Ohio History Journal









[In 1903 the Ohio Society, Sons of the Revolution offered a prize

of $100 for the best essay which might be submitted upon the subject

heading this article. Miss Sessions, a member of the teaching corps of

The Columbus High School entered the contest and was awarded the

prize. The essay is herewith made public for the first time through the

courtesy of the awarding committee.-EDITOR.]

The American Revolution was, unquestionably, in its chief

movements a struggle for independence, but, on the other hand,

it was a war of conquest. While the colonists, truer to the Eng-

lish ideals than George III. and his friends, were fighting for

the principles of English liberty, some of their number were at

the same time taking from England a territory more than equal

to their own and subduing the land and its savage inhabitants.

This conquered territory, extending from the heigths of the Alle-

ghanies to the Mississippi, has as its center the Ohio Valley, and

the events that took place there during the war make most of the

story of this first conquest of the United States.

At the close of the French and Indian War, while the out-

come of Pontiac's conspiracy was still uncertain, a royal proc-

lamation was issued which defined the policy of the English

government with regard to the lands just acquired from France.

After arranging for governments for Quebec and for West and

East Florida, the proclamation declares it "to be our royal will

and pleasure  . . . that no governor or commander-in-chief

of our colonies, or plantations in America, do presume for the

present to grant warrants of survey or pass patents for any lands

beyond the heads or sources of any of the rivers that fall into

the Atlantic Ocean from the West or Northwest; or upon any


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lands whatever which have not been ceded or purchased by

us," etc.1

The first object of this proclamation was, undoubtedly, to

pacify the Indians by assurances that their hunting grounds were

not to be invaded by settlers. Another object probably was to

maintain the Mississippi Valley a wilderness for hunters and

traders, where business would languish as advancing colonists

cleared the land and exterminated game. From several sources

it would appear, also, that the proclamation reveals the intention

of the English government to annul the "from sea to sea"

clauses of the colonial charters, and keep the settlements along

the seaboard. So thinks a writer in the "Annual Register for

1763.2 The same restrictive policy is revealed in the refusal, in

1765, to grant permission to plant a colony in the Illinois coun-

try, Dr. Franklin finding four objections made to the plan:

(1) The distance would render such a colony of little use to

England; (2) The distance would render it difficult to defend

and govern the colony; (3) Such a colony might, in time, be-

come troublesome and prejudicial to the British government;

(4) There were no people to spare in either England or

the other colonies, to settle a new colony.

When also, in 1772, the Lords Commissioners for Trade

and Plantations made a report upon the petition of the so-called

Walpole Company for a grant of land south of the Ohio, on

which to establish a new government, they found that to grant

the petition would be to abandon established principles. The

"confining of the western extent of settlements to such a distance

from the sea coast as that those settlements should lie within

reach of the trade and commerce of this kingdom . . . and also

of the exercise of that authority and jurisdiction which was con-

ceived to be necessary for the preservation of the colonies in due

subordination to and dependence upon the Mother country" were

declared to be the two capital objects of the proclamation of

1763.3 The refusal of the Lords of Trade was made, too, right


1Annual Register 1763.

2Hinsdale, p. 124.

3 Poole, p. 687 in Chap. IX, Vol. VI, Narrative and Critical History

of America.

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc.         41


in the face of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix of 1768, by which Sir

William Johnson had secured from the Iroquois a cession to the

British crown of the very lands that the petitioners asked for

and which the crown would be perfectly free to grant out if the

proclamation were only to protect the Indians.

Washington, however, and other Americans looked upon it

as only a temporary expedient which would lapse when the

Indians were ready to give up their lands.4

But whatever the motives of the British government, the

prohibition came as a real and immediate grievance to the colo-

nists along the frontier. They had already, as Burke says,

"topped the Alleghany Mountains," from which they beheld "be-

fore them an immense plain, one vast level meadow; a square of

five hundred miles." Just as the men of the seaports refused to

use the stamps of 1765, and on principle evaded the provisions

of the Townsend Acts, so the frontiersmen went forward into

the new land, spying it out, building hunters' lodges and occu-

pying in defiance of the proclamation. While they did not grow

into "the hordes of English Tartars," which Burke pictures, they

became a sturdy power and rose in instant sympathy with their

brothers of the coast lands.

Their frontier settlements were all south of the Ohio, the

strength of the Iroquois and Algonquins of the lakes making an

effectual barrier to the hunting grounds of the north. Into the

western parts of Virginia the most considerable advance was

made by Virginians and Pennsylvanians and groups of cabins

were dotted all the way from Fort Pitt to the Kanawha before

the Revolution began. In 1769 the first settlements were made

about the head waters of the Tennessee in the Watauga Valley

and Daniel Boone explored East Kentucky the same year.

The restrictive quality of England's land policy culminated

in the Quebec Act in 1774, which made the territory north of

the Ohio part of the Province of Quebec, thus disposing of

any charter rights the colonies might later assert. The further

statements of the act that the Catholic faith and the old French

law should be established and that the latter was the only kind

of government proper for a colony, placed the Quebec Act among

4Butterfield's Washington-Crawford Letters 3, quoted by Hinsdale.

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the chief grievances of the Colonies and it is mentioned in the

Declaration of Rights, of October, 1774, in the Articles of As-

sociation and again, though in veiled terms, in the Declaration

of Independence. As late as 1782 Madison in a report says.

5"The Quebec Act was one of the multiplied causes of our oppo-

sition and finally of Revolution." But what the colonists com-

plained of was not so much the destruction of their charter

rights to the territory as the extension of arbitrary govern-

ment and religion. The charters were brought forth in the

peace negotiations of 1782 and 1783 to support the American

claims, but our right to receive the land west of the mountains

was plainly a right of conquest.

Before going into the events of the war it will be well to

review the situation at its opening. Fort Pitt, at the head of

the Ohio Valley, was in the hands of the Americans; Detroit

and other lake posts, in the hands of the British. In the northern

side of the Ohio Valley there were practically no English set-

tlements. On the Mississippi, at Kaskaskia and Cohokia, and at

Vincennes on the Wabash were French communities now under

English control. In Eastern Ohio a few Moravian Mission-

aries lived with Christian Indians in the Tuscarawas Valley.

With a few such exceptions the control of the red-man was un-

disturbed from Fort Pitt to the Mississippi. Delawares, Shaw-

nees, Miamis and the Wabash tribes bordered on the Ohio, while

Wyandots and others lived north of them along the Erie water-

shed. Indian territories were always vaguely bounded and over-

lapping, but the country directly south of the Ohio was not

claimed by any one tribe. It was a rich hunting ground, a great

buffalo pasture, and was used in common by tribes to the north

and south. The southern side of the valley of the Tennessee

river was the home of the Cherokee tribes, who during the

Revolution and long after made precarious the life of the pioneers

of Tennessee and Kentucky. On the west side of the Missis-

sippi, a little above the mouth of the Ohio, stood the Spanish-

French town of St. Louis, and further south on the east side

was Natchez, in control of the English.

5 Poole, p. 715.

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc.          43


In all the years of the war the Indians, with the exception

of tribes temporarily subdued, were on the side of the British.

The reasons are many and plain to see. In the first place, the

tribes of the Mississippi Valley had been for generations the

allies of the French and with the French had passed under

English influence. Second, the Proclamation of 1763 had con-

vinced them that the English intentions were friendly to them.

Third, the English and the French of Canada came into the

Indian country only as hunters and traders, while the Amer-

icans all the way from the Green Mountains to King's Moun-

tain were pushing into their hunting grounds to settle and despoil.

And last, and perhaps most potent of all, the English adopted

the plan of enlisting these savage warriors in their behalf and

sending forth the scalping knife and tomahawk against the

frontier settlements. 6The American used savage allies some-

times, also, but knew the horrors of savage warfare too well to

employ them extensively.7

The undertakings of the British in the Ohio Valley were

to send expeditions of Indians and white rangers from Detroit

southward with these purposes in view; to secure and hold the

Illinois country, to attack and drive settlers out of the Kentucky

country and to cut off communication by the Ohio between

Fort Pitt and New Orleans. On the southern side of the val-

ley the Indians were incited against the whites of Tennessee

and Kentucky in the hope of destroying settlements and also to

prevent any aid going from the mountaineers to the men of the


The work of the Americans in the valley was threefold.

First, some few operations, conducted by militia or continental

forces, from Fort Pitt; second, a steady battling against the

Indian allies of England by the backwoodsmen of Kentucky,

Tennessee and Western Virginia; third, the campaigns of George

Rogers Clark, who was backed by Virginia and the backwoods-

men, which secured the Illinois country, kept the Ohio under

American control and seriously threatened Detroit.

6 Roosevelt I, p. 276-280. Hinsdale, p. 149.

7 Winsor, p. 87.

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As there was no extended or continuously pursued plan of

war in the Ohio Valley, the only way to relate the facts will

be to take them year by year, indicating the important move-

ments as they come in order. One of the most famous Indian

wars in our annals, Lord Dunmore's war, began while the

Quebec Act was still under discussion and ended in the Battle

of Point Pleasant, at the mouth of the Great Kanawha, after

the Continental Congress was in session in the fall of 1774.

This cannot properly be called a part of the Revolution, but has

such important bearings on later events that it must be reviewed.

It was conducted by a royal governor of Virginia and yet was

in defence of Virginians who had gone beyond the sources of

eastward flowing rivers into the land forbidden them by the

Proclamation of 1763. This advance of the whites into the

land south of the Ohio was viewed with hostile eyes by the

Northwest Indians, the Shawnees and Mingoes in particular.

Trouble had been brewing for a long time and Virginia had

found it wise to keep a considerable force upon the frontier.

Finally, the unwarranted murder of the people of Logan, a Mingo

Chief, heretofore friendly to the whites, fired him and soon the

natives of Southeastern Ohio were on the war path under the

lead of Cornstalk, one of the bravest and best of his kind. Lord

Dunmore himself took to the field, having one Andrew Lewis

as second in command.

Dunmore at once took the offensive, going down the Ohio

to Hockhocking and thence across country to the vicinity of the

Indian town of Chillicothe. His instructions to Lewis were to

join him there, but Cornstalk ferried about a thousand war-

riors across the Ohio and engaged the force of Lewis on the

south shore at the mouth of the Great Kanawha. There fol-

lowed "the most closely contested of any battle ever fought with

the northwest Indians" and one of the most decisive victories for

the whites. The spirit of the Indians was completely broken

and Cornstalk and his fellow chiefs went to Dunmore's camp

and made a treaty which restored all prisoners and gave up all

claims to land south of the Ohio.

In this war figured many who were to be the leaders in the

campaigns we are to study. Clark and Simon Kenton were

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc.         45


with Dunmore; Boone was in charge of some of the forts, and

with Lewis, whose force was chiefly of backwoodsmen, some

of whom had come all the way from the Watauga settlements,

were the Shelbys, father and son, and Sevier and Robertson.

Before going to their homes the officers met and passed reso-

lutions in which they professed their devotion to the king and

the British empire, but extended their sympathy to the people

of Boston and to the Continental Congress. They gave assur-

ance that, although for three months in the wilderness they had

no news of how the struggle for American liberty was progress-

ing, they were not indifferent to the cause and called attention

to the endurance and fighting ability of their troops.8

Into the much disputed question of Dunmore's motives and

intentions we may not enter here, but the outcome of the war,

by securing quiet and occasional alliances of the Northwest In-

dians for the next two years, made safe the navigation of the

Ohio and opened the way to the settlement of Kentucky and

thus to the establishment of an Ohio River garrison of "Long

Knives," as the Indians called the Virginians, and leads us to

believe that but for Dunmore's war, the treaty of 1783 might

have left the colonies with the Alleghanies as their western


In the spring of 1775 the systematic movement forward

into the valleys of the Kentucky rivers began. The most pre-

tentious undertaking was that of Colonel Richard Henderson of

Virginia, who, early in March in the Watauga Valley made a

treaty with the Cherokees in the presence of full twelve hundred

of their tribe by which he acquired their title to land between

the Cumberland and Kentucky rivers.10

Henderson's plan was to establish a feudal or proprietary

state of Transylvania but the plan did not take with the pioneers

and was declared against by the governments of Virginia and

North Carolina and his state never materialized. But settlers

went into the land and protected now by treaties with both

northern and southern Indians Kentucky had a rapid growth.

8Roosevelt I, p. 240.

9 Roosevelt I, p. 239.

10 Winsor, p. 83.

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Under warrant from Henderson, Boone blazed a trail from the

Holston and Watauga valleys through the Cumberland Gap to

the valley of the Kentucky - "Boone's Trace" or "the Wilder-

ness Road," which became the great highway from Virginia and

Carolina into the Ohio country.

In June, 1775, the Continental Congress, among its other

preparation for the war already begun, arranged three Indian

departments: the northern, embodying the Six Nations and other

northern tribes; the southern, including the Cherokees and others

in the south; and the middle which centered at Pittsburg. Com-

missioners were appointed to treat with the tribes and counter-

act the influence of the royalists. The same year Colonel Henry

Hamilton was put in charge of the British post at Detroit. He

was under orders from the London war office to enlist the

savages and personally was strongly in favor of the plan. In

the south John Stuart, who had long served as agent among the

Southern tribes, received fresh instructions. Thus at the open-

ing of the war both sides saw the importance of Indian alliances.

Hamilton began actively sending out war belts and calling

councils, but through memories of the battle of the Great Kanawha

and the influence of Zeisberger, the Moravian missionary, in the

Ohio country, the northwest tribes maintained neutrality through

the year 1776. Stuart was more successful and early in June

the whole Cherokee nation was on the warpath. With this war

as it affected the southern and seaboard colonies, we have noth-

ing to do, except to note that the Cherokees were generally de-

feated, but the Watauga and Holston settlements, the southeast

border land of the Ohio Valley, were attacked and their gallant

defense under the lead of Robertson and Sevier marks one more

step by which the whole Ohio Valley became American terri-

tory. These settlements were at the head of the Wilderness

Road, and had they been annihilated Kentucky would have been

open to attack and probably have been abandoned. The Chero-

kees made little trouble for several years after this and by that

time the southern side of the Ohio country was strong enough

to take care of itself.

The year 1777 was a dark one for the Americans of the

frontier. Hamilton, by means of war talks and council fires,

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc.          47


gifts of arms, firewater and trinkets, had established his influence

among the northwest Indians. He won the title of "hair-buyer"

among the backwoodsmen and there is certain evidence that

scalps were paid for at Detroit.1l Tories of the border flocked

to that post and MeKee, Eliot and Girty, fleeing thither from

Pittsburgh, became leaders of bands of white rangers and Indians

which Hamilton was organizing. The most notable attack of

the year was made in September at Wheeling, then called Fort

Henry. About three hundred Indians with some Detroit Rangers,

flying the British colors, attacked the stockade. Many of the

men were lured out by stratagem and slain, but those left, with

the help of the women, repelled the attack. This fight is famed

for the exploit of Major Samuel McCulloch, who rode his old

grey horse down a three hundred foot precipice, the only way to

evade the savages and reach his friends in Fort Henry. A hill

above Wheeling is still known as McCulloch's Leap.

Fortunately for Kentucky, Hamilton seems not to have real-

ized the importance of the settlements there and most of the

efforts of the year were directed against the region of Fort

Pitt. Small bands of Indians, however, crossed the Ohio and

fell again and again on the Kentucky forts. The backwoodsmen,

though they and their families were in constant peril, held

tenaciously to their ground, once during the year encouraged

by the men of the Holston settlements who marched north to

help their neighbors. But the dangers about Pittsburg com-

pelled Hand, in command there, to call in some of his outposts

and that, with the news of Washington's loss of Philadelphia, left

the trans-Alleghany pioneers very much alone in their struggle.

Early in 1778 the Kentuckians were weakened by the loss

of Daniel Boone, who was captured with a party who had gone

to the Blue Licks to make salt for the garrisons. He was taken

by the Indians to Detroit where he was well treated by Hamilton,

who offered to ransom him. But the Indians liked him, refused

to give him up, and took him back to Chillicothe and adopted

him into their tribe. Here he remained some months, but in

June war parties of British and Indians began to gather, and

finding his own village of Boonsborough was to be the object

11 Roosevelt II, p. 3.

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48        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


of attack Boone managed to escape, and taking a bee line through

the forests, reached home in four days, having traveled one

hundred and sixty miles and had one meal on the way. So

fearful were the settlers of traitors even among their best, that

Boone was at once tried by court martial for the capture at the

Blue Licks, 12but was acquitted, made a major and became the

leader of the defense. Boonsborough was strengthened and then

impatient waiting, in August, Boone led a foray across the Ohio,

but learning a great force of Miamis was on its way south made

a race with them for Boonsborough and got there in time to

call in the people and successfully defend the fort. This makes

the last serious troubles the people of that part of Kentucky

had, but the doings of the border in the years following, the

dangers and the darings, in which Daniel Boone and Simon

Kenton were chief actors, would fill many a chapter and have

made them the center of gathering traditions which in an earlier

age would have grown into a national epic like the Cid, or the

Story of King Arthur and knights of the Round Table.

Mention has been made of George Rogers Clark in Lord

Dunmore's war. He was a Virginian who explored in the Ken-

tucky country in 1775, and in 1776 had finally cast his lot with

the backwoodsmen. By that time Henderson's claims as a pro-

prietary ruler were fading and at the suggestion of Clark the

settlers gathered at Harrodstown in June and chose two dele-

gates, one of whom was Clark, to go to Williamsburg, the cap-

ital of Virginia. They carried a petition asking that Kentucky

be organized as a county of that state and promising that its

people would do their part in the struggle in which all Ameri-

cans were engaged. The journey was accomplished after much

suffering and danger and the petition presented.  Clark's re-

quest for five hundred pounds of gun-powder, of which the set-

tlements were in great need, was refused at first, but granted

when Clark announced that Kentucky would have to assume her

independence if she had to bear her burdens alone. The powder

wast taken safely down the Ohio to Kentucky and the next ses-

sion of the Virginia legislature organized the county of Ken-


12 Roosevelt II, p. 21.

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc.            49

But the work of Clark had only begun. While aiding in

repelling Indian attacks of 1777 he conceived the desirability

of a forward movement by the colonists and with that idea in

mind sent two young men as spies northward to find out the

strength of the British posts in the French towns of the Illinois

country and to ascertain the temper of the French inhabitants.

His emissaries reported small garrisons and but little interest

in the struggles on the part of the French, who were much

impressed by the stories of the prowess of the backwoodsmen.13

Knowing that the Kentuckians could not furnish a sufficient

force to leave their homes for this offensive movement, Clark

went to Virginia, in the fall of 1777, journeying over the Wil-

derness Road, the shortest and safest way. The news of Bur-

goyne's surrender had reached Williamsburg and Clark went

with patriotic enthusiasm to lay his plans before Governor Pat-

rick Henry.   The governor was responsive enough, but Vir-

ginia was exhausted.   The matter could not be publicly dis-

cussed and volunteer contributions secured and all that Henry

could do was to authorize Clark to raise seven companies of

fifty men each, to act and be paid as militia. Some money was

advanced and he was given on order for boats and supplies at

Pittsburg. Three Virginians, Jefferson, Mason and Wythe, gave

him their written promise to try to persuade the Virginia Leg-

islature to give each of his men three hundred acres of the

conquered land, should they be succcessful. The open instruc-

tions of the governor ordered Clark to the relief of Kentucky,

a secret letter bade him attack the Illinois region. So, it will

be seen, success or failure of the expedition rested solely on

Clark as an individual.

Great difficulty was experienced in enlisting men, but by

May, 1778, he had secured four companies in Western Virginia

and started down the Monongahela to Pittsburg with a hun-

dred and fifty men, and some other adventurers and settlers with

13 Roosevelt II, p. 33. For the events of this campaign and the others,

I follow largely Winsor and Roosevelt, both of whom, but particularly the

latter, give exact references to original sources, the Haldimand MSS, State

Department MSS., and so forth, which it has been impossible for me to


Vol. XIV-4.

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their families. At Pittsburg and Wheeling he got his supplies

and then the rude flat boats started on their long and dangerous

journey down the Ohio. A landing was made at the Falls of

the Ohio on May 27th. Most of the families moved off into

the interior of Kentucky, but a few settled near the falls and

made the nucleus of that city which was later given the name

of the King of France, whose alliance with the colonies Clark

first heard of at that time and place. Here some Kentuckians,

Kenton among them, joined him, and a company from the Hol-

ston. When Clark announced his plan there were some mur-

murings and most of the Holston men deserted. He then weeded

out all weakly men and on June 24th his boats shots the rapids

bearing less than two hundred men, all told, none of the four

companies being up to its full strength of fifty.

Of the well known story of this campaign, which reads

like a mediaeval romance, only the most salient facts can be given

in this paper. Fearing interference on the Mississippi, Clark

left his boats a little below the mouth of the Tennessee, and the

expedition marched overland to Kaskaskia, guided by a party

of American hunters who had just come from the French set-

tlements. Clark got valuable information from the hunters, and

convinced that he could take Kaskaskia only by a surprise at-

tack, he led his army forward with all the stealth of Indians.

The final advance upon the town was made after dark. The

fort was found gaily lighted, a post ball being in progress

and everybody was off guard. Clark was himself inside the

fort quietly watching the dance before the alarm was given by

an Indian who saw the strange face in the flickering torch light.

In the confusion that followed with what grim humor Clark

bade them go on with the dance, but to remember that it was

now under the flag of Virginia, not of England!

The town was easily secured and the French passed a night

of abject terror, for the appearance of the backwoodsmen was

quite in keeping with the tales they had heard of their strength

and brutality. When morning came the chief inhabitants came

humbly asking the dear boon of life. Then Clark showed him-

self a master diplomatist as well as a keen warrior. He told

them he came not to enslave, but to set them free; told of the al-

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc.          51


liance between the French government and his nation and when

questioned by the priest, Gibault, as to whether the Catholic

church could be opened, made his master stroke by saying that

under the laws of his Republic one religion had as much pro-

tection as another. The mercurial spirits of the French rose and

all went home to rejoice after taking the oath of allegiance, while

Gibault became from that time on a useful champion of the

American cause.

The news of what had happened at Kaskaskia brought the

immediate submission of Cahokia, to which town Clark sent a

small force of his men with some French volunteers. Gibault

on his own motion went to Vincennes and secured its adherence

by his own arts of persuasion. Thus with practically no fighting

Illinois passed into American control.

But the real difficulties of Clark's undertaking now began.

He was in the midst of a great savage country with only a

handful of men and no near base of supplies and reinforce-

ment. The French of the villages were his friends and he found

sympathy in the Spanish posts across the Mississippi, but the

attitude of the Indians was still unsettled and a force might be

sent against him from Detroit at any time. Moreover, the time

of enlistment of his men expired and only about one hundred

re-enlisted, though a few young Frenchmen filled up the com-

panies. Crowds of Indians, representing all the tribes of the

Northwest, began to gather at Cahokia to hear what had hap-

pened. There went on days of "talk," of negotiation, of con-

ciliation and cajolery, during which Clark had to keep every

sense alive to guard against sudden stealth and cunning. But

he understood Indian character perfectly and finally in speeches

of real Indian imagery convinced the gathered hordes of his

power and that of the people he represented, as well as of their

good intentions toward the redmen. A solemn peace treaty

was entered into with full Indian ceremonies and the safety

of the American garrison then secured. Clark was ever after

a great figure in the Indian minds and it was reported that in

later wars they would treat with no other American officer if

Clark was present.14

14Roosevelt I, p. 57.

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Hamilton at Detroit was planning an expedition against Fort

Pitt when news of Clark's expedition reached him, and he im-

mediately gave up that enterprise to go to the Illinois country.

The Indians near at hand were rallied and the posts on Lake

Michigan notified to stir up their savages. An expedition was

promptly prepared at Detroit and in October (1778) started

down the river for Vincennes. From Lake Erie they rowed

up the Maumee, then had a nine-mile carry to the Wabash, the

water of which led directly to Vincennes. Hamilton went in

person and had in his commands only one hundred and seventy-

seven whites, but gathering Indians as he went secured a force

of about five hundred. It was a hard journey and Hamilton

gained opinions as to the difficulties of the Illinois country

which did Clark good service the following winter. The Amer-

ican force was so small that Clark had not dared divide it, and

Captain Helm, whom he put in command at Vincennes had only

a handful of men. Scouts sent out by Helm were captured, so

news of Hamilton's approach did not reach him and the town

passed easily into English hands on December 17th.

The British commander now felt perfectly secure, for spies

had told him that Clark had but one hundred and ten men, and,

besides, the route from Kaskaskia was one of the great difficulty

in winter. If he had moved on at once it would seem that he

might easily have crushed Clark, whose base of supplies at

Fort Pitt was really cut off, while his own was comparatively

accessible. But he dreaded a winter campaign and settled down

to wait for spring.

When Clark learned through Francis Vigo, an Italian trader,

that Hamilton had only eighty men in his garrison and that he

planned to gather a great force to overrun the country in the

spring, the terrors of winter weather and swampy wilderness

faded away from before the Americans and preparations were

at once begun for retaking Vincennes. An armed row-boat was

sent down to the Ohio to watch the mouth of the Wabash. The

French came gladly to his aid and young men volunteered until

he was able to march out of Kaskaskia on February 7th (1779)

with a force of one hundred and seventy. The march of two

hundred and forty miles was accomplished against ordinarily

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc.           53

insuperable obstacles. Cold and hunger were expected difficulties,

but to this march was added the necessity of moving forward

over plains flooded with ice-cold water, often to a man's waist,

and sometimes deeper. Canoes or dug-outs were built to carry

the weaker men and scanty baggage and occasionally the whole

force was ferried where the water was over head in depth. It

took all of Clark's ingenuity to keep his men alive, to keep up

their spirits and prevent desertions. But he succeeded, and sur-

prising Hamilton completely, secured Vincennes after a very

little fighting, and the whole garrison of seventy-nine men, in-

cluding Hamilton, as prisoners of war. A valuable load of sup-

plies and goods of all sorts on its way from Detroit, was cap-

tured just above Vincennes and distributed among the soldiers,

who were gladdened at the same time by messengers from the

Virginia government bringing thanks and promises of pay.

The Americans were now in complete control of the Illinois

country and all the Indians of the region were neutral through

the rest of the war. Then French and Spanish across the river

were Clark's enthusiastic friends.  Virginia shortly organized

the new territory as a county with John Todd as County Lieu-

tenant. The great trouble now for both Clark and Todd was

to secure funds with which to take care of their charge. Pollock,

an American trader at New Orleans, and Francis Vigo stepped

in here and honored Clark's drafts again and again.15 The Ohio

River was now perfectly safe, and before the summer of 1779

was over the Spanish from New Orleans took Natchez and

supply boats could pass from Fort Pitt to New Orleans and

back. Toward the end of the year Clark himself took up his

post at the Falls of the Ohio where he might serve as a shield

to both Kentucky and the Illinois country and from which point

he hoped to be able to move against Detroit. Clark's great ser-

vices to his country end here, but probably no single man ever

did so much on his own personal responsibility to enlarge the

territory of the United States as he had done.

The same season of Clark's campaign in Illinois, 1778, the

Congress and Washington had decided to strengthen the forces

at Fort Pitt, and General McIntosh was sent to take charge.

15Hinsdale, p. 155. Winsor, p. 131.

54 Ohio Arch

54       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

With an enlarged army of Continentals and militia, he was to

move across country against Detroit. The start was made, but

McIntosh moved with such caution and built forts with such

care that winter set in when he had advanced only to the Upper

Muskingum valley. He left a small force to hold that post,

retired to Pittsburg, and sent his militia home.

The year 1779 saw some trouble for the Kentucky settle-

ments, but Clark's work disorganized their foes and two great

streams of emigrants poured into the territory, one by the

Wilderness Road and one down the Ohio. It was this year that

James Robertson, of Watauga fame, went to the Kentucky River

by the Wilderness Road, and then struck across to the great

bend in the Cumberland, where he made ready for a large party

of his friends under Donelson, the father of the future Mrs.

Andrew Jackson. Donelson's party, his daughter among them,

came by water all the way down the Tennessee to the Ohio, and

thence up the Cumberlanl. It was a perilous undertaking, but

was really no part of the war except that each advancing colony

made more secure the claims that America could make to trans-

Alleghany territory.

In May of 1779 Indian forays stirred up the Kentuckians,

and a party of about one hundred under John Bowman, a county

lieutenant--for Kentucky was now divided into several coun-

ties - went against Chillicothe. The town was burned by the

Indians, who rallied and drove off the whites. It was a humil-

iating defeat, but it had a disastrous effect upon an army just

starting from Detroit, under Captain Henry Bird. His entire

force of Indians fled from him, panic-stricken, when they heard

of the attack on Chillicothe, and Kentucky was spared an attack.

In 1780, DePeyster, a New York tory, took command at

Detroit, and a determined and systematic attack on the Amer-

ican positions was begun. Efforts were made to send bands

against Vincennes and against Clark at the Falls, but the Indians

of the region were now hard to rouse against the Americans, and

made most uncertain allies. In May, a force of six or seven

hundred Indians and a few Canadians started for the Ohio,

aimed against the villages of Kentucky, where DePeyster cor-

rectly thought was the strongest hold of the Americans on the

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc.          55


Ohio Valley. Bird was in command again, and this time suc-

ceeded in passing down the Miami, crossing the Ohio and taking

two small stockades near the Licking River. Satisfied with this,

he began his retreat to Detroit, but his Indians became unruly

and stole and plundered, and he could not even get his little

cannon back to Detroit.

Stirred up by this small British adventure, Clark, disguised

as an Indian to prevent attack by strolling savages, hurried

through the forest to the panic-stricken Kentucky settlements.

Many recent arrivals were all ready to flee the country, but

Clark sent a force to drive them back from the Wilderness Road,

and, appointing the mouth of the Licking as a rendezvous, pre-

pared for a counter foray. About nine hundred men responded

to his call. They went up the Ohio some distance, crossed it,

and marched against old Chillicothe. That town had been de-

serted, but a Piqua town, containing Girty and several hundred

Indians, was attacked. Clark's party was successful, drove out

the Indians and destroyed their property, and seized the stores

of some British traders. There was no more trouble in 1780.

In the winter of 1780-1781, Clark went to Virginia to se-

cure forces and supplies for an attack on Detroit. Jefferson,

their governor, did all in his power, and both men appealed to

Washington. The commander-in-chief had more work than he

could take care of as it was, and could only instruct Colonel

Brodhead, at Fort Pitt, to do what he could to help Clark. The

latter was empowered to raise troops, but went up and down the

Ohio from Fort Pitt to the Falls and to Illinois, without getting

a sufficient response. One small party of Pennsylvanians, com-

ing down the Ohio to join him, was attacked by a force of In-

dians under the famous Joseph Brant, and all killed or captured.

The news of Clark's intended attack on Detroit caused the col-

lection of war bands to oppose him. One under McKee and

Brant attained considerable size, but fell to pieces when they

heard Clark had abandoned his plan, and only some small forays

took place.

The surrender of Cornwallis, in October, 1781, did not

bring quiet to the frontier. The winter following witnessed the

wanton massacre of the Moravian Indians, by a party from Fort

56 Ohio Arch

56       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


Pitt. The Moravians had been neutral all through the war, but

between two fires, and suspected by their brother Indians and the

Americans. It is a dark page in our annals, but cannot detain us

here. The following spring a force of Pennsylvania and Vir-

ginia militia was sent against Sandusky, was worsted, and re-

treated with considerable loss. Some of the men had shared in

the Moravian massacre, and captives were put to death by the

Indians with peculiar torture; the chief sufferer, Colonel Craw-

ford was, however, innocent of that crime.

The summer of 1782 was almost a repetition of that of 1781.

Caldwell and McKee started from Detroit with some rangers,

and speedily gathered over a thousand Indians, the largest force

west of the Alleghanies during the Revolution. They planned

an attack on Wheeling, but turned aside because of a rumor that

Clark was intending to attack the Shawnee towns.16 Finding

it was a false alarm many of the Indians deserted, but three or

four hundred were retained, and with them the Ohio was crossed

and an attack made on the forts in Fayette County, between the

Ohio and Kentucky Rivers, then the feeblest and most exposed

part of Kentucky. Several stations were destroyed, and the

party began a leisurely retreat to the Blue Licks, where they

were overtaken by a hastily-gathered force of backwoodsmen.

Boone was with them, and advised that an attack be postponed

until other troops known to be on the way could come up. But

rasher councils prevailed, and an attack made, which ended in a

wild rout of the whites. "He that could remount a horse was

well off; he that could not had no time for delay."17 This battle

of the Blue Licks was the bloodiest Kentucky had known.

Clark was once more roused, and gathering forces at the

mouth of the Licking, as before, started up the Miami Valley

in November, 1782, with one thousand and fifty mounted rifle-

men. The Indians fell back before this force - towns and sup-

plies were destroyed. McKee tried to come to the aid of his

Indian friends, but his forces were scattered; Clark's dream

might also have been realized, for McKee wrote that the severity

16 Roosevelt II, p. 188.

17 Levi Todd's Letter, Roosevelt II, p. 203.

Campaign's of the Revolution, Etc

Campaign's of the Revolution, Etc.        57


of the blow left the road open to Detroit.l8 But the war went

no further. By the opening of 1783 the news of peace reached

the frontier, and the campaigns of the Revolution were over.

Just what had been accomplished by the war in the West

can be briefly summarized: (1) The advance of settlers to the

south side of the upper Ohio, and into the Watauga Valley, gave

the colonists a footing west of the mountains. (2) These set-

tlements made necessary the battle of the Great Kanawha, in

1774, and the defeat of the Shawnees there opened the Ohio

River as a route to the Kentucky valleys. (3) The treaty of

Henderson and Boone, in 1775, and the settlements made by

them established a hold on the Kentucky country. (4) The

success of the Watauga men over the Cherokees, in 1776, made

their own position permanent and placed a barrier between Ken-

tucky and the South. (5) In 1778 Clark's conquest was in

itself the greatest advance made and besides cleared the northern

horizon so that, (6) the growth of Kentucky increased, and in

1779, especially, a new frontier was established by Robertson

and his company in the Cumberland Valley.

It is well said that the last contest for the Western country

was the diplomatic battle fought by John Jay, at Paris. Though

France and Spain had been our allies during the war there was

nothing that either of them desired less than a free republic,

extending from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. In the negotia-

tions that took place it was fortunate that the American Com-

missioners had a liberal English ministry to treat with, rather

than that of Lord North. It was a help to their claims that a

shadow of a right to the Western lands had come down from

the old charters, but the weight of argument rested upon the

actual conquest and occupation of the country asked for. As

Livingston wrote to Franklin, in January, 1782, "This extension

to the Mississippi is founded on justice, and our claims are at

least such as the events of the war give us a right to insist

upon," while the settlements in the West "render a relinquish-

ment of the claim highly impolitic and unjust."19 Even France

18Roosevelt II, p. 209.

19Winsor, p. 209.

58 Ohio Arch

58       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


and Spain recognized the right that lies in possession, and one

line was proposed by them, which would have given to the

Republic the territory that had actually been settled by her peo-

ple.20 What the United States really got was only what had

been conquered, for, though the treaty of 1783 gave the Great

Lakes and Florida as the northern and southern boundaries, it

took a good many years and at least one treaty more to obtain

actual possession of it all. So the first result of the campaigns

in the Ohio Valley was unquestionably the acquisition of that

valley by the United States.

Further, this acquisition made sure the future growth of the

territory. Count d'Aranda, the Spanish commissioner at Paris,

"predicted the enormous expansion of the Federal Republic at

the expense of Florida, Louisiana and Mexico, unless effectually

curbed in its youth."21  His prediction has been more than ful-

filled. The possession of half the Mississippi Valley made essen-

tial the control of its mouth, hence the Louisiana purchase. The

holding of the interior gave a need for the gulf coast, and we

acquired Florida.

These campaigns were carried on chiefly by men who were

coming into the land to possess it, and each advancing victory

drew after it a fresh wave of immigration; colonization and con-

quest, mutually cause and effect. But the stress of danger

brought forth united action of the frontiersmen, and developed

a feeling of common interest which drew them together under

some form of civil regulations; whereas, in less stirring times

they might have remained much longer free bands of hunters

and woodsmen, and the civilization and growth of the interior

been much delayed.

The acquisition of the western lands appeared at first as an

enormous advantage to certain States holding the ancient char-

ters, but when their titles were quit-claimed to the United States

a national domain was created, interest in which and care of

which did a great deal to hold the States together in the perilous

days of the Confederation and to lead to the stronger union of

the Constitution.

20 Hinsdale, p. 176. Map opposite p. 180.

21 Roosevelt II, p. 376.

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc

Campaigns of the Revolution, Etc.        59


Furthermore, at the close of the war, a vast immigration

into the new lands began. Some came to redeem soldiers' boun-

ties, some from ruined homes along the coast sought to renew

their fortunes in the rich soil of these river valleys. New sources

of wealth were opened up and the opportunities of the great

West drew to our shores throngs of Europeans to multiply our

population and add to our wealth and power.

Finally, it may not be going too far to say that this Ohio

Valley conquest developed a race of pioneers who have formed

the forward moving element all through our history. Pioneers

are men who keep ahead of civilization as long as there is a

wilderness to conquer, and then turn to subdue the evils that

grow out of civilization itself. Daniel Boone died west of the

Mississippi, still pursuing the wilderness; Andrew Jackson was

a product of East Tennessee in Revolutionary times, while his

wife, the daughter of Donelson, went to the Cumberland Valley

with her father in 1779; the younger brother of Clark shares

with Lewis the credit for the exploration of the Oregon country,

and Sam Houston, a product of the Tennessee frontier, was the

founder of the United States power in Texas. As the first back-

woodsmen went forward and took the land in the face of British

and Indians, so it has been their sons or the inheritors of their

spirit who have led the advance of the United States all the way

to the Pacific. And Lincoln, "the first American," was essen-

tially a backwoods product, whose pioneer instinct turned back

to destroy the weeds of human slavery and in the tangles of

State and party enmity to prepare the way, to make straight the

paths, for a new and greater nation than the world had yet


Principal authorities for the facts related in the foregoing Article:

Hinsdale - The Old Northwest. Winsor - The Westward Movement.

Roosevelt - The Winning of the West. Poole -The West, in Narrative

and Critical History of America, Vol. VI, Chap. IX. Jay -The Treaty

of 1783 in Narrative and Critical History. English - Conquest of the

Country Northwest of the Ohio River. Fiske - American Revolution.

Fiske--Critical Period of American History.