The Forgotten Revoutionary Hero – Arthur St Clair

Major General Arthur St. Clair, 1st Governor of the Northwest Territory

Arthur St Clair was born in Scotland in 1734. He migrated to Canada where he served in the British Army. Eventually he made his way to Pennsylvania where he purchased some 4000 acres of land intending to settle there.

President George Washington commissioned St Clair as comrade-in-arms of the Revolutionary War. Although he fought at Trenton and Princeton he was negligent with the enlisted men and was reprimanded. He made several mistakes and was repeatedly warned by his superiors.

But in 1791 he departed from what is now Cincinnati, Ohio to march north through Ohio to a place near the headwaters of the Wabash River to confront the Miami Indians. With the troop were women and children who had been allowed to accompany them, which contributed to the dwindling food supply. The troop had neither the proper clothing or training and had not received their pay.

The Men Deserting

Because of this the men started deserting. St Clair ordered floggings and hangings in an effort to stop the desertions. As a result, the troop had less than 1400 men. Finally they reached the Wabash River and made camp. The area was a dense forest so St Clair ordered part of the troop to make camp across the river.

During this march, Little Turte, chief of the Miami Tribe, watched and waited. True to Indian custom they did not attack at night. Some 1100 Indians waited for the exact moment of daybreak to attack. The entire camp was caught off guard and the encampment was a field red with blood of the fallen men, women and children.

The captives were brutally tortured. Some of them were burned at the stake, others had their intestines pulled out and some were flayed alive. Children had their brains bashed out, women were staked to the ground naked with the Indians running them through with stakes.


St Clair’s defeat is one of the bloodiest in the history of Indian warfare. Out of 1400 men, some 37 officers were killed, 31 officers wounded, 593 men killed, and 251 wounded.

After this slaughter, George Washington demanded St Clair resign. He then ordered General Anthony Wayne to form and train forces to finally meet the enemy. In 1793 General Wayne was at Fallen Timbers in Ohio winning the battle along the Maumee River; finally the Indians ceded the territory and much of Ohio to the U.S. Army.

Little Turtle signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 realizing that it would be futile to fight any longer. Later in life Little Turtle did his best to try and quiet the Indians. Years later, William Wayne Wells, grandson of Little Turtle would graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

In the end St Clair retired to Westmoreland County deep in debt. His estate was sold off and he moved to a small log cabin about 10 miles away. He opened an inn along Forbes Road to serve strangers and travelers.

He died in 1818 after a fall from a wagon. He remains one of the forgotten men.