Several counties proceeded to draft "resolves" or resolutions asserting their rights and proclaiming their loyalty to King George III in a sometimes subtly conditional way. Among them was the following declaration from Dunmore County, which was selected from the many at hand by Mrs. Rind for publication. It was drawn up by a committee chaired by Rev. Peter Muhlenberg, the future colonel of the 8th Virginia. Also on the committee were future lieutenant colonel Abraham Bowman, future lieutenant Taverner Beale, and the brother of future captain George Slaughter. They borrowed the text from neighboring Frederick County. The two counties had a shared history: Dunmore was carved out of Frederick in 1772. Muhlenberg may also have felt comfortable borrowing the text in part because Frederick's committee was similarly led by an Anglican clergyman: Rev. Charles Mynn Thruston.
Rind misspelled Muhlenberg's name two different ways, indicating that he was not yet well known in Williamsburg. The word "votes" was set in capital letters where the word "resolves" would make more sense—another apparent error. Dunmore County was renamed "Shenandoah" County during the Revolution.
Only one other 8th Virginia county issued resolves that summer. Culpeper County produced its document on July 7, but the text is evidently lost. The document below predates both the First Virginia Convention and the First Continental Congress. More counties issued resolutions after the First Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Association, formalizing a uniform boycott and calling upon county committees in all of the colonies to enforce it. Augusta, Berkeley, Fincastle, and Hampshire counties issued resolutions 1775 and raised companies for the 8th Virginia the following spring. The resolutions from Augusta and Fincastle survive. Fincastle's resolution is famous for being the first to openly threaten war.
The Dunmore Resolves
At a meeting of the freeholders and other inhabitants of the county of Dunmore, held at the town of Woodstock, the 16th day of June, 1774, to consider the best mode to be fallen upon to secure their liberties and properties, and also to prevent the dangerous tendency of an act of parliament, passed in the 14th year of his present majesty’s reign, intituled an act to discontinue in such manner and for such time as we therein mention the landing and discharging, lading or shipping of goods, wares, and merchandize, at the town and within the harbour of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay, in North America, evidently has to invade and deprive us of the same, the reverend Peter Mechlenberg being voted moderator, a committee of the following gentlemen, viz. the reverend Peter Mechlenberg, Francis Slaughter, Abraham Bird, Taverner Beale, John Tipton, and Abraham Bowman were appointed to draw up resolves to the same occasion, who withdrawing, for a short time, returned with the following VOTES, which had been previously agreed to and voted by the freeholders and inhabitants of the county of Frederick:
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
Samuel Brady of the 8th Pennsylvania was a military legend in his own time and the stories of at least some of his exploits have likely been embellished in the retelling. This story, which appeared in Graham's Illustrated Magazine in February 1857 prominently features Benjamin Biggs. The Philadelphia-based magazine did not identify the author. The story is dramatically told, betraying at least some artistic license. There are also some small identifiable inaccuracies (Col. Daniel Brodhead is called "General Richard Brodhead"). While some skepticism is warranted about its details, there is no reason to doubt that the story's basic elements are true. The story was instantly popular, reappearing in numerous publications through the 1880s. Biggs went on to become a general of Virginia militia, playing a role in suppressing the Whiskey Rebellion in 1792. At roughly the same time, Brady was tried in court for murdering Indians, but he was acquitted by the jury.
The Knife and Tomahawk
An Unpublished Incident in the Life of Capt. Samuel Brady
About thirty miles below the present city of Pittsburg, stood an ancient fort, known as Fort McIntosh. It was built by a revolutionary general of that name, in the summer of 1778. It was one of a line of forts, which was intended to guard the people who lived south of the Ohio river, from the incursions of the savages to the northward. This fort was one of the favorite resorts of the great Indian spy and hunter, Captain Samuel Brady. Although his usual head-quarters: was Pittsburg, then consisting of a rude fort and a score or two of rough frontier tenements.
Brady had emigrated westward, or rather had marched thither in 1778, as a lieutenant in the distinguished Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment, under the command of General Richard Broadhead, of Easton. When, in the spring of 1779, McIntosh retired from command in the West, Broadhead succeeded him, and remained at Pittsburg until 1781. Shortly after his advent to the west, Brady was brevetted Captain.
Having premised this much by way of introduction, it brings us to the opening of our story. On the 2lst day of August, 1779, Brady set out from Fort McIntosh, for Pittsburg. He had with him two of his trusty and well-tried followers. These were not attached to the regular army, as he was, but were scouts and spies, who had been with him upon many an expedition. They were Thomas Bevington and Benjamin Biggs. Brady resolved to follow the northern bank of the Ohio. Biggs objected to this, upon the ground, as Brady well knew, that the woods were swarming with savages. Brady, however, had resolved to travel by the old Indian path, and having once made up his mind, no consideration could deter him from carrying out his determination. Bevington had such implicit faith in his ability to lead, that he never thought of questioning his will.
But, as they approached the edge of the clearing, just outside of the fence, Brady discovered “Indian signs,” as he called them. His companions discovered them almost as quick as he, and at once, in low tones, communicated to each other the necessity for a keen watch. They slowly trailed them along the side of the fence toward the house, whose situation they well knew, until they stood upon the brow of the bluff bank which overlooked it. A sight of the most terrible description met their eyes. The cabin lay a mass of smouldering ruins; from whence a dull blue smoke arose in the clear August sunshine. They observed closely everything about it. Brady knew it was customary for the Indians after they had fired a settler’s cabin, if there was no immediate danger, to retire to the woods close at hand, and watch for the approach of any member of the family who might chance to be absent when they made the descent. Not knowing but that they were even then lying close by, he left Bevington to watch the ruins, lying under cover, whilst he proceeded to the northward, and Biggs southward, to make discoveries. Both were to return to Bevington, if they found no Indians. If they came across the perpetrators, and they were too numerous to be attacked regularly, Brady declared it to be his purpose to have one fire at them, and that it should be a signal for both of his followers to make the best of their way to the fort.
All this rapidly transpired, and with Brady to decide, was to act. As he stole cautiously round to the northern side of the inclosure, he heard a voice in the distance singing. He listened keenly, and soon discovered from its intonations, that it was a white man’s. He passed rapidly in the direction whence the sound came. As it approached, he concealed himself behind the trunk of a large tree. Presently a white man, riding a fine horse, came slowly down the path. The form was that of Albert Gray, the stalwart, brave, devil-may-care settler, who had built him a home miles away from the fort, where no one would dare to take a family, except himself.
Gray, with the instinctive feeling of one who knew there was danger, and with that vivid presence of mind which characterizes those acquainted with frontier life, ceased at once to struggle. The horse had been started by the sudden onslaught, and sprung to one side. Ere he had time to leap forward, Brady had caught him by the bridle. His loud snorting threatened to arouse any one who was near. The Captain soon soothed the frightened animal into quiet.
Gray now hurriedly asked Brady what the danger was. The strong, vigorous spy, turned away his face unable to answer him. The settler’s already excited fears were thus turned into realities. “The manly form shook like an aspen leaf, with emotion—tears fell as large drops of water over his bronzed face. Brady permitted the indulgence for a moment, whilst he led the horse into a thicket close at hand and tied him. When he returned Gray had sunk to the earth and great tremulous convulsions writhed over him. Brady quietly touched him upon the shoulder and said, “Come.” He at once arose, and had gone but a few yards until every trace of emotion had apparently vanished. He was no longer the bereaved husband and father—he was the sturdy, well-trained hunter, whose ear and eye were acutely alive to every sight or sound, the waving of a leaf or the crackling of the smallest twig.
He desired to proceed directly toward the house, but Brady objected to this, and they passed down toward the river bank. As they proceeded, they saw from the tracks of horses and moccasin prints upon the places where the earth was moist, that the party was quite a numerous one. After thoroughly examining every cover and possible place of concealment, they passed on to the southward and came back in that direction to the spot where Bevington stood sentry. When they reached him they found that Biggs had not returned. In a few minutes he came. He reported that the trail was large and broad; the Indians had taken no pains to conceal their tracks—they simply had struck back into the country, so as to avoid coming in contact with the spies whom they supposed to be lingering along the river.
The whole four now went down to the cabin and carefully examined the ruins. After a long and minute search, Brady declared in an authoritative manner, that none of the inmates had been consumed. This announcement at once dispelled the most harrowing fears of Gray. As soon as all that could be discovered had been ascertained, each one of the party proposed some course of action. One desired to go to Pittsburg and obtain assistance—another thought it best to return to McIntosh and get some volunteers there—Brady listened patiently to both these propositions, but arose quickly, after talking a moment apart with Biggs, and said, “Come.”
Gray and Bevington obeyed at once, nor did Biggs object. Brady struck the trail and began pursuit in that tremendous rapid manner for which he was so famous. It was evident that if the savages were overtaken, it could only be done by the utmost exertion. They were some hours ahead, and from the number of their horses must be nearly all mounted. Brady felt that if they were not overtaken that night, pursuit would be utterly futile. It was evident that this band had been south of the Ohio and plundered the homes of other settlers. They had pounced upon the family of Gray upon their return.
At last, convinced from the general direction in which the trail led, that he could divine with absolute certainty the spot where they would ford that stream, he abandoned it and struck boldly across the country. The accuracy of his judgment was vindicated by the fact, that from an elevated crest of a long line of hills, he saw the Indians with their victims just disappearing up a ravine on the opposite side of the Beaver. He counted them as they slowly filed away under the rays of the declining sun. There were thirteen warriors, eight of whom were mounted—another woman, besides Gray’s wife, was in the cavalcade, and two children besides his—in all, five children.
The odds seemed fearful to Biggs and Bevington; although Brady made no comments. The moment they had passed out of sight, Brady again pushed forward with unflagging energy, nor did his followers hesitate. There was not a man among them whose muscles were not tenseand rigid as whip-cord, from exercise and training, from hardship and exposure. Gray’s whole form seemed to dilate into twice its natural size at the sight of his wife and children. Terrible was the vengeance he swore.
Just as the sun set, the spies forded the stream and began to ascend the ravine. It was evident that the Indians intended to camp for the night some distance up a small creek or run, which debouches into Beaver River, about three miles from the location of Fort McIntosh, and two below the ravine. The spot, owing to the peninsular form of the tongue of the land lying west of the Beaver, at which they expected to encamp, was full ten miles from that fort. Here there was a famous spring, so deftly and cunningly situated in a deep dell, and so densely inclosed with thick mountain pines, that there was little danger of discovery! Even they might light a fire and it could not be seen one hundred yards.
The proceedings of their leader, which would have been totally inexplicable to all others, were partially, if not fully, understood by his followers. At least, they did not hesitate or question him. When dark came, Brady pushed forward with as much apparent certainty as he had done during the day. So rapid was his progress, that the Indians had but just kindled their fire and cooked their meal, when their mortal foe, whose presence they dreaded as much as that of the small-pox, stood upon a huge rock looking down upon them.
His party had been left a short distance in the rear, at a convenient spot, whilst he went forward to reconnoitre. There they remained impatiently for three mortal hours. They discussed in low tones the extreme disparity of the force—the propriety of going to McIntosh to get assistance. But all agreed that if Brady ordered them to attack, success was certain. However impatient they were, he returned at last.
He described to them how the women and children lay within the centre of a crescent formed by the savages as they slept. Their guns were stacked upon the right, and most of their tomahawks. The arms were not more than fifteen feet from them. He had crawled within fifty feet of them, when the snortings of the horses, occasioned by the approach of a wild beast, had aroused a number of the savages from their light slumbers, and he had been compelled to lie quiet for more than an hour until they slept again,
After each fairly understood the duty assigned him, the slow, difficult, hazardous approach began. They continued upon their feet until they had gotten within one hundred yards of the foe, and then lay down upon their bellies and began the work of writhing themselves forward like a serpent approaching a victim. They at last reached the very verge of the line, each man was at his post, save Biggs, who had the farthest to go. Just as he passed Brady’s position, a twig cracked roughly under the weight of his body, and a huge savage, who lay within the reach of Gray’s tomahawk, slowly sat up as if startled into this posture by the sound. After rolling his eyes, he again lay down and all was still.
Full fifteen minutes passed ere Biggs moved; then he slowly went on. When he reached his place, a very low hissing sound indicated that he was ready, Brady in turn reiterated the sound as a signal to Gray and Bevington to begin. This they did in the most deliberate manner. No nervousness was permissible then. They slowly felt for the heart of each savage they were to stab, and then plunged the knife. The tomahawk was not to be used unless the knife proved inefficient. Not a sound broke the stillness of the night as they cautiously felt and stabbed, unless it might be that one who was feeling would hear the stroke of the other’s knife and the groan of the victim whom the other had slain. Thus the work proceeded. Six of the savages were slain. One of them had not been killed outright by the stab of Gray. He sprang to his feet, but as he arose to shout his war cry, the tomahawk finished what the knife had begun. He staggered and fell heavily forward, over one who had not yet been reached. He in turn started up, but Brady was too quick, his knife reached his heart and the tomahawk his brain almost at the same instant.
All were slain by the three spies, except one. He started to flee, but a rifle shot by Biggs rang merrily out upon the night air and closed his career. The women and children, alarmed by the contest, fled wildly to the woods; but when all had grown still and they were called, they returned, recognizing amid their fright the tones of their own people. The whole party took up their march for McIntosh at once. About sunrise next morning the sentries of the fort were surprised to see the cavalcade of horses, men, women and children, approaching the fort. When they recognized Brady, they at once admitted him and the whole party,
In the relation of the circumstances afterward, Bevington claimed to have killed three and Gray three. Thus Brady, who claimed nothing, must have slain at least six, whilst the other two slew as many. The thirteenth Biggs shot.
From that hour to this, the spring is called the “Bloody Spring!” and the small run is called, ‘‘Brady’s Run.” Few, even of the most curious of the people living in the neighborhood, know aught of the circumstances which conferred these names; names which will be preserved by tradition forever. Thus ended one of the very many hand-to-hand fights which the great spy had with the savages. His history is fuller of daring incident, sanguinary, close, hard contests, perilous explorations and adventurous escapes, than that of either of the Hetzels, of Boone or Kenton. He saw more service than any of them, and his name was known as a bye-word of terror among the Indian tribes, from the Susquehanna to Lake Michigan.
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
Pvt. Josiah Arnold was born in 1754 and enlisted in Capt. William Croghan's company in March of 1776, He was wounded at the Battle of Germantown in 1777 and discharged at Valley Forge in 1778. He married Judith Dougherty and moved to Muhlenberg County, Kentucky in 1819. He died in 1837 and is buried in Petersburg, Indiana.
Surgeon Cornelius Baldwin was appointed to serve the 8th Virginia in May of 1777 and continued with the Continental Army after the regiment was folded into the 4th Virginia Regiment. He was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and may have studied at the College of New Jersey (Princeton), but did not graduate. He may have studied medicine under Dr. Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia. He established the army hospital at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. he was taken prisoner with the Virginia line at the surrender of Charleston in 1780. He was exchanged and returned to the army, serving at Fort Pitt and Winchester. After the war he settled in Winchester and practiced medicine there until his death in 1826. He was buried in the "old Presbyterian cemetery," but reinterred in Mount Hebron Cemetery in 1912. His home survived. Mary Baldwin College is named for his granddaughter.
Pvt. Adam Bible came from a German family that lived at Henckel's Fort in Germany Valley, now in Pendleton County, West Virginia. He was recruited by Lt. John Gratton and enlisted in Capt. David Stephenson's company in February of 1776. He was discharged from Valley Forge in February 1778. He moved to Rockingham County and married Magdalene Shoemaker in 1783. He died in 1826 and is buried Fulks Run.
Gen. Benjamin Biggs was a veteran of Lord Dunmore's War when he enlisted in John Stephenson's independent company in 1775 for one year of service. He served in the 13th Virginia Regiment to the end of the war, rising from lieutenant to captain. He settled in Ohio County (now West Virginia) and married Priscilla Metcalf. He was one of the founders of the town of West Liberty. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates in the 1790s and as a general in the Virginia militia from 1794 through the War of 1812. He died in 1823. He is buried in West Liberty.
Sgt. John Bly was born in Pennsylvania in 1756 and moved to the Shenandoah Valley as a child. He was a carpenter who enlisted in Capt. Jonathan Clark's company on February 5, 1776. He was detached with Captain Croghan for the 1776 campaign and was probably at White Plaints and Trenton and possibly at Assunpink Creek and Princeton He was promoted to sergeant and discharged in 1778. He returned to Shenandoah County after served there as a lieutenant in the militia. He died in Shenandoah County in 1821. He is buried in Boehm Cemetery. His original fieldstone marker was replaced with a government veteran's marker in 1968.
Col. Abraham Bowman was born near Strasburg, Virginia in 1748. He was an early long hunter and then appointed lieutenant colonel of the 8th Virginia late in 1775. He was promoted to colonel in 1777 and was released as supernumerary in 1778. He lead a group of settlers to Kentucky in 1779, living for a time at Bowman's Station near Harrodsburg. He established Cedar Hall plantation near Lexington in the 1780s and lived there until his death in 1837. He greeted Lafayette in Lexington during the general's tour of America in 1825.
Gen. Robert Breckenridge was born in Augusta County in 1754 and was an apprentice carpenter when he enlisted as a sergeant in Capt. James Knox's company in 1776. He received an ensign's commission in 1777 and was a 1st lieutenant when he was taken prisoner at the surrender of Charleston in 1780. He was exchanged and served as adjutant of the Virginia Battalion until 1783. He represented Jefferson County (now Kentucky) at Virginia's constitutional ratification convention in 1788 and as the first speaker of the Kentucky House in 1792. He was appointed a brigadier general in the Kentucky militia in 1792 a major general in 1794. he never married and died in 1833. He is buried in the Floyd-Breckenridge Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.
Pvt. John Breeding was born in 1752 and enlisted in Capt. Jonathan Clark's company in February 1776. He deserted, but appears to be the same John Breeding who then served in George Rogers Clark's Illinois Regiment from 1779-1780. He married Elizabeth Napper in 1785 and moved to Missouri by 1818, where he died. He is buried in Franklin County, Missouri.
Pvt. Zephaniah Bryan, known as "Seth," was born in Maryland about 1752 and enlisted in Capt. John Stephenson's one-year West Augusta District company in 1775. He was married twice, to Elizabeth DeVeiuz and to Jane McLane. He lived in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties in Pennsylvania. He died in 1838 and is buried in Murrysville Cemetery in Westmoreland County. There is no surviving roster of Stephenson's company and only a few members have been identified by other means. Bryan's is the only known grave of an enlisted man from Stephenson's company.
Pvt. Abraham Burner enlisted in Capt. Matthias Hite's company at Woodstock in December of 1776 and served through his discharge in January, 1779. Hite commanded after Richard Campbell was promoted to major. Burner appears to be the brother of Daniel Burner who enlisted early in 1776. Abraham served an extended militia tour in South Carolina in 1780 with 8th Virginia veteran Capt. Jacob Rinker in South Carolina under Gen. Nathanael Greene. They were at Cheraw Hills at the time of the Battle of Cowpens and escorted prisoners from that battle to Virginia. He later lived in Pendleton County, now West Virginia, where he died in 1819. He is buried in Bartow, Pocahontas County.
Sgt. Robert Chambers was born in London, England in 1756. He enlisted in Capt. Robert Higgins' company in Augusta County in August 1777. He was detached to fight at the defense of Fort Mifflin that fall and served under 8th Virginia veterans Capt. William Croghan and Capt.-Lieut. Leonard Cooper after the regiment was folded into the 4th Virginia Regiment. He was promoted to corporal and then lieutenant. He was taken prisoner with the Virginia Line at the surrender of Charleston in 1780. He lived until 1836 and is buried in Monroe County, West Virginia.
Pvt. John Chenoweth was born on the frontier in 1755 and enlisted in Capt. Abel Westfall's company in February 1776. He was captured at the Battle of Germantown and exchanged in 1778. He married Mary Pugh in 1779 and served in the militia during the Yorktown campaign of 1781. He died in 1781 in Randolph County, now West Virginia. He is buried in Daniel's Graveyard in Elkins, West Virginia.
Maj. Gen. Jonathan Clark was born August 1, 1750 (Julian Calendar) in Albemarle County. His family moved to Caroline County to avoid the violence of the French & Indian War. He served in the Dunmore Volunteer Company in 1775 and was appointed an 8th Virginia company captain in 1776. He was the regiment's last major before it was folded into the 4th Virginia in 1778. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel and played an important role in the Battle of Paulus Hook in 1779. He was taken prisoner at Charleston in 1780. He was appointed a Virginia bounty land commissioner in 1783. He was appointed a major general in the Virginia militia in 1792. He later moved to Kentucky where his parents and siblings had settled. He was the older brother of Gen. George Rogers Clark and explorer William Clark. He married Sarah Hite. He died in 1811 and is buried Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.
Pvt. William Clark was born in Pennsylvania and moved to Hampshire county at age 10. He was drafted into Capt. Jonathan Clark's Company in 1778 for one year. He was in Capt. Abraham Kirkpatrick's company after the regiment was folded into the 4th Virginia Regiment and then discharged in January. He served in a militia unit during the Yorktown campaign. He married Barbara Hemlock in 1798 and lived in Randolph and Lewis counties, now West Virginia. He died in 1841 and is buried in Upshur County. It is unlikely that he was related to Captain Clark.
Pvt. Daniel Cloud was born in 1755 and enlisted in Capt. Richard Campbell's company in June 1776, after the regiment had left for the south. He was detached with Capt. William Croghan to the 1st Virginia Regiment and the northern army, likely serving at White Plains and Trenton and possibly Assunpink Creek and Princeton. The name of his first wife is not known. His second wife was Elizabeth Hampton. He died in 1815 and was buried at Willow Glen (probably a farm). his grave was relocated to Prospect Hill Cemetery in Front Royal, Virginia.
Pvt. Harmon Commins enlisted in Capt. William Croghan's company at Sharpsburg, Maryland at the age of twenty. He fought at White Plains, Trenton, and Princeton. He was wounded in the leg and captured at the Battle of Germantown, but exchanged in 1778 after his enlistment had expired. He married Mary James in 1779 and moved to South Carolina some time before 1819, residing first in the Pendleton District (county) and then in Anderson District (county), where he is buried. His modern marker erroneously says he was "VA militia."
Capt. James Craig was born in 1744 and served first in the Southwest Virginia Independent Company in 1775. In 1776 he was appointed ensign in Capt. James Knox's company. He was detached with Knox to Morgan's Rifle Battalion in 1777. He was promoted to captain and then retired as a supernumerary officer in 1778. He was deputy sheriff of Washington County in 1782. He married three times. He was an original justice of the peace of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky in 1799. He died in 1816 and is buried in Rosewood, Kentucky. (KY SAR)
Maj. William Croghan was born in Ireland in 1752 and may have come to America as a British soldier. He was appointed a captain by the West Augusta (Pittsburgh) Committee of Safety in 1776 and led a detachment of the 8th Virginia to the 1st Virginia Regiment and the northern army. He served as brigade inspector and was then promoted to major in 1778. He was taken prisoner at the surrender of Charleston in 1780. He was present for the surrender at Yorktown but unable to participate because he was on parole. He served until 1783. He married Lucy Clark, the sister of Capt. Jonathan Clark. He moved to Kentucky where he administered distribution of bounty land to veterans. He died in 1822 at his estate, Locust Grove. His grave was relocated to Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.
Sgt. Benjamin Crow was born in 1756 or 1757 in New Castle County, Delaware, and moved to the frontier as a child. He was the brother of Pvt. Jacob Crow. He enlisted as a corporal in Capt. David Stephenson's Augusta County company late in 1776 and was promoted to sergeant in 1777. He served in Major Croghan's company after the 8th Virginia was folded into the 4th Virginia Regiment. He was discharged in 1779 and married Ann Gragg. He moved to the Nolichucky settlement, now in East Tennessee, in 1782. He later moved to Upper Spanish Louisiana (now Missouri) and then to the Arkansas Territory where he died in 1830. He is buried in Clark County, Arkansas.
Pvt. Jacob Crow was born in 1759 and joined in Capt. David Stephenson's company in February 1778. He may have been drafted. He was the brother of Sgt. Benjamin Crow. He was discharged in February 1779 and married Eleanor Right in 1787 in Lincoln County, Kentucky. He died in 1823 and is buried in Boyle County, Kentucky.
Col. James Curry was born in Ireland in 1752. He served in Captain Moffett's Company in Dunmore's War and was wounded in the right arm at the Battle of Point Pleasant. He received an 2nd lieutenant's commission in June, 1777 in Capt. Robert Higgins' new company for the 8th Virginia. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant under Capt. Abraham Kirkpatrick in the 4th Virginia after that regiment absorbed the 8th Virginia. He was promoted to captain in 1779 and was taken prisoner at the surrender of Charleston in 1780. He was paroled to the end of the war. He married Mary Magdalene Burns and resided in Madison County, Ohio by 1815 and in Union County, Ohio by 1828. He died in 1834 and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery. A plaque referring to him as "Col.James Curry" appears to be based on a rank he achieved in post-Revolutionary militia service.
Brig. Gen. William Darke was born in Pennsylvania in 1736. He served in the French & Indian War. As a captain, he raised a company from Berkeley County and was promoted to major in 1777. He was captured at Germantown, promoted to lieutenant colonel while in captivity, and exchanged in 1780. Though a Continental officer, he led militia at Yorktown. He commanded a regiment in the St. Clair Expedition of 1791. He helped suppress the Whiskey Rebellion as a general of militia. A founder of Jefferson County, he died in 1801.
Pvt. William Eagle enlisted late in 1777 to serve in Capt. John Steed's company (previously commanded by Capt.Richard Campbell and briefly by Capt. Matthias Hite). He was apparently sixteen years old at his enlistment. After the regiment was folded into the 4th Virginia he served under Capt. Abraham Kirkpatrick. He was discharged in 1779 before his enlistment expired, possibly because of ill health or injury. He is buried in Smoke Hole Canyon in Pendleton County, West Virginia, facing Eagle Rocks, a geological formation named for him.
Corp. Joseph Golladay enlisted as a private in Capt. Jonathan Clark's company early in 1777. He was promoted to corporal on October 1. He was engaged at the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. After the regiment was folded into the 4th Virginia Regiment, he served in Capt. Abraham Kirkpatrick's company. His three-year term expired early in 1780, shortly before most of the Virginia line was taken prisoner at the surrender of Charleston. He returned to Shenandoah County and married Mary Huslender. He died in 1826.
Pvt. Jonathan Grant was born in 1755 and enlisted in Capt. William Croghan's company at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) in February of 1776. After marching to Williamsburg, he went with Croghan's detachment north to join Washington's army. He fought at the battles of Mamaroneck, White Plains, Trenton, Assunpink Creek, and Princeton. He carried Lt. Abraham Kirkpatrick from the battlefield at Princeton. He was detached to Gen. William Maxwell's Light Infantry in August of 1777 and fought with that unit at Cooch's Bridge and Brandywine. He was wounded at Germantown and discharged after the encampment at Valley Forge. He returned to Pittsburgh and served as a scout during the Northwest Indian War. He later settled in Wayne (now Holmes) County, Ohio, where he died in 1833.
Capt. John Graves was born in 1745 and signed on as an ensign in Capt. George Slaughter's company in February 1776. He was promoted to lieutenant that October. He briefly took command of the company after Captain Slaughter's resignation in December, 1777. Graves then resigned from the army in April, 1778. He moved to Georgia, living near namesake Graves Mountain in Lincoln County and then French Mills in Wilkes County. He died in 1824 and is buried in the family cemetery.
Lieut. Peter Higgins was born in New York in 1741 and settled with his family in present Hardy County, West Virginia in the 1750s. He signed on as an ensign in the new company formed by his younger brother, Capt. Robert Higgins, in 1777. He was promoted to 2nd lieutenant in the fall and to 1st lieutenant in the 4th Virginia Regiment in 1779. He was in Gen. Nathanael Greene's southern army later in the war and continued on until the end of the Revolution. He married Margaret Dean before 1790. He married Susannah Gibson two years after Margaret died in 1823. He lived to be ninety-nine or a hundred years old, passing away in 1841. He lived in Pulaski County, Kentucky and is buried in Freedom Cemetery in the town of Science Hill.
Capt. Robert Higgins was born in Pennsylvania in 1746. His family settled in what is now Hardy County, West Virginia. when he was a child. He experienced the French and Indian War first hand, narrowly escaping from Indians when he was twelve. He married Sarah Wright in about 1766. He was appointed a lieutenant in Capt. Abel Westfall's company early in 1776 and was selected by General Washington to raise a new company to replace John Stephenson's one-year men in 1777. He was captured at the Battle of Germantown and held for about nine months before being paroled. He returned to service until the end of the war. His wife died during the war and his farm and children were capably cared for by slave known as "Old Jack." He built a home after the war in Moorefield, West Virginia which survives. In 1797 he married Mary Jolliffe, the widow of 8th Virginia lieutenant John Jolliffe who had died of smallpox. He moved briefly to Kentucky and then to what is now Higginsport, Ohio, fronting the Ohio River. He died there in 1825.
Pvt. Abraham Hornback enlisted in Capt. Abel Westfall's Hampshire County company early in 1776. He was picked to serve in Morgan's Rifles in 1777 and was likely at the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga. He was discharged at Valley Forge in 1778. There are two alleged gravesites for him in Medford County, Illinois and in Spencer County, Indiana. (Findagrave.com)
Pvt. James Kay enlisted in Capt. Thomas Berry's company on February 20, 1776. He was seventeen years old. Though Berry's company was raised in Frederick County and certified by that county's committee of safety, Kay enlisted in King George County, far to the east. This indicates that Berry had gone home to the county of his youth to recruit. He was at Sullivan's Island in 1776, the encampment at Sunbury, Georgia that summery and fall, and was "badly" wounded at Brandywine the following year. He went home to Frederick County to heal and his enlistment expired in the spring of 1778. He moved to Kentucky. He died in 1833 and is buried at Salem United Baptist Church in Boone County.
Maj. Abraham Kirkpatrick was born in Maryland in 1749. He moved to the Pittsburgh in 1767 and was appointed a lieutenant in Captain Croghan's company in 1776. He led Croghan's detachedment under Washington at Trenton, Assunpink Creek, and Princeton. He served as adjutant and was promoted to captain and then major before the 8th was folded into the 4th Virginia. He remained in service to the end of the war. He married Mary Anne Oldham in 1786 and died in 1817. He lies in Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh.
Lt. Col. James Knox was probably born in Augusta County. A tradition that he immigrated alone from Ireland as a boy appears to be inaccurate. He was an early Kentucky long hunter and a scout for Col. Andrew Lewis in Dunmore's War. He was a lieutenant in Capt. William Russell's Southwest Independent Frontier Company in 1775. He was appointed a captain by the Fincastle County Committee of Safety in 1776 to raise a company assigned to the 8th Virginia. He was at Charleston in 1776 and detached to lead a company in Daniel Morgan's Rifle Battalion in 1777, serving in the Saratoga campaign. He was probably at Monmouth in 1778 and then released as a supernumerary officer when regiments were consolidated. Gov. Thomas Jefferson appointed him to lead one of two Virginia frontier battalion. He led parties of settlers into Kentucky after the war and served in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Kentucky Senate. He married Ann Montgomery, the widow of his friend Benjamin Logan in 1805. He died 1822 and is buried in Shelby County, Kentucky.
Sgt. James Lamb was born in 1756 in Scotland. He enlisted in Capt. David Stephenson's company in March, 1776. He married Hannah Boone, first cousin of Daniel Boone. He moved to Bourbon County, Kentucky after the war. and then to Wayne County, Indiana. In 1812 he left Kentucky and moved to Wayne County, Indiana because of his strong anti-slavery views. He died after falling from a horse in 1741 and is buried in Elkhorn Cemetery near Richmond, Indiana. His house in Wayne County is still standing.
Fife Major William Lipscomb, Jr. was in Louisa County in 1756. His father was a member of the Louisa County Committee of Safety. He was appointed fife major in February 1778, a few months before the regiment folded into the 4th Virginia. He continued on until at least April 1779. He moved with his family to South Carolina and died there in 1802. He is buried in the Lipscomb Family Cemetery in Cherokee County.
Pvt. Martin Maney was born in County Wexford, Ireland in 1752. He served in Capt. James Knox's company. His pension states that he enlisted on about December 4, 1775 at the Long Island of the Holston River (now Tennessee). This was before Knox or his subaltern officers were appointed and may indicate that he first served in William Russell's Southwest Frontier Independent Company and left that unit with Knox to form the new company. He deserted on June 7, 1776, possibly in protest of the still-provincial regiment leaving Virginia for the Carolinas. He enlisted again in the 9th Virginia Regiment. He married Keziah Vann in 1781. He performed active militia service under John Sevier in 1780 and 1782 and performed scout service. He lived in Blount County, Tennessee and Buncombe County, North Carolina. He died in 1830.
Lieut. Christopher Moyers (also "Myer" and "Moyer") was born in Culpeper, Virginia in 1740. He was made an ensign in Capt. William Darke's company in August of 1776. The regiment was in South Carolina at this time, suggesting he was promoted from the ranks. He rose to 2nd lieutenant in May 1777 and was captured at the Battle of Germantown on October 4. He and Ens. Philip Huffman escaped in June of 1778 and returned to service. Moyers was promoted to 1st lieutenant and served another year, resigning in March 1779. His wife's name was Susannah. He moved to Jefferson County, Tennessee, where he was one of the first settlers of White Pine. He died in 1815, and is buried in the "Old Christopher Moyers Graveyard in White Pine. His government-issue headstone identifies him as a lieutenant of the 4th Virginia Regiment, which is accurate for his last few months of service.
Maj. Gen. Peter Muhlenberg was born in Trappe, Pennsylvania in 1746. He was the son of Henry Muhlenberg, the patriarch of the Lutheran Church in the America and the grandson (on his mother's side) of Conrad Weiser, an important early Indian trader and diplomat. He served briefly in the British 60th Regiment in the 1760s. He married Anna Barbara Meyer in 1770. He was ordained by his father and then ordained in the Church of England to lead a parish in the Shenandoah Valley. He served in the revolutionary Virginia Convention, received a colonel's commission in 1775 and was promoted to general in 1777. He played an important role in the Yorktown campaign and received a brevet promotion to major general at the end of the war. He returned to Pennsylvania and served as Vice President of that state and in the U.S. House and Senate. He died in 1807 and is buried in Trappe.
Capt. Joseph Parrett was born in what is now Shenandoah County, Virginia in 1760. He enlisted in Capt. Jonathan Clark's company two months before his sixteenth birthday in February 1776. He was promoted to sergeant in 1777 and may have been briefly detached to Morgan's Rifle Battalion. He was discharged at Valley Forge in January, 1778. He served as ensign of a Shenandoah County militia company in 1779 and as a lieutenant in 1781. He was referred to late in life as "captain," probably referring to further militia service. He married Anna Maria Wendel in 1780 and moved to Fayette County, Ohio about 1812. He married Anna Hartman in 1837 and died in 1847. He is burial site was reportedly obliterated by development, but there is a memorial stone for him in nearby Sugar Grove Cemetery in Clinton County, Ohio.
Cpl. Philip Phine was born in Virginia in 1751. He enlisted in Capt. Jonathan Clark's company with his brother Andrew in February 1776. Their brother Thomas joined the following year and Andrew died in service. Philip married Sarah Celeste Boly and moved to St. Louis in 1781, more than two decades before the Louisiana Purchase. For many years he ran a ferry across the Meramac River near its mouth south of St. Louis. He died there in 1825. His name was spelled "Fine" in later years. His gravestone was found in 2021 nicely preserved under the soil of property now owned by Ameren Power in southern St. Louis County. The nearest road is "Fine Road."
Pvt. James Range was born in Somerset County, New Jersey in 1754. He enlisted in Capt. William Darke's company early in 1776 and was captured by the enemy on October 1, 1777--three days before the Battle of Germantown. His two year enlistment expired while he was in captivity and was liberated in an exchange of prisoners in August, 1778. He explored the Warpath River in what is now middle Tennessee in 1779 and may have served militia duty under Gen. Edward Stevens during the Yorktown campaign. He married Barbara Hammer in 1787 in Washington County, North Carolina (now Tennessee. He died in 1825 in Carter County, Tennessee. His gravestone is improperly marked "8th Va. Mil[itia]."
Col. Jacob Rinker, Jr. was born in what is now Shenandoah County, Virginia to Swiss immigrants in 1749. He was appointed a lieutenant under Capt. Jonathan Clark in March 1776. He resigned his Continental commission after about fourteen months, but led a militia company under Gen. Nathanael Greene in 1780. He may also have served under Gen. George Rogers Clark in the Illinois Regiment. He married twice, voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution, and served several years in the Virginia House of Delegates. He died in 1827 and is buried near his father in a beautiful hilltop cemetery in western Shenandoah County. His lifelong home, built by is father, still stands nearby.
Pvt. Jacob Sivley was born in what is now Shenandoah County and drafted into Capt. Jonathan Clark's company in February 1778. He was put in Capt. Abraham Kirkpatrick's company of the temporarily combined "4th-8th-12th Virginia Regiment" and stayed with Kirkpatrick when the 8th Virginia was folded into the 4th Virginia in the fall of 1778. He was discharge in February 1779. He moved to Tennessee before 1808 and then settled on Indian Creek, south of Huntsville, Alabama. He married a widow named "Alcey" or "Alice" (possible Alice). He died in September 1816 and is buried Huntsville.
Col. John Stephenson was born in Frederick County, Virginia in 1736. He served in Dunmore's War and may have served in the French & Indian War. He settled near what is now Connellsville, Pennsylvania in 1768. In 1775, he was made captain of the second West Augusta independent frontier company, which was later assigned to the 8th Virginia. He was a colonel of Yohogania County militia in 1778, leading men in the Squaw Campaign and the McIntosh Expedition. He moved to what is now Harrison County, Kentucky about 1790. He married a woman named Mary, but they had no children. He died in 1801 and was buried near his home, which is still standing. His roughly-made gravestone was stolen in the 1980s but recently reappeared.
Chaplain Christian Streit was born in Pennsylvania in 1749 to Swiss immigrants. He studied theology under Henry Muhlenberg, father of 8th Virginia Col. Peter Muhlenberg and was ordained in 1770. He was recommended as a chaplain by Henry Muhlenberg in 1776 and is recognized as the first denominationally-sponsored army chaplain in American history. He joined the regiment in 1777 was later chaplain of the 9th Virginia Regiment. He was taken prisoner at the fall of Charleston in 1780. He preached in Pennsylvania after the war before moving to Virginia in 1785. He was minister of what is now Grace Lutheran Church in Winchester, but served congregations in Woodstock and Strasburg as well. He died in 1812 and is buried In Mount Hebron Cemetery in Winchester. His house is still standing.
Capt. Abel Westfall commanded the 8th Virginia’s Hampshire County company. He came from a Dutch family. According to one genealogy, his great-great grandfather arrived in New York in 1642 to manage Gov. Peter Stuyvesant’s farm in New Amsterdam. He raised his company early in 1776 and resigned late in 1777. After the Revolution, he founded the town of Westfall, Ohio. The town no longer exists, but the Westfall School District still carries his name. He moved to Indiana and died there in 1814. He is buried in Bloomfield, Indiana next to his brother. (Sam Zuckschwerdt)
Lieutenant Cornelius Westfall began as a sergeant in his brother's company early in 1776. he was commissioned an ensign and promoted to 2nd lieutenant in 1777. He resigned on April 21, 1778. He and his brother moved to Ohio and then to Indiana. Cornelius married a widow, Elizabeth Springstone (nee Lambert) in 1787. He died in 1829. He is buried in Bloomfield, Indiana. (Sam Zuckschwerdt)
Pvt. Richard Cain enlisted in Capt. Abel Westfall's company in February, 1776. He was wounded at Brandywine or Germantown and served the rest of his enlistment in the hospital. He was discharged early in 1778. He married Jean, whose maiden name is not known. He was one of the founders of Forks of Cheat Baptist Church in Monongalia County, West Virginia. The original log church is long gone and there is no surviving marker for Cain, though a plaque marks the site of the original church.
A memorial to Sgt. William Combs (also Coombs and Coomes) and other family members in St. Lawrence Catholic in Davis County, Kentucky. Combs enlisted in Capt. Richard Campbell's company in February 1776 and was discharged at Valley Forge two years later. He married Nell Cloud, possibly a relative of Daniel Cloud. He lived in Lincoln County, Kentucky in 1795 and then Bath County in 1818. He was a school teacher. He died in 1840. It is not clear from the marker that he is buried on-site. Moreover, Bath and Davis counties are two hundred miles apart and there appears to be another "Coombs" family in Kentucky at the period that originated from Maryland. Separate genealogies can be seen here and here.
Capt.-Lieut. Leonard Cooper was from Shenandoah County and began the war as an ensign in Capt. Richard Campbell's Company. He rose to lieutenant and then "captain-lieutenant" (lieutenant in command of the colonel's company) in 1779. He had a leg amputated after a duel with Maj. Abraham Kirkpatrick and served out the war in the Invalid Corps. He married Christina Throenberger in 1796 and drowned in the Shenandoah River in 1821 after falling from his horse. The grave of another Leonard Cooper, one of the first settlers of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, is mismarked with a stone honoring Capt.-Lieut. Cooper's service.
Maj. Peter Helphenstine was born in Germany and emigrated to Winchester in the 1750s with his wife and first son. He died in 1778 or 1779 of complications of malaria contracted during the regiment's tough summer in the Carolinas in 1776. He resigned that summer and returned home, never to recover. He is buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Winchester in an unmarked grave. Though a man of stature, he family was left destitute after his death. It is likely that his family could not afford a stone memorial for him when he died and made do with one made of wood. A nearby plaque lists all of the Revolutionary War veterans buried in the historic cemetery.
Cpl. Drury Jackson of Capt. George Slaughter's company is buried in Virginia. Though he was in Georgia as a soldier, he never lived there. In the 1930s, the DAR ordered a veteran's headstone for another man with the same name buried in Baldwin County, Georgia. The "real" Drury Jackson enlisted with his brother Utey in 1776. Utey died of malaria in Charleston, but Drury survived the war and lived nearly his whole life in what is now Madison County, Virginia. It appears he moved to nearby Shenandoah County shortly before he died, and he is certainly buried there or (possibly) in Madison. His actual marker is long gone and this memorial to his military service still stills atop another man's grave.
This memorial to Pvt. Enoch Job (also "Jobe") was dedicated by the Rock Island Chapter, DAR in 2018. Job was a former Quaker who enlisted in Captain Clark's company in 1776 but missed the rendezvous and was assigned to Captain Croghan's company for the first year. He was discharged in 1778. He lived in Tennessee and Kentucky before settling in Cole County, Missouri in 1819. He died in 1843. His grave site is not known, but this memorial is at Old Salem Church in Moniteau County.
The family cemetery at Warrenwood, the home of Capt. William Warren, was removed to accommodate road expansion in 1990. Warren enlisted as a private in Capt. Richard Campbell's company in 1776 and served for two years. He was later a captain in the Shenandoah County militia, before moving to Kentucky. His remains are now in a mass grave in Bellevue Cemetery in Danville, Kentucky.
Dwight Eisenhower once said that “our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.” This uniquely American argument, made by other presidents as well, is rooted in a seeming paradox of the Founding Era. America abandoned official religion in the wake of the Revolution and yet the nation became much more religious.
Katherine Carté’s book Religion and the American Revolution is not about the theological origins of the conflict or the so-called “black-robed regiment” of militant clergy. It is about the impact of the Revolution on established religion on both sides of the sea. It is one of several recent books that opens the historical aperture on the era and lets us see familiar events in a broader context. This is especially important when it comes to the dominant Protestant sects of the period. These were trans-Atlantic organizations and America’s established colonial churches remained very close to and even dependent on support from home.
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
The grave stones of Revolutionary War veterans are remarkable things. Many of them are the last tangible vestiges of men who played a role not only in creating the United States but also in proving that governments dedicated to freedom and republican government can last. Sadly, many of them are long gone, and with them the last physical connection with the men who lie beneath them. In Boone County, Kentucky, Dave Gilbert and Stuart Martin are doing what they can to preserve or replace the markers that remain.
They enlisted in Capt. Thomas Berry’s Frederick County company. Surprisingly, however, James attested later that he enlisted in King George County. Yes, it is ironic that a rebel soldier lived in “King George” county, but the county was named after King George I, who ruled from 1714 to 1727, not his great-grandson, George III. That, however, is not why the enlistment is surprising. Captain Berry, Lt. John Jolliffe, and two other officers were appointed by the local committee of safety to raise their company in Frederick County, which surrounds the town of Winchester. Kay lived almost a hundred miles away. Frederick County sits west of the Blue Ridge in the lower (northern) Shenandoah Valley. King George County sits in the Virginia Tidewater between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers east of Fredericksburg. They are a long distance apart, especially by horse. Like all historical oddities, however, there is an interesting explanation.
When Berry and Jolliffe were appointed by the Frederick County Committee of Safety, they had recruiting quotas to fill. It appears that Berry's ties to King George County were still so strong that he made a trip home to recruit among his old friends and neighbors. That, at any rate, would explain Kay’s enlistment. Berry’s company was assigned to the 8th Virginia Regiment, which was brought south into the Carolinas in the spring of 1776. Berry and Kay were present in Charleston for the Battle of Sullivan’s Island, though most 8th Virginia men were not in combat. We know Private Kay was at Sunbury, Georgia that summer when many of his comrades succumbed to malaria. Having grown up near the Chesapeake, he may have had some resistance to the mosquito-borne disease. The soldiers were given furloughs after returning to Virginia that winter and then marched to Philadelphia where they were inoculated for smallpox. Lieutenant Jolliffe was quarantined with smallpox that spring in Winchester, either naturally contracted or from inoculation, and died from it.)
In September 1777, Kay saw his first serious combat at the Battle of Brandywine. He was “badly” wounded in his right hand. A musket ball seems most likely. The wound was serious enough that Brig. Gen. Charles Scott gave him a furlough to go home and recover. He returned to Battletown and spent the winter there while the rest of the regiment went into winter camp at Valley Forge. Kay's hand healed, but he was partially disabled for the rest of his life. His colonel, Abraham Bowman, also went home (to Strasburg) on furlough. “Soon after he was so recovered as to return to his company,” Kay's pension application says, “his two years expired & he was discharged in Virginia by Col. Abraham Bowman which was in the spring of the year 1778.”
With the 250th Anniversary of the Revolution approaching, the Simon Kenton Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution are working to compile a complete list of Patriot graves in their area, matching pension records with cemetery records. They are visiting each grave to confirm its existence and note its condition. Stuart Martin and Dave Gilbert have been leading the effort and have been at it since the start of the year. Stuart notes the project is sometimes challenging, especially when “graves have fallen into disrepair, or they reside on private property with access prohibited, or the family cemetery and the headstones are sadly lost to eternity.”
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Captain Berry, according to genealogies, is buried at "The Briars" outside Berryville. This farm has a long history and now functions as an agricultural cooperative. A call to the cooperative revealed that the current occupants have never seen the grave or even a graveyard on the property. It seems Berry's is one more Patriot grave that, in Stuart Martin's phrase, "is sadly lost to eternity."
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
On Monday, Stephen’s severely understrength brigade headed out to look for the enemy. McCarty followed behind, responsible for the wagons. “Our Virginia troops had marched, and I got orders from General Stephen to follow on, and I marched to Westfield, and then to Scotch Plains, it being in the night and very muddy. I got lodgings at one Mr. Halsey’s.” There was was a regiment of Connecticut men in the field as well, commanded by Col. Andrew Ward. These were one-year men whose enlistments would be up in May. Ward's men had been begging to go home since December, however, and were beginning to desert. McCarty and his wagons caught up with the Virginians, commanded by Col. Charles Scott, and joined them in taking quarters at Quibbletown, a village known today as New Market.
The murder of the wounded Virginians is confirmed by several sources. General Stephen wrote directly to British general Sir William Erskine to complain that six Virginians “slightly wounded in the muscular parts, were murdered, and their bodies mangled, and their brains beat out, by the troops of his Britannic Majesty.” He warned that such conduct would “inspire the Americans with a hatred to Britons so inveterate and insurmountable, that they never will form an alliance, or the least connection with them.”
Stephen could think of no better threat than a reprise of Gen. Edward Braddock’s defeat in the French and Indian War. Stephen used his credentials as a survivor of that battle to insult and to intimidate the British general with over-the-top threats of Indian cannibalism.
I can assure you, Sir, that the savages after General Braddock’s defeat, notwithstanding the great influence of the French over them, could not be prevailed on to butcher the wounded in the manner your troops have done, until they were first made drunk. I do not know, Sir William, that your troops gave you that trouble. So far does British cruelty, now a days, surpass that of the savages.
In spite of all the British agents sent amongst the different nations, we have beat the Indians into good humour, and they offer their service. It is their custom, in war, to scalp, take out the hearts, and mangle the bodies of their enemies. This is shocking to the humanity natural to the white inhabitants of America. However, if the British officers do not refrain their soldiers from glutting their cruelties with the wanton destruction of the wounded, the United States, contrary to their natural disposition, will be compelled to employ a body of ferocious savages, who can, with an unrelenting heart, eat the flesh, and drink the blood of their enemies. I well remember, that in the year 1763, Lieutenant Gordon, of the Royal Americans, and eight more of the British soldiers, were roasted alive, and eaten up by the fierce savages that now offer their services.
The fundamental British strategy in the Revolution was to empower Loyalists and to pacify rebels and persuade them to accept offers of amnesty. The plan clearly wasn’t working. Shortly after the Battle of Drake’s Farm, a loyalist wrote home: “For these two month[s], or nearly, we have been boxed about in Jersey, as if we had no feelings. Our cantonments have been beaten up; our foraging parties attacked, sometimes defeated, and the forage carried off from us; all travelling between the posts hazardous; and, in short, the troops harassed beyond measure by continual duty.”
The Forage War was a brilliant (and still-unheralded) success for the Americans. Denying the enemy forage and forcing them to live in close quarters for several months had a cumulatively severe impact on them. Howe had more than 31,000 troops at New York on August 27, 1776. When spring came, he had lost between forty and fifty percent of those men to death, desertion, capture, or disease. That was not sustainable.
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St. Clair's Defeat
by Theodore Roosevelt
The attitude of the United States and Great Britain, as they faced each other in the Western wilderness at the beginning of the year 1791, was one of scarcely veiled hostility. The British held the lake posts at Detroit, Mackinaw, and Niagara, and more or less actively supported the Indians in their efforts to bar the Americans from the Northwest. Nominally they held the posts because the Americans had themselves left unfulfilled some of the conditions of the treaty of peace; but this was felt not to be the real reason, and the Americans loudly protested that their conduct was due to sheer hatred of the young republic. The explanation was simpler. The British had no far-reaching design to prevent the spread and growth of the English-speaking people on the American continent. They cared nothing, one way or the other, for that spread and growth, and it is unlikely that they wasted a moment’s thought on the ultimate future of the race. All that they desired was to preserve the very valuable fur trade of the region round the Great Lakes for their own benefit. They were acting from the motives of self-interest that usually control nations; and it never entered their heads to balance against these immediate interests the future of a nation many of whose members were to them mere foreigners.
The governmental authorities of the newly created republic shared these feelings. They felt no hunger for the Indian lands; they felt no desire to stretch their boundaries, and thereby add to their already heavy burdens and responsibilities. They wished to do strict justice to the Indians; the treaties they held with them were carried on with scrupulous fairness, and were honorably lived up to by the United States officials. They strove to keep peace, and made many efforts to persuade the frontiersmen to observe the Indian boundary lines, and not to intrude on the territory in dispute; and they were quite unable to foresee the rapidity of the nation’s westward growth. Like the people of the Eastern seaboard, the men high in governmental authority were apt to look upon the frontiersmen with feelings dangerously kin to dislike and suspicion. Nor were these feelings wholly unjustifiable. The men who settle in a new country and begin subduing the wilderness plunge back into the very conditions from which the race has raised itself by the slow toil of ages. The conditions cannot but tell upon them. Inevitably, and for more than one lifetime—perhaps for several generations—they tend to retrograde, instead of advancing. They drop away from the standard which highly civilized nations have reached. As with harsh and dangerous labor they bring the new land up towards the level of the old, they themselves partly revert to their ancestral conditions; they sink back towards the state of their ages-dead barbarian forefathers. Few observers can see beyond this temporary retrogression into the future for which it is a preparation. There is small cause for wonder in the fact that so many of the leaders of Eastern thought looked with coldness upon the effort of the Westerners to push north of the Ohio.
Yet it was these Western frontiersmen who were the real and vital factors in the solution of the problems which so annoyed the British monarchy and the American republic. They eagerly craved the Indian lands; they would not be denied entrance to the thinly peopled territory, wherein they intended to make homes for themselves and their children. Rough, masterful, lawless, they were neither daunted by the prowess of the red warriors whose wrath they braved, nor awed by the displeasure of the government whose solemn engagements they violated. The enormous extent of the frontier dividing the white settler from the savage, and the tangled inaccessibility of the country in which it everywhere lay, rendered it as difficult for the national authorities to control the frontiersmen as it was to chastise the Indians.
The situation had reached this point by the year 1791. For seven years the Federal authorities had been vainly endeavoring to make some final settlement of the question by entering into treaties with the Northwestern and Southwestern tribes. In the earlier treaties the delegates from the Continental Congress asserted that the United States were invested with the fee of all the land claimed by the Indians. In the later treaties the Indian proprietorship of the lands was conceded. This concession at the time seemed important to the whites; but the Indians probably never understood that there had been any change of attitude; nor did it make any practical difference, for, whatever the theory might be, the lands had eventually to be won, partly by whipping the savages in fight, partly by making it better worth their while to remain at peace than to go to war.
As a matter of fact the red men were as little disposed as the white to accept a peace on any terms that were possible. The Secretary of War, who knew nothing of Indians by actual contact, wrote that it would be indeed pleasing “to a philosophic mind to reflect that, instead of exterminating a part of the human race by our modes of population . . . . we had imparted our knowledge of cultivation and the arts to the aboriginals of the country,” thus preserving and civilizing them; and the public men who represented districts remote from the frontier shared these views of large though vague beneficence. But neither the white frontiersmen nor their red antagonists possessed “philosophic minds.” They represented two stages of progress, ages apart, and it would have needed many centuries to bring the lower to the level of the higher. Both sides recognized the fact that their interests were incompatible, and that the question of their clashing rights had to be settled by the strong hand.
In the Northwest matters culminated sooner than in the Southwest. The Georgians and the settlers along the Tennessee and Cumberland were harassed rather than seriously menaced by the Creek war parties; but in the North the more dangerous Indians of the Miami, the Wabash, and the lakes gathered in bodies so large as fairly to deserve the name of armies. Moreover, the pressure of the white advance was far heavier in the North. The pioneers who settled in the Ohio basin were many times as numerous as those who settled on the lands west of the Oconee or north of the Cumberland, and were fed from States much more populous. The advance was stronger, the resistance more desperate; naturally the open break occurred where the strain was most intense.
There was fierce border warfare in the South. In the North there were regular campaigns, and pitched battles were fought between Federal armies as large as those commanded by Washington at Trenton or Greene at Eutaw Springs, and bodies of Indian warriors more numerous than had ever yet appeared on any single field.
The newly created government of the United States was very reluctant to make formal war on the Northwestern Indians. Not only were President Washington and the national Congress honorably desirous of peace, but they were hampered for funds, and dreaded any extra expense. Nevertheless, they were forced into war. Throughout the years 1789 and 1790 an increasing volume of appeals for help came from the frontier countries. The Governor of the Northwestern Territory, the Brigadier-General of the troops on the Ohio, the members of the Kentucky Convention, all the county lieutenants of Kentucky, the lieutenants of the frontier counties of Virginia proper, the representatives from the counties, the field officers of the different districts, the General Assembly of Virginia—all sent bitter complaints and long catalogues of injuries to the President, the Secretary of War, and the two Houses of Congress—complaints which were redoubled after Harmar’s failure. With heavy hearts the national authorities prepared for war. Their decision was justified by the redoubled fury of the Indian raids during the early part of 1791. Among others, the settlements near Marietta were attacked, a day or two after the new year began, in bitter winter weather. A dozen persons, including a woman and two children, were killed, and five men were taken prisoners. The New England settlers, though brave and hardy, were unused to Indian warfare. They were taken by surprise, and made no effective resistance; the only Indian hurt was wounded with a hatchet by the wife of a frontier hunter. There were some twenty-five Indians in the attacking party; they were Wyandots and Delawares, who had been mixing on friendly terms with the settlers throughout the preceding summer, and so knew how best to deliver the assault. The settlers had not only treated these Indians with much kindness, but had never wronged any of the red race, and had been lulled into a foolish feeling of security by the apparent good-will of the treacherous foes. The assault was made in the twilight on the 2d of January, the Indians crossing the frozen Muskingum, and stealthily approaching a blockhouse and two or three cabins. The inmates were frying meat for supper, and did not suspect harm, offering food to the Indians; but the latter, once they were within-doors, dropped the garb of friendliness, and shot or tomahawked all save a couple of men who escaped, and the five who were made prisoners. The captives were all taken to the Miami or Detroit, and, as usual, were treated with much kindness and humanity by the British officers and traders with whom they came in contact. McKee, the British Indian agent, who was always ready to incite the savages to war against the Americans as a nation, but who was quite as ready to treat them kindly as individuals, ransomed one prisoner; the latter went to his Massachusetts home to raise the amount of his ransom, and returned to Detroit to refund it to his generous rescuer. Another prisoner was ransomed by a Detroit trader, and worked out his ransom in Detroit itself. Yet another was redeemed from captivity by the famous Iroquois chief Brant, who was ever a terrible and implacable foe, but a greathearted and kindly victor. The fourth prisoner died, while the Indians took so great a liking to the fifth that they would not let him go, but adopted him into the tribe, made him dress as they did, and in a spirit of pure friendliness pierced his ears and nose. After Wayne’s treaty he was released, and returned to Marietta to work at his trade as a stone-mason, his bored nose and slit ears serving as mementos of his captivity.
The squalid little town of Cincinnati also suffered from the Indian war parties in the spring of this year, several of the townsmen being killed by the savages, who grew so bold that they lurked through the streets at nights, and lay in ambush in the gardens where the garrison of Fort Washington raised their vegetables. One of the Indian attacks, made upon a little palisaded “station” which had been founded by a man named Dunlop, some seventeen miles from Cincinnati, was noteworthy because of an act of not uncommon cruelty by the Indians. In the station there were some regulars. Aided by the settlers, they beat back their foes; whereupon the enraged savages brought one of their prisoners within ear-shot of the walls and tortured him to death. The torture began at midnight, and the screams of the wretched victim were heard until daylight.
Until this year the war was not general. One of the most bewildering problems to be solved by the Federal officers on the Ohio was to find out which tribes were friendly and which hostile. Many of the inveterate enemies of the Americans were as forward in professions of friendship as the peaceful Indians, and were just as apt to be found at the treaties, or lounging about the settlements; and this widespread treachery and deceit made the task of the army officers puzzling to a degree. As for the frontiersmen, who had no means whatever of telling a hostile from a friendly tribe, they followed their usual custom, and lumped all the Indians, good and bad, together, for which they could hardly be blamed. Even St. Clair, who had small sympathy with the backwoodsmen, acknowledged that they could not and ought not to submit patiently to the cruelties and depredations of the savages: “they are in the habit of retaliation, perhaps without attending precisely to the nations from which the injuries are received.” A long course of such aggressions and retaliations resulted, by the year 1791, in all the Northwestern Indians going on the war-path. The hostile tribes had murdered and plundered the frontiersmen; the vengeance of the latter, as often as not, had fallen on friendly tribes; and these justly angered friendly tribes usually signalized their taking the red hatchet by some act of treacherous hostility directed against settlers who had not molested them.
In the late winter of 1791 the hitherto friendly Delawares, who hunted or traded along the western frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia proper, took this manner of showing that they had joined the open foes of the Americans. A big band of warriors spread up and down the Alleghany for about forty miles, and on the 9th of February attacked all the outlying settlements. The Indians who delivered this attack had long been on intimate terms with the Alleghany settlers, who were accustomed to see them in and about their houses; and as the savages acted with seeming friendship to the last moment, they were able to take the settlers completely unawares, so that no effective resistance was made. Some settlers were killed and some captured. Among the captives was a lad named John Brickell, who, though at first maltreated, and forced to run the gauntlet, was afterwards adopted into the tribe, and was not released until after Wayne’s victory. After his adoption he was treated with the utmost kindness, and conceived a great liking for his captors, admiring their many good qualities, especially their courage and their kindness to their children. Long afterwards he wrote down his experiences, which possess a certain value as giving from the Indian stand-point an account of some of the incidents of the forest warfare of the day.
The warriors who had engaged in this raid on their former friends, the settlers along the Alleghany, retreated two or three days’ journey into the wilderness to an appointed place, where they found their families. One of the Girtys was with the Indians. No sooner had the last of the warriors come in, with their scalps and prisoners, including the boy Brickell, than ten of their number deliberately started back to Pittsburg, to pass themselves as friendly Indians, and trade. In a fortnight they returned, laden with goods of various kinds, including whiskey. Some of the inhabitants, sore from disaster, suspected that these Indians were only masquerading as friendly, and prepared to attack them; but one of the citizens warned them of their danger, and they escaped. Their effrontery was as remarkable as their treachery and duplicity. They had suddenly attacked and massacred settlers by whom they had never been harmed, and with whom they preserved an appearance of entire friendship up to the very moment of the assault. Then, their hands red with the blood of their murdered friends, they came boldly into Pittsburg, among the near neighbors of these same murdered men, and stayed there several days to trade, pretending to be peaceful allies of the whites. With savages so treacherous and so ferocious it was a mere impossibility for the borderers to distinguish the hostile from the friendly, as they hit out blindly to revenge the blows that fell upon them from unknown hands. Brutal though the frontiersmen often were, they never employed the systematic and deliberate bad faith which was a favorite weapon with even the best of the red tribes.
The people who were out of reach of the Indian tomahawk, and especially the Federal officers, were often unduly severe in judging the borderers for their deeds of retaliation. Brickell’s narrative shows that the parties of seemingly friendly Indians who came in to trade were sometimes—and, indeed, in this year 1791 it is probable they were generally—composed of Indians who were engaged in active hostilities against the settlers, and who were always watching for a chance to murder and plunder. On March 9th, a month after the Delawares had begun their attacks, the grim backwoods Captain Brady, with some of his Virginian rangers, fell on a party of them who had come to a block-house to trade, and killed four. The Indians asserted that they were friendly, and both the Federal Secretary of War and the Governor of Pennsylvania denounced the deed and threatened the offenders; but the frontiersmen stood by them. Soon afterwards a delegation of chiefs from the Seneca tribe of the Iroquois arrived at Fort Pitt and sent a message to the President complaining of the murder of these alleged friendly Indians. On the very day these Seneca chiefs started on their journey home another Delaware war party killed nine settlers, men, women, and children, within twenty miles of Fort Pitt, which so enraged the people of the neighborhood that the lives of the Senecas were jeopardized. The United States authorities were particularly anxious to keep at peace with the Six Nations, and made repeated efforts to treat with them; but the Six Nations stood sullenly aloof, afraid to enter openly into the struggle, and yet reluctant to make a firm peace or cede any of their lands.
The intimate relations between the Indians and the British at the lake posts continued to perplex and anger the Americans. While the frontiers were being mercilessly ravaged, the same Indians who were committing the ravages met in council with the British agent, Alexander McKee, at the Miami Rapids, the council being held in this neighborhood for the special benefit of the very towns which were most hostile to the Americans, and which had been partially destroyed by Harmar the preceding fall. The Indian war was at its height, and the murderous forays never ceased throughout the spring and summer. McKee came to Miami in April, and was forced to wait nearly three months, because of the absence of the Indian war party, before the principal chiefs and head men gathered to meet him. At last, on July 1st, they were all assembled; not only the Shawnees, Delawares, Wyandots, Ottawas, Pottawattamies, and others who had openly taken the hatchet against the Americans, but also representatives of the Six Nations, and tribes of savages from lands so remote that they carried no guns, but warred with bows, spears, and tomahawks, and were clad in buffalo-robes instead of blankets. McKee in his speech to them did not incite them to war. On the contrary, he advised them, in guarded language, to make peace with the United States, but only upon terms consistent with their “honor and interest.” He assured them that, whatever they did, he wished to know what they desired, and that the sole purpose of the British was to promote the welfare of the confederated Indians. Such very cautious advice was not of a kind to promote peace; and the goods furnished the savages at the council included not only cattle, corn, and tobacco, but also quantities of powder and balls.
The chief interest of the British was to preserve the fur trade for their merchants, and it was mainly for this reason that they clung so tenaciously to the lake posts. For their purposes it was essential that the Indians should remain lords of the soil. They preferred to see the savages at peace with the Americans, provided that in this way they could keep their lands; but, whether through peace or war, they wished the lands to remain Indian, and the Americans to be barred from them. While they did not at the moment advise war, their advice to make peace was so faintly uttered and so hedged round with conditions as to be of no weight, and they furnished the Indians not only with provisions, but with munitions of war. While McKee and other British officers were at the Miami Rapids, holding councils with the Indians and issuing to them goods and weapons, bands of braves were continually returning from forays against the American frontier, bringing in scalps and prisoners; and the wilder subjects of the British King, like the Girtys, and some of the French from Detroit, went off with the war parties on their forays. The authorities at the capital of the new republic were deceived by the warmth with which the British insisted that they were striving to bring about a peace; but the frontiersmen were not deceived, and they were right in their belief that the British were really the mainstay and support of the Indians in their warfare.
Peace could only be won by the unsheathed sword. Even the national government was reluctantly driven to this view. As all the Northwestern tribes were banded in open war, it was useless to let the conflict remain a succession of raids and counter-raids. Only a severe stroke delivered by a formidable army could cow the tribes. It was hopeless to try to deliver such a crippling blow with militia alone, and it was very difficult for the infant government to find enough money or men to equip an army composed exclusively of regulars. Accordingly preparations were made for a campaign with a mixed force of regulars, special levies, and militia; and St. Clair, already Governor of the Northwestern Territory, was put in command of the army as Major-General.
Before the army was ready the Federal government was obliged to take other measures for the defence of the border. Small bodies of rangers were raised from among the frontier militia, being paid at the usual rate for soldiers in the army—a net sum of about two dollars a month while in service. In addition, on the repeated and urgent request of the frontiersmen, a few of the most active hunters and best woodsmen, men like Brady, were enlisted as scouts, being paid six or eight times the ordinary rate. These men, because of their skill in woodcraft and their thorough knowledge of Indian fighting, were beyond comparison more valuable than ordinary militia or regulars, and were prized very highly by the frontiersmen.
Besides thus organizing the local militia for defence, the President authorized the Kentuckians to undertake two offensive expeditions against the Wabash Indians, so as to prevent them from giving aid to the Miami tribes, whom St. Clair was to attack. Both expeditions were carried on by bands of mounted volunteers, such as had followed Clark on his various raids. The first was commanded by Brigadier-General Charles Scott; Colonel John Hardin led his advance-guard, and Wilkinson was second in command. Towards the end of May, Scott crossed the Ohio at the head of eight hundred horse-riflemen, and marched rapidly and secretly towards the Wabash towns. A mounted Indian discovered the advance of the Americans, and gave the alarm, and so most of the Indians escaped just as the Kentucky riders fell on the towns. But little resistance was offered by the surprised and outnumbered savages. Only five Americans were wounded, while of the Indians thirty-two were slain, as they fought or fled, and forty-one prisoners, chiefly women and children, were brought in, either by Scott himself, or by his detachments under Hardin and Wilkinson. Several towns were destroyed, and the growing corn cut down. There were not a few French living in the towns, in well-finished log houses, which were burned with the wigwams. The second expedition was under the command of Wilkinson, and consisted of over five hundred men. He marched in August, and repeated Scott’s feat, again burning down two or three towns, and destroying the goods and the crops. He lost three or four men killed or wounded, but killed ten Indians and captured some thirty. In both expeditions the volunteers behaved well, and committed no barbarous act, except that in the confusion of the actual onslaught a few non-combatants were slain. The Wabash Indians were cowed and disheartened by their punishment, and in consequence gave no aid to the Miami tribes; but beyond this the raids accomplished nothing, and brought no nearer the wished-for time of peace. Meanwhile St. Clair was striving vainly to hasten the preparations for his own far more formidable task. There was much delay in forwarding him the men and the provisions and munitions. Congress hesitated and debated; the Secretary of War, hampered by a newly created office and insufficient means, did not show to advantage in organizing the campaign, and was slow in carrying out his plans, while there was positive dereliction of duty on the part of the quartermaster, and the contractors proved both corrupt and inefficient. The army was often on short commons, lacking alike food for the men and fodder for the horses; the powder was poor, the axes useless, the tents and clothing nearly worthless, while the delays were so extraordinary that the troops did not make the final move from Fort Washington until mid-September.
St. Clair himself was broken in health; he was a sick, weak, elderly man, high-minded, and zealous to do his duty, but totally unfit for the terrible responsibilities of such an expedition against such foes. The troops were of wretched stuff. There were two small regiments of regular infantry, the rest of the army being composed of six months levies and of militia ordered out for this particular campaign. The pay was contemptible. Each private was given three dollars a month, from which ninety cents were deducted, leaving a net payment of two dollars and ten cents a month. Sergeants netted three dollars and sixty cents, while the lieutenants received twenty-two, the captains thirty, and the colonels sixty dollars. The mean parsimony of the nation in paying such low wages to men about to be sent on duties at once very arduous and very dangerous met its fit and natural reward. Men of good bodily powers and in the prime of life, and especially men able to do the rough work of frontier farmers, could not be hired to fight Indians in unknown forests for two dollars a month. Most of the recruits were from the streets and prisons of the seaboard cities. They were hurried into a campaign against peculiarly formidable foes before they had acquired the rudiments of a soldier’s training, and of course they never even understood what woodcraft meant. The officers were men of courage, as in the end most of them showed by dying bravely on the field of battle, but they were utterly untrained themselves, and had no time in which to train their men. Under such conditions it did not need keen vision to foretell disaster. Harmar had learned a bitter lesson the preceding year; he knew well what Indians could do and what raw troops could not, and he insisted with emphasis that the only possible outcome to St. Clair’s expedition was defeat.
As the raw troops straggled to Pittsburg they were shipped down the Ohio to Fort Washington; and St. Clair made the headquarters of his army at a new fort some twenty-five miles northward, which he christened Fort Hamilton. During September the army slowly assembled two small regiments of regulars, two of six months levies, a number of Kentucky militia, a few cavalry, and a couple of small batteries of light guns. After wearisome delays, due mainly to the utter inefficiency of the quartermaster and contractor, the start for the Indian towns was made on October the 4th. The army trudged slowly through the deep woods and across the wet prairies, cutting out its own road, and making but five or six miles a day. On October 13th a halt was made to build another little fort, christened in honor of Jefferson. There were further delays, caused by the wretched management of the commissariat department, and the march was not resumed until the 24th, the numerous sick being left in Fort Jefferson. Then the army once more stumbled northward through the wilderness. The regulars, though mostly raw recruits, had been reduced to some kind of discipline, but the six months levies were almost worse than the militia. Owing to the long delays, and to the fact that they had been enlisted at various times, their terms of service were expiring day by day, and they wished to go home, and tried to, while the militia deserted in squads and bands. Those that remained were very disorderly. Two who attempted to desert were hanged, and another, who shot a comrade, was hanged also; but even this severity in punishment failed to stop the demoralization.
With such soldiers there would have been grave risk of disaster under any commander, but St. Clair’s leadership made the risk a certainty. There was Indian sign, old and new, all through the woods, and the scouts and stragglers occasionally interchanged shots with small parties of braves, and now and then lost a man killed or captured. It was therefore certain that the savages knew every movement of the army, which, as it slowly neared the Miami towns, was putting itself within easy striking range of the most formidable Indian confederacy in the Northwest. The density of the forest was such that only the utmost watchfulness could prevent the foe from approaching within arm’s-length unperceived. It behooved St. Clair to be on his guard, and he had been warned by Washington, who had never forgotten the scenes of Braddock’s defeat, of the danger of a surprise. But St. Clair was broken down by the worry and by continued sickness; time and again it was doubtful whether he could do so much as stay with the army. The second in command, Major-General Richard Butler, was also sick most of the time, and, like St. Clair, he possessed none of the qualities of leadership save courage, The whole burden fell on the Adjutant-General, Colonel Winthrop Sargent, an old Revolutionary officer; without him the expedition would probably have failed in ignominy even before the Indians were reached; and he showed not only cool courage, but ability of a good order; yet in the actual arrangements for battle he was of course unable to remedy the blunders of his superiors.
St. Clair should have covered his front and flanks for miles around with scouting parties; but he rarely sent any out, and, thanks to letting the management of those that did go devolve on his subordinates, and to not having their reports made to him in person, he derived no benefit from what they saw. He had twenty Chickasaws with him, but he sent these off on an extended trip, lost touch of them entirely, and never saw them again until after the battle. He did not seem to realize that he was himself in danger of attack. When some fifty miles or so from the Miami towns, on the last day of October, sixty of the militia deserted; and he actually sent back after them one of his two regular regiments, thus weakening by one-half the only trustworthy portion of his force.
On November 3d the doomed army, now reduced to a total of about fourteen hundred men, camped on the eastern fork of the Wabash, high up, where it was but twenty yards wide. There was snow on the ground, and the little pools were skimmed with ice. The camp was on a narrow rise of ground, where the troops were cramped together, the artillery and most of the horse in the middle. On both flanks and along most of the real the ground was low and wet. All about the wintry woods lay in frozen silence. In front the militia were thrown across the creek, and nearly a quarter of a mile beyond the rest of the troops. Parties of Indians were seen during the afternoon, and they skulked around the lines at night, so that the sentinels frequently fired at them; yet neither St. Clair nor Butler took any adequate measures to ward off the impending blow. It is improbable that, as things actually were at this time, they could have won a victory over their terrible foes, but they might have avoided overwhelming disaster.
On November 4th the men were under arms, as usual, by dawn, St. Clair intending to throw up intrenchments and then make a forced march in light order against the Indian towns. But he was forestalled. Soon after sunrise, just as the men were dismissed from parade, a sudden assault was made upon the militia, who lay unprotected beyond the creek. The unexpectedness and fury of the onset, the heavy firing, and the wild whoops and yells of the throngs of painted savages threw the militia into disorder. After a few moments’ resistance they broke and fled in wild panic to the camp of the regulars, among whom they drove in a frightened herd, spreading dismay and confusion.
The drums beat, and the troops sprang to arms as soon as they heard the heavy firing at the front, and their volleys for a moment checked the onrush of the plumed woodland warriors. But the check availed nothing. The braves filed off to one side and the other, completely surrounded the camp, killed or drove in the guards and pickets, and then advanced close to the main lines.
Each charge seemed for a moment to be successful, the Indians rising in swarms and running in headlong flight from the bayonets. In one of the earliest, in which Colonel Darke led his battalion, the Indians were driven several hundred yards across the branch of the Wabash; but when the colonel halted and rallied his men he found that the savages had closed in behind him, and he had to fight his way back,
A furious battle followed. After the first onset the Indians fought in silence, no sound coming from them save the incessant rattle of their fire as they crept from log to log, from tree to tree, ever closer and closer. The soldiers stood in close order in the open; their musketry and artillery fire made a tremendous noise, but did little damage to a foe they could hardly see. Now and then, through the hanging smoke, terrible figures flitted, painted black and red, the feathers of hawk and eagle braided in their long scalp locks; but, save for these glimpses, the soldiers knew the presence of their somber enemy only from the fearful rapidity with which their comrades fell dead and wounded in the ranks. They never even knew the numbers or leaders of the Indians. At the time it was supposed that they outnumbered the whites; but it is probable that the reverse was the case, and it may even be that they were not more than half as numerous. It is said that the chief who led them, both in council and battle, was Little Turtle the Miami. At any rate there were present all the chiefs and picked warriors of the Delawares, Shawnees, Wyandots, and Miamies, and all the most reckless and adventurous young braves from among the Iroquois and the Indians of the upper lakes, as well as many of the ferocious whites and half-breeds who dwelt in the Indian villages.
At first the army, as a whole, fought firmly; indeed, there was no choice, for it was ringed by a wall of flame. The officers behaved very well, cheering and encouraging their men, but they were the special targets of the Indians, and fell rapidly. St. Clair and Butler, by their cool fearlessness in the hour of extreme peril, made some amends for their shortcomings as commanders. They walked up and down the lines from flank to flank, passing and repassing one another; for the two lines of battle were facing outward, and each general was busy trying to keep his wing from falling back. St. Clair’s clothes were pierced by eight bullets, but he was himself untouched. He wore a blanket coat with a hood; he had a long queue, and his thick gray hair flowed from under his three-cornered hat; a lock of his hair was carried off by a bullet. Several times he headed the charges, sword in hand. General Butler had his arm broken early in the fight, but he continued to walk to and fro along the line, his coat off, and the wounded arm in a sling. Another bullet struck him in the side, inflicting a mortal wound, and he was carried to the middle of the camp, where he sat propped up by knapsacks. Men and horses were falling around him at every moment. St. Clair sent an aide, Lieutenant Ebenezer Denny, to ask how he was; he displayed no anxiety, and answered that he felt well. While speaking, a young cadet, who stood nearby, was hit on the knee-cap by a spent ball, and at the shock cried aloud, whereat the general laughed so that his wounded side shook. The aide left him, and there is no further certain record of his fate, except that he was slain; but it is said that in one of the Indian rushes a warrior bounded towards him and sunk the tomahawk in his brain before anyone could interfere.
Instead of being awed by the bellowing artillery, the Indians made the gunner a special object of attack. Man after man was picked off, until every officer was killed but one, who was wounded, and most of the privates also were slain or disabled. The artillery was thus almost silenced; and the Indians, emboldened by success, swarmed forward and seized the guns, while at the same time a part of the left wing of the army began to shrink back. But the Indians were now on comparatively open ground, where the regulars could see them and get at them, and under St. Clair’s own leadership the troops rushed fiercely at the savages with fixed bayonets, and drove them back to cover. By this time the confusion and disorder were great, while from every hollow and grass-patch, from behind every stump and tree and fallen log, the Indians continued their fire. Again and again the officers led forward the troops in bayonet charges, and at first the men followed them with a will. Each charge seemed for a moment to be successful, the Indians rising in swarms and running in headlong flight from the bayonets. In one of the earliest, in which Colonel Darke led his battalion, the Indians were driven several hundred yards across the branch of the Wabash; but when the colonel halted and rallied his men he found that the savages had closed in behind him, and he had to fight his way back, while the foe he had been driving at once turned and harassed his rear. He was himself wounded, and lost most of his command. On re-entering camp he found the Indians again in possession of the artillery and baggage, from which they were again driven; they had already scalped the slain who lay about the guns. Major Thomas Butler had his thigh broken by a bullet, but he continued on horseback in command of his battalion until the end of the fight, and led his men in one of the momentarily successful bayonet charges. The only regular regiment present lost every officer, killed or wounded. The commander of the Kentucky militia, Colonel Oldham, was killed early in the action, while trying to rally his men. The charging troops could accomplish nothing permanent. The men were too clumsy and ill trained in forest warfare to overtake their fleet, half-naked antagonists. The latter never received the shock; but though they fled, they were nothing daunted, for they turned the instant the battalion did, and followed firing. They skipped out of reach of the bayonets and came back as they pleased, and they were only visible when raised by a charge.
Among the pack-horse men were some who were accustomed to the use of the rifle and to life in the woods, and these fought well. One named Benjamin Van Cleve kept a journal, in which he described what he saw of the fight. He had no gun, but five minutes after the firing began he saw a soldier near him with his arm swinging useless, and he borrowed the wounded man’s musket and cartridges. The smoke had settled to within three feet of the ground, so he knelt, covering himself behind a tree, and only fired when he saw an Indian’s head, or noticed one running from cover to cover. He fired away all his ammunition, and the bands of his musket flew off; he picked up another just as two levy officers ordered a charge, and followed the charging party at a run. By this time the battalions were broken, and only some thirty men followed the officers. The Indians fled before the bayonets, until they reached a ravine filled with down timber, whereupon they halted behind the impenetrable tangle of fallen logs. The soldiers also halted, and were speedily swept away by the fire of the Indians, whom they could not reach; but Van Cleve, showing his skill as a woodsman, covered himself behind a small tree, and gave back shot for shot, until all his ammunition was gone. Before this happened his less skilful companions had been slain or driven off, and he ran at full speed back to camp. Here he found the artillery had been taken and retaken again and again. Stricken men lay in heaps everywhere, and the charging troops were once more driving the Indians across the creek in front of the camp. Van Cleve noticed that the dead officers and soldiers who were lying about the guns had all been scalped, and that the Indians had not been in a hurry, for their hair was all skinned off.” Another of the packers who took part in the fight, one Thomas Irwin, was struck with the spectacle offered by the slaughtered artillerymen, and with gruesome homeliness compared the reeking heads to pumpkins in a December corn-field.
As the officers fell, the soldiers, who at first stood up bravely enough, gradually grew disheartened. No words can paint the hopelessness and horror of such a struggle as that in which they were engaged. They were hemmed in by foes who showed no mercy, and whose blows they could in no way return. If they charged they could not overtake the Indians, and the instant the charge stopped the Indians came back. If they stood, they were shot down by an unseen enemy; and there was no stronghold, no refuge, to which to flee. The Indian attack was relentless, and could neither be avoided, parried, nor met by counter-assault. For two hours or so the troops kept up a slowly lessening resistance, but by degrees their hearts failed. The wounded had been brought towards the middle of the lines, where the baggage and tents were, and an ever-growing proportion of new wounded men joined them. In vain the officers tried, by encouragement, by jeers, by blows, to drive them back to the fight. They were unnerved. As in all cases where large bodies of men are put in imminent peril of death, whether by shipwreck, plague, fire, or violence, numbers were swayed by a mad panic of utterly selfish fear, and others became numbed and callous, or snatched at any animal gratification during their last moments. Many soldiers crowded round the fires and stood stunned and confounded by the awful calamity; many broke into the officers’ marquees and sought for drink, or devoured the food which the rightful owners had left when the drums beat to arms.
There was but one thing to do. If possible the remnant of the army must be saved, and it could only be saved by instant flight, even at the cost of abandoning the wounded. The broad road by which the army had advanced was the only line of retreat. The artillery had already been spiked and abandoned. Most of the horses had been killed, but a few were still left, and on one of these St. Clair mounted. He gathered together those fragments of the different battalions which contained the few men who still kept heart and head, and ordered them to charge and regain the road from which the savages had cut them off. Repeated orders were necessary before some of the men could be roused from their stupor sufficiently to follow the charging party, and they were only induced to move when told that it was to retreat. Colonel Darke and a few officers placed themselves at the head of the column, the coolest and boldest men drew up behind them, and they fell on the Indians with such fury as to force them back well beyond the road. This made an opening, through which, said Van Cleve the packer, the rest of the troops “pressed like a drove of bullocks.” The Indians were surprised by the vigor of the charge, and puzzled as to its object; they opened out on both sides, and half the men had gone through before they fired more than a chance shot or two. They then fell on the rear and began a hot pursuit. St. Clair sent his aide, Denny, to the front to try to keep order, but neither he nor anyone else could check the flight. Major Clark tried to rally his battalion to cover the retreat, but he was killed and the effort abandoned.
Colonel Darke and a few officers placed themselves at the head of the column, the coolest and boldest men drew up behind them, and they fell on the Indians with such fury as to force them back well beyond the road.
St. Clair was himself in much danger, for he tried to stay behind and stem the torrent of fugitives; but he failed, being swept forward by the crowd; and when he attempted to ride to the front to rally them, he failed again, for his horse could not be pricked out of a walk. The packer Van Cleve in his journal gives a picture of the rout. He was himself one of the few who lost neither courage nor generosity in the rout.
Before reaching Fort Jefferson the wretched army encountered the regular regiment which had been so unfortunately detached a couple of days before the battle. The most severely wounded were left in the fort, and then the flight was renewed, until the disorganized and half-armed rabble reached Fort Washington and the mean log huts of Cincinnati. Six hundred and thirty men had been killed, and over two hundred and eighty wounded; less than five hundred, only about a third of the whole number engaged in the battle, remained unhurt. But one or two were taken prisoners, for the Indians butchered everybody, wounded or unwounded, who fell into their hands. There is no record of the torture of any of the captives, but there was one singular instance of cannibalism. The savage Chippewas from the far-off North devoured one of the slain soldiers, probably in a spirit of ferocious bravado; the other tribes expressed horror at the deed, The Indians were rich with the spoil. They got horses, tents, guns, axes, powder, clothing, and blankets—in short, everything their hearts prized. Their loss was comparatively slight; it may not have been one-twentieth that of the whites. They did not at the moment follow up their victory, each band going off with its own share of the booty. But the triumph was so overwhelming and the reward so great that the war spirit received a great impetus in all the tribes. The bands of warriors that marched against the frontier were more numerous, more formidable, and bolder than ever.
In the following January Wilkinson with a hundred and fifty mounted volunteers marched to the battle-field to bury the slain. The weather was bitterly cold; snow lay deep on the ground, and some of the volunteers were frost-bitten. Four miles from the scene of the battle, where the pursuit had ended, they began to find the bodies on the road, and close alongside in the woods, whither some of the hunted creatures had turned at the last to snatch one more moment of life. Many had been dragged from under the snow and devoured by wolves. The others lay where they had fallen, showing as mounds through the smooth white mantle that covered them. On the battle-field itself the slain lay thick, scalped, and stripped of all their clothing which the conquerors deemed worth taking. The bodies, blackened by frost and exposure, could not be identified, and they were buried in a shallow trench in the frozen ground. The volunteers then marched home.
When the remnant of the defeated army reached the banks of the Ohio, St. Clair sent his aide, Denny, to carry the news to Philadelphia, at that time the national capital. The river was swollen, there were incessant snow-storms, and ice formed heavily, so that it took twenty days of toil and cold before Denny reached Wheeling and got horses. For ten days more he rode over the bad winter roads, reaching Philadelphia with the evil tidings on the evening of December 19th. It was thus six weeks after the defeat of the army before the news was brought to the anxious Federal authorities. The young officer called first on the Secretary of War; but as soon as the Secretary realized the importance of the information he had it conveyed to the President. Washington was at dinner, with some guests, and was called from the table to listen to the tidings of ill fortune. He returned with unmoved face, and at the dinner and at the reception which followed he behaved with his usual stately courtesy to those whom he was entertaining, not so much as hinting at what he had heard. But when the last guest had gone, his pent-up wrath broke forth in one of those fits of volcanic fury which sometimes shattered his iron outward calm. Walking up and down the room, he burst out in wild regret for the rout and disaster, and bitter invective against St. Clair, reciting how in that very room he had wished the unfortunate commander success and honor, and had bidden him above all things beware of a surprise. “He went off with that last solemn warning thrown into his ears,” spoke Washington, as he strode to and fro, “and yet to suffer that army to be cut to pieces, hacked, butchered, tomahawked, by a surprise, the very thing I guarded him against! Oh God! Oh God! He’s worse than a murderer! How can he answer it to his country?” Then, calming himself by a mighty effort, “General St. Clair shall have justice . . . he shall have full justice.” And St. Clair did receive full justice, and mercy too, from both Washington and Congress. For the sake of his courage and honorable character they held him guiltless of the disaster, for which his lack of capacity as a general was so largely accountable.
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
Pension Application of James Johnston
Giles County Ss.
On this 27th day of August 1832 personally appeared before the Justice of the County Court of Giles County being a Court of record James Johnston Sen’r a resident of the County of Giles and State of Virginia aged Seventy Seven in January next who being first duly sworn according to Law doth on his Oath make the following declaration in Order to obtain the benefit of the provision made by the Act of Congress passed June 7th 1832. Johnston’s family lived in Culpeper County when the Revolution began but moved, probably after his discharge, to what was then part of Fincastle County. Fincastle was broken up late in 1776 and later divided further into many counties. Giles County was created in 1806 and now borders the bottom of West Virginia.
That he enlisted in the Army of the United States in January 1776 and the term of his enlistment was for the term of two years and that he served in the 8th Virginia Regiment. Johnston enlisted on January 26, 1776. Two years was the standard enlistment for Virginia provincial and Continental soldiers in 1776. The 8th Virginia was a provincial regiment when it was created, and was not brought into Continental service until August (retroactively to May).
That the Company marched to the town of Suffolk in the County of ______. He was there attached to the Battallion Commanded by Maj’r Peter Helverson and the Regiment commanded by Col Mulenburg at which place he with The Regiment remained for some weeks. Suffolk, a little west of Norfolk, was the designated rendezvous point for the regiment. Suffolk was then in Nansemond County. Battalions were sometimes divisions of regiments, but in the Continental Army were almost always functionally synonymous with regiments. Johnston was detached at least once with Helphenstine, which probably explains his characterization.
From thence they marched to Charleston in South Carolina. From Charleston they were conveyed to Hattens point opposite Fort Sullivan—and at the time and on the day the attack was made on Fort Sullivan, he was marched to the lower point of Sullivans island. He together with the detachment then commanded by Maj’r Helverson threw up small breast works for the purpose of preventing the British from Landing at that point. A small skirmish then ensued between us and we prevented the greater part of the British from Landing. Some of them, however, succeeded but were soon driven back to their boats. And after lying several days on the lower end of Sullivans island we returned to Hattens point and joined the remainder of our Regiment which we had left at the place. The regiment left with Maj. Gen. Charles Lee for South Carolina in May, arriving in June. “Hattens Point” is Haddrell’s Point between Charleston and Sullivan’s Island. A number of 8th Virginia men reinforced South Carolina troops on the north end of Sullivan’s Island to fend off an enemy crossing of the “Breach Inlet” while enemy warships bombarded Fort Sullivan (later Fort Moultrie) on the south end. Most accounts discount the action at the Breach Inlet as insignificant, summarizing that the British had misgauged the depth of the water and failed to cross. Johnston, however, indicates that the enemy made a concerted effort to cross and that some succeeded before being driven back.
We then crossed back to Charleston and stayed some days in Charleston, at which place Maj’r Helverson left on detachment. Helphenstine, along with a great number of soldiers, succumbed to malaria, which was endemic to the region and against which most 8th Virginia soldiers had no developed resistance. Helphenstine resigned and returned to his home in Winchester where he eventually died from complications of the disease.
We were then march to Savanna in Georgia where we halted a short time, and was then marched to Sunsberry and remained sometime at that place, and then returned to Savannah and halted there till about the 6th of December. General Lee took the southern army farther south to attack the Tory haven of St. Augustine in the new province of East Florida (acquired from Spain at the end of the French & Indian War). Supply problems, malaria, and Lee’s recall to the north foiled the plan. They made it as far as Sunbury, Georgia. A number of soldiers died in Sunbury of malaria.
From Winchester we were marched to Philadelphia (and a part of the detachment who was inoculated for the small pox remained there till sometime in May). The entire Continental Army was inoculated early in 1777. Soldiers who had previously had the disease were exempt.
We were then marched to Bonbrook or Middlebrook not recollected which in New Jersey and was attached to Gen’. Scotts brigade, and continued with the Main Army commanded by Gen’l Washington for some time. The regiment began collecting together at Boundbrook, N.J. in April and then moved to the camp at Middlebrook on May 25. It was assigned to Brig. Gen. Charles Scott’s brigade, along with the 4th Virginia, the 12th Virginia, Grayson’s Additional, and Patton’s Additional regiments. Scott’s brigade was one of two that made up Maj. Gen. Adam Stephen’s division.
I was then attached to a Company of Light infantry and sent to the Iron hills near the head of Elk under the Command of Genl. Sullivan we had a small skirmish with the British. We then returned to the main army and I joined my own regiment on the Evening before the battle of Brandywine. I fought in the battle of Brandywine which took place some time in September. On August 28, each brigade sent picked men to form a light infantry battalion under Brig. Gen. William Maxwell, who Johnston misidentifies as John Sullivan. Maxwell’s Light Infantry existed for one month and fought in Delaware at Cooch’s Bridge (Iron Hill) on Sept. 3 and Brandywine in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11. “Head of Elk” is now Elkton, Maryland. Johnston reports that he returned to Capt. Slaughter’s company before Brandywine, but does not state the reason.
We were then marched to Philadelphia and stayed there about two days – then marched to Riding furnace in Pennsylvania and was continued marching in different directions through the country near Philadelphia til about the first of October. After Brandywine, the army retreated to Chester, Pa. and then crossed the Schuylkill to Philadelphia before heading west along the river to block the enemy from crossing it. The Schuylkill was the last natural barrier between the British and Philadelphia, the seat of Congress. After the “Battle of the Clouds” ended in a torrential downpour, Washington’s army was rested and re-equipped at Reading Furnace, in northwest Chester County (not to be confused with the city of Reading, which is twenty miles to the north). After a feint, the British made it across and took Philadelphia.
We were then marched to Germantown and I fought in the battle of German town. The Battle of Germantown occurred on October 4. A chance for victory was ruined in part because of a friendly fire incident between General Scott’s brigade and Anthony Wayne’s Pennsylvania brigade. Maj. Gen. Adam Stephen was blamed for it. Stephen was cashiered and replaced with the Marquis de Lafayette.
We were then marched in different directions through the country near Germantown and Philadelphia watching the movements of the enemy til sometime about the last of November or first of Dec’r and then took up our Winter quarters at the Vally forge in the state of Pennsylvania until I was discharged by Brigadier Gen’l Scott about the Latter part of January or first of February 1778. having served a few days more than two years. After Germantown, the army camped at three different places northwest of Philadelphia before a series skirmishes known as the Battle of Whitemarsh early in December. The army then went into winter encampment at Valley Forge on December 19. Johnston’s two-year enlistment expired on January 26, 1778 but he reports remaining a little longer.
He hereby relinquishes every claim whatever to a pension or an annuity except the present and he declares that his name is not on the pension roll of an agency of any state.
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
Even before there were any Virginia Continental regiments, Craig signed on to help lead one of the Old Dominion’s independent frontier companies. He was a lieutenant under Capt. William Russell in a company that ranged the southwest Virginia frontier from 1775 to 1776. In 1776 he joined Capt. James Knox in forming a Fincastle County company assigned to the 8th Virginia Regiment. After a year serving in the south, he and Knox were selected to lead a company in Daniel Morgan’s elite rifle battalion. With Morgan and Knox, he played a key role in the defeat of Gen. John Burgoyne at Saratoga—the first major American victory and the event that persuaded the French to openly support the cause.
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
Artifacts & Memorials
Brandywine & Germantown
Charleston & Sunbury
Other Revolutionary War
Trenton & Princeton
Valley Forge & Monmouth