cards. In the first stage of the battle selected Indian marksmen exterminated American gunners almost to the last, to such point that very quickly some officers from the regular army, who had a knowledge of gunnery, had to abandon their troops to serve the field pieces - but as casualties mounted, American artillery was ultimately silenced. The bayonet charges, which Indians feared greatly, were dealt with faked panic and escape towards the forest - but once there Indians would immediately regroup and, as Americans couldn't maintain their lines, hidden in bushes warriors could first shoot them to pieces and then charge the dispersed retreating soldiers with tomahawks and knives.
Last but not least of good points of this book, author very well described the sadism and cruelty with which Indians treated their defeated foes. Very few prisoners, if any, were taken at Wabash. Badly wounded American soldiers were dragged into fires and left to burn alive. Captured soldiers, militiamen and civilian camp attendants were tortured to death and sometimes were scalped when still alive. Female camp attendants taken alive were gang raped before being tortured to death or tied to a tree and burned alive. There were quite a lot of children in American camp and they were all mercilessly murdered - and that included toddlers... Indian warriors didn't see any problems in taking and carrying proudly as trophies scalps taken from little boys or girls... And finally, some warriors still practiced in this time a form of ritual canibalism and the bodies of some Americans killed at Wabash were partially eaten... That very tough but honest description of events based on testimonies and documents left by the survivors definitely is very different from the politically correct visions of American Indians produced those last 30 years by Hollywood...
Bottom line, I LOVED this book! Clear, full of information, very well written and gorgeously illustrated it is one of the best Osprey Campaign books I ever read - and I own them ALL and I read almost all of them. To buy, read, keep and pass to your children (once they are big enough). Enjoy!
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Wabash 1791 (Campaign) by John F Winkler (Paperback - 20 Nov 2011)