Chapter V - West Virginia in the Revolution

History of Hampshire County West Virginia From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present
By Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher
Morgantown, West Virginia; A. Brown Boughner Printer; 1897

PART 1 State History
Pages 60-73

The territory of the present state of West Virginia was not invaded by a British army, except one company of fifty, during the war for American independence. Its remote position made it safe from attack from the east; but this very remoteness rendered it doubly liable to invasion from the west where Great Britain had made allies of the Indians, and had armed and supplied them, and had sent them against the frontiers from Canada to Florida, with full license to kill man, woman and child. No part of America suffered more from the savages than West Virginia. Great Britain's purpose in employing Indians on the frontiers was to harrass the remote country, and not only keep at home all the inhabitants for defense of their settlements, but also to make it necessary that soldiers be sent to the west who otherwise might be employed in opposing the British nearer the sea coast. Notwithstanding West Virginia's exposed frontier on the west, it sent many soldiers to the Continental army. West Virginians were on almost every battlefield of the revolution. The portion of the state east of the Alleghanies, now forming Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Hampshire, Hardy, Grant, Mineral and Pendleton counties, was not invaded by Indians during the revolution, and from this region large numbers of soldiers joined the armies under Washington, Gates, Greene and other patriots.

As early as November 5, 1774, an important meeting was held by West Virginians in which they clearly indicated under which banner they would be found fighting, if Great Britain persisted in her course of oppression. This was the first meeting of the kind west of the Alleghanies, and but few similar meeting's had then been held anywhere. It occurred during the return of Dunmore's army from Ohio, twenty-five days after the battle of Point Pleasant. The soldiers had heard of the danger of war with England; and, although they were under the command of Dunmore, a royal governor, they were not afraid to let the country know that neither a royal governor nor any one else could swerve them from their duty as patriots and lovers of liberty. The meeting was held at Fort Gower, north of the Ohio river, while on the homeward march from the Indian country. The soldiers passed resolutions which had the right ring. They recited that they were willing and able to bear all hardships of the woods; to get along for weeks without bread or salt, if necessary; to sleep in the open air; to dress in skins if nothing else could be had; to march further in a day than any other men in the world; to use the rifle with skill and with bravery. They affirmed their zeal in the cause of right, and promised continued allegiance to the king of England, provided that he would reign over them as a brave and free people. "But," they continued "as attachment to the real interests and just rights of America outweigh every other consideration, we resolve that we will exert every power within us for the defence of American liberty, when regularly called forth by the unanimous voice of our countrymen." It was such spirit as this, manifested on every occasion during the revolution, which prompted Washington in the darkest year of the war to exclaim that, if driven from every point east of the Blue ridge, he would retire west of the mountains and there raise the standard of liberty and bid defiance to the armies of Great Britain.

At two meetings held May 16, 1775, one at Fort Pitt, the other at Hannastown, several West Virginians were present and took part in the proceedings. Resolutions were passed by which the people west of the mountains pledged their support to the Continental congress, and expressed their purpose of resisting the tyranny of the mother country. In 1775 a number of men from the valley of the Monongahela joined Washington's army before Boston; but how many and from what part of the valley they came is not known. The number of soldiers who went forward from the eastern part of the state was large.

There were a few persons in West Virginia who adhered to the cause of England; and who from time to time gave trouble to the patriots; but the promptness with which their attempted risings were crushed is proof that traitors were in a hopeless minority. The patriots considered them as enemies and dealt harshly with them. There were two attempted uprising's in West Virginia, one in the Monongahela valley, which the inhabitants of that region were able to suppress, the other uprising was on the South branch of the Potomac, in what is now Hardy and Grant counties, and troops were sent from the Shenandoah valley to put it down. In the Monongahela valley several of the tories were arrested and sent to Richmond. It is recorded that the leader was drowned in Cheat river while crossing under guard on his way to Richmond. Two men of the Morgan family were his guard. The boat upset while crossing the river. It was the general impression of the citizens of the community that the upsetting was not accidental. The guards did not want to take the long journey to Richmond while their homes and the homes of their neighbors were exposed to attacks from Indians. The tory uprising on the South branch was much more serious. The first indication of trouble was given by their refusal to pay their taxes, or to furnish their quota of men for the militia. Complaint was made by the sheriff of Hampshire county, and Colonel Vanmeter with thirty men was sent to enforce the collection of taxes. The tories armed themselves, to the number of fifty, for resistance, and placed themselves under the leadership of John Brake, a German whose house was above Petersburg, in what is now Grant county. These enemies of their country had made his place their rendezvous. They met the militia from Hampshire, but no fight took place. Apparently each side was afraid to begin. There was a parley in which Colonel Vanmeter pointed out to the tories the consequence which must follow, if they persisted in their present course. He advised them to disperse, go to their homes and conduct themselves as law abiding citizens. He left them and marched home.

The disloyal element grew in strength and insolence. They imagined that the authorities were afraid and would not again interfere with them. They organized a company, elected John Claypole their captain, and prepared to march off and join the British forces. General Morgan was at that time at his home in Frederick county, and he collected militia to the number of four hundred, crossed the mountain and fell on the tories in such dead earnest that they lost all their enthusiasm for the cause of Great Britain. Claypole was taken prisoner, and William Baker, who refused to surrender, was shot, but not killed. Later a man named Mace was killed. Brake was overawed; and after two days spent in the neighborhood, the militia, under General Morgan, returned home. The tories were crushed. A number of them were so ashamed of what they had done that they joined the American army and fought as patriots till the close of the war, thus endeavoring to redeem their lost reputations.

The contrast between the conduct of the tories on the South branch and the patriotic devotion of the people on the Greenbrier is marked. Money was so scarce that the Greenbrier settlers could not pay their taxes, although willing to do so. They fell delinquent four years in succession and to the amount of thirty thousand dollars. They were willing to perform labor, if arrangements could be made to do it. Virginia agreed to the proposition, and the people of Greenbrier built a road from Lewisburg to the Kanawha river in payment of their taxes.

The chief incidents in West Virginia's history during the revolutionary war were connected with the Indian troubles. The state was invaded three times by forces large enough to be called armies; and the incursions by smaller parties were so numerous that the mere mention of them would form a list of murders, ambuscades and personal encounters of tedious and monotonous length. The first invasion occurred in 1777 when Fort Henry, now Wheeling, was attacked; the second, 1778, when Fort Randolph, now Point Pleasant, was besieged for one week, the Indians moving as far east as Greenbrier county, where Donnolly's fort was attacked; the third invasion was in 1782, when Fort Henry was again attacked by Indians under the leadership of Simon Girty. The multitude of incursions by Indians must be passed over briefly. The custom of the savages was to make their way into a settlement, and either lie in wait along paths and shoot those who attempted to pass, or break into houses and murder the inmates, or take them prisoner, and then make off hastily for the Ohio river. Once across that stream, pursuit was not probable.

The custom of the Indians to take prisoners, and their great exertion to accomplish that purpose, is a difficult thing to explain. Prisoners were of little or no use to them. They did not make slaves of them. If they sometimes received money as ransom for captives, the hope of ransom money seems seldom or never to have prompted them to carry prisoners to their towns. They sometimes showed a liking, if not affection, for captives adopted into their tribes and families; but this kindly feeling was shallow and treacherous; and Indians would not hesitate to burn at the stake a captive who had been treated as one of their family for months, if they should take it into their heads that revenge for injuries received from others called for a sacrifice. The Indians followed no rule or precedent as to which of their captives they would kill and which carry to their towns. They sometimes killed children and spared adults, and sometimes the reverse.

The year 1777 is called in border history the "bloody year of the three sevens." The British sent against the frontiers every Indian who could be prevailed upon to go. Few settlements from New York to Florida escaped. In this state the most harm was done on the Monongahela and along the Ohio in the vicinity of Wheeling. Monongalia county was visited, twice by the savages that year, and a number of persons were killed. A party of twenty invaded what is now Randolph county, killed a number of settlers, took several prisoners and made their escape. It was on November 10 of this year that Cornstalk, the Shawnee nee chief, was assassinated at Point Pleasant by militiamen who assembled there from Greenbrier and elsewhere for the purpose of marching against the Indian towns. Earlier in the year Cornstalk had. come to Fort Randolph, at Point Pleasant, on a visit, and also to inform the commandant of the fort that the British were inciting the Indians to war, and that his own tribe, the Shawnees, would likely be swept along with the current, in spite of his efforts to keep them at home. Under these circumstances the commandant of the fort thought it best to detain Cornstalk as a hostage to insure the neutrality of his tribe. It does not seem that the venerable chief was unwilling to remain. He wanted peace. Some time after that his son came to see him, and crossed the Ohio, after making his presence known by hallooing from the other side. The next day two of the militiamen crossed the Ohio to hunt, and one was killed by an Indian. The other gave the alarm, and the militiamen crossed the river and brought in the body of the dead man. The soldiers believed that the Indian who had committed the deed had come the day before with Cornstalk's son, and had lain concealed until an opportunity occurred to kill a man. The soldiers were enraged, and started up the river bank toward the cabin where Cornstalk resided, announcing that they would kill the Indians. There were with Cornstalk his son and another Indian, Red Eagle. A sister of Cornstalk, known as the Grenadier Squaw, had lived at the fort sometime as interpreter. She hastened to the cabin and urged her brother to make his escape. He might have done so, but refused, and admonished his son to die like a man. The soldiers arrived at that time and fired. All three Indians were killed. The leaders of the men who did it were afterwards given the semblance of a trial in Virginia, and were acquited.

It is the opinion of those acquainted with border history that the murder of Cornstalk brought more suffering upon the West Virginia frontier than any other event of that time. Had he lived, he would perhaps have been able to hold the Shawnees in check. Without the cooperation of that blood-thirsty tribe the border war of the succeeding years would have been different. Four years later Colonel Crawford, who had been taken prisoner, was put to death with extreme torture in revenge for the murder of Cornstalk.

Fort Henry was besieged September 1, 1777, by four hundred Indians. General Hand, of Fort Pitt, had been informed that the Indians were preparing for an attack in large numbers upon some point of the frontier, and the settlements between Pittsburg and Point Pleasant were placed on their guard. Scouts were sent out to discover the advance of the Indians in time to give the alarm. But the scouts discovered no Indians. It is now known that the savages had advanced in small parties, avoiding trails, and had united near Wheeling, crossed the Ohio a short distance below that place, and on the night of the last day of August approached Fort Henry, and setting ambuscades near it, waited for daylight. Fort Henry was made of logs set on end in the ground, in the manner of pickets, and about seventeen feet high. There were port holes through which to lire. The garrison consisted of less than forty men, the majority of whom lived in Wheeling and the immediate vicinity. Early in the morning of September 1 the Indians decoyed Captain Samuel Mason with fourteen men into the field some distance from the fort, and killed all but three. Captain Mason alone reached the fort, and two of his men succeeded in hiding, and finally escaped. When the Indians attacked Mason's men, the firing* was heard at the fort, together with the yells of the savages. Captain Joseph Ogle with twelve men sallied out to assist Mason. He was surrounded and nine of his men were killed. There were only about a dozen men remaining in the fort to resist the attack of four hundred Indians, flushed with victory. There were perhaps one hundred women and children in the stockade.

In a short time the Indians advanced against the fort, with drum and fife, and the British flag waving over them. It is not known who was leader. He was a white man, or at least there was a white man among them who seemed to be leader. Many old frontier histories, as well as the testimony of these who were present, united in the assertian that the Indians at this siege were led by Simon Girty. It is strange that this mistake could have been made, for it was a mistake. Simon Girty was not there. He was at that time, and for nearly five months afterwards, at Fort Pitt, serving in garrison duty, and did not desert till February, 1778, when with Elliott, McKee and two or three others, he ran away and proceeded at once to the Indian towns in Ohio where he soon became a leader of the savages.

The commander of the Indian army posted himself in the window of a house within hearing of the fort, and read the proclamation of Governor Hamilton, of Detroit, offering Great Britain's protection in case of surrender, but massacre it case of resistance. Colonel Shepherd, commandant of the fort, replied that the garrison would not surrender. The leader was insisting upon the impossibility of holding out, when his words were cut short by a shot fired at him from the fort. He was not struck. The Indians began the assault with a rush for the fort gate. They tried to break it open; and failing in this, they endeavored to push the posts of the stockade down. They could make no impression on the wall. The fire of the garrison was deadly, and the savages recoiled. They charged again and again, some times trying to break down the walls with battering rams, attempting to set them on fire; and then sending their best marksman to pick off the garrison by shooting through the port holes. In course of time the deadly aim of those in the fort taught the savages a wholesome caution. Women fought as well as men. The battle raged two nights and two days; but all attempts of the Indians to burn the fort or break into it were unavailing. They killed many of the cattle about the settlement, partly for food, partly from wantonness. They burned nearly all the houses and barns in Wheeling. The savages were preparing for another assault when Colonel Andrew Swearengen with fourteen men landed near the fort and gained an entrance. Shortly afterwards Major Samuel McColloch at the head of forty men arrived, and after a severe fight, all reached the fort except McColloch who was cut off, but made his escape. The Indians now despaired of success, and raised the siege. No person in the fort was killed. The loss of the Indians was estimated at forty or fifty.

In September of this year, 1777, Captain William Foreman, of Hampshire county, with about twenty men of that county, who had gone to Wheeling to assist in fighting the savages, was ambushed and killed at Grave creek, below Wheeling by Indians supposed to have been a portion of those who had besieged Fort Henry.

The next year, 1778, was one of intense excitement on I the frontier. An Indian force, of about two hundred, attacked Fort Randolph, at the mouth of the Kanawha, in May, and besieged the place one week. The enemy made several attempts to carry it by storm. But they were unsuccessful. They then moved off, up the Kanawha, in the direction of Greenbrier. Two soldiers from Fort Randolph eluded the savages; overtook them within twenty miles of the Greenbrier settlement; passed them that night, and alarmed the people just in time for them to flee to the blockhouses. Donnally's fort stood within two miles of the present village of Frankfort in Greenbrier county. Twenty men with their families took shelter there. At Lewisburg, ten miles distant, perhaps one hundred men had assembled with their families. The Indians apparently knew which was the weaker fort, and accordingly proceeded against Donnally's upon which they made an attack at daybreak. One of the men had gone out for kindling wood and had left the gate open. The Indians killed this man, and made a rush for the fort, and crowded into the yard. While some crawled under the floor, hoping to gain an entrance by that means, others climbed to the roof. Still others began hewing the door which had been hurriedly closed. All the men in the fort were asleep, except one white man and a negro slave. As the savages were forcing open the door, the foremost was killed with a tomahawk by the white man, and the negro discharged a musket loaded with heavy shot into the faces of the Indians. The men in the fort were awakened and fired through the port holes. Seventeen savages were killed in the yard. The others fell back, and contented themselves with firing at longer rage. In the afternoon sixty six men arrived from Lewisburg, and the Indians were forced to raise the siege. Their expedition to Greenbrier had been a more signal failure than the attempt on Fort Randolph.

The country along the Monongahela was invaded three times in the year 1778, and once the following year. Few settlements within one hundred miles of the Ohio river escaped. In 1780 Greenbrier was again paid a visit by the savages; and in this year their raids extended eastward, into Randolph county, and to Cheat river in Tucker county, to the very base of the Alleghany mountains. The Monongahela valley, as usual, did not escape, and ten settlers were killed. Governor Hamilton of Detroit, known as the "hair buyer." had encouraged the Indians by paying as high as thirty dollars bounty for scalps of men, women and children, but no bounty for prisoners. The savages killed their prisoners in large numbers for the bounty on scalps. This made the war terrible in its fierceness. In 1778 and 1779 General Roger Clarke, at the head of a small but excellent army, mostly Virginians, carried the war into the enemy's country, and struck at British forts in Illinois and Indiana, believing that if the British were driven out of that country, Indians would have more difficulty in obtaining arms, ammunition and supplies, and their raids on the settlements would be less frequent. Kaskaskia and Cahokia, in Illinois, were captured, and then, after a. memorable march in midwinter, Clarke fell upon Vincennes, Indiana, and after a severe fight captured the place, released nearly one hundred white prisoners, chastised the Indians, captured stores worth fifty thousand dollars, cleared the whole country of British from the Mississippi to Detroit; and, most important of all captured Governor Hamilton himself, and sent him in chains to Richmond. This victory secured to the United States the country as far as the Mississippi; and it greatly dampened the ardor of the Indians. They saw for the first time that the British were notable to protect them.

In 1731 Colonel David Broadhead crossed the Ohio at Wheeling with eight hundred men; and, after a rapid march to the Miami, destroyed Indian villages and inflicted severe punishment upon the savages. The year 1782 is memorable on the border on account of the massacre of the Moravian Indians in Ohio, and the second siege of Fort Henry at Wheeling. The Moravian Indians, or Christianized Indians, with their missionaries, lived at peace with the white people; but it was suspected that they harbored hostile savages who harrassed the frontiers. An expedition was sent against them; their towns were destroyed, and a revolting massacre almost exterminated the unfortunate people. The occurrence forms a dark page of border history.

The second siege of Fort Henry occurred in September, 1782. There were fewer than twenty men in the fort when the Indians appeared. The commandant, Captain Boggs, had gone to warn the neighboring settlements of danger. The Indians numbered several hundred, under command, as is said, of Simon Girty. In addition, there was a company of British soldiers commanded by Captain Pratt; and the whole force marched under the British flag, and appeared before the fort September 11. Just before the attack commenced, a boat, in charge of a man named Sullivan, arrived from Pittsburg, loaded with cannon balls for the garrison at Louisville, Kentucky. Mr. Sullivan and his party seeing the danger, tied the boat and made their way to the fort and assisted in the defense. The besiegers demanded an immediate surrender, which was declined. The attack was delayed till night. The experience gained by the Indians in the war had taught them that little is gained by a wild rush against the walls of a stockade. No doubt Captain Pratt advised them also what course to pursue. When night came they made their assault. More than twenty times did they pile hemp against the walls of the fort and attempt to set the structure on fire. But the hemp was damp and burned slowly. No harm was done. Colonel Zane's cabin stood near the stockade. His house had been burned at the siege in 1777; and when the Indians again appeared he resolved to defend it. He remained in the cabin with two or three others, among them a negro slave. That night an Indian crawled up with a chunk of fire to burn the house, but a shot from the negro's gun crippled him and he gave up his incendiary project. Attempts were made to break down the gates, but they did not succeed. A small cannon mounted on one of the bastions was occasionally discharged among the savages, much to their discomfiture. On one occasion when a number of Indians had gathered in a loft of one of the nearest cabins and were dancing and yelling in defiance of the garrison, the cannon was turned on them, and a solid shot cutting one of the joists, precipitated the savages to the floor beneath and put a stop to their revelry.

The Indians captured the boat with the cannon balls, and decided to use them. They procured a hollow log, plugged one end, and wrapped it with chains stolen from a neighboring blacksmith shop. They loaded the piece with powder and ball, and fired it at the fort. It is to be wondered at that the British officer would have permitted his allies to make such a blunder, for he must have known that the wooden cannon would burst. Its pieces flew in all directions, killing and maiming several Indians, but did not harm the fort. The savages were discouraged, and when a force of seventy men, under Captain Boggs, approached, the Indians fled. They did not, however, leave the country at once, but made an attack on Rice's fort, where they lost four warriors and accomplished nothing.

The siege of Fort Henry is remarkable from the fact that the flag under which the army marched to the attack, and which was shot down during the fight, was the last British flag to float over an army in battle, during the revolution, within the limits of the United States. West Virginia was never again invaded by a large Indian force, but small parties continued to make incursions till 1795. The war with England closed by a treaty of peace in 1783. After that date the Indians fought on their own account, although the British still held posts in the northwest, under the excuse that the Americans had not complied with the terms of the treaty of peace. It was believed, and not without evidence, that the savages were still encouraged by the British, if not directly supplied with arms, to wage war against the frontiers. The United States government took vigorous measures to suppress the Indian depredations, and bring the savages to terms. General Harmar invaded the country north of the Ohio at the head of a strong force in 1790. He suffered his army to be divided and defeated. The next year General St. Clair led an army into the Indian country, and met with one of the most disastrous defeats in the annals of Indian warfare. He lost nearly eight hundred men in one battle. General Wayne now took charge of the campaign in the Indian country, and in 1794 gave battle to the Indians on the Maumee river near the Ohio and Indiana line, at a place called Fallen Timber, and utterly crushed the Indian confederacy. The savages never recovered from that defeat, and the frontiers were not again molested for nearly twenty years, and West Virginia was never again invaded by Indians.

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