Battle of Pickawillani

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In 1747, a band of Miami Indians under the leadership of their chief Unemakemi (known as 'La Demoiselle' to the French and 'Old Britain' to the English) set up a village near the confluence of Loramie Creek and the Great Miami River. Their village, named Pickawillani, came to be known as an English trading center after its leaders signed an agreement in 1748 at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to trade exclusively with the English. Pickawillani prospered with the Miami Indians trading beaver, deer, bear, fox and raccoon fur pelts.

In 1748 the British formed The Ohio Land Company with the intention of developing the Ohio area for settlement. They sent Christopher Gist to survey the land. Gist met and smoked the peace pipe with Old Britain of the Miami. The Miami's agreed to let the British build a trading post at Pickawillani and to later build a fort at the confluence of the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers.

The French were very unhappy with the English encroachment on land they viewed as their territory and on their lucrative trade with the Indians. To reinforce French claims on the area, they sent a force of 250 men under the command of Celeron de Beinville down the Ohio River in 1749. de Beinville planted lead tablets at the mouth of each main tributary entering the Ohio, including at the Great Miami River.

The tablets were inscribed and claimed the land for France:

"In the year 1749 the reign of Louis XV, King of France we, Celeron, commandant of a detachment sent by Monsieur the Marquis of Gallissoniere, Commander and Chief of New France, to establish tranquility in certain Indian villages in these cantons, have buried this plate at the confluence of the Ohio and the T0-Ra-Da-Koin, this 29th July near the river Ohio, otherwise Beautiful river as a monument of renewal of possession, which we have taken of the said river and all its tributaries and all of the land on both sides, as far as the source of said rivers inasmuch as the preceding kings of France have enjoyed and maintained it by their arms and treaties, especially by those of Ryswick, Utrecht and Aix-la-Chappelle."

De Beinville traveled up the Great Miami River and met with Unemakemi. The two smoked a peace pipe. He continued on to the headwaters of the Miami and across to the Wabash River and northward to the Maumee River and Lake Erie. He claimed all the land he traversed for France.

In June of 1752 four Ottawa under the direction of the French arrived in Pickawillani. They carried orders that the Miami were not to trade with the British. Unemakemi laughed at the order and instructed the Ottawa to return to the French with his message.

The French were displeased with Old Britain's actions and sent a party of Chippewa and Ottawa that included Pontiac and the French Indian agent Charles Langlade to send a message. The party attacked Pickawillani by surprise and brutally killed Unemakemi and several others including a British trader. After this attack, the principle Miami village was moved to the Maumee River near present-day Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

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