Ohio History Journal





[The following sketch of Cornstalk, is from the Draper MSS.,

Border Forays, 3 D, Chap. XVIII, in the possession of the Wisconsin

Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin. It is herewith published for

the first time through the courtesy of Dr. Reuben GoldThwaites, Secre-

tary of the Wisconsin Historical Society.-EDITOR.]

The early history of Cornstalk1 is involved in obscurity. Dur-

ing those eventful years of Indian attack and massacre between

1754 and 1763, there can be no doubt that he was a prominent

leader. His forays were directed against the frontier settlements

of Virginia, as most approachable from the Scioto country, where

the Shawanese were then mostly concentrated.

The earliest of these expeditions, of which there is any

record, was one he led against several families of the name of

Gilmore, and others, who resided on Carr's Creek, in what is

now Rockbridge County. Suddenly and unexpectedly Cornstalk

and his war-party fell upon these people, October tenth, 1759,

and massacred ten persons, men, women and children, with the

usual shocking barbarity attendant on Indian warfare; among

them, John Gilmore, wife and son, and the wife of William Gil-

more. While an Indian was scalping Thomas Gilmore, he was

knocked down by Mrs. Gilmore with an iron kettle; when another

Indian ran, with uplifted tomahawk, to kill her, and was only

prevented from doing so by the Indian who lay bleeding from the

blows she had given him, exclaimed quickly, "don't kill her; she

is a good warrior," and this magnanimity in a savage saved her

life. A little girl whom they tomahawked and scalped and left for

dead, recovered, and lived thirty or forty years. They burned

and laid waste the homes of six of the settlers, killed many

cattle, carried off eleven unhappy prisoners, and many horses

laden with the spoils they had taken.


1His Indian name was Keigh-tugh-qua, signifying Cornblade or

Cornstalk; See Hist. of Western Pennsylvania, App., 162, 164.


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Captain Christian pursued the marauders with a party of

militia who were joined by an equal number of the frontier bat-

talion under Captain Thomas Fleming, stationed at Fort Dunlop;

and after following the trail several days, they finally overtook

the enemy west of the Alleghanies. It was intended to have

attacked them in their night camp, but the accidental discharge of

a musket, gave the Indians an opportunity to escape, which they

improved in such hot haste, that they abandoned all their

prisoners, seventeen horses, and all the stolen goods, some money,

beside match-coats2, blankets, and marry other articles. Six white

scalps were recovered. From the prisoners they learned, that

there were two Frenchmen with the Indians; and in the baggage

were found the French orders, directing the expedition, dated at

Scioto. The loss of the people whose property was devastated,

exceeded $2,000; but it was no small matter of congratulation,

in the midst of their sufferings, that the prisoners were rescued

from an unhappy captivity, and that Cornstalk and his warriors

were sent home without any trophies, and destitute of many

articles of their necessary clothing. The "Carr's Creek Mas-

sacre," with its horrors and its acts of heroism, was long kept in

remembrance by the people of that region and their descendants.3

At length the storm of war ceased, and peace again smiled

in the Western valley. It was only, however, temporary-more

deceptive than real. Cornstalk was evidently dissatisfied, and

became a party to the grand Indian combination under Pontiac

in 1763. He sallied forth from the Scioto towns, at the head

of about sixty warriors, aiming to strike the border settlements

of Virginia before the news should reach them of the simulta-

neous attack on the frontier posts, and the capture of many of

them. In this he was but too successful. Reaching the nearest

Greenbrier settlement in June, which was a German one, on

Muddy Creek, where the new settlers had raised but two crops,

the Shawanese warriors boldly entered the people's houses, un-


2A garment made of coarse woolen cloth.

3Virginia Gazette, Nov. 9, 1759. Maryland Gazette, Nov. 22, 1759.

S. C. Gazette, Nov. 24, 1759. Stuart's Indian Wars, 39. Campbell's

Memoir, 181. Foote's Virginia, Second Series, 159. Col. Boliver Chris-

tian's Scotch-Irish Settlers of the Valley of Virginia, 25.

Sketch of Cornstalk

Sketch of Cornstalk.               247

der the guise of friendship, and received every civility of per-

sonal attention and entertainment; when, on a sudden, they killed

the men, captured the women and children, plundered the houses,

and reduced them to ashes. Except a few who had charge of

the prisoners. Cornstalk's party passed over to the Levels of

Greenbrier, where some seventy-five people had collected at

Archibald Clendenin's, within two miles of the present locality of

Lewisburg, and where Ballard Smith long resided. Here, as at

Muddy Creek, the Indians were hospitably entertained; for none

suspected any hostile intentions, save Clendenin's wife alone,

who did not like the manner in which they were painted, as it

differed from what she had been accustomed to see.

Clendenin had just returned from a hunt, having killed three

fat elk; and, as the warriors asked for something to eat, a

plentiful feast was promised them. As he had been very suc-

cessful of late in killing large numbers of buffalo, elk and deer,

he cut off the clear meat and salted it down for future use; while

the bones and fragments were boiled up in a large kettle for the

present supply. His wife was at that time cooking a kettle full,

under a shed near the house. Handing her infant to her hus-

band, she took a large pewter dish and meat-fork in her hand,

and went out to bring some of the food for the Indians.

At this juncture, an old woman having a diseased limb,

aware of the medicinal virtues of the wilderness supposed to be

known to the Indians, explained her distress to one of the war-

riors, and asked if he could not suggest or administer some relief?

He promptly said, that he thought he could; and drawing his

tomahawk, he instantly killed the poor woman, which was the

signal for others to engage in the bloody work assigned them.

nearly all the men were quickly dispatched. Conrad Yoakman

who was some little distance from the house, being alarmed by

the outcries of the women and children, made his escape. A

negro woman, who with her husband, was working in a field near

by, started to run away, followed by her crying child; she

tarried long enough to kill her little one, to stop its noise, and

save her own life. With her companion, she made good her

escape to Augusta.

Clendenin might have saved his life, had he either sur-

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rendered himself, or not been encumbered with the child; for

he started to run, and was making an effort to reach the fence

that separated the door-yard from a corn-field. Had he gained

the field he would doubtless have eluded the pursuit of the In-

dians, as the corn was high enough to have concealed him; but

he was killed in the act of climbing the fence, he falling one side,

and the child the other.

Mrs. Clendenin has scarcely left the house, when she heard

Mr. Clendenin exclaim, "Lord, have mercy on me!" when she

dropped her dish and fork, and, turning back, saw an Indian

with her husband's scalp in his hand, which he held up by the

long hair, shaking the blood from it. She rushed upon the

murderer, and, in a fit of frenzy, asked him to kill her too, even

spitting in his face to provoke him to do so. She did not fail

to reproach him and his fellows with baseness by every epithet

known to her-even charging them with being cowards, the worst

accusation that could be made against a warrior; and though the

tomahawk was brandished over her head, and she threatened

with instant death, and her husband's bloody scalp thrown in her

face, she nevertheless fearlessly renewed uttering the several in-

vectives her ready tongue could invent. Her brother, John

Ewing, who was spared from the general massacre, said to the

Indian, "Oh, never mind her, she is a foolish woman." Follow-

ing this suggestion, the warrior desisted from making the in-

tended tomahawk stroke.

Yoakum fled to Jackson's River, alarming the people, who

were unwilling to believe his terrible report, until the approach

of the Indians convinced them of its fearful reality; many saved

themselves by flight, while not a few of the aged and helpless

fell victims to their fury. The newspaper accounts of the time

only refer to the Greenbrier and Jackson River settlements hav-

ing been cut off, in June, 1763; but Carr's Creek received an-

other visitation, and there, too, many families were killed and


Near Keeney's Knob, not very far distant from Clendenin's,


4Stuart's Indian Wars, 39, 60. Sketches of History, Life and Man-

ners in the United States, Hartford, 1828, 63.

Sketch of Cornstalk

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resided a family of the name of Lee, who shared the fate of the

others-some killed, and others captured. All the prisoners,

taken at the several places, were hurried over to Muddy Creek,

where they were detained till the main body of the warriors re-

turned from Jackson's River, and the Carr's Creek settlements

with their prisoners and booty. An old Indian was left in charge

of the captive women and children, Ewing having been taken

with the war party. Mrs. Clendenin made up her mind to kill

the old Indian, if the other women would aid her. Her first

effort was (to) ascertain if the old fellow could speak or under-

stand English; but making no reply to her inquiries, she took it

for granted that he could not. She consequently made her pro-

posal to her sister prisoners, but they were too timid to consent

to any such heroic attempt. During the few days' absence of

the warriors, Mrs. Clendenin was too narrowly watched by the

vigilant old guard to effect anything. He had evidently over-

heard her proposition, and sufficiently comprehended its im-

port; for when their ears were saluted with the whooping of

the returning warriors, with the jingling bells of the horses, the

old fellow sprang to his feet, exclaiming in plain English, with an

oath, "Yes, good news." Mrs. Clendenin now expected nothing

but death for her plotting his destruction, but she heard nothing

further of it.

The war party had been successful in their foray, for they

returned with many additional captives, and a large number of

horses loaded with booty, and every horse had on an open bell.

Mrs. Clendenin still resolved on effecting her escape, even at the

risk of her life. As they started from the foot of Keeney's Knob,

the Indians mostly in front, the prisoners next, and the horses

with their tinkling music bringing up the rear, and one Indian

fellow prisoner to carry; and when they came to a very steep

precipice on one side of the route, and the Indians carelessly

pursuing their way, she watched her opportunity, when unob-

served, to jump down the precipice, and crept under a large

rock. She lay still until she heard the last bell pass by; and

concluding they had not yet missed her, she began to hope that

her scheme was successful. After some little time elapsed, she

beard footseps approaching very distinctly and heavily. They

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drew near the place of her concealment; and in her leaning

posture, on her hands and knees, with her head bent forward to

the ground, she awaited the fatal stroke of some unfeeling pur-

suer. She ventured, however, to raise her eyes, and behold a

large bear was standing over her! The animal was as mach

surprised as she was, for it gave a fierce growl, and ran off at its

best speed.

Soon missing her, the Indians took her child, and laid it on

the ground, thinking its cries would induce her to return; but she

was too far away for this, when the wretches would torture and

beat the little thing, saying, "Make the calf bawl, and the cow

will come." At length they unfeelingly beat out its brains against

a tree, and went on without the mother; who remained under the

rock till dark, when she sought her way back. Traveling all

that night, she concealed herself the next day, and during the

second night reached her desolate habitation. As she came in

sight of the place, she thought she heard wild beasts howling in

every direction, and thought she heard voices of all sorts, and saw

images of all shapes, moving through the cornfield-and, with an

almost overpowering sense of mingled fear and desolation she

imagined she saw a man standing within a few steps of her. She

withdrew to a spring in the forest, and remained there till morn-

ing; when she visited the place, found her husband's body by the

fence, with his body shockingly mutilated, and her lifeless child

nearby, and covered them, as well as she could, with a buffalo

hide and some fence rails, finding her strength unequal to the

task of covering them with earth.

Resuming her journey, Mrs. Clendenin directed her course

for the nearest settlements in Augusta, from which the Green-

brier emigrants had originally set out. At Howard's Creek,

some ten miles from the present locality of Lewisburg, she met

a party of several white men, who had heard by the two negro

fugitives, that every soul was killed at the Greenbrier settlements,

and came to drive away the cattle, and save whatever else was

spared by the Indians. Among these men was one who was

heir-at-law of the Clendenin family, who was evidently much dis-

concerted that she had escaped the general massacre.   This

wretch offered her no sort of sympathy, nor any relief whatever.

Sketch of Cornstalk

Sketch of Cornstalk.              251


Some of his companions, however, gave her a piece of bread, and

a cooked duck; but the half-famished condition of her stomach

loathed food, and she wrapped them up in her petticoat, and

pursued her journey by herself, expecting she would enjoy them

when her appetite should return. Unfortunately she lost them

without ever tasting a single morsel.

While pursuing her lonely journey, she had the good fortune

to find an Indian blanket, which proved of great service to her;

as, when her clothes became torn, and her limbs lacerated, by

briers and brambles, she was enabled to make leggins of it for

her protection. After nine nights' painful journeying, secreting

herself by day to avoid the danger of recapture, she at length

reached Dickinson's, on the Cowpasture River. During all this

time, she ate nothing but an onion and a little salt, which she

found on a shelf, in a springhouse, at a deserted plantation.

The history of the two children of Mrs. Clendenin who had

been captured-a boy and a girl-require a brief mention. Her

brother, surrendered probably at Bouquet's treaty the following

year, narrated the particulars of the untimely fate of the little

boy. He had been formally adopted by an aged Indian couple,

all of whose children were dead, who became very much at-

tached to the lad, and he in return to them. But one day, the

old man became displeased with his wife on some account, and

told the child, whom she directed to get some water, not to go;

for if he did, he would kill him. At length the old Indian went

out to the field, and the child, glad of the opportunity to please

his mother, picked up the vessel and set off for the spring; but

the surly old fellow seeing him from where he was walked up

behind the unsuspecting lad, and gave him a fatal blow with his

tomahawk. "I was obliged," said the conscience-stricken Indian,

"to approach him behind, that I might not see his face; for if

I had, I could never have had the courage to kill him."

The little girl was seven years with the Indians, and when

brought to her mother, the latter could recognize nothing what-

ever to indicate her as her child, and she disowned her, saying,

"She is not mine." The little waif scampered off among other

captive children, who had not yet been reclaimed.  Thinking

over the matter, the mother called to mind a mark on the

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body of her daughter, when she ran to her to see if she could

find this evidence of identity. Upon examination, she found it.

Her long-lost child was indeed restored to her; but with such

thorough Indian habits, that it was a long time before the mother

felt any particular attachment for her. It need only be added,

that Mrs. Clendenin, returning from her captivity to her old neigh-

borhood in Augusta, subsequently married a man named Rogers;

and, when peace was restored, she again settled on the place

where the massacre occurred, and, on looking about the old

premises, Mrs. Rogers found the dish and meat-fork where she

dropped them on the day her former husband was killed; and

there she resided till 1817, when she died at the age of seventy-

nine years. She is represented to have been a woman of strong

mind, invincible courage and unequalled fortitude. Her daughter,

an heiress to a valuable landed estate, had many suitors when

she grew to womanhood, and at length gave her hand to a man

by the name of Davis. One of her daughters became the wife

of Ballard Smith, of Greenbrier, one of the first lawyers in the

western country, and six years a representative from his district

in Congress.5

It is related that when the captive survivors of the Carr's

Creek Massacre, reached the Shawanese towns, the Indians, in

cruel sport, called on them to sing, as they had done at their

evening camps while journeying through the wilderness. Un-

appalled by the bloody scenes they had already witnessed, and the

fearful tortures that might yet be in reserve for them, within

that dark forest where all hope of rescue seemed forbidden, and

undaunted by the fiendish revellings of their savage captors, they

sang aloud, with the most pious fervor, from Rouse's version of

the one hundred and thirty-seventh psalm, as they had often

done, in more hopeful days, within the sacred walls of old

"Timber Ridge Church," near which they lived.


Penn. Gaz. July 28, 1763. Sketches of History, Life and Manners

in the United States, 60-66. The author of this work obtained his nar-

rative from  Mrs. Maiz, a step-daughter of Mrs. Clendenin in 1824,

corroborated by several others. Stuart's Indian Wars, 39, 40. Withers'

Chronicles, 70, 71.

Sketch of Cornstalk

Sketch of Cornstalk.                 253


"On Babel's stream we sat and wept when Zion we thought on,

In midst thereof we hanged our harps the willow trees among,

For then a song required they who did us captive bring,

Our Spoilers called for mirth, and said-a song of Zion sing."6


It were difficult to judge, whether the captive Jews, or the

captives of Carr's Creek, felt the most poignantly their desolate

condition; but Time, that sweet restorer of hopes and joys,

eventually brought them alike out of their unhappy bondage.

What particular part Cornstalk enacted in all this, save that he

was the leader of the forayers, history is silent.

When Colonel Bouquet, the ensuing year, penetrated the

Ohio country and compelled the Indians to make peace, Corn-

stalk was one of the designated hostages, on the part of the

Shawanese sent to Fort Pitt, in fulfillment of the terms of the

treaty; but they soon afterward managed to effect their escape.7

Nothing further is heard of him, during the long interval of

nominal peace which followed, till the war of 1774, already

related, and with which his name and fame are so intimately in-


At a critical period of this border out-break, in the month of

May, after the alarming affairs at Captina and Yellow Creek

were well-known in the Indian towns, and while Logan was upon

the war-path, the head Shawanese chiefs of the Scioto towns

shielded Richard Butler and other Pennsylvania traders among

them from the fury of the Mingoes; and when the latter, towards

the close of that month, were ready to depart with their goods,

Cornstalk sent his brother, Silver Heels, to protect them on their

homeward journey.    On the return of this chief, with two In-

dian companions, from this friendly mission, they were waylaid

and fired on, by a party of frontiersmen under William Linn,

near the mouth of Beaver, and Silver Heels dangerously

wounded. Nor was this all. Cornstalk, at the same time, sent

a speech, by the united advice of several of his associate chiefs,


6Christian's Scotch-Irish settlers, 11.

Hist. of Western Pennsylvania, Appendix, 164. Historical Account

of Bouquet's Expedition, (Lond., 1766), 34. Stone's Life and Times of

Sir Wm. Johnson, II, 238.

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addressed to the Governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and

the commandant at Pittsburgh, entreating them to put a stop to

any further hostilities, and they would endeavor to do the same.8

The invasions of the Ohio country by Bouquet and Brad-

street, in 1764, served to convince this sagacious chieftain, that

neither his own nation, nor indeed the confederated tribes of the

Northwest, were able to cope with the strong and growing power

of the colonies; and, hence it was, no doubt, that he so readily

yielded himself as one of the hostages on that occasion, in order

to secure an honorable peace for his people.  In 1774, he had

a trying part to perform-in earnest endeavors to pacify both

the frontier settlers and Indians, and restrain, if possible, the

half-smothered fires ready to burst along the whole border. His

experience and observation taught him, that peace was the true

policy of both races. But he soon found that the counsels of the

wise and the aged were utterly lost on the fiery and turbulent

young spirits of his nation. Though he failed in dissuading them

from the folly of imbruing their hands in the bloody contest, he

was too much of a patriot to forsake his people, heady and

reckless though they were, and went forth with them to battle.

His whole conduct evinces the highest exhibition of tact and

wisdom in council, with the loftiest traits of bravery in the field.

He fought like a hero; and yielded with becoming grace and

dignity when fighting was no longer of any avail, giving up his

own son, the Wolf, at the treaty of Camp Charlotte, as one of

the hostages for the faithful fulfillment of its stipulations.

Captain Wm. Russell, who was left in command of Fort

Blair-afterwards called Fort Randolph-at the mouth of the

Great Kanawha, proved himself a wise and discreet officer.

Thither Cornstalk frequently resorted to brighten the chain of

friendship, and sometimes to deliver up horses in accordance

with the stipulations of the treaty of Camp Charlotte. During

the winter of 1774-5, he made such a visit. On the fourth of

June, 1775, he again arrived at the fort, and spent four days with

Captain Russell, reporting that the news of the affairs of Concord


8Heckewelder's Indian Nations, 174, 223, 274. Richard Butler's

deposition, Aug. 23, 1774, in Penn. Archives, IV, 569-70,

Sketch of Cornstalk

Sketch of Cornstalk.               255


and Lexington had been received at the Shaw anese towns eight

or ten days before his departure.  The Mingoes, according to

Cornstalk's information, were behaving very insolently, calling

the Shawanese the Big Knife people, and upbraiding them with

having, in a cowardly manner, made the treaty with Lord Dun-

more. The Picts, or Miamies, were also represented as un-

friendly in their feeling toward the Colonies.

Cornstalk had scarcely returned to his people, when he sent

a very friendly letter to Captain Russell, written, at the chief's

dictation, by a trader, in which he assured the Captain that the

Shawanese were always willing to comply with any reasonable

request that the Big Knife should ask; that a negro woman had

been returned as desired, but her two children were retained, as

the Indians claimed them as their own "flesh and blood" and

could not consent that they should be enslaved, and that they

had sent in all the horses they had taken from the white people.

He expressed the hope, that the Shawanese would not be charged

with having taken all the horses the Virginians may have lost, as

several other nations took horses as well as they. He further

said, that he, his brother, Nimwha, and his son, would soon start

for Fort Pitt to confirm the treaty made at Camp Charlotte, by

which the Shawanese expected to abide.9

The contemplated treaty at Pittsburgh, was at first intended

to elaborate minor details for which time did not permit at

Camp Charlotte; but which, in the changed circumstances of the

country, was more particularly designed to ratify the former

treaty,10 and conciliate the Western tribes generally. It was at

length held in the autumn of 1775. Cornstalk participated in it,

and, as an assurance of keeping his plighted faith with the

Colonies, he cited the fact that when some of the Cherokees

robbed the new settlers in Kentucky the preceding Spring, he

and his people wrested two of the stolen horses from the

plunderers, and delivered them at the mouth of the Kanawha,

whither they had likewise returned a negro woman; and claimed


9Cornstalk to Russell, June 15, 1775: MS. letter, written in beau-

tiful vermillion ink. MS. letter of Russell to Preston, June 12, 1775.

10 Burk's Hist. Virginia, III. 428.

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that they had been all the past winter delivering up horses taken

from the white people. Colonel Andrew Lewis, one of the Com-

missioners at the treaty, remarked that Cornstalk was the most

dignified Indian chief, particularly in council, he ever knew.ll

In June, 1776, William Wilson was dispatched by the Indian

Agent, Colonel George Morgan, to visit the western tribes, whom

Cornstalk cheerfully aided in every measure calculated to pre-

serve the neutrality of the Indians, accompanying him to the

Wyandotts, near Detroit, for that purpose.  In November of

this year, Cornstalk again visited the fort at Point Pleasant, then

commanded by Captain Arbuckle.    But the storm  was fast

gathering, which was soon to burst, with all its fury, upon the

frontier settlements. British presents and British influence were

too powerful with the fickle Indian tribes, the younger portions

of which were always but too ready to be enticed into war, when

the double prospect of glory and plunder was glitteringly held

out before them.

Trusty messengers were still dispatched to the Indian coun-

try, and treaties appointed, with the fond hope of averting the

impending storm; but all to no purpose. It was as much as

Cornstalk could do to restrain his own particular tribe of the

Shawanese, from engaging in the war; all the others took up the

tomahawk; ammunition was forwarded to them, early in 1777,

from Detroit, and hostile parties were quickly on the war-path.

In his intercourse at the Moravian Mission at Gnadenhutten, on

the Tuscarawas, Cornstalk had formed so great a regard for

John Jacob Schmick and wife, that he adopted them both into

the Shawanese nation as his brother and sister. But all whose

hearts were poisoned with British sentiments were proof against

the good principles of peace inculcated by the noble and disin-

terested Cornstalk.

On the nineteenth of September, two prominent Shawanese,

Red Hawk's son, and a one-eyed Indian, familiarly called Old

Yie, arrived at Point Pleasant with a string of white wampum,

which they delivered with a speech replete with strong protesta-


11MS. Proceedings of the Treaty. MS. letter of Andrew Lewis, Jr.,

to Dr. S. L. Campbell, April 25, 1840.

Sketch of Cornstalk

Sketch of Cornstalk.               257

tions of friendship. They then submitted a suspicious black

string, which they said was sent to the Delawares by George

Morgan, the American Indian agent, and forwarded by the Del-

awares to the Shawanese, the significance of which they professed

to be desirous of learning. Their understanding of it, however,

they sufficiently explained, when they confessed, that on the

receipt of the black string, with information of an army about

to invade their country-referring doubtless, to an intended ex-

pedition by General Edward Hand, then in command at Pitts-

burgh,-the Indians embodied themselves. They concluded by

begging strenuously that Cornstalk and his particular tribe might

be exempt from any hostile blow. Under the circumstances,

Captain Arbuckle, suspecting them to be spies, felt himself jus-

tified in detaining these Indian messengers.12

Some eight days after, Cornstalk's son, El-i-nip-si-co, and an

Indian youth of some twelve years, made their appearance on

horseback, on the northern bank of the Ohio, opposite to Point

Pleasant; and hallooing over, the interpreter, Scoppathan, an old

German, and his wife, formerly prisoners with the Indians, as-

sured them that they could safely visit the fort and depart un-

molested whenever they pleased. El-i-nip-si-co's errand was, to

learn why the messengers were detained, giving assurances that

his father, as well as the Hardman and other chiefs, would soon

pay the garrison a friendly visit.13 El-i-nip-si-co remained but

a brief period.

What message Arbuckle sent to Cornstalk can only be con-

jectured. Writing to General Hand at this period, he gave the

reason for detaining the Indian messengers, adding that he should

hold in custody as many more as should fall into his hands, save

those engaged in carrying intelligence, until he should receive

further instructions. Duplicity, on his part was, perhaps, deemed

fair in war-time-the end justifying the means. At all events,

Cornstalk, sometime in October, with his heart filled only with


12Arbuckle to Hand, Oct. 6, 1777. Recollections of James Ward,

of Kentucky.

13 Arbuckle to Hand Oct. 6, 1777. Murphy's Recollections.

Vol. XXI -17.

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good will to his Big Knife friends, came fearlessly to the gar-

rison, to renew pledges of friendship, and report the movements

of the Indians in the British interest. With his open-hearted

frankness, he made no effort at concealment of the hostile disposi-

tion of the Indians generally; declaring that, for himself, he was

opposed to joining the British in the war; but that all his

nation, save his own tribe, were fully resolved, despite all his

efforts to the contrary, to engage in it; and that, of course, he

and his clan would have to run with the stream, as he expressed

it. Cornstalk was now, with the others, detained as a hostage

for the neutrality of his people; Capt. Arbuckle assuring them

that no other violence should be offered them, provided the

treaty of 1774 should still be observed by the nation.14

During this visit Captain William McKee, one of the officers

assembled there for Hand's intended campaign, had frequent

conversations with Cornstalk with reference to the antiquities of

the West, in which the old chief evinced much intelligence and

reflection. In reply to an inquiry respecting the mound and fort-

builders, he stated that it was the current and assured tradition

among his people, that Ohio and Kentucky had once been settled

by a white race, possessed of arts of which the Indians had no

knowledge that, after many sanguinary contests with the na-

tives, these invaders were at length exterminated. McKee in-

quired why the Indians had not learned these arts of those

ancient white people?  Cornstalk replied indefinitely, relating

that the Great Spirit had once given the Indians a book which

taught them all these arts; but they had lost it, and had never

since regained a knowledge of them. What people were they,

McKee asked, who made so many graves on the Ohio, and at

other places ? He declared that he did not know, and remarked

that it was not his nation, or any he had been acquainted with.

The Captain next practically repeated a former inquiry, by ask-

ing Cornstalk if he could tell who made those old forts, which


14MS. letter of Arbuckle to Hand, Oct. 6, 1777. Murphy's Recol-

lections; the relator was at Point Pleasant a part of the time while

the Indians were confined there. Stuart's Indian Wars, 58. Campbell's

MS. Memoir.

Sketch of Cornstalk

Sketch of Cornstalk.               259

displayed so much skill in fortifying? He answered, that he only

knew that a story had been handed down from a very long ago

people, that there had been a white race inhabiting the country

who made the graves and forts; and, added, that some Indians,

who had travelled very far west, or north-west, had found a

nation or people, who lived as Indians generally do, although of

a different complexion.15

On the ninth of November, El-i-nip-si-co came on the filial

errand to learn if his revered father was alive and well. Arriving

at the river, opposite the fort, he hallooed over desiring that a

canoe might be sent for him. Cornstalk was, at the moment, by

request of the officers, in the act of delineating, with chalk upon

the floor, a map of the country between the Shawanese towns

and the Mississippi. Recognizing the voice of his son, he arose,

went out, and answered him. When El-i-nip-si-co landed, the

father and son embraced each other in the most tender and affec-

tionate manner.

The next day a council was held, at which Cornstalk was

present. His countenance was dejected, as if he had some ter-

rible presentiment of evil. He made a speech which indicated

an honest and manly disposition. He frankly acknowledged that

he expected that he and his party would have to run with the

stream-an expressive phrase he was wont to utter; for, he said,

all the Indians on the Lakes and northwardly were taking up the

hatchet for the British. He adverted to his efforts, in the inter-

est of peace, both before and after the battle of Point Pleasant.

At the conclusion of every sentence, he would sadly repeat this

expression: "When I was young, and went to war, I thought

that each expedition might prove the last, and I would return

no more. Now I am here amongst you; you may kill me if you

please; I can die but once; and it is all one to me, now or an-

oth r time." This repeated declaration seemed, in the light of

subsequent events, almost a revelation of his impending fate.

Within an hour of the conclusion of the council, Ensign

Robert Gilmore, of Captain John Hall's company of Rockbridge

men, designed to take part in Hand's expedition-one of the Gil-


15 John P. Campbell, in the Port Folio, June, 1816.

260 Ohio Arch

260      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

more connections who suffered so severely in the Carr's Creek

Massacre by Cornstalk's party in 1759 and 1763-together with

a man named Hamilton, struggled over the Kenawha to hunt.

Soon after crossing the river, they separated, and Gilmore was

shot and scalped, within a short distance, by some of the Enemy

concealed in the weeds and willows on the bank of the stream.

Hamilton escaped. A party of Hall's men crossed over, and

soon returned with the bleeding corpse of their late comrade.

They had scarcely touched the shore, when they raised the retali-

tory shout-"Let us kill the Indians in the fort !"

Hearing this ominous out-cry, the wife of Scoppathan, the

interpreter, ran with all haste to the cabin where the hostages

were, for whom, having once lived among them, she retained a

kind regard, and informed them of Gilmore's death; that the

soldiers charged the act upon Indians, who, they averred, must

have come with El-i-nip-si-co the previous day, and the maddened

white people were now coming to kill them, by way of retalia-

tion. El-i-nip-si-co, trembling exceedingly with emotions of fear

and terror, utterly denied that any of the enemy accompanied

him, and declared that he knew nothing whatever of them. Corn-

stalk calmly encouraged him not to be afraid, for the Great Spirit

has sent him there to die with him; and shamed him for showing

a disposition to hide in the loft, that he had but once to die,

and should die like a warrior. The Great Spirit, he added, knew

better than they did when they ought to die; and as they had

come there with good intentions, the Great Spirit would do good

to them.

Unhappily none of the militia officers who had assembled

there for Hand's expedition, save Captain Stuart, were present,

at the moment, to aid Arbuckle in restraining the enraged men,

and they were powerless for good. Headed by their Captain, the

infuriated soldiers rushed, with rifles in hand, for their devoted

victim-stopping only a moment, when appealed to by Captains

Arbuckle and Stuart, cocking their guns, and threatening them

with instant death, if they interposed to save the Indians. As

they reached the cabin door, Cornstalk rose up and met them,

baring his breast, and remarking, "if any Big Knife has anything

against me, let him now avenge himself;" when a volley was

Sketch of Cornstalk

Sketch of Cornstalk.                261


fired, seven or eight balls passing through his body.  He fell

lifeless upon the floor. El-i-nip-si-co was shot dead, as he sat

upon a stool, awaiting his inexorable fate. The Red Hawk's son,

who attempted to climb up the chimney, was pulled down and

shot; while the other Indian-Old Yie,-was shamefully man-

gled, and was long in the agonies of death.16

Thus fell the great and noble Cornstalk-"whose name was

bestowed upon him by the consent of the nation, as their great

strength and support." 17 It was a sad and sickening tragedy--

one of those frenzied acts that occasionally grow out of the

frequent contact of impulsive men with the unnatural scenes of

war and its consequent desolations.

Eight days after this tragic event, General Hand arrived at

Point Pleasant, and was much concerned to learn of the unhappy

occurrence. Though the officers united in expressing the greatest

abhorrence of the deed, yet he was convinced, from the actions

of the soldiers, that it would be in vain for him to try to bring

the perpetrators to justice-so he wrote to Patrick Henry, then

Governor of Virginia; but suggested that Colonels Dickinson

and Skillern, who were present, knew the most active of the

participants. Governor Henry's letters, at the time, evinced the

strongest determination that the offenders should be brought be-

fore the courts, on their return home, and the guilty punished.

It was not only a flagrant crime against humanity, but one highly

detrimental to public policy. The few troops assembled at Point

Pleasant, altogether too inadequate for the contemplated expedi-

tion, were discharged; and, arriving in Rockbridge, some of the

ring leaders fled the country to avoid prosecution, and none were

ever brought to justice.

"From this event," wrote General Hand, "we have little

reason to expect a reconciliation with the Shawanese, except fear


16A rude versifier of that day commemorated the tragedy, in lan-

guage more truthful than poetic:

Cornstalk, the Shawanees' greatest boast,

Old Yie, by whom much blood was lost,

Red Hawk and El-i-nip-si-co,

Lie dead beside the Ohio.

17 Stuart's Indian Wars, 61.

262 Ohio Arch

262       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

operates on them; for, if we had any friends among them, those

unfortunate wretches were so; Cornstalk particularly appearing

to be the most active of the nation in promoting peace."18 The

Indians, in this instance, were at a loss to determine on whom

the blame should be laid; whether on the perpetrators of the

act or on their superiors for not using their authority in prevent-

ing it; and their accusations against the white people at Point

Pleasant were the more severe, since they knew the friendly dis-

position of their chief toward them, and the important errand on

which he was engaged at the time.19

In all the long line of Shawanese chiefs, the one in whom

was most blended the sterling qualities of bravery, eloquence,

wisdom and justice, was unquestionably Keigh-tugh-qua-the

Cornstalk. His noble personal appearance, as well as his many

brave and manly acts, combine to constitute him one of the most

remarkable men savage life has yet produced. In 1774, when his

nation rushed headlong into war, in opposition to his vehement

protestations, he nevertheless risked his life in leading them into

battle, and, by his powerful personal presence, kept them hotly

engaged the whole day; and, in 1777, when they again resolved

on hostilities, against his strong admonitions, he made the mission

of peace and good will to Point Pleasant, pleading in their behalf,

and sealing his devotion to his people by the sacrifice of life itself.

Such a man was truly a hero and a patriot, though not educated

in the schools, nor trained in military academies. Whoever visits

his grave, yet pointed out at Point Pleasant, may worthily drop

a tear to his memory.


18 Hand to Richard Peters, Sec. of Board of War, Dec. 24, 1777.

19 MS. letters of Hand to Patrick Henry, Dec. 9th, and to Richard

Peters, Dec. 24th, 1777. MS. Deposition of John Anderson, Wm. Ward,

and Richard Thomas, relative to the murder of Cornstalk and com-

panions Nov. 10th, 1777. MS. Fleming and Preston Papers, Murphy's

Collections. Stuart's Indian Wars, 59-61. Campbell's MS. Memoir.

Heckewelder's Narrative, 150, 151.