Saint Clair's Defeat
DESCRIPTION: Saint Clair leads an army against the Indians "on the banks of the St. Marie." Hundreds of men are killed. Several noteworthy officers are among the casualties. Victims may be scalped or tomahawked. The rest make their way home as best they can.
EARLIEST DATE: 1836 (Uited States Songers, according to Cohen)
KEYWORDS: Indians(Am.) war
Nov. 4, 1791 - The army of Gen. Arthur St. Clair, the first (territorial) governor of Ohio, is attacked by Indians on the banks of the Wabash.
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Gainer, pp. 150-151, "St. Clair's Defeat" (1 text, 1 tune)
Eddy 116, "On the Eighth Day of November" (1 text, 1 tune -- though only Eddy's first verse goes with this ballad. Verses 2 and 3 come from "James Ervin" [Laws J15])
Grimes, p. 102, "Sinclaire's Defeat" (1 text, 1 tune, a copy of a 1938 broadside), p. 105, "St. Clair's Defeat" (1 text)
Cohen-AFS2, pp. 393-394, "Sinclair's Defeat" (1 text)
ST E116 (Full)
NOTES [217 words]: St. Clair's expedition was mounted by President Washington to deal with the refusal of the British to evacuate certain frontier forts. St. Clair was to build a fort on the site of what is now Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The exact magnitude of the defeat is uncertain; although St. Clair set out with a force variously estimated as from 2000 to 3000 men (including the entire U.S. regular army), he may have lost a thousand of those to disease and desertion along the way. His casualties have been variously estimated as 600 to 900 men.
One account, in Gail Collins, William Henry Harrison [a volume in the American Presidents series edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.], Times Books, 2012, p. 15, "Forces uner the command of the territorial governor, Arthur St. Clair, had been walloped by the Indian chief Little Turtle in a fight that would come to be known as St. Clair's Defeat. It would go down in history as the wort loss ever to be suffered by white forces in the Indian wars -- and in fact, in terms of casualty rates, one of the worst defeats in all of American military history. Little Turtle's men, numbering fewer than five hundred, had killed 630 American soldiers -- nearly two-thirds of the total force."
As "On the Eighth Day of November, " this song is item dA30 in Laws's Appendix II. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.