Chronicles of Border Warfare
The destruction of the Roanoke settlement in the spring of 1751, by a party of Shawanees, gave rise to the campaign, which was called by the old settlers the "Sandy creek voyage." To avenge this outrage, Governor Dinwiddie ordered out a company of regulars (taken chiefly from the garrison at Fort Dinwiddie, on Jackson’s river) under the command of Capt. Audley Paul; a company of minute-men from Bottetourt, under the command of Capt. William Preston; and two companies from Augusta, under Captains John Alexander * and William Hogg. In Capt. Alexander’s company, John M. Nutt, afterwards governor of Nova Scotia, was a subaltern. The whole were placed under the command of Andrew Lewis.
Besides the chastisement of the Indians, the expedition had forts object, the establishment of a military post at the mouth of the Great Sandy. This would have enabled them, not only to maintain a constant watch over marauding parties of Indians from that quarter; but to check the communication between them and the post at Gallipolis; and thus counteract the influence which the French there had obtained over them.
The different companies detailed upon the Shawanee expedition, were required to rendezvous on the Roanoke, near to the present town of Salem in Bottetourt, where Col. Lewis was then posted. The company com-manded by Capt. Hogg failed to attend at the appointed time; and Col. Lewis after delaying a week for its arrival, marched forward, expecting to be speedily overtaken by it.
To avoid an early discovery by the Indians, which would have been the consequence of their taking the more public route by the Great Kenhawa; and that they might fall upon the Indian towns in the valley of the Scioto, without being interrupted or seen by the French at Gallipolis, they took the route by the way of New river and Sandy. Crossing New river below the Horse-shoe, they descended it to the mouth of Wolf creek; and ascending this to its source, passed over the head of Bluestone river; where they delayed another week awaiting the arrival of Capt. Hogg and his company.—They then marched to the head of the north fork of Sandy, and continued down it to the great Burning spring, where they also remained a day. Here the salt and provisions, which had been conveyed on pack horses were entirely exhausted. Two buffaloes, killed just above the spring, were also eaten while the army continued here; and their hides were hung upon a beach tree. After this their subsistence was procured exclusively by hunting.
The army then resumed their march; and in a few days after, it was overtaken by a runner with the intelligence, that Capt. Hogg and his company were only a day’s march in the rear. Col. Lewis again halted; and the day after he was overtaken by Hogg, he was likewise overtaken by an express from Francis Fauquier with orders for the army to return home; and for the disbanding of all troops except Capt. Paul’s regulars, who were to return to Fort Dinwiddie.
This was one of the first of Gov. Fauquier’s official acts; and it was far from endearing him to the inhabitants west of the Blue ridge. They had the utmost doubt the success of the expedition, and looked forward with much satisfaction, to their consequent exemption in a great degree, from future attack from the Indians. It was not therefore without considerable regret, that they heard of their countermanding orders.
Nor were they received by Lewis and his men with very different feelings. They had endured much during their march, from the inclemency of the weather; more from the want of provisions. They had borne these hardships without repining; anticipating a chastisement of the Indians, and the deriving of an abundant supply of provisions from their conquered towns. They had arrived within ten miles of the Ohio river, and could not witness the blasting of their expectations without murmuring. A council of war was held – disappointment and indignation were expressed in every feature. A majority of the officers were in favor of proceeding to the Ohio river, under the expectation that they might fall in with some of the enemy – they marched to the river and encamped two nights on its banks, without provisions, Discovering nothing of an enemy,
* Father of Dr. Archibald Alexander, sometime president of Hampden Sydney college in Virginia, and afterwards a professor at Princeton in New Jersey.
they then turned to retrace their steps through pathless mountain, a distance of three hundred miles, in the midst of winter and
The reasons assigned by the friends of Gov. Fauquier, for the issuing of these orders were that the force detailed by Gov. Dinwiddie, was not sufficient to render secure an establishment at the contemplated point – near the Indian towns on the Scioto – within a few days journey of several thousand warriors on the Miami – in the vicinity of the hostile post at Galliopolis and so remote from the settled part of Virginia, that they could not be furnished with assistance, and supplied with provisions and military stores, without incurring an expenditure, both of blood and money, beyond what the colony could spare, for the accomplishment of that object.
Had Capt. Hogg with his company, been at the place of rendezvous at the appointed time, the countermanding orders of the governor could not have reached the army until it had penetrated the enemy’s country. What might have been its fate, it is impossible to say – the bravery of the troops – their familiar acquaintance with the Indian mode of warfare – their confidence in the officers and the experience of many of them, seemed to give every assurance of success. While the unfortunate result of many subsequent expeditions of a similar nature, would induce the opinion that the governor’s apprehensions were perhaps prudent and well founded. That the army would soon have had to encounter the enemy, there can be no doubt; for although not an Indian had been see, yet it seems probable from after circumstances, that it had been discovered and watched by them previous to its return.
On the second night of their march homeward, while encamped at the Great falls, some of Hogg’s men went out on the hills to hunt turkeys, and fell in with a party of Indians, painted as for war. As soon as they saw that they were discovered, they fired, and two of Hogg’s men were killed – the fire was returned and a Shawanee warrior was wounded and taken prisoner. The remaining Indians, yelling their war whoop, fled down the river.
Many of the whites, thinking that so small a party of Indians would not have pursued the army alone, were of opinion that it was only an advanced scout of a large body of the enemy, who were following them: the wounded Indian refused to give any information of their number or object. A council of war was convoked; and much diversity of opinion prevailed at the board. It was proposed by Capt. Paul to cross the Ohio river, invade the towns on the Scioto, and burn them or perish in the attempt. The proposition was supported by Lieut. M’Nutt, but overruled; and the officers, deeming it right to act in conformity with the governors orders, determined on pursuing their way home. Orders were then given that no more guns should be fired, and no fires kindled in camp, as their safe return depended very much on silence and secrecy.
An obedience to this order, produced a very considerable degree of suffering, as well from extreme cold as from hunger. The pack horses which were no longer serviceable (having no provisions to transport; and some of which had given out for want of provender, were killed and eaten. When the army arrived at Burning spring, the buffalo hides, which had been left there on their way down, were cut into tuggs, or long thongs, and eaten by the troops, after having been exposed to the heat produced by the flame from the spring. – Hence they called it Tugg river – a name by which it is still known. After this the army subsisted for awhile on beechnuts; but a deep snow falling these could no longer be obtained and the restrictions were removed.
About thirty men then detached themselves from the main body, to hunt they way home. Several of them were known to have perished from cold and hunger – others were lost and never afterwards heard of; as they had separated into small parties, the more certainly to find game on which to live. The main body of the army was conducted home by Col. Lewis, after much suffering – the strings of their mocasons, the belts of their hunting shirts, and the flaps of their shot pouches, having been all the food which they had eaten for some days.
A journal of this campaign was kept by Lieut. M’Nutt, a gentleman of liberal education and find mind. On his return to Williamsburg, he presented it to Governor Fauquier by whom it was deposited in the executive archives, In this journal Col. Lewis was censured for not having proceeded directly to the Scioto towns; and for imposing on the army the restrictions, as to fire and shooting, which have been mentioned. – This produced an altercation between Lewis and M’Nutt, which was terminated by a personal encounter. *
During the continuance of this war, many depredations were committed by hostile Indians, along the whole extent of the Virginia frontier. Individuals, leaving the forts on any occasion, scarcely ever returned; but were, almost always, intercepted by Indians, who were constantly prowling along the border settlements , for purposes of rapine and murder. The particulars of occurrences of this kind, and indeed of many of a more important character, no longer exist in the memory of may – they died with them who were contemporaneous with the happening of them. On one occasion however, such was the extent of savage duplicity, and such, and so full of horror, the catastrophe resulting from misplaced confidence, that the events which marked it, still live in the recollection of the descendants of some of those, who suffered on the theatre of treachery and blood.
On the south fork of the South Branch of Potomac, in , what is now the county of Pendleton, was the fort of Capt. Sivert. In this fort, the inhabitants of what was then called the "Upper Tact,: all sought shelter from the tempest of savage ferocity; and at the time the Indians appeared before it, there were contained within its walls between thirty and forty persons of both sexes and of different ages. Among them was Mr. Dyer, (the father of Col. Dyer now of Pendleton) and his family. On the morning of the fatal day, Col. Dyer and his sister left the fort for the accomplishment of some object, and although no Indians had been seen there for some time, yet did they not proceed far, before they came in view of a party of forty or fifty Shawanees, going directly towards the fort. Alarmed for their own safety, as well as for the safety of their friends, the brother and sister endeavored by a hasty flight to reach the gate and gain admittance into the garrison; but before they could effect this, they were overtaken and made captives.
The Indians rushed immediately to the ford and commenced a furious assault on it. Capt. Sivert prevailed (not without much opposition.) on the besieged, to forbear firing ‘till he should endeavor to negotiate with, and buy off the enemy. With this view, and under protection of a flag he went out, and soon succeeded in making the wished for arrangement. When he returned, the gates were thrown open, and the enemy admitted.
No sooner had the money and other articles, stipulated to be given, been handed over to the Indians, than a most bloody tragedy was begun to be acted. Arranging the inmates of the fort, in two rows, with the space of about ten feet between them, two Indians were selected; who taking each his station at the head of a row, with their tomahawks most cruelly murdered almost every white person in the fort; some few, whom caprice or some other cause, induced them to spare, were carried into captivity, -- such articles as could be well carried away were taken off by the Indians; the remainder was consumer, with the fort, by fire.
The course pursued by Capt. Sivert, has been supposed to have been dictated by timidity and an ill founded apprehension of danger from the attack. It is certain that strong opposition was made, to it by many; and it has been said that his own son raised his rifle to shoot him, when he ordered the gates to be thrown open; and was only prevented from executing his purpose, by the interference of some near to him. Capt. Sivert was also supported by many, in the plan which he proposed to rid the fort of its assailants: it was known to be weak, and incapable of withstanding a vigorous onset; and its garrison was illy supplied with the munitions of war. Experience might have taught them, however, the futility of any measure of security, founded in a reliance on Indian faith, in time of hostility; and in deep and bitter anguish, were they made to feel its realization in the present instance.
In the summer of 1781, about sixty Shawanee warriors penetrated the settlements on James river. To avoid the fort at the mouth of Looney’s creek, on this river, they passed through Bowne’s gap in Purgatory mountain in the night; and ascending Purgatory creek, killed Thomas Perry, Joseph Dennis and his child and made prisoner his wife, Hannah Dennis. They then proceeded to the house of Robert Renix, where they captured Mrs. Renix, (a daughter of Samson Archer) and her five children, William, Robert, Thomas, Joshua and Betsy == Mr. Renix not being at home. They then went to the house of Thomas Smith, where Renix was; and shot and scalped him and Smith; and took with them, Mrs. Smith and Sally Jew, a white servant girl.
William and Audley Maxwell, and George Matthews, (afterwards governor of Georgia,) were then going to Smith’s house; and hearing the report of the guns, supposed that there was a shooting match. But when they rode to the front of the house and saw the dead bodies of Smith and Renix lying in the yard, they discovered their mistake; and contemplating for a moment the awful spectacle, wheeled to ride back. At this instant several guns were fired at them; fortunately without doing any execution, except the cutting off the club of Mr. Matthews’ cue. The door of the house was then suddenly opened; the Indians rushed out and raising the war cry, several of them fired – Audley Maxwell was slightly wounded in the arm.
It appeared afterwards, that the Indians had seen Matthews and Maxwell coming; and that some of them had crowded into the house, while the others with the prisoners went to the north side of it, and concealed themselves behind some fallen timber. Mrs. Renix, after she was restored to her friends in 1766, stated that she was sitting tied, in the midst of four Indians, who laying their guns on a log, took deliberate aim at Matthews; the other firing at Maxwells – The sudden wheeling of their horses no doubt saved the lives of all three.
The Indians then divided, and twenty of them taking the prisoners, the plunder and some horses which they had stolen set off by the way of Jackson’s river, for the Ohio; the remainder started towards Cedar creek, with the ostensible view of committing farther depredations. But Matthews and the Maxwells had sounded the alarm, and the whole settlement were soon collected at Paul’s stockade fort, at the Big spring near to Springfield. Here the women and children were left to be defended by Audley Maxwell and five other men; while the others, forming a party of twenty-two, with George Matthews at their head, set out in quest of the enemy.
The Indians were soon overtaken, and after a severe engagement were forced to give ground. Matthews and his party followed in pursuit, as far as Purgatory creek; but the night being very dark in consequence of a continued rain, the fugitives effected an escape; and overtaking their comrades with the prisoners and plunder, on the next evening at the forks of the James and Cowpasture rivers, proceeded to Ohio without farther molestation.
When Matthews and his men, on the morning succeeding the engagement, returned to the field of battle, they found nine Indians dead; whom they buried on the spot. Benjamin Smith, Thomas Maury and the father of Sally Jew, were the only persons of Matthews’ party, who were killed – these together with those who had been murdered on to preceding day, were buried near the fork of a branch, in (what is now) the meadow of Thomas Cross, Sr.
In Boquet’s treaty with the Ohio Indians, it was stipulated that the whites detained by them in captivity were to be brought in and redeemed. In compliance with this stipulation, Mrs. Renix was brought to Staunton in 1767 and ransomed together with two of her sons, William, the late Col. Renix of Greenbrier , and Robert, also of Greenbrier – Betsy, her daughter, had died on the Miami. Thomas returned in 1783, but soon after removed and settled, on the Scioto, near Chilicothe. Joshua never came back; he took an Indian wife and became a Chief among the Miamies – he amassed a considerable fortune and died near Detroit in 1810.
Hannah Dennis was separated from the other captives, and allotted to live at the Chilicothe towns. She learned their language; painted herself as they do; and in many respects conformed to their manners and customs. She was attentive to sick persons and was highly esteemed by the Indians, as one well skilled in the art of curing diseases. Finding them very superstitious and believers in necromancy; she professed witchcraft, and affected to be a prophetess. In this manner she conducted herself, ‘till she became so great a favorite with them, that they gave her full liberty and honored her as a queen. Notwithstanding this, Mrs. Dennis was always determined to effect her escape, when a favorable opportunity should occur; and having remained so long with the, apparently well satisfied, they ceased to entertain any suspicious of such a design.
In June 1763, she lift the Chilicothe towns, ostensibly to procure herbs for medicinal purposes, (as she had before frequently done,) but really to attempt an escape. As she did not return that night, her intention became suspected; and in the morning, some warriors were sent in pursuit of her. In order to leave as little trail as possible, she had crossed the Scioto river three times, and was just getting over the fourth time 40 miles below the towns, when she was discovered by her pursuers. They fired at her across the river without effect; but in endeavoring to make a rapid flight, she had one of her feet severely cut by a sharp stone.
The Indians then rushed across the river to overtake and catch her, but she eluded them by crawling into the hollow limb, of a large fallen sycamore. They searched around for her some time, frequently stepping on the log which concealed her; and encamped near it that night. On the next day they went on to the Ohio river, but finding no trace of her, they returned home.
Mrs. Dennis remained at that place three days, doctoring her wound, and then set off for home. She crosses the Ohio river, at the mouth of Great Kenhawa, on a log of driftwood, travelling only during the night, for fear of discovery. – She subsisted on roots, herbs, green grapes, wild cherries and river muscles – and entirely exhausted by fatigue and hunger, sat down by the side of Greenbrier river, with no expectation of ever proceeding farther. In this situation she was found by Thomas Athol and three others from Clendennin’s settlement, which she had passed without knowing it. She had been then upwards of twenty days on her disconsolate journey, alone, on foot – but ‘till then, cheered with the hope of again being with her friends.
She was taken back to Clindennin’s, where they kindly ministered to her, ‘till she became so far invigorated, as to travel on horse back with an escort, to Fort Young on Jackson’s river; from whence she was carried home to her relations.
In the course of a few days after Hannah Denis had gone from Clendennins, a party of about sixty warriors came to the settlement on Muddy creek, in the county of Greenbrier. That region of country then contained no inhabitants, but those on Muddy creek, and in the Levels; and those are believed to have consisted of at least one hundred souls. The Indians came apparently as friends, and the French war having been terminated by the treaty of the preceding spring, the whites did not for an instant doubt their sincerity. They were entertained in small parties at different houses, and every civility and act of kindness, which the new settlers could proffer, were extended to them. In a moment of the most perfect confidence in the innocence of their intentions, the Indians rose on them and tomahawked and scalped all, save a few women and children of whom they made prisoners.
After the perpetration of this most barbarous and bloody outrage, the Indians (excepting some few who took charge of the prisoners) proceeded to the settlement in the Levels. Her, as at Muddy creek, they disguised their horrid purpose, and wearing the mask of friendship, were kindly received at the house of Mr. Clendennin. * This gentleman had just returned from a successful hunt, and brought home three fine elks – these and the novelty of being with friendly Indians, soon drew the whole settlement to his house. Here too the Indians were well entertained and feasted on the fruit of Celndennin’s hunt, and every other article of provision which was there, and could minister to their gratification. An old woman, who was of the party, having a very sore leg and having understood that Indians could perform a cure of any ulcer, shewed it to one near her; and asked if he could heal it -- The inhuman monster raised his tomahawk and buried it in her head. This seemed to be the signal of a general massacre and promptly was it obeyed – nearly every man of the settlement was killed and the women and children taken captive.
While this tragedy was acting, a negro woman, who was endeavoring to escape, was followed by her crying child. – To save it from savage butchery, she turned round and murdered it herself.
Mrs. Clendennin, driven to despair by the cruel and unprovoked murder of her husband and friends, and the spoilation and destruction of all their property, boldly charged the Indians with perfidy and treachery; and alleged that cowards only could act with such duplicity. The bloody scalp of her husband was thrown in her fact – the tomahawk was raised over her head; but she did not cease to revile them. In going over Keeny’s knot the next day, the prisoners being in the centre, and the Indians in the front and rear, she gave her infant child to one of the women to hold for a while. -- She then stepped into the thicket ------------------
* Where Ballard Smith now resides.
unperceived, and made her escape. The crying of the infant soon led to a discovery of her flight – one of the Indians observed that he could "bring the cow to her calf," taking the child by the heels, beat out its brains against a tree.
Mrs. Clendennin returned that night to her home, a distance of ten miles; and, covering the body of her husband with rails and trash, retired into an adjoining corn field, lest she might be pursued and again taken prisoner. While in the corn field, her mind was much agitated by contending emotions; and the prospect of effecting an escape to the settlements, seemed to her dreary and hopeless. In a moment of despondency, she thought she beheld a man, with the aspect or a murderer, standing near her; and she became overwhelmed with fear. It was but the creature of a sickly and terrified imagination; and when her mind regained its proper tone, she resumed her flight and reached the settlements in safety.
These melancholy events occurring so immediately after the escape of Hannah Dennis: and the unwillingness of the Indians that she should be separated from them, has induced the supposition that the party committing those dreadful outrages, were in pursuit of her. If such were the fact, dearly were others made to pay the penalty of her deliverance.
This and other incidents, similar in their result, satisfied the whites that although the war had been terminated on the part of the French; yet it was likely to be continued with all its horrors, by their savage allies. This was then, and has since been, attributed to the smothered hostility of the French in Canada and on the Ohio river; and to the influence which they had acquired over the Indians. This may have had its bearing on the event; but from the known jealousy entertained by the Indians, of the English Colonists; their apprehensions that they would be dispossessed of the country, , which they then held (England claiming jurisdiction over it by virtue of the treaty of Paris: ) and their dissatisfaction at the terms on which France had negotiated a peace, were in themselves sufficient to induce hostilities on the part of the Indians. Charity would incline to the belief that the continuance of the war was rightly attributable to these causes – the other reason assigned for it, supposing the existence of a depravity, so deep and damning, as almost to stagger credulity itself.
In October 1764, about fifty Delaware and Mingo warriors ascended the Great Sandy and came over on New river, where they separated; and forming two parties, directed their steps toward different settlements – one party going towards Roanoke and Catawba – the other in the direction of Jackson’s river. They had not long passed, when their trail was discovered by three men, (Swope, Pack and Pitman) who were trapping on the New river. These men followed the trail till they came to where the Indian party had divided; and judging from the routes which had been taken, that their object was to visit the Roanoke and Jackson’s river settlements, they determined on apprising the inhabitants of their danger. Swope and Pack set out for Roanoke and Pitman for Jackson’s river. But before they could accomplish their object, the Indians had reached the settlements on the latter river, and on Catawba.
The Party which came to Jackson’s river, travelled down Dunlap’s creek and crossed James river, above Fort Young, in the night and unnoticed; and going down this river to William Carpenter’s, where was a stockade fort under the dare of a Mr. Brown, they met Carpenter just above his house and killed him. They immediately proceeded to the house, and made prisoners of a son of Mr. Carpenter, two sons of Mr. Brown ( all small children) and one woman – the others belonging to the house were in the field at work. The Indians then despoiled the house and taking off some horses, commenced a precipitate retreat – fearing discovery and pursuit.
When Carpenter was shot, the report of the gun was heard by those at work in the field; and Brown carried the alarm to Fort Young. In consequence of the weakness of this fort, a messenger was dispatched to Fort Dinwiddie.
* Carpenter’s son (since Doctor Carpenter of Nicholas) came home about fifteen years afterwards – Brown’s youngest son, (the late Col. Samuel Brown of Greenbrier) was brought home in 1769 – the elder son never returned. He took an Indian wife, became wealthy and lived at Brown’s town in Michigan. He acted a conspicuous part in the late war and died in 1815.
On Indian creek they met Pitman, who had been running all day and night before, to with the intelligence. Capt. Paul (who still commanded there,) immediately commenced a pursuit with twenty of his men; and passing out at the head of Dunlap’s creek, descended Indian creek and New river to Piney creek; without making any discovery of the enemy. apprise the garrison at Fort Young of the approach of the
Indians. Pitman joined in pursuit of the party
who had killed Carpenter; but they apprehending that they would be followed, had escaped to Ohio, by the way of Greenbrier and Kenhawa rivers.
As Capt. Paul and his men were returning, they accidentally met with the other party of Indians, who had been to Catawba, and committed some depredations and murders there. They were discovered about midnight, encamped on the north bank of New river, opposite an island at the mouth of Indian creek. Excepting some few who were watching three prisoners, (whom they had taken on Catawba, and who were sitting in the midst of them.) they were lying around a small fire, wrapped in skins and blankets. Paul’s men not knowing that there were captives among the, fired in the midst, killed three Indians and wounded several others, one of whom drowned himself to preserve his scalp – the rest of the party fled hastily down the river and escaped.
In the instant after the firing, Capt. Paul and his men rushed forward to secure the wounded and prevent farther escapes. One of the foremost of his party, seeing, as he supposed, a squaw sitting composedly awaiting the result, raised his tomahawk and just as it was descending, Capt. Paul threw himself between the assailant and his victim; and receiving the blow on his arm exclaimed, "It is a shame to hurt a woman, even a squaw." Recognizing the voice of Paul the woman named him. She was Mrs. Catharine Gunn, an English lady, who had come to the country some years before; and who, previously to her marriage, had lived in the family of Capt. Paul’s father-in-law, where she became acquainted with that gentleman, -- she had been taken captive by the Indians, on the Catawba, a few days before, when her husband and two only children were killed by them. When questioned why she had not cried out, or otherwise made known that she was a white prisoner, she replied, "I had as soon be killed as not – my husband is murdered – my children are slain – my parents are dead. I have not a relation in America – every thing dear to me here is gone – I have no wishes – no hopes – no fears – I would not have risen to my feet to save my life."
When Capt. Paul came on the enemy’s camp, he silently posted his men in an advantageous situation for doing execution, and made arrangements for a simultaneous fire. To render this the more deadly and efficient, they dropped on one knee, and were preparing to take deliberate aim, when one of them (John M’Collum) called to his comrades, "Pull steady and send them all to hell." This ill-timed expression of anxious caution, gave the enemy a moment’s warning of their danger; and is the reason why greater execution was not done.
The Indians had left all their guns, blankets and plunder – these together with the three white captives, were taken by Capt. Paul to Fort Dinwiddie.
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