Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 2, 1988
Army's trek through wilderness led to disaster
By Jim Blount
At noon, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 1791, an army of about 2,300 apprehensive men marched out of Fort Hamilton into the uncharted wilderness with a twofold mission. First, they were to erect a fort at the juncture of the St. Mary and St. Joseph rivers (present-day Fort Wayne, Ind. ). The army also was to build intermediate outposts as it moved from Fort Washington (Cincinnati), its starting point.
Fort Hamilton -- only about 50 yards square -- was the first in that chain of forts. It had been completed only a few days earlier, just in time to host Gen. Arthur St. Clair's hurriedly-assembled force.
The army's prime objective was to make peace with the Indians, who had been violently opposing settlement north from the Ohio River in the Northwest Territory. If the Miami, Shawnee and other tribes weren't agreeable to a peace arrangement, then St. Clair was authorized to use force against the Indians. A fight was likely.
Most of the men were poorly-trained militia. Only 600 were regulars, whose training and experience were diminished by circumstances beyond their control.
The army's shortcomings and handicaps were quickly evident as it began its month-long, 80-mile advance to a Nov. 4 meeting with the Native Americans.
The Oct. 4 start from Fort Hamilton -- at noon instead of morning -- was because of "some deficiencies of pack horses," noted Col. Winthrop Sargent, adjutant general, in his diary.
Sargent said the army covered three miles that day, but other accounts estimate it at one to two miles. Its camp the night of Oct. 4 was beside Two Mile Creek in the area of the present-day Hamilton High School, Hamilton West YMCA and McDonald's.
The next day, Oct. 5, it crossed the hill over what is now Eaton Avenue and camped at Four Mile Creek on the other side of the hill.
The night of Oct. 6 it rested beside Seven Mile Creek.
By the end of Oct. 7 -- its fourth day out of Fort Hamilton -- it had covered only 12.5 miles, according to Sargent.
Contributing to the slowness was the recent weather -- wet and cold. Another major factor was the dominant landscape -- heavily timbered with thick undergrowth. That was compounded by the problems of the scarcity of axes and the rapid dulling of those available. Axes were the basic tools for an army which was supposed to be opening a road through the wilderness as it advanced.
Another complication was a lack of information. "We had no guides, not a single person being found in the country who had ever been through it, and both the geography and the topography were utterly unknown," observed St. Clair.
But St. Clair's major handicaps were poorly-disciplined militia and an inefficient supply system.
For example, St. Clair discovered Oct. 8 -- only four days out of Fort Hamilton -- that there weren't enough rations stored at Fort Hamilton to feed his army, despite previous assurances from the quartermaster and a supply contractor's agent.
Shortcuts in recruiting and lack of time for training worsened the discipline problem and, as the army advanced, desertions increased.
In desperation, St. Clair sent his best troops, the First Regiment of regulars, back toward forts Washington and Hamilton to expedite supplies and to capture deserters.
The outcome of the campaign (which will be the subject of a future column) was failure.
But some of the lasting byproducts of St. Glair's ill-fated march are names on Butler County's geography. The soldiers gave some of the streams they crossed names corresponding to the distance from Fort Hamilton -- such as Two Nile, Four Mile and Seven Mile.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 9, 1988
Canal was boon to Hamilton merchants
By Jim Blount
Cincinnati's bicentennial observance this week will focus on the city's steamboat heritage with the Tall Stacks Celebration on the Ohio River. It would be inappropriate to stage a similar event here in 1991 as part of Hamilton's 200th anniversary.
Hamilton's history parallels Cincinnati's past in many respects, but not in capitalizing on a navigable river.
In the early years of settlement in this area, the Great Miami provided transportation for Butler County farmers and merchants intent on taking their products to the French-owned city of New Orleans, then their only reliable market. The long, one-way trip from here was via the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
But flatboats using the Great Miami bypassed Cincinnati, an omission noted by business and political leaders there.
They recognized the importance of transportation to Cincinnati's long-term economic development, and realized that connections had to be made with potential markets in all directions.
When the steamboat arrived on the scene in the 1810-1820 era, Cincinnati leaders were studying three possible projects aimed at easing and encouraging the flow of farm products to the city.
The choices were: (1) developing navigation on the Great and Little Miami rivers; (2) building roads into the city; and (3) constructing a canal through the Miami Valley.
In the early 1820s, Hamilton and other towns along the 160-mile Great Miami also were interested in improving that stream to accommodate steamboats — and boost their economies.
Hamilton merchants Joseph Hough and John Sutherland joined Dayton leaders in proposing Great Miami River improvement plane, but failed to convince the state legislature of the necessity.
Geography and politics were against the farmers and merchants from smaller towns along the Great Miami. The highest and lowest points in Ohio -- with a difference of about 1,100 feet -- are near or on the Great Miami River.
Sending steamboats up stream -- despite their flat bottoms and shallow draft -- would have required major physical changes in the Miami, which has an average fall of about three feet per mile.
But the major obstacle was a political one -- that the Great Miami empties into the Ohio River west of Cincinnati and merchants and bankers there reasoned that steamboats using the Great Miami would probably bypass them.
Cincinnati was more interested in extending new roads and improving existing ones which brought corn, wheat, flour, hogs, pork, lard and whisky into the city.
The canal promised to bring the most benefits to Cincinnati because commodities hauled into the city on canal boats had to be transferred to riverboats. That would not have been the case with steamboats using the widened or deepened Great Miami.
By December 1830, a 67-mile stretch of the Miami-Erie Canal was completed at a cost of $77,850 from Dayton to Cincinnati.
Another priority project for Cincinnati was about 140 miles down river -- a canal to bypass the falls at Louisville, Ky. The Ohio River fell about 24 feet in three miles there, forcing a trans-shipment of goods at Louisville.
Passage of the 1824 river improvement bill permitted the federal government to join private interests and states in paying for such internal improvements.
The $1 million Louisville and Portland Canal -- with $230,000 in federal assistance and about $200.000 from Cincinnati investors -- was completed in December 1830, speeding the pace of the steamboat era for Cincinnati.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 16, 1988
The Cincinnati airport that almost was
By Jim Blount
Imagine an international airport -- with full passenger and freight services, plus amenities -- only 11.5 miles from the Butler County Courthouse. That was a realistic expectation here 40 years ago as Cincinnati officials made plans to replace Lunken Airport.
"The proposed new major airport of Cincinnati is almost as close to the Hamilton business district as it is to the Cincinnati business district," noted Hamilton's comprehensive city plan, which was released in July 1948. "Because of this, Hamilton will have available far better air transportation service than would normally be found in a city of its size. Nor will the usual large expenditures for airport construction be necessary," planners observed.
In May 1948 Mayor Albert D. Cash and other Cincinnati officials called a meeting in Hamilton to ask representatives from Butler, Warren and Clermont counties to help Cincinnati and Hamilton County build a new municipal airport at Blue Ash. It was emphasized that the site, then in an unincorporated area, was only 11.5 miles from the Butler County Courthouse in downtown Hamilton.
Later, Charles P. Taft, a Cincinnati council member and vice chairman of the airport committee, speaking in Butler County, said "the airport is to the interest not only of Cincinnati itself, but the whole Miami Valley."
Blue Ash was chosen, he said, because it was the geographic center of Southwestern Ohio.
Cincinnati had completed a municipal airport at the start of the Depression. Lunken Airport -- named for industrialist Edmund H. Lunken who gave the land to the city in 1928 -- was dedicated Sept. 25, 1930.
It covered 1,000 acres and, when new, was called "the world's largest municipal airport. " But it had physical problems. It is in the flood plain of the Little Miami River, near the Ohio River. It also is surrounded by hills. Flooding was a periodic problem and fog was a frequent handicap. It soon acquired an unwanted nickname -- "Sunken Lunken. "
After the 1937 flood, the Civil Aeronautics Authority asked Cincinnati to consider relocating the airport, but the Depression and World War II delayed the project.
In the summer of 1948 -- three years after the end of the war -- the Blue Ash plan was ready. Money was the next step.
Officials said the total cost of the new Blue Ash airport would be $10 million. Cincinnati was ready to pay $1.5 million for 1,200 acres. Hamilton County planned to submit a $4 million bond issue to voters with the remaining $4.5 million expected from federal funds.
But fatal problems soon developed, and Hamilton County commissioners said they would not submit a $6 million airport bond issue to voters in November 1949 because Ohio law required a 65 percent favorable vote for approval. Later, voters rejected a series of airport bond issues.
Meanwhile, what is now Greater Cincinnati International Airport in Northern Kentucky was taking shape.
The Boone County site was recommended by the CAA because its 900-foot elevation didn't have Lunken's fog problems.
It was started by neighboring Kenton County with an investment of only $190,000 during World War II. Military use began in 1944, the same year that three airlines -- American, TWA and Delta -- agreed to move there from Lunken.
In 1945 the War Production Board approved completion of the airport. A terminal was opened in 1946.
Today, Cincinnati-owned Blue Ash Airport -- south of 1-275 and west of Reed Hartman Highway -- has shrunk to less than 270 acres.
Meanwhile, Greater Cincinnati Airport is adding a new north-south runway -- a three-year, $97 million project needed to avoid flight delays because of the airport's continuing success.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 23, 1988
Benjamin Harrison loses and wins in 1888
By Jim Blount
Could a presidential candidate finish second in the popular vote, but win the White House in the Electoral College? It has happened, and the last time -- which was 100 years ago -- the victor in that strange mathematical twist was a man with Butler County ties.
Benjamin Harrison -- an 1852 graduate of Miami University in Oxford -- lost the election, but won the presidency in the Electoral College.
The winner who became a loser was Grover Cleveland -- a New York Democrat who had defeated Republican James G. Blaine of Maine in a close 1884 election. In that contest, Cleveland had 4,874,986 popular votes to Blaine's 4,851,981 -- a difference of less than 79,000. In electoral votes, Cleveland won 219-182.
The popular vote was close again in 1888. Cleveland's margin was less than 96,000 votes (5,540,309 to 4,444,337). But Harrison won the Electoral College, taking 58.1 percent of the tally -- 233-168.
Harrison won the popular vote in 20 out of 38 states, including the three with the most electoral votes; He captured 89 electoral votes in those states, including New York, with 36, Pennsylvania with 30 and his native Ohio with 23.
Cleveland's biggest electoral totals came from Missouri (16), Kentucky (13) and Texas (13).
The new president was the fourth generation of his family to be involved in American politics and government and the second to occupy the White House.
* Benjamin Harrison (1726-1791) -- his great grandfather -- helped adopt the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He also was a governor of Virginia and a delegate to that state's convention which ratified the United States Constitution in 1788.
* William Henry Harrison -- his grandfather -- had a varied military and political career on the Ohio and Indiana frontiers, starting in 1791 and climaxing with election to the presidency in 1840.
* John Scott Harrison -- his father -- served two terms in the U. S. House of Representatives from an Indiana district.
Benjamin Harrison -- who became the 23rd president in 1889 -- was born Aug. 20, 1833, at North Bend, Ohio, west of Cincinnati.
As a young man, he attended Farmers College at College Hill (now a part of Cincinnati) before finishing at Miami in Oxford in 1852.
Harrison studied law in Cincinnati and was admitted to the bar there in 1853. Oct. 20 of that year he was married in Oxford in a ceremony performed by his father-in-law. The bride was 21-year-old Caroline Lavina Scott, a native of Oxford.
She was a daughter of the Rev. and Mrs. John Witherspoon Scott. Her father had been a faculty member at Miami (1828-1845) and at Farmers College (1845-1849) before returning to Oxford in 1849 to become principal of the Oxford Female Institute.
In 1854 the Harrisons moved to Indianapolis where seven years later Harrison raised a company of the 70th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment. By the end of the Civil War in 1865, he rose to colonel.
Harrison was unsuccessful in the 1876 Indiana gubernatorial election. But four years later he entered another state—wide race and won a six—year term in the U. S. Senate.
As the 1888 campaign began, Harrison was a darkhorse. At the Republican convention in Chicago, he was fifth on the first ballot. He won the nomination on the eighth vote.
Harrison -- inaugurated March 4, 1889 -- was known as the "Centennial President" because George Washington had assumed the office for the first time 100 years earlier.
Unlike Washington, he served only one term. Harrison lost to Cleveland in 1892 in both popular and electoral votes.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 30, 1988
Army's 1791 defeat dark chapter in United States military history
By Jim Blount
The failure of the frontier army associated with the building of Fort Hamilton nearly 200 years ago remains one of the darkest chapters in U. S. military history.
The 1791 army was led by Major-Gen. Arthur St. Clair from its base at Fort Washington in Cincinnati, his army moved northwest against hostile Native Americans. Part of his plan was to build a series of forts extending into Indian country. The first was Fort Hamilton, completed in September 1791.
St. Clair's 2,300-man army -- including only 600 regulars -- spent little time at Fort Hamilton before continuing into the thickly-wooded wilderness.
The hastily-assembled army -- short on both training and supplies -- left Fort Hamilton at noon, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 1791, heading for a showdown with the Indians.
Eight days before the encounter, Col. Winthrop Sargent, adjutant general of the army, had noted in his diary that "our prospects are gloomy." He accurately surmised that its supply, transportation and desertion problems "may make events fatal to the whole army."
The march ended Friday, Nov. 4, 1791, at a site later named Fort Recovery -- about 80 miles north of Fort Hamilton.
At the headwaters of the Wabash River, the army encountered a Native American force including Miami, Shawnee, Wyandot, Ottawa, Chippewa, Delaware and Potawatomi braves. Later, St. Clair contended that "we were overpowered by numbers." Other reports say the opponents were about equal.
Estimates of the army's size vary -- from 1,000 to 1,400, both far less than the original 2,300. The Indians numbered between 1,000 and 1,200.
The night of Nov. 3-4 the soldiers were told to lay upon their weapons while they slept. But Sargent said "the encampment, very defensible against regular troops, was found . . . to be feeble to an Indian attack."
A light snow covered the ground when the Indians -- under the able leadership of Little Turtle, a Miami chief -- attacked at about 6 a.m.
St. Clair was in no condition to command an army. Because of gout, he was "unable to move without excruciating pain" and "remained in bed, undressed" at the time of attack, noted Wiley Sword in a recent book, President Washington's Indian War.
St. Clair eventually responded, and during the battle had four horses killed under him.
Meanwhile, by design or coincidence, the Indians nearly eliminated St. Clair's officer corps early in the fight. According to one report, there were 52 officers on the field and 46 became casualties, including 39 killed and seven wounded.
The battle -- which soon swung in favor of the Indians -- continued for about three hours before a retreat was ordered. St. Clair said "the retreat . . . was, you may be sure, a very precipitate one. It was, in fact, a flight."
"The fortunes of this day have been as the cruelest tempest to the interests of the country and this army, and will blacken a full page in the future annals of America," Sargent said.
Most accounts place St. Clair's total losses at about 680 dead and about 270 wounded, a total of about 950 casualties. The Indians are believed to have lost between 50 and 150 men.
It had taken the army a month -- Oct. 4 to Nov. 4 -- to march about 80 miles from Fort Hamilton to the battle site. But it took some of the survivors only two days to retrace their steps to Fort Hamilton.
Wiley Sword, in his 1985 book, said of the 1791 campaign that "there never had been, nor has there been since, such a disaster at the hands of hostile Indians."
"In fact, St. Clair's defeat remains one of the worst defeats of a major United States army at the hands of Indians, dwarfing even the Custer debacle on the Little Big Horn in 1876," said Sword.
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