The Historic Old Fort in Fort Wayne

The origins of Fort Wayne’s are due to natural features of economic, political and military significance.

The most important geographical feature of the area is the short distance overland between the Three Rivers system, which eventually flows to the Atlantic, and the Wabash system, which eventually flows to the Gulf of Mexico. This came to be the "portage" or carrying place, over which travelers could transport their cargoes from one system to the next. This natural crossroads attracted the Native Americans for thousands of years. It later attracted the European explorers and traders and the American pioneer settlers who continued to develop the area as a transportation and communications center. Chief Little Turtle of the Miami Nation expressed its importance eloquently at the treaty of Greenville in 1795 when he called it "that glorious gate...through which all the words of our chiefs had to pass through from north to south and from east to west."

The Birth of Fort Wayne aka “The Fort”

The Fort was born from a Miami settlement which ruled at Kekionga (now Fort Wayne) 30 years prior to Wayne's victory at Fallen Timbers amid the confluence of the rivers.  The Battle of Fallen Timbers (20 August 1794) was the final battle of the Northwest Indian War, a struggle between Native American tribes affiliated with the Western Confederacy and their British allies, against the nascent United States for control of the Northwest Territory. The battle took place amid trees toppled by a tornado near the Maumee River. The battle was decisive & brief lasting little more than an hour. It scattered the native forces and crushed their trust in the British.

Anthony Wayne a United States Army officer and statesman. He adopted a military career at the outset of the American Revolutionary War, where his military exploits and fiery personality quickly earned him promotion to brigadier general and the nickname "Mad Anthony". Wayne built a fort here—though the French had already built Fort Miami here in 1722—and Fort Wayne was born in 1794.

In 1794, General Anthony Wayne established Fort Wayne at the junction of the St. Marys and St. Joseph rivers in Indiana Territory. The soldiers at the fort came into frequent contact with several Native American bands, such as the Miami, Eel River Miami, Delaware, Shawnee, Muncie, Wyandot, and Potawatomi. In 1802, the fort established an Indian agency and factory, in order to secure the Indians' loyalty and to weaken their ties to the British in Canada. The agents furnished the tribes with agricultural tools, domestic animals, money, and other supplies. They also held councils, issued trading licenses, and acted as intermediaries between the Indians and the United States government

Fort Wayne played a critical role in our country’s history.  For example, in September 1812, Indians from the Potawatomi and Miami tribes, led by Chief Winamac, gathered around Fort Wayne. This action became known as the siege of Fort Wayne and took place during the war of 1812, between the American Indian forces and the United States. All of this influenced by the British forces trying to establish dominion here to protect their interest in the Northern areas and an American Army Commander with designs off punishing the Native American tribes that dared to challenge the Army’s authority in the area.

In September, 1813, the fort was besieged by Indians, who retreated when General William Henry Harrison arrived with reinforcements. Ultimately, the siege of Fort Wayne failed. Despite some bloodshed and the loss of a few poor souls.

Given the defeats at the Battle of Fort Harrison and at Fort Wayne many Native Americans lost confidence in their chiefs. Many of them were drawn to the influential leadership of Tecumseh and joined his confederacy. No major Indian attacks occurred in the Indiana Territory for the rest of the war, but it was not until Tecumseh's defeat at the Battle of the Thames that the Indian threat was really eliminated.

The first settlement took place in 1815 and the fort was abandoned in 1819. Named in Wayne's honor, the European-American settlement developed at the confluence of the St. Joseph, St. Marys, and Maumee rivers as a trading post for pioneers. The village was platted in 1823 and underwent tremendous growth after completion of the Wabash and Erie Canal and advent of the railroad. Although no traces of the original fort remain, a reconstruction, Historic Fort Wayne, is open to the public.

The reconstructed Fort Wayne is a faithful copy of the post built by American troops under the command of Major John Whistler in 1815-1816. The original complex was perhaps the most sophisticated all-wooden fort ever built in North America, and it was designed to be easily defended against Indian attack by a garrison of only 50 to 75 men. Two lines of pickets, heavy gates and well-placed blockhouses ensured that undesired entrance was impossible. It was not fear of the Indians, but rather the rapid westward movement of the frontier that caused Fort Wayne to be abandoned after only three years of use.

Through the efforts of many dedicated citizens of modern Fort Wayne, the "Old Fort" has been reconstructed on a plot of ground less than a quarter of a mile from the original site. Here at The Fort life in the last frontier Army post of Indiana is being recreated. The modern garrison, dressing the clothing of the period, demonstrates the everyday crafts and activities which kept body and soul together at a nineteenth century military-trading post. The Old Fort is “Where history comes alive” aka “A timeless treasure” for us to enjoy.

No matter if you are new to Fort Wayne or lived here your whole life. Check out The calendar of events for the Old Fort and find something interesting to participate in and bring your family and friends. This is good family entertainment in the Fort, pun intended.

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