Ohio History Journal






[This paper was awarded the annual prize offered to Ohioans by

the Ohio Sons of the Revolution for an historical essay, February, 1905.

The assigned subject that year was the Western Indians in the Revolu-

tion. The writer aimed only at a clear and concise treatment of the

Indian War in the West, of which so far as he is aware there is no

brief, recent account. The discussion of Gov. Hamilton's responsibility

differs from other accounts.]

The history of American expansion begins properly with the

treaty of 1783. In that convention the territory between the

Alleghanies and the Mississippi was ceded to the United States.

That cession was made possible by American conquest and occu-

pation there during the revolutionary war. It is with this struggle

in the west in its relations to the Indians that we propose to deal.

We shall discuss briefly the character of the war, the situations of

the three parties to the war, as they concerned the Indian's choice

of side, and shall then give a short narrative of the events of

the contest.

As early as 1773 the Boones, the Kentons and Zanes were

advancing across the Alleghanies and down the Ohio by river and

footpath to make their homes in the hunting grounds of the red

man. The Indian realized that his woodland was endangered;

he dimly foresaw the ultimate consequences of this migration and

in a blind way he resisted. He came, he burned, he scalped, and

stole away to repeat the work another time. In deeds of this

sort the war began. The revolutionary war in the west was the

struggle against the advance of the white man. From 1773 to

1783 the deepest motive that impelled the Indian to his awful

acts was to drive back the settler. It was revenge for savage

outrages and defence against them that led to nearly all the im-

portant offensive moves made by the Americans. Lord Dun-

more's war was but the first phase, and from the view point of


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those engaged doubtless a phase little different, of the conflict

between the pioneers and the savage.

It will be said that such a view allows not enough credit to

the wise patriots, Washington, Henry and Jefferson, who di-

rected from a distance the efforts to break down the British

power in the Ohio valley. Their part must not be discounted,

but the little armies whose levying they authorized failed to ma-

terialize. Detroit must be captured was the word that went west

from Virginia, but militia could be raised and expeditions set on

foot only to revenge the raids of the Indians and to frighten

them away. The leaders may have seen further, but their fol-

lowers were fighting the battle of the backwoods against the wild

man and cared very little for any larger end.1 What could the

pioneers of the woods know or care about taxation without rep-

resentation in Massachusetts? Their utmost thought and energy

was demanded to make and save their homes. The breaking out

of war along the Atlantic coast meant much to them only when it

came to involve the subsidizing by the English of large bodies of

Indians to take up the vicious work which had hitherto been car-

ried on by desultory parties.

Nevertheless Lexington and Bunker Hill signalized in the

west as in the east a new situation. There were three parties

concerned, England, the Colonies- we shall call them the Ameri-

cans - and the Indians. We shall briefly outline the situation as

it presented itself to the three parties, and the position taken by

them, and shall discuss the English first because the first move

was made by them.

The king's pawn was played by Governor Dunmore of Vir-

ginia, who had been already involved with the Indians. As

early as April, 1775, he informed the British government that he

was planning to rouse the western Indians, and for this purpose

he sent out Dr. John Connolly. The governor forecasted very

well the English position in his address to Captain White-eyes of

the Delawares. "You may rest assured," he said, "that our fool-

ish young men shall never be permitted to have your lands, but


1An analysis of the various expeditions, when and why undertaken,

will convince the reader of this.

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The Western Indians in the Revolution.        271


on the contrary the Great King will protect you and preserve you

in the possession of them."2

This was indeed to be the position of the Great King and of

his government. They wished to preserve the western country

for Indian hunters and for their own traders. They were to

wage war through their Indian allies as well against the advance

of settlement as against the American enemy.3

During '75 and '76, Dunmore's agent,4 and unauthorized

emissaries of the British party were stating the English case and

winning friends among the Indians.5   The English authorities

were much more hesitant about soliciting the assistance of the

red man. It is a fact apparently unnoticed in the histories that

they could not at once decide on a policy. In the spring of 1776

the Six Nations, the Delawares, the Shawnees and other nations

assembled in a Great Council at Niagara, but the English gov-

ernment at Quebec sent them word that it was not yet ready to

speak and the assembly adjourned.6   Events in New England,

however, where the red man had already been drawn into the

conflict, probably determined British policy. Hamilton at De-

troit was instructed to "place proper persons at the head of the

savages to conduct their parties and restrain them from commit-

ting violence on the well affected and inoffensive inhabitants."7

He was further instructed to report to Carleton at Quebec all

his dealings with the Indians, that one general and uniform policy

with respect to them might be pursued.8 It was to be the weak-

ness of the Americans that they had no such policy.

Whatever the orders from headquarters were, a study of the

English campaign will show that it was in great degree managed


2Olden Time, I, 524.

3Roosevelt II, 5.

4 Connolly's timely arrest in Nov. '75, stopped his work.

5De Schweinitz, 441.

6Olden Time, 11, 112-113. This fact is related by Kiashuta in a

speech at Ft. Pitt. Butterfield however, says that Hamilton at Detroit

was engaging Indian assistance as early as '75. This fits in with his

later self reliance in starting out Indians.

7 Haldimand Papers. 346-7. Lord George Germaine, Whitehall, 26

Mar. '77.

8Haldimand Papers, 345.

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from Detroit by Governor Hamilton. Germaine, Carleton and

Haldimand could modify plans, and the latter especially made his

influence felt, but Detroit was the natural center of British opera-

tions in the west, and Hamilton must be held largely responsible

for the actual methods adopted in the use of the savages.

Charles Walker9 has presented interesting statistics which show

vividly the great inducements offered to the red men by the gov-

ernor at Detroit. The large shipments called for of trinkets,

blankets, scalping knives and guns, and the enormous consump-

tion of rum reveal the powerful influences which the governor

brought to bear. According to credible witnesses there were

usually gathered around Detroit about one thousand savages,

who constantly demanded gifts and drank down great quantities

of liquor.

British policy went further than subsidizing of the Indians.

The powers at Quebec had been shrewd enough to gain the al-

liance of the Iroquois10 and to use Iroquois influence in enlisting

other tribes. No one influence could be more effective with the

western tribes. If this were not enough, the governor at De-

troit resorted to the extreme measure of threatening war against

neutral Indians.11

The English policy was uniform, consistent, vigorous.

American settlement must be driven back, the Indians must be

employed to do it. The American policy, on the other hand, al-

though it may have been praiseworthy, had the appearance of

weakness. The Americans were experienced in war with the

Indians. They knew that scalping and murder of prisoners were

its necessary concomitants. They were able to appreciate fully

what Indian attacks upon the borders would mean. It is not

surprising then that popular opinion wavered as to the proper

policy. The settlers along the Monongahela and Ohio hated the

Indian because he was an Indian, and yet more because they

feared the terror by night and the sudden arrow by day. Even

the most friendly Indians - those who had been converted by

9The Revolution in the Northwest.

10 Except two tribes to be mentioned later.

11As against the Delawares in 1778.

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The Western Indians in the Revolution.      273


the Moravian missionaries - gave shelter to the dreaded Wyan-

dots on their bloody incursions.12  The settlers realized never-

theless that policy demanded peace with the savages. They

were in a country where the wildmen outnumbered them several

times and possessed all the advantages of attack.

The official attitude found first expression in the stopping

of Connolly's work by his arrest. "The arrest of Connolly," says

Winsor,13 "deferred for two years (till '77) the active partici-

pancy of the Kentucky settlers in the war." The thousands of

Indians who might have been roused up in '75, were not enlisted

in the British cause until a time when the frontiersmen could

oppose them on even terms. In the same year14 Congress created

three Indian departments and placed in charge of the western

one at Ft. Pitt, Richard Butler15 who was to detach the Indians

from the British cause. In an address to the Six Nations Con-

gress clearly defined its policy. "This is a family quarrel be-

tween us and old England. You Indians are not concerned.

We do not wish you to take up the hatchet against the King's


To support this policy, commissioners were sent to treat

with the Ohio tribes, and at two Great Councils held at Ft. Pitt

in July and October, 1776, pledges of neutrality were exacted

from the Iroquois, Delawares, Mohicans, and Shawnees present.

The Ottawas, Wyandots, Chippewas and Mingoes (Muncies)

held aloof.17

Meantime opinion was changing in regard to what should

be the American attitude towards the Indians. In April, '76,

Washington wrote to Congress that since the Indians would soon

be engaged either for or against, he would suggest that they be

engaged for the Colonies.18  On the 25th of May, Congress re-


12 See Poole, in Winsor's Narrative and Critical Hist. VI. 735.

13 Westward Movement. 87.

14 1775.

15 Soon succeeded by Morgan.

16 Olden Time, II, 116.

17 Washington-Crawford Correspondence. 60.

18 Sparks' Writings of Washington, III, 364.

Vol. XVI- 18.

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solved that it was highly expedient to engage the Indians for the

American service.19

There are but few evidences that this resolution was ever

carried out in the west. In not more than two or three instances,

so far as we have discovered, was Indian assistance solicited or

made use of.20 In at least two cases the services of the savages

when offered were refused. The resolutions found their justifi-

cation then as a political move-at least so far as the west was

concerned - in the fact that they enabled the Americans to pre-

sent to the Indians as well as to the English a bolder and more

consistent front.

It is sometimes said that the American Revolution had the

character of a civil war. This cannot be said of its western

phase. It is a singular fact that the conduct of the hostile sav-

ages, more than any other one cause, brought about a strong and

harmonious position upon the part of the borderers. The red

man had been faithfully told by his masters at Detroit to distin-

guish between Tory and Rebel, but he was too busy collecting

scalps to notice fine shades of distinction, and he was responsible

for the wiping out of that distinction. When the loyalists along

the border found the savages engaged against them, they joined

their neighbors in repelling invasion.21 It was a natural conse-

quence that by '77 the whole border was strongly pro-American.

The situations which presented themselves to the English

and to the Americans at the opening of the war, are subordinate,

for the purposes of this paper, to that in which the red man

found himself. It is the weakness of our evidence as to the

Indian point of view that it has reached us altogether through

white sources. Yet so manifest is the Indian situation that one

could almost determine it by a line of a priori reasoning. It is

easy to see that the tribes of the forest had everything to fear


19 Secret Journal of Confress, 1, 44. Winsor makes a strange slip

(p. 127) when he says, "Congress did not formally sanction the use of

Indians till March, 1778."

20 See The Olden Time, II, 374-5. The Olden Time, II, 309-11.

Penn. Archives, VIII, 640.

21 See Haldimand Papers, 489.

The Western Indians in the Revolution

The Western Indians in the Revolution.       275

from  the advance of permanent settlement. Said Kiashuta

boldly at Ft. Pitt, "We will not suffer either the English or

Americans to march an army through our country."22 The Half-

King23 went farther in the Great Council called by the English

at Detroit and declared that the Long Knives24 had for years

interfered with the Indians' hunting and now at last it was the

Indians' turn to threaten revenge."25 The Americans were sur-

veying out their lands,26 they were cheating them  in trading

operations, they were breaking their promises as soon as they

were made.27 The Indians declared that they were tired of com-


The truth was the American commercial operations with the

Indians had been managed in a very impolitic way. Further, the

Americans were poor. They could not supply the savages boun-

tifully with rum and pretty presents, a fact which the Indians

were not slow in discovering. There was nothing to gain, there

was everything to lose, they reasoned from alliance with the


As for the English, the situation with respect to them was

the reverse. The English wished to preserve to the Indians their

hunting ground and to keep it a perpetual field for trading op-

erations. They were moreover well supplied, as we have already

seen, with all the munitions of persuasion. Hamilton's demands

from Quebec for more rum and more gifts for the Indians seemed

extravagant and drew down reproaches, but probably the situa-

tion called for just such extravagance.

The Indians knew that the English could and would sub-

sidize them. They knew too that they had nothing to fear from

a people whose homes were across the sea. There were other

elements that no doubt entered into the final determination of

their attitude. We have already referred to the weight of the


22 Olden Time, II, 112.

23 Of the Wyandots.

24 The Indian name for the Americans.

25Force's Amer. Arch. I. Series, II, 517.

26 Hildreth. 109.

27 Olden Time, II, 96, 103.

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Iroquois influences.28 The Pottawattamies29 and Ottawas living

near to Detroit also cast in their lot with the English.30 Detroit

and Quebec were pivotal points in Indian geography. By gain-

ing the support of the powerful tribes near these places the

English were assured many other tribes. Esprit de corps counts

among Indians as elsewhere, and there can be no doubt that many

of the savages otherwise inclined to neutrality were swept into

the current of war.31

One counter influence of great importance should be noticed.

The Moravian missionaries through the first three years of the

war proved themselves powerful forces for Indian neutrality.

Zeisberger and Heckewelder, among the Delawares, and Kirkland

among the Tuscaroras and Oneidas stayed the current that was

rushing Britishward. Until 1778 the tribes nearest Ft. Pitt re-

mained neutral and when they finally went over to the British,

the Americans were strong enough to hold their own.

It is rather misleading to treat the Indian situation as a

whole, as we have done, because Indian policy was by no means

so fixed and determinate a quantity, as it may seem when put

down on paper. It was arrived at very slowly and in very differ-

ent ways by various tribes. The Wyandots32 had been accus-

tomed to prey upon the white settlements long before the war

broke out, the Pluggystown Indians began operations early in

'75, the Shawnese33 held long and divided councils before they

at length resolved to support the authorities at Detroit. The

Hurons determined to remain neutral but found themselves driven


28 Two tribes of the Iroquois must be excepted, the Oneidas and


29 One of the shrewdest moves in the war was DePeyster's suggestion

in August, '78, that the young Indian Aimiable and his companion Potta-

wattamies should be persuaded to remain at Montreal. In this way it

was hoped to maintain the good behavior of the whole tribe.

30 Hildreth, 97.

31 See Loskiel, 107.

32 See Rondthaler's Heckewelder, De Schweinitz's Zeisberger, and

Zeisberger's Diary for detailed accounts.

33 W. L. Stone in his Life of Brant, I, 349, says that some of the

Shawnese had been engaged in predatory warfare since '73. Stone's

work is one of the most reliable upon this whole subject.

The Western Indians in the Revolution

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to war by other tribes.34 The Chippewas were too lazy, declared

DePeyster, English Commandant at Mackinac, to support either

side,35 and they continued neutral as long as possible. It is use-

less to enumerate further details. Different motives swayed dif-

ferent tribes,36 but the outcome was that the great majority of red

men took up the English cause.

Having now presented the situations of the three parties

with respect to the Indians at the opening of the war, we shall

go on to narrate the progress of the war, limiting ourselves to

the more important movements of the savage war bands and of

their antagonists.37  When the year 1777 opened the Americans

held besides Ft. Pitt, two fortified positions in the west, Ft. Henry

at Wheeling and Ft. Randolph at Point Pleasant.38   In neither

of these protected stockades was a large force of troops placed,

but they were so arranged that in case of alarm the outlying set-

tlers could rush to them and constitute an adequate defense. The

English had two strong points garrisoned, Detroit, with about

500 troops39 and more Indian supporters under Hamilton, and

Mackinac with a smaller force under DePeyster.

On the 26th of March, '77, Lord Germaine had authorized

Hamilton to "make a diversion and excite alarm upon the fron-

tiers of Virginia and Pennsylvania by parties of Indians con-

ducted by proper leaders."40 The governor at Detroit was quick

to obey instructions, indeed to go beyond them. He sent out to

the Indian tribes a hatchet wrapped in red and white, beads, a

formal authorization to go upon the warpath. That Hamilton

exceeded his orders in a way to deserve responsibility for Indian

cruelties is a fact not noticed in the accounts of the war. Roose-


34Loskiel, 117. Loskiel is not always accurate but his statement

here seems to rest on good evidence.

35 Zeisberger's Diary, 1, 41.

36For a good account of Indian sentiment in the fall of 1776, see

Wm. Wilson's account in Hildreth.

37 The writer has been impressed with the opportunity that still

exists to untangle the relations of the many Indian raids, but the limits

of this paper forbid such a research.

38 At the entrance of the Big Kanawha.

39 C. T. Walker, who bases his figures on Judge May's report.

40Haldimand Papers. 346.

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velt would excuse him as one who merely carried out the orders

of his superiors. Butterfield has shown that while Hamilton did

not in advance offer reward for scalps, he rewarded amply41

those who returned with the bloody trophies. It seems to the

writer that the question of Hamilton's responsibility rests rather

upon the evidence that he was authorized to send out Indian

parties under English leaders and that he forthwith proceeded

to give the Indians a general leave for promiscuous expeditions.

Lord Germaine's plan involved the maximum of care in the em-

ployment of savage warriors, Hamilton's methods the minimum.

That he had been instructed to take no step without positive or-

ders from headquarters but increases his responsibility for the

awful cruelties inflicted upon the border settlements.

It was not long before the effects of the governor's message

became apparent. The Wyandots and Mingoes had both ac-

cepted the hatchet with alacrity. From April to July the white

settlements in Kentucky were compelled to fight for their exist-

ence. The savages suddenly assaulted Harrodsburg, then made

two sharp attacks on Boonesborough and laid siege to Logan's

Station. The movements had much the same character. They

were made without warning, the outlying settlers were slain and

the fort assaulted with a rush. Boonesborough was defended by

twenty-two men and Logan Station by fifteen. At the latter the

Indians made an attempt at a siege, but they always wanted the

organization and persistence necessary to make an investment

successful, and went away as suddenly as they had come. They

had well carried out Lord Germaine's aim -to alarm the fron-


Throughout the summer the Indians continued to make raids

here and there in small bands, and in October they united for a

severe attack upon Ft. Henry. From two to four hundred sav-

ages engaged in a desperate attempt to take this stockade but

found it impregnable and retired into the Ohio forests for the


While the English had succeeded through their wild allies

41 That Hamilton showed pleasure also at the sight of scalps was

attested by John Leith in his Biography, 29. See also Zeisberger's ac-

count in De Schweinitz.

The Western Indians in the Revolution

The Western Indians in the Revolution.      279


in making life in the border settlements insecure, the Americans

had been singularly successful in doing the wrong thing. Three

blunders upon their side signalized the year. General Hand had

early in the season planned an expedition against the Pluggys-

town Indians who had been responsible for many of the former

incursions upon the border. But he wished to pursue a friendly

policy towards the Delawares and Shawnese and feared to dis-

please them by such an offensive move. The Indians interpreted

such hesitation as weakness and grew thereupon constantly

bolder in their invasions.

The second mistake was made in July when large numbers

of the Indians were gathering at Ft. Pitt for a treaty with the

Long Knives. A body of Senecas was fired upon by a party of

Americans, the savages were enraged and peace prospects at

an end. This may have been an accidental blunder but it was

the natural outcome of the want of organization and of obedience

to a central authority, which was manifested by the American

warriors in the west.

The third and most egregious blunder was the murder of

Cornstalk, chief of the Shawnese. Cornstalk had been consist-

ently a friend to the Americans, but had found the majority in

his own tribe against him. He had come to Point Pleasant to

report that he could no longer restrain his tribe and had been

retained as a hostage. An untoward incident at the fort offered

the occasion for killing him. Congress sought to forestall the

consequences of this treachery for the perpetrators but it was too

late. The Shawnese already passively hostile, now resolved on

revenge and became the most active of marauders on the frontier.

There were but two encouraging facts for the backwoods-

men when the year closed, the Kentucky forts had been held, and

new settlers were pouring over the mountains. The tide of im-

migration was setting in and the Indians could not scalp fast

enough to offset it.

The year 1778 opened with a vigorous but unsuccessful at-

tack of 200 Shawnese upon Point Pleasant, to avenge the murder

of their chief.42 It was early followed by General Hand's incon-


42 Stuart, 61.

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sequential "squaw campaign." The remaining events of the year

are of much greater interest and may be divided into three dis-

tinct heads, the Kentucky contest, McIntosh's expedition and the

Illinois campaign. Operations in Kentucky commenced in Janu-

ary with the capture of Boone and thirty of his companions.

Boone spent several months among the Indians and was adopted

into the chief Black Fish's family. He was taken to Detroit and

learned that Hamilton was planning a large expedition against

Boonesborough. In June he succeeded in escaping to Boones-

borough where he warned the settlers and made the fort ready

for a siege.43 When the Indian force of 400 headed by English

and French officers and carrying English and French banners ar-

rived, they found a garrison ready to receive them, and after a

few days' investment vanished into the woods. Kentucky had

been saved to the Americans largely by her great pioneer.

At Ft. Pitt the winter had been filled with rumors of a great

Indian expedition headed that way. The attack on Point Pleas-

ant already referred to and a more serious one on the Greenbrier

made the Pennsylvania frontiers very anxious. The Continental

Congress determined to strike an effective blow in the Ohio coun-

try, and ordered an army of 3,000 soldiers44 to be led by Gen-

eral Lachlan McIntosh against the Indians with Detroit as goal.

The army that actually moved forward from the forks of the

Ohio was but half the intended size but large enough, if affairs

had been properly managed, to have been very formidable. Ru-

mors constantly reached McIntosh of a great force coming to

meet him.45 With extreme caution he halted thirty miles below

Pittsburgh at Beaver to build Ft. McIntosh. After long delay

he advanced again but halted once more to build Ft. Laurens.

By this time it was too late in the autumn to strike for Detroit.

The American chance to end the war in the west was lost. Mc-

Intosh and his men marched back to Ft. Pitt, leaving Colonel

Gibson in command at Ft. Laurens. It was like poking a bumble

bees' nest and then running. The Indians came swarming out


43 For best account see Thwaites' Boone.

442,700 from east of the mountains and 300 from the west.

45 Mitchener. 129.

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of the woods to the number of eight hundred and fifty,46 and in-

vested the garrison for six weeks when it was relieved by rein-

forcements. The moral effect of McIntosh's expedition had been

less than nothing. It had exasperated the Indians and at the

same time ended with what had all the appearance of a retreat.

The practical gain was that the two advanced forts proved a great

protection to the Pennsylvania frontier.

The third movement to be discussed was upon the Missis-

sippi. This was Clark's invasion of Illinois. We shall not travel

over Clark's route with him, nor follow him in his sudden and

successful swoop upon Kaskaskia, nor trace his conquest of the

surrounding country.47  These events are well known and fur-

ther have little direct bearing upon the Indian in the revolution.

What concerns us more about Clark's conquering career is, what

were his aims, and what were his means? He defined his own

aim clearly. He was, he said, "elevated with the thoughts of the

great service we should do our country in some measure putting

an end to Indian warfare on the frontier." This is intensely in-

teresting because it makes it appear that Clark failed to see the

entire significance of his undertaking and achievement. He

sought to protect the frontier and won the west for the United

States. It was his hope by gaining Kaskaskia to attach the

French to the American interests, and through their influence to

win over the numerous savage tribes between the Mississippi and

the Lake.48 It is hardly possible to take Clark at his word and

suppose that protection for the frontier was his only motive in

seeking to win the Illinois tribes. Roosevelt mentions another

feature of the expedition which should not be overlooked. The

presence of families shows that it had the peculiar character of

being undertaken half for conquest, half for settlement.

The means used to make the conquest of permanent and

wide spreading consequence are clearer than the ends in view.

Clark won the French completely; through them he gained Vin-

cennes; through them he gained also the favorable consideration


46 According to Doddridge, p. 285, who is not absolutely reliable.

47 Butterfield and William H. English have written the authoritative

accounts of Clark's expeditions.

48 Butler's Kentucky, 50.

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of the Indian tribes. His attitude towards the red man was

shrewdly assumed. He put on the haughty air and in nearly

every case let the Indian make the first move for peace. French

influence and Clark's bold way won. Chief after chief came to

Kaskaskia and made his peace. Tobacco's Son, the "Grand

Door" of the Wabash, promised to "bloody the land no more for

the English."  Blackbird, a chief of the Ottawas, came at Clark's

invitation. "Some mystery," he declared, "hung over the war,"

which he wished removed. He was convinced that "the English

must be afraid because they gave the Indians so many goods to

fight for them."49  Delightful logic! The red man had been

thinking in his own way about the war. In such conversations

Clark won individual chiefs. It was in a Great Council held at

Cahokia that with utmost diplomacy he forced the first move

upon the savages of the Illinois country and granted with appar-

ent reluctance their demands for peace.

The news from Illinois was gall and wormwood to Hamilton

at Detroit. The English authorities resolved upon two counter

moves. DePeyster from Mackinac sent a belt to the Illinois In-

dians urging them to drive out the enemies of His Majesty, the

Great King.50 A month later he despatched Captain Langlade

to rouse the Indians around Lake Michigan and assemble them

at St. Josephs to join Hamilton.51  Meanwhile Hamilton with

175 regulars, some Canadians and 350 Indians,52 started down the

Maumee, crossed over the Wabash and struck for Vincennes.

Helm, whom Clark had left in charge at Vincennes, was deserted

by his supporters and compelled to surrender.

So closed the year 1778. We must pause for the moment

to notice certain other features of the year. On the American

side the escape of the suspected McKee, Elliott, and Girty from

Ft. Pitt meant great evil to the settlers. The three plotters, on

their way to Detroit stopped among the Indian tribes to tell them

that the Americans in the east had been utterly defeated and that

now the Americans in the west were resolved to kill every Indian

49 Butler, 75.

50 Haldimand Papers, 370.

51 Walker, 21.

52 Winsor, 131. Brice (Hist. Ft. Wayne) gives different figures.

The Western Indians in the Revolution

The Western Indians in the Revolution.       283


of every sort. At this word, Indians who had hitherto been peace-

able put on the war paint. Few incidents are more thrilling than

Heckewelder's53 arrival in the nick of time at Cooshocking to tell

the Delawares that they had been deceived. But the missiona-

ries could not follow the three renegades and undo their mis-

chief. The three had done their work thoroughly and during

the rest of the war were to be a thorn in the side of the settle-


Upon the British side the Great Council in June at Detroit

was significant. Here were assembled Ottawas, Chippewas, Hu-

rons, Wyandots, Pottawattamies, Delawares, Shawnese, Miamis,

Mingoes, Mohawks and others to the number of 1,642.54 Such

a gathering meant that the great body of western Indians was

now definitely arrayed upon the side of the English. It marked

the culmination of English influence among the savage tribes.

What was accomplished by the meeting is not altogether clear.

A few war songs were sung, a few threats made against those

who remained neutral and an inspiration given to further war-

fare.55 It seems likely that the Ohio Indians were promised as

a new inducement the lands of which they should on their own

account dispossess the settlers.56  It is probable, too, that the

impetus was given to the expedition against Boonesborough.

And it is just possible that the Council had some connection with

a plan Hamilton had communicated to Haldimand for an attack

upon Ft. Pitt. On the 6th of August the latter wrote from

Quebec that he deemed the plan not feasible. It would be diffi-

cult, he declared, to maintain the fort if taken, and no essential

point would be gained by its capture.

When the year '79 opened Hamilton had sent home his In-

dians and was holding Vincennes with a small English garrison.

He planned in the spring to proceed against Kaskaskia, to start

the Shawnese against Ft. Laurens and to rouse up the Cherokees

and Creeks against the Kentucky settlements. Then after taking

Kaskaskia he proposed to sweep the Kentucky country and win

53 Rondthaler's Heckewelder, 71.

54Haldimand Papers, 442. Butterfield, The Girtys, 63.

55 Haldimand Papers, 442-52.

56 Probable conclusion based upon a comparison of certain dates.

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the entire west to the British.57  It was a well conceived plan

and ought to have succeeded. Clark would have had but a

small force with which to resist. Probably Clark realized his own

danger and was so prompted to take the offensive. With less

than a hundred men he marched the two hundred and forty miles

through woods and flooded plains to Vincennes and captured the

"hair-buyer" Hamilton and his garrison. This blow gave the

Americans a hold upon Illinois, which was to prove permanent.

It dispirited the hostile Indians, it alarmed the British at Detroit

and it gave a new impetus to immigration into and settlement in

the west. Hundreds of families began to pour over the Alle-


Meanwhile the Kentucky men had not been idle. All

through the spring the settlements had been alarmed by Indian

incursions. A meeting was held at Harrodsburg and an expedi-

tion under Captain John Bowman crossed the Ohio and pro-

ceeded against the Shawnese town of Chillicothe. The Indians

were able to defend their seat and the Kentuckians retreated

dispirited. But the movement had really been of much import-

ance. The news of it had dispersed in a panic the two hundred

red men under Captain Bird who were starting out from Detroit

for a raid. So it was all through the Ohio country. The Chanes,

the Delawares, who were now fighting for the British, and the

Sandusky Indians were thoroughly frightened and indisposed to

further activity.59

Along the Pennsylvania border the year might be called a

draw. Sullivan's plundering campaign in upper New    York

alarmed and embittered the Indians throughout the north. Brod-

head60 in imitation of Sullivan ravaged the country to the north

of Ft. Pitt. In the Ohio country Ft. Laurens was besieged for

a month by a large body of red men, but was relieved. A few

months later the fort was given up and the American lines drawn

in. Throughout the year Brodhead at Pittsburg and Clark in


57 Roosevelt, II.  66.

58 It has been estimated that the immigration was from five to ten

thousand a year.

59 Haldimand Papers, 417.

60 Who succeeded McIntosh in April, '79

The Western Indians in the Revolution

The Western Indians in the Revolution.      285


the west were planning an attack on Detroit. Brodhead lacked

the initiative and daring for such a stroke, and Clark never re-

ceived the needful troops.

On the whole it may be said that the American situation was

improving. From Ft. Pitt to the Mississippi the Indians were

becoming more favorable to the cause of the Long Knives. They

had now all learned that the Great French Father was fighting

on the side of the Americans and this meant a great deal to them.

The Wyandots, the Macquichecs and part of the Delawares sent

representatives to Brodhead asking peace.

On the other hand the British were having more trouble

with their Indian allies. The Pottawattamies had deserted

them,61 the Chippewas were demanding more rum and less fight-

ing. The daily consumption of liquor was becoming enormous

and rendering the maintenance of the Indian allies a great burden

to the government. The Ohio Indians were complaining because

they had not been protected against the expeditions of Bowman

and Brodhead. The English, they declared, were not keeping

their promises. Throughout the Indian country the murmurs of

dissatisfaction could not be quieted.

With the new year DePeyster, who had now taken Hamil-

ton's place at Detroit, began sending out small parties against

the border, and by May had despatched in different directions

2,000 warriors.62 The campaign was waged in four directions.

Sinclair was sent with a large body of red men to take the Span-

ish seat, St. Louis. Captain Langlade with a band of savage

warriors proceeded to the Chicago portage on his way to attack

Kaskaskia. Both expeditions were thwarted by American prepa-

rations. In the meantime Colonel Bird was to "amuse" the

Americans by attacking Clark at the Falls of the Ohio,63 and a

delegation of Hurons were sent to make a demonstration towards

Ft. Pitt.64 The latter came to nothing so that only Bird's expedi-

tion need be noticed. It seems to have originated in the urgent

requests of the Mingoes, Shawnese and the Delawares to destroy


61 Haldimand Papers, 396.

62 Roosevelt, II. 102.

63 Now Louisville.

64 DePeyster's Miscellanies, XXV.

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286       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


some forts of which they complained.65  It was further intended

besides amusing the settlers to make a reprisal for Bowman's ex-

pedition of the previous year and to interrupt settlement.66 The

army started out to strike at Clark on the Falls of the Ohio, but

when this proved not feasible,67 advanced six hundred to a thou-

sand strong up the Licking and captured Ruddle's and Martin's

Stations. The Indians for once wished to follow up the success

and were eager to take Bryant's Station and Lexington, but Bird,

whether for lack of provisions or because he could no longer

control his red men, headed the warriors back to Detroit. The

history of the war is largely a story of reprisals, and so it was

in this case. Clark hurriedly gathered a party of 970 men at

the mouth of the Licking68 and marched against Chillicothe.

When he found the Indians gone and the village in flames, he

proceeded quickly to Piqua,69 where in a desultory battle he de-

feated the Indians and took the town. His purpose was thor-

oughly to frighten the Ohio tribes and with this effected he re-

tired to Kentucky.

The rest of the year was comparatively quiet on both sides.

There was little change in the general situation. That Clark was

still holding on to the Illinois country was perhaps the most sig-

nificant fact because it meant that the Americans were in final

possession and gave American diplomats the leverage in the nego-

tiations as to the west in 1782-3. Some changes in allegiance by

the Indian tribes should be noticed. The Sacs and Foxes in the

country between the Lakes and the Great River had espoused the

American cause while almost all the Delawares had gone over

to the English. The story of Delaware hesitation would be a

long one70 but we must note a few points in passing. We have

already seen how in '78, Girty and Elliott had alarmed the tribe

and how Heckewelder's timely appearance staved off their war-

like intentions. The British governor at Detroit kept up a con-

65 DePeyster's Miscellanies, XXIII. Haldimand Papers, 580.

66 Thwaite's Boone, 176.

67 Clark was too strongly entrenched.

68Opposite Cincinnati.

69 Near the present Springfield.

70 A capital chance exists for some one to write a good history

of the Delaware tribe.

The Western Indians in the Revolution

The Western Indians in the Revolution.          287


stant correspondence with them and more than once threatened

war upon them if they remained neutral.71 White-eyes and Pipe

were the two chiefs representative of the American and English

positions and when White-eyes died the English faction became

the stronger. Further the American commissioners of Congress

blundered by secretly offering the Delawares the hatchet against

the English. Pipe's party prevailed and the tribe in the main

took up the war (in 1780) against the Americans.72  This it was

that made operations from Ft. Pitt so precarious and that was at

least in part responsible for keeping Brodhead on the defensive

through the year '80. It was unfortunate for the authorities at

Ft. Pitt that they could not support and make use of the minority

body in the Delawares who offered their services.73  In this in-

stance as in so many others the long purse of the English was

their best weapon.74

Before the year '81 opened Governor Jefferson of Virginia

had drawn up instructions to Clark charging him to take Detroit

and secure control of Lake Erie, and had promised him an army

of 2,000 men. But events along the coast and want of harmony

in the west interfered with the great plans. Clark moved down

the Ohio with but 400 of the promised 2,000 men and reluctantly

gave up the expedition against Detroit. Meantime Brodhead

had resolved to punish the recreant Delawares75 and had ad-

vanced in April from Ft. Pitt with 300 men.76 He took Coo-

shocking and plundered it and then returned with the spoil to

Ft. Pitt.77  Any further movement from    the base of supplies


71 De Schweinitz, 467.

72 De Schweinitz, 467.  Loskiel, 134. DePeyster's Miscellanies,


73 Olden Times, II, 374.

74 DePeyster's Miscellanies. App. IX., DePeyster to the Delawares,

June 7th, 1781. "You must not make so great a merit of a real act of

necessity. I am sensible, could the Americans have supplied your wants

...   .   . you  would  to  this  day  have  listened  to  them."

75 See Brodhead's Correspondence for March, 1781, in Olden Time.


76 Butterfield. The Girtys. 127.

77 About thirty prisoners were taken. De Hass, 179, says they were

all killed.

288 Ohio Arch

288        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


would have been dangerous for the Indians were now very active

and were swarming against the Pennsylvania and Virginia fron-

tiers. Early in the year the tribes had held a council at Detroit

and once more had demanded the assistance of the British in an

attack upon all the American settlements along the Moonogahela

and Ohio rivers.78  DePeyster sent out 100 English rangers un-

der Captain Thompson and 300 Indians under McKee. While

this body was advancing against Kentucky another force under

the famous Joseph Brant lay in wait along the Ohio for Clark,

and succeeded in capturing Lochry's body of a hundred West-

morelanders who were hurrying to join Clark.79  The victors

attached themselves to Thompson and McKee's party with a view

to proceed in force against Clark, but the Indians were satisfied,

as so frequently, with one success and rapidly dispersed.

But one other military movement of the year deserves men-

tion. About 250 warriors of the Wyandots, Delawares, Muncies

and Shawnese80 under Matthew Elliott marched from Sandusky

against Ft. Henry. The garrison had been apprised by the

Christian Delawares and was ready to meet the sudden onslaught.

It was during this short siege that Zane with three other men

defended an outlying cabin against the combined Indian attack,

and that either Betty Zane or Molly Scott ran the Indian fire

to carry powder from the fort. Against such heroes the Indians

could not prevail. They gave up the attack but continued

throughout the season to make severe assaults upon the settle-


The Moravian Delawares had warned Ft. Henry and for

this they paid dearly. The governor at Detroit sent word to the

Iroquois in meeting at Niagara to proceed against the Christian

Indians. The Iroquois turned the Delaware converts over to

the Chippewas "to make broth of," and at their refusal, to the


78That the attack was demanded by the Indians is not stated in

the histories so far as examined. But see Haldimand Papers, 489-90,

and Brodhead's letter to Jefferson, January 17, 1781. Olden Time, II, 380.

79 Isaac Anderson's Journal in McBride's Pioneer Biography, 1, 277.

Anderson became a prisoner and left an interesting account. DePeyster's

Miscellanies, XXXVIII.

80 Butterfield. The Girtys. 132.

The Western Indians in the Revolution

The Western Indians in the Revolution.          289


Wyandots who accepted the office with eagerness. With British

leaders and under the British flag they removed the peaceful na-

tives of Cooshocking from their villages to Sandusky and took

the chief men on to Detroit.81

Want of provisions soon induced the English to allow 150

of the exiled Moravians to return to the banks of the Tuscara-

was. It was an impolitic step for the Moravians. They were

between two fires. Bands of hostile Indians had started against

the settlements early and had committed several outrages on the

Pennsylvania border.82 The Christian Indians were blamed with

complicity. A party of Americans under Williamson fell upon

them  at Gnadenhutten and killed them     unresisting.83  This

atrocious deed stirred all the neighboring tribes to revenge.

Their chance was not far off. On the 28th of May, 480 men

under General Crawford set out from Mingo Bottoms for San-

dusky but were ignominiously defeated and sent scurrying back.

Crawford himself was captured and suffered death tortures too

terrible to describe.

English rangers had been called out to assist in the defeat

of Crawford's party, and at the request of the red men84 were

now detained to accompany an expedition against the borders.

It is interesting to observe that the Indians were now moving

less at haphazard than formerly. They had decided that desul-

tory attacks were of little value and had determined to unite in

larger bodies for excursions against the Americans.85 Hence it

happened that 1,100 members of various tribes under the leader-

ship of McKee followed Caldwell's rangers in an invasion of

Kentucky. This number constantly diminished until, when the

force attacked Bryant's Station, few more than 200 savages re-

mained to fight. The fort was successfully defended and the In-


81 See DeSchweinitz, 489. John Holmes, 174-5. Loskiel, 150. De-

Peyster's Misc. CXXIII Note.

82 American Pioneer, 11, 428. DeHaas, 183.

8390 were slain. For two very different presentations of this affair

see W. D. Howells in Atlantic Mo., and Butterfield in The Girtys.

Roosevelt has treated the subject very fairly.

84 Butterfield's Washington-Irvine's Correspondence, 368-70.

85 DePeyster's Misc. XXXI., Flint, 87.

Vol. XVI -19.

290 Ohio Arch

290        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


dians retired in a leisurely way towards the Ohio. They were

pursued by 180 settlers who had hurried together and were over-

taken at Blue Licks. Here the Kentuckians suffered a most dis-

astrous defeat. Seventy of their number were left on the field.86

It was to avenge this defeat and to discourage the inspirited

savages that Clark brought together at the mouth of the Licking

over 1,000 men who marched northward and plundered the Indian

towns along the Miami. This straitened the Indians for supplies

and effectually dampened their high spirits.

In the meantime Captain Bradt with 40 English rangers and

over 200 savage allies had attacked Ft. Henry. For the third

time the fort stood firm and the assailants retired into the Ohio

forests. This was the last important military event of the war.

Already the Detroit commander had sent out orders for defensive

operations only and peace was soon to be signed.

The history of the western Indians in the Revolution cannot

be told in a brief narrative of campaigns. It is a story of far

tramps through the woods, of plunges across the cold streams,

of long days in swamps and nights under the bitter sky. It is a

story of scalps and scalping knives, of screaming women and lost

children, of the slow fire and the death agony. But it is as well

a tale of adventure and daring, a chronicle of high romance fit

to be told by another Froissart. History would claim it for her

own, but it belongs more nearly to realms of story and song.

The historian may tell its facts but the poet only can ever tell

its truth.


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Illinois and Wabash Towns. Columbus, 1904.

Butler, Mann, History of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Louisville,


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ern Virginia. Wheeling, 1851.

DePeyster, A. S., Miscellanies with Notes by J. Watts DePeyster. New

York, 1888.


86 Flint, 94.

The Western Indians in the Revolution

The Western Indians in the Revolution.              291


Doddridge, Joseph, Notes on the Settlement and Indian Wars of the

western part of Virginia and Pennsylvania. Albany, 1776.

English, William H., Conquest of the Country northwest of the River

Ohio and Life of George Rogers Clarke. Indianapolis, 1896.

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Mitchener, C., Ohio Annals. Dayton, 1876.

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Thwaites, R. G., Daniel Boone. New York, 1903.

Walker, C. I., The Northwest during the Revolution. Madison, 1871.

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Cincinnati, 1877.

Washington-Irvine Correspondence, Edited by C. W. Butterfield. Madi-

son, 1882.

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Winsor, Justin, Narrative and Critical History of America Boston,


Winsor, Justin, The Westward Movement. Boston, 1897.

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