Defiance County

The Tale of Ensign Liggett

Kentucky Volunteers 1812Ensign Liggett was leading an advance party of spies for General Winchester along the north side of the Maumee River, on about September 25th, 1812.  They were on the lookout for the Indians and the British as they approached the site of the old Fort Defiance, built by General Anthony Wayne in 1794. The Indians killed all six of the party. They were buried in a common grave. We believe it is located within Delaware Twp. along the banks of the Maumee River. In the near future, we hope to place a marker to honor their sacrifice and service to their country

     We will tell their story through the use of period diaries and journals of both American and British soldiers that were at or near by the event on that faithful day back in 1812. We will start with a period newspaper account of the event.

(Click on the photo at left to see a larger version)

Oct. 27, 1812     The National Intelligencer

FROM THE NORTH-WESTERN ARMY, Fort Defiance, Oct 3, 1812

The North_Western Army under the command of General Winchester marched from Fort Wayne on the 22nd September. And pursued Wayne’s route down the Miami, towards the old Fort Defiance, where it arrived on the 30th. During the latter part of the march the enemy frequently annoyed us. Our advanced party of spies fell in with a body of Indians and a smart skirmish ensued, in which one of our spies was slightly wounded, and several of the enemy – the exact number could not be ascertained only from appearances, as the Indians, when ever it is practicable, carry off their dead. The day before, Ensign Liggett of the regulars, with 4 men, were unfortunately surprised by this party of Indians, and scalped. The loss of Ensign Liggett is much to be lamented, as he was a promising young officer, remarkable for his bravery and intrepidity. He had left the company of spies with his four companies, with a view to examine the country around Fort Defiance, and had advanced several miles ahead of the party, when they were killed. This annoyance from the enemy greatly retarded our movements, as it was impossible to ascertain to any degree their situation or force. In crossing the river, however, their whole movements were discovered. The British with their artillery from Detroit, and a large party of Indians, were progressing toward Fort Wayne. After engaging our spies, and annoying our advance guard, they faced to the right – about and retreated precipitately. Owing to the peculiar situation of the army, {being short of provisions} it was impossible by forced marches to intercept the – supplies have since reached the army.

Gov. Harrison returned to the army on the 2nd October, and will again act as commander in chief, having received that appointment from the President of the U.S. Gen. Winchester will act as second in command. We are now flattered more than ever with a prospect of success – the Campaign, I entertain not the least doubt, will produce incalculable benefit to the country, and terminate to the honor and glory of the Kentuckians. The enemy has in every direction retreated before us, leaving an extensive territory to be occupied by our army – where a chain of fortified posts will be established, in order to facilitate the supplies necessary for the speedy conquest of Upper Canada. Very extensive arrangements have been made and are now making to accomplish that object.

Headquarters will continue at this place for several days, until suitable fortifications, storehouses, &c. are erected. In the mean time the army will be augmented – and at the Rapids {56 miles blow this place} the Virginia and Pennsylvania troops will join.

Names of persons killed.  – Ensign Liggett, of the 17th Regt. Regulars.  Alexander M’Coy, of Georgetown, Scott’s Regiment. Wyatt Step, Guy Hinton, Wm. Bevis, Wm. Mitchell, all of Woodford – Volunteers in Capt. Virgil M’Cracken’s Company.

WILLIAM BROOKS NORTHCUTT,                                                                               
USA, Lt. Dragoon, Capt Wm. Garrads Troop of Horse.

Winchester was ordered from Fort Wayne to Fort Defiance, an old vacated fort then occupied by the British. We left Fort Wayne about the 20th of Sept. 1812 with three Regiments of Kentucky Volunteers.

Capt. Wm. Garrads Troop of Horse and some regulars under Col. Wells crossed the river below the forks at the fort and took the North side of the River Miami of the Lake; we were then put on half rations of beef and no flour all the way down to Defiance which took us ten days to get there; at that point we expected to meet provisions but when arrived there they had not arrived as yet. Col. Jennings who was escorting the provisions became alarmed at the news of the British being at Defiance and built a block house on the Auglaize River and stored it up. We had a tedious march from Fort Wayne to Defiance, the Indians dogged us all the way – we had to form the line of battle frequently to fight them but they always backed out – when we got about half way down to Defiance, a young officer in the regular service by the name of Liggett, from Woodford Co; Ky., asked the General for the privilege of choosing four of his neighbor boys and to let them go on ahead of the main army to Defiance to make discover1es, and to see if the British were there. The Gen. Granted him this request and he chose his four men, neighbor boys and accordingly they started to go to Defiance but they had not gotten five miles from where they started until the whole of them was shot, tomahawked, scalped and most inhumanly and barbarously treated by the Indians. We supposed from appearances that they had been decoyed to the spot where they were killed by the Indians by scattering plums along a deer path that led down to the river, for there was plums lying around where they were killed and not a plum tree in sight. They left camp early in the morning and were not found until evening of the same day.

A young man by the name Hannon, one of my old Harrison County playmates, found them, he belonged to Blair Ballard’s Spies Company – he came in and reported; the worst scared fellow that I had ever seen but it was too late to go and bury them that evening so early the next morning our Troop of Horse and Ballard’s Company of Spies was ordered to bury them. A party of the Indians lay in wait, watching them, Ballard’s Company were a little distance ahead of our troop and got there first when the Indians fired on them – when our troop heard the firing they made a charge and raised the Yell, scared the Indians into a swamp. We buried the poor fellows all in one grave and returned back to the army and took our position there, which was advance guard and scouts.

SHADRACH BYFIELD, British Soldier, 41st Regt. Of Foot,  Capt. Muir’s Command

After this. News was received that the Indians had surrounded an American fort. About 200 of us, under the command of Capt. Muir, were ordered to march toward the Mawme Rapids. We encamped for several days; we then received orders to march to Fort Defiance. Part of us marched through the woods, the others, with ammunition and provisions went up the Mawme River in boats. We halted one night, the next morning crossed the river; and marched on through the woods until we came to a large open space where we encamped. In the evening, Lieutenant Barnett came to us, and asked us for some provisions, as he had tasted none all the day. We being scared, my comrade asked me what he was to do. I told him to give him some, as he was a gentleman and a soldier.

In the night we were alarmed by an Indian whoop; every man was instantly ordered to stand to his arms. In short time, six Indians and an interpreter entered the camp, who informed the Captain that they had been out as spies, and in the evening, whilst passing through the woods, they saw a light and made toward it. On arriving near, they discovered five Americans surrounding a fire; they drew near, and when the Americans saw them, they ran to their arms. They {the Indians} ordered them to give up immediately. One of the Americans, who were an officer, asked them if they had any British soldiers in camp. They replied, “No.” He than said, “We will not go with you, but you shall came with us.” The Indians immediately surrounded them and took them prisoners. While marching them, the officer was heard by the interpreter to say the men, “Kill four of the Indians, and make your escape,” upon which the interpreter ordered the Indians to kill four of the American, which they did; the officer endeavoring to escape, the interpreter shot him whilst running. To convince our Captain that what they related was true, they pulled from girdle the five scalps, the officer’s ears, and a silver-mounted dagger. We were then ordered to lie upon our arms. And in, the morning we returned to Fort Defiance. Crossing the river, and encamped. The next morning we heard an Indian whoop. Soon after, the Indians brought in an American prisoner; The Captain asked the prisoner who he was and how he was taken. He said he was a quartermaster-sergeant of an American Regiment, and was out hunting for honey. The Captain then asked him how many men they had in camp and how far they were off. He replied, about 9,000, and that they intended to encamp there tonight, but that it was doubtful, as they had to cut the road through the woods for the cannon. Captain Muir then asked Captain Elliott: {commanding the Indians} we had better retreat as quickly as possible. Captain Elliott replied, he would rather an attempt might be made to cut off their advance. Our Captain answered, “If we are exposed to one volley, I shall lose all of my men, therefore, I think is advisable to retreat,” to which Captain Elliott agreed. We then lightened the boats by throwing the shot overboard, and retreated to Maldon.

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