Battle of Point Pleasant.
Andrew Lewis, who commanded the colonial troops in the Battle of Point Pleasant, October 10, 1774, was the son of John Lewis and Margaret Lynn Lewis, his wife.
John Lewis was of Scotch Irish descent, having been born in France, 1673, where his ancestors had taken refuge from the persecution following the assassination of Henry IV. He married Margaret Lynn, the daughter of the “Laird of Loch Lynn,” of Scotland, and emigrated to Ireland, thence to America in 1729, and became the founder of Staunton, Virginia. Here, he planted a colony and reared a family that have given luster to American History.
Governor Gooch, of Williamsburg, then the seat of Government of Virginia, was the personal friend of Mrs. Lewis’ father and hence granted her sons, together with one Benjamin Burden a land warrant for 500,000 acres of land in the James and Shenandoah Valleys, with the proviso that they were to locate one hundred families within ten years. They induced their friends from Scotland and the north of Ireland, and the Scotch Irish of Pennsylvania, to emigrate to Augusta County, Virginia. In her diary, Mrs. Lewis says: “It sounded like the gathering of the clans to hear the names of these settlers viz: McKees, McCues, McCampbells, McClungs, McKouns, Caruthers, Stuarts, Wallaces, Lyles, Paxtons, Prestons and Grisbys.”
We quote the following from the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, July, 1903, pp. 288, 289, 290:
“When John Randolph said that Pennsylvania had produced but two great men Benjamin Franklin, of Massachusetts, and Albert Gallatin, of Switzerland he possibly did not know that the best blood of his own State was that of the Scotch-Irish people who went down from Pennsylvania and settled in the Valley. He likely did not know that the great and good Dr. Archibald Alexander, the founder of Liberty Hall, now Washington and Lee University (so much loved by Washington,) the very seat of culture and power of the Shenandoah and James, the greatest factor of the State’s prowess, was a Pennsylvanian. He possibly did not know that Dr. Graham, the first president of this institution, was from Old Paxtang; that many of the families whose names are in the pantheon of old Dominion achievement, the families that give Virginia her prominence ,in the sisterhood of States, had their American origin in Pennsylvania in the Scotch-Irish reservoir of the Cumberland Valley the McDowells, the Pattersons, the McCormacks, Ewings, McCorcles, Prestons, McCunqs, Craigs, McCulloughs, Simpsons, Stewarts, Moffats, Irwins, Hunters, Blairs, Elders, Grahams, Finleys, Trimbles, Rankins, and hundreds of others, whose achievements mark the pathway of the world’s progress. John Randolph possibly did not know that the first Declaration of Independence by the American patriots was issued by the members of Hanover Church out there in Dauphin county, when on June 4th, 1774, they declared “that in the event Great Britain attempting to force unjust laws upon us by the strength of Arms, our cause we leave to heaven and our rifles.” This declaration was certainly carried to Mecklenburg to give the sturdy people of that region inspiration for the strong document issued by them a year later, and which gave Jefferson a basis for the Declaration of 1776. There was much moving from Pennsylvania into Virginia and North Carolina before the Revolution, and Hanover Presbytery in the Valley was largely made up of people from Pennsylvania, whose petition of ten thousand names for a free church in a free land, made in 1785, was the force back of Jefferson’s bill for religious tolerance, a triumph for freedom that has always been considered a Presbyterian victory by the Scotch-Irish of America.
We know that Dr. Sankey of Hanover Church was a minister in Hanover Presbytery, and that he was followed into Virginia by large numbers of the Hanover congregation, who kept up a constant stream into the Valley. By the way, two settlements were made by this congregation in Ohio. Col. Rogers, Gov. Bushnell’s secretary, derives his descent from them. The population of North Carolina at the outbreak of the Revolution was largely made up of Scotch-Irish immigrants from Pennsylvania and the Virginia Valley who had a public school system before the war. These were the people who stood with the Rev. David Caldwell on the banks of the Alamance May 16th, 1771, and received the first volley of shot fired in the contest for Independence. This same blood coursed the veins of the patriot army with Lewis at Point Pleasant, the first battle of the Revolutionary War, fought October 10, 1774, Lord Dunmore having no doubt planned the attack by the Indians to discourage the Americans from further agitation of the then pending demand for fair treatment of the American Colonies at the hands of Great Britain. It was this blood that coursed the veins of those courageous people who, having survived the Kerr’s creek massacre, were carried to a Shawnee village in Ohio, and on being bantered to sing by the Indians in their cruel sport, sang Rouse’s version of one of the Psalms. “Unappalled by the bloody scene,” says the Augusta historian, “through which they had already passed, and the fearful tortures awaiting them, within the dark wilderness of forest, when all hope of rescue seemed forbidden; undaunted by the fiendish revelings of their savage captors, they sang aloud with the most pious fervor
“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.”
It was this blood that fought the battle of King’s Mountain, which victory gave the patriots the courage that is always in hope; it was the winning force at Cowpens, at Guilford, where Rev. Samuel Houston discharged his rifle fourteen times, once for each ten minutes of the battle. These brave hearts were in every battle of the Revolution, from Point Pleasant in 1774 to the victory of Wayne at the Maumee Rapids twenty years later, for the War of Independence continued in the Ohio Country after the treaty of peace. And yet, after all this awful struggle to gain and hold for America the very heart of the Republic, one of the gentlemen referred to by Mr. Randolph wrote pamphlets in which he derided as murderers the courageous settlers of our blood on the occasions they felt it necessary to “remove” Indians with their long rifles. After all the struggle, he too would have made an arrangement with England by which the Ohio river would have been the boundary line.”
These were the people who in coming to America had not only secured for themselves that personal religious freedom of a church without a Bishop and ultimately a state without a King, but they became recruits in the Army of Andrew Lewis, the hero of the Battle of Point Pleasant, and like many of their countrymen, continued in the army, (those who had not met the fate of battle,) and became the flower of Virginia’s Colonial Army.
The Status of the Battle of Point Pleasant.
While the Battle of Point Pleasant has always been conceded to have been the most terrific conflict ever waged between the white man and the Indian, its full significance has not been made the text of American history. We quote however, from a few of the American writers, showing their estimate of it.
Roosevelt, in “The Winning of the West,” Vol. II, chap. 2, says: “Lord Dunmore’s War, waged by Americans for the good of America, was the opening act in the drama whereof the closing scene was played at Yorktown. It made possible the two fold character of the Revolutionary War, wherein on the one hand the Americans won by conquest and colonization, new lands for their children, and on the other wrought out their national independence of the British King.”
Kercheval’s History of the Valley, p. 120, says: “Be it remembered, then, that this Indian war was but a portico to our revolutionary war, the fuel for which was then preparing, and which burst into a flame, the ensuing year. Neither let us forget that the Earle of Dunmore was at this time governor of Virginia; and that he was acquainted with the views and designs of the British Cabinet, can scarcely be doubted. What then, suppose ye, would be the conduct of a man possessing his means, filling a high, official station, attached to the British government, and master of consummate diplomatic skill.”
Dr. John P. Hale, in writing of the Battle of Point Pleasant, says, in the History of the Great Kanawha Valley, Vol. I, pp. 114, 115, “Early in the spring of 1774, it was evident that the Indians were combining for aggressive action. * * * It was decided that an army of two divisions should be organized as speedily as practicable one to be commanded by Gen. Lewis, and the other by Lord Dunmore, in person. * * * Gen. Lewis’ army rendezvoused at Camp Union, Lewisburg about September 1st, and was to march from there to the mouth of Kanawha; while Gov. Dunmore was to go the northwest route, over the Braddock trail, by way of Fort Pitt, and thence down the Ohio river and form a junction with Gen. Lewis at the mouth of Kanawha.
The aggregate strength of this southern division of the army was about eleven hundred; the strength of the northern division, under Lord Dunmore, was about fifteen hundred. On the 11th of September Gen. Lewis broke camp, and, with Captain Matthew Arbuckle, an intelligent and experienced frontiersman, as pilot, marched through a pathless wilderness. They reached Point Pleasant on the 30th day of September, after a fatiguing march of nineteen days. Gen. Lewis for several days anxiously awaited the arrival of Lord Dunmore, who, by appointment, was to have joined him here on the 2nd of October. Having no intelligence from him, Lewis dispatched messengers up the Ohio river to meet him, or learn what had become of him.
Before his messengers returned, however three messengers (probably McCulloch, Kenton and Girty) arrived at his camp on Sunday, the 9th of October, with orders from Lord Dunmore to cross the river and meet him before the Indian towns in Ohio. This is, substantially, the current version of matters: but authorities differ.
Some say the messenger arrived on the night of the 10th, after the battle was fought; others say they did not arrive until the 11th, the day after the battle, and Col. Andrew Lewis, son of Gen. Andrew Lewis, says his father received no communication whatever from Lord Dunmore after he (Lewis) left camp Union, until after the battle bad been fought, and Lewis of his own motion, had gone on into Ohio, expecting to join Dunmore and punish the Indians, when he received an order to stop and return to the Point. This order (by messenger) Lewis disregarded, when Lord Dunmore came in person, and after a conference and assurances from Dunmore that he was about negotiating a peace, Lewis reluctantly retraced his steps. In the very excited state of feeling then existing between the colonies and the mother country, It was but natural that the sympathies of Lord Dunmore, a titled English nobleman, and holding his commission as governor of Virginia at the pleasure of the crown, should be with his own country; but it was not only strongly suspected, but generally charged, that, while he was yet acting as governor of Virginia, and before he had declared himself against the colonies he was unfairly using his position and influence to the prejudice of his subjects. According to the account of Col. Stewart, when the interview was over between Gen. Lewis and the messengers of Lord Dunmore, on the 9th, Lewis gave orders to break camp at an early hour next morning, cross the river, and take up their march towards the Indian towns; but the fates had decreed otherwise. At the hour for starting, they found themselves confronted by an army of Indian braves, eight hundred to one thousand strong, in their war paint, and commanded by their able and trusted leaders, Cornstalk, Logan, Red Hawk, Blue Jacket and Elinipsico, and some authors mention two or three others. Instead of a hard day’s marching, Lewis army had a harder day’s fighting the important, desperately contested, finally victorious, and ever-memorable battle of Point Pleasant. No “official report” of this battle has been preserved, or was ever written, so far as can be learned. There are several good reasons, apparently, for this omission. In the first place, the time, place and circumstances were not favorable for preparing a formal official report. In the second place, Lord Dunmore, the superior officer, to whom Gen. Lewis should, ordinarily, have reported, was himself in the field, but a few miles distant, and Gen. Lewis was expecting that the two divisions of the army would be united within a few days; and, in the third place, the “strained relations” between the colonies and the mother country were such, and the recent action of Gov. Dunmore so ambiguous, that Gen. Lewis was probably not inclined to report to him at all.”
The same author, in the same volume, at pages 122, 128, 129, 130, 131 and 132, says: “Col. Stewart, one of the first to write about the battle, after Arbuckle’s short account, was himself present, was well known to Gen. Lewis (and a relative by marriage), says Gen. Lewis received a message from Gov. Dunmore, on the 9th, telling him to cross the Ohio and join him. Burk, and others, say the messengers came after the battle, and mention Simon Kenton and Simon Girty among the messengers. Col. Andrew Lewis says his father received no communication of any sort from Gov. Dunmore, until ordered to return from Ohio. * * * * It has been stated that there were not only suspicions, but grave charges, that Governor Dunmore acted a double part, and that he was untrue and treacherous to the interests of the colony he governed. As he is inseparably connected with the campaign (often called the Dunmore War), and its accompanying history, and the inauguration of the Revolution, it may be well to briefly allude to his official course just before, during and after the campaign that his true relations to it, and to the colony, may be understood; and, also, to show that the “Revolution” was really in progress; that this campaign was one of the important early moves on the historical chessboard, and that the battle of Point Pleasant was, as generally claimed, the initiatory battle of the great drama. In the summer of 1773. Governor Dunmore made, ostensibly, a pleasure trip to Fort Pitt; here he established close relations with Dr. Connally, making him Indian agent, land agent, etc. Connally was an able active and efficient man, who thereafter adhered to Dunmore and the English cause. It is charged that Connally at once began fomenting trouble and ill feeling between the colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania in regard to the western frontier of Pennsylvania, then claimed by both colonies, but held by Virginia, hoping by such course to prevent the friendly co-operation of these colonies against English designs; and, also to incite the Indian tribes to resistance of western white encroachments upon their hunting grounds, and prepare the way forgetting their co-operation with England against the colonies, when the rupture should come. In December, 1773, the famous “coldwater tea” was made in Boston harbor. In retaliation the English government blockaded the port of Boston, and moved the capital of the colony to Salem. When this news came, in 1774, the Virginia assembly, being in session, passed resolutions of sympathy with Massachusetts, and strong disapproval of the course of England; whereupon Governor Dunmore peremptorily dissolved the assembly. They met privately, opened correspondence with the other colonies, and proposed co-operation and a colonial congress. On the 4th of September, 1774, met, in Philadelphia, the first continental congress Peyton Randolph, of Virginia, president; George Washington, R. H. Lee, Richard Bland, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Harrison and Edmund Pendleton members from Virginia. They passed strong resolutions; among others; to resist taxation and other obnoxious measures; to raise minute men to forcibly resist coercion; and, finally resolved to cease all official intercourse with the English government. In the meantime, Dr. Connally had been carrying out the programme of the northwest. He had taken possession of the fort at Fort Pitt, and renamed it Fort Dunmore; was claiming lands under patents from Governor Dunmore, and making settlements on them; had been himself arrested and imprisoned for a time by Pennsylvania; had the Indian tribes highly excited, united in a strong confederacy and threatened war; then came the massacre of Indians above Wheeling, at Capitina and at Yellow creek, said to have grown out of Connally’s orders. While the continental congress was passing the resolutions above mentioned, and which created a breach between the colonies and the mother country past healing, Governor Dunmore and General Lewis were organizing and marching their armies to the west. Instead of uniting the forces into one army, and marching straight to the Indian towns and conquering or dictating a lasting peace, Lord Dunmore took the larger portion of the army by a long detour by Fort Pitt, and thence down the Ohio, picking up on the way Dr. Connally and Simon Girty, whom he made useful. At Fort Pitt, it is said, he had held a conference with some of the Indian chiefs, and came to some understanding with them, the particulars of which are not known. Instead of uniting with Lewis at the mouth of Kanawha, as had been arranged, but which was probably not intended, he struck off from the Ohio river at the mouth of Hockhocking and marched for the Indian towns on the Pickaway plains, without the support of Lewis army, delaying long enough for the Indians to have annihilated Lewis division if events had turned out as Cornstalk had planned. He (Cornstalk) said it was first their intention to attack the “Long Knives” and destroy them, as they crossed the river, and this plan would have been carried out, or attempted, but for the long delay of Lewis awaiting the arrival of Lord Dunmore. They afterwards, upon consultations, changed their plans, and determined to let Lewis cross the river and then ambush him somewhere near their own homes, and farther from his (Lewis’) base; but the Indians had no organized commissary or transportation arrangements, and could only transport such amount of food as each brave could carry for his own sustenance; this was necessarily, a limited amount, and Lewis’ delay in crossing had run their rations so short that they were obliged to cross, themselves, and force a fight, or break camp and go to hunting food. They crossed in the night, about three miles above the Point, on rafts previously constructed, and expected to take Lewis’ army by surprise; and it will be seen how near they came to accomplishing it. It was prevented by the accident of the early hunters, who were out before daylight, in violation of orders.
Dr. Campbell says there was considerable dissatisfaction in Lewis camp, for some days before the battle growing out of the manner of serving the rations, and especially the beef rations; the men claimed that the good and bad beef were not dealt out impartially. On the 9th, Gen. Lewis ordered that the poorest beeves be killed first, and distributed to all alike. The beef was so poor that the men were unwilling to eat it, and, although it was positively against orders to leave camp without permission, about one hundred men started out before day, next morning (the 10th), in different directions, to hunt and provide their own meat. Many of these did not get back, nor know of the battle until night, when it was all over. This was a serious reduction of the army at such a time.
Col. Andrew Lewis (son of General Andrew, ) in his account of the Point Pleasant campaign, says: “It is known that Blue Jacket, a Shawnee Chief, visited Lord Dunmore’s camp, on the 9tb, the day before the battle, and went straight from there to the Point, and some of them went to confer with Lord Dunmore immediately after the battle.” It is also said that Lord Dunmore, in conversation with Dr. Connally, and others, on the 10th, the day of the battle, remarked that “Lewis is probably having hot work about this time.”
When Lewis had crossed the river, after the battle, and was marching to join Dunmore, a messenger was dispatched to him twice in one day, ordering him to stop and retrace his steps the messenger in each instance, being the afterward notorious Simon Girty. Gen. Lewis had, very naturally, become much incensed at the conduct of Lord Dunmore, and took the high-handed responsibility advised and sanctioned by his officers and men of disobeying the order of his superior in command, and boldly marching on towards his camp. When within about two and one-half miles of Lord Dunmore’s headquarters, which he called Camp Charlotte, after Queen Charlotte, wife of his majesty, George III., he came out to meet Lewis in person, bringing with him Cornstalk, White Eyes (another noted Shawnee chief), and others, and insisted on Lewis’s returning as he (Dunmore) was negotiating a treaty of peace with the Indians. He sought an introduction to Lewis’ officers, and paid them some flattering compliments, etc. Evidently it did not comport with Lord Dunmore’s plans to have Gen. Lewis present at the treaty, to help the negotiation by suggestions, or to have the moral support of his army to sustain them. So much did Lewis’ army feel the disappointment and this indignity, that Col. Andrew, his son, says that it was with difficulty Gen. Lewis could restrain his men (not under very rigid discipline, at best) from killing Lord Dunmore and his Indian escort. But the result of the personal conference was that Gen, Lewis, at last with the utmost reluctance of himself and army, consented to return, and to disband his army upon his arrival at Camp Union, as ordered.
Suppose Lewis had attempted to cross the river, and been destroyed, or had crossed and been ambushed and demolished in the forest thickets of Ohio, or that Cornstalk had succeeded, as he came so near doing, in surprising him in his own camp, on the morning of the 10th, or after that; suppose the Indians bad succeeded in turning the so evenly balanced scale in their favor, during the fight, as they came so near doing, and had annihilated Lewis’ army, as they might have done, having them penned up in the angle of two rivers, who can doubt in view of all the facts above noted, that Lord Dunmore would have been responsible for the disaster? Who can doubt, as it was, that he was responsible for the unnecessary sacrifice of life, at the Point, on the 10th? Who can doubt that, with the two divisions of the army united, as per agreement, and Lord Dunmore and Lewis acting in unison and good faith, they could have marched to the Indian towns, and utterly destroyed them, or dictated a favorable and lasting peace, and maintained it as long as they pleased, by holding important hostages? But, clearly, the policy of the governor was dictated by ulterior and sinister motives; his actions were not single-minded. Col. Andrew Lewis says: “It was evidently the intention of the old Scotch villain to cut off Gen. Lewis’ army.” Burk the historian, says: “The division under Lewis was devoted to destruction, for the purpose of breaking the spirit of the Virginians.” Withers, Doddridge, and others, express the same views. Gen. Lewis and his army were convinced of the fact; Col. Stewart had no doubt of it, and nearly everyone who has written on the subject has taken the same view of it. A few only are willing to give him the benefit of a doubt. If this design to destroy Lewis’ army had succeeded, it is almost certain that the English, through Lord Dunmore, would have perfected an alliance, offensive and defensive, with the victorious Indians, against the colonies, and every white settlement west of the Alleghenies would probably have been cut off. It would have been difficult or impossible, for a time, to raise another army for the defense of the western border; the tory element would have been encouraged and strengthened, the revolutionary element correspondingly discouraged, the rebellion crushed, and Lord Dunmore would have been the hero of the age. Upon what slender and uncertain tenures hang the destinies of nations, and the fate of individuals! The closely won success of Lewis was not only an immediate victory over the Indians, but a defeat of the machinations of the double dealing governor, and the projected Anglo-Indian alliance. If this view of it is established the claim of the battle of Point Pleasant as being the initiatory battle of the revolution; and, although small in itself, when its after results and influences are considered it stands out in bold relief as one of the important and decisive victories of history. A few words more and we shall be done with Lord Dunmore. Upon his return to Williamsburg, the Assembly, upon his own exparte statement of the results of the campaign, passed a vote of thanks for his “valuable services,” etc., which, it is said, they very much regretted when they learned more of the facts. Just after the battle of Lexington (April 19, 1775), he had all the powder that was stored in the colonial magizine at Williamsburg secretly conveyed on board an armed English vessel lying off Yorktown, and threatened to lay Williamsburg in ashes at the first sign of insurrection. Patrick Henry raised a volunteer force to go down and compel him (Dunmore) to restore the powder; but as this was impracticable, he agreed to pay, and did pay for it, and then issued a proclamation declaring “One Patrick Henry and his followers rebels.” He had previously threatened Thomas Jefferson with prosecution for treason, and had commenced proceedings. About this time, having previously sent his family on an English naval vessel, he made his own escape, by night, to the English fleet and commenced a system of depredations along the coast, burning houses, destroying crops, etc. He tried to bring his scheme of Indian co-operation to bear, and sent a message to his old friend, Connally, with a commission as Colonel, and instructed him to secure the cooperation of as many of the western militia commanders as possible, by large rewards; to form an alliance with the Indians, collect his forces at Fort Pitt, and march through Virginia and meet him. Fortunately, Col. Connally was captured and imprisoned, and the scheme exposed and thwarted. He (Dunmore) issued a proclamation granting freedom, to all the slaves who would flock to his standard, and protection to the Tories. Among other acts of violence, he burned Norfolk, the then largest and most important town in Virginia. Upon his flight, the Assembly met and declared his office vacant, and proceeded to fill it; and, for the first time, Virginia had entire “home rule.” Upon the petition of citizens of Dunmore county, which had been named in his honor, the name was abolished, and the county called Shenandoah. In 1776, Lord Dunmore and his fleet and hangers-on were at Guynne’s Island, in the Chesapeake Bay, where, as an interesting example of poetic or retributive justice, Gen. Lewis in command of the Virginia troops, attacked, defeated, and drove them off, with heavy loss, Gen. Lewis himself, firing the first gun, soon after which the ex-Governor, a sadder and wiser man “left the country for the country’s good.”
It will thus be seen that Dunmore, the Tory Governor of Virginia, knew that the war of the Revolution was inevitable. John Adams dates the opening of the Revolution in 1760. The people had tired of taxation without representation. In 1764 we find an organized opposition to oppressive taxation in Boston. In 1765, was passed the Stamp Act and in that year was organized the Sons of Liberty. In 1766 the Royal Artillery was in Boston. In 1767, a duty was imposed on tea. In 1768 British troops were sent to Boston. In 1768 in Virginia was passed the non-importation agreement, followed in 1770 by the Boston Massacre.
In the Parliament of England, the discussion of the taxation of the colonies did not tend to allay their determination to thwart all oppression and when George III determined at all odds to impose taxation the matter was settled in the heart of every loyal American, whether the vow was expressed or implied. It is well authenticated that, to occupy the attention of the colonial forces that they might not have so much (time in which to brood over the oppression of the mother country,) it was necessary to incite the Indians to attack the frontiers and so divert the attention of the colonists from their quarrel with the mother country and at the same time impress upon them a feeling of dependence upon British arms and means for the safety of their lives and homes. One of the quickest to avail himself of this method of resisting the onflowing tide of this demand for Liberty was Governor Dunmore.
Virginia had been the first in 1764 to pass a Resolution, defying the British authority as is seen by the following, introduced by Patrick Henry, in the House of Burgesses, and carried:
“Resolved, therefore, That the General Assembly of this colony, together with his majesty or substitute, have, in their representative capacity, the only exclusive right and power to lay taxes and impositions upon the inhabitants of this colony; and that every attempt to vest such power in any person or persons whatsoever, other than the General Assembly aforesaid, is illegal, unconstitutional, and unjust, and has a manifest tendency to destroy British, as well as American, Freedom.”
In this same year 1764, Patrick Henry originated the great question which led to the final independence of the United States.
When, in January, 1765, the famous stamp act was passed that for a while stunned the whole country, and confounded the people, it was Virginia, led by the matchless Henry, that stood forth to raise the drooping spirits of the colonists, and it is said his election to the house of burgesses was with express reference to his opposition to the stamp act, and the adoption of a series of resolutions in 1765, chief among which was the one above referred to.
Upon the death of Mr. Henry, in his private papers, was found the original manuscript, embracing the above Resolution with others, bearing the following narrative, written on the back of it by Mr. Henry, himself:
“The within resolutions passed the house of burgesses in May, 1765. They formed the first opposition to the stamp act, and the scheme of taxing America by the British parliament. All the colonies, either through fear, or want of opportunity to form an opposition, or from influence of some kind or other, had remained silent. I had been for the first time elected a burgess, a few days before, was young, inexperienced, unacquainted with the forms of the house, and the members that composed it. Finding the men of weight averse to opposition, and the commencement of the tax at hand, and that no person was likely to step forth, I determined to venture, and alone, unadvised, and unassisted, on a blank leaf of an old law book wrote the within. Upon offering them to the house, violent debates ensued. Many threats were uttered, and much abuse cast upon me, by the party for submission. After a long and warm contest, the resolutions passed by a very small majority, perhaps of one or two only. The alarm spread through America with astonishing quickness, and the ministerial party were overwhelmed. The great point of resistance to British taxation was universally established in the colonies. This brought on the war, which finally separated the two countries, and gave independence to ours.”
The Virginia house of burgesses continued to pass resolutions of defiance until the session of 1768-9, when the house was dissolved by the governor. This house had the merit of originating that powerful engine of resistance, corresponding committees between the legislatures of the colonies, a measure so nearly coeval in the two states of Virginia and Massachusetts that it would have been, at that time with their slow methods of communication, impossible to have borrowed the idea one from the other; so that they are equally entitled to that honor, although Mrs. Warren, a Massachusetts historian of that time, admits that the measure originated in Virginia.
It will thus be seen that when the colonists met in Congress in Philadelphia, September 4, 1774, that all over Virginia it was believed, as Patrick Henry had so eloquently asserted, that the war was inevitable, and the people were ready to voice his sentiment, “Let it come.” Considering all these facts, we can well credit Howe, the Virginia historian who says, “While Virginia was employed in animating her sister states to resistance, her governor was employed in the ignoble occupation of fomenting jealousies and feuds between the province, which it should have been his duty to protect from such a calamity, and Pennsylvania, by raising difficult questions of boundary, and exciting the inhabitants of the disputed territory to forswear allegiance to the latter province; hoping thus, by affording a more immediately exciting question, to draw off the attention of these too important provinces from the encroachments of Great Britain. This scheme, as contemptible as it was iniquitous, wholly failed, through the good sense and magnanimity of the Virginia council. Lord North, full of his feeble and futile schemes of cheating the colonies out of their rights, took off the obnoxious duties with the exception of three pence per pound on tea; and, with the ridiculous idea that he might fix the principle upon the colonies by a precedent, which should strip it of all that was odious, offered a draw-back equal to the import duty. This induced the importation of tea into Boston harbor which, being thrown overboard by some of the citizens, called down upon their city all the rigor of the celebrated Boston port bill.
A draft of this bill reached the Virginia legislature while in session; an animated protest, and a dissolution of the assembly by the governor, of course followed. On the following day the members convened in the Raleigh tavern and, in an able and manly paper, expressed to their constituents and their government those sentiments and opinions which they had not been allowed to express in a legislative form. This meeting recommended a cessation of trade with the East India Company, a Congress of deputies from all the colonies, ‘declaring their opinion, that an attack upon one of the colonies was an attack upon all British in America,’ and calling a convention of the people of Virginia. The sentiments of the people accorded with those of their late delegates; they elected members who met in convention at Williamsburg, on the 1st of August, 1774.
This convention went into a detailed view of their rights and grievances, discussed measures of redress for the latter, and declared their determination never to relinquish the former; they appointed deputies to attend a general Congress, and they instructed them how to proceed. The Congress met in Philadelphia, on the 4th of September, 1774.
While Virginia was engaged in her efforts for the general good, she was not without her peculiar troubles at home. The Indians had been for some time waging a horrid war upon the frontiers, when the indignation of the people at length compelled the reluctant govenor to take up arms, and march to suppress the very savages he was thought to have encouraged and excited to hostility by his intrigues.
Lord Dunmore marched the army in two divisions: the one under General Andrew Lewis he sent to the junction of the Great Kanawha with the Ohio, while he himself marched to a higher point on the latter river, with pretended purpose of destroying the Indian towns and joining Lewis at Point Pleasant; but it was believed with the real object of sending the whole Indian force to annihilate Lewis’ detachment, and thereby weaken the power and break down the spirit of Virginia. If such was his object he was signally defeated through the gallantry of the detachment, which met and defeated the superior numbers of the enemy at Point Pleasant, after an exceeding hard-fought day, and the loss of nearly all its officers. The day after the victory, an express arrived from Dunmore with orders for the detachment to join him at a distance of 80 miles, through an enemy’s country, without any conceivable object but the destruction of the corps. As these orders were given without a knowledge of the victory, Col. Lewis was proceeding to the destruction of the Shawnee villages, when he was informed the governor had made peace.
Another evidence of Dunmore’s intention to have the army of Andrew Lewis destroyed at Point Pleasant, is found in Kercheval’s History of the Valley, p. 118, as follows: “It was the general belief among the officers of our army, at the time, that the Earl of Dunmore, while at Wheeling, received advice from his government of the probability of the approaching war between England and the colonies, and that afterwards, all his measures, with regard to the Indians, had for their ultimate object an alliance with those ferocious warriors for the aid of the mother country in their contest with us. This supposition accounts for his not forming a junction with the army of Lewis at Point Pleasant. This deviation from the original plan of the campaign jeopardized the army of Lewis and well-nigh occasioned its total destruction. The conduct of the Earl at the treaty, shows a good understanding between him and the Indian chiefs. He did not suffer the army of Lewis to form a junction with his own, but sent them back before the treaty was concluded, thus risking the safety of his own forces, for at the time of the treaty, the Indian warriors were about his camp in force sufficient to have intercepted his retreat and destroyed his whole army.”
Again, Kercheval says: “We now proceed to examine the question, how far facts and circumstances justify us in supposing the Earl of Dunmore himself was instrumental in producing the Indian war of 1774.
It has already been remarked that this Indian war was but the precursor to our revolutionary war of 1775 that Dunmore the then governor of Virginia, was one of the most inveterate and determined enemies to the revolution that he was a man of high talents, especially for intrigue and diplomatic skill that occupying the station of commander-in-chief of the large and respectable State of Virginia, he possessed means and power to do much to serve the views of Great Britain. And we have seen, from the preceding pages, how effectually he played his part among the inhabitants of the western country. I was present myself when a Pennsylvania magistrate, of the name of Scott, was taken into custody, and brought before Dunmore, at Prestone old Fort; he was severely threatened and dismissed, perhaps on bail, but I do not recollect how; another Pennsylvania magistrate was sent to Staunton jail. And I have already shown in the preceding pages, that there was a sufficient preparation of materials for this war in the predisposition and hostile attitude of our affairs with the Indians; that it was consequently no difficult matter with a Virginia governor to direct the incipient state of things to any point most conclusive to the grand end he had in view, namely, in weakening our national strength in some of the best and most efficient parts. If, then, a war with the Indians might have a tendency to produce this result, it appears perfectly natural and reasonable to suppose that Dunmore would make use of the power and influence to promote it, and although the war of 1774 was brought to a conclusion before the year was out, yet we know that this fire was scarcely extinguished before it burst into a flame with tenfold fury, and two or three armies of the whites were sacrificed before we could get the Indians subdued; and this unhappy state of our affairs with the Indians happening during the severe conflict of our revolutionary war, had the very effect, I suppose, Dunmore had in view namely, dividing our forces and enfeebling our aggregate strength; and that the seeds of these subsequent wars with the Indians were sown in 1774 and 1775, appears almost certain.
“And the first we shall mention is a circular sent by Maj. Connolly, his proxy, early in the spring of the year 1774, warning the inhabitants to be on their guard the Indians were very angry, and manifested so much hostility, that he was apprehensive they would strike somewhere as soon as the season would permit, and enjoining the inhabitants to prepare and retire into Forts, &c. It might be useful to collate and compare this letter with one he wrote to Capt. Cresap on the 14th of July following; see hereafter. In this letter he declares there is a war or danger of war, before the war is properly begun; in that to Capt. Cresap, he says, “the Indians deport themselves peaceably;” when Dunmore and Lewis and Cornstalk we are all out on their march for battle.
“This letter produced its natural result. The people fled into Forts, and put themselves into a posture of defense, and the tocsin of war resounded from Laurel Hill to the banks of the Ohio river. Capt, Cresap who was peaceably at this time employed in building- houses and improving lands, on the Ohio River, received this letter, accompanied, it is believed, with a confirmatory message from Col. Croghan and Maj. McGee, Indian agents and interpreters; and he thereupon immediately broke up his camp, and ascended the River to Wheeling fort, the nearest place of safety from whence it is believed he intended speedily to return home; but during his stay at this place, a report was brought to the Fort that two Indians were coming down the River. Capt. Cresap, supposing from every circumstances, and the general aspect of affairs, that war was inevitable, and in fact already begun, went up the River with his party; and two of his men, of the name of Chenoweth and Brothers, killed, these two Indians. Beyond controversy this is the only circumstance in the history of this Indian war, in which his name can in the remotest degree be identified with any measure tending to produce this war; and it is certain that the guilt or innocence of this affair will appear from this date. It is notorious, then, that those Indians were killed not only after Capt. Cresap bad received Connolly’s letter, and after Butler’s men were killed in the canoe, but also alter the affair at Yellow Creek, and after the people had fled into the Forts.”
The same author further says, on pages 128-130, inclusive,
“The Governor of Virginia, whatever might have been his views as to the ulterior measures, lost no time in preparing to meet this storm. He sent orders immediately to Col. Andrew Lewis, of Augusta county, to raise an army of about one thousand men, and to march with all expedition to the mouth of the Great Kanawha, on the Ohio River, where, or at some other point, he would join him, after he had got together another army, which he intended to raise in the northwestern counties, and command in person. Lewis lost no time, collected the number of men required, and marched without delay to the appointed place of rendezvous.
“But the Earl was not quite so rapid in his movements, which circumstance the eagle eye of old Cornstalk, the general of the Indian army, saw, and was determined to avail himself of, foreseeing that it would be much easier to destroy two separate columns of an invading army before than after their junction and consolidation. With this view he marched with all expedition to attack Lewis before he was joined by the Earl’s army from the north, calculating, confidently no doubt, that if he could destroy Lewis, be would be able to give a good account of the army of the Earl.
“The plan of Cornstalk appears to have been those of a consummate and skillful general, and the prompt and rapid execution of them displayed the energy of a warrior. He, therefore, without loss of time, attacked Lewis at his post. The attack was sudden, violent, and I believe unexpected. It was nevertheless well fought, very obstinate, and of long continuance; and as both parties fought with rifles, the conflict was dreadful; many were killed on both sides, and the contest was only finished with the approach of night. The Virginians, however, kept the field, but lost many able officers and men, and among the rest, Col. Charles, Lewis, brother to the commander in-chief.
This battle of Lewis’ opened an easy and unmolested passage for Dunmore through the Indian country; but it is proper to remark here, however, that when Dunmore arrived with his wing of the army at the mouth of the Hockhocking River, he sent Capt. White-eyes, a Delaware chief, to invite the Indians to a treaty, and he remained stationary at that place until White-eyes returned, who reported that the Indians would not treat about peace. I presume, in order of time, this must have been just before Lewis’ battle; because it will appear in the sequel of this story, that a great revolution took place in the minds of the Indians after the battle.
“Dunmore, immediately upon the report of White-eyes that the Indians were not disposed for peace, sent an express to Col. Lewis to move on and meet him near Chillicothe, on the Scioto river, and both wings of the army were put in motion. But as Dunmore approached the Indian town, he was met by flags from the Indians, demanding peace, to which he acceded, halted his army, and runners were sent to invite the Indian chiefs, who cheerfully obeyed the summons, and came to the treaty save only Logan, the great orator, who refused to come. It seems, however, that neither Dunmore nor the Indian chiefs considered his presence of much importance, for they went to work and finished the treaty without him referring, I believe, some unsettled points for future discussion, at a treaty to be held the ensuing summer or fall at Pittsburg. This treaty, the articles of which I never saw, nor do I know that, they were ever recorded, concluded Dunmore’s war, in September or October, 1774. After the treaty was over, old Cornstalk, the Shawnee chief, accompanied Dunmore’s army until they reached the mouth of the Hockhocking on the Ohio River; and what was more singular, rather made his home in Capt. Cresap’s tent, with whom he continued on terms of the most friendly familiarity. I consider this circumstance as positive proof that the Indians themselves neither considered Capt. Cresap the murderer of Logan’s family, nor the cause of the war. It appears, also, that at this place the Earl of Dunmore received dispatches from England. Doddridge says he received these on his march out.
But we ought to have mentioned in its proper place, that after the treaty between Dunmore and the Indians commenced near Chillicothe, Lewis arrived with his army, and encamped two or three miles from Dunmore, which greatly alarmed the Indians, as they thought he was so much irritated at losing so many men in the late battle that he would not easily be pacified; nor would they be satisfied until Dunmore and old Cornstalk went into Lewis’ camp to converse with him.
Dr. Doddridge represents this affair in different shades of light from this statement. I can only say I had my information from an officer who was present at the time.
But it is time to remind the reader, that, although I have wandered into such a minute detail of the various occurrences, facts and circumstances of Dunmore’s war; and all of which as a history may be interesting to the present and especially to the rising generation; yet it is proper to remark that I have two leading objects chiefly in view first, to convince the world, that whoever might be the cause of the Indian war in 1774, it was not Capt. Cresap; secondly, that from the aspect of our political affairs, at that period, and from the known hostility of Dunmore to the American Revolution, and withal to the subsequent conduct of Dunmore, and the dreadful Indian war that commenced soon after the beginning of our war with Great Britain I say, from all these circumstances, we have infinitely stronger reasons to suspect Dunmore than Cresap; and I may say that the dispatches above mentioned that were received by Dunmore at Hockbocking, although after the treaty, were yet calculated to create suspicion.
But if, as we suppose, Dunmore was secretly at the bottom of this Indian war, it is evident that he could not with propriety appear personally in a business of this kind; and we have seen and shall see, how effectually his sub-governor played his part between the Virginians and Pennsylvanians; and it now remains for us to examine how far the conduct of this man (Connolly) will bear us out in the supposition that there was also some foul play, some dark intriguing work to embroil the western country in an Indian war.”
Hon. V. A. Lewis who is the author of the History of the Virginias compiled in Hardesty’s Historical and Geographical Encyclopedia of 1883 pays the following tribute to the Battle of Point Pleasant:
“To the student of history no truth is more patent than this, that the battle of Point Pleasant, was the first in the series of the Revolution, the flames of which were being kindled by the oppression of the mother country and the resistance of the same by the feeble but determined colonies. It is a well-known fact that the emissaries of Great Britain were then inciting the Indians to hostilities against the frontier for the purpose of distracting attention, and thus preventing the consummation of the Union which was then being formed to resist the tyranny of their armed oppression. It is also well known that Lord Dunmore was an enemy of the colonists, by his rigid adherence to the royal cause and his efforts to induce the Indians to co-operate with the English, and thus assist in reducing Virginia to subjection. It has been asserted that he intentionally delayed the progress of the left wing of the army that the right might be destroyed at Point Pleasant. Then at the mouth of the Great Kanawha river on the 19th (10th) day of October, 1774, there went whizzing through the forest the first volley of a struggle for liberty, which, in the grandeur and importance of its results, stands without parallel in the history of the world. On that day the soil upon which Point Pleasant, now stands drank the first bloodshed in defense of American liberty, and it was there decided that the decaying institutions of the Middle Ages should not prevail in America, but that just laws and priceless liberty should be planted forever in the domains of the New World.
Historians, becoming engrossed with the more stirring scenes of the Revolution, have failed to consider the sanguinay battle in its true import and bearing upon the destiny of our country, forgetting, that the Colonial army returned home only to enlist in the patriot army and on almost every battlefield of the Revolution were representatives of that little band who stood face to face with the savage allies of Great Britain at Point Pleasant.”
And, in conclusion, Kercheval says, at page 139, “I say, from all which it will appear that Dunmore had his views, and those views hostile to the liberties of America, in his proceedings with the Indians in the war of 1774, the circumstances of the times, in connection with his equivocal conduct, leads us almost naturally to infer that he knew pretty well what he was about, and among other things, he knew that a war with the Indians at this time would materially subserve the views and interest of Great Britain, and consequently he perhaps might feel it a duty to promote said war, and if not, why betray such extreme solicitude to single out some conspicuous character, and make him the scape-goat, to bear all the blame of this war, that he and his friend Connolly might escape?
Nothing could more fittingly describe the patriotic sentiment fell in Virginia than the heroic appeal of Mrs. Wm. Lewis. It is related of her that “When the British force under Tarleton drove the legislature from Charlottesville to Staunton, the stillness of the Sabbath eve was broken in the latter town by the beat of the drum, and volunteers were called for to prevent the passage of the British through the mountains at Rockfish Gap. The elder sons of Wm. Lewis, who then resided at the old fort, were absent with the northern army. Three sons, however, were at home, whose ages were 17, 15 and 13 years. Wm. Lewis was confined to his room by sickness, but his wife, with the firmness of a Roman matron, called them to her, and bade them fly to the defence of their native land. “Go my children” said she, “I spare not my youngest, my fairhaired boy, the comfort of my declining years. I devote you all to my country. Keep back the foot of the invader from the soil of Augusta, or see my face no more.” When this incident was related to Washington, shortly after its occurrence, he enthusiastically exclaimed, “Leave me but a banner to plant upon the mountains of Augusta, and I will rally around me the men who will lift our bleeding country from the dust, and set her free.” Howe’s Virginia, its History and Antiquities, p. 183.
From Wither’s Border Warfare we quote: “The army under Gen. Lewis had endured many privations and suffered many hardships. They had encountered a savage enemy in great force, and purchased a victory with the blood of their friends. When arrived near to the goal of their anxious wishes, and with nothing to prevent the accomplishment of the object of the campaign, they received those orders with evident chagrin, and did not obey them without murmuring. Having, at his own request, been introduced severally to the officers of that division, complimenting them for their gallantry and good conduct in the late engagement, and assuring them of his high esteem, Lord Dunmore returned to his Camp; and Gen. Lewis commenced his retreat. “
“This battle (says Col. Stuart, in his historical memoir) was, in fact, the beginning of the revolutionary war, that obtained for our country the liberty and independence enjoyed by the United States and a good presage of future success; for it is well known that the Indians were influenced by the British to commence the war to terrify and confound the people, before they commenced hostilities themselves the following year at Lexington. It was thought by British politicians, that to excite an “Indian war would prevent a combination of the colonies for opposing parliamentary measures to tax the Americans. The blood, therefore, spilt upon this memorable battlefield, will long be remembered by the good people of Virginia and the United States with gratitude.”
Virgil A. Lewis, West Virginia State Historian and Archivist, says, in his History of West Virginia, published in 1889, at page 133, “To the student of history no truth is more patent than this, that the battle of Point Pleasant was the first in the series of the Revolution, the flames of which were then being kindled by the oppression of the mother country, and the resistance of the same by the feeble but determined colonies. It is a well-known fact that emissaries of Great Britain were then inciting the Indians to hostilities against the frontier for the purpose of distracting attention and thus preventing the consummation of the union which was then being formed to resist the tyranny of their armed oppressors. It is also well known that Lord Dunmore was an enemy to the colonists, by his rigid adherence to the royal cause and his efforts to induce the Indians to co-operate with the English, and thus assist in reducing Virginia to subjection. It has been asserted that he intentionally delayed the progress of the left wing of the army that the right might be destroyed at Point Pleasant. Then, at the mouth of the Great Kanawha river, on the 10th day of October, 1774, there went whizzing through the forest the first volley of a struggle for liberty which, in the grandeur and importance of its results, stands without a parallel in the history of the world. On that day the soil on which Point Pleasant now stands drank the first blood, shed in defence of American liberty, and it was there decided that the decaying institutions of the Middle Ages should not prevail in America, but that just laws and priceless liberty should be planted forever in the domains of the New World. Historians, becoming engrossed with the more stirring scenes of the Revolution, have failed to consider this sanguinarly battle in its true import and bearing upon the destiny of our country, forgetting that the colonial army returned home only to enlist in the patriot army, and on almost every battle-field of the Revolution represented that little band stood face to face with the savage allies of Great Britain at Point Pleasant. Owing to the importance of the question, we have, at the risk of tiring the reader, given these many details of evidence that the Battle of Point Pleasant, while not a battle between the English and Colonial forces, nevertheless shed the first blood on American soil for national independence. It can be plainly seen that, though at this time these sturdy pioneers were fighting to protect their homes and firesides, the very foundation of national government, Great Britain, through her Tory Governor of Virginia, intended thus to destroy the flower of the Colonial army of Virginia. It was a stroke which, had it succeeded, would have averted the War of the Revolution many years. The army that Lewis gathered were not the unlettered men of the forest, they were from among the most highly educated men of the colony and it is said that, to this date, in no army of a similar number, has such a large percentage had a knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages That they were men of education and influence will be seen by following the survivors of that battle, not only through the Revolution, where many of them distinguished themselves, but out into the civil life of the country, during, and subsequent to, the Revolution.
That the battle was the most fruitful, in its results, of any battle ever fought upon American soil, is apparent from the history of the country. The great Northwest Territory, lying north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi, had long been a bone of contention between France and England and France did not relinquish her claim until driven to recede as the result of the battle upon the Plains of Abraham before Quebec, where the intrepid Montcalm was defeated by the invincible Wolfe.
The treaty that followed at Paris, in 1763, ceded all this territory to England, whose failure to open it to the colonists was a subject of discussion and distrust and rightfully so, as England maintained it to the exclusion of the colonists, not only that she might, with it, subsidize the savage Indians, but when necessary, secure their services in maintaining control of the colonies.
By the treaty that followed the battle of Point Pleasant, that of Camp Charlotte, the federation of the five great nations in control of that territory ceded it to Virginia, to hold inviolate, and which treaty lasted without interruption for three years, enabling the colonists not only to enter the Northwest Territory, but to colonize Kentucky and Tennessee. In Dunmore’s army was the intrepid George Rodgers Clarke, a Virginian, the Hannibal of the West, who was present at the treaty of Camp Charlotte. The history of the colonization and civilization of this territory is the history of Geo. Rodgers Clarke, too well known here for extended comment. Suffice it to say that, in the struggle led by Clarke to drive the British from the Northwest Territory, it was not the colonies, but Virginia, protecting her own territory, acquired by the battle of Point Pleasant, that furnished the army for Clark’s expedition, Governor, Patrick Henry supplying Clarke from Virginia’s funds, the sum of twelve hundred pounds, and supplies of boots and ammunition from Pittsburg, then in Virginia. Could any army have displayed more heroism, an army of one hundred and fifty, starting out to conquer such a wilderness, with no conveyance for their munitions of war, save their own robust and hardy bodies?
The subjugation of this country was not only comparatively broad in its results, but was due alone to Virginia. Of course, such a vast territory opened up, as it thus was, to civilization and habitation, necessarily called for representation in the Congress of the infant nation, and justly so. Virginia would soon, by her great population, control the legislation of the nation. Such, however, was not the purpose of Virginia. That ever generous mother state here had opportunity to be the most magnanimous of them all. She would not, if she could, dominate the policy of the country, and, without a dollar, she donated, actually gave away to the colonies in fee simple the entire Northwest Territory, to be the territory of the colonists, and to be disposed of as they deemed best
When we review the acquisition of the other territory of the United States and compare the $16,000,000, expended by our government, for the Louisiana purchase, the cost of the acquisition of upper and lower California, of Alaska, of the Philippines, of the cost of the Mexican acquisition in men and money, and then remember that the settlement of the states of Kentucky and Tennessee were made possible, as well as the colonization of Western Pennsylvania and Western Virginia, together with the acquisition of the Northwest Territory, and the settlement and civilization of the same, and all as a sequel of the Battle of Point Pleasant, considering the history of the ever memorable struggle and the subsequent development of the country, it is very apparent not only that the Battle of Point Pleasant was the initial, the first battle of the Revolution, but also farther reaching in its results than any other battle ever fought upon the American continent.
As we have said before, no official report of the battle was ever made, but a letter from Williamsburg, Va., then the seat of government, under date of November 10, 1774, was published in the Belfast News Letter, yet preserved. Presumably, it was contributed to that paper because many of the Scotch-Irish had emigrated from Belfast, Ulster District, to Pennsylvania and ultimately to Virginia and settled in the sections of Virginia from which the army had been for the most part been made up. This made the event peculiarly interesting to the people of that portion of Ireland. From that publication we quote the history of the battle:
Yesterday arrived a mail from New York, brought to Falmouth by the Harriot packet boat. Capt. Lee.
The following letter is just received here from the camp at Point Pleasant, at the mouth of the Great Kenhawa (as then spelled), dated October 17, 1774:
“The following is a true statement of a battle fought at this place on the 10th instant: On Monday morning, about half an hour before sunrise, two of Capt. Russell’s company discovered a large party of Indians about a mile from the camp, one of which men was shot down by the Indians; the other made his escape, and brought in the intelligence. In two or three minutes after, two of Capt. Shelby’s company came in and confirmed the account.
“Col. Andrew Lewis, being informed thereof immediately ordered out Col. Charles Lewis, to take command of one hundred and fifty of the Augusta troops, and with him went Capt. Dickinson, Capt. Harrison, Capt. Wilson, Capt. John Lewis of Augusta, and Capt. Lockridge, which made the first division. Col. Fleming was also ordered to take command of one hundred and fifty more of the Botetourt, Bedford and Fincastle troops. Capt. Thomas Buford, from Bedford; Capt Love, of Botetourt; Capt. Shelby and Capt. Russell, of Fincastle, which made the second division.
“Col. Charles Lewis’ division marched to the right, some distance from the Ohio, and Col. Fleming, with his division on the bank of the Ohio, to the left.
“Col. Charles Lewis’ division had not marched quite half a mile from the camp when, about sunrise, an attack was made on the front of his division, in a most vigorous manner, by the united tribes of Indians Shawnees, Delawares, Mingoes, Tawas, and of several other nations in number not less than eight hundred, and by many thought to be one thousand.
“In this heavy attack, Col. Charles Lewis received a wound which, in a few hours caused his death, and several of his men fell on the spot; in fact, Augusta division was obliged to give way to the heavy fire of the enemy. In about a second of a minute after the attack on Col. Lewis’ division, the enemy engaged the front of Col. Fleming’s division, on the Ohio, and in a short time the Colonel received two balls through his left arm, and one through his breast, and, after animating the officers and soldiers in a most calm manner to the pursuit of victory, retired to the camp.
“The loss in the field was sensibly felt by the officers in particular; but the Augusta troops, being shortly after reinforced from the camp by Col. Field, with his company, together with Capt. McDowell, Capt. Mathews and Capt. Stewart, from Augusta; Capt. Paulin, Capt. Arbuckle and Capt. McClannahan, from Botetourt, the enemy no longer able to maintain their ground, was forced to give way till they were in a line with the troops, Col. Fleming being left in action on the bank of the Ohio.
“In this precipitate retreat Col. Field was killed. During this time, which was till after twelve, the action in a small degree abated, but continued, except at short intervals, sharp enough till after 1 o’clock. Their long retreat gave them a most advantageous spot of ground, from whence it appeared to the officers so difficult to dislodge them that it was thought most advisable to stand as the line was then formed, which was about a mile and a quarter in length, and had sustained till then a constant and equal weight of the action, from wing to wing.
“It was till about half an hour till sunset they continued firing on us scattering shots, which we returned to their disadvantage. At length, the night coming on, they found a safe retreat.
“They had not the satisfaction of carrying off any of our men’s scalps, save one or two stragglers whom they killed before the engagement. Many of their dead they scalped, rather than we should have them, but our troops scalped upwards of twenty of their men that were first killed.
“It is beyond doubt their loss; in number, far exceeded ours, which is considerable.
“The return of the killed ‘and wounded in the above battle, same as our last, as follows:
Killed Colonels Charles Lewis and John Field, Captains John Murray, R. McClannahan, Samuel Wilson, James Ward, Lieut. Hugh Allen, ensigns Cantiff and Bracken, and forty-four privates. Total killed, fifty-three.
“Wounded Col. William Fleming, Captains John Dickinson, Thomas Buford and I. Skidman Lieutenants Goldman, Robinson, Lard and Vance, and seventy-nine privates. Total wounded, eighty-seven; killed and wounded one hundred and forty.”
And further from the same publication:
Williamsburg, in Virginia, December 1, 1774.
We have it from good authority that his excellency, the governor, is on his way to this capital, having concluded a peace with the several tribes of Indians that have been at war with us, and taken hostages of them for their faithful complying with terms of it, the principal of which are that they shall totally abandon the lands on this side of the Ohio river, which, river is to be the boundary between them and the white people, and never more take up the hatchet against the English.”
“Thus, in a little more than the space of five months, an end is put to a war which portended much trouble and mischief to the inhabitants on the frontier, owing to the zeal and good conduct of the officers and commanders who went out in their country’s defense and the bravery and perseverance of all the troops.’ Copied from the Belfast News Letter of February 10. 1775.”
De Hass, in describing the battle, says:
“The battle scene was now terribly grand. There stood the combatants terror, rage, disappointment and despair riveted upon the painted faces of one, while calm resolution and the unbending will to do or die were marked upon the other. Neither party would retreat, neither could advance. The noise of the firing was tremendous: no single gun could be distinguished was one common roar. The rifle and the tomahawk now did their work with dreadful certainty. The confusion and perturbation of the camp had now arrived at its greatest height. The confused sounds and wild uproar of the battle added greatly to the terror of the scene. The shouting of the whites, the continued roar of firearms, the war-whoops and dismal yelling of the Indians, were discordant and terrific.”
Col. J. L. Peyton, in his valuable history of Augusta county, says:
“It was, throughout, a terrible scene the ring of rifles and the roar of muskets, the clubbed guns, the flashing knives the fight, hand to hand the scream for mercy, smothered in the death-groan the crushing through the brush the advance the retreat the pursuit, every man for himself, with his enemy in view the scattering on every side the sounds of battle, dying away into a pistol shot here and there through the wood, and a shriek the collecting again of the whites, covered with gore and sweat, bearing trophies of the slain, their dripping knives in one hand, and rifle-barrel, bent and smeared with brains and hair, in the other. No language can adequately describe it.”
Mr. Stephen T. Mitchell in 1827 in a publication, “The Spirit of the Old Dominion” published at Richmond Virginia gives the following account of the battle of Point Pleasant.
“We landed about a mile on the left-hand shore of Kanawha, and climbing a large hill, we were saluted by a hundred Indians, encamped upon the top. Our captors told their adventures, no doubt, with every aggravation; for, after the most frantic expressions of grief and rage, I was bound to a tree, a large pine tree, which stands to this day upon the brow of the hill, and the fire was kindled around me. I said my prayers; my time was come; my body felt the scorching heat: but, by a miraculous interposition of Providence, the clouds which had been lowering all day, now burst out in showers, and quenched the flames. The Indians thought the Great Spirit looked over me, and directed the shower for my safety. My bonds were loosened, and I was allowed a little jerk and hommony for my refreshment. The next day I could perceive some great expedition on foot; the Indians were running to and fro in every direction; some grinding paint and some cleaning up their arms; and even the squaws and little boys were providing themselves with hatchets and scalping knives, and strewing themselves from the Ohio river all along the cliffs of Kanawha.”
“Late in the evening, I saw an uncommon anxiety on the faces of the savages; councils, grand and petty, were held in various places, and so completely were my guards absorbed in the undertaking which was at hand, that they became entirely remiss in their attentions to me. I resolved to seize the propitious moment, and make my escape. I sprang on my feet and ran as fast as my legs would carry me. A loud whoop proclaimed the event, and in a moment, I could perceive myself closely pursued by half a dozen athletic young fellows, with uplifted tomahawks. Fear added to my limbs the agility of the deer. With my head turned back over one shoulder, I bounded through the pine-trees until my speed had carried me unawares to the brink of a precipice. I tried to stop; it was too late; I gave a piercing shriek and bounded over. A rushing sound in my ears like the roaring of a mill-dam, then the crashing of branches and limbs recalled me to my recollection, and I found myself to my inexpressible delight, breaking my way through the thick branches of a buck-eye tree. I alighted without injury, and looking back upon the cliff above, could see my savage pursuers gaping over the precipice in amazement. I gave not a second look, but darted off towards the point with a heart swelling with praise to the great Creator, who had thus twice rescued me so miraculously from my enemies. Arriving at the mouth of the Kanawha, I shouted aloud for assistance. But, the whites had too often been decoyed by their own people to the savages, to be easily imposed upon. They answered me they could give no assistance. I could not swim, but my ingenuity, never fertile in expedients, befriended me now for the first time in my life. I rolled down a dry log from the bank into the water, and getting astride of it, I managed by great exertion of hands and feet, to row it across the stream, which at that time, from the great height of the Ohio, was as still as a mill-pond I was received by General Lewis, the commandant of the fort, with great cordiality and affection; and, being naked and necessitous, I enrolled myself as a regular in the corps; and, being dressed in militaire, with a tremendous rifle in my hand and a thick breast work before me, I felt as brave as Julius Caesar.”
The Battle of Point Pleasant
“I was in hopes that I might enjoy, within the walls of a fort, some respite from the fears, toils and anxieties which had, for the last two weeks, worn me out both body and mind. But he who undertakes to settle in a new and savage country, must look out for no such respite, until, by hardihood and perseverance, he has levelled the forest, with its inhabitants, to the earth.
On the 10th of October, 1774, about sun-rise, the hunters came in at full speed, and gave the appalling information that a large body of Indians had spread themselves from river to river, and were advancing by slow degrees, towards the fort; at the same instant, we could observe the women and boys skulking up and down the opposite banks of the Ohio and Kanawha.
The position of the fort was peculiarly favorable to a surprise. As I have above mentioned, it was situated at a right angular point formed by the confluence of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers. The country above the fort was covered with a heavy forest and impervious growth of underwood, through which an invading force might penetrate completely undiscovered, to the very walls of the fort. The garrison was composed of about twelve hundred men entirely Virginians, from the counties of Botetourt and Augusta. The Indians consisted of about the same number, the flower of the Shawnee, Wyandotte and Mingoe tribes, who were commanded by the celebrated Chieftain, Cornstalk.”
“From the large force which he had collected for this expedition, and from the secrecy of his movements, it was evident that the Indian Chief, in this desperate attempt to recover the country east of the Ohio river, meditated nothing less than an entire extermination of the garrison. General Lewis ordered out about seven hundred of his rangers, under the command of his nephew, Colonel Charles Lewis; with the remaining part of his troops, about five hundred in number, he determined to act as a reserve and defend the fort to extremities. “
“I happened to be among those who were ordered out, very much against my will; but it was neck or nothing; we advanced about three hundred yards in front of the fort, toward a deep ravine which intersected the valley at the right angles with the Kanawha. All was still as death; one moment more and a yell mingled with the roar of a thousand rifles, rung from river to river, and at the same moment every bush and tree seemed alive with armed savages. Col. Lewis was killed at the first fire, but the rangers maintained their ground, and a contest commenced more desperate and more rapidly fatal than any which had ever been fought with the Aborigines, excepting that of Talladega. The Indian Chief, with that promptness for seizing an advantage, and that peculiar military tact for which he was so much renowned, extended his line from the Ohio as far as it would stretch across to the Kanawha bank, for the purpose of outflanking the opposing forces. But, in the execution of this maneuver, he was completely foiled by the superior address and boldness of the whites who, animated with revenge for the loss of their leader and a consciousness of their desperate situation, fought with a fury that supplied the inequality of numbers, and set at defiance every stratagem of the savages.” “Finding that his method of outflanking would not succeed, the Indian Chief concentrated his forces, and furiously attacked the centre of the Virginia line. The savages, animated by their warlike and noble Chieftan, Cornstalk, forgot the craftiness of their nature, and rushing from their coverts, engaged hand to hand with their stout and hardy adversaries, until the contest resembled more a circus of gladiators than a field of battle. I became desperate; hide where I would, the muzzle of some rifle was gaping in my face, and the wild, distorted countenance of a savage, rendered more frightful by paint, was rushing towards me with uplifted tomahawk. One fellow in particular, seemed to mark me as his victim; I levelled my rifle at him as he came yelling and leaping towards me, and fired. The ball missed my aim. He rose upon his toes with exultation, and whirling his tomahawk round his head, slung it at me with all his powers. I fell upon my face, and it whizzed harmless over my head and stuck into a sapling. I bounded up and forced it from the tree, but the Indian was on me and rescued the hatchet from my hands. I seized him round the waist, enclosing both his arms at the same time and tripping up his heels, we rolled together upon the ground. I at last grew furious, gouged him with my thumbs in both eyes, and seizing him with my teeth by the nose, I bit the whole of it from his face; he yelled out with pain and rage, and letting loose the hatchet to disengage my teeth, I grasped the handle and buried the sharp point into his brains. He gave one convulsive leap which bounced me from his body, and in a moment after expired. I immediately rose, and gaining a secure position behind a tree, remained there till the close of the fight, and made a thousand resolutions, if I survived this engagement, never to be caught in such a scrape again. I kept my word; for, I have never since encountered the savages, and if Heaven forgives me, I never will. There is no fun in it.”
“But, to return to the history of this ever memorable battle. There was a peninsula extending from a high range of hills, running parallel with the Ohio river, which jutted close to the Kanawha bank, about a half a mile from its mouth. Knowing the importance of securing the narrow pass which ran between its base and the river, the Indian Chief dispatched a picked body of his troops to take possession of it. They entered the dry bed of a small creek which skirted the foot of the hills, and pursued their route unnoticed till they were about to enter the important pass, when a shower of rifle bullets pierced their body and swept down the foremost ranks. A chosen band of rangers at the same moment made their appearance, with whom General Lewis in anticipation had guarded the pass. A yell of surprise and rage burst from the savage line, and they seconded their returning fire by an unanimous and desperate charge with the hunting-knife. The contest now assumed all the wild and terrific cast which a personal struggle, conducted with the deadly feelings of hate and revenge then existing between the whites and Indians, could inspire. The air was filled with the screams of the savages and the deep imprecations of the riflemen; every blow brought death, and the ground was soon heaped with the corpses of the combatants. But the disappointed efforts of savage desperation were ineffectual against the unbroken and impenetrable column which was maintained by the whites; and the Indians were driven, with the loss of half their force, back upon the main body. Here, the fight still raged in the extremity of opposition, every inch of ground was contested, from behind every bush and decayed, log the murderous flash arose, and the continued roar of a thousand rifles vibrated through the forest.”
“The savage Chieftain discovered that the chances against him were desperate, yet, by his own personal example of courage and address, was the fight long sustained, even after his line had been driven, step by step, from their original position. His voice could at intervals be heard, rising above the din of the fight like the shrill blast of a bugle; at one moment, his dusky form and glittering ornaments could be seen flitting through the trees upon the Ohio bank, and his war cry in the next would fill the echoes of the hill at the farthest extremity of the line. A cheering ejaculation of triumph would one moment escape him, as an advantage was gained by the devoted gallantry of some Shawnee warrior; an imprecation upon some skulking Mingoe, in a short time afterwards, would be recognized in his voice. “Charge high and aim low” was his command incessantly throughout the day; and, it is one of the circumstances remarked of that fatal fight, that most of the bullet wounds received by the whites proved mortal; but few of the wounded ever recovered. Yet, all the efforts of the old warrior were vain; defeated and discouraged, the savage army almost abandoned the fight in the latter part of the day, and it was reduced to a mere straggling fire between individuals of the contending parties.”
“Night closed upon the scene, yet the ground was still occupied by the two armies. Although victorious, the Virginians could neither press their advantage nor retire to rest. An ambuscade or a night attack was expected from the savages, and their behavior warranted the latter supposition. For, behind a long line of watch-fires, they could be discovered as if cautiously examining the points most open to attack. The wild scream of a savage warrior, apparently advancing to the fight, would at intervals break upon the death like stillness of the night, and cause my heart to leap almost out of my mouth. I confidently calculated that every moment was the time for their attack, and fancied divers times could hear them stealing through the bushes upon us. The gleams of the morning sun, however, at length illumined the scene, but not a vestige of the Indian army remained; the living and the dead had alike disappeared, and it was not until then, it was ascertained or even suspected, that the savages had secure themselves from interruption, under pretense of a night attack, had thrown their dead, with weights attached to them, in the river, and retreated across it under cover of darkness.”
Of the men who participated in the Battle of Point Pleasant, we regret that no complete roster has been preserved. However, the men who were in that army were friends and neighbors, and many of them related by ties of blood and marriage, so that a review of a few of them will indicate (he character of the men composing the army.
It will be seen by a review of the history of the colonies that prior to the Battle of Point Pleasant, not only the Colonists but England knew, as did Patrick Henry when he made his famous speech that “The War was inevitable.” The British Government seeing the fomentation in the colonies had made repeated concessions; willing to relinquish, if necessary, all but the principle of the Right of England to levy taxes upon the Colonists without giving them representation in the British Government. The Colonists were astir with intense excitement. The tea had been thrown overboard in Boston Harbor and the Port had been closed by a bill passed by Parliament in March of that year. Meetings had been and were being held protesting against Royal oppression. That powerful engine of resistance, Committees of Correspondence had been formulating their ideas of resistance and the Virginia Assembly convened at Williamsburg in May, had passed an independent resolution setting forth that June 1st, 1774, should upon the making effective of the Port Bill be made “a day of fasting and prayer to implore the divine interposition for averting the heavy calamity, which threatens the civil right of America;” whereupon, the Earl of Dunmore, then Governor of Virginia, at once dissolved the Assembly. The Continental Congress had already convened and its every breath was ladened with resistance of British oppression.
Is it to be wondered at and is it not the most natural thing in the world, that Dunmore would try to devise ways and means to prevent Virginia from participating in the federation of the Colonies; and what more powerful instrument could he” have set in motion to distract their attention from the clouds gathering in the East, than by setting in motion a band of howling Indians on the frontier, making it an absolute necessity that Virginia protect her homes, her women and children and her property rights, and this danger so eminent, could not be delayed. So calling together the flower of the Colonial Army of Virginia, which he promised should be united and together encounter the Indians in their homes, he should cause one branch to alone be attacked, hoping they would thus be destroyed and if only temporarily defeated, they would be so busy protecting the frontier and their homes they would have no time to go into the Colonial Army, confederated as they would be to resist the British Army, already many of whom were camping upon the plains of Boston. But to the surprise of Dunmore the Division of Lewis’ Army was victorious and the tide of American interests was changed.
Without the Army of Lewis, which was the great military training school of the Colony, many of whom went on into the Revolution and became many of them, officers of high rank, it would have been impossible for Virginia to have raised her quota of men and officers to have participated in that struggle for liberty; and without Virginia the Colonists would have thought it impossible, as it would have been, to have undertaken that struggle for independence. Without the entire support that Virginia gave George Rodgers Clark who was in the Dunmore division, but who later conquered the North West Territory, weakening the otherwise impregnable background that constantly threatened the frontier and in whose territory did not close the struggle for American Independence until Wayne’s treaty twenty years later.
We think the opinions of the early writers of history we have quoted, the natural circumstances surrounding Dunmore at and previous to the Battle, makes it plain that although the battle was between the Colonists and Indians it is beyond doubt the first Battle of the Revolution, and the Government of the United States, while it has been tardy, is fully justified in making the declaration that the $10.000 appropriated for the erection of a monument is
“An act to aid in the erection of a memorial structure at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, to commemorate the Battle of the Revolution, fought at that point between the Colonial troops and Indians, October 10th, seventeen hundred and seventy four.”
While a shaft 82 feet high will stand as a sentinel upon the site where the dead were buried, from whence the battle was directed and subsequently the fort, built, it is a pigmy as compared with the fact that at last, after a lapse of One Hundred and thirty-four years, the Congress of the United States has officially called it as it is a battle of the Revolution, and if a battle of the Revolution it must of necessity be the first, as the hallowed Lexington was not fought, until April 19th, 1775, while that of Point Pleasant, was fought October 10th, 1774.
The battle in its acquisition of territory ceded by the Indians and previously ceded by France to Virginia but literally in control of the Indians until this time, this followed by the ceding of all the vast territory of the Great North West by Virginia to the infant republic at the close of the Revolution with the cessation of Indian hostilities following the battle, permitting the Colonists to turn their attention to the expulsion of the English army and the overthrow of the British yoke, the moral effect that it had on Virginia, and thus on the Colonies, made it the farthest reaching in its effect an battle ever fought on the American Continent.
The name of every man who participated in that struggle whether he protected the frontier nearer home while the band of stalwarts went forth to conquer the Indians and make secure the wilderness, the men of Wm. Christian’s Regiment who rendered such valiant service, coming as they did when the battle was over, the army exhausted wounded and bleeding and in time to gather up and bury the slain, should all be honored and preserved. Christian’s men were only delayed by their effort to bring in supplies to the Army of 54000 pounds of flour on 400 pack horses but 108 additional head of cattle. They expected to join
Lewis Army and together march on to encounter the Indians upon the Pickaway Planes; so that as a part of the Army they are entitled to be enrolled with the heroes of that battle, which will be followed by the roster so far as the writer has been able to glean from all available sources, after many years of careful research.