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Fallen Timbers Battlefield Walk Marks 223rd Anniversary

Frank Butwin plays Gen. Anthony Wayne, who is assisted by young William Henry Harrison (Pat Stephens), who went on to become governor of Ohio and the ninth president of the United States.
Dave Westrick explains that Simon Girty sided with the Natives during the Battle of Fallen Timbers. MIRROR PHOTOS BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Wearing wool garments, a white wig and a tricorn hat, Gen. Anthony Wayne retreated to the shade with his young assistant, William Henry Harrison, as the thermometer pushed into the mid-80s. “How long until they arrive?” Wayne asked, not of reinforcements, supplies or the enemy, but of the first tour group of the Sunday, August 20 Fallen Timbers Battlefield Walk. Frank Butwin, as Wayne, and Pat Stephens, as Harrison, were among more than a dozen re-enactors who donned period attire to commemorate the 223rd anniversary of the battle. Hosted by the Fallen Timbers Battlefield Preservation Commission (FTBPC), the event featured Kentucky militiamen, Native Americans, Canadians, British and a few spies. Standing next to a replica of Fort Miamis, FTBPC president Julia Wiley looked at fellow commission member Dave Westrick, who was dressed as Simon Girty, a frontiersman who was adopted by Mingo Indians. Before the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Girty led an Indian contingent at the Battle of Wabash, where U.S. forces were annihilated. Girty watched the August 20, 1794 battle behind Native American lines. “He was a great communications man,” Westrick said of his character with a grin. “Or a traitor. It depends on your perspective,” Wiley said.  Each re-enactor added their own character’s perspective to one of the most significant battles in American history. Gen. Anthony Wayne’s defeat of a confederacy of Native Americans ended British claims to the Northwest Territory and sealed the fate of an area that later became six U.S. states. “We wouldn’t be here in Ohio if not for the battle,” said State Rep. Mike Sheehy, who was on the Battlefield Walk with his wife, Sandy. He also noted that the battle shows that the first Ohioans were not Caucasian, but Native Americans who fought to defend their land from encroachment. Jamie Oxendine, who portrayed Buckongahelas, chief of the Delaware tribe, agreed. “This battle was strictly for our nations to keep their livelihood,” said Oxendine, who was born into the Lumbee tribe and teaches Native studies at Lourdes University. As the tour wound through the woods, Oxendine shared Buckongahelas’ impassioned speech from 1791, in which the chief implores a group of Christian Indians to not trust the settlers and American militia, but to follow him west, where his warriors could provide protection. The group stayed and, less than a year later, was brutally wiped out by Americans. Oxendine often tells his students that an accurate movie about U.S. history couldn’t be made. “It would be rated X for the extreme violence and sex,” Oxendine said. Sadly, many Northwest Ohioans aren’t aware of the wealth of local history, he said. The re-enactors at Sunday’s event enlightened tour groups on not only historical facts, but also personalities and perspectives – with more of a PG rating. Walking out of the woods, Robert Newman (aka Joel Burg) warned passersby that danger might be lurking ahead. A surveyor from Kentucky, Newman went AWOL from Wayne’s army and told the Natives about Wayne’s battle plans.  When arrested, Newman claimed that he was just spreading misinformation to the Natives. No one knows whether he was really a spy, a deserter or a traitor, Burg said. Around the path, standing in the sun, Taylor Moyer had a painted face and arms, carrying a musket and a knife as he depicted a 17-year-old Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh. Accompanying Chief Little Turtle, Chief Blue Jacket and Buckongahelas, Tecumseh fought in the battle, losing a brother. In the War of 1812, Tecumseh returned as the leader of the Native Confederation trying to wrest Native lands from the Americans.  Some of the other historical figures in the Battlefield Walk included: • U.S. Army Lt. William Clark (Patrick Bronson), who served as quartermaster to Maj. Jonathan Haskell, and provided an after-action report of the battle from his perspective. • Eleanor Lytle McKillip (Shannon Hughes), who was captive of the Seneca Indians from ages 9 to 13, before marrying Capt. Daniel McKillip – of the Canadian Rangers – at age 14. Eleanor’s great-granddaughter, Juliette Gordon Low, was the founder of the Girl Scouts of America. • Ephraim Kibbey (Frank Kuron), a frontiersman and leader of “Famous Forty” at the battle, was a scout and spy who crossed the river to protect the U.S. Army flank from the Natives during the battle. A Revolutionary War soldier who fought at Valley Forge with George Washington, Kibbey also blazed the first road between Cincinnati and Vincennes, Ind. • British Army Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe (Michael Church), who oversaw the building of Fort Miamis. The British had strategic reasons for building the fort at its location along the Maumee River. The fort, battlefield and monument are on the National Register of Historic Places. • British Maj. William Campbell (Craig Fisher), who commanded Fort Miamis during and after the battle. He and Wayne exchanged a series of indignant letters after the battle, and even though they were one musket shot away from an international incident, cooler heads prevailed. The ownership of Fort Miamis was later decided and the British were forced to leave U.S. soil. As for Anthony Wayne, he was a decorated soldier in the Revolutionary War and succeeded Gens. Harmar and St. Clair, under whom the U.S. Army was all but obliterated. He reformed the Army and instilled discipline, creating the first force to defeat a Native army in American history. The FTBPC has hosted gradually larger events around the August 20 anniversary for the last few years. “We’re gradually rolling into our 225th, which will be a five-day celebration with all kinds of events, including music, military re-enactments and famous people from the battlefield,” Wiley said.

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