The Ghosts of St. Clair’s Defeat

19 March 2018 | Haunted locations, Shadow people, Your Stories, Your True Encounters

There are so many reports from my town and that backstory is the basis of the many paranormal incidents to my family and many other people I have known. But the town itself is maybe perhaps the story that I should start with.

“Imagine yourself going past a field on a bright, sunny day and you see women and children dressed in period clothing and you don’t know anything about them. Then imagine so many paranormal events going on around you that you can’t seem to avoid, so it becomes normal for you.

As the Bible said of Abel, “his blood crieth up from the ground” and this is what you hear from the many voices groaning and talking around you, where you can’t see anyone.

People have witnessed ghosts at other battlegrounds, such as Gettysburg, but what if the ones you see are not known about even though the tragedy was just as great?

In 1791, General Arthur St. Clair, at that time governor of the Northwest Territory (that included Ohio, Indiana and Illinois), was commissioned by President George Washington to go to Kekionga, a former Native American village and is known today as Fort Wayne, Indiana. While he was in Washington DC, President Washington had advised him to make sure he built up fortifications every night and never let his guard down because at the time we were still at war with the Native Americans.

St. Clair was given the task to take over half the newly formed US army and their camp followers of over 250 women and children, to settle the territory. The expedition started out badly as St. Clair had been cheated on the correct ammunition, the money had been spent by Sect. of War Henry Knox on land speculation. So St. Clair entered into the wilderness with limited weaponry. He had gone from Marietta (the original capital) to Cincinnati and then marched north.

His scouts had mistakenly informed him of their location, when they had reached the area of what is today Fort Recovery, he believed he was near the St. Marys River, which was still well north. They also were on the wrong side of the Wabash River, they should have been on the west side in order to travel much more easily to Kekionga.

St. Clair had been suffering from gout and his soldiers had to carry him, which the Native warriors considered him a coward.

The night before the battle, St. Clair had not given the order to fortify the camp, they had been told that there were Native warriors active in the area but he felt his scouts were reliable.

It was Nov. 4, 1791 at approximately 7 AM when they were attacked by the combined forces of Little Turtle and Blue Jacket with over 2,000 warriors. It was hand to hand most of the day and the soldiers ran out of ammunition and those shooting the cannons were failing because they could not load the cannons fast enough. Because the soldiers had no more ammunition and the Native warriors were more excelled in hand to hand, the soldiers simply could not fight and St. Clair refused to give the retreat order so they dropped their rifles and ran, to which St. Clair called them cowards. By this time most of his officers were dead along with every woman and child.

Those soldiers who ran were chased down and killed with only a few escaping who ran back south for days until they made it back to Fort Jefferson, between what is now Greenville and Dayton. Only those who made it were called to testify in the courtmartial of St. Clair.

St. Clair himself escaped after having two horses shot out from under him, but left all those bodies he was responsible for.

When he made it back to Washington DC and was called before Congress, this was the very first Congressional investigation and courtmartial of a US officer. Washington had reminded him of the warning and because the loss was so heavy, it was at that time the greatest defeat suffered by the US army, over half the standing army was killed. The official statement was that only 900 soldiers were killed, but there were more than 1,200 and all the women and children. In order not to provoke a scandal, Washington exercised Executive Privilege and did not allow the actual figure to be made known publicly, until the survivors began talking about the carnage.

Simon Girty, a white man who had been kidnapped as a child by a Native tribe and raised by them, identified Richard Butler by the pendant The Order of Cincinnatus that he wore. Butler fought so bravely that the warriors who tied him to a tree, cut his chest open and took out his heart and shared it among themselves, the belief being that his bravery was an example.

Two years later, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne was sent back to see about the remains of all the people and build a fort. His opposing enemy was actually less than half of what St. Clair had encountered and Wayne decided to go ahead and fight ahead of the reserves from Kentucky that were days behind. It was an easy battle for him, but all the remains of the people that they had found they took up and put in a massive grave in which the town monument sits on today.

But several times farmers would find skeletons or skulls and they had two more “bone burying” days, which some older people in town remember seeing when they were young. This did not curtail any of the paranormal activity in the town.

There were many urban legends that came out of this event, one such was a mysterious man who would go around digging in fields because he was looking for the money which was to be paid to the soldiers once they had made it to Kekionga. I don’t know if that is true, but this was reported by some older farmers. Yes, this Arthur St. Clair descended from the same Sinclair family of Scotland who built Roslyn Chapel, of the Knights Templar. He was a Scottish Rite Freemason. But his exploit was more of cowardice than his forebears.

This event left a mark on the town and surrounding area, many people have reported seeing balls of light, shadow people, the hat man, an old man from the waist down, soldiers, dragoons, women and children and heard the moans and groans of the dying. Every now and then one hears the sounds of cannons or drums beating.

The old fort house built by Wayne was reconstructed and opened to the public, but it had to be closed after some time because the wax figures representing the period were muttering and whispering to people that came to view them. Young people dared each other to spend the night in the fort house, but no one ever could. I could say this is an urban legend, but this in fact is very true. At night, one can see a darkness more than the night descend on certain areas, shadow people move randomly from farm to farm or house to house.

The foreboding north of town sometimes is unbearable, but most people there when I was young were farmers and didn’t go out at night. Besides, they were the staunch and practical type who didn’t talk about such things. It was better to not talk about it than people think they were crazy. That was until the local priest began to be called to more and more houses to deal with paranormal activity in the homes of his parishioners.

It was the worst defeat, one which the government chose to cover up and we will never know the names of the women or children who died. But every now and then they make their presence known. And if you are very aware, you might just be able to see them as well. And the best that you can hope is to tell them you know what happened, and as the monument in town says “their deeds are immortal”. They are not dead, they are just resting and waiting.

But among the Native warriors, there had been a silent calling for them to come from far away as Georgia, the great chief Dragging Canoe had gone there, and how he knew the battle was to take place that day, no one can say. Even those allied Shawnee knew the day and the hour it would take place. They were, in their view, defending their land. They did not know how easy it would be for them with St. Clair in charge.

There were some Native warriors who had been killed, but the number was far less than the US settlers. They also had been left there for two years, so they were buried in the same grave as the others.

The monument has not put to silence the blood crying up from the ground and we never had a “Cry-baby Bridge” or “Lover’s Leap” or even mysterious women in white hitchhiking, what we had was the voices, the moans, sadness and darkness. And always the sense that something is just about to happen and that you are being watched no matter where you are.

Websites can only give you the historical account, but if you grew up there or even pass through, you will experience the paranormal. One time I had taken a young friend there, who had come from another town in southern Ohio and she had no idea the history. She did not know where she was and I was driving, she had been asleep until we reached the south side of town. As we drove north, she began to have reactions, she saw the shadow people in places that I knew they would be and at every spot of some event, she correctly stated what she felt, but I had not told her anything about where we were going or the history.

She literally broke down crying, begging me to get her out of that town.”

Submitted to Weird Darkness and My Haunted Life Too by Kara Moore

© 2024, G. Michael Vasey & My Haunted Life (Unless indicated otherwise by author’s own copyright above). All rights reserved.

    Submit Your Ghost Story

    Story Title (required)

    Story (required)

    Photo or Video URL

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Do you give permission to publish this story?

    Leave a Reply