Places in Allen County, Indiana

Hardin's Defeat

  1. It is Monday, October 19, 1790. Colonel John Hardin commanding 180 Kentucky Milita and a small force of 30 Regulars is...

    Posted by Military History of Fort Wayne on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

    Wednesday, October 20, 2021 post by the Military History of Fort Wayne on Facebook:

    It is Monday, October 19, 1790.

    Colonel John Hardin commanding 180 Kentucky Milita and a small force of 30 Regulars is given an order by Commanding General Josiah Harmar to ascertain the strength of native opposition north of the confluence of the St Mary, St Joe and Maumee Rivers (modern Fort Wayne) and to attack them and destroy resistance if possible.

    Colonel Hardin is a veteran of the American Revolution and as seasoned as any officer in the American Army of 1790. Hardin follows a trace heading in a northwesternly direction towards the Eel River and the village of Miami Chief Les Gris.

    Hardin's command stops to rest and due to miscommuncation, a portion of his command is left in the wind as the main body of his Regulars and militia continue their march.

    As the American command approaches what is now the intersection of US 33 and Carroll Road - some 13 miles from Fort Wayne, a single native warrior is seen on horseback and the troops under Hardin give chase. Hardin doesn't know it yet - but that single native rider is a decoy and he's being lured into a trap by Miami Chief Little Turtle, who would prove himself to be an extraordinarily gifted military tactician.

    Hardin's command is reduced to almost single file as they navigate the swampy terrain. Forward elements of Hardin's command see a bonfire ahead that suggests they are in reach of the Miami village and they give chase. As the troops move through a defile between two wooded stands they are met with withering fire from concealed warriors on both flanks.

    The onslaught, led by Chief Little Turtle, is a tactical disaster for Hardin's command. They are almost completely enveloped by superior firepower firing from concealed positions.

    The Regulars under Captain John Armstrong make a stand but the militia are not up to the task and take flight. 22 of 30 Regulars and over 40 militia are killed in the fight with many more wounded.

    Captain Armstrong would spend the night in the long grass, crawling along a river bank to escape.

    This battle will become known as Hardin's Defeat - or the Battle of Heller's corner and is the precursor to an even larger engagment that would take place on October 22nd, 1792 near modern day Fort Wayne.

  2. It is Tuesday, October 19,, 1790. Commanding General Josiah Harmar is now fully informed of the previous days losses...

    Posted by Military History of Fort Wayne on Thursday, October 21, 2021

    Thursday, October 21, 2021 post by the Military History of Fort Wayne on Facebook:

    It is Tuesday, October 19,, 1790.

    Commanding General Josiah Harmar is now fully informed of the previous days losses under John Hardin. Harmar now determines to send a second detachment to reconnoiter the area north of the Three Rivers.

    This second detachment, as with the previous days action, will be unsupported by the main body of Harmar’s Army. This will prove to be a fatal mistake and one Anthony Wayne would learn from in his campaign in 1794.

    The new contingent numbers some 300 men, mostly militia, and is placed under the command of Ensign Phillip Hartshorn.

    Hartshorn’s command marches north from the site of Kekionga (present day Fort Wayne) following an Indian trace that is likely known today as Coldwater Road.

    Somewhere near the present day intersection of Till Road and Coldwater Road, Hartshorn’s command comes under a hot fire once again by warriors under Chief Little Turtle.

    As with the Hardin’s defeat less than 24 hours before, the militia are so terror-struck that many do not return fire - instead many drop their arms and flee. It is later said, with some embellishment, that these men won’t stop running until they reach the Ohio River and the relative safety of Kentucky.

    Ensign Phillip Hartshorn and 70 of his men are killed and scalped in the ambush… and not necessarily in that order. It is a gruesome scene and this battle will become known as Hartshorn’s Defeat.

    Hours later, remaining elements of Hartshorn’s contingent limp back to the main body camped at the ruins of Kekionga. Commanding General Harmar now determines to leave the dead where they lay and begin his retreat back to Fort Washington in Cincinnati.

    Having marched several miles south of Kekionga, Harmar’s army again encamps for the night - all under the watchful eyes of Miami, Shawnee and Delaware scouts.

    Morale in Harmar’s Army is low.

    Some of Harmar’s officers are incensed at the idea of leaving their dead and wounded behind. John Hardin prevails upon Harmar to let him take a larger force back to Kekionga to defeat the native resistance - and north to the site of Hartshorn’s defeat to retrieve the dead.

    This sets up the events of October 22, 1790.

  3. October 19, 2023 post by Miami Nation of Indians of Indiana on Facebook:

    On this date in 1790, Chief Little Turtle surprises and defeats Col John Hardin on the banks of the Eel River (13 miles northwest of present day Fort Wayne, Indiana) south of present day Churubusco Indiana. Hardin was leading a scouting detachment after an army under Josiah Harmer arrived October 15th at the large Miami city of Kekionga (other various nations of Native American's lived there as well), where present day Fort Wayne Indiana is located. Harmar discovered it deserted so Hardin was sent to scout the area and find the Miami. Hardin's force would consist of over 200 men versus Little Turtle's approximately 100 warriors. Little Turtle would utilize strategy and stealth to inflict heavy casualties on Hardin's force (about 62 dead and 12 wounded), before Hardin withdrew back to the main camp.

  4. It is Friday, October 22nd, 1790. The United States Army under Josiah Harmar is now encamped at one of the Shawnee...

    Posted by Military History of Fort Wayne on Saturday, October 23, 2021

    Saturday, October 23, 2021 post by the Military History of Fort Wayne on Facebook:

    It is Friday, October 22nd, 1790.

    The United States Army under Josiah Harmar is now encamped at one of the Shawnee towns on the Maumee known as Chillicothe – about 8 miles east of Kekionga (present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana).

    Upon the advice of his officers, Commanding General Josiah Harmar elects to send a force back to Kekionga to surprise the natives now congregating there. Army Scout Daniel Williams – a former captive - reports that “there are about one hundred and twenty Indians” congregating at the Miami towns at the Headwaters of the Omee (Maumee River).

    Harmar places a force of 60 Regulars, 300 militia infantry and 40 cavalry under the overall command of Major John Wyllys. The militia infantry will be commanded by Colonel John Hardin and arranged into battalions under Major Horatio Hall and Major James McMullen. Wyllys will himself lead the force of Regular infantry and the cavalry will be led by Fontaine.

    The detachment sets off from Chillicothe at about 1AM on a forced march toward Kekionga. It is a warm Autumn day. The detachment marches in columns of infantry to a point south of the Maumee. There Wyllys gives strict orders to maintain silence until they are upon the native forces at Kekionga. Their goal is complete surprise.

    The plan is elaborate – Major Hall will take his battalion and sweep left through what is today downtown Fort Wayne – his troops will pass through the area that will later become Fort Wayne’s current courthouse grounds and Columbia Street. He will cross the St Mary's River at the Pickaway Fork west of where Promenade Park sits today and wait to engage until an attack is made by the other battalions at the Maumee ford. This - in theory - will allow him to cross the St. Joseph River and bring his battalion up behind the defenders at the western boundaries of Kekionga.

    Wyllys will ford the Maumee with his 60 Regulars just north of where Harmar and Begue Streets intersect with Liberty Avenue today and directly engage with the enemy at the village of Kekionga. McMullen’s battalion of militia, accompanied by Fontaine’s cavalry will sweep right after the ford and hold the right flank in support of the regulars at the center.

    Hall and McMullen have explicit orders to support the regulars at the center once the firing commences. This is a pincer action which is designed to draw the four battalions back together near the intersection of where Delaware Avenue meets St Joseph Blvd today.

    William Wells – of Well Street fame, who fought with Little Turtle later recorded that the surprise may have been effective if not for a soldier in Hall’s battalion having taken a shot at a Miami scout somewhere west of Kekionga. This gunfire alerted the War Chiefs. Little Turtle immediately dispatches warriors to engage the troops crossing the Maumee to the South to buy himself time to set up an ambuscade. Blue Jacket and his Shawnee force move toward the sound of gunfire from the east.

    It is about 8AM as the battalions of Wyllys, McMullen and Fontaine begin to cross the Maumee, The Miami engage militia on the right flank of the American battalion which causes the militia to briefly halt it’s advance. McMullen’s battalion is slow to come up and they have trouble forming a battalion front in the long thickets.

    McMullen’s infantry and Fontaine’s cavalry give chase to smaller groups of natives and leave the regulars unsupported. Major Fontaine commands his cavalry forward and rides up among the Miami and fights fearlessly with a brace of pistols and sword but is killed in his saddle.

    As Wyllys’ Regulars come across the Maumee ford a larger contingent of Miami skirmishers open fire from the brush about 70 yards north of the Maumee. The Regulars under Wyllys press forward across the Maumee as the Miami skirmishers fall back drawing the Regulars after them. This is a characteristic tactic by Little Turtle as he and several hundred Miami warriors wait among the trees to the north to support his skirmishers. As the regulars approach the ruins of Kekionga, Little Turtle’s ambuscade is complete and the forest-line erupts with the flash of more than a hundred muskets. The volley has devastating effect on the exposed Regulars. They are being cut to pieces.

    John Wyllys is one of the first to fall and later one of the natives is seen wearing Wyllys’ cockaded hat even as the battle rages around him. The fighting is desperate and Wyllys’ Regulars are wildly outnumbered. The opposing forces have closed in on each other and it becomes tomahawk and spear versus bayonet. By the time Hall and McMullen rejoin the center, the regulars are utterly defeated.

    Of 60 Regular infantry engaged only a handful survive the day. The US detachment suffers incredible losses. 129 men are killed in action including 14 officers and 94 wounded. The Miami and Shawnee suffer less than 50 casualties – Wells reported less than 15 Miami killed and about 25 wounded.

    That evening Harmar keeps his cannons booming east of Fort Wayne so troops can find their way back to the relative safety of his main force. He musters 30 volunteers to march west to protect his retreating army. In the camps of the Miami and Shawnee, Little Turtle and Blue Jacket plot to attack Harmar’s army in retreat to Fort Washington (Cincinnati). This will be a most decisive blow as some 700 Ottawa have just arrived to add to their number. As the War Chiefs plot their attack late into the evening, a singular event occurs. By happenstance, a total eclipse occurs in the evening of October 22nd, 1790, in which the moon appears a deep red color – the eclipse lasts over an hour and 40 minutes. The War Chiefs decide this is a bad omen and cancel their attack plans on the American Army.

    On return to Fort Washington, Josiah Harmar will face a Court of Inquiry and eventually be forced into retirement. Little Turtle is now recognized among the War Chiefs as a military mastermind – and the Americans are beginning to recognize that as well.

    The Americans call this battle Harmar’s Defeat but the Miami and Shawnee have a different name for it. They call it the Battle of the Pumpkin Fields – this rhetorical flourish references the dozens of scalped American corpses left laying face down in the grass at Kekionga. It reminds them of pumpkins steaming in the summer sun.

    The American corpses are never fully retrieved and many years later, sun bleached bones of American soldiers could still be seen along the banks of the Maumee.

  5. Site of Hardin's Defeat marker was located near 41° 11.36′ N, 85° 17.24′ W. Marker near Churubusco, Indiana, in Allen County. Marker was on Carroll Road near Madden Road. The original text: Colonel John Hardin, of the Kentucky Militia, with 180 men and Captain John Armstrong, U.S. Army, with 30 men, were routed here on October 19, 1790, by Indians under Miami Chief Little Turtle during General Harmar's Campaign. Erected by Indiana Sesquicentennial Commission, 1966. This marker was damaged and removed. It will not be replaced due to text inaccuracies (see Review - Site of Hardin’s Defeat, Allen County, 02.1966.1, Prepared by the Indiana Historical Bureau 2010, by Indiana Historical Bureau at
  6. Site of Hardin’s Defeat at The Historical Marker Datatbase
  7. October 19, 2017 post by The Bones of Kekionga on Facebook:

    Spoiler alert if you haven’t read the book yet, but today is the 227th anniversary of Hardin’s Defeat. Here’s a photo of where it happened, just south of Churubusco on Carroll Road along the Eel River.

  8. October 18, 2022 post by The Bones of Kekionga on Facebook:

    Wednesday, October 19, is the 232nd anniversary of Hardin's Defeat also known as the Battle at Eel River. American Survivors that retreated back to General Harmar's camp would have found him at an Indian village called Chillicothe. This location would have been south of the Catholic Cemetery on Lake Avenue on both sides of the Maumee River west of Coliseum Blvd., possibly where the retention ponds are now located. [current Lakeside Neighborhood. ]

    Saturday is the 232nd anniversary of The Battle of Kekionga, also known as Harmar's's Defeat that took place in the Lakeside neighborhood stretching from the Maumee River to the St. Joseph River north of the Tennessee Ave. bridge today, and spilling into the St. Joe River.

    Read about the engagements in The Bones of Kekionga.

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