Fort Recovery State Museum1 Fort Site Street
Fort Recovery, Ohio 45846
800-283-8920 | www.fortrecoverymuseum.org
A Colonial Fort in a Contested Region
The contest for possession of the Ohio Territory was played out in many battles between Native Americans and new Americans. At Fort Recovery, each side won and lost in two decisive battles.
The state museum at Fort Recovery was built in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration to interpret the site. Two reconstructed blockhouses and one fort wall provide a glimpse of the size of the fort, as well as the living conditions for the troops. The museum features exhibits about the Woodland Indians, Wayne’s Legionnaires, and early military campaigns to control the Northwest Territory. The exhibits include quotes from diaries and letters written by witnesses, lending intimacy to the interpretation.
Located on the Wabash River, Fort Recovery is the site of two significant battles during the colonial period of the young United States. Although the British ceded control of all lands northwest of the Ohio River in the Treaty of Paris, the region was home to many Native Americans who declared “no white man shall plant corn in the Ohio Country.” In November 1791, a confederacy of tribes including Shawnee, Delaware, Miami, and Wyandot delivered a crushing defeat to Arthur St. Clair’s frontier army. A veteran of the Revolution and Governor of the Northwest Territory, St. Clair under-estimated both the Native American’s resolve and that of his own army. Leading a force of poorly trained soldiers and militia volunteers, St. Clair’s troops were unaccustomed to Indian battle tactics. The Indians targeted officers for first blood, which incited panic in St. Clair’s undisciplined troops, many of whom refused to fight, which allowed warriors to kill more than 900 soldiers. The nearby American encampment was overrun; the Indians massacred the women and children who had followed their men to the frontier. At the time, it was considered the worst defeat suffered by American troops.
Enraged by St. Clair’s defeat, President George Washington appointed Anthony Wayne to command troops on the western frontier. A veteran of the Revolution, General Wayne trained his army in Pittsburgh with regimented drilling and strict discipline. Thus prepared to deal with the Native American threat, Wayne ordered a fort to be built on the site of St. Clair’s defeat; it was named Fort Recovery. The soldiers charged with constructing the fortification found the remains of St. Clair’s troops: Nearly two years later, the ground surrounding the site was still littered with decaying bodies. In 1794, the fort was besieged by 2,500 Indians led by Little Turtle and Blue Jacket. Wayne’s men, out-numbered ten to one, managed to defeat the attacking force. This decisive battle contributed to the quelling of native uprisings in the Ohio territory, and led to the Treaty of Greenville, which stipulated that Native Americans would occupy the lands north of the Greenville line, and thus make way for white settlement in the Northwest Territory.
Notes for Travelers
Fort Recovery is located in a public park just one block from the business district of the town. Signage on the north side of the park is not clear and GPS tracking does not always recognize the address. Therefore, slow down and look hard for the Fort Street sign.
Additional ResourcesAutumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the US Army and the Invasion that Opened the West, William Hogeland, 2017
Reconstructed Forts of the Old Northwest Territory, Jonathan N. Hall, 2008