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Plymouth Rock Foundation’s E-News – September 2012
by Dr. Paul Jehle, Executive Director
(www.plymrock.org)

The Siege of Fort Wayne

The dictionary defines a siege as “a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off supplies, with the aim of compelling the surrender.”  A military siege is common in wartime.  If we think in spiritual terms, the parallels become obvious.  A spiritual siege is when the enemy of our souls – Satan and his demonic kingdom – attempts to cut off the spiritual supply line of an individual or church to force its compromise and defeat.  The key here is the supply line that is needed in order to withstand the attack.  It is at this point that the enemy will put all his effort, and it is at this point that we either allow him to be successful or repel his advance.

sept1As we commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812, the siege of Fort Wayne in early September (5-12) of 1812 gives a providential illustration of this military tactic that can also speak to us today with lessons we should not ignore.  Providentially, Fort Wayne provides us a glimpse into the necessity of the supply line in any siege, and in this case the character of the individual that provided it – William Henry Harrison – who would also become the 9th President of the United States.

One of the strategies of the British during the War of 1812 was to enlist as many Native Tribes as possible to attack American outposts of the United States Republic.  In November of 1811 the battle of Tippecanoe had taken place, where Harrison withstood a Native attack at early daybreak and marched back to Vincennes, sept2Indiana.  Although the Native leader of the Shawnee (Tecumseh) was not present, and had ordered no attack until the complete Confederacy was strong enough, this defeat had strengthened his resolve to put his allegiance with the British forces during the war.  It was this battle, led by General Henry Harrison, that became famous with the song Tippecanoe and Tyler Too during the presidential campaign of 1840.

Fort Wayne was a frontier outpost, but had fallen into disrepair, and its Captain Jame Rhea had little character, allowing the buildings to fall apart, food stores to run low, and being drunk most of the time, demonstrated insubordination to his superiors.  When the Fort Dearborn Massacre took place (near what is now Chicago, Illinois) on August 15 of 1812, the 15 minute battle won decisively by the Natives was reported to Fort Wayne by the 26th of August by one who had escaped.  Indian Tribes from the Potawatomi and Miami, led by Chief Winamac, surrounded the Fort.  Rhea, concerned for merely his own safety, began inviting negotiations to discuss terms of peace.  Rhea’s declaration that the Natives were his friends simply deceived himself.  The Natives determined him a coward and prepared to attack.
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For several days the Fort held out, but unless a supply line was formed, and relief could soon come, the end was near and a defeat inevitable.  What a picture of the Church in America!  Our spiritual leaders today are at times more interested in declaring their freedom to compromise than they are to protect the spiritual safety of the believer!  As a result, spiritual food (preaching) is at an all-time low, the walls (righteous living) are falling down and easily breached, and leaders are negotiating defeat with the enemy rather than standing firm and trusting God.  General Harrison, who had just been appointed Major General of the Kentucky Militia and Governor of the Indiana Territory, began marching with 2,200 men toward the Fort.

William Henry Harrison was a dedicated Christian, grounded in the orthodox doctrines of Christianity that included the depravity of man, deity of Christ and the sovereignty of God.  He also understood that Christianity was the root of our liberty.  Thus, if liberty is attacked, it is worth defending.  While on his way to Fort Wayne, Harrison was given the news that 400 Natives and 140 British regulars under Tecumseh were also marching toward the Fort, Harrison’s forces were harassed all along their route for the relief of Fort Wayne.  However, Harrison steadfastly marched on.  On September 11th, 1812, the besieging forces around the Fort tried one last time to breach it, but failed.
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On the 12th, Harrison arrived and the Fort was relieved, strengthened, and fortified.  The result of this battle and the re-enforcing of Fort Wayne was that the Natives lost confidence in fighting against America, and the British had to retreat.  Though not considered the major part of the War of 1812, there is no question that the personal character and strength of General Harrison and his relief effort was what caused the tide to turn.  It led to the eventual defeat of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames as well.

The parallels ought to be embraced the believer and the Church in America today:
1. We must never allow our supply line of prayer to be hindered or stagnant;
2. We must not allow our study and application of the Word of God to run low;
3. We must remain fortified within, not allowing compromise and complacency to rule;
4. We must maintain proper relationships and fellowship through covenant and forgiveness in order to be re-enforced by other believers and churches with good Christian character like Harrison.
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William Henry Harrison became the 9th President of the United States in the election of 1840.  He was the last President to be elected to office whose father signed the Declaration of Independence.  He holds the distinction of having the shortest term of office (one month), and the first President to die in office.  He also delivered the longest inaugural address (one hour and forty minute) that leaves a legacy for us today.  He delivered the address on a rainy and cold day, and died as a result of it.  Part of what he said ought to be rehearsed in this election year!

“We admit of no Government by divine right, believing that so far as power is concerned the Beneficent Creator has made no distinction amongst men; that all are upon an equality, and that the only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed…. (I have)… a profound reverence for the Christian religion and a thorough conviction that sound morals, religious liberty and a just sense of religious responsibility are essentially connected with all true and lasting happiness…”


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