Part 4 out of 6
settlers of the upper Holston to consider themselves as Virginians, not
Carolinians; but at the north the effect was still more confusing, and
nearly resulted in bringing about an intercolonial war between
Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The Virginians claimed all of extreme western Pennsylvania, especially
Fort Pitt and the valley of the Monongahela, and, in 1774, proceeded
boldly to exercise jurisdiction therein. Indeed a strong Party among
the settlers favored the Virginian claim; whereas it would have been
quite impossible to arouse anywhere in Virginia the least feeling in
support of a similar claim on behalf of Pennsylvania. The borderers had
a great contempt for the sluggish and timid government of the Quaker
province, which was very lukewarm in protecting them in their
rights--or, indeed, in punishing them when they did wrong to others. In
fact, it seems probable that they would have declared for Virginia even
more strongly, had it not been for the very reason that their feeling of
independence was so surly as to make them suspicious of all forms of
control; and they therefore objected almost as much to Virginian as
Pennsylvanian rule, and regarded the outcome of the dispute with a
For a time in the early part of 1774 there seemed quite as much
likelihood of the Virginians being drawn into a fight with the
Pennsylvanians as with the Shawnees. While the Pennsylvanian
commissioners were trying to come to an agreement concerning the
boundaries with Lord Dunmore, the representatives of the two contesting
parties at Fort Pitt were on the verge of actual collision. The Earl's
agent in the disputed territory was a Captain John Conolly, a man of
violent temper and bad character. He embodied the men favorable to his
side as a sort of Virginian militia, with which he not only menaced both
hostile and friendly Indians, but the adherents of the Pennsylvanian
government as well. He destroyed their houses, killed their cattle and
hogs, impressed their horses, and finally so angered them that they
threatened to take refuge in the stockade at Fort Pitt, and defy him to
open war,--although even in the midst of these quarrels with Conolly
their loyalty to the Quaker State was somewhat doubtful.
The Virginians were the only foes the western Indians really dreaded;
for their backwoodsmen were of warlike temper, and had learned to fight
effectively in the forest. The Indians styled them Long Knives; or, to
be more exact, they called them collectively the "Big Knife." There
have been many accounts given of the origin of this name, some ascribing
it to the long knives worn by the hunters and backwoodsmen generally,
others to the fact that some of the noted Virginian fighters in their
early skirmishes were armed with swords. At any rate the title was
accepted by all the Indians as applying to their most determined foes
among the colonists; and finally, after we had become a nation, was
extended so as to apply to Americans generally.
The war that now ensued was not general. The Six Nations, as a whole,
took no part in it, while Pennsylvania also stood aloof; indeed at one
time it was proposed that the Pennsylvanians and Iroquois should jointly
endeavor to mediate between the combatants. The struggle was purely
between the Virginians and the northwestern Indians.
The interests of the Virginians and Pennsylvanians conflicted not only
in respect to the ownership of the land, but also in respect to the
policy to be pursued regarding the Indians. The former were armed
colonists, whose interest it was to get actual possession of the
soil; whereas in Pennsylvania the Indian trade was very important and
lucrative, and the numerous traders to the Indian towns were anxious
that the redskins should remain in undisturbed enjoyment of their
forests, and that no white man should be allowed to come among them;
moreover, so long as they were able to make heavy profits, they were
utterly indifferent to the well-being of the white frontiersmen, and in
return incurred the suspicion and hatred of the latter. The Virginians
accused the traders of being the main cause of the difficulty,
asserting that they sometimes incited the Indians to outrages, and
always, even in the midst of hostilities, kept them supplied with guns
and ammunition, and even bought from them the horses that they had
stolen on their plundering expeditions against the Virginian border.
These last accusations were undoubtedly justified, at least in great
part, by the facts. The interests of the white trader from Pennsylvania
and of the white settler from Virginia were so far from being identical
that they were usually diametrically opposite.
The northwestern Indians had been nominally at peace with the whites for
ten years, since the close of Bouquet's campaign. But Bouquet had
inflicted a very slight punishment upon them, and in concluding an
unsatisfactory peace had caused them to make but a partial reparation
for the wrongs they had done. They remained haughty and insolent,
irritated rather than awed by an ineffective chastisement, and their
young men made frequent forays on the frontier. Each of the ten years of
nominal peace saw plenty of bloodshed. Recently they had been seriously
alarmed by the tendency of the whites to encroach on the great
hunting-grounds south of the Ohio; for here and there hunters or
settlers were already beginning to build cabins along the course of that
stream. The cession by the Iroquois of these same hunting-grounds, at
the treaty of Fort Stanwix, while it gave the whites a colorable title,
merely angered the northwestern Indians. Half a century earlier they
would hardly have dared dispute the power of the Six Nations to do what
they chose with any land that could be reached by their war parties; but
in 1774 they felt quite able to hold their own against their old
oppressors, and had no intention of acquiescing in any arrangement the
latter might make, unless it was also clearly to their own advantage.
In the decade before Lord Dunmore's war there had been much mutual
wrong-doing between the northwestern Indians and the Virginian
borderers; but on the whole the latter had occupied the position of
being sinned against more often than that of sinning. The chief offence
of the whites was that they trespassed upon uninhabited lands, which
they forthwith proceeded to cultivate, instead of merely roaming over
them to hunt the game and butcher one another. Doubtless occasional
white men would murder an Indian if they got a chance, and the traders
almost invariably cheated the tribesmen. But as a whole the traders were
Indian rather than white in their sympathies, and the whites rarely made
forays against their foes avowedly for horses and plunder, while the
Indians on their side were continually indulging in such inroads. Every
year parties of young red warriors crossed the Ohio to plunder the
outlying farms, burn down the buildings, scalp the inmates, and drive
off the horses. Year by year the exasperation of the borderers grew
greater and the tale of the wrongs they had to avenge longer.
Occasionally they took a brutal and ill-judged vengeance, which usually
fell on innocent Indians, and raised up new foes for the whites. The
savages grew continually more hostile, and in the fall of 1773 their
attacks became so frequent that it was evident a general outbreak was at
hand; eleven people were murdered in the county of Fincastle alone.
The Shawnees were the leaders in all these outrages; but the outlaw
bands, such as the Mingos and Cherokees, were as bad, and parties of
Wyandots and Delawares, as well as of the various Miami and Wabash
tribes, joined them.
Thus the spring of 1774 opened with every thing ripe for an explosion.
The Virginian borderers were fearfully exasperated, and ready to take
vengeance upon any Indians, whether peaceful or hostile; while the
Shawnees and Mingos, on their side, were arrogant and overbearing, and
yet alarmed at the continual advance of the whites. The headstrong
rashness of Conolly, who was acting as Lord Dunmore's lieutenant on the
border, and who was equally willing to plunge into a war with
Pennsylvania or the Shawnees, served as a firebrand to ignite this mass
of tinder. The borderers were anxious for a war; and Lord Dunmore was
not inclined to baulk them. He was ambitious of glory, and probably
thought that in the midst of the growing difficulties between the mother
country and the colonies, it would be good policy to distract the
Virginians' minds by an Indian war, which, if he conducted it to a
successful conclusion, might strengthen his own position.
There were on the border at the moment three or four men whose names are
so intimately bound up with the history of this war, that they deserve a
brief mention. One was Michael Cresap, a Maryland frontiersman, who had
come to the banks of the Ohio with the purpose of making a home for his
family. He was of the regular pioneer type; a good woodsman, sturdy
and brave, a fearless fighter, devoted to his friends and his country;
but also, when his blood was heated, and his savage instincts fairly
roused, inclined to regard any red man, whether hostile or friendly, as
a being who should be slain on sight. Nor did he condemn the brutal
deeds done by others on innocent Indians.
The next was a man named Greathouse, of whom it is enough to know that,
together with certain other men whose names have for the most part, by a
merciful chance, been forgotten, he did a deed such as could only be
committed by inhuman and cowardly scoundrels.
The other two actors in this tragedy were both Indians, and were both
men of much higher stamp. One was Cornstalk, the Shawnee chief; a
far-sighted seer, gloomily conscious of the impending ruin of his race,
a great orator, a mighty warrior, a man who knew the value of his word
and prized his honor, and who fronted death with quiet, disdainful
heroism; and yet a fierce, cruel, and treacherous savage to those with
whom he was at enmity, a killer of women and children, whom we first
hear of, in Pontiac's war, as joining in the massacre of unarmed and
peaceful settlers who had done him no wrong, and who thought that he was
friendly. The other was Logan, an Iroquois warrior, who lived at
that time away from the bulk of his people, but who was a man of
note--in the loose phraseology of the border, a chief or headman--among
the outlying parties of Senecas and Mingos, and the fragments of broken
tribes that dwelt along the upper Ohio. He was a man of splendid
appearance; over six feet high, straight as a spear-shaft, with a
countenance as open as it was brave and manly, until the wrongs he
endured stamped on it an expression of gloomy ferocity. He had always
been the friend of the white man, and had been noted particularly for
his kindness and gentleness to children. Up to this time he had lived at
peace with the borderers, for though some of his kin had been massacred
by them years before, he had forgiven the deed--perhaps not unmindful of
the fact that others of his kin had been concerned in still more bloody
massacres of the whites. A skilled marksman and mighty hunter, of
commanding dignity, who treated all men with a grave courtesy that
exacted the same treatment in return, he was greatly liked and respected
by all the white hunters and frontiersmen whose friendship and respect
were worth having; they admired him for his dexterity and prowess, and
they loved him for his straightforward honesty, and his noble loyalty to
his friends. One of these old pioneer hunters has left on record the
statement that he deemed "Logan the best specimen of humanity he ever
met with, either white or red." Such was Logan before the evil days came
Early in the spring the outlying settlers began again to suffer from the
deeds of straggling Indians. Horses were stolen, one or two murders were
committed, the inhabitants of the more lonely cabins fled to the forts,
and the backwoodsmen began to threaten fierce vengeance. On April 16th,
three traders in the employ of a man named Butler were attacked by some
of the outlaw Cherokees, one killed, another wounded, and their goods
plundered. Immediately after this Conolly issued an open letter,
commanding the backwoodsmen to hold themselves in readiness to repel any
attack by the Indians, as the Shawnees were hostile. Such a letter from
Lord Dunmore's lieutenant amounted to a declaration of war, and there
were sure to be plenty of backwoodsmen who would put a very liberal
interpretation upon the order given them to repel an attack. Its effects
were seen instantly. All the borderers prepared for war. Cresap was near
Wheeling at the time, with a band of hunters and scouts, fearless men,
who had adopted many of the ways of the redskins, in addition to their
method of fighting. As soon as they received Conolly's letter they
proceeded to declare war in the regular Indian style, calling a council,
planting the war-post, and going through other savage ceremonies,
and eagerly waited for a chance to attack their foes.
Unfortunately the first stroke fell on friendly Indians. The trader,
Butler, spoken of above, in order to recover some of the peltries of
which he had been robbed by the Cherokees, had sent a canoe with two
friendly Shawnees towards the place of the massacre. On the 27th Cresap
and his followers ambushed these men near Captina, and killed and
scalped them. Some of the better backwoodsmen strongly protested against
this outrage; but the mass of them were excited and angered by the
rumor of Indian hostilities, and the brutal and disorderly side of
frontier character was for the moment uppermost. They threatened to kill
whoever interfered with them, cursing the "damned traders" as being
worse than the Indians, while Cresap boasted of the murder, and
never said a word in condemnation of the still worse deeds that followed
it. The next day he again led out his men and attacked another party
of Shawnees, who had been trading near Pittsburg, killed one and wounded
two others, one of the whites being also hurt.
Among the men who were with Cresap at this time was a young Virginian,
who afterwards played a brilliant part in the history of the west, who
was for ten years the leader of the bold spirits of Kentucky, and who
rendered the whole United States signal and effective service by one of
his deeds in the Revolutionary war. This was George Rogers Clark, then
twenty-one years old. He was of good family, and had been fairly
well educated, as education went in colonial days; but from his
childhood he had been passionately fond of the wild roving life of the
woods. He was a great hunter; and, like so many other young colonial
gentlemen of good birth and bringing up, and adventurous temper, he
followed the hazardous profession of a backwoods surveyor. With chain
and compass, as well as axe and rifle, he penetrated the far places of
the wilderness, the lonely, dangerous regions where every weak man
inevitably succumbed to the manifold perils encountered, but where the
strong and far-seeing were able to lay the foundations of fame and
fortune. He possessed high daring, unflinching courage, passions which
he could not control, and a frame fitted to stand any strain of fatigue
or hardship. He was a square-built, thick-set man, with high broad
forehead, sandy hair, and unquailing blue eyes that looked out from
under heavy, shaggy brows.
Clark had taken part with Cresap in his assault upon the second party of
Shawnees. On the following day the whole band of whites prepared to
march off and attack Logan's camp at Yellow Creek, some fifty miles
distant. After going some miles they began to feel ashamed of their
mission; calling a halt, they discussed the fact that the camp they were
preparing to attack, consisted exclusively of friendly Indians, and
mainly of women and children; and forthwith abandoned their proposed
trip and returned home. They were true borderers--brave, self-reliant,
loyal to their friends, and good-hearted when their worst instincts were
not suddenly aroused; but the sight of bloodshed maddened them as if
they had been so many wolves. Wrongs stirred to the depths their moody
tempers, and filled them with a brutal longing for indiscriminate
revenge. When goaded by memories of evil, or when swayed by swift,
fitful gusts of fury, the uncontrolled violence of their passions led
them to commit deeds whose inhuman barbarity almost equalled, though it
could never surpass, that shown by the Indians themselves.
But Logan's people did not profit by Cresap's change of heart. On the
last day of April a small party of men, women, and children, including
almost all of Logan's kin, left his camp and crossed the river to visit
Greathouse, as had been their custom; for he made a trade of selling rum
to the savages, though Cresap had notified him to stop. The whole party
were plied with liquor, and became helplessly drunk, in which condition
Greathouse and his associated criminals fell on and massacred them, nine
souls in all. It was an inhuman and revolting deed, which should
consign the names of the perpetrators to eternal infamy.
At once the frontier was in a blaze, and the Indians girded themselves
for revenge. The Mingos sent out runners to the other tribes, telling of
the butchery, and calling on all the red men to join together for
immediate and bloody vengeance. They confused the two massacres,
attributing both to Cresap, whom they well knew as a warrior; and
their women for long afterwards scared the children into silence by
threatening them with Cresap's name as with that of a monster. They
had indeed been brutally wronged; yet it must be remembered that they
themselves were the first aggressors. They had causelessly murdered and
robbed many whites, and now their sins had recoiled on the heads of the
innocent of their own race. The conflict could not in any event have
been delayed long; the frontiersmen were too deeply and too justly
irritated. These particular massacres, however discreditable to those
taking part in them, were the occasions, not the causes, of the war; and
though they cast a dark shade on the conduct of the whites, they do not
relieve the red men from the charge of having committed earlier, more
cruel, and quite as wanton outrages.
Conolly, an irritable but irresolute man, was appalled by the storm he
had helped raise. He meanly disclaimed all responsibility for Cresap's
action, and deposed him from his command of rangers; to which,
however, he was soon restored by Lord Dunmore. Both the earl and his
lieutenant, however, united in censuring severely Greathouse's deed.
Conolly, throughout May, held a series of councils with the Delawares
and Iroquois, in which he disclaimed and regretted the outrages, and
sought for peace. To one of these councils the Delaware chief,
Killbuck, with other warriors, sent a "talk" or "speech in writing"
disavowing the deeds of one of their own parties of young braves, who
had gone on the warpath; and another Delaware chief made a very sensible
speech, saying that it was unfortunately inevitable that bad men on both
sides should commit wrongs, and that the cooler heads should not be led
away by acts due to the rashness and folly of a few. But the Shawnees
showed no such spirit. On the contrary they declared for war outright,
and sent a bold defiance to the Virginians, at the same time telling
Conolly plainly that he lied. Their message is noteworthy, because,
after expressing a firm belief that the Virginian leader could control
his warriors, and stop the outrages if he wished, it added that the
Shawnee head men were able to do the like with their own men when they
required it. This last allegation took away all shadow of excuse from
the Shawnees for not having stopped the excesses of which their young
braves had been guilty during the past few years.
Though Conolly showed signs of flinching, his master the earl had
evidently no thought of shrinking from the contest. He at once began
actively to prepare to attack his foes, and the Virginians backed him up
heartily, though the Royal Government, instead of supporting him,
censured him in strong terms, and accused the whites of being the real
aggressors and the authors of the war.
In any event, it would have been out of the question to avoid a contest
at so late a date. Immediately after the murders in the end of April,
the savages crossed the frontier in small bands. Soon all the back
country was involved in the unspeakable horrors of a bloody Indian war,
with its usual accompaniments of burning houses, tortured prisoners, and
ruined families, the men being killed and the women and children driven
off to a horrible captivity. The Indians declared that they were not
at war with Pennsylvania, and the latter in return adopted an
attitude of neutrality, openly disclaiming any share in the wrong that
had been done, and assuring the Indians that it rested solely on the
shoulders of the Virginians. Indeed the Shawnees protected the
Pennsylvania traders from some hostile Mingos, while the Pennsylvania
militia shielded a party of Shawnees from some of Conolly's men; and
the Virginians, irritated by what they considered an abandonment of the
white cause, were bent on destroying the Pennsylvania fur trade with the
Indians. Nevertheless, some of the bands of young braves who were
out on the war-path failed to discriminate between white friends and
foes, and a number of Pennsylvanians fell victims to their desire for
scalps and their ignorance or indifference as to whom they were at war
The panic along the Pennsylvania frontier was terrible; the out settlers
fled back to the interior across the mountains, or gathered in numbers
to defend themselves. On the Virginian frontier, where the real
attack was delivered, the panic was more justifiable; for terrible
ravages were committed, and the inhabitants were forced to gather
together in their forted villages, and could no longer cultivate their
farms, except by stealth. Instead of being cowed, however, the
backwoodsmen clamored to be led against their foes, and made most urgent
appeals for powder and lead, of which there was a great scarcity.
The confusion was heightened by the anarchy in which the government of
the northwestern district had been thrown in consequence of the quarrel
concerning the jurisdiction. The inhabitants were doubtful as to which
colony really had a right to their allegiance, and many of the frontier
officials were known to be double-faced, professing allegiance to both
governments. When the Pennsylvanians raised a corps of a hundred
rangers there almost ensued a civil war among the whites, for the
Virginians were fearful that the movement was really aimed against
them. Of course the march of events gradually forced most, even of
the neutral Indians, to join their brethren who had gone on the
war-path, and as an example of the utter confusion that reigned, the
very Indians that were at war with one British colony, Virginia, were
still drawing supplies from the British post of Detroit.
Logan's rage had been terrible. He had changed and not for the better,
as he grew older, becoming a sombre, moody man; worse than all, he had
succumbed to the fire-water, the curse of his race. The horrible
treachery and brutality of the assault wherein his kinsfolk were slain
made him mad for revenge; every wolfish instinct in him came to the
surface. He wreaked a terrible vengeance for his wrongs; but in true
Indian fashion it fell, not on those who had caused them, but on others
who were entirely innocent. Indeed he did not know who had caused them.
The massacres at Captina and Yellow Creek occurred so near together that
they were confounded with each other; and not only the Indians but many
whites as well credited Cresap and Greathouse with being jointly
responsible for both, and as Cresap was the most prominent, he was the
one especially singled out for hatred.
Logan instantly fell on the settlement with a small band of Mingo
warriors. On his first foray he took thirteen scalps, among them those
of six children. A party of Virginians, under a man named McClure,
followed him: but he ambushed and defeated them, slaying their
leader. He repeated these forays at least three times. Yet, in spite
of his fierce craving for revenge, he still showed many of the traits
that had made him beloved of his white friends. Having taken a prisoner,
he refused to allow him to be tortured, and saved his life at the risk
of his own. A few days afterwards he suddenly appeared to this prisoner
with some gunpowder ink, and dictated to him a note. On his next
expedition this note, tied to a war-club, was left in the house of a
settler, whose entire family was murdered. It was a short document,
written with ferocious directness, as a kind of public challenge or
taunt to the man whom he wrongly deemed to be the author of his
misfortunes. It ran as follows:
"What did you kill my people on Yellow Creek for? The white people
killed my kin at Conestoga, a great while ago, and I thought nothing of
that. But you killed my kin again on Yellow Creek, and took my cousin
prisoner. Then I thought I must kill too; and I have been three times to
war since; but the Indians are not angry, only myself.
"July 21, 1774. CAPTAIN JOHN LOGAN."
There is a certain deliberate and blood-thirsty earnestness about this
letter which must have shown the whites clearly, if they still needed to
be shown, what bitter cause they had to rue the wrongs that had been
done to Logan.
The Shawnees and Mingos were soon joined by many of the Delawares and
outlying Iroquois, especially Senecas; as well as by the Wyandots and by
large bands of ardent young warriors from among the Algonquin tribes
along the Miami, the Wabash, and the Lakes. Their inroads on the
settlements were characterized, as usual, by extreme stealth and
merciless ferocity. They stole out of the woods with the silent cunning
of wild beasts, and ravaged with a cruelty ten times greater. They
burned down the lonely log-huts, ambushed travellers, shot the men as
they hunted or tilled the soil, ripped open the women with child, and
burned many of their captives at the stake. Their noiseless approach
enabled them to fall on the settlers before their presence was
suspected; and they disappeared as suddenly as they had come, leaving no
trail that could be followed. The charred huts and scalped and mangled
bodies of their victims were left as ghastly reminders of their visit,
the sight stirring the backwoodsmen to a frenzy of rage all the more
terrible in the end, because it was impotent for the time being.
Generally they made their escape successfully; occasionally they were
beaten off or overtaken and killed or scattered.
When they met armed woodsmen the fight was always desperate. In May, a
party of hunters and surveyors, being suddenly attacked in the forest,
beat off their assailants and took eight scalps, though with a loss of
nine of their own number. Moreover, the settlers began to band
together to make retaliatory inroads; and while Lord Dunmore was busily
preparing to strike a really effective blow, he directed the
frontiersmen of the northwest to undertake a foray, so as to keep the
Indians employed. Accordingly, they gathered together, four hundred
strong, crossed the Ohio, in the end of July, and marched against a
Shawnee town on the Muskingum. They had a brisk skirmish with the
Shawnees, drove them back, and took five scalps, losing two men killed
and five wounded. Then the Shawnees tried to ambush them, but their
ambush was discovered, and they promptly fled, after a slight skirmish,
in which no one was killed but one Indian, whom Cresap, a very active
and vigorous man, ran down and slew with his tomahawk. The Shawnee
village was burned, seventy acres of standing corn were cut down, and
the settlers returned in triumph. On the march back they passed through
the towns of the peaceful Moravian Delawares, to whom they did no harm.
1. "American Archives," 4th series, Vol. I., p. 454. Report of Penn.
Commissioners, June 27, 1774.
2. Maryland was also involved, along her western frontier, in border
difficulties with her neighbors; the first we hear of the Cresap family
is their having engaged in a real skirmish with the Pennsylvanian
authorities. See also "Am. Arch.," IV., Vol. I., 547.
3. "Am. Arch.," IV., Vol. I., 394, 449, 469, etc. He was generally
called Dr. Conolly.
4. See _do_., 463, 471, etc., especially St. Clair's letters,
5. In most of the original treaties, "talks," etc., preserved in the
Archives of the State Department, where the translation is exact, the
word "Big Knife" is used.
6. Letter of John Penn, June 28, 1774. "Am. Arch.," IV., Vol. IV.
7. "Am. Archives," _do_., 465.
8. _Do_., 722.
9. _Do_., 872.
10. "Am. Arch.," IV., Vol. I., p. 1015.
11. McAfee MSS. This is the point especially insisted on by Cornstalk in
his speech to the adventurers in 1773; he would fight before seeing the
whites drive off the game.
12. In the McAfee MSS., as already quoted, there is an account of the
Shawnee war party, whom the McAfees encountered in 1773 returning from a
successful horse-stealing expedition.
13. "Am. Archives," IV., Vol. I., 872. Dunmore in his speech enumerates
19 men, women, and children who had been killed by the Indians in 1771,
'72, and '73, and these were but a small fraction of the whole. "This
was before a drop of Shawnee blood was shed."
14. "Trans-Alleghany Pioneers," p. 262, gives an example that happened
15. "Am. Archives," IV., Vol. I. Letter of Col. Wm. Preston, Aug. 13,
16. Many local historians, including Brantz Mayer (Logan and Cresap, p.
85), ascribe to the earl treacherous motives. Brantz Mayer puts it thus:
"It was probably Lord Dunmore's desire to incite a war which would
arouse and band the savages of the west, so that in the anticipated
struggle with the united colonies the British home-interest might
ultimately avail itself of these children of the forest as ferocious and
formidable allies in the onslaught on the Americans." This is much too
futile a theory to need serious discussion. The war was of the greatest
advantage to the American cause; for it kept the northwestern Indians
off our hands for the first two years of the Revolutionary struggle; and
had Lord Dunmore been the far-seeing and malignant being that this
theory supposes, it would have been impossible for him not also to
foresee that such a result was absolutely inevitable. There is no reason
whatever to suppose that he was not doing his best for the Virginians;
he deserved their gratitude; and he got it for the time being. The
accusations of treachery against him were afterthoughts, and must be set
down to mere vulgar rancor, unless, at least, some faint shadow of proof
is advanced. When the Revolutionary war broke out, however, the earl,
undoubtedly, like so many other British officials, advocated the most
outrageous measures to put down the insurgent colonists.
17. See Brantz Mayer, p. 86, for a very proper attack on those
historians who stigmatize as land-jobbers and speculators the perfectly
honest settlers, whose encroachments on the Indian hunting-grounds were
so bitterly resented by the savages. Such attacks are mere pieces of
sentimental injustice. The settlers were perfectly right in feeling that
they had a right to settle on the vast stretches of unoccupied ground,
however wrong some of their individual deeds may have been. But Mayer,
following Jacob's "Life of Cresap," undoubtedly paints his hero in
altogether too bright colors.
18. Sappington, Tomlinson, and Baker were the names of three of his
fellow miscreants. See Jefferson MSS.
19. At Greenbriar. See "Narrative of Captain John Stewart," an actor in
the war.--_Magazine of American History_, Vol. I., p. 671.
20. Loudon's "Indian Narratives," II., p. 223.
21. See "American Pioneer," I., p. 189.
22. Letter of George Rogers Clark, June 17. 1798. In Jefferson MSS., 5th
Series, Vol. I. (preserved in Archives of State Department at
23. Witness the testimony of one of the most gallant Indian fighters of
the border, who was in Wheeling at the time; letter of Col. Ebenezer
Zane, February 4, 1800, in Jefferson MSS.
24. Jefferson MSS. Deposition of John Gibson, April 4, 1800.
25. _Do_. Deposition of Wm. Huston, April 19, 1798; also
depositions of Samuel McKee, etc.
26. "Am. Archives," IV., Vol. I., p. 468. Letter of Devereux Smith June
10, 1774, Gibson's letter, Also Jefferson MSS.
27. _Historical Magazine_, I., p. 168. Born in Albemarle County,
Va., November 19, 1752.
28. Military Journal of Major Ebenezer Denny, with an introductory
memoir by William H. Denny (Publication of the Hist. Soc. of Penn.),
Phil., 1860, p. 216
29. The Cresap apologists, including even Brantz Mayer, dwell on
Cresap's nobleness in not massacring Logan's family! It was certainly to
his credit that he did not do so, but it does not speak very well for
him that he should even have entertained the thought. He was doubtless,
on the whole, a brave, good-hearted man--quite as good as the average
borderer; but nevertheless apt to be drawn into deeds that were the
reverse of creditable. Mayer's book has merit; but he certainly paints
Logan too black and Cresap too white, and (see Appendix) is utterly
wrong as to Logan's speech. He is right in recognizing the fact that in
the war, as a whole, justice was on the side of the frontiersmen.
30. Devereux Smith's letter. Some of the evil-doers afterwards tried to
palliate their misdeeds by stating that Logan's brother, when drunk,
insulted a white man, and that the other Indians were at the time on the
point of executing an attack upon them. The last statement is
self-evidently false; for had such been the case, the Indians would, of
course, never have let some of their women and children put themselves
in the power of the whites, and get helplessly drunk; and, anyhow, the
allegations of such brutal and cowardly murderers are entirely unworthy
of acceptance, unless backed up by outside evidence.
31. Jefferson MSS., 5th Series, Vol. I. Heckewelder's letter.
32. Jefferson MSS. Deposition of Col. James Smith, May 25, 1798.
33. _Do_., Heckewelder's letter.
34. "Am. Archives," IV., Vol. I., p. 475.
35. _Do_., p. 1015.
36. _Do_., p. 475.
37. _Do_., p. 418.
38. _Do_., p. 774. Letter of the Earl of Dartmouth, Sept. 10, 1774.
A sufficient answer, by the way, to the absurd charge that Dunmore
brought on the war in consequence of some mysterious plan of the Home
Government to embroil the Americans with the savages. It is not at all
improbable that the Crown advisers were not particularly displeased at
seeing the attention of the Americans distracted by a war with the
Indians; but this is the utmost that can be alleged.
39. _Do_., p. 808.
40. _Do_., p. 478.
41. _Do_., p. 506.
42. _Do_., p. 474.
43. _Do_., p. 549.
44. _Do_., p. 471.
45. _Do_., pp. 435, 467, 602.
46. _Do_., pp. 405, 707.
47. _Do_., p. 808.
48. _Do_., p. 677.
49. _Do_., pp. 463, 467.
50. _Do_., p. 684.
51. _Do_., p. 435.
52. _Do_., pp. 468, 546.
53. _Do_., p. 470.
54. Jefferson MSS. Dep. of Wm. Robinson, February 28, 1800, and letter
from Harry Innes, March 2, 1799, with a copy of Logan's letter as made
in his note-book at the time.
55. "Am. Archives.," p. 373.
56. Under a certain Angus MacDonald, _do_., p. 722. They crossed
the Ohio at Fish Creek, 120 miles below Pittsburg.
57. "Am. Archives," IV., Vol. I., pp. 682, 684.
THE BATTLE OF THE GREAT KANAWHA; AND LOGAN'S SPEECH, 1774.
Meanwhile Lord Dunmore, having garrisoned the frontier forts, three of
which were put under the orders of Daniel Boon, was making ready a
formidable army with which to overwhelm the hostile Indians. It was to
be raised, and to march, in two wings or divisions, each fifteen hundred
strong, which were to join at the mouth of the Great Kanawha. One wing,
the right or northernmost, was to be commanded by the earl in person;
while the other, composed exclusively of frontiersmen living among the
mountains west and southwest of the Blue Ridge, was entrusted to General
Andrew Lewis. Lewis was a stalwart backwoods soldier, belonging to a
family of famous frontier fighters, but though a sternly just and
fearless man, he does not appear to have had more than average
qualifications to act as a commander of border troops when pitted
The backwoodsmen of the Alleghanies felt that the quarrel was their own;
in their hearts the desire for revenge burned like a sullen flame. The
old men had passed their manhood with nerves tense from the strain of
unending watchfulness, and souls embittered by terrible and repeated
disasters; the young men had been cradled in stockaded forts, round
which there prowled a foe whose comings and goings were unknown, and who
was unseen till the moment when the weight of his hand was felt. They
had been helpless to avenge their wrongs, and now that there was at last
a chance to do so, they thronged eagerly to Lewis' standard. The left
wing or army assembled at the Great Levels of Greenbriar, and thither
came the heroes of long rifle, tomahawk, and hunting-shirt, gathering
from every stockaded hamlet, every lonely clearing and smoky hunter's
camp that lay along the ridges from whose hollows sprang the sources of
the Eastern and the Western Waters. They were not uniformed, save that
they all wore the garb of the frontier hunter; but most of them were
armed with good rifles, and were skilful woodsmen, and though utterly
undisciplined, they were magnificent individual fighters. The
officers were clad and armed almost precisely like the rank and file,
save that some of them had long swords girded to their waist-belts; they
carried rifles, for, where the result of the contest depended mainly on
the personal prowess of the individual fighter, the leader was expected
literally to stand in the forefront of the battle, and to inspirit his
followers by deeds as well as words.
Among these troops was a company of rangers who came from the scattered
wooden forts of the Watauga and the Nolichucky. Both Sevier and
Robertson took part in this war, and though the former saw no fighting,
the latter, who had the rank of sergeant, was more fortunate.
While the backwoods general was mustering his unruly and turbulent host
of skilled riflemen, the English earl led his own levies, some fifteen
hundred strong, to Fort Pitt. Here he changed his plans, and decided
not to try to join the other division, as he had agreed to do. This
sudden abandonment of a scheme already agreed to and acted on by his
colleague was certainly improper, and, indeed, none of the earl's
movements indicated very much military capacity. However, he descended
the Ohio River with a flotilla of a hundred canoes, besides keel-boats
and pirogues, to the mouth of the Hockhocking, where he built and
garrisoned a small stockade. Then he went up the Hockhocking to the
falls, whence he marched to the Scioto, and there entrenched himself in
a fortified camp, with breastworks of fallen trees, on the edge of the
Pickaway plains, not far from the Indian town of Old Chillicothe. Thence
he sent out detachments that destroyed certain of the hostile towns. He
had with him as scouts many men famous in frontier story, among them
George Rogers Clark, Cresap, and Simon Kenton--afterwards the bane of
every neighboring Indian tribe, and renowned all along the border for
his deeds of desperate prowess, his wonderful adventures, and his
hairbreadth escapes. Another, of a very different stamp, was Simon
Girty, of evil fame, whom the whole west grew to loathe, with bitter
hatred, as "the white renegade." He was the son of a vicious Irish
trader, who was killed by the Indians; he was adopted by the latter, and
grew up among them, and his daring ferocity and unscrupulous cunning
early made him one of their leaders. At the moment he was serving
Lord Dunmore and the whites; but he was by tastes, habits, and education
a red man, who felt ill at ease among those of his own color. He soon
returned to the Indians, and dwelt among them ever afterwards, the most
inveterate foe of the whites that was to be found in all the tribes. He
lived to be a very old man, and is said to have died fighting his
ancient foes and kinsmen, the Americans, in our second war against the
But Lord Dunmore's army was not destined to strike the decisive blow in
the contest. The great Shawnee chief, Cornstalk, was as wary and able as
he was brave. He had from the first opposed the war with the whites;
but as he had been unable to prevent it, he was now bent on bringing it
to a successful issue. He was greatly outnumbered; but he had at his
command over a thousand painted and plumed warriors, the pick of the
young men of the western tribes, the most daring braves to be found
between the Ohio and the Great Lakes. His foes were divided, and he
determined to strike first at the one who would least suspect a blow,
but whose ruin, nevertheless, would involve that of the other. If Lewis'
army could be surprised and overwhelmed, the fate of Lord Dunmore's
would be merely a question of days. So without delay, Cornstalk, crafty
in council, mighty in battle, and swift to carry out what he had
planned, led his long files of warriors, with noiseless speed, through
leagues of trackless woodland to the banks of the Ohio.
The backwoodsmen who were to form the army of Lewis had begun to gather
at the Levels of Greenbriar before the 1st of September, and by the 7th
most of them were assembled. Altogether the force under Lewis consisted
of four commands, as follows: a body of Augusta troops, under Col.
Charles Lewis, a brother of the general's; a body of Botetourt
troops, under Col. William Fleming; a small independent company,
under Col. John Field; and finally the Fincastle men, from the Holston,
Clinch, Watauga, and New River settlements, under Col. William
Christian. One of Christian's captains was a stout old Marylander,
of Welsh blood, named Evan Shelby; and Shelby's son Isaac, a
stalwart, stern-visaged young man, who afterwards played a very
prominent part on the border, was a subaltern in his company, in which
Robertson likewise served as a sergeant. Although without experience of
drill, it may be doubted if a braver or physically finer set of men were
ever got together on this continent.
Among such undisciplined troops it was inevitable that there should be
both delay and insubordination. Nevertheless they behaved a good deal
better than their commander had expected; and he was much pleased with
their cheerfulness and their eagerness for action. The Fincastle men,
being from the remote settlements, were unable to get together in time
to start with the others; and Col. Field grew jealous of his commander
and decided to march his little company alone. The Indians were hovering
around the camp, and occasionally shot at and wounded stragglers, or
attempted to drive off the pack-horses.
The army started in three divisions. The bulk, consisting of Augusta
men, under Col. Charles Lewis, marched on September 8th, closely
followed by the Botetourt troops under Andrew Lewis himself.
Field, with his small company, started off on his own account; but after
being out a couple of days, two of his scouts met two Indians, with the
result that a man was killed on each side; after which, profiting by the
loss, he swallowed his pride and made haste to join the first division.
The Fincastle troops were delayed so long that most of them, with their
commander, were still fifteen miles from the main body the day the
battle was fought; but Captains Shelby and Russell, with parts of their
companies, went on ahead of the others, and, as will be seen, joined
Lewis in time to do their full share of the fighting. Col. Christian
himself only reached the Levels on the afternoon of the day the Augusta
men had marched. He was burning with desire to distinguish himself, and
his men were also very eager to have a share in the battle; and he
besought Lewis to let him go along with what troops he had. But he was
refused permission, whereat he was greatly put out.
Lewis found he had more men than he expected, and so left some of the
worst troops to garrison the small forts. Just before starting he
received a letter from the Earl advising, but not commanding, a change
in their plans; to this he refused to accede, and was rather displeased
at the proposal, attributing it to the influence of Conolly, whom the
backwoods leaders were growing to distrust. There is not the slightest
reason to suppose, however, that he then, or at any time during the
campaign, suspected the Earl of treachery; nor did the latter's conduct
give any good ground for such a belief. Nevertheless, this view gained
credit among the Virginians in later years, when they were greatly
angered by the folly and ferocity of Lord Dunmore's conduct during the
early part of the Revolutionary war, and looked at all his past acts
with jaundiced eyes.
Lewis' troops formed a typical backwoods army, both officers and
soldiers. They wore fringed hunting-shirts, dyed yellow, brown, white,
and even red; quaintly carved shot-bags and powder-horns hung from their
broad ornamented belts; they had fur caps or soft hats, moccasins, and
coarse woollen leggings reaching half-way up the thigh. Each carried
his flint-lock, his tomahawk, and scalping-knife. They marched in long
files with scouts or spies thrown out in front and on the flanks, while
axe-men went in advance to clear a trail over which they could drive the
beef cattle, and the pack-horses, laden with provisions, blankets, and
ammunition. They struck out straight through the trackless wilderness,
making their road as they went, until on the 21st of the month they
reached the Kanawha, at the mouth of Elk Creek. Here they halted to
build dug-out canoes; and about this time were overtaken by the
companies of Russell and Shelby. On October 1st they started to
descend the river in twenty-seven canoes, a portion of the army marching
down along the Indian trail, which followed the base of the hills,
instead of the river bank, as it was thus easier to cross the heads of
the creeks and ravines.
They reached the mouth of the river on the 6th, and camped on Point
Pleasant, the cape of land jutting out between the Ohio and the Kanawha.
As a consequence the bloody fight that ensued is sometimes called the
battle of Point Pleasant, and sometimes the battle of the Great Kanawha.
Hitherto the Indians had not seriously molested Lewis' men, though they
killed a settler right on their line of march, and managed to drive off
some of the bullocks and pack-horses.
The troops, though tired from their journey, were in good spirits, and
eager to fight. But they were impatient of control, and were murmuring
angrily that there was favoritism shown in the issue of beef. Hearing
this, Lewis ordered all the poorest beeves to be killed first; but this
merely produced an explosion of discontent, and large numbers of the men
in mutinous defiance of the orders of their officers began to range the
woods, in couples, to kill game. There was little order in the camp,
and small attention was paid to picket and sentinel duty; the army, like
a body of Indian warriors, relying for safety mainly upon the
sharp-sighted watchfulness of the individual members and the activity of
the hunting parties.
On the 9th Simon Girty arrived in camp bringing a message from Lord
Dunmore, which bade Lewis meet him at the Indian towns near the Pickaway
plains. Lewis was by no means pleased at the change, but nevertheless
prepared to break camp and march next morning. He had with him at this
time about eleven hundred men.
His plans, however, were destined to be rudely forestalled, for
Cornstalk, coming rapidly through the forest, had reached the Ohio. That
very night the Indian chief ferried his men across the river on rafts,
six or eight miles above the forks, and by dawn was on the point of
hurling his whole force, of nearly a thousand warriors on the camp
of his slumbering foes.
Before daylight on the 10th small parties of hunters had, as usual, left
Lewis' camp. Two of these men, from Russell's company, after having gone
somewhat over a mile, came upon a large party of Indians; one was
killed, and the survivor ran back at full speed to give the alarm,
telling those in camp that he had seen five acres of ground covered with
Indians as thick as they could stand. Almost immediately afterwards
two men of Shelby's company, one being no less a person than Robertson
himself and the other Valentine, a brother of John Sevier, also stumbled
upon the advancing Indians; being very wary and active men, they both
escaped, and reached camp almost as soon as the other.
Instantly the drums beat to arms, and the backwoodsmen,--lying out
in the open, rolled in their blankets,--started from the ground, looked
to their flints and priming, and were ready on the moment. The general,
thinking he had only a scouting party to deal with, ordered out Col.
Charles Lewis and Col. Fleming, each with one hundred and fifty men.
Fleming had the left, and marched up the bank of the Ohio, while Lewis,
on the right, kept some little distance inland. They went about half a
mile. Then, just before sunrise, while it was still dusk, the men in
camp, eagerly listening, heard the reports of three guns, immediately
succeeded by a clash like a peal of thin thunder, as hundreds of rifles
rang out together. It was evident that the attack was serious and Col.
Field was at once despatched to the front with two hundred men.
He came only just in time. At the first fire both of the scouts in front
of the white line had been killed. The attack fell first, and with
especial fury, on the division of Charles Lewis, who himself was
mortally wounded at the very outset; he had not taken a tree, but
was in an open piece of ground, cheering on his men, when he was shot.
He stayed with them until the line was formed, and then walked back to
camp unassisted, giving his gun to a man who was near him. His men, who
were drawn up on the high ground skirting Crooked Run, began to
waver, but were rallied by Fleming, whose division had been attacked
almost simultaneously, until he too was struck down by a bullet. The
line then gave way, except that some of Fleming's men still held their
own on the left in a patch of rugged ground near the Ohio. At this
moment, however, Colonel Field came up and restored the battle, while
the backwoodsmen who had been left in camp also began to hurry up to
take part in the fight. General Lewis at last, fully awake to the
danger, began to fortify the camp by felling timber so as to form a
breastwork running across the point from the Ohio to the Kanawha. This
work should have been done before; and through attending to it Lewis was
unable to take any personal part in the battle.
Meanwhile the frontiersmen began to push back their foes, led by Col.
Field. The latter himself, however, was soon slain; he was at the time
behind a great tree, and was shot by two Indians on his right, while he
was trying to get a shot at another on his left, who was distracting his
attention by mocking and jeering at him. The command then fell on
Captain Evan Shelby, who turned his company over to the charge of his
son, Isaac. The troops fought on steadily, undaunted by the fall of
their leaders, while the Indians attacked with the utmost skill,
caution, and bravery. The fight was a succession of single combats, each
man sheltering himself behind a stump, or rock, or tree-trunk, the
superiority of the backwoodsmen in the use of the rifle being offset by
the superiority of their foes in the art of hiding and of shielding
themselves from harm. The hostile lines, though about a mile and a
quarter in length, were so close together, being never more than twenty
yards apart, that many of the combatants grappled in hand-to-hand
fighting, and tomahawked or stabbed each other to death. The clatter
of the rifles was incessant, while above the din could be heard the
cries and groans of the wounded, and the shouts of the combatants, as
each encouraged his own side, or jeered savagely at his adversaries. The
cheers of the whites mingled with the appalling war-whoops and yells of
their foes. The Indians also called out to the Americans in broken
English, taunting them, and asking them why their fifes were no longer
whistling--for the fight was far too close to permit of any such music.
Their headmen walked up and down behind their warriors, exhorting them
to go in close, to shoot straight, and to bear themselves well in the
fight; while throughout the action the whites opposite Cornstalk
could hear his deep, sonorous voice as he cheered on his braves, and
bade them "be strong, be strong."
About noon the Indians tried to get round the flank of the whites, into
their camp; but this movement was repulsed, and a party of the
Americans followed up their advantage, and running along the banks
of the Kanawha out-flanked the enemy in turn. The Indians being pushed
very hard now began to fall back, the best fighters covering the
retreat, while the wounded were being carried off; although,--a rare
thing in Indian battles--they were pressed so close that they were able
to bear away but a portion of their dead. The whites were forced to
pursue with the greatest caution; for those of them who advanced
heedlessly were certain to be ambushed and receive a smart check.
Finally, about one o'clock, the Indians, in their retreat, reached a
very strong position, where the underbrush was very close and there were
many fallen logs and steep banks. Here they stood resolutely at bay, and
the whites did not dare attack them in such a stronghold. So the action
came almost to an end; though skirmishing went on until about an hour
before sunset, the Indians still at times taunting their foes and
calling out to them that they had eleven hundred men as well as the
whites, and that to-morrow they were going to be two thousand strong
This was only bravado, however; they had suffered too heavily to renew
the attack, and under cover of darkness they slipped away, and made a
most skilful retreat, carrying all their wounded in safety across the
Ohio. The exhausted Americans, having taken a number of scalps, as well
as forty guns, and many tomahawks and some other plunder,
returned to their camp.
The battle had been bloody as well as stubborn. The whites, though the
victors, had suffered more than their foes, and indeed had won only
because it was against the entire policy of Indian warfare to suffer a
severe loss, even if a victory could be gained thereby. Of the whites,
some seventy-five men had been killed or mortally wounded, and one
hundred and forty severely or slightly wounded, so that they lost a
fifth of their whole number. The Indians had not lost much more than
half as many; about forty warriors were killed outright or died of their
wounds. Among the Indians no chief of importance was slain; whereas
the Americans had seventeen officers killed or wounded, and lost in
succession their second, third, and fourth in command. The victors
buried their own dead and left the bodies of the vanquished to the
wolves and ravens. At midnight, after the battle, Col. Christian and his
Fincastle men reached the ground. The battle of the Great Kanawha was a
purely American victory, for it was fought solely by the backwoodsmen
themselves. Their immense superiority over regular troops in such
contests can be readily seen when their triumph on this occasion is
compared with the defeats previously suffered by Braddock's grenadiers
and Grant's highlanders, at the hands of the same foes. It was purely a
soldiers' battle, won by hard individual fighting; there was no display
of generalship, except on Cornstalk's part. It was the most closely
contested of any battle ever fought with the northwestern Indians; and
it was the only victory gained over a large body of them by a force but
slightly superior in numbers. Both because of the character of the
fight itself, and because of the results that flowed from it, it is
worthy of being held in especial remembrance.
Lewis left his sick and wounded in the camp at the Point, protected by a
rude breastwork, and with an adequate guard. With the remainder of his
forces, over a thousand strong, he crossed the Ohio, and pushed on to
the Pickaway plains. When but a few miles from the earl's encampment he
was met by a messenger informing him that a treaty of peace was being
negotiated with the Indians. The backwoodsmen, flushed with success,
and angry at their losses, were eager for more bloodshed; and it was
only with difficulty that they were restrained, and were finally induced
to march homewards, the earl riding down to them and giving his orders
in person. They grumbled angrily against the earl for sending them back,
and in later days accused him of treachery for having done so; but his
course was undoubtedly proper, for it would have been very difficult to
conclude peace in the presence of such fierce and unruly auxiliaries.
The spirit of the Indians had been broken by their defeat. Their stern
old chief, Cornstalk, alone remained with unshaken heart, resolute to
bid defiance to his foes and to fight the war out to the bitter end. But
when the council of the headmen and war-chiefs was called it became
evident that his tribesmen would not fight, and even his burning
eloquence could not goad the warriors into again trying the hazard of
battle. They listened unmoved and in sullen silence to the thrilling and
impassioned words with which he urged them to once more march against
the Long Knives, and if necessary to kill their women and children, and
then themselves die fighting to the last man. At last, when he saw he
could not stir the hearts of his hearers he struck his tomahawk into the
warpost and announced that he himself would go and make peace. At that
the warriors broke silence, and all grunted out approvingly, ough! ough!
ough! and then they instantly sent runners to the earl's army to demand
Accordingly, with all his fellow-chiefs, he went to Lord Dunmore's camp,
and there entered into a treaty. The crestfallen Indians assented to all
the terms the conquerors proposed. They agreed to give up all the white
prisoners and stolen horses in their possession, and to surrender all
claim to the lands south of the Ohio, and they gave hostages as an
earnest of their good-faith. But their chief spokesman, Cornstalk,
while obliged to assent to these conditions, yet preserved through all
the proceedings a bearing of proud defiance that showed how little the
fear of personal consequences influenced his own actions. At the talks
he addressed the white leader with vehement denunciation and reproach,
in a tone that seemed rather that of a conqueror than of one of the
conquered. Indeed, he himself was not conquered; he felt that his
tribesmen were craven, but he knew that his own soul feared nothing. The
Virginians, who, like their Indian antagonists, prized skill in oratory
only less than skill in warfare, were greatly impressed by the
chieftain's eloquence, by his command of words, his clear, distinct
voice, his peculiar emphasis, and his singularly grand and majestic, and
yet graceful, bearing; they afterwards said that his oratory fully
equalled that of Patrick Henry himself.
Every prominent chief but one came to the council. The exception was
Logan, who remained apart in the Mingo village, brooding over his
wrongs, and the vengeance he had taken. His fellows, when questioned
about his absence, answered that he was like a mad dog, whose bristles
were still up, but that they were gradually falling; and when he was
entreated to be present at the meeting he responded that he was a
warrior, not a councillor, and would not come. The Mingos, because they
failed to appear at the treaty, had their camp destroyed and were forced
to give hostages, as the Delawares and Shawnees had done, and Logan
himself finally sullenly acquiesced in, or at least ceased openly to
oppose, the peace.
But he would not come in person to Lord Dunmore; so the earl was obliged
to communicate with him through a messenger, a frontier veteran
named John Gibson, who had long lived among the Indians and knew
thoroughly both their speech and their manners. To this messenger
Logan was willing to talk. Taking him aside, he suddenly addressed him
in a speech that will always retain its place as perhaps the finest
outburst of savage eloquence of which we have any authentic record. The
messenger took it down in writing, translating it literally, and,
returning to camp, gave it to Lord Dunmore. The earl then read it, in
open council, to the whole backwoods army, including Cresap, Clark, and
the other scouts. The speech, when read, proved to be no message of
peace, nor an acknowledgment of defeat, but instead, a strangely
pathetic recital of his wrongs, and a fierce and exulting justification
of the vengeance he had taken. It ran as follows:
"I appeal to any white man to say if ever he entered Logan's cabin
hungry and he gave him not meat; if ever he came cold and naked and he
clothed him not? During the course of the last long and bloody war,
Logan remained idle in his camp, an advocate for peace. Such was my love
for the whites that my countrymen pointed as I passed and said, 'Logan
is the friend of the white man.' I had even thought to have lived with
you, but for the injuries of one man. Colonel Cresap, the last spring,
in cold blood and unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan, not
even sparing my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in
the veins of any living creature. This called on me for revenge. I have
sought it. I have killed many. I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my
country I rejoice at the beams of peace; but do not harbor a thought
that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on
his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one."
The tall frontiersmen, lounging in a circle round about, listened to the
reading of the speech with eager interest; rough Indian haters though
they were, they were so much impressed by it that in the evening it was
a common topic of conversation over their camp fires, and they
continually attempted to rehearse it to one another. But they knew
that Greathouse, not Cresap, had been the chief offender in the murder
of Logan's family; and when the speech was read, Clark, turning round,
jeered at and rallied Cresap as being so great a man that the Indians
put every thing on his shoulders; whereat, Cresap, much angered, swore
that he had a good mind to tomahawk Greathouse for the murder.
The speech could not have been very satisfactory to the earl; but at
least it made it evident that Logan did not intend to remain on the
war-path; and so Lord Dunmore marched home with his hostages. On the
homeward march, near the mouth of the River Hockhocking, the officers of
the army held a notable meeting. They had followed the British earl to
battle; but they were Americans, in warm sympathy with the Continental
Congress, which was then in session. Fearful lest their countrymen might
not know that they were at one with them in the struggle of which the
shadow was looming up with ever increasing blackness, they passed
resolutions which were afterwards published. Their speakers told how
they had lived in the woods for three months, without hearing from the
Congress at Philadelphia, nor yet from Boston, where the disturbances
seemed most likely to come to a head. They spoke of their fear lest
their countrymen might be misled into the belief that this numerous body
of armed men was hostile or indifferent to the cause of America; and
proudly alluded to the fact that they had lived so long without bread or
salt, or shelter at night, and that the troops they led could march and
fight as well as any in the world. In their resolutions they professed
their devotion to their king, to the honor of his crown, and to the
dignity of the British empire; but they added that this devotion would
only last while the king deigned to rule over a free people, for their
love for the liberty of America outweighed all other considerations, and
they would exert every power for its defence, not riotously, but when
regularly called forth by the voice of their countrymen.
They ended by tendering their thanks to Lord Dunmore for his conduct. He
was also warmly thanked by the Virginia Legislature, as well as by the
frontiersmen of Fincastle, and he fully deserved their gratitude.
The war had been ended in less than six months' time; and its results
were of the utmost importance. It had been very successful. In
Braddock's war, the borderers are estimated to have suffered a loss of
fifty souls for every Indian slain; in Pontiac's war, they had learned
to defend themselves better, and yet the ratio was probably as ten to
one; whereas in this war, if we consider only males of fighting age,
it is probable that a good deal more than half as many Indians as whites
were killed, and even including women and children, the ratio would not
rise to more than three to one. Certainly, in all the contests waged
against the northwestern Indians during the last half of the eighteenth
century there was no other where the whites inflicted so great a
relative loss on their foes. Its results were most important. It kept
the northwestern tribes quiet for the first two years of the
Revolutionary struggle; and above all it rendered possible the
settlement of Kentucky, and therefore the winning of the West. Had it
not been for Lord Dunmore's war, it is more than likely that when the
colonies achieved their freedom they would have found their western
boundary fixed at the Alleghany Mountains.
Nor must we permit our sympathy for the foul wrongs of the two great
Indian heroes of the contest to blind us to the fact that the struggle
was precipitated, in the first place, by the outrages of the red men,
not the whites; and that the war was not only inevitable, but was also
in its essence just and righteous on the part of the borderers. Even the
unpardonable and hideous atrocity of the murder of Logan's family, was
surpassed in horror by many of the massacres committed by the Indians
about the same time. The annals of the border are dark and terrible.
Among the characters who played the leaders' parts in this short and
tragic drama of the backwoods few came to much afterwards. Cresap died a
brave Revolutionary soldier. Of Greathouse we know nothing; we can only
hope that eventually the Indians scalped him. Conolly became a virulent
tory, who yet lacked the power to do the evil that he wished. Lewis
served creditably in the Revolution; while at its outbreak Lord Dunmore
was driven from Virginia and disappears from our ken. Proud, gloomy
Logan never recovered from the blow that had been dealt him; he drank
deeper and deeper, and became more and more an implacable, moody, and
bloodthirsty savage, yet with noble qualities that came to the surface
now and then. Again and again he wrought havoc among the frontier
settlers; yet we several times hear of his saving the lives of
prisoners. Once he saved Simon Kenton from torture and death, when
Girty, moved by a rare spark of compassion for his former comrade, had
already tried to do so and failed. At last he perished in a drunken
brawl by the hand of another Indian.
Cornstalk died a grand death, but by an act of cowardly treachery on the
part of his American foes; it is one of the darkest stains on the
checkered pages of frontier history. Early in 1777 he came into the
garrison at Point Pleasant to explain that, while he was anxious to keep
at peace, his tribe were bent on going to war; and he frankly added that
of course if they did so he should have to join them. He and three other
Indians, among them his son and the chief Redhawk, who had also been at
the Kanawha battle, were detained as hostages. While they were thus
confined in the fort a member of a company of rangers was killed by the
Indians near by; whereupon his comrades, headed by their captain,
rushed in furious anger into the fort to slay the hostages. Cornstalk
heard them rushing in, and knew that his hour had come; with unmoved
countenance he exhorted his son not to fear, for it was the will of the
Great Spirit that they should die there together; then, as the murderers
burst into the room, he quietly rose up to meet them, and fell dead
pierced by seven or eight bullets. His son and his comrades were
likewise butchered, and we have no record of any more infamous deed.
Though among the whites, the men who took prominent parts in the
struggle never afterwards made any mark, yet it is worth noting that all
the aftertime leaders of the west were engaged in some way in Lord
Dunmore's war. Their fates were various. Boon led the vanguard of the
white advance across the mountains, wandered his life long through the
wilderness, and ended his days, in extreme old age, beyond the
Mississippi, a backwoods hunter to the last. Shelby won laurels at
King's Mountain, became the first governor of Kentucky, and when an old
man revived the memories of his youth by again leading the western men
in battle against the British and Indians. Sevier and Robertson were for
a generation the honored chiefs of the southwestern people. Clark, the
ablest of all, led a short but brilliant career, during which he made
the whole nation his debtor. Then, like Logan, he sank under the curse
of drunkenness,--often hardly less dangerous to the white borderer than
to his red enemy,--and passed the remainder of his days in ignoble and
1. Stewart's Narrative.
2. "Am. Archiv." Col. Wm. Preston's letter, Sept. 28, 1774.
3. _Do_., p. 872.
4. Doddridge, 235.
5. See _Mag. of Am. Hist._, XV., 256.
6. De Haas, p. 161. He is a very fair and trustworthy writer; in
particular, as regards Logan's speech and Cresap's conduct. It is to be
regretted that Brantz Mayer, in dealing with these latter subjects,
could not have approached them with the same desire to be absolutely
impartial, instead of appearing to act solely as an advocate.
7. His eight captains were George Matthews, Alexander McClannahan, John
Dickinson, John Lewis (son of William), Benjamin Harrison, William Paul,
Joseph Haynes, and Samuel Wilson. Hale, "Trans-Alleghany Pioneers," p.
8. His seven captains were Matthew Arbuckle, John Murray, John Lewis
(son of Andrew), James Robertson, Robert McClannahan, James Ward, and
John Stewart (author of the Narrative).
9. As the Kanawha was sometimes called.
10. Whose five captains were Evan Shelby, Russell, Herbert, Draper, and
11. Born December 11, 1750, near Hagerstown, Md.
12. Letter of Col. Wm. Preston, September 28, 1774. "Am. Archives."
13. Letter of one of Lord Dunmore's officers, November 21, 1774. "Am.
Archives," IV., Vol. I., p. 1017. Hale gives a minute account of the
route followed; Stewart says they started on the 11th.
With the journal of Floyd's expedition, mentioned on a previous page, I
received MS. copies of two letters to Col. William Preston, both dated
at Camp Union, at the Great Levels; one, of September 8th from Col.
Andrew Lewis, and one of September 7th (9th?) from Col. William
Col. Lewis' letter runs in part: "From Augusta we have 600; of this
county [Botetourt] about 400; Major Field is joined with 40.... I have
had less Trouble with the Troops than I expected.... I received a letter
from his Lordship last Sunday morning which was dated the 30th of August
at Old Towns, which I take to be Chresops, he then I am told had Col.
Stephens and Major Conolly at his Elbow as might easily be discovered by
the Contents of his Letter which expressed his Lordship's warmest wishes
that I would with all the troops from this Quarter join him at the mouth
of the little Kanaway, I wrote his Lordship that it was not in my power
to alter our rout.... The Indians wounded a man within two miles of
us ... and wounded another, from this we may expect they will be picking
about us all the March." He states that he has more men than he
expected, and will therefore need more provisions, and that he will
leave some of his poorest troops to garrison the small fort.
Col. Christian's letter states that the Augusta men took with them 400
pack-horses, carrying 54,000 pounds of flour, and 108 beeves, they
started "yesterday." Field marched "this evening", Fleming and his 450
Botetourt men, with 200 pack-horses, "are going next Monday." Field had
brought word that Dunmore expected to be at the mouth of the Great
Kanawha "some days after the 20th." Some Indians had tried to steal a
number of pack-horses, but had been discovered and frightened off.
Christian was very much discontented at being bidden to stay behind
until he could gather 300 men, and bring up the rear, he expresses his
fear that his men will be much exasperated when they learn that they are
to stay behind, and reiterates "I would not for all I am worth be behind
crossing the Ohio and that we should miss lending our assistance." Field
brought an account of McDonald's fight (see _ante_, p. 216), he
said the whites were 400 and the Indians but 30 strong, that the former
had 4 men killed and 6 wounded, the Indians but 3 or 4 killed and 1
captured, and their town was burnt. The number of the Shawnees and their
allies was estimated at 1,200 warriors that could be put into one
battle. The 400 horses that had started with the Augusta men were to
return as fast as they could (after reaching the embarkment point,
whence the flour was carried in canoes).
14. When the Revolutionary war broke out the Earl not only fought the
revolted colonists with all legitimate weapons, but tried to incite the
blacks to servile insurrection, and sent agents to bring his old foes,
the red men of the forest, down on his old friends, the settlers. He
encouraged piratical and plundering raids, and on the other hand failed
to show the courage and daring that are sometimes partial offsets to
ferocity. But in this war, in 1774, he conducted himself with great
energy in making preparations, and showed considerable skill as a
negotiator in concluding the peace, and apparently went into the
conflict with hearty zest and good will. He was evidently much
influenced by Conolly, a very weak adviser, however; and his whole
course betrayed much vacillation, and no generalship.
15. Smyth's "Tour," II., p. 179.
16. "Am. Archives," p. 1017.
17. _Do_. Stewart says they reached the mouth of the Kanawha on
Oct. 1st; another account says Sept. 30th; but this is an error, as
shown both by the "Am. Archives" and by the Campbell MSS.
18. Hale, 182.
19. Campbell MSS. Letter of Isaac Shelby to John Shelby, Oct. 16, 1774.
A portion of this letter, unsigned, was printed in "Am. Archives," p.
1016, and in various newspapers (even at Belfast; _see_ Hale, p.
187, who thinks it was written by Captain Arbuckle). As it is worth
preserving and has never been printed in full I give it in the Appendix.
20. Stewart's Narrative.
21. Smyth, II., p. 158. He claims to have played a prominent part in the
battle. This is certainly not so, and he may not have been present at
all; at least Col. Stewart, who was there and was acquainted with every
one of note in the army, asserts positively that there was no such man
along; nor has any other American account ever mentioned him. His
military knowledge was nil, as may be gathered from his remark, made
when the defeats of Braddock and Grant were still recent, that British
regulars with the bayonet were best fitted to oppose Indians.
22. Some accounts say that he was accompanied by Kenton and McCulloch;
others state that no messenger arrived until after the battle. But this
is certainly wrong. Shelby's letter shows that the troops learned the
governor's change of plans before the battle.
23. "Am. Archives," IV., Vol. J., p. 1017; and was joined by Col.
Christian's three hundred the day after the battle.
24. Campbell MSS. Letter of Col. William Preston (presumably to Patrick
Henry), Oct. 31, 1774. As it is interesting and has never been
published, I give it in the Appendix.
25. Many of the white accounts make their number much greater, without
any authority; Shelby estimates it at between eight hundred and one
thousand. Smith, who generally gives the Indian side, says that on this
occasion they were nearly as numerous as the whites. Smyth, who bitterly
hates the Americans, and always belittles their deeds, puts the number
of Indians at nine hundred; he would certainly make it as small as
possible. So the above estimate is probably pretty near the truth,
though it is of course impossible to be accurate. At any rate, it was
the only important engagement fought by the English or Americans against
the northwestern Indians in which there was a near approach to equality
26. Campbell MSS. Shelby's letter. Their names were Mooney and Hickman;
the latter was killed. Most historians have confused these two men with
the two others who discovered the Indians at almost the same time.
27. "Am. Archives," IV., Vol, I., p. 1017.
28. _Do_., p. 1017. Letter from Stanton, Virginia, Nov. 4, 1774,
says 3/4 of a mile; Shelby says 1/2 of a mile.
29. _Do_., Letter of Nov. 17th.
30. The frontier expression for covering one's self behind a tree-trunk.
31. A small stream running into the Kanawha near its mouth. De Haas, p.
32. Campbell MSS. Preston's, letter.
33. "Am. Archives." Letter of November 4, 1774.
34. Campbell MSS. Preston's letter.
35. Stewart's Narrative.
36. Led by Isaac Shelby, James Stewart, and George Matthews.
37. Campbell MSS. Preston's letter.
38. "Am. Archives" Letter of November 4, 1774. It is doubtful if Logan
was in this fight; the story about Cornstalk killing one of his men who
flinched may or may not be true.
39. Hale, 199, the plunder was afterwards sold at auction for L74 4s.
40. These are the numbers given by Stewart, but the accounts vary
greatly. Monette ("Valley of the Mississippi,") says 87 killed and 141
wounded. The letters written at the time evidently take no account of
any but the badly wounded. Shelby thus makes the killed 55, and the
wounded (including the mortally hurt) 68. Another account ("Am.
Archives," p. 1017) says 40 men killed and 96 wounded, 20 odd of whom
were since dead, whilst a foot-note to this letter enumerates 53 dead
outright, and 87 wounded, "some of whom have since died." It is
evidently impossible that the slightly wounded are included in these
lists; and in all probability Stewart's account is correct, as he was an
eye-witness and participant.
41. Twenty-one were scalped on the field; the bodies of 12 more were
afterwards found behind logs or in holes where they had been lain, and 8
eventually died of their wounds. (See "American Archives," Smith, Hale,
De Haas, etc.) Smith, who wrote from the Indian side, makes their loss
only 28; but this apparently does not include the loss of the western
Indians, the allies of the Shawnees, Mingos, and Delawares.
42. _Smyth_, the Englishman, accuses Lewis of cowardice, an
accusation which deserves no more attention than do the similar
accusations of treachery brought against Dunmore. Brantz Mayer speaks in
very hyperbolic terms of the "relentless Lewis," and the "great
slaughter" of the Indians.
43. Wayne won an equally decisive victory, but he outnumbered his foes
three to one. Bouquet, who was almost beaten, and was saved by the
provincial rangers, was greatly the superior in force, and suffered four
times the loss he inflicted. In both cases, especially that of Bouquet,
the account of the victor must be received with caution where it deals
with the force and loss of the vanquished. In the same way Shelby and
the other reporters of the Kanawha fight stated that the Indians lost
more heavily than the whites.
44. The stories of how Lewis suspected the earl of treachery, and of how
the backwoodsmen were so exasperated that they wished to kill the
latter, may have some foundation; but are quite as likely to be pure
inventions, made up after the Revolutionary war. In De Haas, "The
American Pioneer," etc., can be found all kinds of stories, some even
told by members of the Clark and Lewis families, which are meant to
criminate Dunmore, but which make such mistakes in chronology--placing
the battle of Lexington in the year of the Kanawha fight, asserting that
peace was not made till the following spring, etc.--that they must be
dismissed offhand as entirely untrustworthy.
45. Stewart's Narrative.
46. "Am. Archives," IV. St. Clair's letter, Dec. 4, 1774. Also Jefferson
MSS. Dep. of Wm. Robinson, etc.
47. See De Haas, 162.
48. "Am. Archives," IV., Vol. I., pp. 1013, 1226.
49. John Gibson, afterwards a general in the army of the United States.
50. Jefferson MSS. Statements of John Gibson, etc.; there is some
uncertainty as to whether Logan came up to Gibson at the treaty and drew
him aside, or whether the latter went to seek the former in his wigwam.
51. Jefferson Papers (State Department MSS.), 5-1-4. Statement of Col.
John Gibson to John Anderson, an Indian trader at Pittsburg, in 1774.
Anderson had asked him if he had not himself added somewhat to the
speech; he responded that he had not, that it was a literal translation
or transcription of Logan's words.
52. Jefferson MSS. Affidavits of Andrew Rogers, Wm. Russell, and others
who were present.
53. Clark's letter.
54. See De Haas, 167.
55. These are Smith's estimates, derived largely from Indian sources.
They are probably excessive, but not very greatly so.
56. It is difficult to understand why some minor historians consider
this war as fruitless.
57. John Hall; it is worth while preserving the name of the ringleader
in so brutal and cowardly a butchery. See Stewart's Narrative.
BOON AND THE SETTLEMENT OF KENTUCKY, 1775.
Lord Dunmore's war, waged by Americans for the good of America, was the
opening act in the drama whereof the closing scene was played at
Yorktown. It made possible the twofold character of the Revolutionary
war, wherein on the one hand the Americans won by conquest and
colonization new lands for their children, and on the other wrought out
their national independence of the British king. Save for Lord Dunmore's
war we could not have settled beyond the mountains until after we had
ended our quarrel with our kinsfolk across the sea. It so cowed the
northern Indians that for two or three years they made no further
organized effort to check the white advance. In consequence, the
Kentucky pioneers had only to contend with small parties of enemies
until time had been given them to become so firmly rooted in the land
that it proved impossible to oust them. Had Cornstalk and his
fellow-chiefs kept their hosts unbroken, they would undoubtedly have
swept Kentucky clear of settlers in 1775,--as was done by the mere rumor
of their hostility the preceding summer. Their defeat gave the
opportunity for Boon to settle Kentucky, and therefore for Robertson to
settle Middle Tennessee, and for Clark to conquer Illinois and the
Northwest; it was the first in the chain of causes that gave us for our
western frontier in 1783 the Mississippi and not the Alleghanies.
As already mentioned, the speculative North Carolinian Henderson had for
some time been planning the establishment of a proprietary colony beyond
the mountains, as a bold stroke to reestablish his ruined fortunes; and
early in 1775, as the time seemed favorable, he proceeded to put his
venturous scheme into execution. For years he had been in close business
relations with Boon; and the latter had attempted to lead a band of
actual settlers to Kentucky in 1773. Naturally, when Henderson wished to
fix on a place wherein to plant his colony, he chose the beautiful land
which the rumor of Boon's discovery had rendered famous all along the
border; and equally naturally he chose the pioneer hunter himself to act
as his lieutenant and as the real leader of the expedition. The result
of the joint efforts of these two men was to plant in Kentucky a colony
of picked settlers, backed by such moral and material support as enabled
them to maintain themselves permanently in the land. Boon had not been
the first to discover Kentucky, nor was he the first to found a
settlement therein; but it was his exploration of the land that alone
bore lasting fruit, and the settlement he founded was the first that
contained within itself the elements of permanence and growth.
Of course, as in every other settlement of inland America, the especial
point to be noticed is the individual initiative of the different
settlers. Neither the royal nor the provincial governments had any thing
to do with the various colonies that were planted almost simultaneously
on the soil of Kentucky. Each little band of pioneers had its own
leaders, and was stirred by its own motives. All had heard, from
different sources, of the beauty and fertility of the land, and as the
great danger from the Indians was temporarily past, all alike went in to
take possession, not only acting without previous agreement, but for the
most part being even in ignorance of one another's designs. Yet the
dangers surrounding these new-formed and far-off settlements were so
numerous, and of such grave nature, that they could hardly have proved
permanent had it not been for the comparatively well-organized
settlement of Boon, and for the temporary immunity which Henderson's
treaty purchased from the southern Indians.
The settlement of Kentucky was a much more adventurous and hazardous
proceeding than had been the case with any previous westward extension
of population from the old colonies; because Kentucky, instead of
abutting on already settled districts, was an island in the wilderness,
separated by two hundred miles of unpeopled and almost impassable forest
from even the extreme outposts of the seacoast commonwealths. Hitherto
every new settlement had been made by the simple process of a portion of
the backwoods pioneers being thrust out in advance of the others, while,
nevertheless, keeping in touch with them, and having their rear covered,
as it were, by the already colonized country. Now, for the first time, a
new community of pioneers sprang up, isolated in the heart of the
wilderness, and thrust far beyond the uttermost limits of the old
colonies, whose solid mass lay along the Atlantic seaboard. The vast
belt of mountainous woodland that lay between was as complete a barrier
as if it had been a broad arm of the ocean. The first American incomers
to Kentucky were for several years almost cut off from the bulk of their
fellows beyond the forest-clad mountains; much as, thirteen centuries
before, their forebears, the first English settlers in Britain, had been
cut off from the rest of the low-Dutch folk who continued to dwell on
the eastern coast of the German Ocean.
Henderson and those associated with him in his scheme of land
speculation began to open negotiations with the Cherokees as soon as the
victory of the Great Kanawha for the moment lessened the danger to be
apprehended from the northwestern Indians. In October, 1774, he and
Nathaniel Hart, one of his partners in the scheme, journeyed to the
Otari towns, and made their proposals. The Indians proceeded very
cautiously, deputing one of their number, a chief called the Carpenter,
to return with the two white envoys, and examine the goods they proposed
to give in exchange. To this Henderson made no objection; on the
contrary, it pleased him, for he was anxious to get an indisputable
Indian title to the proposed new colony. The Indian delegate made a
favorable report in January, 1775; and then the Overhill Cherokees were
bidden to assemble at the Sycamore Shoals of the Watauga. The order was
issued by the head-chief, Oconostota, a very old man, renowned for the
prowess he had shown in former years when warring against the English.
On the 17th of March, Oconostota and two other chiefs, the Raven and the
Carpenter, signed the Treaty of the Sycamore Shoals, in the presence and
with the assent of some twelve hundred of their tribe, half of them
warriors; for all who could had come to the treaty grounds. Henderson
thus obtained a grant of all the lands lying along and between the
Kentucky and the Cumberland rivers. He promptly named the new colony
Transylvania. The purchase money was 10,000 pounds of lawful English
money; but, of course, the payment was made mainly in merchandise, and
not specie. It took a number of days before the treaty was finally
concluded; no rum was allowed to be sold, and there was little
drunkenness, but herds of beeves were driven in, that the Indians might
make a feast.
The main opposition to the treaty was made by a chief named Dragging
Canoe, who continued for years to be the most inveterate foe of the
white race to be found among the Cherokees. On the second day of the
talk he spoke strongly against granting the Americans what they asked,
pointing out, in words of glowing eloquence, how the Cherokees, who had
once owned the land down to the sea, had been steadily driven back by
the whites until they had reached the mountains, and warning his
comrades that they must now put a stop at all hazards to further
encroachments, under penalty of seeing the loss of their last
hunting-grounds, by which alone their children could live. When he had
finished his speech he abruptly left the ring of speakers, and the
council broke up in confusion. The Indian onlookers were much impressed
by what he said; and for some hours the whites were in dismay lest all
further negotiations should prove fruitless. It was proposed to get the
deed privately; but to this the treaty-makers would not consent,
answering that they cared nothing for the treaty unless it was concluded
in open council, with the full assent of all the Indians. By much
exertion Dragging Canoe was finally persuaded to come back; the council
was resumed next day, and finally the grant was made without further
opposition. The Indians chose their own interpreter; and the treaty was
read aloud and translated, sentence by sentence, before it was signed,
on the fourth day of the formal talking.
The chiefs undoubtedly knew that they could transfer only a very
imperfect title to the land they thus deeded away. Both Oconostota and
Dragging Canoe told the white treaty-makers that the land beyond the
mountains, whither they were going, was a "dark ground," a "bloody
ground"; and warned them that they must go at their own risk, and not
hold the Cherokees responsible, for the latter could no longer hold them
by the hand. Dragging Canoe especially told Henderson that there was a
black cloud hanging over the land, for it lay in the path of the
northwestern Indians--who were already at war with the Cherokees, and
would surely show as little mercy to the white men as to the red.
Another old chief said to Boon: "Brother, we have given you a fine land,
but I believe you will have much trouble in settling it." What he said
was true, and the whites were taught by years of long warfare that
Kentucky was indeed what the Cherokees called it, a dark and bloody
After Henderson's main treaty was concluded, the Watauga Association
entered into another, by which they secured from the Cherokees, for
2,000 pounds sterling, the lands they had already leased.
As soon as it became evident that the Indians would consent to the
treaty, Henderson sent Boon ahead with a company of thirty men to clear
a trail from the Holston to the Kentucky. This, the first regular
path opened into the wilderness, was long called Boon's trace, and
became forever famous in Kentucky history as the Wilderness Road, the
track along which so many tens of thousands travelled while journeying
to their hoped-for homes in the bountiful west. Boon started on March
10th with his sturdy band of rifle-bearing axemen, and chopped out a
narrow bridle-path--a pony trail, as it would now be called in the west.
It led over Cumberland Gap, and crossed Cumberland, Laurel, and
Rockcastle rivers at fords that were swimming deep in the time of
freshets. Where it went through tall, open timber, it was marked by
blazes on the tree trunks, while a regular path was cut and trodden out
through the thickets of underbrush and the dense canebrakes and
After a fortnight's hard work the party had almost reached the banks of
the Kentucky River, and deemed that their chief trials were over. But
half an hour before daybreak on the morning of the 25th, as they lay
round their smouldering camp-fires, they were attacked by some Indians,
who killed two of them and wounded a third; the others sprang to arms at
once, and stood their ground without suffering further loss or damage
till it grew light, when the Indians silently drew off. Continuing
his course, Boon reached the Kentucky River, and on April 1st began to
build Boonsborough, on an open plain where there was a lick with two
Meanwhile other pioneers, as hardy and enterprising as Boon's
companions, had likewise made up their minds that they would come in to
possess the land; and in bands or small parties they had crossed the
mountains or floated down the Ohio, under the leadership of such men as
Harrod, Logan, and the McAfees. But hardly had they built their
slight log-cabins, covered with brush or bark, and broken ground for the
corn-planting, when some small Indian war-parties, including that which
had attacked Boon's company, appeared among them. Several men were
"killed and sculped," as Boon phrased it; and the panic among the rest
was very great, insomuch that many forthwith set out to return. Boon was
not so easily daunted; and he at once sent a special messenger to hurry
forward the main body under Henderson, writing to the latter with quiet
resolution and much good sense:
"My advice to you, sir, is to come or send as soon as possible. Your
company is desired greatly, for the people are very uneasy, but are
willing to stay and venture their lives with you, and now is the time to
flusterate the intentions of the Indians, and keep the country whilst we
are in it. If we give way to them now, it will ever be the case."
Henderson had started off as soon as he had finished the treaty. He took
wagons with him, but was obliged to halt and leave them in Powell's
Valley, for beyond that even so skilful a pathfinder and road-maker as
Boon had not been able to find or make a way passable for wheels.
Accordingly, their goods and implements were placed on pack-horses, and
the company started again. Most fortunately a full account of their
journey has been kept; for among Henderson's followers at this time was
a man named William Calk, who jotted down in his diary the events of
each day. It is a short record, but as amusing as it is instructive;
for the writer's mind was evidently as vigorous as his language was
terse and untrammelled. He was with a small party, who were going out as
partners; and his journal is a faithful record of all things, great or
small, that at the time impressed him. The opening entry contains the
information that "Abram's dog's leg got broke by Drake's dog." The owner
of the latter beast, by the way, could not have been a pleasant
companion on a trip of this sort, for elsewhere the writer, who, like
most backwoodsmen, appreciated cleanliness in essentials, records with
evident disfavor the fact that "Mr. Drake Bakes bread without washing
his hands." Every man who has had the misfortune to drive a pack-train
in thick timber, or along a bad trail, will appreciate keenly the
following incident, which occurred soon after the party had set out for
* * * * *
"I turned my hors to drive before me and he got scard ran away threw
Down the Saddel Bags and broke three of our powder goards and Abram's
beast Burst open a walet of corn and lost a good Deal and made a
turrabel flustration amongst the Reast of the Horses Drake's mair run
against a sapling and noct it down we cacht them all again and went on
and lodged at John Duncan's."
* * * * *
Another entry records the satisfaction of the party when at a log fort
(before getting into the wilderness) they procured some good loaf-bread
and good whisky.
They carried with them seed-corn and "Irish tators" to plant, and
for use on the journey had bacon, and corn-meal which was made either
into baked corn-dodgers or else into johnny-cakes, which were simply
cooked on a board beside the fire, or else perhaps on a hot stone or in
the ashes. The meal had to be used very sparingly; occasionally a beef
was killed, out of the herd of cattle that accompanied the emigrants;
but generally they lived on the game they shot--deer, turkeys, and, when
they got to Kentucky, buffaloes. Sometimes this was killed as they
travelled; more often the hunters got it by going out in the evening
after they had pitched camp.
The journey was hard and tiresome. At times it rained; and again there
were heavy snow-storms, in one of which an emigrant got lost, and only
found his way to camp by the help of a pocket-compass. The mountains
were very steep, and it was painfully laborious work to climb them,
while chopping out a way for the pack-train. At night a watch had to be
kept for Indians. It was only here and there that the beasts got good
grazing. Sometimes the horses had their saddles turned while struggling
through the woods. But the great difficulty came in crossing the creeks,
where the banks were rotten, the bottom bad, or the water deep; then the
horses would get mired down and wet their packs, or they would have to
be swum across while their loads were ferried over on logs. One day, in
going along a creek, they had to cross it no less than fifty times, by
"very bad foards."
On the seventh of April they were met by Boon's runner, bearing tidings
of the loss occasioned by the Indians; and from that time on they met
parties of would-be settlers, who, panic-struck by the sudden forays,
were fleeing from the country. Henderson's party kept on with good
courage, and persuaded quite a number of the fugitives to turn back with
them. Some of these men who were thus leaving the country were not doing
so because of fright; for many, among them the McAfees, had not brought
out their families, but had simply come to clear the ground, build
cabins, plant corn, and turn some branded cattle loose in the woods,
where they were certain to thrive well, winter and summer, on the
nourishing cane and wild pea-vine. The men then intended to go back to
the settlements and bring out their wives and children, perhaps not till
the following year; so that things were in a measure prepared for them,
though they were very apt to find that the cattle had been stolen by the
Indians, or had strayed too far to be recovered.
The bulk of those fleeing, however, were simply frightened out of the
country. There seems no reason to doubt that the establishment of
the strong, well-backed settlement of Boonsborough was all that
prevented the abandonment of Kentucky at this time; and when such was
the effect of a foray by small and scattered war parties of Indians from
tribes nominally at peace with us, it can easily be imagined how
hopeless it would have been to have tried to settle the land had there
still been in existence a strong hostile confederacy such as that
presided over by Cornstalk. Beyond doubt the restless and vigorous
frontiersmen would ultimately have won their way into the coveted
western lands; yet had it not been for the battle of the Great Kanawha,
Boon and Henderson could not, in 1775, have planted their colony in
Kentucky; and had it not been for Boon and Henderson, it is most
unlikely that the land would have been settled at all until after the
Revolutionary war, when perhaps it might have been British soil. Boon
was essentially a type, and possesses his greatest interest for us
because he represents so well the characteristics as well as the
life-work of his fellow backwoodsmen; still, it is unfair not to bear in
mind also the leading part he played and the great services he rendered
to the nation.
The incomers soon recovered from the fright into which they had been
thrown by the totally unexpected Indian attack; but the revengeful anger
it excited in their breasts did not pass away. They came from a class
already embittered by long warfare with their forest foes; they hoarded
up their new wrongs in minds burdened with the memories of countless
other outrages; and it is small wonder that repeated and often
unprovoked treachery at last excited in them a fierce and indiscriminate
hostility to all the red-skinned race. They had come to settle on ground
to which, as far as it was possible, the Indian title had been by fair
treaty extinguished. They ousted no Indians from the lands they took;
they had had neither the chance nor the wish to themselves do wrong; in
their eyes the attack on the part of the Indians was as wanton as it was
cruel; and in all probability this view was correct, and their
assailants were actuated more by the desire for scalps and plunder than
by resentment at the occupation of hunting grounds to which they could
have had little claim. In fact, throughout the history of the discovery
and first settlement of Kentucky, the original outrages and murders were
committed by the Indians on the whites, and not by the whites on the
Indians. In the gloomy and ferocious wars that ensued, the wrongs done
by each side were many and great.
Henderson's company came into the beautiful Kentucky country in
mid-April, when it looked its best: the trees were in leaf, the air
heavy with fragrance, the snowy flowers of the dogwood whitened the
woods, and the banks of the streams burned dull crimson with the wealth
of red-bud blossoms. The travellers reached the fort that Boon was
building on the 20th of the month, being welcomed to the protection of
its wooden walls by a volley from twenty or thirty rifles. They at once
set to with a will to finish it, and to make it a strong place of refuge
against Indian attacks. It was a typical forted village, such as the
frontiersmen built everywhere in the west and southwest during the years
that they were pushing their way across the continent in the teeth of
fierce and harassing warfare; in some features it was not unlike the
hamlet-like "tun" in which the forefathers of these same pioneers dwelt,
long centuries before, when they still lived by the sluggish waters of
the lower Rhine, or had just crossed to the eastern coast of
The fort was in shape a parallelogram, some two hundred and fifty feet
long and half as wide. It was more completely finished than the majority
of its kind, though little or no iron was used in its construction. At
each corner was a two-storied loop-holed block-house to act as a
bastion. The stout log-cabins were arranged in straight lines, so that
their outer sides formed part of the wall, the spaces between them being
filled with a high stockade, made of heavy squared timbers thrust
upright into the ground, and bound together within by a horizontal
stringer near the top. They were loop-holed like the block-houses. The
heavy wooden gates, closed with stout bars, were flanked without by the
block-houses and within by small windows cut in the nearest cabins. The
houses had sharp, sloping roofs, made of huge clapboards, and these
great wooden slabs were kept in place by long poles, bound with withes
to the rafters. In case of dire need each cabin was separately
defensible. When danger threatened, the cattle were kept in the open
space in the middle.
Three other similar forts or stations were built about the same time as
Boonsborough, namely: Harrodstown, Boiling Springs, and St. Asaphs,
better known as Logan's Station, from its founder's name. These all lay
to the southwest, some thirty odd miles from Boonsborough. Every such
fort or station served as the rallying-place for the country round
about, the stronghold in which the people dwelt during time of danger;
and later on, when all danger had long ceased, it often remained in
changed form, growing into the chief town of the district. Each settler
had his own farm besides, often a long way from the fort, and it was on
this that he usually intended to make his permanent home. This system
enabled the inhabitants to combine for defence, and yet to take up the
large tracts of four to fourteen hundred acres, to which they were
by law entitled. It permitted them in time of peace to live well apart,
with plenty of room between, so that they did not crowd one another--a
fact much appreciated by men in whose hearts the spirit of extreme
independence and self-reliance was deeply ingrained. Thus the settlers
were scattered over large areas, and, as elsewhere in the southwest, the
county and not the town became the governmental unit. The citizens even
of the smaller governmental divisions acted through representatives,
instead of directly, as in the New England town-meetings. The centre
of county government was of course the county court-house.
Henderson, having established a land agency at Boonsborough, at once
proceeded to deed to the Transylvania colonists entry certificates of
surveys of many hundred thousand acres. Most of the colonists were
rather doubtful whether these certificates would ultimately prove of any
value, and preferred to rest their claims on their original cabin
rights; a wise move on their part, though in the end the Virginia
Legislature confirmed Henderson's sales in so far as they had been made
to actual settlers. All the surveying was of course of the very rudest
kind. Only a skilled woodsman could undertake the work in such a
country; and accordingly much of it devolved on Boon, who ran the lines
as well as he could, and marked the trees with his own initials, either
by powder or else with his knife. The State could not undertake to
make the surveys itself, so it authorized the individual settler to do
so. This greatly promoted the rapid settlement of the country, making it
possible to deal with land as a commodity, and outlining the various
claims; but the subsequent and inevitable result was that the sons of
the settlers reaped a crop of endless confusion and litigation.
It is worth mentioning that the Transylvania company opened a store at
Boonsborough. Powder and lead, the two commodities most in demand, were
sold respectively for $2.66-2/3 and 16-2/3 cents per pound. The payment
was rarely made in coin; and how high the above prices were may be
gathered from the fact that ordinary labor was credited at 33-1/3 cents
per day while fifty cents a day was paid for ranging, hunting, and
working on the roads.
Henderson immediately proceeded to organize the government of his
colony, and accordingly issued a call for an election of delegates to
the Legislature of Transylvania, each of the four stations mentioned
above sending members. The delegates, seventeen in all, met at
Boonsborough and organized the convention on the 23d of May. Their
meetings were held without the walls of the fort, on a level plain of
white clover, under a grand old elm. Beneath its mighty branches a
hundred people could without crowding find refuge from the noon-day sun;
it was a fit council-house for this pioneer legislature of game hunters
and Indian fighters.
These weather-beaten backwoods warriors, who held their deliberations in
the open air, showed that they had in them good stuff out of which to
build a free government. They were men of genuine force of character,
and they behaved with a dignity and wisdom that would have well become
any legislative body. Henderson, on behalf of the proprietors of
Transylvania, addressed them, much as a crown governor would have done.
The portion of his address dealing with the destruction of game is worth
noting. Buffalo, elk, and deer had abounded immediately round
Boonsborough when the settlers first arrived, but the slaughter had been
so great that even after the first six weeks the hunters began to find
some difficulty in getting any thing without going off some fifteen or
twenty miles. However, stray buffaloes were still killed near the fort
once or twice a week. Calk in his journal quoted above, in the midst
of entries about his domestic work--such as, on April 29th "we git our
house kivered with bark and move our things into it at Night and Begin
housekeeping," and on May 2d, "went and sot in to clearing for
corn,"--mentions occasionally killing deer and turkey; and once, while
looking for a strayed mare, he saw four "bofelos." He wounded one, but
failed to get it, with the luck that generally attended backwoods
hunters when they for the first time tried their small-bore rifles
against these huge, shaggy-maned wild cattle.
As Henderson pointed out, the game was the sole dependence of the first
settlers, who, most of the time, lived solely on wild meat, even the
parched corn having been exhausted; and without game the new-comers
could not have stayed in the land a week. Accordingly he advised the
enactment of game-laws; and he was especially severe in his comments
upon the "foreigners" who came into the country merely to hunt, killing
off the wild beasts, and taking their skins and furs away, for the
benefit of persons not concerned in the settlement. This last point is
curious as showing how instantly and naturally the colonists succeeded
not only to the lands of the Indians, but also to their habits of
thought; regarding intrusion by outsiders upon their hunting-grounds
with the same jealous dislike so often shown by their red-skinned
Henderson also outlined some of the laws he thought it advisable to
enact, and the Legislature followed his advice. They provided for courts
of law, for regulating the militia, for punishing criminals, fixing
sheriffs' and clerks' fees, and issuing writs of attachment. One of
the members was a clergyman: owing to him a law was passed forbidding
profane swearing or Sabbath-breaking; a puritanic touch which showed the
mountain rather than the seaboard origin of the men settling Kentucky.
The three remaining laws the Legislature enacted were much more
characteristic, and were all introduced by the two Boons--for Squire
Boon was still the companion of his brother. As was fit and proper, it
fell to the lot of the greatest of backwoods hunters to propose a scheme
for game protection, which the Legislature immediately adopted; and his
was likewise the "act for preserving the breed of horses,"--for, from
the very outset, the Kentuckians showed the love for fine horses and for
horse-racing which has ever since distinguished them. Squire Boon was
the author of a law "to protect the range"; for the preservation of the
range or natural pasture over which the branded horses and cattle of the
pioneers ranged at will, was as necessary to the welfare of the stock as
the preservation of the game was to the welfare of the men. In Kentucky
the range was excellent, abounding not only in fine grass, but in cane
and wild peas, and the animals grazed on it throughout the year. Fires
sometimes utterly destroyed immense tracts of this pasture, causing
heavy loss to the settlers; and one of the first cares of pioneer
legislative bodies was to guard against such accidents.
It was likewise stipulated that there should be complete religious
freedom and toleration for all sects. This seems natural enough now, but
in the eighteenth century the precedents were the other way. Kentucky
showed its essentially American character in nothing more than the
diversity of religious belief among the settlers from the very start.
They came almost entirely from the backwoods mountaineers of Virginia,
Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, among whom the predominant faith had
been Presbyterianism; but from the beginning they were occasionally
visited by Baptist preachers, whose creed spread to the borders
sooner than Methodism; and among the original settlers of Harrodsburg
were some Catholic Marylanders. The first service ever held in
Kentucky was by a clergyman of the Church of England, soon after
Henderson's arrival; but this was merely owing to the presence of
Henderson himself, who, it must be remembered, was not in the least a
backwoods product. He stood completely isolated from the other
immigrants during his brief existence as a pioneer, and had his real
relationship with the old English founders of the proprietary colonies,
and with the more modern American land speculators, whose schemes are so
often mentioned during the last half of the eighteenth century.
Episcopacy was an exotic in the backwoods; it did not take real root in
Kentucky till long after that commonwealth had emerged from the pioneer
When the Transylvanian Legislature dissolved, never to meet again,
Henderson had nearly finished playing his short but important part in
the founding of Kentucky. He was a man of the seacoast regions, who had
little in common with the backwoodsmen by whom he was surrounded; he
came from a comparatively old and sober community, and he could not
grapple with his new associates; in his journal he alludes to them as a
set of scoundrels who scarcely believed in God or feared the devil. A
British friend of his, who at this time visited the settlement, also
described the pioneers as being a lawless, narrow-minded, unpolished,
and utterly insubordinate set, impatient of all restraint, and relying
in every difficulty upon their individual might; though he grudgingly
admitted that they were frank, hospitable, energetic, daring, and
possessed of much common-sense. Of course it was hopeless to expect that
such bold spirits, as they conquered the wilderness, would be content to
hold it even at a small quit-rent from Henderson. But the latter's
colony was toppled over by a thrust from without before it had time to
be rent in sunder by violence from within.
Transylvania was between two millstones. The settlers revolted against
its authority, and appealed to Virginia; and meanwhile Virginia,
claiming the Kentucky country, and North Carolina as mistress of the
lands round the Cumberland, proclaimed the purchase of the Transylvanian
proprietors null and void as regards themselves, though valid as against
the Indians. The title conveyed by the latter thus enured to the benefit
of the colonies; it having been our policy, both before and since the
Revolution, not to permit any of our citizens to individually purchase
lands from the savages.
Lord Dunmore denounced Henderson and his acts; and it was in vain that
the Transylvanians appealed to the Continental Congress, asking leave to
send a delegate thereto, and asserting their devotion to the American
cause; for Jefferson and Patrick Henry were members of that body, and
though they agreed with Lord Dunmore in nothing else, were quite as
determined as he that Kentucky should remain part of Virginia. So
Transylvania's fitful life flickered out of existence; the Virginia
Legislature in 1778, solemnly annulling the title of the company, but
very properly recompensing the originators by the gift of two hundred
thousand acres. North Carolina pursued a precisely similar course;
and Henderson, after the collapse of his colony, drifts out of history.
Boon remained to be for some years one of the Kentucky leaders. Soon
after the fort at Boonsborough was built, he went back to North Carolina
for his family, and in the fall returned, bringing out a band of new
settlers, including twenty-seven "guns"--that is, rifle-bearing
men,--and four women, with their families, the first who came to
Kentucky, though others shortly followed in their steps. A few
roving hunters and daring pioneer settlers also came to his fort in the
fall; among them, the famous scout, Simon Kenton, and John Todd, a
man of high and noble character and well-trained mind, who afterwards