This Day In History: August 20

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On August 20, 1794, General “Mad Anthony” Wayne proves that the fragile young republic can counter a military threat when he puts down Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket’s confederacy near present-day Toledo, Ohio, with the newly created 3,000-man strong Legion of the United States at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Although the Treaty of Paris ceded the so-called Northwest Territory, stretching west to the Mississippi River and south to Spanish Florida to the United States, the British failed to abandon their forts in the region and continued to support their Indian allies in skirmishes with American settlers. Two earlier Army expeditions into the Ohio territory by Generals Josiah Harmar and Arthur St. Clair in 1790 and 1791, respectively, failed to end the unrest. In fact, St. Clair’s effort concluded with an Indian victory and 630 dead American soldiers.

Wayne had earned the moniker “mad” for his enthusiastic and successful undertaking of a seemingly impossible mission in 1779 at Stony Point, New York; much of Wayne’s subsequent career involved divesting Native Americans of their land. Following the victory at Yorktown, Wayne traveled to Georgia, where he negotiated treaties with the Creeks and Cherokees. They paid dearly in land for their decision to side with the British, and Georgia paid Wayne in land—giving him a large plantation–for his efforts on their behalf.

When President George Washington confronted a frontier Indian crisis in 1794, he called upon Wayne to bring the ongoing violence to a close. Wayne was victorious and gained much of what would become Ohio and Indiana for the U.S. in the Treaty of Greenville signed a year later.