In October 1791, General Arthur St. Clair ordered the construction of a fort roughly six miles south of modern-day Greenville, Ohio. He intended to use the site as a supply depot for his campaign against the Miami Indians. The fort was a rough square with the walls approximately one hundred feet in length. St. Clair's men also built blockhouses on each corner of the fort. Originally called Fort Deposit, General St. Clair preferred to call the stockade Fort Jefferson.
After the fort's completion, St. Clair's army moved against the Miami Indians. On the morning of November 4, 1791, natives under Little Turtle and Blue Jacket attacked. They easily drove the Americans from the field. The American survivors fled to Fort Jefferson for safety, but they found no food or medical supplies and quickly departed for Fort Washington. This battle became known as St. Clair's Defeat. He force suffered 647 killed soldiers and 271 wounded men out of 1400 participants in the battle. It was one of the worst defeats of the American military at the hands of Native Americans.
For the next three years, American soldiers manned Fort Jefferson. Conditions were difficult as Native Americans sought to drive the men from the area. The natives did all they could to prevent supplies from reaching the embattled soldiers. The United States government hoped to use Fort Jefferson for attacks on the hostile natives as well as protection for white settlements in the area. It was an important supply depot for Anthony Wayne and his army in 1794 as they sought to punish the natives for St. Clair's Defeat.
- Edel, Wilbur. Kekionga!: The Worst Defeat in the History of the U.S Army. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
- Smith, William Henry, ed. The St. Clair Papers: The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair, Soldier of the Revolutionary War; President of the Continental Congress; and Governor of the North-western Territory; With His Correspondence and Other Papers, Arranged and Annotated by William Henry Smith. Cincinnati, OH: R. Clarke & Co., 1882.
- Wilson, Frazer Ells. Arthur St. Clair, Rugged Ruler of the Old Northwest; An Epic of the American Frontier. Richmond, VA: Garrett and Massie, 1944.