Blue Jacket was born around 1745, but it is not known where as there is no record of him until around the 1790s. His Indian name was Weyapiersenwah, although there is conjecture by many historians that perhaps he was actually Marmaduke Van Swerangen, a Virginia white boy captured by the Shawnee during the Revolutionary War. However, to add some light to this controversy, some people who claim to be descendents of Blue Jacket, have had DNA testing and as result of these tests, Blue Jacket was NOT of white ancestry. Whether he was a captured white boy, or of Shawnee descent, what is known is that he was a fearless leader of the Shawnees in the late 1700s.
In 1774, Blue Jacket participated in Lord Dunmore's War, during which militiamen from Pennsylvania and Virginia tried to force the Ohio territory peoples to cede some of their lands. The British defeated the Shawnee in the Battle of Point Pleasant, but Blue Jacket emerged as a strong Shawnee leader.
Blue Jacket was an advocate for reviving a confederacy of western tribes through a cultivation support with the many Indian traders in the land, the British together with the western tribes that then existed in the Ohio Territory. The purpose of the British and Indian traders was to supply guns, powder, lead for bullets and other basic supplies that would help them in their efforts to drive out the American settlers along with the soldiers that had built the forts on their lands. Blue Jacket actions helped pave the way for future multi-Indian tribe confederacies that would cause additional problems for the American settlers who wanted to settle in the land they thought they had won in the American Revolutionary War.
Along with Chief Little Turtle of the Miami's, he organized some of the most decisive setbacks that Native Americans ever gave to U.S. forces. These included routs of armies led by General Josiah Harmar in 1790 and General Arthur St. Clair in 1791 by a confederation of Shawnees, Miami's, Wyandot's, and Delaware's. By early 1792 Native American leaders including Blue Jacket, used these successes as rallying points for more Native American tribes to join his plan for unity. Through his efforts, they had regained their belief that the Ohio River could be secured as a permanent boundary that would restrict American settlement north of the river.
For 2 years the unified tribes attacked established settlements north of the Ohio resulting in deaths of numerous settlers and soldiers. These raids were designed to intimidate those that had crossed the Ohio river.
In retaliation for the these raids and the earlier defeats of the 2 military campaigns, President George Washington brought out of retirement, his reliable Revolutionary War General “Mad” Anthony Wayne and ordered him to build an army that could push into Ohio to put down these attacks by the Native American confederation. Fearing lack of support by British allies, Chief Little Turtle conceded overall leadership to Blue Jacket. However, this group was ultimately defeated in 1794, at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, near present-day Toledo. This conflict ended with the signing of the Treaty of Green Ville, which ceded the southern half of Ohio to the Americans.
Eleven years later in 1805, Blue Jacket would sign the Treaty of Fort Industry—named after a fort built by General Wayne on the site of present-day Toledo— that would give up the balance of northern Ohio to the United States.
Blue Jacket Outdoor Drama
If you were to visit Xenia, Ohio, you could see an outdoor drama production that shows the Ohio Valley area as it was in the late 1700s, when advancing frontiersmen fought the Shawnee Indians who wanted the land to remain free of ownership. The Shawnee strongly believed that the earth was sacred, that they did not own the land, but simply took care of it. When they died, they believed that they became a part of it. This belief eventually led to conflict with the white man.
The drama is about the life of Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket, portrayed as a white man named Marmaduke Van Swearingen, who was adopted by the Shawnee Indians. Because of the blue hunting jacket he wore, he was given the Shawnee name Wey-yah-pih-ehr-sehn-weh, or Blue Jacket. In the drama, Blue Jacket is attracted to the Indian way of life, lives his life as a Shawnee, and, together with the other Shawnee Indians, fought the white man over land. Ultimately, Blue Jacket was named War Chief of the Shawnee Nation.
Some people doubt the accuracy of the Blue Jacket story, including family members of Chief Blue Jacket, who say he was a Shawnee Indian, not a white man.