The Battle of Kekionga
Brigadier General Harmar had one objective in the fall of 1790: destroy Indian towns centered at the junction of the Maumee River with the St. Mary’s and St. Joseph rivers conjoining.
The Battle of Kekionga took place in October of 1790. It was the first battle fought by the US Army after the Revolutionary War. President Washington had ordered the battle against the Miami Settlement of Kekionga. He ordered this for one main reason, the Miami Settlement of Kekionga were the center of Indian resistance to US migration across the Ohio River. The US campaign started when General Josiah Harmar led his force of 1,453 regular and militia soldiers toward Kekionga. A diversionary force under John Hamtramck had marched towards the Vincennes area to draw the larger concentration of the Miami and their allies, away from Kekionga; however Hamtramck’s strategic plan failed.
On October 15, US forces reached Kekionga, but found it had been burned and abandoned by the Miami themselves. Two days later, after hearing reports of Indian forces gathering, Harmar sent 300 men under John Hardin, to the north of Kekionga towards Eel River. On October 19, Hardin’s forces suffered a tragic defeat near present day Heller’s Corner; in an ambush led by Miami war chief Meshekinnoquah (Little Turtle). Almost all the US forces were killed. Meanwhile, General Harmar destroyed all the area villages and finally retreated from Kekionga on October 21st to present day Hessen Cassel. Once at their new destination, Harmar and his men heard that the Miami warriors had returned to Kekionga. General Harmar sent a force back to the Indian town on the morning of October 22nd. Two different companies of US forces under Colonel John Hardin took position along the St. Joseph River. Three companies, under the overall command of Major John Wyllys had hoped to entrap the Indians in Kekionga by crossing the Maumee River. However the Miami challenged the crossing, killing several men. In the fields and the river itself, the US forces and Major Wyllys and the Calvary commander, Major Fontaine, were killed by Little Turtle’s warriors.
By the end of this battle, 183 US soldiers had been killed, and about the same number of Miami had been killed. However, the Miami Confederacy had held its town and General Harmar’s main force had retreated back to Fort Washington.