Native American Wars



While the colonists were preparing to measure strength in arms with Great Britain, there had been a speck of war with the Indians on the frontiers of Virginia. By the provisions of the Quebec Act, all of the country north and west of the Ohio River, was included in that province. The limits of Virginia were bounded by the great mountain ranges, and west of these there was no government to restrain the actions of Christians or Pagans. Restless men wandered over the mountains into the valleys beyond, planted cabins there, and were as free as the air they breathed. The Indians were just as free to exercise their savage thirst for blood, and they frequently indulged in the pastime of murdering white people. Among those who suffered there, in 1773, were Daniel Boone and others who accompanied him.

The rapacious Lord Dunmore, then governor of Virginia, who was gathering riches by fees for granting land to settlers, and in acquiring large tracts for himself, had set his affections on the rich country north of the Ohio, which had been granted to Quebec. He disregarded the Quebec Act and his instructions under it, and continued to grant lands to settlers, in the Scioto Valley. He did more. Pittsburgh and the surrounding country, forming a part of the county of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, was rapidly filling up with settlers from Virginia and Maryland. Dunmore coveted the gains to be derived from the fees on land-warrants there, and he suddenly asserted the jurisdiction of Virginia over all the western country. Dr. Connelly, a Pennsylvanian, who was acquainted with all that region, and was well known, was made his deputy, with his headquarters at Pittsburgh. Serious disputes with Pennsylvania followed, but Dunmore persisted. Connolly proclaimed his authority as "Magistrate of West Augusta," and ordered a muster of the militia. The Virginia and Maryland settlers there, sided with the governor, and the authority of Connolly was acknowledged.

Early in 1774, the Indians committed many murders and depredations along the Ohio borders, and it was ascertained that the tribes were exchanging belts in seeming preparation for war. At that time Michael Cresap, a settler from Maryland, was near the present Wheeling, engaged in planting a colony. He had had some encounters with the Indians, but was disposed to treat them kindly. Late in April he received a message from Dr. Connolly that an Indian war was inevitable, when Cresap called a council of the settlers. Regarding Connolly's message as a warrant for making war on private account, they declared it against the Indians on the 26th of April. On the following day two canoes, filled with the painted savages, appeared, when they were attacked and pursued far down the river. When the pursuers returned, they proposed an assault upon the settlement of Logan, a Mingo chief, who had been reared near the banks of the Susquehanna, in Pennsylvania, spoke English well, and was a friend of the white people. Cresap prevented the expedition; but other traders, not so discreet, soon raised a furious tempest of resentment against their white brethren. Opposite Logan's settlement (thirty miles above Wheeling) was the cabin of a trader who sold rum to the savages. On one occasion some unarmed Indians, with their women, passed over the river, and all became drunk at the trader's house, when they were all murdered in cold blood by some white people who had been concealed near. Among the slain were the mother, brother, and sister of Logan, the latter the wife of John Gibson, a trader. The spirit of revenge was aroused in great intensity in the bosom of the Mingo chief; and nearly all the ensuing summer he was out upon the war-path gathering a fearful harvest of scalps from the heads of white people as trophies of his valor and vengeance. As Cresap was a leader of the white people on the Ohio, Logan held him responsible for the massacre, though, at that time, the trader was with his family in Maryland. To him Logan sent a note, late in summer, written by William Robinson with ink made of gunpowder, as follows:

"Captain Cresap,--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."

After the war that ensued was over, Logan, then at old Chillicothe, on Pickaway Plains, refused to attend a council to which Lord Dunmore invited him. That invitation was sent by Colonel John Gibson. Logan took the messenger into the woods, where, seated upon a moss-covered root of an immense sycamore, he recited the story of his wrongs. He would not hold council personally with a white man; but he sent the following remarkable speech in the mouth of Colonel Gibson, which the latter wrote down and delivered to Dunmore:

"I appeal to any white man to say, if ever he entered Logan's cabin hungry and he gave him no 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 cabin, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as they 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. 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 blood shed along the frontiers of Virginia, during that summer, caused Dunmore to fit out an expedition against the Indians beyond the mountains. He summoned the militia of the southwest to the field, and then he hastened to Pittsburgh. At about the same time, he renewed a treaty of peace with the Six Nations. The settlers flew to arms with alacrity, and, led by Colonel Andrew Lewis, they hastened over the rugged and pathless mountains toward a place of appointed rendezvous on the Ohio, with a promise of being reinforced by another division under the governor himself, who was to descend the river from Pittsburgh. Lewis, with about eleven hundred men, encamped on Point Pleasant, near the junction of the Great Kanawha and Ohio rivers, on the 6th of October, where, in expectation of the governor's speedy arrival, he did not cast up any intrenchments. But neither Dunmore nor a messenger from him appeared. He had gone down the Ohio before Lewis's arrival, with about twelve hundred followers, without waiting for the latter at the appointed place of rendezvous, and pushed on to the Shawnee towns, which he found deserted. At the mouth of the Hockhocking he built a block-house, which he named Fort Gower.

Meanwhile the Shawnee--the fiercest of the Western tribes--had deserted their settlements (as Dunmore found) and were moving stealthily, with some Mingoes and Delawares, through the forests, to attack the camp of Lewis. So secretly had they approached, that the march was not suspected until they were discovered at early dawn on the morning of the 10th of October (1774), within a short distance of the camp of the Virginians, and preparing for battle. Within an hour, they and the white people were engaged in a fierce struggle for the mastery--Cornstalk, their leader, encouraging them by his bravery and fortitude, and frequently uttering the words: "Be strong!" The great struggle lasted from sunrise till noon; and from that hour, a desultory fire was kept up until sunset. Neither party could claim a victory. Lewis, however, held the field, and the savages fled across the Ohio under cover of the darkness that night. The Virginians lost full half of their commissioned officers, and almost one hundred and thirty men, killed and wounded. The Indians lost about two hundred and thirty warriors. Among the officers under Lewis were several who afterward appeared conspicuous in our history, and whom we shall meet again--Shelby, Campbell, Robertson, etc.

On the day after the battle, Colonel Lewis received an order from Dunmore to hasten to join him at a point in the Scioto Valley, eighty miles distant. The governor did not then know how Lewis had been smitten by the savages. The latter did not hesitate to obey the order. Leaving a small garrison at Point Pleasant, the Virginians pushed across the Ohio, traversed the pathless wilderness in the midst of perils and hardships, and on the 24th of October encamped on Pickaway Plains not far from old Chillicothe, now the borough of Westfall. Dunmore was encamped on the banks of Sippo Creek, about seven miles southwest from the present Circleville, and there he held a council with the Indian chiefs, who, acknowledging their weakness, sued for peace. At that conference, Cornstalk was the principal speaker for the savages; Logan, as we have seen, refusing to attend. A satisfactory treaty of peace was concluded, and then the Virginians returned to their homes, from which they had been absent about three months, having won great advantages for their colony and for civilization.





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