“Saint Clair's Defeat”


Saint Clair leads an army against the Indians "on the banks of the St. Marie." Hundreds of men are killed. The rest make their way home as best they can

Supplemental text

Saint Clair's Defeat
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

On the Eighth Day of November

From Mary O. Eddy, Ballads and Songs from Ohio, #116, pp. 226-263.
From Mrs. Galen W. Summer, Canton, Ohio. Note that this version has
only one verse properly from "Saint Claire's Defeat"; stanzas 2 and
3 are from "James Ervin."

1. On the eighth day of November,
      In the year of ninety one,
   We had a strong engagement
      Near to Fort Jefferson;
   St. Clair was our commander,
      As may remembered be,
   There was fought and lost nine hundred men
      On the banks of the St. Marie.

2. We fought all of one night,
      And part of the next day,
   Then we came into the old, old barn,
      Where we laid down on some hay;
   We'd scarce been there an hour,
      When we arose again,
   When we looked out of the window,
      And spied five of their train.

3. And being in close confinement,
      We looked all around,
   We jumped through the window,
      And knocked five of them down;
   Oldham and Irving
      Dare not before me go,
   I'll make them fly before me,
      Like the arrow from a bow.


St. Clair's expedition was mounted by President Washington to deal with the refusal of the British to evacuate certain frontier forts. St. Clair was to build a fort on the site of what is now Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The exact magnitude of the defeat is uncertain; although St. Clair set out with a force variously estimated as from 2000 to 3000 men (including the entire U.S. regular army), he may have lost a thousand of those to disease and desertion along the way. His casualties have been variously estimated as 600 to 900 men.

As "On the Eighth Day of November, " this song is item dA30 in Laws's Appendix II. - RBW

Historical references

  • Nov. 4, 1791 - The army of Gen. Arthur St. Clair, the first (territorial) governor of Ohio, is attacked by Indians on the banks of the Wabash.


  1. Eddy 116, "On the Eighth Day of November" (1 text, 1 tune -- though only Eddy's first verse goes with this ballad. Verses 2 and 3 come from "James Ervin" [Laws J15])
  2. ST E116 (Full)
  3. Roud #4028
  4. BI, E116


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1939
Keywords: Indians(Am.) war
Found in: US(MW)