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Blue Jacket

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Blue Jacket



Succeeded by


Personal details
Born c. 1738
(present day

Ross County, Ohio


Died c. 1810

Charles Bluejacket

Known for Defense of Shawnee lands in the

Ohio Country

; military leadership in the

Northwest Indian War

. Fought in

Dunmore’s War


American Revolutionary War

(allied with the British),

Battle of the Wabash


Battle of Fallen Timbers

; signed the

Treaty of Greenville


Treaty of Fort Industry

Blue Jacket, or Weyapiersenwah (c. 1743 – 1810), was a war chief of the


people, known for his militant defense of Shawnee lands in the

Ohio Country

. Perhaps the pre-eminent

American Indian

leader in the

Northwest Indian War

, in which a pantribal confederacy fought several battles with the nascent

United States

, he was an important predecessor of the famous Shawnee leader



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Early life[



Little is known of Blue Jacket’s early life. He first appears in written historical records in 1773, when he was already a grown man and a war chief. In that year, a British missionary visited the Shawnee villages on the

Scioto River

and recorded the location of Blue Jacket’s Town on Deer Creek (present-day

Ross County, Ohio


Struggle for the Old Northwest[



Blue Jacket participated in

Dunmore’s War

and the American Revolutionary War (allied with the British), always attempting to maintain Shawnee land rights. With the British defeat in the American Revolutionary War, the Shawnee lost valuable assistance in defending the Ohio Country. The struggle continued as white settlement in Ohio escalated, and Blue Jacket was a prominent leader of the resistance.

On November 3, 1791, the army of a confederation of Indian tribes, led by Blue Jacket and Miami Chief

Little Turtle

, defeated an American expedition led by

Arthur St. Clair

, governor of the

Northwest Territory

. The engagement, known as the Battle of the Wabash or

St. Clair’s Defeat

, was the crowning achievement of Blue Jacket’s military career, and the most severe defeat ever inflicted upon the United States by Native Americans. Traditional accounts of the battle tend to give most of the credit for the victory to Little Turtle. John Sugden argues that Little Turtle’s prominence is due in large measure to Little Turtle’s self-promotion in later years.

Blue Jacket’s triumph was short-lived. The Americans were alarmed by St. Clair’s disaster and raised a new professional army, commanded by General

Anthony Wayne

. On August 20, 1794, Blue Jacket’s confederate army clashed with Wayne at the

Battle of Fallen Timbers

, just south of present-day

Toledo, Ohio

. Blue Jacket’s army was defeated, and he was compelled to sign the

Treaty of Greenville

on August 3, 1795, ceding much of present-day Ohio to the United States.

In 1805, Blue Jacket also signed the

Treaty of Fort Industry

, relinquishing even more of Ohio. In Blue Jacket’s final years, he saw the rise to prominence of Tecumseh, who would take up the banner and make the final attempts to reclaim Shawnee lands in the Ohio Country.

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Van Swearingen legend[



In 1877, decades after Blue Jacket’s death, a story was published which claimed that Blue Jacket had actually been a white man named Marmaduke Van Swearingen, who had been captured and adopted by Shawnees in the 1770s, around the time of the American Revolutionary War.


This story was popularized in historical novels written by

Allan W. Eckert

in the late 1960s.


An outdoor drama based on the Van Swearingen story, Blue Jacket, White Shawnee War Chief, was performed in

Xenia, Ohio

, beginning in 1981.


Performances of the play ended in 2007.

Beginning with historian Helen Hornbeck Tanner in 1978,


a number of historians have argued that Blue Jacket and Van Swearingen were not likely to be the same person.


The historical record indicates that Blue Jacket was much older than Marmaduke Van Swearingen and was already an established chief by the time Van Swearingen was supposedly captured. Furthermore, no one who personally knew Blue Jacket left any records referring to him as a white man. According to Blue Jacket biographer John Sugden, Blue Jacket was undoubtedly a Shawnee by birth.


DNA testing

of the descendants of Blue Jacket and Van Swearingen has given additional support to the argument that Blue Jacket was not Van Swearingen. After an initial test in 2000, results of a DNA test using updated equipment and techniques was published in the September 2006 edition of The Ohio Journal of Science. The researchers tested DNA samples from four men descended from Charles Swearingen, Marmaduke’s brother, and six who are descended from Blue Jacket’s son George Blue-Jacket. The DNA from the two families did not match, and so the study concluded that, “Barring any questions of the paternity of the Chief’s single son who lived to produce male heirs, the ‘Blue Jacket with-Caucasian-roots’ is not based on reality.”


See also[



  • P vip.svg


    Biography portal

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  1. ^

    Sugden, p. 1

  2. ^




    Sugden, p. 2

  3. ^

    Tanner, Helen Hornbeck. “The Glaize in 1792: A Composite Indian Community.” Ethnohistory 25, no. 1 (Winter 1978), pp. 15–39.

  4. ^

    Sugden, p. 3

  5. ^

    C. Rowland, R. Van Trees, M. Taylor, and D. Krane.

    Was the Shawnee war chief Blue Jacket a Caucasian?


    2011-03-23 at the

    Wayback Machine

    The Ohio Journal of Science. 2006;106(4):126-129.

  • Sugden, John. Blue Jacket: Warrior of the Shawnees. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.





Further reading[



  • Catalano, Joshua. “Blue Jacket, Anthony Wayne, and the Psychological and Symbolic War for Ohio, 1790-1795.” Ohio History 126, no. 1 (2019): 5-34.
  • Cave, Alfred.

    “Blue Jacket: Warrior of the Shawnees”

    . Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, summer 2001. Review of Sugden’s biography.

  • Horsman, Reginald.


    . Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

  • Johnson, Louise F. “Testing Popular Lore: Marmaduke Swearingen a.k.a. Chief Blue Jacket”. National Genealogical Society Quarterly 82 (September 1994): 165–78.

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