Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Liam Riordan

Second Committee Member

Jacques Ferland

Third Committee Member

Stephen Miller


This thesis analyzes the involvement of Henry Knox on the northwest Ohio frontier between 1787 and 1794. As the first Secretary of War for the United States and a primary force in mounting, overseeing and directing diplomatic and military efforts against Native Americans in these years, Knox significantly shaped the struggle for control over Ohio and the northwest frontier. The first chapter examines the three categories of scholarship in which Knox appears most predominantly: biographies, military histories of eighteenth-century Ohio, and discussions of Indian policy during the early republic. The second chapter explores Knox's role in the first two campaigns against Indian confederations in the Ohio region. The chapter evaluates not only his oversight of the campaigns of Josiah Harmar and Arthur St. Clair, but also how those defeats shaped plans for what would be the final campaign under Anthony Wayne. The third chapter focuses closely on diplomatic attempts undertaken while the final expedition trained on the Pennsylvania and Ohio frontiers, the victory achieved at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, and the conclusion of this conflict with the Treaty of Greenville. Knox's policy suggestions and war correspondence constantly demonstrated his attempts to secure possession of Native American lands in the northwest for his new nation by any means practical, necessary or possible. This thesis focuses on the three campaigns that Knox supervised in the Ohio country as an important period in the final years of his public life and career as well as in the development of US/Indian relations and policies. The author explores Knox's involvement with the northwest Ohio frontier as a powerful chapter in the history of early relationships between the United States and Native Americans. It is important to realize that Knox's accomplishments in this field, while often shaped by deep prejudice and dubious ethical standards, were truly significant and merit close attention. Knox crafted an Indian policy that used the political, cultural, and diplomatic traditions of the region to his own nation's advantage. He found a way to play by the rules of the "middle ground" that existed among the diverse cultures of the Ohio country, and used those traditions, not to maintain the balance of power that had existed there for over a century, but to destroy it. The thesis examines the manner of this destruction via three military campaigns and related diplomatic efforts. Knox's effects on the northwest and on Indian policy are the central theme here, rather than a peripheral or tertiary one as in most previous accounts. In doing so the author hopes to demonstrate the remarkable, frequently regrettable achievements and legacy of a man completely untrained in frontier warfare or diplomacy, who indelibly scripted interactions between his country and the sovereign nations of northwest Ohio.