Chronicles of Border Warfare



Upon the close of the campaign of 1774, there succeeded a short period of perfect quiet and of undisturbed repose from savage invasion, along the borders of North Western Virginia. The decisive battle of the 10th of October, repressed incursion for a time, and taught those implacable enemies of her citizens, their utter inability, alone and unaided to maintain a contest of arms, against the superior power of Virginia, They saw that in any future conflict with this colony, her belligerent operations would no longer be confined to the mere purposes of defense; but that war would be waged in their own country, and their own towns become the theatre of its action. Had the leading objects of the Dunmore campaign, been fully accomplished,--had the contemplated junction of the different divisions of the army taken place;--had it combined forces extended their march into the Indian territory, and effected the proposed reduction of the Indian territory, and effected the proposed reduction, of the Chilicothe, and other towns on the Scotia and Sandusky, it would have been long indeed, before the frontier settlements, became exposed to savage inroad. A failure to effect these things however, left the Indians comparatively at liberty, and prepared to renew invasion, and revive their cruel and bloody deeds, whenever a savage thirst for vengeance should incite them to action, and the prospect of achieving them with impunity, be open before them. In the then situation of our country, this prospect was soon presented to them.

The contest between Great Britain and her American colonies, which had been for some time carried on with increasing warmth, was ripening rapidly into war. The events of every day, more and more confirmed the belief, that the "unconditional submission" of the colonies, was the object of the parent state; and that to accomplish this, she was prepared to desolate the country by a civil war, and imbrue her hands in the blood of its citizens. This state of things the Indians knew, would favor the consummation of their hopes. Virginia, having to apply her physical strength to the repulsion of other enemies, could not be expected to extend her protecting aegis over the remote and insulated settlements on her borders. These would have to depend on themselves alone, for resistance to ruthless irruption, and exemption from total annihilation. The Indians well knew the weakness of those settlements, and their consequent incapacity to vie in open conflict with the overwhelming force of their savage foes; and their hereditary resentment to the whites prompted them to take advantage of that weakness, to wreak this resentment, and involve them once more in hostilities.

Other circumstances too, combined in their operation, to produce this result. The plan of Lord Dunmore and others to induce the Indians to co-operate with the English in reducing Virginia to subjection, and defeated by the detection and apprehension of Connoly, was soon after resumed on a more extensive scale. British agents were busily engaged from Canada to the Gulph of Mexico, in endeavoring by immediate presents and the promise of future reward, to excite the savages to a war upon the western frontiers. To accomplish this object, no means which were likely to be of any avail, were neglected to be used. Gratified resentment and the certainty of plunder, were held up to view as present consequences of this measure; and the expulsion of the whites, and the repossession, by the Natives, of the country from which their fathers had been ejected, as its ultimate result–Less cogent motives might have enlisted them on the side of Great Britain. These were too strong to be resisted by them, and too powerful to be counteracted by any course of conduct, which the colonies could observe towards them; and they became ensnared by the delusive bait, and the insidious promises which accompanied it.

There were in the colonies too, many persons, who from principle of fear, were still attached to the cause of Great Britain; and who not only, did not sanction the opposition of their country to the supremacy of Parliament, but were willing in any wise to lend their aid to the royal cause. Some of those disaffected Americans, (as they were at first denominated) who resided on the frontiers, foreseeing the attachment of the Indians to the side of Britain, and apprehensive that in their inroads, the friends as well as the enemies of that country, might from the difficulty of discriminating, be exposed to savage fury; and at the same time, sensible that they had become obnoxious To a majority of their neighbors, who were perhaps, too much inclined to practise summary modes of punishment, sought a refuge among the Indians, from those impending evils. In some instances, these persons were under the influence of the most rancorous and vindictive passions, and when once with the savages, strove to infuse those passions into their breasts, and stimulate them to the repetition of those enormities, which had previously, so terribly annoyed the inhabitants of the different frontiers. Thus wrought upon, their inculcated enmity to the Anglo-Americans generally, roused them to action, and the dissonant notes of the war song, resounded in their villages. For a while indeed, they refrained from hostilities against North Western Virginia. It was however, but to observe the progress of passing events, that they might act against the mountain borders, simultaneously with the British on the Atlantic coast; as a premature movement on their part, might, while Virginia was yet at liberty to bear down upon them with concentrated forces, bring upon their towns the destruction which had so appallingly threatened them after the battle at Point Pleasant.

But though the inhabitants on the Virginia frontiers, enjoyed a momentary respite from savage warfare; yet were the Indians not wholly unemployed in deeds of aggression. The first attempt to occupy Kentucky, had been the signal of hostilities in 1774; and the renewed endeavors to form establishments in it, in 1775, induced their continuance, and brought on those who were engaged in effecting the, all the horrors of savage warfare.

Upon the close of the campaign under Lord Dunmore, Kentucky became more generally known. James Harrod, with those who had associated themselves with him in making a settlement in that country and aided by the erection of the fort at Harrodsburg, joined the army of General Lewis at Point Pleasant; and when, after the treaty of Camp Charlotte, the army was disbanded, many of the soldiers and some of the officers, enticed by the description given of it by Harrod, returned to south Western Virginia, through that country. The result of their examination of it, induced many to migrate thither immediately; and in 1775, families began to take up their residence in it.

At that time, the only white persons residing in Kentucky, were those at Harrod’s fort; and for a while, emigrants to that country established themselves in its immediate vicinity, that they might derive protection from its walls, from the marauding irruptions of Indians. Two other establishments were, however, soon made and became, as well as Harrod’s, rallying points for land adventurers, and for many of these, whose enterprising spirits led them, to make their home in the wilderness. The first of these was that at Boonsborough, and which was made, under the superindence of Daniel Boone.

The prospect of amassing great wealth, by the purchase of a large body of land from the Indians, for a comparatively trifling consideration, induced some gentlemen in North Carolina, to form a company, and endeavor by negotiation to effect such purpose. This association was known under the title of Henderson and company; and its object was, the acquisition of a considerable portion of Kentucky. The first step, necessary towards the accomplishment of this project, was to convene a council of the Indians; and as the territory sought to be acquired, did not belong, in individual property to any one nation of them, it was deemed advisable to convoke the chiefs of the different nations south of the Ohio river. A time was then appointed at which these were to assemble; and it became necessary to engage an agent, possessing the requisite qualifications, to attend the council, on behalf of Henderson and company, and to transact the business for them. The fame of Daniel Boone which had reached them, recommended him, as one eminently qualified to discharge the duties devolving on an agent; and he was employed in that capacity. At the appointed period, the council was held, and a negotiation commenced, which resulted in the transfer, to Henderson and company, of the title of the southern Indians to the land lying south of the Kentucky river, and north of the Tennessee.

Boone was then placed at the head of a party of enterprising men, sent to open a broad from the Holstein settlement, through the wilderness, to the Kentucky river, and take possession of the company’s purchase. When within fifteen miles of the termination of their journey, they were attacked by a body of northern Indians, who killed two of Boone’s comrades and wounded two others. Two days after, they were again attacked by them, and had two more of their party killed and three wounded. From this time they experienced no farther molestation until they had arrived within the limits of the purchase, and erected a fort, at a lick near the southern bank of the Kentucky river – the site of the present town of Boonesborough. Enfeebled by the loss sustained in the attacks made on them by the Indians; and worn down by the continued labor of opening a road through an almost impervious wilderness, it was some time before they could so far complete the fort, as to render it secure against anticipated assaults of the savages, and justify a detachment being sent from the garrison, to escort the family of Boone to his new situation. When it was thus far completed, an office was opened for the sale of the company’s land; * and Boone and some others returned to Holstein, and from thence, guarded the family of Boone, through the wilderness, to the newly erected fort. Mrs. Boone and her daughter, are believed to be the first white females who ever stood on the banks of the Kentucky river.

In 1775 Benjamin Logan, who had been with Lord Dunmore at Camp Charlotte, visited Kentucky and selected a spot for his future residence, near to the present village of Stamford, erected thereon a fort; and in the following year moved his family thither.

These were the only settlements then begun to be made within the limits of the now state of Kentucky. As the tide of emigration flowed into the country, those three forts afforded an asylum, from the Indian hostility to which the whited were incessantly subjected; and never perhaps lived three men better qualified by nature and habit, to resist that hostility, and preserve the settlers from captivity and death, than James Harrod, Daniel Boone, and Benjamin Logan. Reared in the lap of danger, and early inured to the hardsh9ips and sufferings of a wilderness life, they were habitually acquainted with those arts which were necessary to detect ad defeat the one and to lessen and alleviate the others. Intrepid and fearless, yet cautious and prudent, there was united in each of them, the sly circumventive powers of the Indian, with the bold defiance, and open daring of the whites. Quick, almost to intuition, in the perception of impending dangers, instant in determining, and prompt in action; to see to resolve and execute, were with them the work of the same moment. Rife in expedients, the most perplexing difficulties rarely found them at a loss. Possessed of these qualities, they were placed at the head of the little colonies planted around them; not by ambition, but by the universal voice of the people; from a deep and thorough conviction, that they only were adequate to the exigencies of their situation. The conviction was not ill founded. Their intellectual and physical resources were powerfully and constantly exerted for the preservation and security of the settlements; and frequently, with astonishing success, under the most inauspicious circumstances. Had they indeed, by nature, been supine and passive, their isolated situation, and the constantly repeated attempts of the Indians, at their extermination, would have aroused the, as it did others, to activity and energy, and brought their every nerve into action. For them, there were not "weak, piping times of peace,"—no respite from danger. The indefatigable vigilance and persevering hostility of an unrelenting foe, required countervailing exertions on their part; and kept alive the life, which they delighted to live.

From the instant those establishments were made, and emigrants placed themselves in their vicinity, the Savages commenced their usual mode of warfare; and marauding parties were ever in readiness to seize upon those, whose misfortune it was to become exposed to their vigilance. In the prosecution of these hostilities, Incidents of the most lively and harrowing interest, though limited in their consequences, were constantly recurring; before a systematic course of operations, was undertaken for the destruction of the settlers.

The Indians, seeing that they had to contend with persons, as well skilled in their peculiar mode of warfare, as themselves, and


*The purchase of Henderson and company, was subsequently declared by the legislature of Virginia, to be null and void, so far as the purchasers were concerned; but effectual as to the extinguishment of the Indian title, to the territory thus bought of them. To indemnify the purchasers for any advancements of money or other things which they had made to the Indians, the assembly granted them 200,000 acres of land, lying at the mouth of Green river, and known generally as Henderson’s grant

likely to detect the, while lying in wait for an opportunity to strike the deadly blow, as they were to strike it with impunity, they entirely changed their plans of annoyances. Instead of longer endeavoring to cut off the whites in detail, they brought into the country a force, sufficiently numerous and powerful to act simultaneously against all the settlements. The consequence of this was, much individual suffering and several horrid massacres. Husbandmen toiling to secure the produce of the summer’s labor, for their sustenance another season, were frequently attacked, and murdered.—Hunters, engaged in procuring meat for immediate and pressing use, were obliged to practice the utmost wariness to evade the ambushed Indian, and make sure their return to the fort. Springs and other watering places, and the paths leading to them, were constantly guarded b the savages; who would lie near them day and night, until forced to leave their covert, in quest of food to satisfy their extreme hunger; and who, when this end was attained, would return to their hiding places, with renovated strength, and increased watchfulness. The cattle belonging to the garrisons were either driven off, or killed, so that no supplies could be derived from them. This state of things continued, without intermission, ‘till the severity of winter forced the Indians to depart for their towns; and then succeeded, of necessity, a truce, which had become extremely desirable to the different settlements.

When we reflect on the dangers, the difficulties, the complicated distresses, to which the inhabitants were then exposed, it is really a matter of astonishment that they did not abandon the country, and seek elsewhere an exemption from those evils. How women, with all the feminine weakness of the sex, could be prevailed upon to remain during the winter, and encounter with the returning spring the returning horrors of savage warfare, is truly surprising. The frequent recurrence of danger, does indeed, produce a comparative insensibility and indifference to it; but I is difficult to conceive that familiarity with the tragic scenes which were daily exhibited there, could reconcile persons to a life of constant exposure to them. Yet such was the fact; and not only did the few, who were first to venture on them, continue in the country, but others, equally adventurous, moved to it; encountering many hardships and braving every danger, to aid in maintaining possession of the modern Canaan, and to obtain a home in that land of milk and honey. If for a while, they flattered themselves with the hope, that the ravages which had been checked by winter, would not be repeated on the return of spring, they were sadly disappointed. Hostilities were resumed, as soon as the abatement of cold, suffered the Indians to take the field; and were carried on with renovated ardor, and on an enlarged scale.

Feeling the hopelessness of extirpating the settlements, so long as the forts remained to afford a safe retreat to the inhabitants; and having learned, by the experience of the preceding season, that the whites were but little, if at all, inferior to them in their own arts, and were competent to combat them, in their own mode of warfare, the Indians resolved on bringing into the country a larger force, and to direct their united energies to the demolition of the different forts. To prevent any aid being afforded by the other garrisons, while operations were leveled against one, they resolved on detaching from their mail body, such a number of men as was deemed sufficient to keep watch around the other forts, and awe their inmates from attempting to leave them, on any occasion. This was a course of excellent policy. It was calculated not only to prevent the marching of any auxiliary forces from one to the other of the fortresses, but at the same time by preventing hunting parties from ranging the woods, cut off the principal source, from which their supplies were derived; and thus tended to render their fall, the more certain and easy.

Accordingly in March 1777, they entered Kentucky with a force of upwards of two hundred warriors; and sending some of their most expert and active men to watch around Boone’s and Logan’s forts, marched with the chief part of their army to attack Harrodsburg. On the 14th of March three persons (who were engaged in clearing some land) not far from Harrod’s fort, discovered the Indians proceeding through the woods, and sought to escape observation and convey the intelligence to the garrison. But they too, were discovered and pursued; and one of them was killed, another taken prisoner, and the third (James, afterwards Gen. Ray, then a mere youth) reached Harrodsburg alone in safety. Aware that the place had become alarmed, and that they had then no chance of operating on it, by surprise, they encamped near to it one that evening; and early on the morning of the 15th commenced a furious and animated attack.

Apprized of the near approach of the enemy, the garrison had made every preparation for defense, of which their situation admitted; and when the assailants rushed to the assault, not intimidated by their horrible and unnatural yells, nor yet dispirited by the presence of a force so far superior to their own, they received them with a fire so steady and well directed, as forced them to recoil; leaving one of their slain in the field of attack. This alone, argued a great discomfiture of the Indians; as it is well known to be their invariable custom, to remove, if practicable, those of their warriors who fall in battle. Their subsequent movements, satisfied the inmates of the fort, that there had been indeed a discomfiture; and that they had but little to apprehend from a renewed assault on their little fortress. After reconnoitering for a while, at a prudent distance from the garrison, the Indians kindled their fires for the night; and in the following day, leaving a small party for the purpose of annoyance, decamped with the mail body of their army, and marched towards Boonesborough. In consequence however, of a severe spell of March weather, they were forced to remain inactive for a time; and did not make their appearance there, until the middle of April.

In the assault on Boone’s fort, the Indians soon became satisfied that it was impregnable against them; and although their repulse was not as signal here, as it had been at Harrodsburg, yet they soon withdrew from the contest, and marched towards Logan’s fort, having killed one and wounded four, of the whites.

Several causes combined to render an attack on the fort at Logan’s station, an event of most fearful consequence. Its inmates had been but a short time in the country, and were not provided with an ample supply of provisions or ammunition. They were few in number; and though of determined spirit and undaunted fortitude, yet such was the disparity between thirteen and two hundred—the force of the garrison and the force of the assailants, joined to their otherwise destitute situation, that hope itself, could scarcely live in so perilous a situation. Had this been the first point, against which the enemy leveled their operations when they arrived in the country, it must have fallen before them. By deferring the attack on it, ‘till they had been repulsed at the two other forts, the garrison was allowed time; and availing themselves of it, to fortify their position more strongly, the issue was truly, most fortunate, though unexpected.

On the night preceding the commencement of the attack on the fort, the Indians had approached near to it unperceived, and secreted themselves in a cane brake, which had been suffered to remain around the cabins. Early in the morning the women, went out to milk, guarded by most of the garrison; and before they were aware of impending danger, the concealed Indians opened a general fire; which killed three of the men, and drove the others, hastily within the fort. A most affecting spectacle was then presented to view, well calculated to excite the sympathies of human nature, and arouse to action a man possessed of the generous sensibility and noble daring, which animated the bosom of Logan.

One of the men who had fallen on the first fire of the Indians and had been supposed by his comrades to be dead, was in truth though badly wounded, yet still alive; and was observed feebly struggling to crawl towards the fort. The fear of laceration and mangling from the horrid scalping knife, and of tortures from more barbarous instruments, seemed to abate his exertions in dragging his wounded body along, let he should be discovered and borne off by some infuriated and unfeeling savage. It was doubtful too, whether his strength would endure long enough to enable him to reach the gate, even if unmolested by any apprehension of danger. The magnanimous and intrepid Logan resolved on making an effort to save him. He endeavored to raise volunteers, to accompany him without the fort, and bring in their poor wounded companion. It seemed as if courting the quick embrace of death; and even his adventurous associates for an instant, shrunk from the danger. At length a man by the name of Martin, who plumed himself on rash and daring deeds, consented to aid in the enterprise; and the two proceeded towards the gate. Her the spirit of Martin forsook him, and he recoiled from the hazardous adventure. Logan was then alone. He beheld the feeble, but wary exertions of his unfortunate comrade, entirely subside; and he could not hesitate. He rushed quickly through the gate into the fort, amid a shower of bullets aimed at him; and some of which buried themselves in the palisades close by his head. A most noble and disinterested achievement, and worthy of all commendation.*

The siege being maintained by the Indians, the animation of the garrison was nearly exhausted, in repelling the frequent assaults made of the fort; and it was apparent, that the enemy did not intend speedily to withdraw their forces. Parties of Indians were frequently detached from the main body, as well to obtain a supply of provisions by hunting, as to intercept and cut off any aid, which might be sent to St. Asaph’s** from the other forts. In this posture of affairs, it was impossible that the garrison could long hold out, unless its military stores could be replenished; and to effect this; under existing circumstances, appeared to be almost impossible. Harrodsburg and Boonesborough were not themselves amply provisioned with stores; and had it bee otherwise, so closely was the intermediate country between them and St. Asaph’s, guarded by the savages, that no communication could be carried from one to the other of them. The settlement on the Holstein was the nearest point, from which it could be practicable to drive a supply of ammunition, and the distance to that neighborhood, was considerable.

Logan knew the danger which must result to the garrison, front being weakened as much as it must be, by sending a portion of it on this hazardous enterprise; but he also knew, that the fort could not be preserved from failing, unless its magazine was soon replenished. Preferring the doubtful prospect of succeeding in its relief, by adopting the plan of sending to Holstein, he proposed the measure to his companies, and they eagerly embraced it. It remained them to select the party, which was to venture on this high enterprise. Important as the presence of Logan, was known to be, in the fort, yet as the lives of all within, depended on the success of the expedition and as to effect this, required the exercise of qualities merely possessed in so great degree by any other individual, he was unanimously chosen to conduct the enterprise

Accompanied by four of the garrison, Logan, as slyly as possible, slipped from the fort, and commenced his tedious journey. To lessen the chance of coming in contact with straggling bands of Indians, he avoided the pack road which had been opened by Boone; and pursuing an untrodden route, reached the settlement in safety. The requisite supplies were soon engaged; and while they were being prepared for transportation, Logan was actively engaged in endeavoring to prevail on the inhabitants to form a company as expeditiously as possible and march to their relief. With a feint promise of assistance and with the assurance that their situation should be immediately made known to the executive authority of the state, he set off on his return. Confiding the ammunition which he had obtained, to the care of his companions, and prudently advising and instructing them in the course best to be pursued, he left them, and


* Benjamin Logan was by birth a Virginian and at the age of fourteen, was left by the death of his father, to provide for his mother and her other children, and with the other cares of a family upon his infant hands. He discharged the duties thus devolving on him, with the utmost fidelity and having provided amply for the support, and placed the other members of her household in eligible situations, he removed to the Holstein, married, purchased land, and commenced making improvements. From thence he went to Kentucky, where he spent the balance of his life, in the discharge of every social and relative duty, with credit to himself and advantage to the community. He was a delegate to the Virginia legislature from the county of Kentucky in 1780; was soon after commissioned county Lieutenant, (then the highest military title in the militia of a county) and in the various battles, as well as in the many skirmished, which he fought with the Indians, his conduct and bearing were such, as fully established for him the reputation of a brave, skilful, prudent and meritorious officer. In private life, and in his intercourse with his fellow men, his whole course was distinguished by the most uncompromising honor, and expanded philanthropy. The heroic adventure, by which he saved his wounded comrade, from the tomahawk, the scalping knife, and from fire, was but one of many such exploits whereby he achieved good to others, at the most imminent hazard of his own life.



**This was the name given to the station of Logan.

hastened to make his way alone back to St. Asaph. In ten days after his departure from the fort, he returned to it again; and his presence contributed much to revive and encourage the garrison; ‘till then in almost utter despair of obtaining relief In a few days after, the party arrived with the ammunition, and succeeded in entering the fort unperceived; though it was still surrounded by the Indians. With so much secrecy and caution had the enterprise been conducted, that the enemy never knew it had been undertaken, until it was happily accomplished.

For some time after this the garrison continued in high expectation of seeing the besiegers depart, despairing of making any impression on the fort. But they were mistaken in this expectation. Each returning day shewed the continued investiture of the fort, and exhibited the Indians as pertinaciously intent on its reduction by assault or famine, as they were on the day of their arrival before it. Weeks elapsed, and there was no appearance of the succors which had been promised to Logan when in the settlement on Holstein. And although the besieged were still successful in repelling every assault on the garrison, yet their stock of provisions was almost entirely exhausted; and there was no chance of obtaining a farther supply, but from the woods around the. To depend on the success of hunting parties, to relieve their necessities and prevent their actual starvation or surrender, seemed indeed, but a slender reed on which to rely; and the gloom of despondence overshadowed their hitherto sanguine countenances. But as they were resigning themselves to despair, and yielding up the last hope of being able to escape from savage fury and savage vengeance, Colonel Bowman arrived to their relief, and forced the Indians to raise the siege. It was not however, without some loss on his part. A detachment of his men, which had preceded the advance of the main army, was unfortunately unable to reach the fort, undiscovered by the besiegers; who attacked and killed them before they could enter the garrison. On the body of one of these man, was left a proclamation, issued by the Governor of Detroit promising protection and reward to those who would renounce the cause of the American colonies, and espouse that of Great Britain; and denouncing those who would not. When this proclamation was carried to Logan, he carefully kept secret its contents, lest it might produce an unfavorable effect on the minds of some of his men; worn down, exhausted, and discouraged as they then were.

After the arrival of Colonel Bowman in the country, there was for a time, a good deal of skirmishing between his forces, aided by individuals from the different forts, and those Indians. In all of them, the superiority of the whites in the use of the rifle became apparent to the savages; and as the feat of Captain Gibson with the sword, had previously acquired for the Virginias, the appellation of the Long Knives, the fatal certainty, with which Bowman’s men and the inhabitants of the various settlements in Kentucky, then aimed their shots, might have added to that title, the forcible epithet of sharp-shooters. They were as skilful and successful, too, in the practice of those arts, by which one is enabled to steal unaware upon his enemy, as the Natives themselves; and were equally as sure to execute the purposes, for which those arts were put in requisition, as these were. The consequence was, that the Indians were not only more shy in approaching the garrison, then they had been; but they likewise became more cautious and circumspect, in their woods operations, than formerly.

The frequent success of Colonel Bowman’s men, in scouring the surrounding country, gave to the inhabitants of all the settlements, an opportunity of cultivating their little fields, and of laying in such a stock of provisions and military stores, as would suffice in the hour of need; when that force should be withdrawn from the country, and the Indians consequently be again enabled to overrun it. All that the inhabitants, by reason of the paucity of their numbers, could yet do, was to shut themselves in forts, and preserve these from falling into the hands of the enemy. When the term of those, who had so opportunely came to their relief, expired and they returned to their homes, there were at Boonesborough only twenty-two, at Harrods-burg, sixty-five, and at St. Asapah’s fifteen men. Emigrants however, flocked to the country during the ensuing season, in great numbers; and their united strength enabled them the better to resist aggression, and conduct the various operations of husbandry & hunting—then the only occupations of the men.

While these things were transacting in Kentucky, North Western Virginia enjoyed a repose undisturbed, save by the conviction of the moral certainty, that it would be again involved in all the horrors of savage warfare; and that too, at no distant period. The machinations of British agents, to produce this result, were known to be gaining advocated daily, among the savages; and the hereditary resentments of these, were known to be too deeply seated, for the victory of Point Pleasant to have produced their eradication, and to have created in their stead, a void, to become the future receptacle of kindlier feelings, towards their Virginia neighbors. A coalition of the many tribes north west of the Ohio river, had been some time forming, and the assent of the Shawanees, alone was wanting to its perfection. The distinguished Sachem at the head of that nation, was opposed to an alliance with the British, and anxious to preserve a friendly intercourse with the colonists. All his influence, with all his energy, was exerted, to prevent his brethren from again involving themselves, in a war with the whites. But it was likely to be in vain. Many of his warriors had fallen at the mouth of the Kanhawa, and his people had suffered severely during the continuance of that war; they were therefore, too intent on retaliation, to listen to the sage counsel of their chief. In this posture of affairs, Cornstalk, in the spring of 1777, visited the fort, which had been erected at Point Pleasant after the campaign of 1774, in company with the Red Hawk, and another Indian. Captain Matthew Arbuckle was then commandant of the garrison; and when Cornstalk communicated to him the hostile preparations of the Indians, -- that the Shawanees along were wanting to render a confederacy complete, -- that, as the "current set so strongly against the colonies, even they would float with the stream in despite of his endeavors to stem it," and that hostilities would commence immediately, he deemed it prudent to detain him and his companions, as hostages, for the peace and neutrality of the different tribes of Indians in Ohio. He at the same time acquainted the newly organized government of Virginia, with the information which he had received from cornstalk, and the course which he had taken with the chief, and the others who accompanied him to the garrison.

Upon the receipt of this intelligence, it was resolved, if volunteers could be had for this purpose, to march an army into the Indian country, and effectually accomplish the objects, which had been proposed to be achieved in the campaign of Lord Dunmore in 1774. The volunteers in Augusta and Bottetourt, were to rendezvous as early as possible, at the mouth of the Big Kenhawa, where they would be joined by other troops under General Hand, who would then assume command of the whole expedition.

In pursuance of this resolve, three or four companies only, were raised in the counties of Bottetourt and Augusta; and these immediately commenced their march, to the place of general rendezvous, under the command of Colonel George Skillern. In the Greenbrier country, great exertions were made by the militia officers there, to obtain volunteers, but with little effect. One company only was formed, consisting of thirty men, and the officers, laying aside all distinctions of rank, placed themselves in the line as common soldiers, and proceeded to Point Pleasant with the troops led on by Colonel Skillern. Upon their arrival at that place, nothing had been heard of General Hand, or of the forces which it was expected would accompany him from Fort Pitt; and the volunteers halted, to await some intelligence from him.

The provisions, for the support of the army in its projected invasion of the Indian country, were expected to be brought down the river, from Fort Pitt; and the troops under Colonel Skillern had only taken with them, what was deemed sufficient for their subsistence on their march to the place of rendezvous. This stock was nearly exhausted, and the garrison was too illy supplied, to admit of their drawing on its stores. While thus situated, and anxiously awaiting the arrival of General Hand with his army and provisions, the officers held frequent conversations with Cornstalk, who seemed to take pleasure in acquainting them with the geography of the country, west of the Ohio river generally, and more particularly with the section of it lying between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. One afternoon while he was engaged in delineating on the floor a map of that territory, with the various water courses emptying into those two might streams, and describing the face of the country, its soil and climate, a voice was heard hallooing from the opposite shore of the Ohio, which he immediately recognised to be that of his son, Ellinipsico, and who coming over at the instance of Cornstalk, embraced him most affectionately. Uneasy at the long absence of his father, and fearing that some unforeseen evil might have befallen him, he had come to learn some tidings of him here; knowing that it was the place, to go to which he had left the nations. His visit was prompted by feelings which do honor to human nature – anxious solicitude for a father, -- but it was closed by a most terrible catastrophe.

On the day after the arrival of Ellinipsico, and while he was yet in the garrison, two men, from Captain Hall’s company of Rockbridge volunteers, crossed the Kenhawa river on a hunting excursion. As they were returning to the canoe for the purpose of re-crossing to the Fort, after the termination of the hunt, Gilmore was espied by two Indians, concealed near the bank, who fired at, killed and scalped him. At that instant, Captains Arbuckle and Stuart (the latter having accompanied the Greenbrier volunteers as a private soldier) were standing on the point opposite to where lay the canoe in which Hamilton and Gilmore had crossed the river; and expressed some astonishment that the men should be so indiscreet as to be shooting near to the encampment, contrary to commands. They had scarcely time to express their disapprobation at the supposed violation of orders, when Hamilton was seen running down the bank of the river, and heard to exclaim that Gilmore was killed. A party of Captain Hall’s men immediately sprang into a canoe and went over to relieve Hamilton from danger, and to bring the body of Gilmore to the encampment. Before they relanded with the bloody corpse of Gilmore, a cry arose, "let us go and kill the Indians in the fort," and pale with rage they ascended the bank, with captain Hall at their head, to execute their horrid purpose. It was vain to remonstrate. To the interference of Captains Arbuckle and Stuart to prevent the fulfilling of this determination, they responded, by cocking their guns, and threatening instant death to any one who should dare to oppose them.

The interpreter’s wife, (who had lately returned from Indian captivity, and seemed to entertain a feeling of affection for Cornstalk and his companions) seeing their danger, ran to their cabin to apprize them of it, an told them that Ellinipsico was charged with having brought with him the Indians who had killed Gilmore. This however he positively denied, averring that he came alone, and with the sole object of learning something of his father. In this time Captain Hall and his men had arrived within hearing, and Ellinipsico appeared much agitated. Cornstalk, however, encouraged him to meet his fate composedly, saying ""y son, the Great Spirit has seen fit that we should die together, and has sent you here to that end. It is his will and let us submit; -- it is all for the best; " and turning to meet his murderers at the door, received seven bullets in his body and fell without a groan.

Thus perished the mighty Cornstalk, Sachem of the Shawanees, and king of the northern confederacy in 1774; A chief remarkable for many great and good qualities. He was disposed to be at all times the friend of white men; as he ever was, and advocate of honorable peace. But when his country’s wrongs "called aloud to battle," he became the thunderbolt of war; and made her oppressors feel the weight of his uplifted arm. He sought not to pluck the scalp from the head of the innocent, nor to war against the unprotected and defenseless; choosing rather to encounter his enemies, girded for battle, and in open conflict. His noble bearing, -- his generous and disinterested attachment to the colonies, when the thunder of British cannon was reverberating through the land – his anxiety to preserve the frontier of Virginia from desolation and death, (the object of his visit to Point Pleasant) – all conspired to win for him the esteem and respect of others; while the untimely, and perfidious manner of his death, caused a deep and lasting regret to pervade the bosoms, even of those who were enemies to his nation; and excited the just indignation of all, towards his inhuman and barbarous murderers.

When the father fell, Ellinipsico continued still and passive; not even raising himself from the seat, which he had occupied before they received notice, that some infuriated whites were loudly demanding their immolation. He met death in that position, with the utmost composure and calmness. The trepidation which at first seized upon him, was of but momentary duration, and was succeeded by a most dignified sedateness and stoical apathy. It was not so with the young Red Hawk. He endeavored to conceal himself up the chimney of the cabin, in which they were; but without success. he was soon discovered and killed. The remaining Indian was murdered by piece-meal; and with almost all those circumstances of cruelty and horror, which characterize the savage, in wreaking vengeance upon an enemy.

Cornstalk is said to have had a presentiment of his approaching fate. On the day preceding his death, a council of officers was convoked, in consequence of the continued absence of General Hand, and their entire ignorance of his force or movements, to consult and determine on what would be the course for them to pursue under existing circumstances. Cornstalk was admitted to the council; and in the course of some remarks, with which he addressed it, said, "When I was young and went to war, I often thought, each might be my last adventure and I should return no more. I still lived. Now I am in the midst of you, and if you choose, may kill me. I can die but once. It is alike to me, whether now or hereafter." Little did those who were listening with delight to the eloquence of his address, and deriving knowledge from his instruction, think to see him so quickly and inhumanly, driven from the theatre of life. It was a fearful deed; and dearly was it expiated by others. The Shawanees were a warlike people, and became henceforward the most deadly foe, to the inhabitants on the frontier.

In a few days after the perpetration of this diabolical outrage upon all propriety, General Hand arrived from Pittsburgh without an army, and without provisions for those who had been awaiting his coming. It was then determined to abandon the expedition; and the volunteers returned to their homes.

Forward to Chapter 9

Return to first page of book 

© This electronic version of Chronicles of Border Warfare copyrighted by Hacker's Creek Pioneer Desendants, Inc., Route 1 Box 238, Jane Lew, WV 26378 - 1997.