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Fort Recovery Monument Commemorates 100 Years
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 12:46 PM

ST MARYS – The Fort Recovery Monument is observing its 100th anniversary this year!  On Sunday, May 5, a large community event will take place on the monument grounds to re-dedicate this imposing national memorial and to remind citizens of the significant historical events and human sacrifices that it represents!

Many observers do not realize that the Fort Recovery Monument is a burial site, in fact the largest tomb of unknown soldiers in the United States.  When the monument was constructed in 1912, a crypt was built into the concrete foundation beneath the base of the monument to contain the remains of those Americans who perished in the conflicts that took place on the banks of the Wabash in that Fort Recovery community.

The Wabash 1791 conflict, St. Clair's Defeat, (11-4-91) was the greatest loss ever suffered by the United States Army and the greatest victory of a native force over a white invading force in history! (The large Native Confederation of 1500-2000 warriors was under the command of Little Turtle of the Miami's and Blue Jacket of the Shawnees.)   Nine hundred of the 1200 U.S.  soldiers were killed or mortally wounded as were nearly all of the nearly 250 women and children who accompanied the army. (Months after the battle a detachment of soldiers was sent to bury the remains, which was done in mass graves along the Wabash River.)

President Washington was furious with Arthur St. Clair for failing to heed his warnings of "Beware of a surprise attack!" and "Fortify you camp every night!"  The president said of St. Clair, "He's a murderer!  He's worse than a murderer!"  The first Congressional Investigation in U.S. history followed this devastating defeat.  During this investigation (called to question the actions of General Arthur St. Clair) the first use of Executive Privilege was also documented.  President Washington refused to turn over critical data to congress.  Regardless, St. Clair was exonerated.

Knowing the very existence of the United States was at stake, Washington chose General Anthony Wayne to head a new U.S. Army.  "Mad Anthony" took on the challenge and modeled the new American Army after the Roman Legions which had been organized and trained as guerilla fighters.  Following St. Clair's road and forts, Wayne's soldiers went on to construct Fort Greenville and then, in December of 1793, Fort Recovery.  He ordered that Fort "Recovery" be built on the location where the devastating battle of 1791 had taken place.

On June 30 and July 1 of the following year, a second Native Confederation larger than the first, and primarily under the command of Blue Jacket, attacked the fort of Fort Recovery.  Although less than 250 soldiers were present, they were able to repulse the two-day onslaught because of the well-designed fort.  After this battle, Little Turtle said, "Our losses at Fort Recovery were monumental. I never again will lead my Miami's against the American Army.  To do so would be suicide to my people."  A year later the Treaty of Greenville was signed and the surrounding area of the Northwest Territory was laid out as American/Indian territory according to the Greenville Treaty Line.

For many years after these remarkable military events and the 1851 discovery of the mass graves on the banks of the Wabash, continuous effort was made to have a national monument constructed on the battlefield. Finally a bill granting the permission and funding for a monument was signed by President William Howard Taft and, on April 15, 1910, it was approved by Congress.

The contract for the monument was awarded to the Van Amringe Granite company of Boston, Massachusetts.  Work began in 1912.  It was completed and accepted by the U.S. government in November of that same year.  The monument constructed of North Carolina Gray granite, stands on a terrace thirty-five feet square.  There are two bases, one eighteen feet square and the other fourteen feet square.  The height of the obelisk is over 90 feet, with the entire height over 100 feet.

On the west side of the monument and facing west is the famous sculpture of a frontiersman.  This nine foot figure is impressive with a stern unyielding face, leg and foot striding forward, a flintlock in one hand and a coonskin cap in the other.  This work of art stands as a tribute to the vital volunteer scouts who accompanied the American expeditions leading them through unmarked territory to the rich lands of the west.

In 1913, the Fort Recovery Monument was dedicated with many dignitaries and several thousand people in attendance, including a direct Arthur St. Clair descendant, Belle Noble Dean, who was given the privilege of uncovering the sculpture of the Frontiersman.  One hundred years have passed since that memorable day, but still every year, thousands of people pass this lofty shaft honoring the hundreds of victims of the Wabash 1791 Conflict and the eventual victory of Wayne's Army at the "fort of Recovery!"

Knowing the significance of its history, it is entirely appropriate that the community should undertake the planned impressive Rededication Ceremony which is scheduled for 3:00 on May 5.  Featured on the program will be  multiple military color guards; speaker John Winkler (author of Wabash 1791, and  newly released, Fallen Timbers); introduction of descendants of the soldiers of St. Clair and Wayne, and the Laying of the Wreath ceremony.

A round-table introduction/discussion of/by the descendants will take place at 2:00 prior to the program.  All events will be held on the grounds of the monument (intersection of SR119 and SR49) and are open to the public at no charge.  Visitors are welcome to bring lawn chairs or blankets.  In case of rain, all activities will be held in the Fort Recovery High School Gym just across the street from the monument.

See or call 419-375-4384 for more details.