Arthur St. Clair's Defeat - Governing the Northwest Indian War

Arthur St. Clair's Defeat - Governing the Northwest Indian War

Arthur St. Clair was a Patriot.

I wanted to make that clear straight away, as the latter half of this story discusses several mistakes he made which temporarily set back the western half of the United States.

Still, St. Clair fought with the Continental Army and served in the Continental Congress, so he was a Patriot.

Arthur St. Clair

After the French and Indian War, English soldier Arthur St. Clair retired from military life and purchased large swaths of land in Western Pennsylvania.

Immediately becoming a leading citizen on the edge of the frontier, St. Clair served as a judge, town clerk and notary.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, Arthur was quick to be named a Brigadier General and led men through many of the major battles in the conflict’s Northern Theater. He even served as an aide-de-camp to General Washington until the Victory at Yorktown.

President of the Continental Congress

In 1787 St. Clair was sent to the Continental Congress and was elected President of that body. 

During his administration, the Philadelphia Convention wrote the United States Constitution.

Additionally, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (possibly the Continental Congress’ most important legislation) was passed during Arthur’s tenure. 

After leaving the Continental Congress, St. Clair was appointed as the first Governor of the Northwest Territory.

The Northwest Indian War

When the Treaty of Paris was signed, all of the Northwest Territory had been ceded to the United States.

The Native Americans who lived in this area, however, did not approve of the Treaty and (with the aid of the British, who did not evacuate their forts) resisted violently.

The Northwest Indian War, as it became known, culminated in an astonishing loss for the United States.

St. Clair had been appointed a Major General and the Senior Officer in what was to become the United States Army and personally led his men into battle. The Americans were surprised and slaughtered, suffering the worst loss that the nation would ever suffer at the hands of any Native American tribe.

This event became known as St. Clair’s Defeat, with less than 30 people (out of 1000) surviving uninjured. 


President Washington soon thereafter forced St. Clair to resign his command of the Army (with Anthony Wayne taking over and winning the war).

However, he was still permitted to sit as Governor of the Northwest Territory, a job he would hold for a total of fifteen years. 

By 1802, Arthur began to argue with President Thomas Jefferson. He had attempted to bring Ohio into the nation as two separate States in order to increase the amount of Federalist votes in the Senate.

Jefferson, keenly aware of the ruse, terminated St. Clair from his position.

Arthur retired after this, and was therefore removed from participating in creating Ohio, or any of the other States he had governed in the Old Northwest.

Want to read about more Founders of the Ohio Valley?

Great! Check out these articles:

Thomas Worthington Fathers Ohio

Daniel Brodhead and the Coshocton Expedition

Johnny Appleseed as an American Founder

Arthur St. Clair was quietly an extremely important Founder.

‘The Invisible Patriot’ is a great book, the title of which says a lot about St. Clair.

Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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