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Hardin's Defeat

The Campaign

"Col. Hardin, having asked for the command of the troop returned to camp under Trotter, for the remaining two days, Gen. Harmar readily complied; and on the next day[19th]Col. Hardin led the detachment along the Indian trail to the northwest, in the direction of the Kickapoo villages. Coming to a point, near a morass, some five miles distant from the confluence of the St. Mary and St. Joseph Rivers, where, on the preceding day, there had been an Indian encampment, the detachment came to a halt, and were soon stationed at different points, in readiness for an attack, should the enemy still be near. A half hour passed, and no sign of the enemy. The order now being given to the companies in the front to advance, the company under Faulkner, not having received the order of march, a neglect on the part of Hardin, was left behind. Having advanced some three miles, two Indians on foot with packs, were discovered; but, the brush being thick, and suddenly throwing aside their burdens at the sight of the detachment, were soon lost sight of and escaped. The absence of Faulkner at this time became apparent. Major Fontaine, with a portion of the cavalry, was at once sent in pursuit of him, with the supposition that he was lost.

The report of a gun, in front of the detachment, soon fell upon the attentive ear of Capt. Armstrong, in command of the regulars--an alarm gun, perhaps, suggested he. He had discovered the "tracks of a horse that had come down the road and returned." These facts were readily conveyed to the ear of Col. Hardin, Capt. Armstrong now observed the fires of the Indians--they were only discernible in the distance. Caution was large in the soul of Armstrong. Hardin thought the Indians would not fight, and moved forward, in the direction of the fires, neither giving orders or preparing for an attack. The little army of three hundred were now strangely separated--they were in the forest, several miles from camp. The enemy were in ambush--were numerous--and MeCheKineQuah--Little Turtle--was their leader. [thought by some to have been as many as 700--but by others only 100. The locality of this engagement was near Eel River, about the point where (Hwy 33) crosses this stream, now known as 'Heller's Corners.] Hardin continued to advance and the columns moved forward in obedience to orders. Behind the fires lay the red men, hidden from view, with guns leveled. Steadily the broken detachment moved forward, under the intrepid control of their commander; and no sooner had they approached the fires than a terrible volley was opened upon them from behind the smoking entrenchments. The shock was sudden--the columns were unprepared for it. The militia were panic stricken, and all but nine broke the ranks and began a precipitate flight for the camp of Gen. Harmar. Hardin had retreated with them, and in vain strove to rally them. The resolute regulars bravely faced the enemy, and returned the fire. The nine remaining militia were pierced by the balls of the enemy, and twenty-two of the regulars fell, while Capt. Armstrong, Ensign Hartshorn, and some five or six privates, alone made their escape and reached camp again at the village. The victory was with the Indians, and the retreating columns all reached the camp of Harmar without further loss.

From:

THE HISTORY OF FORT WAYNE,by Wallace A. Brice
publ.by D.W.Jones and Son, Steam book and Job printers
Fort Wayne,Ind. 1868
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last modified: October 28, 2002