by Wills de Haas

 

In the east, the effort to organize a force sufficient to operate with effect against the savages, proved successful, and two bodies, numbering in all nearly twenty-five hundred, were collected---one in the counties of Augusta, Bottetourt, &c., and the other in Frederick, Shennandoah, &c., The first of these was placed under the command of General Andrew Lewis, who rendezvoused at Camp Union, now Lewisburg, while the governor in person commanded the second. By the 1st of September, General Lewis only awaited the arrival of Col. Christian, and orders from Lord Dunmore to march. In a few days a messenger reached him with orders from Dunmore to meet him on the 2d of October, at the mouth of Kanawha. On the 11th, he struck his tents and commenced the line of march through an unknown and trackless wilderness. The division of General Lewis numbered between one thousand and twelve hundred men, composed of the very flower of the Virginia Valley. Captain Arbuckle, an experienced and skillful frontier-man conducted the division to the river, which they reached on the 30th, after a fatiguing march of nineteen days. General Lewis was greatly disappointed in not meeting Dunmore, and still more in not hearing from him. It was not until the morning of the 9th, that a messenger [This man is said to have been no less a personage than the notorious Simon Girty. He joined the Earl, it seems, at Fort Pitt, and afterwards piloted him from Fort Gower to the Pickway Plains] reached him, bringing information that the plan of the campaign had been changed, and ordering him to march direct to the Indian towns on the Scioto, where the other division would join him. Arrangements were accordingly made preparatory to leaving, and on the following morning, (Monday, October 10th,) General Lewis intended moving, as directed. Shortly after daybreak, on the morning referred to, two soldiers who had gone up the Ohio to hunt, discovered a large body of Indians just rising from their encampment. The men were fired upon and one killed, but the other escaping returned to camp, hallooing as he ran, that he had seen "a body of Indians covering four acres of ground." [Col. Stuart said that the name of this man was Mooney, and that he stopped before his (S.'s) tent, to relate his adventures. General Lewis, however, calls him Robertson, as did two other soldiers (Reed and Moore), who say him. The name of the one killed was Hickman. ] All was, of course, surprise and confusion in the camp of the whites, but the commander-in-chief, "calm as a summer morning," lighted his pipe with the utmost sang froid, and ordered out the regiment under Col. Lewis, supposing that the discovery of the soldiers was merely that of a scouting party of Indians similar to such as had watched the movements of the army since leaving Fort Union. Colonel Lewis had barely passed the outer guard, when the enemy in great number appeared and commenced the attack. Col. Fleming was now ordered to reinforce Col. Lewis, and soon the battle raged with unparalleled fury. The sun had just risen, and was gilding with his bright autumnal tints the tops of the surrounding hills when the battle commenced, and not until it had sunk low in the heavens, did the sanguinary conflict materially abate. Colonel Lewis was mortally wounded at an early hour in the engagement, but with a resolute devotion rarely equaled, concealed the character of his wound until the line of battle had been fairly formed. He then sunk exhausted from the loss of blood, and was carried to his tent, where he died about twelve o'clock. A braver, truer or more gallant soldier the country has rarely produced; and it is a burning shame that his memory, as well as that of the brave men who fell with him, has not been perpetuated in some appropriate and enduring form on the scene of this memorable conflict. On the fall of Col. Lewis, the line of his men stretching along the high ground skirting Crooked run, which was the first attacked and had sustained the heaviest fire, gave symptoms of irresolution and momentarily did fall back; but Col. Fleming speedily rallying them, maintained the fortunes of the day until he , too, was struck down and borne bleeding from the field. The troops now gave way, and in all probability would have been routed had not General Lewis order up Col. Field with a fresh reinforcement, This command met the retreating troops and rallied them to the contest. The fight now became more desperate than ever, and was maintained by both parties with consummate skill, energy and valor. The Indians, sure of success when they beheld the ranks give way after the fall of Lewis and Fleming, became frantic with rage when they saw the reinforcement under Col. Field. With convulsive grasp they seized their weapons, and would have rushed headlong upon the whites had the latter not kept up a steady and most galling fire, which seemed to have the double effect of thinning their ranks and cooling their range. The battle scene was now terribly grand. There stood the combatants; terror, rage, disappointment and despair riveted upon the painted faces of one, while calm resolution, and the unbending will to do, were strongly and unmistakably marked upon the other. Neither party, says an eye-witness, "would retreat; neither could advance. The noise of the firing was tremendous. No single gun could be distinguished, but it was one constant roar. The rife and tomahawk now did their work with dreadful certainty. The confusion and perturbation of the camp had now arrived at its greatest height. The confused noise and wild uproar of battle added greatly to the terror of the scene. The shouting of the whites, the continual roar of fire-arms, the war-whoop and dismal yelling of the Indians, sounds harsh and grating when heard separately, became by mixture and combination highly discordant and terrific. Add to this the constant succession of the dead and wounded, brought off from the battle-field, many of these with shattered limbs and lacerated flesh, pale, ghastly and disfigured, and besmeared with gore, their `garments rolled in blood,' and uttering doleful cries of lamentation and distress; others fain, feeble and exhausted by loss of blood, scarcely able with quivering lips to tell their ail to passers-by. Sounds and sights and circumstances such as these were calculated to excite general solicitude for the issue of the battle, and alarm in each individual for his own personal safety. Early in the day General Lewis had ordered a breast-work to be constructed from the Ohio to the Kanawha, thus severing the camp from the neighboring forest. This breast-work was formed by felling trees and so disposing of their trunks and branches, as to form a barrier which was difficult to pass. It was designed that should the enemy gain an ascendacy in the field, this barrier might prevent their entrance into the camp, while at the same time it might serve as a protection to the garrison that was within." About twelve o'clock the Indian fire began to slacken, and the enemy were seen slowly to retire. A desultory fire was kept up from behind trees; and often, as the Virginians pressed too hotly upon the retreating foe, were they fatally ambuscaded. General Lewis, noticing the manoeuvres of the enemy, detached three companies commanded respectively by Captains John Stuart, George Matthews and Isaac Shelby, with orders to move quietly beneath the banks of the Kanawha and Crooked run, so as to gain the enemy's rear. This manoeuvre was so handsomely executed that the savages became alarmed, and fairly gave up the fight about 4 o'clock. The victory of the Virginians was complete. During the night the Indian army crossed the Ohio, and made off. The gradual retreat of the Indians was one of the most masterly things of the kind ever undertaken in the west. Cornstalk alternately led on his men, and then fell back in such a manner as to hold the whites in check and uncertainty. Between 11 o'clock A.M. and 4 P.M., the Indian army fell back more than three miles. This gave them an opportunity to bear off their wounded and dead. This battle scene, in an unbroken wilderness on the Ohio, is described as having been one of the most thrilling affairs that ever took place on our western frontier. The line of battle was at time nearly a mile long, and often throughout its entire length gleamed the blended flame from Indian and provincial rifles. The Indians, under the lead of experience and able chiefs, were confident of success, and fought with a desperation which no language can describe. The exact losses sustained by the respective parties were never fully ascertained, as the Indians were known to have thrown many of their dead into the Ohio. Their loss has been estimated at about one hundred and fifty, while that of the provincials in killed and wounded was over two hundred; more than one-fourth of the whole number actually engaged. The annals of history do not show another instance where undisciplined troops held out so successfully and for son long a time against a foe vastly their numerical superior. At least one hundred of General Lewis' men were absent, hunting, and knew nothing of the battle until evening. [The army having become short of provisions, these men went out secure a supply of game. The two who discovered the enemy, had gone on a similar purpose, but not with permission, it is said, of their superior officers.] The Indian army was composed principally of Delawares, Mingos, Iroquois, Wyandotts and Shawanese. It was commanded by Cornstalk, the celebrated and noble-minded Shawanese chief, whose melancholy end at the same place on a subsequent occasion and under circumstances of the most revolting nature, cannot be dwelt upon, even at this late day, without feelings of melancholy regret. Logan assisted in the command, and burned to revenge the past wrongs which he had received at the hands of the "Long-knives." In this prolonged and bloody battle the brave Virginians suffered terribly. Of the killed were Colonels Lewis and Field, Captains Morrow, Buford, Ward, Murray, Cundiff, Wilson and McClenachan; Lieutenants Allen, Goldsby and Dillon, with many gallant subalterns, whose names we have not been able to ascertain. [Many of those engaged in the Battle of the Point, afterwards became distinguished in the civil and military annals of the country. General Isaac Shelby was the first Governor of Kentucky, and Secretary of War; Gen. William Campbell, the hero of King's Mountain, and General Andrew Moore, Senators from Virginia; Col. John Stuart an eminent citizen of Greenbriar; General George Matthews, who so distinguished himself at Brandywine, and subsequently came to be Governor of Georgia, and U.S. Senator; Col. William McKee of Ky.; General Tate of Washington Co., Va; Col. Charles Cameron of Bathe Co. General Bazaleel Wells, of Brooke; and many others.] The Indian army is said to have comprised the pick of the northern confederated tribes. Cornstalk's towering form was seen rapidly hurrying through their midst, and every now and anon, when he found the spirits of his men were flagging, was heard to exclaim in his native tongue, "Be strong ! be strong!" One of the warriors showing signs of fear, the savage chieftain slew him at the moment with his tomahawk. General Lewis having buried his dead, and thrown up a rude fortress for the protection of the wounded which he left in the charge of a sufficient force; crossed the Ohio to meet Dunmore at the point designated. He moved rapidly forward, and in an unprecedented short period reached the Pickawy plains. Here he was met by a message from Dunmore, ordering him to stop, as he (Dunmore) was negotiating a treaty of peace with the Indians. Indignant at the manner he had been treated, and finding himself threatened by a superior force of Indians, who kept constantly in his rear, General Lewis disregarded the earl's orders, and pushed on. A second flag was now sent, but treating it as he had done the first, General Lewis continued to advance until he had reached within three miles of the governor's camp. Dunmore now became uneasy, and accompanied by White-Eyes, a noted Indian chief, visited General Lewis, and peremptorily ordered him to halt. It is asserted by some, that at this juncture it was with much difficulty General Lewis could restrain his men from killing Dunmore and his Indian companion. [In support of this statement, and to show the state of feeling in the army towards Dunmore, we may add, upon the authority of the late Colonel A. Lewis, son of General Lewis, that he (General L.) had to double and triple the guard around his marquee, to prevent the men killing the governor.] General Lewis' orders were to return forthwith to Point Pleasant; there to leave a force sufficient to protect the place, and a supply of provisions for the wounded, then to lead the balance of the division to the place of rendezvous, and disband them. Dunmore returned to camp Charlotte, and concluded a treaty with the Indians. The chief speaker on the part of the Indians was Cornstalk, who openly charge the whites with being the sole cause of the war, enumerating the many provocations which the Indians had received and dwelling with great force and emphasis upon the diabolical murder of Logan's family. This great chief spoke in the most vehement and denunciatory style. His loud, clear voice was distinctly heard over the whole camp of twelve acres. Cornstalk had from the first, opposed a war with the whites, and when his scouts reported the advance of General Lewis' division, the sagacious chief did all he could to restrain his men, and keep them from battle. But all his remonstrances were in vain, and it was then he told them, "As you are determined to fight, you shall fight." After their defeat, and return home, a council was convened to determine upon what was next to be done. The stern old chief rising, said, "What shall we do now? The Long-Knives are coming upon us by two routes. Shall we turn out and fight them?" No response being made, he continued, "Shall we kill all our squaws and children, and then fight until we are all killed ourselves?" Still the congregated warriors were silent, and after a moments hesitation, Cornstalk struck his tomahawk into the war post, and with compress lips and flashing eye, gazed around the assembled group then with great emphasis spoke, "Since you are not inclined to fight, I will go and make peace."


Taken from Wills de Hass' 1851 "History and Indian Wars of Western Virginia"


The Citizens of Mason County, West Virginia would like to thank,

Marilyn Brown

for contributing and typing this account for the Mason County Genealogy Website.

 

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