A somewhat different account is given by some, in which Bowman is exculpated from all blame. According to this, it was the vigorous defense of the Indians which prevented him from fulfilling his part of the combinations. Be this as it may, it is certain that Bowman lost reputation by the expedition; while, on the other hand, the conduct of Logan raised him still higher in the estimation of the people.
[Footnote 39: Peck.]
Invasion of Kentucky by Captain Byrd's party—He captures the garrisons at Ruddle's Station and Martin's Fort—Colonel Clark's invasion of the Indian country—He ravages the Indian towns—Adventure of Alexander McConnell—Skirmish at Pickaway—Result of the expedition—Boone goes to the Blue Licks with his brother—Attacked by the Indians—Boone's brother killed—Boone promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel—Clark's galley—Squire Boone's Station removed to Bear's Creek—Attack by the Indians—Colonel Floyd's defeat—Affair of the McAfees—Attack on McAfee's Station repelled—Fort Jefferson evacuated—Attack on Montgomery Station—Rescue by General Logan.
The year 1780 was distinguished for two events of much importance; the invasion of Kentucky by the British and Indians, under Colonel Byrd; and General Clark's attack upon the Shawanee towns. The first of these, was a severe and unexpected blow to Kentucky. Marshall says, that the people in their eagerness to take up land, had almost forgotten the existence of hostilities. Fatal security! and most fatal with such a foe, whose enterprises were conducted with such secrecy that their first announcement was their presence in the midst of the unprepared settlement. In fact, the carelessness of the Western borderers is often unaccountable, and this is not the least surprising instance of it.
That they did not anticipate an attempt to retaliate the incursion of Bowman into the Indian country, is indeed astonishing. It was very fortunate for the Kentuckians that their enemies were as little gifted with perseverance, as they were with vigilance. This remark is to be understood in a restricted sense, of both parties. When once aroused to a sense of their danger none were more readily prepared, or more watchful to meet it than the settlers; and on the other hand, nothing could exceed the perseverance of the Indians in the beginning of their enterprises, but on the slightest success (not reverse) they wished to return to exhibit their trophies at home. Thus, on capturing Boone and his party, instead of pushing on and attacking the settlements which were thus weakened, they returned to display their prisoners.
The consequences were that these defects neutralized each other, and no very decisive strokes were made by either side. But the English Governor Hamilton, who had hitherto contented himself with stimulating the Indians to hostilities, now aroused by the daring and success of Clark, prepared to send a powerful expedition by way of retaliation, against the settlements. Colonel Byrd was selected to command the forces which amounted to six hundred men, Canadians and Indians. To render them irresistible, they were supplied with two pieces of artillery. The posts on the Licking were the first objects of the expedition.
In June they made their appearance before Ruddle's station; and this, it is said, was the first intimation that the garrison had received of their danger, though Butler states that the enemy were twelve days on their march from the Ohio. The incidents of the invasion are few. The fort at Ruddle's Station was in no condition to resist so powerful an enemy backed by artillery, the defenses being nowise superior to those we have before described.
They were summoned to surrender in the name of his Britannic Majesty, with the promise of protection for their lives only. What could they do? The idea of resisting such a force was vain. The question presented itself to them thus. Whether they should surrender at once and give up their property, or enrage the Indians by a fruitless resistance, and lose their property and lives also. The decision was quickly made, the post was surrendered and the enemy thronged in, eager for plunder. The inmates of the fort were instantly seized, families were separated; for each Indian caught the first person whom he met, and claimed him or her as his prisoner. Three who made some resistance, were killed upon the spot. It was in vain that the settlers remonstrated with the British commander. He said it was impossible to restrain them. This doubtless was true enough, but he should have thought of it before he assumed the command of such a horde, and consented to lead them against weak settlements.
The Indians demanded to be led at once against Martin's Fort, a post about five miles distant. Some say that the same scene was enacted over here; but another account states that so strongly was Colonel Byrd affected by the barbarities of the Indians, that he refused to advance further, unless they would consent to allow him to take charge of all the prisoners who should be taken. The same account goes on to say that the demand was complied with, and that on the surrender of Martin's Fort, this arrangement was actually made; the Indians taking possession of the property and the British of the prisoners. However this may be, the capture of this last-mentioned place, which was surrendered under the same circumstances as Ruddle's, was the last operation of that campaign. Some quote this as an instance of weakness; Butler, in particular, contrasts it with the energy of Clark.
The sudden retreat of the enemy inspired the people with joy as great as their consternation had been at the news of his unexpected advance. Had he pressed on, there is but little doubt that all the Stations would have fallen into his hands, for there were not men enough to spare from them to meet him in the field. The greatest difficulty would have been the carriage of the artillery. The unfortunate people who had fallen into the hands of the Indians at Ruddle's Station, were obliged to accompany their captors on their rapid retreat, heavily laden with the plunder of their own dwellings. Some returned after peace was made, but too many, sinking under the fatigues of the journey, perished by the tomahawk.
Soon after the retreat of the enemy, General Clark, who was stationed at Fort Jefferson, called upon the Kentuckians to join him in an invasion of the Indian country. The reputation of Clark caused the call to be responded to with great readiness. A thousand men were collected, with whom Clark entered and devastated the enemy's territory. The principal towns were burned and the fields laid waste. But one skirmish was fought, and that at the Indian village of Pickaway. The loss was the same on both sides, seventeen men being killed in each army. Some writers who have not the slightest objection to war, very gravely express doubts as to whether the expedient of destroying the crops of the Indians was justifiable. It is generally treated by these men as if it was a wanton display of a vindictive spirit, when in reality it was dictated by the soundest policy; for when the Indians' harvests were destroyed, they were compelled to subsist their families altogether by hunting, and had no leisure for their murderous inroads upon the settlements. This result was plainly seen on this occasion, for it does not appear that the Indians attacked any of the settlements during the remainder of this year.
An adventure which occurred in the spring, but was passed over for the more important operations of the campaign, claims our attention, presenting as it does a picture of the varieties of this mode of warfare. We quote from McClung:
"Early in the spring of 1780 Mr. Alexander McConnel, of Lexington, Kentucky, went into the woods on foot to hunt deer. He soon killed a large buck, and returned home for a horse in order to bring it in. During his absence a party of five Indians, on one of their usual skulking expeditions, accidentally stumbled on the body of the deer, and perceiving that it had been recently killed, they naturally supposed that the hunter would speedily return to secure the flesh. Three of them, therefore, took their stations within close rifle-shot of the deer, while the other two followed the trail of the hunter, and waylaid the path by which he was expected to return. McConnel, expecting no danger, rode carelessly along the path, which the two scouts were watching, until he had come within view of the deer, when he was fired upon by the whole party, and his horse killed. While laboring to extricate himself from the dying animal, he was seized by his enemies, instantly overpowered, and borne off as a prisoner.
"His captors, however, seemed to be a merry, good-natured set of fellows, and permitted him to accompany them unbound; and, what was rather extraordinary, allowed him to retain his gun and hunting accoutrements. He accompanied them with great apparent cheerfulness through the day, and displayed his dexterity in shooting deer for the use of the company, until they began to regard him with great partiality. Having traveled with them in this manner for several days, they at length reached the banks of the Ohio River. Heretofore the Indians had taken the precaution to bind him at night, although not very securely; but, on that evening, he remonstrated with them on the subject, and complained so strongly of the pain which the cords gave him, that they merely wrapped the buffalo tug loosely around his wrists, and having tied it in an easy knot, and attached the extremities of the rope to their own bodies in order to prevent his moving without awakening them, they very composedly went to sleep, leaving the prisoner to follow their example or not, as he pleased.
"McConnel determined to effect his escape that night if possible, as on the following night they would cross the river, which would render it much more difficult. He therefore lay quietly until near midnight, anxiously ruminating upon the best means of effecting his object. Accidentally casting his eyes in the direction of his feet, they fell upon the glittering blade of a knife, which had escaped its sheath, and was now lying near the feet of one of the Indians. To reach it with his hands, without disturbing the two Indians to whom he was fastened, was impossible, and it was very hazardous to attempt to draw it up with his feet. This, however, he attempted. With much difficulty he grasped the blade between his toes, and, after repeated and long-continued efforts, succeeded at length in bringing it within reach of his hands.
"To cut his cords was then but the work of a moment, and gradually and silently extricating his person from the arms of the Indians, he walked to the fire and sat down. He saw that his work was but half done. That if he should attempt to return home without destroying his enemies, he would assuredly be pursued and probably overtaken, when his fate would be certain. On the other hand, it seemed almost impossible for a single man to succeed in a conflict with five Indians, even although unarmed and asleep. He could not hope to deal a blow with his knife so silently and fatally as to destroy each one of his enemies in turn without awakening the rest. Their slumbers were proverbially light and restless; and, if he failed with a single one, he must instantly be overpowered by the survivors. The knife, therefore, was out of the question.
"After anxious reflection for a few minutes, he formed his plan. The guns of the Indians were stacked near the fire; their knives and tomahawks were in sheaths by their sides. The latter he dared not touch for fear of awakening their owners; but the former he carefully removed, with the exception of two, and hid them in the woods, where he knew the Indians would not readily find them. He then returned to the spot where the Indians were still sleeping, perfectly ignorant of the fate preparing for them, and, taking a gun in each hand, he rested the muzzles upon a log within six feet of his victims, and, having taken deliberate aim at the head of one and the heart of another, he pulled both triggers at the same moment.
"Both shots were fatal. At the report of the guns the others sprung to their feet and stared wildly around them. McConnel, who had run instantly to the spot where the other rifles were hid, hastily seized one of them and fired at two of his enemies who happened to stand in a line with each other. The nearest fell dead, being shot through the centre of the body; the second fell also, bellowing loudly, but quickly recovering, limped off into the woods as fast as possible. The fifth, and the only one who remained unhurt, darted off like a deer, with a yell which announced equal terror and astonishment. McConnel, not wishing to fight any more such battles, selected his own rifle from the stack, and made the best of his way to Lexington, where he arrived safely within two days.
"Shortly afterward, Mrs. Dunlap, of Fayette, who had been several months a prisoner amongst the Indians on Mad River, made her escape, and returned to Lexington. She reported that the survivor returned to his tribe with a lamentable tale. He related that they had taken a fine young hunter near Lexington, and had brought him safely as far as the Ohio; that while encamped upon the bank of the river, a large party of white men had fallen upon them in the night, and killed all his companions, together with the poor defenseless prisoner, who lay bound hand and foot, unable either to escape or resist."
In October, 1780, Boone, who had brought his family back to Kentucky, went to the Blue Licks in company with his brother. They were attacked by a party of Indians, and Daniel's brother was killed; and he himself pursued by them with the assistance of a dog. Being hard pressed, he shot this animal to prevent his barking from giving the alarm, and so escaped.
Kentucky having been divided into three counties, a more perfect organization of the militia was effected. A Colonel and a Lieutenant-Colonel were appointed for each county; those who held the first rank were Floyd, Logan, and Todd. Pope, Trigg, and Boone held the second. Clark was Brigadier-General, and commander-in-chief of all the Kentucky militia; besides which he had a small number of regulars at Fort Jefferson. Spies and scouting parties were continually employed, and a galley was constructed by Clark's order, which was furnished with light pieces of artillery. This new species of defense did not however take very well with the militia, who disliked serving upon the water, probably because they found their freedom of action too much circumscribed. The regulars were far too few to spare a force sufficient to man it, and it soon fell into disuse, though it is said to have been of considerable service while it was employed. Had the Kentuckians possessed such an auxiliary at the time of Byrd's invasion, it is probable that it would have been repelled. But on account of the reluctance of the militia to serve in it, this useful vessel was laid aside and left to rot.
The campaign, if we may so term it, of 1781, began very early. In March, several parties of Indians entered Jefferson County at different points, and ambushing the paths, killed four men, among whom was Colonel William Linn. Captain Whitaker, with fifteen men, pursued one of the parties. He followed their trail to the Ohio, when supposing they had crossed over, he embarked his men in canoes to continue the pursuit. But as they were in the act of pushing off, the Indians, who were concealed in their rear, fired upon them, killing or wounding nine of the party. Notwithstanding this heavy loss, the survivors landed and put the Indians to flight. Neither the number of the savages engaged in this affair or their loss, is mentioned in the narrative. In April, a station which had been settled by Squire Boone, near Shelbyville, became alarmed by the report of the appearance of Indians. After some deliberation, it was determined to remove to the settlement on Bear's Creek. While on their way thither, they were attacked by a body of Indians, and defeated with considerable loss. These are all the details of this action we have been able to find. Colonel Floyd collected twenty-five men to pursue the Indians, but in spite of all his caution, fell into an ambuscade, which was estimated to consist of two hundred warriors. Half of Colonel Floyd's men were killed, and the survivors supposed that they had slain nine or ten of the Indians. This, however, is not probable; either the number of the Indians engaged, or their loss, is much exaggerated. Colonel Floyd himself had a narrow escape, being dismounted; he would have been made prisoner, but for the gallant conduct of Captain Wells, who gave him his horse, the colonel being exhausted, and ran by his side, to support him in the saddle. These officers had formerly been enemies, but the magnanimous behavior of Wells on this occasion, made them steadfast friends.
"As if every month," says Marshall, "was to furnish its distinguishing incident—in May, Samuel McAfee and another had set out from James McAfee's Station for a plantation at a small distance, and when advanced about one-fourth of a mile they were fired on; the man fell—McAfee wheeled and ran toward the fort; in fifteen steps he met an Indian—they each halt and present their guns, with muzzles almost touching—at the same instant they each pull trigger, McAfee's gun makes clear fire, the Indian's flashes in the pan—and he falls: McAfee continues his retreat, but the alarm being given, he meets his brothers, Robert and James—the first, though cautioned, ran along the path to see the dead Indian, by this time several Indians had gained the path between him and the fort. All his agility and dexterity was now put to the test—he flies from tree to tree, still aiming to get to the fort, but is pursued by an Indian; he throws himself over a fence, a hundred and fifty yards from the fort, and the Indian takes a tree—Robert, sheltered by the fence, was soon prepared for him, and while he puts his face by the side of the tree to look for his object, McAfee fires his rifle at it, and lodged the ball in his mouth—in this he finds his death, and McAfee escapes to the fort."
In the mean time, James McAfee was in a situation of equal hazard and perplexity. Five Indians, lying in ambush, fired at, but missed him; he flies to a tree for safety, and instantly received a fire from three or four Indians on the other side—the bullets knock the dust about his feet, but do him no injury; he abandons the tree and makes good his retreat to the fort. One white man and two Indians were killed. Such were the incidents of Indian warfare—and such the fortunate escape of the brothers.
Other events occurred in rapid succession—the Indians appear in all directions, and with horrid yells and menacing gestures commence a fire on the fort. It was returned with spirit; the women cast the bullets—the men discharged them at the enemy. This action lasted about two hours; the Indians then withdrew. The firing had been heard, and the neighborhood roused for the fight. Major McGary, with some of his men, and others from other stations, to the number of forty, appeared on the ground soon after the Indians had retreated, and determined on pursuing them. This was accordingly done with promptitude and celerity. At the distance of a mile the enemy were overtaken, attacked, and defeated, They fled—were pursued for several miles—and completely routed. Six or seven Indians were seen dead, and others wounded. One Kentuckian was killed in the action; another mortally wounded, who died after a few days. Before the Indians entirely withdrew from the fort, they killed all the cattle they saw, without making any use of them.
From this time McAfee's Station was never more attacked, although it remained for several years an exposed frontier. Nor should the remark be omitted, that for the residue of the year, there were fewer incidents of a hostile nature than usual.
Fort Jefferson, which had been established on the Mississippi, about five miles below the mouth of the Ohio, had excited the jealousy of the Choctaws and Chickasaws, who claimed the territory in which it was built. In order to appease them, it was deemed advisable to evacuate the post.
The hostile tribes north of the Ohio had by this time found the strength of the settlers, and saw that unless they made a powerful effort, and that speedily, they must forever relinquish all hope of reconquering Kentucky. Such an effort was determined upon for the next year; and in order to weaken the whites as much as possible, till they were prepared for it, they continued to send out small parties, to infest the settlements.
At a distance of about twelve miles from Logan's Fort, was a settlement called the Montgomery Station. Most of the people were connected with Logan's family. This Station was surrounded in the night. In the morning an attack was made. Several persons were killed and others captured. A girl who escaped spread the alarm; a messenger reached Logan's Fort, and General Logan with a strong party pursued the Indians, defeated them and recovered the prisoners.
News of Cornwallis's surrender—Its effects—Captain Estill's defeat—Grand army of Indians raised for the conquest of Kentucky—Simon Girty's speech—Attack on Hoy's Station—Investment of Bryant's Station—Expedient of the besieged to obtain water—Grand attack on the fort—Repulse—Regular siege commenced—Messengers sent to Lexington—Reinforcements obtained—Arrival near the fort—Ambushed and attacked—They enter the fort—Narrow escape of Girty—He proposes a capitulation—Parley—Reynolds's answer to Girty—The siege raised—Retreat of the Indians.
In October, 1781, Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. This event was received in Kentucky, as in other parts of the country, with great joy. The power of Britain was supposed to be broken, or at least so much crippled, that they would not be in a condition to assist their Indian allies, as they had previously done. The winter passed away quietly enough, and the people were once more lulled into security, from which they were again to be rudely awakened. Early in the spring the parties of the enemy recommenced their forays. Yet there was nothing in these to excite unusual apprehensions. At first they were scarcely equal in magnitude to those of the previous year. Cattle were killed, and horses stolen, and individuals or small parties were attacked. But in May an affair occurred possessing more interest, in a military point of view, than any other in the history of Indian wars.
In the month of May, a party of about twenty-five Wyandots invested Estill's Station, on the south of the Kentucky River, killed one white man, took a negro prisoner, and after destroying the cattle, retreated. Soon after the Indians disappeared, Captain Estill raised a company of twenty-five men; with these he pursued the Indians, and on Hinkston's Fork of Licking, two miles below the Little Mountain, came within gunshot of them. They had just crossed the creek, which in that part is small, and were ascending one side as Estill's party descended the other, of two approaching hills of moderate elevation. The water-course which lay between, had produced an opening in the timber and brush, conducing to mutual discovery, while both hills were well set with trees, interspersed with saplings and bushes. Instantly after discovering the Indians, some of Captain Estill's men fired at them; at first they seemed alarmed, and made a movement like flight; but their chief, although wounded, gave them orders to stand and fight—on which they promptly prepared for battle by each man taking a tree and facing his enemy, as nearly in a line as practicable. In this position they returned the fire and entered into the battle, which they considered as inevitable, with all the fortitude and animation of individual and concerted bravery, so remarkable in this particular tribe.
In the mean time, Captain Estill, with due attention to what was passing on the opposite side, checked the progress of his men at about sixty yards distance from the foe, and gave orders to extend their lines in front of the Indians, to cover themselves by means of the trees, and to fire as the object should be seen—with a sure aim. This order, perfectly adapted to the occasion, was executed with alacrity, as far as circumstances would admit, and the desultory mode of Indian fighting was thought to require. So that both sides were preparing and ready at the same time for the bloody conflict which ensued, and which proved to be singularly obstinate.
The numbers were equal; some have said, exactly twenty-five on each side. Others have mentioned that Captain Estill, upon seeing the Indians form for battle, dispatched one or two of his men upon the back trail to hasten forward a small reinforcement, which he supposed was following him; and if so, it gave the Indians the superiority of numbers without producing the desired assistance, for the reinforcement never arrived.
Now were the hostile lines within rifle-shot, and the action became warm and general to their extent. Never was battle more like single combat since the use of fire-arms; each man sought his man, and fired only when he saw his mark; wounds and death were inflicted on either side—neither advancing nor retreating. The firing was deliberate; with caution they looked, but look they would, for the foe, although life itself was often the forfeit. And thus both sides firmly stood, or bravely fell, for more than an hour; upward of one-fourth of the combatants had fallen, never more to rise, on either side, and several others were wounded. Never, probably, was the native bravery or collected fortitude of men put to a test more severe. In the clangor of an ardent battle, when death is forgotten, it is nothing for the brave to die—when even cowards die like brave men—but in the cool and lingering expectation of death, none but the man of the true courage can stand. Such were those engaged in this conflict. Never was maneuvering more necessary or less practicable. Captain Estill had not a man to spare from his line, and deemed unsafe any movement in front with a view to force the enemy from their ground, because in such a movement he must expose his men, and some of them would inevitably fall before they could reach the adversary. This would increase the relative superiority of the enemy, while they would receive the survivors with tomahawk in hand, in the use of which they were practiced and expert. He clearly perceived that no advantage was to be gained over the Indians while the action was continued in their own mode of warfare. For although his men were probably the best shooters, the Indians were undoubtedly the most expert hiders; that victory itself, could it have been purchased with the loss of his last man, would afford but a melancholy consolation for the loss of friends and comrades; but even of victory, without some maneuvre, he could not assure himself. His situation was critical; his fate seemed suspended upon the events of the minute; the most prompt expedient was demanded. He cast his eyes over the scene; the creek was before him, and seemed to oppose a charge on the enemy—retreat he could not. On the one hand he observed a valley running from the creek toward the rear of the enemy's line, and immediately combining this circumstance with the urgency of his situation, rendered the more apparently hazardous by an attempt of the Indians to extend their line and take his in flank, he determined to detach six of his men by this valley to gain the flank or rear of the enemy; while himself, with the residue, maintained his position in front.
The detachment was accordingly made under the command of Lieutenant Miller, to whom the route was shown and the order given, conformably to the above-mentioned determination; unfortunately, however, it was not executed. The lieutenant, either mistaking his way or intentionally betraying his duty, his honor, and his captain, did not proceed with the requisite dispatch; and the Indians, attentive to occurrences, finding out the weakened condition of their adversaries, rushed upon them and compelled a retreat, after Captain Estill and eight of his men were killed. Four others were badly wounded, who, notwithstanding, made their escape; so that only nine fell into the bands of the savages, who scalped and stripped them, of course.
It was believed by the survivors of this action that one half of the Indians were killed; and this idea was corroborated by reports from their towns.
There is also a tradition that Miller, with his detachment, crossed the creek, fell in with the enemy, lost one or two of his men, and had a third or fourth wounded before he retreated.
The battle lasted two hours, and the Indian chief was himself killed immediately after he had slain Captain Estill; at least it is so stated in one account we have seen. This action had a very depressing effect upon the spirits of the Kentuckians. Yet its results to the victors were enough to make them say, with Pyrrhus, "A few more such victories, and we shall be undone." It is very certain that the Indians would not have been willing to gain many such victories, even to accomplish their darling object—the expulsion of the whites from Kentucky.
The grand army, destined to accomplish the conquest of Kentucky, assembled at Chillicothe. A detachment from Detroit reinforced them, and before setting out, Simon Girty made a speech to them, enlarging on the ingratitude of the Long-knives in rebelling against their Great Father across the water. He described in glowing terms the fertility of Kentucky, exhorting them to recover it from the grasp of the Long-knife before he should be too strong for them. This speech met with the cordial approbation of the company; the army soon after took up its march for the settlements. Six hundred warriors, the flower of all the Northwestern tribes, were on their way to make what they knew must be their last effort to drive the intruders from their favorite hunting-ground.
Various parties preceded the main body, and these appearing in different places created much confusion in the minds of the inhabitants in regard to the place where the blow was to fall. An attack was made upon the garrison at Hoy's Station, and two boys were taken prisoners. The Indians, twenty in number were pursued by Captain Holden, with seventeen men. He overtook them near the Blue Licks, (that fatal spot for the settlers,) and after a sharp conflict was obliged to retreat with the loss of four men.
News of this disaster arrived at Bryant's Station, (a post on the Elkhorn, near the road from Lexington to Maysville,) on the fourteenth of August, and the garrison prepared to march to the assistance of Hoy's Station. But in the night the main body of the enemy arrived before the fort, it having been selected as the point for the first blow.
The water for the use of the garrison was drawn from a spring at a considerable distance from the fort on the northwestern side. Near this spring the greater part of the enemy stationed themselves in ambush. On the other side of the fort a body was posted with orders to make a feint of attacking, in order to draw the attention of the garrison to that point, and give an opportunity for the main attack. At daylight the garrison, consisting of forty or fifty men, were preparing to march out, when they were startled by a heavy discharge of rifles, with an accompaniment of such yells as come only from an Indian's throat.
"All ran hastily to the picketing," says McClung, "and beheld a small party of Indians exposed to open view, firing, yelling, and making the most furious gestures. The appearance was so singular, and so different from their usual manner of fighting, that some of the more wary and experienced of the garrison instantly pronounced it a decoy party, and restrained the young men from sallying out and attacking them, as some of them were strongly disposed to do. The opposite side of the fort was instantly manned, and several breaches in the picketing rapidly repaired. Their greatest distress arose from the prospect of suffering for water. The more experienced of the garrison felt satisfied that a powerful party was in ambuscade near the spring; but at the same time they supposed that the Indians would not unmask themselves until the firing upon the opposite side of the fort was returned with such warmth as to induce the belief that the feint had succeeded.
"Acting upon this impression, and yielding to the urgent necessity of the case, they summoned all the women, without exception, and explaining to them the circumstances in which they were placed, and the improbability that any injury would be offered them, until the firing had been returned from the opposite side of the fort, they urged them to go in a body to the spring, and each to bring up a bucketfull of water. Some of the ladies, as was natural, had no relish for the undertaking, and asked why the men could not bring water as well as themselves? Observing that they were not bullet-proof, and that the Indians made no distinction between male and female scalps.
"To this it was answered, that women were in the habit of bringing water every morning to the fort and that if the Indians saw them engaged as usual, it would induce them to believe that their ambuscade was undiscovered, and that they would not unmask themselves for the sake of firing at a few women, when they hoped, by remaining concealed a few moments longer, to obtain complete possession of the fort. That if men should go down to the spring, the Indians would immediately suspect that something was wrong, would despair of succeeding by ambuscade, and would instantly rush upon them, follow them into the fort, or shoot them down at the spring. The decision was soon over.
"A few of the boldest declared their readiness to brave the danger; and the younger and more timid rallying in the rear of these veterans, they all marched down in a body to the spring, within point-blank shot of more than five hundred Indian warriors. Some of the girls could not help betraying symptoms of terror, but the married women, in general, moved with a steadiness and composure which completely deceived the Indians. Not a shot was fired. The party were permitted to fill their buckets, one after another, without interruption; and although their steps became quicker and quicker, on their return, and when near the gate of the fort, degenerated into a rather unmilitary celerity, attended with some little crowding in passing the gate, yet not more than one-fifth of the water was spilled, and the eyes of the youngest had not dilated to more than double their ordinary size.
"Being now amply supplied with water, they sent out thirteen young men to attack the decoy party, with orders to fire with great rapidity, and make as much noise as possible, but not to pursue the enemy too far, while the rest of the garrison took post on the opposite side of the fort, cocked their guns, and stood in readiness to receive the ambuscade as soon as it was unmasked. The firing of the light parties on the Lexington road was soon heard, and quickly became sharp and serious, gradually becoming more distant from the fort. Instantly, Girty sprung up at the head of his five hundred warriors, and rushed rapidly upon the western gate, ready to force his way over the undefended palisades. Into this immense mass of dusky bodies, the garrison poured several rapid volleys of rifle balls with destructive effect. Their consternation may be imagined. With wild cries they dispersed on the right and left, and in two minutes not an Indian was to be seen. At the same time, the party who had sallied out on the Lexington road, came running into the fort at the opposite gate, in high spirits, and laughing heartily at the success of their maneuvre."
After this repulse, the Indians commenced the attack in regular form, that is regular Indian form, for they had no cannon, which was a great oversight, and one which we would not have expected them to make, after witnessing the terror with which they had inspired the Kentuckians in Byrd's invasion.
Two men had left the garrison immediately upon discovering the Indians, to carry the news to Lexington and demand succor. On arriving at that place they found the men had mostly gone to Hoy's Station. The couriers pursued, and overtaking them, quickly brought them back. Sixteen horsemen, and forty or fifty on foot, started to the relief of Bryant's Station, and arrived before that place at two o'clock in the afternoon.
To the left of the long and narrow lane, where the Maysville and Lexington road now runs, there were more than one hundred acres of green standing corn. The usual road from Lexington to Bryant's, ran parallel to the fence of this field, and only a few feet distant from it. On the opposite side of the road was a thick wood. Here, more than three hundred Indians lay in ambush, within pistol-shot of the road, awaiting the approach of the party. The horsemen came in view at a time when the firing had ceased, and every thing was quiet. Seeing no enemy, and hearing no noise, they entered the lane at a gallop, and were instantly saluted with a shower of rifle balls, from each side, at the distance of ten paces.
At the first shot, the whole party set spurs to their horses, and rode at full speed through a rolling fire from either side, which continued for several hundred yards, but owing partly to the furious rate at which they rode, partly to the clouds of dust raised by the horses' feet, they all entered the fort unhurt. The men on foot were less fortunate. They were advancing through the corn-field, and might have reached the fort in safety, but for their eagerness to succor their friends. Without reflecting, that from the weight and extent of the fire, the enemy must have been ten times their number, they ran up with inconsiderate courage, to the spot where the firing was heard, and there found themselves cut off from the fort, and within pistol-shot of more than three hundred savages.
Fortunately the Indians' guns had just been discharged, and they had not yet had leisure to reload. At the sight of this brave body of footmen, however, they raised a hideous yell, and rushed upon them, tomahawk in hand. Nothing but the high corn and their loaded rifles, could have saved them from destruction. The Indians were cautious in rushing upon a loaded rifle with only a tomahawk, and when they halted to load their pieces, the Kentuckians ran with great rapidity, turning and dodging through the corn in every direction. Some entered the wood and escaped through the thickets of cane, some were shot down in the corn-field, others maintained a running fight, halting occasionally behind trees and keeping the enemy at bay with their rifles; for, of all men, the Indians are generally the most cautious in exposing themselves to danger. A stout, active, young fellow, was so hard pressed by Girty and several savages, that he was compelled to discharge his rifle, (however unwilling, having no time to reload it,) and Girty fell.
It happened, however, that a piece of thick sole-leather was in his shot-pouch at the time, which received the ball, and preserved his life, although the force of the blow felled him to the ground. The savages halted upon his fall, and the young man escaped. Although the skirmish and the race lasted more than an hour, during which the corn-field presented a scene of turmoil and bustle which can scarcely be conceived, yet very few lives were lost. Only six of the white men were killed and wounded, and probably still fewer of the enemy, as the whites never fired until absolutely necessary, but reserved their loads as a check upon the enemy. Had the Indians pursued them to Lexington, they might have possessed themselves of it without resistance, as there was no force there to oppose them; but after following the fugitives for a few hundred yards, they returned to the hopeless siege of the fort.
The day was nearly over, and the Indians were discouraged. They had made no perceptible impression upon the fort, but had sustained a severe loss; the country was aroused, and they feared to find themselves outnumbered in their turn. Girty determined to attempt to frighten them into a capitulation. For this purpose he cautiously approached the works, and suddenly showed himself on a large stump, from which he addressed the garrison. After extolling their valor, he assured them that their resistance was useless, as he expected his artillery shortly, when their fort would be crushed without difficulty. He promised them perfect security for their lives if they surrendered, and menaced them with the usual inflictions of Indian rage if they refused. He concluded by asking if they knew him. The garrison of course gave no credit to the promises of good treatment contained in this speech. They were too well acquainted with the facility with which such pledges were given and violated; but the mention of cannon was rather alarming, as the expedition of Colonel Byrd was fresh in the minds of all. None of the leaders made any answer to Girty, but a young man by the name of Reynolds, took upon himself to reply to it. In regard to the question of Girty, "Whether the garrison knew him?" he said:
"'That he was very well known; that he himself had a worthless dog, to which he had given the name of 'Simon Girty,' in consequence of his striking resemblance to the man of that name; that if he had either artillery or reinforcements, he might bring them up and be d——d; that if either himself, or any of the naked rascals with him, found their way into the fort, they would disdain to use their guns against them, but would drive them out again with switches, of which they had collected a great number for that purpose alone; and finally he declared, that they also expected reinforcements; that the whole country was marching to their assistance; that if Girty and his gang of murderers remained twenty-four hours longer before the fort, their scalps would be found drying in the sun upon the roofs of their cabins.'"
Girty affected much sorrow for the inevitable destruction which he assured the garrison awaited them, in consequence of their obstinacy. All idea of continuing the siege was now abandoned. The besiegers evacuated their camp that very night; and with so much precipitation, that meat was left roasting before the fires. Though we cannot wonder at this relinquishing of a long-cherished scheme when we consider the character of the Indians, yet it would be impossible to account for the appearance of precipitancy, and even terror, with which their retreat was accompanied, did we not perceive it to be the first of a series of similar artifices, designed to draw on their enemies to their own destruction. There was nothing in the circumstances to excite great apprehensions. To be sure, they had been repulsed in their attempt on the fort with some loss, yet this loss (thirty men) would by no means have deterred a European force of similar numbers from prosecuting the enterprise.
Girty and his great Indian army retired toward Ruddle's and Martin's Stations, on a circuitous route, toward Lower Blue Licks. They expected, however, to be pursued, and evidently desired it, as they left a broad trail behind them, and marked the trees which stood on their route with their tomahawks.
[Footnote 40: McClung.]
[Footnote 41: McClung.]
[Footnote 42: Frost: "Border Wars of the West." Peck: "Life of Boone." McClung: "Western Adventure."]
Arrival of reinforcements at Bryant's Station—Colonel Daniel Boone, his son and brother among them—Colonels Trigg, Todd, and others—Great number of commissioned officers—Consultation—Pursuit commenced without waiting for Colonel Logan's reinforcement—Indian trail—Apprehensions of Boone and others—Arrival at the Blue Licks—Indians seen—Consultation—Colonel Boone's opinion—Rash conduct of Major McGary—Battle of Blue Licks commenced—Fierce encounter with the Indians—Israel Boone, Colonels Todd and Trigg, and Majors Harland and McBride killed—Attempt of the Indians to outflank the whites—Retreat of the whites—Colonel Boone nearly surrounded by Indians—Cuts his way through them, and returns to Bryant's Station—Great slaughter—Bravery of Netherland—Noble conduct of Reynolds in saving Captain Patterson—Loss of the whites—Colonel Boone's statement—Remarks on McGary's conduct—The fugitives meet Colonel Logan with his party—Return to the field of battle—Logan returns to Bryant's Station.
The intelligence of the siege of Bryant's Station had spread far and wide, and the whole region round was in a state of intense excitement. The next morning after the enemy's retreat, reinforcements began to arrive, and in the course of the day successive bodies of militia presented themselves, to the number of one hundred and eighty men.
Among this number was Colonel Daniel Boone, his son Israel, and his brother Samuel, with a strong party of men from Boonesborough. Colonel Stephen Trigg led a similar corps from Harrodsburg; and Colonel John Todd headed the militia from Lexington. Majors Harland, McGary, McBride, and Levi Todd were also among the arrivals.
It is said that nearly one-third of the whole force assembled at Bryant's Station were commissioned officers, many of whom had hurried to the relief of their countrymen. This superior activity is to be accounted for by the fact that the officers were generally selected from the most active and skillful of the pioneers.
A consultation was held in a tumultuous manner, and it was determined to pursue the enemy at once. The Indians had retreated by way of the Lower Blue Licks. The pursuit was commenced without waiting for the junction of Colonel Logan, who was known to be coming up with a strong reinforcement. The trail of the enemy exhibited a degree of carelessness very unusual in an Indian retreat. Various articles were strewn along the path, as if in terror they had been abandoned. These symptoms, while they increased the ardor of the young men, excited the apprehensions of the more experienced borderers, and Boone in particular. He noticed that, amid all the signs of disorder so lavishly displayed, the Indians seemed to take even unusual care to conceal their numbers by contracting their camp. It would seem that the Indians had rather overdone their stratagem. It was very natural to those not much experienced in Indian warfare to suppose that the articles found strewn along the road had been abandoned in the hurry of flight; but when they found that the utmost pains had been taken to point out the way to them by chopping the trees, one would have thought that the rawest among them, who had only spent a few months on the border, could have seen through so transparent an artifice. But these indications were disregarded in the desire felt to punish the Indians for their invasion.
Nothing was seen of the enemy till the Kentuckians reached the Blue Licks. Here, just as they arrived at Licking River, a few Indians were seen on the other side, retreating without any appearance of alarm. The troops now made a halt, and the officers held a consultation to determine on the course to be pursued. Colonel Daniel Boone, on being appealed to as the most experienced person present, gave his opinion as follows:
"That their situation was critical and delicate: that the force opposed to them was undoubtedly numerous and ready for battle, as might readily be seen from the leisurely retreat of the few Indians who had appeared upon the crest of the hill; that he was well acquainted with the ground in the neighborhood of the Licks, and was apprehensive that an ambuscade was formed at the distance of a mile in advance, where two ravines, one upon each side of the ridge, ran in such a manner that a concealed enemy might assail them at once both in front and flank before they were apprized of the danger.
"It would be proper, therefore, to do one of two things. Either to await the arrival of Logan, who was now undoubtedly on his march to join them; or, if it was determined to attack without delay, that one-half of their number should march up the river, which there bends in an elliptical form, cross at the rapids, and fall upon the rear of the enemy, while the other division attacked them in front. At any rate, he strongly urged the necessity of reconnoitering the ground carefully before the main body crossed the river."
McClung, in his "Western Adventures," doubts whether the plan of operation proposed by Colonel Boone would have been more successful than that actually adopted; suggesting that the enemy would have cut them off in detail, as at Estill's defeat.
But before the officers could come to any conclusion, Major McGary dashed into the river on horseback, calling on all who were not cowards to follow. The next moment the whole of the party were advancing to the attack with the greatest ardor, but without any order whatever. Horse and foot struggled through the river together, and, without waiting to form, rushed up the ascent from the shore.
"Suddenly," says McClung, "the van halted. They had reached the spot mentioned by Boone, where the two ravines head, on each side of the ridge. Here a body of Indians presented themselves, and attacked the van. McGary's party instantly returned the fire, but under great disadvantage. They were upon a bare and open ridge; the Indians in a bushy ravine. The centre and rear, ignorant of the ground, hurried up to the assistance of the van, but were soon stopped by a terrible fire from the ravine which flanked them. They found themselves enclosed as if in the wings of a net, destitute of proper shelter, while the enemy were in a great measure covered from their fire. Still, however, they maintained their ground. The action became warm and bloody. The parties gradually closed, the Indians emerged from the ravine, and the fire became mutually destructive. The officers suffered dreadfully. Todd and Trigg in the rear, Harland, McBride, and young Israel Boone in front, were already killed."
"The Indians gradually extended their line to turn the right of the Kentuckians, and cut off their retreat. This was quickly perceived by the weight of the fire from that quarter, and the rear instantly fell back in disorder, and attempted to rush through their only opening to the river. The motion quickly communicated itself to the van, and a hurried retreat became general. The Indians instantly sprung forward in pursuit, and, falling upon them with their tomahawks, made a cruel slaughter. From the battle-ground to the river the spectacle was terrible. The horsemen, generally, escaped; but the foot, particularly the van, which had advanced furthest within the wings of the net, were almost totally destroyed. Colonel Boone, after witnessing the death of his son and many of his dearest friends, found himself almost entirely surrounded at the very commencement of the retreat."
"Several hundred Indians were between him and the ford, to which the great mass of the fugitives were bending their flight, and to which the attention of the savages was principally directed. Being intimately acquainted with the ground, he, together with a few friends, dashed into the ravine which the Indians had occupied, but which most of them had now left to join in the pursuit. After sustaining one or two heavy fires, and baffling one or two small parties who pursued him for a short distance, he crossed the river below the ford by swimming, and, entering the wood at a point where there was no pursuit, returned by a circuitous route to Bryant's Station. In the mean time, the great mass of the victors and vanquished crowded the bank of the ford."
"The slaughter was great in the river. The ford was crowded with horsemen and foot and Indians, all mingled together. Some were compelled to seek a passage above by swimming; some who could not swim were overtaken and killed at the edge of the water. A man by the name of Netherland, who had formerly been strongly suspected of cowardice, here displayed a coolness and presence of mind equally noble and unexpected. Being finely mounted, he had outstripped the great mass of fugitives, and crossed the river in safety. A dozen or twenty horsemen accompanied him, and, having placed the river between them and the enemy, showed a disposition to continue their flight, without regard to the safety of their friends who were on foot, and still struggling with the current."
"Netherland instantly checked his horse, and in a loud voice, called upon his companions to halt, fire upon the Indians, and save those who were still in the stream. The party instantly obeyed; and facing about, poured a close and fatal discharge of rifles upon the foremost of the pursuers. The enemy instantly fell back from the opposite bank, and gave time for the harassed and miserable footmen to cross in safety. The check, however, was but momentary. Indians were seen crossing in great numbers above and below, and the flight again became general. Most of the foot left the great buffalo track, and plunging into the thickets, escaped by a circuitous route to Bryant's Station."
The pursuit was kept up for twenty miles, though with but little success. In the flight from the scene of action to the river, young Reynolds, (the same who replied to Girty's summons at Bryant's Station,) on horseback, overtook Captain Patterson on foot. This officer had not recovered from the effects of wounds received on a former occasion, and was altogether unable to keep up with the rest of the fugitives.
Reynolds immediately dismounted, and gave the captain his horse. Continuing his flight on foot, he swam the river, but was made prisoner by a party of Indians. He was left in charge of a single Indian, whom he soon knocked down, and so escaped. For the assistance he so gallantly rendered him, Captain Patterson rewarded Reynolds with a present of two hundred acres of land.
Sixty whites were killed in this battle of the Blue Licks, and seven made prisoners. Colonel Boone, in his Autobiography, says that he was informed that the Indian loss in killed, was four more than that of the Kentuckians, and that the former put four of the prisoners to death, to make the numbers equal. But this account does not seem worthy of credit, when we consider the vastly superior numbers of the Indians, their advantage of position, and the disorderly manner in which the Kentuckians advanced. If this account is true, the loss of the Indians in the actual battle must have been much greater than that of their opponents, many of the latter having been killed in the pursuit.
As the loss of the Kentuckians on this occasion, the heaviest they had ever sustained, was undoubtedly caused by rashness, it becomes our duty, according to the established usage of historians, to attempt to show where the fault lies. The conduct of McGary, which brought on the action, appears to be the most culpable. He never denied the part which is generally attributed to him, but justified himself by saying that while at Bryant's Station, he had advised waiting for Logan, but was met with the charge of cowardice. He believed that Todd and Trigg were jealous of Logan, who was the senior Colonel, and would have taken the command had he come up. This statement he made to a gentleman several years after the battle took place. He said also to the same person, that when he found them hesitating in the presence of the enemy, he "burst into a passion," called them cowards, and dashed into the river as before narrated. If this account be true, it may somewhat palliate, but certainly not justify the action.
Before the fugitives reached Bryant's Station, they met Logan advancing with his detachment. The exaggerated accounts he received of the slaughter, induced him to return to the above-mentioned place. On the next morning all who had escaped from the battle were assembled, when Logan found himself at the head of four hundred and fifty men. With this force, accompanied by Colonel Boone, he set out for the scene of action, hoping that the enemy, encouraged by their success, would await his arrival. But when he reached the field, he found it deserted. The bodies of the slain Kentuckians, frightfully mangled, were strewed over the ground. After collecting and interring these, Logan and Boone, finding they could do nothing more, returned to Bryant's Station, where they disbanded the troops.
"By such rash men as McGary," says Mr. Peck, "Colonel Boone was charged with want of courage, when the result proved his superior wisdom and fore-sight. All the testimony gives Boone credit for his sagacity and correctness in judgment before the action, and his coolness and self-possession in covering the retreat. His report of this battle to Benjamin Harrison, Governor of Virginia, is one of the few documents that remain from his pen."
"Boone's Station, Fayette County, August 30th, 1782.
"Sir: Present circumstances of affairs cause me to write to your Excellency as follows. On the 16th instant, a large number of Indians, with some white men, attacked one of our frontier Stations, known by the name of Bryant's Station. The siege continued from about sunrise till about ten o'clock the next day, when they marched off. Notice being given to the neighboring Stations, we immediately raised one hundred and eighty-one horse, commanded by Colonel John Todd, including some of the Lincoln County militia, commanded by Colonel Trigg, and pursued about forty miles.
"On the 19th instant, we discovered the enemy lying in wait for us. On this discovery, we formed our columns into one single line, and marched up in their front within about forty yards, before there was a gun fired. Colonel Trigg commanded on the right, myself on the left, Major McGary in the centre, and Major Harlan the advanced party in front. From the manner in which we had formed, it fell to my lot to bring on the attack. This was done with a very heavy fire on both sides, and extended back of the line to Colonel Trigg, where the enemy were so strong they rushed up and broke the right wing at the first fire. Thus the enemy got in our rear, with the loss of seventy-seven of our men, and twelve wounded. Afterward we were reinforced by Colonel Logan, which made our force four hundred and sixty men. We marched again to the battle-ground; but finding the enemy had gone, we proceeded to bury the dead.
"We found forty-three on the ground, and many lay about, which we could not stay to find, hungry and weary as we were, and somewhat dubious that the enemy might not have gone off quite. By the signs, we thought that the Indians had exceeded four hundred; while the whole of this militia of the county does not amount to more than one hundred and thirty. From these facts your Excellency may form an idea of our situation.
"I know that your own circumstances are critical; but are we to be wholly forgotten? I hope not. I trust about five hundred men may be sent to our assistance immediately. If these shall be stationed as our county lieutenants shall deem necessary, it may be the means of saving our part of the country; but if they are placed under the direction of General Clark, they will be of little or no service to our settlement. The Falls lie one hundred miles west of us, and the Indians northeast; while our men are frequently called to protect them. I have encouraged the people in this county all that I could; but I can no longer justify them or myself to risk our lives here under such extraordinary hazards. The inhabitants of this county are very much alarmed at the thoughts of the Indians bringing another campaign into our country this fall. If this should be the case, it will break up these settlements. I hope, therefore, your Excellency will take the matter into consideration, and send us some relief as quick as possible.
"These are my sentiments, without consulting any person. Colonel Logan will, I expect, immediately send you an express, by whom I humbly request your Excellency's answer. In the meanwhile, I remain,"
[Footnote 43: Peck.]
[Footnote 44: McClung.]
[Footnote 45: "Life of Boone," p. 130.]
The Indians return home from the Blue Licks—They attack the settlements in Jefferson County—Affair at Simpson's Creek—General Clark's expedition to the Indian country—Colonel Boone joins it—Its effect—Attack of the Indians on the Crab Orchard settlement—Rumor of intended invasion by the Cherokees—Difficulties about the treaty with Great Britain—Hostilities of the Indians generally stimulated by renegade whites—Simon Girty—Causes of his hatred of the whites—Girty insulted by General Lewis—Joins the Indians at the battle of Point Pleasant—Story of his rescuing Simon Kenton—Crawford's expedition, and the burning of Crawford—Close of Girty's career.
Most of the Indians who had taken part in the battle of the Blue Licks, according to their custom, returned home to boast of their victory, thus abandoning all the advantages which might have resulted to them from following up their success. Some of them, however, attacked the settlements in Jefferson County but they were prevented from doing much mischief by the vigilance of the inhabitants. They succeeded, however, in breaking up a small settlement on Simpson's Creek. This they attacked in the night, while the men, wearied by a scout of several days, were asleep. The enemy entered the houses before their occupants were fully aroused. Notwithstanding this, several of the men defended themselves with great courage. Thomas Randolph killed several Indians before his wife and infant were struck down at his side, when he escaped with his remaining child through the roof. On reaching the ground he was assailed by two of the savages, but he beat them off, and escaped. Several women escaped to the woods, and two were secreted under the floor of a cabin, where they remained undiscovered. Still the Indians captured quite a number of women and children, some of whom they put to death on the road home. The rest were liberated the next year upon the conclusion of peace with the English.
General George Rogers Clark proposed a retaliatory expedition into the Indian country, and to carry out the plan, called a council of the superior officers. The council agreed to his plan, and preparations were made to raise the requisite number of troops by drafting, if there should be any deficiency of volunteers. But it was not found necessary to resort to compulsory measures, both men and supplies for the expedition were raised without difficulty. The troops to the number of one thousand, all mounted, assembled at Bryant's Station, and the Falls of the Ohio, from whence the two detachments marched under Logan and Floyd to the mouth of the Licking, where general Clark assumed the command. Colonel Boone took part in this expedition; but probably as a volunteer. He is not mentioned as having a separate command.
The history of this expedition, like most others of the same nature, possesses but little interest. The army with all the expedition they could make, and for which the species of force was peculiarly favorable, failed to surprise the Indians. These latter opposed no resistance of importance to the advance of the army. Occasionally, a straggling party would fire upon the Kentuckians, but never waited to receive a similar compliment in return. Seven Indians were taken prisoners, and three or four killed; one of them an old chief, too infirm to fly, was killed by Major McGary. The towns of the Indians were burnt, and their fields devastated. The expedition returned to Kentucky with the loss of four men, two of whom were accidentally killed by their own comrades.
This invasion, though apparently so barren of result, is supposed to have produced a beneficial effect, by impressing the Indians with the numbers and courage of the Kentuckians. They appear from this time to have given up the expectation of reconquering the country, and confined their hostilities to the rapid incursions of small bands.
During the expedition of Clark, a party of Indians penetrated to the Crab Orchard settlement. They made an attack upon a single house, containing only a woman, a negro man, and two or three children. One of the Indians, who had been sent in advance to reconnoitre, seeing the weakness of the garrison, thought to get all the glory of the achievement to himself.
He boldly entered the house and seized the negro, who proving strongest, threw him on the floor, when the woman dispatched him with an axe. The other Indians coming up, attempted to force open the door which had been closed by the children during the scuffle. There was no gun in the house, but the woman seized an old barrel of one, and thrust the muzzle through the logs, at which the Indians retreated.
The year 1783 passed away without any disturbance from the Indians, who were restrained by the desertion of their allies the British. In 1784, the southern frontier of Kentucky was alarmed by the rumor of an intended invasion by the Cherokees, and some preparations were made for an expedition against them, which fell through, however, because there was no authority to carry it on. The report of the hostility of the Cherokees proved to be untrue.
Meanwhile difficulties arose in performance of the terms of the treaty between England and the United States. They appear to have originated in a dispute in regard to an article contained in the treaty, providing that the British army should not carry away with them any negroes or other property belonging to the American inhabitants. In consequence of what they deemed an infraction of this article, the Virginians refused to comply with another, which stipulated for the repeal of acts prohibiting the collection of debts due to British subjects. The British, on the other hand, refused to evacuate the western posts till this article was complied with. It was natural that the intercourse which had always existed between the Indians and the garrisons of these posts, during the period they had acted as allies, should continue, and it did.
In the unwritten history of the difficulties of the United States Government with the Indian tribes within her established boundaries, nothing appears clearer than this truth: that the fierce and sanguinary resistance of the aborigines to the encroachments of the Anglo-Americans has ever been begun and continued more through the instigations of outlawed white men, who had sought protection among them from the arm of the law or the knife of individual vengeance, and been adopted into their tribes, than from the promptings of their own judgments, their disregard of death, their thirst for the blood of their oppressors, or their love of country.
That their sense of wrong has at all times been keen, their hate deadly, and their bravery great, is a fact beyond dispute; and that they have prized highly their old hunting-grounds, and felt a warm and lively attachment to their beautiful village-sites, and regarded with especial veneration the burial-places of their fathers, their whole history attests; but of their own weakness in war, before the arms and numbers of their enemies, they must have been convinced at a very early period: and they were neither so dull in apprehension, nor so weak in intellect, as not soon to have perceived the utter hopelessness, and felt the mad folly, of a continued contest with their invaders. Long before the settlement of the whites upon this continent, the Indians had been subject to bloody and exterminating wars among themselves; and such conflicts had generally resulted in the flight of the weaker party toward the West, and the occupancy of their lands by the conquerors. Many of the tribes had a tradition among them, and regarded it as their unchangeable destiny, that they were to journey from the rising to the setting sun, on their way to the bright waters and the green forests of the "Spirit Land;" and the working out of this destiny seems apparent, if not in the location, course, and character of the tumult and other remains of the great aboriginal nations of whom even tradition furnishes no account, certainly in what we know of the history of the tribes found on the Atlantic coast by the first European settlers.
It seems fairly presumable, from our knowledge of the history and character of the North American Indians, that had they been left to the promptings of their own judgments, and been influenced only by the deliberations of their own councils, they would, after a brief, but perhaps most bloody, resistance to the encroachments of the whites, have bowed to what would have struck their untutored minds as an inevitable destiny, and year after year flowed silently, as the European wave pressed upon them, further and further into the vast wildernesses of the mighty West. But left to their own judgments, or their own deliberations, they never have been. Early armed by renegade white men with European weapons, and taught the improvement of their own rude instruments of warfare, and instigated not only to oppose the strides of their enemies after territory, but to commit depredations upon their settlements, and to attempt to chastise them at their very thresholds, they drew down upon themselves the wrath of a people which is not slow to anger, nor easily appeased; and as far back as the Revolution, if not as the colonizing of Massachusetts, their breasts were filled with a hatred of the whites, deadly and unslumbering. Through all our subsequent transactions with them, this feeling has been increasing in magnitude and intensity: and recent events have carried it to a pitch which will render it enduring forever, perhaps not in its activity, but certainly in its bitterness. Whether more amicable relations with the whites, during the first settlements made upon this continent by the Europeans, would have changed materially the ultimate destiny of the aboriginal tribes, is a question about which diversities of opinion may well be entertained; but it is not to be considered here.
The fierce, and bloody, and continuous opposition which the Indians have made from the first to the encroachments of the Anglo-Americans, is matter of history; and close scrutiny will show, that the great instigators of that opposition have always, or nearly so, been renegade white men. Scattered through the tribes east of the Alleghanies, before and during the American Revolution, there were many such miscreants. Among the Western tribes, during the early settlement of Kentucky and Ohio, and at the period of the last war with Great Britain, there were a number, some of them men of talent and great activity. One of the boldest and most notorious of these latter, was one whom we have had frequent occasion to mention, SIMON GIRTY—for many years the scourge of the infant settlements in the West, the terror of women, and the bugaboo of children. This man was an adopted member of the great Wyandot nation, among whom he ranked high as an expert hunter, a brave warrior, and a powerful orator. His influence extended through all the tribes of the West, and was generally exerted to incite the Indians to expeditions against the "Stations" of Kentucky, and to acts of cruelty to their white prisoners. The bloodiest counsel was usually his; his was the voice which was raised loudest against his countrymen, who were preparing the way for the introduction of civilization and Christianity into this glorious region; and in all great attacks upon the frontier settlements he was one of the prime movers, and among the prominent leaders.
Of the causes of that venomous hatred, which rankled in the bosom of Simon Girty against his countrymen, we have two or three versions: such as, that he early imbibed a feeling of contempt and abhorrence of civilized life, from the brutality of his father, the lapse from virtue of his mother, and the corruptions of the community in which he had his birth and passed his boyhood; that, while acting with the whites against the Indians on the Virginia border, he was stung to the quick, and deeply offended by the appointment to a station over his head, of one who was his junior in years, and had rendered nothing like his services to the frontiers; and that, when attached as a scout to Dunmore's expedition, an indignity was heaped upon him which thoroughly soured his nature, and drove him to the Indians, that he might more effectually execute a vengeance which he swore to wreak. The last reason assigned for his defection and animosity is the most probable of the three, rests upon good authority, and seems sufficient, his character considered, to account for his desertion and subsequent career among the Indians.
The history of the indignity alluded to, as it has reached the writer from one who was associated with Girty and a partaker in it, is as follows: The two were acting as scouts in the expedition set on foot by Governor Dunmore, of Virginia, in the year 1774, against the Indian towns of Ohio. The two divisions of the force raised for this expedition, the one commanded by Governor Dunmore in person, the other by General Andrew Lewis, were by the orders of the governor to form a junction at Point Pleasant, where the Great Kenhawa empties into the Ohio. At this place, General Lewis arrived with his command on the eleventh or twelfth of September; but after remaining here two or three weeks in anxious expectation of the approach of the other division, he received dispatches from the governor, informing him that Dunmore had changed his plan, and determined to march at once against the villages on the Scioto, and ordering him to cross the Ohio immediately and join him as speedily as possible. It was during the delay at the Point that the incident occurred which is supposed to have had such a tremendous influence upon Girty's after-life. He and his associate scout had rendered some two or three months' services, for which they had as yet drawn no part of their pay; and in their present idleness they discovered means of enjoyment, of which they had not money to avail themselves. In this strait, they called upon Gen. Lewis in person, at his quarters, and demanded their pay. For some unknown cause this was refused, which produced a slight murmuring on the part of the applicants, when General Lewis cursed them, and struck them several severe blows over their heads with his cane. Girty's associate was not much hurt; but he himself was so badly wounded on the forehead or temple that the blood streamed down his cheek and side to the floor. He quickly turned to leave the apartment; but, on reaching the door, wheeled round, planted his feet firmly upon the sill, braced an arm against either side of the frame, fixed his keen eyes unflinchingly upon the general, uttered the exclamation, "By God, sir, your quarters shall swim in blood for this!" and instantly disappeared beyond pursuit.
General Lewis was not much pleased with the sudden and apparently causeless change which Governor Dunmore had made in the plan of the expedition. Nevertheless, he immediately prepared to obey the new orders, and had given directions for the construction of rafts upon which to cross the Ohio, when, before daylight on the morning of the 10th of October, some of the scouts suddenly entered the encampment with the information that an immense body of Indians was just at hand, hastening upon the Point. This was the force of the brave and skillful chief Cornstalk, whose genius and valor were so conspicuous on that day, throughout the whole of which raged the hardly-contested and moat bloody Battle of the Point. Girty had fled from General Lewis immediately to the chief Cornstalk, forsworn his white nature, and leagued himself with the Redman forever; and with the Indians he was now advancing, under the cover of night, to surprise the Virginian camp. At the distance of only a mile from the Point, Cornstalk was met by a detachment of the Virginians, under the command of Colonel Charles Lewis, a brother of the general; and here, about sunrise on the 10th of October, 1774, commenced one of the longest, severest, and bloodiest battles ever fought upon the Western frontiers. It terminated, as we have seen, about sunset, with the defeat of the Indians it is true, but with a loss to the whites which carried mourning into many a mansion of the Old Dominion, and which was keenly felt throughout the country at the time, and remembered with sorrow long after.
Girty having thrown himself among the Indians, as has been related, and embraced their cause, now retreated with them into the interior of Ohio, and ever after followed their fortunes without swerving. On arriving at the towns of the Wyandots, he was adopted into that tribe, and established himself at Upper Sandusky. Being active, of a strong constitution, fearless in the extreme, and at all times ready to join their war parties, lie soon became very popular among his new associates, and a man of much consequence. He was engaged in most of the expeditions against the frontier settlements of Pennsylvania and Virginia—always brave and always cruel—till the year 1778, when occurred an incident which, as it is the only bright spot apparent on the whole dark career of the renegade, shall be related with some particularity.
Girty happened to be at Lower Sandusky this year, when Kenton—known at that period as Simon Butler—was brought in to be executed by a party of Indians who had made him a prisoner on the banks of the Ohio. Years before, Kenton and Girty had been bosom companions at Fort Pitt, and served together subsequently in the commencement of Dunmore's expedition; but the victim was already blackened for the stake, and the renegade failed to recognize in him his former associate. Girty had at this time but just returned from an expedition against the frontier of Pennsylvania, which had been less successful than he had anticipated, and was enraged by disappointment. He, therefore, as soon as Kenton was brought into the village, began to give vent to a portion of his spleen by cuffing and kicking the prisoner, whom he eventually knocked down. He knew that Kenton had come from Kentucky; and this harsh treatment was bestowed in part, it is thought, to frighten the prisoner into answers of such questions as he might wish to ask him. He then inquired how many men there were in Kentucky. Kenton could not answer this question, but ran over the names and ranks of such of the officers as he at the time recollected. "Do you know William Stewart?" asked Girty. "Perfectly well," replied Kenton; "he is an old and intimate acquaintance." "Ah! what is your name, then?" "Simon Butler," answered Kenton; and on the instant of this announcement the hardened renegade caught his old comrade by the hand, lifted him from the ground, pressed him to his bosom, asked his forgiveness for having treated him so brutally, and promised to do every thing in his power to save his life, and set him at liberty. "Syme!" said he, weeping like a child, "you are condemned to die, but it shall go hard with me, I tell you, but I will save you from that."
There have been various accounts given of this interesting scene, and all agree in representing Girty as having been deeply affected, and moved for the moment to penitence and tears. The foundation of McClung's detail of the speeches made upon the occasion was a manuscript dictated by Kenton himself a number of years before his death. From this writer we therefore quote:
"As soon as Girty heard the name he became strongly agitated; and, springing from his seat, he threw his arms around Kenton's neck, and embraced him with much emotion. Then turning to the assembled warriors, who remained astonished spectators of this extraordinary scene, he addressed them in a short speech, which the deep earnestness of his tone, and the energy of his gesture, rendered eloquent. He informed them that the prisoner, whom they had just condemned to the stake, was his ancient comrade and bosom friend; that they had traveled the same war-path, slept upon the same blanket, and dwelt in the same wigwam. He entreated them to have compassion on his feelings—to spare him the agony of witnessing the torture of an old friend by the hands of his adopted brothers, and not to refuse so trifling a favor as the life of a white man to the earnest intercession of one who had proved, by three years' faithful service, that he was sincerely and zealously devoted to the cause of the Indians.
"The speech was listened to in unbroken silence. As soon as he had finished, several chiefs expressed their approbation by a deep guttural interjection, while others were equally as forward in making known their objections to the proposal. They urged that his fate had already been determined in a large and solemn council, and that they would be acting like squaws to change their minds every hour. They insisted upon the flagrant misdemeanors of Kenton—that he had not only stolen their horses, but had flashed his gun at one of their young men—that it was vain to suppose that so bad a man could ever become an Indian at heart, like their brother Girty—that the Kentuckians were all alike—very bad people—and ought to be killed as fast as they were taken—and finally, they observed that many of their people had come from a distance, solely to assist at the torture of the prisoner, and pathetically painted the disappointment and chagrin with which they would hear that all their trouble had been for nothing.
"Girty listened with obvious impatience to the young warriors who had so ably argued against a reprieve—and starting to his feet, as soon as the others had concluded, he urged his former request with great earnestness. He briefly, but strongly recapitulated his own services, and the many and weighty instances of attachment he had given. He asked if he could be suspected of partiality to the whites? When had he ever before interceded for any of that hated race? Had he not brought seven scalps home with him from the last expedition? and had he not submitted seven white prisoners that very evening to their discretion? Had he ever expressed a wish that a single captive should be saved? This was his first and should be his last request: for if they refused to him, what was never refused to the intercession of one of their natural chiefs, he would look upon himself as disgraced in their eyes, and considered as unworthy of confidence. Which of their own natural warriors had been more zealous than himself? From what expedition had he ever shrunk?—what white man had ever seen his back? Whose tomahawk had been bloodier than his? He would say no more. He asked it as a first and last favor, as an evidence that they approved of his zeal and fidelity, that the life of his bosom friend might be spared. Fresh speakers arose upon each side, and the debate was carried on for an hour and a half with great heat and energy.
"During the whole of this time, Kenton's feelings may readily be imagined. He could not understand a syllable of what was said. He saw that Girty spoke with deep earnestness, and that the eyes of the assembly were often turned upon himself with various expressions. He felt satisfied that his friend was pleading for his life, and that he was violently opposed by a large part of the council. At length the war-club was produced, and the final vote taken. Kenton watched its progress with thrilling emotion—which yielded to the most rapturous delight, as he perceived that those who struck the floor of the council-house, were decidedly inferior in number to those who passed it in silence. Having thus succeeded in his benevolent purpose, Girty lost no time in attending to the comfort of his friend. He led him into his own wigwam, and from his own store gave him a pair of moccasins and leggins, a breech-cloth, a hat, a coat, a handkerchief for his neck, and another for his head."
In the course of a few weeks, and after passing through some further difficulties, in which the renegade again stood by him faithfully, Kenton was sent to Detroit, from which place he effected his escape and returned to Kentucky. Girty remained with the Indians, retaining his old influence, and continuing his old career; and four years after the occurrences last detailed, in 1782, we find him a prominent figure in one of the blackest tragedies that have ever disgraced the annals of mankind. It is generally believed, by the old settlers and their immediate descendants, that the influence of Girty at this period, over the confederate tribes of the whole northwest, was almost supreme. He had, it is true, no delegated authority, and of course was powerless as regarded the final determination of any important measure; but his voice was permitted in council among the chiefs, and his inflaming harangues were always listened to with delight by the young warriors. Among the sachems and other head-men, he was what may well be styled a "power behind the throne;" and as it is well known that this unseen power is often "greater than the throne itself," it may reasonably be presumed that Girty's influence was in reality all which it is supposed to have been. The horrible event alluded to above, was the Burning of Crawford; and as a knowledge of this dark passage in his life, is necessary to a full development of the character of the renegade, an account of the incident, as much condensed as possible, will be given from the histories of the unfortunate campaign of that year.
The frontier settlements of Pennsylvania and Virginia, had been greatly harassed by repeated attacks from bands of Indians under Girty and some of the Wyandot and Shawnee chiefs, during the whole period of the Revolutionary War; and early in the spring of 1782, these savage incursions became so frequent and galling, and the common mode of fighting the Indians on the line of frontier, when forced to do so in self-defense, proved so inefficient, that it was found absolutely necessary to carry the war into the country of the enemy. For this purpose an expedition against the Wyandot towns on the Sandusky, was gotten up in May, and put under the command of Colonel William Crawford, a brave soldier of the Revolution. This force, amounting to upward of four hundred mounted volunteers, commenced its march through the wilderness northwest of the Ohio River, on the 25th of May, and reached the plains of the Sandusky on the 5th of June. A spirit of insubordination had manifested itself during the march, and on one occasion a small body of the volunteers abandoned the expedition and returned to their homes. The disaffection which had prevailed on the march, continued to disturb the commander and divide the ranks, after their arrival upon the very site (now deserted temporarily) of one of the enemy's principal towns; and the officers, yielding to the wishes of their men, had actually determined, in a hasty council, to abandon the objects of the expedition and return home, if they did not meet with the Indians in large force in the course of another day's march. Scarcely had this determination been announced, however, when Colonel Crawford received intelligence from his scouts, of the near approach of a large body of the enemy. Preparations were at once made for the engagement, which almost instantly commenced. It was now about the middle of the afternoon; and from this time till dusk the firing was hot and galling on both sides. About dark the Indians drew off their force, when the volunteers encamped upon the battle-ground, and slept on their arms.
The next day, the battle was renewed by small detachments of the enemy, but no general engagement took place. The Indians had suffered severely from the close firing which ensued upon their first attack, and were now maneuvering and awaiting the arrival of reinforcements. No sooner had night closed upon this madly spent day, than the officers assembled in council. They were unanimous in the opinion that the enemy, already as they thought more numerous than their own force, was rapidly increasing in numbers. They therefore determined, without a dissenting voice, to retreat that night, as rapidly as circumstances would permit. This resolution was at once announced to the whole body of volunteers, and the arrangements necessary to carry it into effect were immediately commenced. By nine or ten o'clock every thing was in readiness—the troops properly disposed—and the retreat begun in good order. But unfortunately, says McClung, "they had scarcely moved an hundred paces, when the report of several rifles was heard in the rear, in the direction of the Indian encampment. The troops instantly became very unsteady. At length a solitary voice, in the front rank, called out that their design was discovered, and that the Indians would soon be upon them. Nothing more was necessary. The cavalry were instantly broken; and, as usual, each man endeavored to save himself as he best could. A prodigious uproar ensued, which quickly communicated to the enemy that the white men had routed themselves, and that they had nothing to do but pick up stragglers." A scene of confusion and carnage now took place, which almost beggars description. All that night and for the whole of the next day, the work of hunting out, running down, and butchering, continued without intermission. But a relation of these sad occurrences does not properly belong to this narrative. The brief account of the expedition which has been given, was deemed necessary as an introduction to the event which now claims attention.