by Scott Powell, 1925
Contributed by Linda Fluharty.
INDIANS ATTACK FORT HENRY, 1782 Pages 30-34.
INDIANS ATTACK FORT HENRY, 1782
Fort Henry was erected in 1774 and was considered a very strong fortification of the kind. It was said to be Indian-proof. Within the enclosure was a good well of water for the use of the garrison. A small cannon had recently been added to the armament of the fort. Some men were bathing near the site of the old French fort at the forks of the Ohio and found some cannon which the French had spiked and thrown into the river when they abandoned the fort in November, 1758. The spikes were drilled out of the vents and the cannon again brought into use, one of which was sent to Wheeling for the defense of Fort Henry. It was placed in position on the top of the storehouse, one of the buildings in the fort. A supply of grape-shot and balls was provided that it might be of service in case of an attack.
There is no account of any repairs being made to the fort in preparing to repel an attack, notwithstanding the fort had been erected eight years. There is much disagreement as to who was commandant at Fort Henry at the time of attack in 1782. Some authorities say that Colonel Ebenezer Zane was the commandant and other equally as reliable say that Captain Boggs was in charge of the fort at the time as the regular commanding officer.
For some time John Lynn, one of the most vigilant scouts in the Upper Ohio Valley, was engaged in watching the war paths of the Indians on the northwest side of the Ohio River, and on Wednesday afternoon, September the eleventh, about three o'clock, he discovered a large body of Indians marching very rapidly towards Wheeling. He hastened to warn the people of their danger in time for them to retire into the fort.
He swam the river and reached Wheeling only a few hours in advance of the enemy. The inhabitants of the village, not already in the fort, hurried into it and hasty preparations were made for a vigorous defense of the fort. Colonel Zane and a few others retired into his house. The Indians had burned his house in 1777 when they attacked the fort and he erected another much stronger and better arranged for defense. It was built like a block-house with loop-holes for guns and stood about sixty yards from the fort. He had decided not to abandon his home to be again destroyed by Indians. When the alarm was given, he retired into his house determined to defend it and render aid to the fort at the same time. In it were Colonel Zane and wife, Andrew Scott, George Greer, Mollie Scott and it is thought that Miss Elizabeth Zane was also in the house, but it is questioned whether or not such was the case. In a kitchen adjoining the residence, was a'n old negro, generally known by the name of Dady Sam, and his wife Kate.
In the fort there were not more than twenty efficient men for its defense against three hundred warriors.
Soon after the arrival of John Lynn, Captain Boggs left the fort to spread the alarm and solicit aid. Colonel David Shepherd was absent on some business relative to the military affairs. The attacking party consisted of forty British soldiers commanded by Captain Pratt, and two hundred and sixty Indians, said by many, to have been commanded by George Girty, appeared a few hours after the arrival of John Lynn. They quickly formed their lines about the fort and demanded the surrender of the garrison which was promptly refused. Several shots were fired at the colors by order of Silas Zane who had been selected to command the fort in the absence of Captain Boggs. The Indians opened fire upon the fort and rushed upon it with great impetuosity and were greeted with a well directed volley of bullets from the garrison and from Colonel Zane's house, which drove them back in confusion. They rallied and attacked it again and were again repulsed. Both the house and fort were well supplied with guns and many of the women rendered effective service in moulding bullets, cleaning guns and loading them for the men who fired them rapidly at the attacking party and it also led the enemy to believe that the garrison was much stronger than it really was. The cannon attracted their attention and they called to the garrison to fire it, saying that it was a wooden gun. When a proper opportunity arrived a man by the name of Tate fired a load of grape-shot into their ranks which changed their tune and caused them to set up a yell of rage. Captain Pratt ordered them to stand back, swearing that there was no wood about it. He had heard cannon before and knew by the sound just what it was. The attacking party now drew back toward the hills and kept up a constant fire until about dark, when they withdrew for a short time, leaving the garrison undisturbed. Soon after firing ceased a canoe loaded with cannon balls, in charge of Daniel Sullivan and two men, arrived at Wheeling on their way to the Falls of the Ohio, and the three men made a rush for the fort and succeeded in entering it at the rear gate, but did not escape the attention of the Indians. They fired upon them and wounded Sullivan slightly in a foot. The garrison got no rest that night. A party of Indians in the loft of a cabin near the fort kept up a terrible noise by their yelling and dancing until the cannon quieted them. At first grape-shot was tried but it failed to dislodge them or quiet them and a ball was fired into the cabin. It cut a joist and let the crowd of yelling Indians down much to their discomfiture. The cannon was fired sixteen times during the night with more or less effect each time.
The enemy suffered severely from the fire from Colonel Zane's residence and they thought to set it on fire and drive the inmates from it. An Indian crept along towards it cautiously with a firebrand in his hand and every now and then he would wave it in the air to freshen the flames. When he arrived near the kitchen he raised up and waved it to and fro to rekindle the flames, when the quick eye of the old negro, Dady Sam, caught sight of the Indian and quickly seized his gun and fired at the Indian. The warrior uttered a piercing yell, let the firebrand fall, and went away limping. Several similar attempts were made that night but through the vigilance of the old negro, whose keen eye caught sight of every warrior before he got near the kitchen with his firebrand.
About midnight the enemy again assaulted the fort and attempted to carry it by storm. The pickets resisted the battering and they failed to make a breach in the stockade and a well directed fire from the garrison and Colonel Zane's residence drove them back. Two other attempts were made that night to effect an entrance into the fort by storm and massacre the garrison but the fire of the defenders each time repulsed the enemy with loss. When the sun appeared the next morning the enemy were about the fort but did not renew the attack. It was evident that they had not abandoned the siege. About eight o'clock a man was observed creeping quietly towards the fort. A man by the name of House seized a gun and fired at him, wounding him severely. He was a negro who had been with the Indians as a prisoner and was trying to escape from them. He was admitted into the fort and his wound dressed, but he was closely guarded lest he might be a spy. He gave the inmates of the fort all the information he possessed concerning the size and intentions of the attacking party.
The Indians in the meantime contemplated greater efforts to take the fort by storm. They had found the canoe loaded with cannon balls and were preparing to use them in the reduction of the fort. They procured a log, split it open and cut out the center to suit the size of the cannon balls and with some chains found in Reikart's blacksmith shop, bound the log together, imagining that they had a cannon. They charged it with powder and a ball was taken from the canoe and placed in the cannon and they then pointed their wooden gun towards the fort and announced that their artillery had arrived. They believed that they had a death-dealing instrument of war, and so it was. An Indian applied a firebrand to it. An explosion followed, scattering splinters and destruction in every direction. Several of the Indains were killed and a number were wounded by the explosion of their cannon which they expected would batter down the pickets of the fort. When they recovered from the shock, they were furious with madness of despair and in their rage assaulted the fort with more desperation than before. The inmates of the fort received them with coolness and determination and kept up such a deadly fire that they were compelled to retire again. This was very fortunate for the garrison. The powder in the fort was becoming exhausted and it was feared that if the firing was continued that the supply of powder would be consumed and in such an event there was great danger from an assault. It was known that there was a supply of powder in Colonel Zane's residence and it was decided to make an attempt to get a keg of it. It was now a question to decide who would go after the powder. It was an enterprise full of danger. Several volunteered to engage in the hazardous enterprise. Elizabeth Zane, a sister of Silas Zane, proffered her service. She was young, active and very courageous. She insisted that the garrison was weak at best and not a man could be spared and that the loss of a woman would not be so much felt as that of a man. No argument could deter her from the undertaking. At length it was agreed that she might make an attempt to secure a supply of powder for the garrison. She arranged her clothes to suit the occasion and when the gate was opened she bounded out like a frightened deer. She was confident of success. The Indians in amazement beheld her. They exclaimed, a squaw, a squaw, but made no attempt to interrupt her progress. She arrived at her brother's residence which was opened to receive her. She told her errand and quickly a table cloth was fastened about her waist and a keg of powder emptied into it. She again ventured out. The Indians were not so passive this time and fired at her but the bullets flew harmlessly by knocking dirt into her face. She reached the gate of the fort which was opened for her and she entered it safely.
She had recently arrived from Philadelphia where she had been attending school and was not accustomed to the excitement of the frontier.
The Indians continued the siege and kept up firing all day without intermission, from behind logs, stumps, trees and anything within gunshot of the fort that would screen them. About ten o'clock that night there was another attempt to storm the fort and force their way into it. They received a well directed fire from the fort and also from Colonel Zane's house, which compelled them again to retire out of range of the rifles of the besieged, with the loss of a number of warriors. They now abandoned the siege. The next morning they commenced burning the cabins and killing the stock, the only injury they could inflict. Soon a long peculiar yell by an Indian was heard. He had been watching for the approach of relief and was giving warning of the approach of succor for the fort. Soon after the yells had ceased, the Indians moved rapidly to the river, crossed it and encamped at Indian Spring, a few miles from the river on the northwest side. In less than an hour after they disappeared, Captain Boggs, Captain Swearingen and Williamson arrived with ninety-five mounted men for the relief of the fort. Colonel Zane, in a report, stated that the loss of the enemy was not ascertained, but the loss of the whites was none. One man was slightly wounded.