THE WESTERN INDIANS IN THE REVOLUTION.
[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
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
270 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
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.
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
8Haldimand Papers, 345.
272 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
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
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
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.
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)
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.
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.
274 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
solved that it was highly expedient to engage the Indians for the
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
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. 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.
276 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
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. 277
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.
278 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
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. 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.
280 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
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.
The Western Indians in the Revolution. 281
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.
282 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
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. 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.
284 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
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
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. 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.
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.
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. 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
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
80 Butterfield. The Girtys. 132.
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. 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
American Pioneer, I, II. Cincinnati, 1843-4.
Brice, Wallace A., History of Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne, 1868.
Butterfield, C. W., History of the Girtys. Cincinnati, 1890.
Butterfield, C. W., History of George Rogers Clarke's Conquest of the
Illinois and Wabash Towns. Columbus, 1904.
Butler, Mann, History of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Louisville,
DeHaas, Wills, History of Early Settlements and Indian Wars of West-
ern Virginia. Wheeling, 1851.
DePeyster, A. S., Miscellanies with Notes by J. Watts DePeyster. New
86 Flint, 94.
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.
Flint, Timothy, Indian Wars of the West. Cincinnati, 1833.
Force, Peter, American Archives I. Series, II. Washington, 1837-53.
Haldimand Papers, In Mich. Pioneer Colls. IX. Lansing, 1886.
Hildreth, S. P., Pioneer History. Cincinnati, 1849.
Holmes, John, Historical Sketches of the Missions of the United Breth-
ren. London, 1827.
Howells, W. D., Gnaddenhutten in Atl. Mo., XXIII, 95.
Leith, John, Leith's Narrative. Reprint by C. W. Butterfield. Cincinnati,
Loskiel, G. H., History of the Mission of the United Brethren among
the Indians of the N. A. London, 1794.
McBride, James, Pioneer Biography I. Cincinnati, 1869-71.
Mitchener, C., Ohio Annals. Dayton, 1876.
Olden Time I, II. Cincinnati, 1876.
Penn. Archives, VIII. Philadelphia, 1852-56.
Rondthaler, Edward, Life of John Heckewelder. Philadelphia, 1847.
Roosevelt, Theodore, Winning of the West. New York, 1889.
Schweinitz, E. A. de., Life and Times of David Zeisberger. Philadel-
Secret Journals of Congress, 4 vols. Boston, 1821.
Stone, W. L., 2 vols., Life of Joseph Brant. New York, 1838.
Stuart, John, Memoirs of Indian Wars. Richmond, 1833.
Thwaites, R. G., Daniel Boone. New York, 1903.
Walker, C. I., The Northwest during the Revolution. Madison, 1871.
Washington-Crawford Correspondence, Edited by C. W. Butterfield.
Washington-Irvine Correspondence, Edited by C. W. Butterfield. Madi-
Washington, Writings of, Sparks Edition III. Boston, 1834.
Winsor, Justin, Narrative and Critical History of America Boston,
Winsor, Justin, The Westward Movement. Boston, 1897.
Zeisberger, David, 2 vols., Diary of Cincinnati, 1885.
The above is a bibliography only of works referred to.