On September 3, 1783, the Americans and British signed a treaty ending the American Revolution. In the treaty giving the Americans their independence, the British agreed to leave American territory “with all convenient speed.” In the case of Michigan, it took them 13 years!
The British refused to leave Detroit and Mackinac (Michigan’s two main British settlements) for several reasons. Officially, they claimed it was because the Americans had failed to reimburse pro-British colonists who had suffered property losses during the Revolution. Another important reason was the fur trade, which passed through Mackinac and Detroit. To control this profitable industry, the British hoped to create a Native American buffer state in Ohio. Finally, the Indians also wanted to keep the Americans out of Ohio, which led to an undeclared war between white and red Americans.
In 1792, after two earlier efforts to control the Native Americans and kick the British off American soil had failed, a desperate President George Washington appointed Anthony Wayne commander of the U.S. Army. A native of Pennsylvania, the 47-year-old Wayne was an American Revolution veteran. Washington ordered Wayne to stop the Indians from attacking settlers in Ohio and get the British off American soil. Besides occupying Detroit and Mackinac, the British had built another fort (called Miamis) near present-day Toledo, Ohio. After training his army well, Wayne marched toward Fort Miamis. He was determined to succeed.
On August 20, 1794, Wayne’s army moved along the Maumee River toward Fort Miamis. Suddenly, they came upon a large force of Native Americans. The Indians were hidden behind a stand of hardwood trees that had blown over in a recent tornado. The Indians fired first and the American soldiers stopped. General Wayne rode to the front. Swinging his sword, he ordered a charge. After an hour of fighting, the Native Americans retreated. In Wayne’s army 31 soldiers died and 102 were wounded. About 40 Native Americans died.
After his victory at what was called the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Wayne continued on to Fort Miamis. The Americans greatly outnumbered the British garrison, but neither Wayne nor the fort’s British commandant wanted to start a war. Instead, both men simply exchanged written insults.
War between the United States and Great Britain was avoided that afternoon, but the British knew it was time to leave American soil. In the summer of 1796 the British crossed into Canada and the U.S. Army occupied Detroit and Mackinac. The American Revolution in Michigan had finally come to an end.
For more great stories on Michigan’s past, look to Michigan History magazine. For more information or a free trial issue, call (800) 366-3703 or visit http://www.michiganhistorymagazine.com/.