Typed by Susie Koehrsen.
FORT HENRY BESIEGED
The year of the “three sevens” or the bloody year, as it was called by the people, was one full of startling events and painful incidents. It was the darkest period in the early settlement of northwestern Virginia. All of the Indian tribes were actively engaged in carrying war and pillage into the “settlements.” Scalping parties scattered themselves throughout the whole country. Scouting parties of whites, however, were on the alert, and traversed the woods in all directions and so successful were they in their observations, that the approach of Indians was generally anticipated and made known before any serious results ensued.
But in August the “settlement” at Fort Henry became seriously alarmed. Some friendly Moravian Indians had communicated the information to General Hand, at Fort Pitt, that a large Indian army from the Northwest was on the war path and intended to strike Fort Henry and other settlements on the borders of the Ohio River. This information was communicated to them by Isaac Zane, accompanied by a request that they would make it known to the proper authorities, or under the expectation that they would do so. In either event, it was performed. General Hand lost no time in warning the settlers of the threatened raid.
We copy verbatim from “Wither’s Chronicles of Border Warfare” the account of the transaction which followed:
“Wheeling Fort, although it had been erected by the proper authorities of the government, and was supplied with arms and ammunition from the public arsenal, was not this time garrisoned, as were the other state forts on the Ohio, by a regular soldiery, but was left to be defended, solely, by the heroism and bravery of those who might seek shelter within its walls. The settlement around it was flourishing and had grown with a rapidity truly astonishing, when its situation and the circumstances of the border country generally are taken into consideration. A little village of 25 or 30 houses had sprung up, where but a few years before the foot of civilized man had never trod; and where the beasts of the forest had later ranged undisturbedly were to be seen lowing herds and bleating flocks, at once the means of sustenance and the promise of future wealth to their owners. In the enjoyment of this comparatively prosperous condition of things, the inhabitants little dreamed how quickly those smiling prospects were to be blighted, their future hopes blasted, and they deprived of almost every necessary of life. They were not insensible to the danger which in time of war was ever impending over them, but relying on the vigilance of their scouts, to ascertain and apprise them of its approach, and on the proximity of a fort into which they could retire upon a minute’s warning, they did not shut themselves up within its walls until advised of the immediate necessity of doing so, from the actual presence of the enemy.
“On the night of the 1st of September, Captain Ogle, who with a party of 12 men, had been for some days engaged in watching the paths to the settlement and endeavoring to ascertain the approach of danger, came into Wheeling with the assurance that the enemy were not at hand. In the course of that night, however, the Indian Army, consisting of 389 warriors, came near to the village, and believing, from the lights in the fort, that the inhabitants were on their guard, and that more might be effected by an ambuscade in the morning than by an immediate and direct attack, posted themselves advantageously for that purpose. Two lines were formed, at some distance from each, extending from the river across the point to the creek, with a corn field to afford them concealment. In the center, between those lines, near a road leading through the field to the fort, and in a situation easily exposing them to observation, six Indians were stationed, for the purpose of decoying within the lines any force which might discover and come out to molest them. Early in the morning of the 2nd, two men going to a field for horses, passed the first line, and came near to the Indians in the center before they were aware of danger. Perceiving the six savages near them, they endeavored to escape by flight. A single shot brought one of them to the ground; the other was permitted to escape, that he might give the alarm. Captain Mason, who with Captain Ogle and his party and a few other men, had occupied the fort the preceding night, hearing there were but six of the enemy, marched with 14 men to the place where they had been seen. He had not proceeded far from the fort before he came in view of them; and leading briskly towards where they were, soon found themselves enclosed by a body of Indians, who till then had remained concealed; seeing the impossibility of maintaining a conflict with them, he endeavored to retreat with his men to the fort, but in vain. They were intercepted by the Indians, and nearly all literally cut to pieces. Captain Mason, however, and his sergeant succeeded in passing the first line, but being observed by some of the enemy, were pursued and fired at as they began to rise the hill. The sergeant was so wounded by the ball aimed at him, that he fell, unable to get up; but seeing his captain pass near without a gun and so crippled that he moved but slowly in advance of his pursuers, he handed him his, and calmly surrendered himself to his fate. Captain Mason had been twice wounded , and was then so enfeebled by the loss of blood and faint from fatigue, that he almost despaired of ever reaching the fort; yet he pressed forward with all his powers. He was sensible that the Indians were near him, and expecting every instant that the tomahawk would sever his skull, he for awhile forgot that his gun was still charged. The recollection of this inspiring him with fresh hopes, he wheeled to fire at his pursuer, but found him so close that he could not bring the gun down to bear on him. Having greatly the advantage of ground , he thrust him back with his hand. The uplifted tomahawk descended to the earth with force and before the Indian could so far regain his footing as to hurl the fatal weapon from his grasp or rush forward to close in deadly struggle with his antagonist, the ball from Captain Mason’s gun had done its errand, and the savage fell lifeless to the earth. Captain Mason was able to proceed only a few paces farther; but concealing himself by the side of a large fallen tree, he remained unobserved while the Indians continued about the fort. The shrieks of Captain Mason’s men, and the discharge of the guns, induced Captain Ogle to advance in the rear of his men, the Indians in closing round them fortunately left him without the circle, and he concealed himself amid some briars in the corner of the fence, where he lay until the next day. The same fate awaited his men which had befallen Captain Mason’s. Of the 26 who were led out by those two officers, only three escaped death, and two of these were badly wounded; a striking evidence of the fact that the ambuscade was judiciously planned and the expectation of its success well founded.”
While these things were transpiring, the inhabitants of the village were busily engaged in removing to the fort and in making preparations for its defence. The attack on the forces led by Mason and Ogle convinced them of the overwhelming force of the enemy, and the impossibility of maintaining an open conflict with them. Promptly pursuing their advantage, the Indians rushed forward toward the fort, the gates of which were scarcely closed, before they appeared in force with a view to its reduction by storm. But before the assault was made, the attention of the inmates was called to a summons to surrender made by the leader of the savage force. This individual appeared at the window of one of the cabins, and addressing them, informed them that he had come with a large force to escort to Detroit such of the inhabitants on the frontier as were willing to accept the generous terms offered by Governor Hamilton, the British commander at that post, to those who would renounce the cause of the colonies and attach themselves to the interest of Great Britain, at the same time calling upon them to remember their fealty to their royal sovereign, and assuring them of protection if they would join his standard, and denouncing upon them, if his terms were not accepted, all the consequences which would ensure from the uncurbed vengeance of savage ferocity if they dared to resist or fire a gun. He then after this deliverance proceeded to read to them the proclamation of Governor Hamilton, and stated that he would allow them but fifteen minutes to consider his propositions. It did not require that length of time for the brave defenders to decide. In love with liberty; attached to their country; and having no faith in the offers of protection made, it required no time as we have intimated for them to deliberate.
Col. Silas Zane, who at the time was in command of the fort, replied in behalf of the settlers, that they had consulted among themselves, and also their wives and children, and that all were resolved to perish, sooner than place themselves under the protection of savages or abjure the cause of liberty or the colonies. The commandant of the savages then remarked to Zane that his force was large and could not be successfully withstood by the small force in the fort, and the impossibility of resisting an assault should it be necessary to attempt it, and repeated again the certainty of protection if they acceded to his offers, and also urged the difficulty of restraining the assailants if they did not, especially when their passions were aroused by opposition and resistance. Just at this point of the discussion, a young man in the fort discharged a shot at the speaker, which put an end to the confab and caused him to hastily withdraw from the window occupied by him, when the savages were ordered to make the assault.
There were in the fort at the time but a handful of men, comparatively speaking, to defend it against the large force opposed to them, but bravely they did maintain their ground against the superiority in number of the enemy and all that their ingenuity and fury could effect to accomplish their destruction. For a space of twenty-three hours all within the enclosure were actively and energetically employed in one way or another. Each individual had particular duties to perform and promptly and faithfully did they discharged them. The more expert among the females took stations besides the men, and handling their guns with soldier-like readiness, aided in the repulse with fearless intrepidity. Some engaged in moulding bullets, others in loading and supplying the men with weapons already charged; while the less robust and younger ones were busily employed in cooking and furnishing to their defenders provisions and water during the continuance of the attack. It seemed, indeed, as if each individual was impressed with the idea that the safety of all depended on the exertions of each, and that the slightest relaxation on their part would involve them all in a common ruin and death.
Finding from the prolonged and determined resistance made, that their task was a hopeless one, and that they could make no impression on the object of their attack, and fearing if they prolonged their stay that reinforcements for the inmates of the fort might arrive and take them in the rear, and thus be cut off, they fired the surrounding cabins, killed all the stock they could find, and destroying whatsoever they could lay their hands on they retired about daylight, and to the joy of the defenders left them in full possession of the premises, but deprived of almost everything else but what was in the fort. The alarm of the presence of Indians having been given early in the day and the attack on the fort having been made shortly after, but little time was afforded to the settlers for securing but the smallest quantity of their movable property. When the alarm was given the greater number in their haste to secure the shelter of the fort had taken with them only the clothes they had upon their persons. To few indeed were left the enjoyment and luxury of a bed, this having been destroyed by the savages when they fired the cabins. Even the humble request of bread and milk was now denied them. Consequently they were reduced to great distress until they could obtain provisions from some of the not distant settlements. Their situation was not much more enviable than when they were pent up with their assailants, as most of the food, which was in the fort while they were besieged, had been disposed of.
Sometime before these occurrences, the Governor had sent to Col. Andrew Swearingen a quantity of ammunition for the defence of those who had settled above Wheeling, and by his exertions and under his superintendence Bolings and Hollidays Forts were repaired and a magazine attached to the latter. In Holliday’s Fort all the settlers in its neighborhood were in the habit of “forting”. It was generally regarded as a strong position and was able occasionally to detach a portion of its garrison for the aid of other points in case of exigencies requiring help.
Soon after the attack was made on Wheeling, the alarm reached Shepherd’s Fort, which was six miles distant, when a runner was dispatched from thence to Holliday’s Fort, conveying the intelligence of the attack, and expressing apprehension that if speedy relief was not afforded the defence at Wheeling must fall. No expectation of being able to collect a force of sufficient strength to cope with the assailants successfully was entertained. All that could be hoped was that they might possibly succeed in throwing succors into the besieged, and thus enable them more certainly to be in a condition to repel assault, and preserve them in a degree from the violence of the Indian onsets. With this object in view, Colonel Swearingen left Holliday’s with 14 men who had volunteered to accompany him in his hazardous enterprise. The withdrawal of the number of men from them led those who remained at the fort to express their fear, that being thus weakened if Holliday’s was attacked during their absence, Holliday’s might fall into the hands of the enemy. But no attention was paid to these murmurs, but the volunteers, together with Swearingen, secured a large continental canoe and industriously plied their paddles, hoping to arrive in time to be of service to the besieged. Starting in the night they expected to reach Wheeling before daylight, but the darkness of the night and the denseness of the fog on the river being heavy, they toiled to great disadvantage on account of the obscurity of their surroundings, as they frequently came in contact with the banks of the stream, which owing to the prevailing fog, were indistinguishable, all of which caused them delay. Finally they decided to cease rowing and permit their boat to float with the current lest their headway in rowing might carry them past Wheeling, when at the appearance of the day, they would be obliged in that case to contend with the force of the stream in ascending it to regain their destination.
Floating leisurely, they at length descried the light which was produced by the burning of the cabins. The day was already beginning and this admonished them that they must exercise caution lest they should be discovered by the enemy. If they had realized their expectation of arriving on the scene before the break of day, they might from the river bank, under the veil of darkness have gained admission into the fort, but in this they were frustrated. They, therefore, determined to land near above the fort and send out scouts to reconnoiter and ascertain if possible the condition of affairs, it being rendered doubtful whether from the smoke and fog together the fort and village were not a heap of ruins. Colonel Swearingen, Captain Bilderbock and William Boshears volunteered for this service, and proceeding cautiously, they reached the fort in safety and were soon made familiar with all the circumstances of the attack and the conduct of the savages.
Upon their arrival it was questionable whether the Indians had abandoned the siege or were still lying concealed in the cornfield and had only made a feint of retreating in order to fall upon any one who might venture forth under the impression that all danger of doing so was over. Fearing that the latter was the case, it was deemed prudent not to give the preconcerted signal which had been agreed upon between Swearingen and the remainder of his men who were in waiting lest it might excite the Indians if still in the vicinity to greater vigilance and lead them to intercept his men on their way to the fort. To obviate the difficulty, Colonel Swearingen, Captain Bilderbock and William Boshears, taking a circuitous route to avoid the corn field, returned to their companions without molestation and succeeded in escorting them in safety to the settlement.
It then remained to ascertain whether the Indians had really withdrawn or were lying in ambush. A council was held between Colonel Zane, Colonel Shepherd, Doctor McMahon and Colonel Swearingen to arrange some expedient by which assurance could be reached that the enemy were not hiding under the cover and awaiting a propitious moment for the renewal of the attack. It was recommended unanimously that two of the most active and vigilant of the men should pass openly from the fort, and in an apparently careless but cautious manner, examine the corn field nearest the fort and report. Upon the return of these, 20 others, under the leadership of Colonel Zane, marched around the field, and approaching it closely and examining to see if any indications of the enemy were apparent, became assured by their investigations that the enemy had despair of success and had entirely withdrawn from any further attempt against the reduction of the defense.
Captain Ogle herein referred to was a positive man of decided character and reckless in the consummation of his purposes. After a bold and adventurous career as an Indian fighter in Western Virginia, he emigrated to the Illinois territory in the year 1795, where he successfully maintained his reputation as a brave and successful foe of the red man during the border troubles of the succeeding ten years. He died honored and beloved at the age of eighty years, on the 24th day of February, in the year 1821, leaving a large circle of descendants to mourn his departure.
Being a man of uncommon firmness and the possessor of great energy, he was a staunch adherent of human rights and a devoted friend of liberty. He was the owner of numerous slaves, which he carried with him to his new home, where upon his arrival he manumitted them, thereby dispossessing himself of a large portion of his property. He was mild, peaceable and kind hearted in his social intercourse, and always strove to promote peace and good order. He was strict and punctual in the fulfillment of all his engagements, and never made a promise he did not intend to perform if in his power to do so. The following anecdote will serve in some degree to illustrate the characteristics of the man:
On one occasion a neighbor borrowed some house logs from him to finish his cabin which he was building and of which he had run short. The logs were given to the borrower, who promised to cut and return an equal number on a certain day fixed by himself. Captain Ogle had arranged to raise his own cabin on the day specified, and he needed the logs for the purpose. The borrower having failed to fulfill his promise on the day mentioned, he took with him several men to the cabin of the man and ordered the family to remove such articles as might interfere with his purpose, and proceeded with handspikes coolly and deliberately to raise the corners and to detach the logs from the cabin. The borrower came out while they were thus engaged, and greatly alarmed, exclaimed, “Why, Mr. Ogle, what is the meaning of this, do you intend to pull down my house over my head and that of my family? “By no means, neighbor,” he replied. “I am only getting out my own logs which you promised to provide me with, and which promise you have failed to keep.” “Now neighbor Ogle,” he pleaded, “do stop and I will go right off to the timber and cut and bring you the logs as I promised to do.” “Very well,” Ogle rejoined, “if you will have the logs at my place tomorrow morning by sunrise I will forbear, otherwise I will take these logs for my cabin on the morrow.” This was said with the utmost calmness by the lender. The neighbor knew well that the word of Ogle was law and that he meant to do what he had said. The following morning the logs were delivered in accordance with the promise of the borrower, and the friendship of the two afterward remained unimpaired.
But we return from this digression in the narrative to an examination of the field of slaughter. Here, indeed, was a pitiable sight. Twenty-three of the men who had accompanied Captains Mason and Ogle were lying dead; few of them had been shot, but the majority of them had been most inhumanely and barbarously butchered with the tomahawk and scalping knife. Upwards of 300 head of cattle together with horses and hogs had been wantonly killed by the savages and the field was strewn with their carcasses. The cabins and their contents were reduced to heaps of ashes. It was a long time before the inhabitants of the neighborhood regained the comforts of which that raid had deprived them.
Soon after the happening of this occurrence a company of regular troops under the command of Captain Foreman arrived from east of the Alleghanies with instructions to extend protection to the settlements in the vicinity of Wheeling and to occupy the fort at that place. While stationed there, scouts reported that Indians were in the neighborhood lurking about, and seeking opportunities of harassing the settlers and committing depredations, to prevent such troops at different times were sent out on scouting expeditions.
On the 20th of September Captain Foreman led one of these expeditions, consisting of 45 men, who marched 12 miles below Wheeling, when they went into camp for the night, Foreman was unpracticed in woodcraft and was ignorant of the tactics adopted by the savages, and besides was indisposed to follow the advice of those who were conversant with them. Foreman ordered fires to be built, and he and his men laid down to sleep in proximity to them against the advise of one of his party, a person named Lynn, who had accompanied him at his solicitation as a spy and was thoroughly acquainted with the habits and movements of the enemy. Lynn, however, would not consent to remain in the neighborhood of the fire, but accompanied by four of the frontiersmen who were in the party, retired some distance from the rest to a more secluded spot, and spent the night. Toward morning before it was quite light, Lynn being awake thought he heard a noise such as might be produced by the launching of rafts or boats above the position occupied by Foreman and his men on the bank of the river. At daylight he communicated his suspicions to Foreman and advised him to scale the neighboring hill and return to Wheeling and avoid thus the bottom lands. His advise was rejected by the captain, but Lynn with the caution of one accustomed to the secret movements of the red men prudently kept on the hillsides with four of his companions, while those belonging to the command of Foreman continued along the level at the base of the hill. In marching along the narrows, and when near their head, one of the soldiers spied a parcel of Indian ornaments lying on the ground, and, stooping, picked them up and commenced critically to examine them. While so engaged the curiosity of others was attracted until almost the entire company had gathered around him and engaged in the inspection of them. While thus gathered together in idle curiosity, a galling and destructive fire was poured unto them by a party of Indians that had been lying in ambush, which threw them into the greatest confusion. The attack was continued with deadly effect for some minutes and eventually, if continued, would have destroyed the entire party had not Lynn and his few comrades rushed down from the hill, discharging their guns as they descended, with boisterous shouts, that the Indians were induced to believe that a reinforcement was at hand, whereupon they beat a hasty retreat. In this fatal ambuscade there were 21 of Captain Foreman’s party killed, and several severely wounded. Among the slain was the Captain and his two sons.
It appeared that the Indians had purposely dropped the ornaments that the attention of the whites might be attracted by them. There were two parties of them, the one concealing themselves in a sink hole on the bottom on the right flank of the whites, and the other on the left flank under cover of the river bank. From these advantageous positions they riddled the whites with well directed fire, while they were comparatively secure. Lynn finally discovered the retreat of the party in the sink hole. His firing from the hillside, when he and his companions hurried to the relief of the main body, is not known to have been effective, but to his prompt and courageous conduct at a perilous moment is justly attributable the saving of the remnant of the detachment. Although the number composing the Indian force was never ascertained yet it was undoubtedly large, greatly exceeding the number of the whites. On the following day the settlers in Wheeling and its neighborhood, under the direction and guidance of Colonel Zane, proceeded to the place of slaughter and gathered the remains of those who had fallen and decently interred them in one grave. In the year 1835 a stone suitably inscribed was erected at the scene of this attack to commemorate the slain, but the monument a few years since by order of the supervisors of Marshall county was removed to the cemetery at Moundsville for preservation, where it still remains.
Withers, in his “Chronicles of Border Warfare”, from which we copy, says: “At the time of the happening of those occurrences the belief was general that the army, which had been led to Wheeling by Girty* (* This is a mistake that the army was led by Girty, as at the time mentioned Simon and his brothers were in the employment of Morgan, Indian agent at Fort Pitt.), had been ordered in for the purpose of conducting the Tories from the settlements to Detroit; and that detachment from that army continued to hover about the frontiers for some time to effect that object. There was then, unfortunately for the repose and tranquility of many neighborhoods, a considerable number of those misguided and deluded wretches, who, disaffected to the cause of the colonies, were willing to advance the interest of Britain by the sacrifice of every social relation and the abandonment of every consideration; save that of loyalty to the King. So far did their opposition, to those who espoused the cause of American liberty, blunt every finer and more noble feeling, that many of them were willing to imbrue their hands in the blood of their neighbors, in the most sly and secret manner, and in the hour of midnight darkness, for no offence but attachment to the independence of the colonies. A conspiracy for the murder of the Whigs and for accepting the terms offered by the Governor of Canada to those who would renounce their allegiance to the United States and repair to Detroit, by the relenting if one individual was prevented from being carried into effect; and many more were consequently saved from horrors, equaling, if not transcending in enormity, the outrages of the savages themselves. Scenes of licentiousness and fury followed upon the discovery of the plot. Exasperated at its heinousness, and under the influence of resentful feelings, the Whigs retaliated upon the Tories some of the evils which these had conspired to inflict upon them. In the then infuriated state of their minds, and the little restraint at that time imposed on the passions by the operation of the laws, it is really matter of admiration that they did not proceed farther, and require upon those deluded wretches the full measure of their premeditated wrongs. The head only of this fiendish league lost his life, but many depredations were committed on the property of its members.
“A court for the trial of the conspirants was held at Redstone Fort, and many of them were arraigned at its bar. But as their object had been defeated by its discovery, and as no father danger was apprehended from them, they were released, after having been required to take the oath of allegiance to the United States and to bear with the injuries which had been done their property. Those who were suspected for the murder of the chief conspirator were likewise arraigned for the offence, but were acquitted.”
It was on the occasion of this first attack on Fort Henry that the brave and distinguished frontiersman, Maj. Samuel McColloch, at the head of 40 men hastened to the relief of the besieged from Fort Vanmetre on Short Creek, about eight miles east of Wheeling. The wife of Col. Ebenezer Zane was a sister of McCulloch and thus the ties of affection, combined with the dictates of humanity, prompted him to undertake the hazardous enterprise of succoring the besieged in the hour of their emergency. When the gallant Major with his little force arrived within sight of the fort there was a lull prevailing, the Indians for the time being having suspended their attack and drawn off their forces. He was at once recognized by the inmates of the fort and almost at the same time by the savages. The gates of the fort were immediately thrown open for their entrance, and rushing through the lines of Indians their horses were put to their mettle, and on full gallop they safely reached the protection of the fort without a single man or horse having received a scratch or a wound.
Major McColloch, who was more concerned for the success and safety of his men than his individual security, had given them the precedence in his anxiety in their behalf; as soon as they had entered the gates where closed again, so as to prevent the Indians, who were pursuing, from gaining ingress. Thus McColloch was separated from his men and left on the outside by his unselfish and disinterested act which prevented him from passing in with his force. The Indians were now closing in around him and what was to be done must be done quickly. Taking in the situation at a glance, he lost no time in determining what to do under the circumstances. Suddenly wheeling his horse around in the face of his foes, he dashed through an opening in the ranks of the enemy and striking his spurs deep in his steed’s flanks the noble animal sprang forward while the firm hand of his master directed him to the summit of the eastern hill top, the base of which he started successfully to rise. The Indians might easily have taken his life while he was making the attempt to enter the fort, but they wanted to capture him alive so as to reserve him for torture at the stake, as his very name was a terror to the Indians, who were well acquainted with his person, and who, while they admired his courage, hated him with all the intensity of the most vindictive feeling. His well trained steed clambered up the declivity with laborious and sure-footed effort, while his enemies with almost superhuman energies followed in swift pursuit on foot. Scrambling up the steep hillside, then covered with trees and undergrowth, he succeeded in reaching the top, and following the ridge in a northerly direction he directed his course toward Fort Vanmetre. He had ridden but a short distance when just in front of and approaching him he discovered a band of warriors, who had left the main body early in the morning and were now returning from a marauding expedition in which they had been engaged. Turning his horse’s head in the opposite direction, he advanced a short distance in the opposite direction, while below him he saw another party mounting the hill to cut off his retreat, for on his left or eastern side of the hill was a steep declivity, nearly precipitous, which would measure from the summit of the hill nearly, if not quite, 300 feet. Thus hemmed in on all sides his capture seemed inevitable; in anticipation of securing him as a prisoner, his pursuers set up a yell of triumph. He had but a brief respite to decide as to what should be his course in action. He at once decided to risk the perilous leap down the almost precipitous side of the eastern declivity. Adjusting his trusty rifle and powder horn and tightening his rein, he spoke in encouraging tones to his faithful horse, and urged him to the brow of the cliff, far beneath which flowed the waters of Wheeling Creek. The rugged and fearful descent seemed to threaten instant death to horse and rider, but a kind Providence watched over both and they reached the foot of the precipice comparatively unhurt and unharmed. A thrill of astonishment went through the breasts of his pursuers at this untoward exhibition of adventurous daring and it so completely paralyzed them for a time that they looked on in wonder, shrugging their shoulders and giving vent to their feelings in expressive “ughs.” By the time they had recovered from their surprise the object of their pursuit had forded the creek and was far beyond their reach, and succeeded in safely reaching the fort from which he had departed in the morning. No pen can describe the chagrin and mortification which was experienced by the Indians at this successful escape of one for the possession of whose person they would have willing sacrificed the lives of a dozen of their bravest warriors.
INDIAN COUNCIL AT CHILLICOTHE
Except from desultory inroads from the enemy, there had been so serious effort on their part since 1777 to attack the defences of the settlers. But in August, 1782, a council composed of the Shawnees, Wyandots, Mingoes and other tribes was held at Chillicothe. Simon Girty and two other white renegades took part in the deliberations. Aware of the fact that Lord Cornwallis had surrendered in the previous year, they had come together to decide as to the policy to be pursued now that the war between the two countries would in all probability cease.
In the event that this was a conclusion of the war between the mother country and the colonies, they believed that the whole force of Virginia would be used against them by way of retaliation for the numerous wrongs they had perpetrated upon the whites. Simon Girty and the other white renegades appealed to them with all the powers of eloquence they could master to continue the war. Girty was an adept in exciting their untutored passions and drew frightful pictures of the results that would ensue if they failed to embrace the opportunity to destroy the settlements and drive the hated whites from their land and hunting grounds, and that now or never was the time for carrying out this purpose. His appeals fell upon the ears of willing listeners and succeeded in arousing their animosity and firing their impetuous and ardent feelings. His remarks determined their policy and they unanimously determined to carry on the war.
It was accordingly arranged that two armies should take the field, - one composed of 600 men who were to invade Kentucky, and another of 350 warriors to invade Northwestern Virginia. In the latter part of August the army sent against Kentucky appeared at Bryant’s Station in that territory under the leadership of Simon Girty, where they were defeated in their enterprise and were discomforted.
The other army, which was to invade Northwestern Virginia, did not immediately set out to accomplish their effort, but delayed their movement until the early part of September, when they hurriedly pursued their march to Wheeling.
It was in the last mentioned month during the year 1782 that the celebrated spy and scout, John Lynn, - the same individual who was present at the time of the fatal attack and ambuscade at the “Narrows” below Wheeling, where Colonel Foreman and 21 of his men were so mercilessly massacred by the savages, - being out on a scout on the west side of the Ohio River, discovered a large force of Indians accompanied by a squad of British soldiers marching with all speed in the direction of Wheeling. He promptly hastened to inform the inhabitants of that place. Swimming the river, he reached the fort a few hours in advance of the enemy and gave a timely alarm to those in the vicinity. But the time being limited, no general alarm could be given to those further inland, hence only those immediately around the fort had the opportunity of seeking its shelter and protection, and of such there were not more than 35 or 40 effective men all told who were capable of doing active service. Colonel Shepherd, the county commandant, and by virtue of his office, the superior officer, was at the time absent on military business, and consequently the command of the fort devolved on Silas Zane. East of and but a short distance from the fort stood the log dwelling of Col. Ebenezer Zane, attached to which was a small magazine containing the military supplies which had been furnished by the government of Virginia, and also a kitchen or outbuilding occupied by a negro called “Daddy Sam” (a slave owned by Colonel Zane and to whom he was much attached) and his wife, known by the name of “Kate.”
On the occasion of the former attack upon the fort, as heretofore stated, in the year 1777, Colonel Zane, with his family, had abandoned his cabin and sought shelter in the fort, at which time his dwelling had been reduced to ashes by the enemy. It was then that he declared, if the Indians again made their appearance, he would not abandon his dwelling, but would defend it to the last extremity. As an outpost for the defence of the fort and as an annoyance to a hostile force, it could not have been excelled. Hence on the appearance of the Indians at this time he made the necessary preparations for remaining and defending it. Had he done otherwise and retired from it, all the military stores and ammunition stored in the magazine would have fallen into the hands of the enemy and have been destroyed or appropriated by them. The names of those who remained with him in the cabin were Andrew Scott, George Green, Elizabeth Zane (Colonel Zane’s wife), Molly Scott, Miss McColloch, a sister of Maj. Samuel and John McColloch, who was visiting the Zanes, being a sister of Mrs. Zane (and who had but a few days before came from her home on Short Creek), together with “Daddy Sam”, the negro already mentioned, and his wife “Kate.” The savages approached under the cover of the British flag, which was unfurled to the breeze and floated in proud defiance by the color bearer before the little band of heroic defenders. Before commencing their attack on the fort they insolently demanded the immediately surrender of it in the name of his Britannic Majesty, to which the only reply made was the firing of a shot by one of the men at the offensive colors which had been flaunted before them.
Thereupon the assault was commenced in dreadful earnest, the frenzied savages rushing forward like madmen, supported by the British contingent, in their wild attempt, striving to pull down and destroy the palisades so as to effect an entrance to the fort and take it by assault. Colonel Zane had arranged and posted his limited force within his cabin to the best advantage and where it would do the most execution. As the Indians sounded the war whoop and made their desperate rush he open upon them with a well directed and brisk fire simultaneously with that from the fort, which caused them to fall back in great disorder and to seek such cover as they could find where their persons would be less exposed. But others again, witnessing the discomfiture of their comrades, promptly with loud and deafening yells rushed forward to take the places of those who had retired, only to be repulsed the second time. And although these charges were repeated again and again, yet in every instance they suffered a recoil. These unsuccessful efforts upon their part were continued until night threw her mantle over the earth and a brief cessation of conflict and a temporary rest was obtained, yet it was but for a brief period this respite was secured. Their assailants were engaged in holding a consultation and deliberating among themselves how best to obtain possession of or destroy the cabin of Colonel Zane, which was such a foil to their hoped for success in reducing the fort, and which had proven so offensive to them in their repeated assaults and which had so balked their efforts. The conclusion arrived at by them was to make an attempt under the cover of darkness to destroy it by setting it on fire and thus to reduce it to ashes.
After an interval of a couple of hours when silence had settled upon the scene, and the camp fires of the besiegers had been extinguished, and it was presumed that the whites had relaxed their vigilance in some degree, a savage with a burning brand in his hand crawled towards the kitchen of the cabin, upon nearing which he cautiously and slowly arose from the ground, and, waving it to and from and blowing upon it with his breath to enliven and kindle it, was about to stealthily apply it to the building when of a sudden the quiet of the night was disturbed by the sharp crack of a rifle, which an instant later was accompanied by a sharp yell of pain and rage ere the echoes of the shot had ceased to resound in the mazes of the forest. The watchful and quick eye of “Daddy Sam” had detected the approach of the savage in time to foil him in his designs and spoil his calculations, thereby saving his master’s property from destruction by the torch of the incendiary. Other similar and persistent attempts were made the same night, but in every instance the alert and active “Daddy Sam” frustrated them. And here permit us to digress and say a word or two concerning this individual.
He was an original importation from the coast of Guinea and had all the peculiarities and characteristics of a native of that country, believing in charms, incantations and signs and was a bundle of strange superstitions and beliefs, and these he retained and many of them he practiced until the day of his death. He and wife were assiduously cared and provided for by Colonel Zane and his family until their decease. This gentlemen erected for them a comfortable cabin on the upper portion of what is known as Zane’s Island and immediately opposite the city of Wheeling, where he spent several of his remaining years in the possession of every comfort and convenience which his kind master furnished him. After a few years thus spent he died in peace and contentment, worn out with age and its attendant infirmities, honored and respected by the entire community, with whom he was a prime favorite. At his death he left strict injunctions that his rifle and its accoutrements, together with his tomahawk, knife and silver snuff-box, should be deposited in the grave with his remains that they might bear him company to the happy hunting grounds of the African. So highly was he esteemed that the military company of the city united with the citizens composed of the most prominent and also the humblest persons of the community, and the articles specified by him were interred with his body in the grave. In stature he was small, powerfully built, with arms of unusual length. His complexion was as black as coal and his teeth, not withstanding his age, as white as snow. He was buried in the old cemetery which then occupied the southeast corner of the present Sixteenth and Chapline Streets.
But we now propose to resume our narrative. At daylight on the following morning the lines of the enemy showed that they were tightly drawn and in compact order, but they appeared to be laggard in renewing the assault. By this we do not wish to convey the idea that they were idle, for they appeared to be actively employed in making preparations evidently for some important event. Shortly after dark of the preceding day a canoe loaded with cannon balls from Fort Pitt and destined for the Falls of the Ohio had put ashore under the cover of the fort. It was discovered by the Indians, who succeeded in capturing it, but not is occupants, who had managed to effect an entrance for themselves into the fort, in their efforts, however, to accomplish which one of them, - Daniel Sullivan, - was wounded in the foot. The savages having secured the canoe and taken possession of its contents, a new idea dawned upon them, and the enquiry suggested itself, - why not utilize these missiles and make them play a part in the reduction of the fort? The idea was approved and the suggestion promptly acted upon. Securing, therefore, a hollow log which they deemed was well adapted for the purpose intended, they proceeded to bind it with iron chains which were found in the blacksmith shop of the village; filling it with a heavy charge of powder, they rammed into it as many of the captured balls as it could conveniently contain and with as much accuracy as possible under the circumstances placed in in position and aimed it against one of the bastions of the fort. All was now ready for the priming, which was preformed by one of their number, who came forward and emptied from his powder horn a sufficient quantity around the vent and stepped aside to obtain a live brand with which to ignite the powder. A crowd of the Indians gathered around to witness this new engine of destruction and the effect it would produce upon the fort, not doubting in the least that it would prove more or less destructive in its effects, which it was, but not in the manner anticipated by them. We say in this supposition they were not deceived, but were sorely disappointed in the nature of the results which followed. All things being ready, the Indian advanced with his lighted brand, which he applied to the vent hole, and thereby stamped finis on the last page of his life history and that of his curious companions who were near him at the time. Several of them were killed outright, many were seriously and others slightly wounded, and all were terror-stricken by the unexpected denouement. The unlooked for and unexpected havoc caused among their number by the explosion of their wooden piece of artillery, which had burst into fragments, led them to become wild and furious under their keen disappointment and the loss and wounding of so many of their number, and wild with rage in the excitement of the circumstances they redoubled their exertions, renewing the assault with heedless desperation and exposing themselves in the most careless manner to the shots from the cabin and the fort. At times it appeared that they would succeed in their efforts, but then the fortunes of the day would change and those of the inmates of the fort would be in the ascendant. Thus the conflict wavered until noon, when the forces of the enemy were drawn off temporarily. It was exceedingly fortunate for the little garrison that the savages desisted from their assaults when they did, as ammunition of the defenders was growing short.
The alarm given by Lynn of the approach of the enemy gave them but a limited time to make their necessary arrangements for a supply of food and such articles of comfort as they might need during a protracted siege, but the fort was destitute of any great supply of ammunition, consisting principally of that which the settlers had on their persons when the alarm was given. This was being rapidly exhausted and would soon have been expended, therefore some measures had to be adopted to supply the need. As before stated, there was plenty of powder stored in the magazine of Colonel Zane’s house, but for all practical purposes it might as well have been a hundred miles away. The contingency which had now happened could not have been forseen and the emergency now upon them was a grave one. But it was one which had to be met, and the question was how could they best replenish their almost exhausted stock. An effort to at least obtain powder from Colonel Zane’s house it was absolutely necessary should be made, for, were the enemy to return to the assault, in their then condition the danger of the inmates was not only imminent but their almost certain doom was sealed. Among the many propositions which were made and the one which seemed to obtain favor was that one of the fleetest runners among the younger men should be selected for the perilous undertaking of obtaining a keg of powder from Colonel Zane’s house and of hastening with it to the relief of the besieged. It was a venture full of daring, with the prospect of almost certain death to the person who might essay the task. But undeterred by the magnitude of the feat and the peril which attended it, at the call of Captain Zane for a volunteer to risk, several brave men stepped forward, each one of whom insisted on being permitted to make the attempt. The loss of a single man at this juncture would have been keenly felt by the entire company. While Captain Zane was hesitating in arriving at a decision and making his choice from among those chivalric spirits who had so promptly offered their services, there came bounding into his presence his own sister, - Elizabeth Zane - in the elasticity of her youthful strength, and volunteered to attempt the accomplishment of the errand, regardless of what might befall her, if thereby she could be instrumental in saving the lives of others; when told that a man would encounter less danger by reason of his superior fleetness, she nobly replied that the loss of a man under the circumstances would be more severely felt than her own. “You have not one man to spare.” she said; “a woman would not be missed in the defence of the fort.” All the arguments adduced her brother and others to disuade her from making the attempt, together with the expostulations of the other females, had the effect of only confirming her in her resolution. Reluctantly they finally acquiesced in her purpose and her services were accepted. Divesting herself of all unnecessary clothing which might impede her in her progress, she appeared ready for the dangerous ordeal. The gate was swung open and the young heroine sprang out in the swelling buoyancy of hope, knowing no such word as fail, in the full confidence of success, and swift as a deer she sped away on her mission, arriving safely at the cabin of her brother, - Col. Ebenezer Zane, - who saw her coming and promptly opened the door to receive her. When the Indians saw her bounding along at the top of her speed they were amazed at her temerity, but did not offer to fire at her, but contented themselves with simply exclaiming with contemptuous sneers - “A squaw, A squaw.” Upon reaching her destination, she lost no time in stating her business. After a brief breathing spell she announced her readiness to return, whereupon Colonel Zane, taking a table cloth and fastening it securely around her waist with two of its ends, while the other ends were held by her in her hands, emptied into it a keg of powder, when she again venture forth on her return to the fort. Her black hair, like a banner, streamed out upon the air, as with swift feet she lessened the intervening distance. But she had covered no more than half the space between the cabin and the fort when the savages, apprehending her purpose, showered a rain of bullets around her, none of which, however, did any execution, as she reached the fort in safety and delivered the powder without having lost any perceptible portion of it. Subsequently, in recounting her experience on the occasion, she would relate how the bullets whistled around her so thick and fast that the dust thrown up by them, as they struck the ground, blinded and confused her so that she could scarcely distinguish her way. As she neared the fort the gate was again thrown open for her entrance, when the Indians made an unavailing effort to reach it before it could be closed by making a sudden rush. Finding themselves foiled, they quickly withdrew. This act of heroism on the part of Elizabeth Zane doubtless saved the lives of the inmates of the fort, and enabled them successfully to withstand the siege. As night closed in the enemy renewed their efforts to reduce the fort and continued them until daylight. Times almost without number during that trying and eventful night the enemy attempted to accomplish by the torch what they could not by superior numbers and vantage. Bundles of hemp and wood and rubbish were heaped by them against the pickets and set fire to at different places. The hemp, fortunately being wet, after being ignited would not burn, and the dry wood and rubbish proved also to be in vain to accomplish their end. When the day dawned after that terrible and trying night, it was greeted by the besieged with a renewal of hope, which had been well nigh banished from their hearts. The morning light was the harbinger indeed of joy and gladness and infused fresh life and energy into their despairing souls. When the intelligence reached Shepherd’s Fort, located at the Forks of Wheeling, of the investiture of Fort Henry by an army of Indians and British soldiers, a party left the former fort with a view of rendering assistance to the inmates of the latter, but on arriving in the vicinity they found that it would be impossible for them to gain admission and therefore reluctantly determined to return to the place whence they came. This conclusion was arrived at in opposition to the views of their leader, - Francis Duke, - a relative of Colonel Shepherd. He insisted that if no one else would, he alone would make the attempt to gain ingress at the fort at the risk of his life. To all persuasions against the undertaking he turned a deaf ear. He recognized their force and complained not at the resolution of the men to return, but his chivalric character and determined spirit could not be cured by argument nor persuasion. He did not regard the imminent danger attaching to the bold undertaking, but subordinating this to the higher and nobler promptings of his nature, which enabled him only to see the peril of friends who needed every man for defense, he spurned all restraints and taking his life in his hands and putting spurs to his horse he sped swift as his horse could carry him toward the gate of the fort, calling aloud as he rode, “Open the gate! Open the gate!” He was recognized by those within the fort and the gate swung open for his admission, but before reaching it he was pierced with a bullet and this young and gallant chevalier fell a martyr to his reckless daring and noble disinterestedness. On the morning of the third day the enemy, despairing of success and abandoning all hope of the reduction of the fort resolved on raising the siege. This resolution was announced to the inmates by a series of terrific yells and deafening whoops, which was the means adopted by them to give expression to their disgust at their failure. Turning their backs upon the scene, they took their departure and recrossed the river, except for a party of about 100 chosen warriors, who remained on the Virginia side for the purpose of plundering and laying waste the adjacent country. The loss of the enemy during the siege must have been quite large, as those in the fort and in the dwelling of Colonel Zane were not in the habit of throwing away their shots. It is a remarkable fact that none of the inmates of either were killed, and but one slightly wounded - Daniel Sullivan. The chivalric Duke was the only white man slain on the part of the defenders. The persistent and determined courage displayed, both by men and women in the fort and in the cabin of Colonel Zane, was simply grand and heroic. In the evening preceding the departure of the Indians from the vicinity of the fort two white men, who had been captured several years before by the Indians and held commands in the force, deserted from them. Early on the following morning they were taken prisoners by Colonel Swearingen, who, with a force of about 100 men, was hastening to aid in the defense of Fort Henry and the chastisement if its assailants. From them he learned the intention of the Indians to withdraw from Wheeling, but also to leave a portion of their army to operate in the surrounding country. One of these deserters was sent by James Marshall, lieutenant commandant of Washington county, Pennsylvania, to General Irvine, commanding at Fort Pitt, to which latter person himself was the bearer of the following letter:
“Dear Sir: The bearer is one of the deserters from the enemy in time of the action at Wheeling. Some people say the other deserters report this fellow as a villian, however, be that as it may, I think it best to send him to you that such order may be taken respecting him as you think proper.
“I am, Sir, with attachment, your obedient and humble servant,
“James Marshall, L.W.C.
“!6th Sept., 1782, Endorsed Public
“To the Hon’rble William Irvine,
“Brigadier General, Fort Pitt
The following extract from a letter written by the author of the foregoing letter and addressed by him to General Irvine, under date of September 12, 1782, will be of interest in this connection:
“By an express, this moment, arrived from Wheeling, I have received the following intelligence, viz: That a large trail was discovered yesterday about three o’clock near that place. Captain Boggs, who brought the account, says that when he left the fort about one mille and a half he heard the swivel at Wheeling fired and one rifle. He further says that Ebenezer McColloch, from Vanmetre’s Fort, on his way to Wheeling, got within half a mile of the place shortly after Boggs left it, when he was alarmed by hearing a heavy and constant fire about the fort, and makes no doubt the fort was then attacked. Boggs is gone into the settlements to alarm the inhabitants, and I am afraid will injure the expedition, as we have had so many false alarms this summer. I can’t think of making much of the present one until the truth of it is known with certainty, notwithstanding I should be inexcusable in not giving you the accounts as I have received it.” Tow days after the foregoing letter was written the following, written by Ebenezer Zane, was sent to General Irvine by the hands of a Mr. Loyd:
“Wheeling, 14th September, 1782.
On the evening of the 11th instant a body of the enemy appeared in sight of our garrison. They immediately formed their lines round the garrison, paraded British colors and demanded the fort to be surrendered, which was refused. About 12 o’clock at night they rushed on the pickets in order to storm, but were repulsed. They made two other attempts to storm before day, but to no purpose. About 8 o’clock next morning there came a negro from them to us and informed us that their force consisted of a British captain and 40 regular soldiers and 260 Indians. The enemy kept up a continual fire the whole day. About 10 o’clock at night they made a fourth attempt to storm, to no better purpose than the former. The enemy continued round the garrison till the morning of the 13th instant, when they disappeared. Our loss is none.
Daniel Sullivan, who arrived here in the first of the action, is wounded in the foot. I believe they have driven the greatest part of our stock away, and might, I think, be soon overtaken.
“I am, with due respect, your obedient servant,
(Addressed) “William Irvine,
“Brigadier General, commanding at Pittsburg.”
The names of some of the heroic little band who were in the fort on this occasion we give as follows, viz: Silas Zane, Jonathan Zane, Andrew Zane, John Caldwell, Abraham Rogers, John Lynn, John Salter, Joseph Biggs, Robert Lemmon, John Neiswanger, Daniel Sullivan, Elizabeth Zane, Lydia Boggs, Mary Burkitt, and Betsey Wheat. De Hass, in his “History and Indian Wars in Western Virginia,” gives additional names and includes the most of those herein mentioned, but the names mentioned were obtained many years ago from a person, now deceased*, who at the time of the siege was an inmate of the fort, and who gave the names of those only which she was able to recollect. (* Mrs. Mary Burkitt, who died about 1861, at a very advanced age.)
It is much to be regretted that a full list cannot be secured and inscribed upon a roll of honor where their names and memories might be preserved throughout all coming generations. We need to vitalize these epochs of our early history which have rendered our local annals so illustrious. They are the story, not of a romance woven by the fertile fancy and poetic imagination, but of the plain and unvarnished truths of stern reality. If anything is wanting to inspire our zeal or to awaken our dormant enthusiasm it should be found in the fact that the capstone of the temple of American independence was laid upon the soil of western Virginia, and that it was upon the soil of the Upper Ohio Valley that the flag of St. George was humbled in the dust and the last British gun was fired during the War of the Revolution.
The fact that no one was killed and but one person was wounded at the last siege of the fort and that one not a settler, and that of the enemy several were killed and more were wounded, awakened the curiosity of the writer to learn something concerning the character and history of the wounded individual. After much inquiry we have been able to gather some facts of a general character which we deem to be entirely reliable, as the source from which they are derived is unimpeachable.
This individual, Daniel Sullivan, was one of the most celebrated scouts and daring rangers of his day. His romantic history and characteristic bravery demand more than a passing thought and call for a more extended notice.
He was born on the present site of the city of Pittsburg in the year 1758. At the early age of nine years he, together with a boy by the name of Cunningham, was captured by the Indians in one of their predatory incursions into the infantile settlements, and by them carried away to one of their towns, where they soon assimilated the habits, customs and manners peculiar to their captors. During a period of five or six years while they remained there nothing of interest occurred to disturb the monotony of life which characterized the savage community in which they dwelt. Their sports and pastimes were similar to such as were indulged in by the Indian youth in whose company they were thrown, which consisted in hunting, fishing and the rude games of the forest, in which the two soon became adept, particularly Sullivan. At the expiration of the period above mentioned a portion of the tribe (peace then prevailing between the whites and Indians) visited Fort Pitt for the purpose of trading, securing ammunition, etc., and the detachment was accompanied by the two boys, - Sullivan and Cunningham.
* Mrs. Mary Burkitt, who died about 1861, at a very advanced age.
On their arrival there, notwithstanding their Indian disguise, their identity was discovered and recognized and one Zadoc Wright, a relative of young Sullivan, then living on the east side of the Ohio River about 10 miles below Fort Pitt, was immediately sent for and promptly responded to the summons, and at once entered upon negotiations for the recovery of the boys, who in all respects had become assimilated to their Indian friends in dress, disposition and inclinations, having been adopted by the tribe into whose hands they had fallen.
But little difficulty was experienced in securing the release of the Cunningham boy, who had become tired of his savage mode of life and readily seconded the efforts of his friends to obtain his release. But this was not the case with the Sullivan boy, who had become attached to the savage life and who was regarded by his Indian friends with great favor and esteem. Hence the parley over Sullivan between the chief and Wright as to the ransom to be paid for him was tedious and prolonged and threatened to prove a failure. The demands upon the part of the chief were exorbitant, and he receded from several agreements just as they were about to be consummated. Finally a horse, a pack saddle, a half-dozen hatchets, three red blankets and a gallon of whiskey settled the trade so far as the chief and Wright were concerned. Dan, who was a lad of fifteen years of age, had, all the time of the negotiations, been a demure and silent spectator of the proceedings, but was by no means an indifferent one. When he was informed of the finality of the transaction and that the necessary arrangements had been completed for him to return to his kindred, he sedately manifested his opposition by a negative shake of his head, thus declaring his intention of remaining with his Indian friends. This resolution of his produced a temporary embarrassment, which required the exercise of much tact and skill to surmount, and various expedients were resorted to to effect a change in the determination at which he had arrived. To accomplish this much time was spent; but an agreement was finally arrived at by which the boy stipulated that if Wright would then and there purchase for him a beaver hat he would forsake his savage life and return to civilized society. The proposition was accepted without further delay. At that period beaver hats were expensive luxuries as compared with the ordinary headwear of that day. Believing that he was substantially complying with the terms of the agreement, Wright purchased for him a wool hat, the price of which was equivalent to one dollar, and present it to Dan, who bestowed upon it a cursory glace and in terms of supreme contempt he enunciated his dissatisfaction as he returned it to the giver in the curt phrase - “ram beaver.” Finally a genuine beaver hat was obtained and substituted for the obnoxious tile, and this filled him with evident satisfaction and delight. The transaction was thus concluded, and the boys were restored to their gratified and happy families, but Dan, when called upon to part from his Indian friends, relinquished their companionship and society with great reluctance.
The following interesting account of an incident which transpired was subsequently related by the boys. After their capture they underwent a long and exhaustive march through the wilderness which occupied several days, when worn and weary with the journey and the many hardships they were compelled to encounter they at length reached their destination - an Indian town in the vicinity of the lakes.
After a day’s rest they were doomed to run the gauntlet between two files of young savages of an age similar to their own, each of whom wielded a hickory switch. Upon first being advised as to what was required of them, they were started amid loud howls and yells while blows fell upon them thick and fast. The Cunningham boy reached the objective point barely alive and suffering excruciating pain from the castigation to which he had been subjected. But Dan, as soon as he received a cut of the switch, became so furiously angered that he suddenly turned upon one of his tormentors and with a well planted blow in the face felled him to the ground; like an enraged beast he sprang on his foe’s prostrate form and a tussle for supremacy was waged. At this exhibition of pluck on the part of Dan the savages gathered around the combatants. Some of the spectators manifesting a disposition to afford the young savage an advantage, a chief who was present commanded that fair play should be shown. This did not prevent preferences and corresponding encouragement which found expression in favor of the one or the other as the case might happen. Hence some encouraged the young pale face and others the struggling redskin.
The fight continued for a length of time and was waged with persistent effort on the side of each. The result of it, however, was that Dan came off victorious and was at once adopted into the family of the chief and speedily became a favorite of the tribe.
The latter, who had not taken so kindly to savage life as his companion, was greatly rejoiced at his restoration to home and friends, and soon resumed the habits and pursuits of civilized life. Not so with Dan. On the other hand he held in contempt the usages of the “pale faces”, refusing to perform anything which savored of labor and scorning the society of those who engaged in it, calling them “squaws.” His inclination was to engage only in hunting and fishing. Therefore civilized life soon became a restraint to him which he could ill brook, and, his disposition to exchange it for the free and untrammeled life of the forest increasing, he was led to put his purpose into execution.
It was a year after his return from captivity when, on a Sabbath day while the people were assembled for public worship in the log meeting house, and while in the midst of their devotions, they were startled by the sudden appearance among them of an apparition arrayed in Indian costume, bedecked with feathers and adorned with paint, thoroughly armed and equipped. While their surprise was at its height and before the congregation had time to recover its equanimity, Dan, for it was he, gave utterance to a deafening war whoop, and turning on his heel sped with lightning-like rapidity into the recesses of the forest.
Becoming tired of civilized life, he resolved to return to the society of his Indian friends, where he could indulge in pursuits more congenial to his nature and in a mode of life better suited to him.
Years passed without his relatives and friends receiving any tidings from him, and they had settled down to the conviction that he was dead. But in September, 1782, at the time of the combined attack of the British and savages on Fort Henry, he suddenly appeared at the fort in the manner before mentioned and tendered his services. His instinctive love of race always revolted at the idea of raising his hands against those of his own nationality and blood, and he always refused to take part in any expedition against the whites. At this time he was a full grown man, being twenty-four years of age, and had lived with the Indians for a number of years. His sudden appearance at the time is to be accounted for by the fact that he was on his way to the Falls of Ohio in charge of a boatload of cannon balls, and hearing the firing at the fort and knowing that it portended danger, he made for the shore with the purpose of hurrying to the defense of the inmates. He was discovered by the savages, who gave him a close chase and also severely wounded him in the foot, but he succeeded in reaching the fort. His boat fell into the hands of the savages, who used the balls with a view of destroying the fort, which they unsuccessfully essayed to do in the manner described on a foregoing page of this chapter.
Sullivan was detained at the fort by reason of his wound for some time after the siege was raised, but by careful nursing and attention bestowed upon him by Mrs. Zane, who, at the time, was an inmate of the fort, it was not a very great while before he was able to resume his active life. As soon as he was able to travel he returned to his relatives near Pittsburg, but his restless character did not permit him to remain inactive very long. Espousing the side of his countrymen, he became a useful and fearless scout, penetrating the Indian country in the most confident manner. His knowledge of the Indian character, their country, habits, trails and tactics made him a formidable foe to the savages and a valuable auxiliary to the whites. Hence his time became almost wholly occupied in the capacity of a scout or guide, in the one or the other of which characters and often in both he was identified with almost every movement that was inaugurated against the red men from the time that he ceased to reside permanently among them until the period of his tragic death, which we will now relate. When General Harrison assumed command of the forces in the Northwestern territory, about the year 1808 or 1810, Sullivan’s reputation as a successful scout and daring frontiersman recommended him to the former, who at once took measures to secure his services. Harrison at this time had his headquarters at Post Vinscus, then so-called, now Vincennes, Indiana. The trouble with the Indians continued to increase, and they becoming more bold and daring in the practice of their outrages it was necessary for Harrison to have a company of woodsmen to act as scouts and spies in the Wabash country, where many depredations were being committed, who should be well versed in the tactics of the savages and could successfully cope with them in strategy.
With this object in view, he selected Sullivan as the most competent person to effect his purpose, and he commissioned him to raise the requisite number and command them. In pursuance of this commission Sullivan accordingly set out for the “Falls of Ohio” and in due time successfully accomplished the object he had in view, having selected a party of men well skilled in woodcraft, numbering 17 in all. The distance to be traversed from the “Falls” to the “Post” was about 100 miles through a dense and uninhabited wilderness. They had accomplished this distance on their return to a point within about 30 miles of their destination, which proved to be their last camp. Here they stopped to rest and refresh themselves during the heat of the day, and while so engaged Sullivan, who, Indian-like, believed in dreams, narrated to them one which he had the preceding night, informing them that he had been warned that they would certainly be attacked during the day and at the same time cautioning his men to exercise extraordinary vigilance. His narration made but a slight impression upon his auditors, who regarded it as an idle fear and treated the matter lightly. Their careless manner and manifest unconcern led him, however, to exact from each a solemn promise that should danger overtake them and an attack be made, whatever its magnitude might be, they would stand by him to the death if need be. This they unhesitatingly gave, but, as we shall see, it was observed by only a part. Resuming their march, they had progressed for two or three hours on their way, when reaching a spring in a beautiful grove, the surroundings of which invited them to rest and repose, they halted. They scarcely had time to dispose themselves under the friendly shade of the trees when they were startled by the wild whoop of the savage foes; upon springing to their feet, a heavy volley was fired at them by their concealed enemy. Nine of the 17 men, notwithstanding their promise of the morning, fled at the first fire. Two of the remaining eight men were killed outright, and those who were left at once took to trees, as was the custom in Indian warfare. In the meantime the savages had disposed themselves in a circle around them, and they found themselves in an ambuscade and fired upon from every quarter of the compass, so that whatever position they occupied they offered themselves as a fair target for their foes. But six men were now left to defend themselves against a large and blood-thirsty force of Indians.
After some protracted firing the Indians called on Sullivan, by name, to surrender, but he replied that he would die first, whereupon they made a charge and attempted to capture him alive. His few remaining men, consisting of three or four in number, rallied around him, standing firm with Spartan-like courage and fighting with heroic desperation until all but one man besides Sullivan were slain, fighting their implacable foe hand to hand. During the combat Sullivan’s rifle was broke at the small of the stock, but utilizing the barrel of it as a war-club he dealt swift destruction among his enemies when they ventured within reach of its blows. The Indians, fully intent on securing him alive, in numbers closed in around him, but his desperate courage prevented them from carrying out their design. One of the white men who had been stunned by a blow on the head, and who was supposed to be dead, recovering his consciousness, raised himself to a rest upon his elbow and saw one of the savages deliberately raise his rifle and shoot Sullivan, who fell dead. The survivor of the massacre, now fully restored to his senses, sought to elude the savages and made an unsuccessful effort to escape. But they were on the alert, and at once seized and bound him and carried him away captive. His detention, however, was not prolonged for a very great period as he managed one day to escape the vigilance of his captors and reach his friends in safety, to whom he related the incidents substantially as above given. The brave men who had sealed their devotion to their leader with their blood and whose prostrate bodies were scattered around on the scene of conflict were each scalped and otherwise mutilated, but Sullivan’s remains were respected and suffered no indignities, except that they removed his heart and made of it a soup of which they partook with a view, as they said, of making them “brave.” This having been accomplished, as a further token of respect to his courage they covered his body with leaves and twigs, burying it in this rude way on the spot where he fell, and then the whole party, joining in dismal death chant, moved away on a dog trot through the forest. The place where this massacre occurred has ever since been known as “Sullivan’s Spring.”