This 1791 US Military Defeat Was 3x Worse than Little Bighorn And Nearly Destroyed the Army
November 4, 1791, was a black day in American history. General Arthur St. Clair’s army had been ambushed by Native Americans in what is now western Ohio. In just three hours, St. Clair’s force sustained the greatest loss ever inflicted on the United States Army by American Indians—a total nearly three times larger than what incurred in the more famous Custer fight of 1876. It was the greatest proportional loss by any American army in the nation’s history. By the time this fighting ended, over six hundred corpses littered an area of about three and one half football fields laid end to end. Still more bodies were strewn along the primitive road used by hundreds of survivors as they ran for their lives with Native Americans in hot pursuit. It was a disaster of cataclysmic proportions for George Washington’s first administration, which had been in office for only two years. Today’s guest is Alan Gaff, author of Field of Corpses: Arthur St. Clair and the Death of the American Army. We look at the first great challenge of Washington’s presidency, a humiliating defeat that the United States needed to strengthen its military or die. It’s a war story that emphasizes individuals and small units rather than grandiose armies and famous generals, making St. Clair’s defeat all the more immersive and personable.
March 16, 2023
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