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Dunmore's War (or Lord Dunmore's War) was the result of several collisions that took place in the spring of 1774, on the Ohio River above the mouth of the Little Kanawha River, between Native American peoples (particularly Shawnee, Miami, and Wyandot) and parties of Anglo-American settlers who were in the region either exploring the country farther to the northwest or clearing land for settlement.
The Proclamation of 1763 had reserved the land between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River for the First Nations living there. American colonials, however, saw the Proclamation as a betrayal of their interests to those of Native Americans, and in defiance of the Proclamation, a series of settlers under Daniel Boone and others established themselves in what is now Kentucky.
Among the settlers was Captain Michael Cresap, who was the owner of a trading post at Redstone Old Fort (now Brownsville, Pennsylvania) on the Monongahela River. Under authority of the colonial government of Virginia, Cresap had taken up extensive tracts of land at and below the mouth of Middle Island Creek (now Sistersville, West Virginia), and had gone there in the early spring of 1774 with a party of men to settle his holdings. Ebenezer Zane, afterwards a famed “Indian fighter” and guide, was engaged at the same time and in the same way with a small party of men on lands which he had taken up at or near the mouth of Sandy Creek. A third and larger group that included George Rogers Clark, who later became a general during the Revolutionary War, had gathered at the mouth of the Little Kanawha River (the present site of Parkersburg, West Virginia), and were waiting there for the arrival of other Virginians who were expected to join them at that point before moving downriver to settle lands in Kentucky.
While waiting for some days on the Little Kanawha, reports began to reach Clark’s group that Native Americans were robbing and occasionally killing traders, surveyors and others traveling down the Ohio, which caused them to believe that the Native Americans were bent on all-out war. With this in mind the group decided to attack the Native town called Horsehead Bottom, which was near the mouth of the Scioto River and on the way to their intended destination in Kentucky. The question arose as to who would lead the attack, as few in the group had experience in warfare. After some discussion the group decided on Capt. Cresap, whom they knew was about fifteen miles upriver from them and was intending to follow them into Kentucky, and who also had combat experience. Cresap was sent for and he quickly met with the group. After some discussion of their plan, Cresap dissuaded the group from the attack, saying that while the actions of the Native Americans were certainly hostile they didn’t indicate that war was inevitable. He further argued that if they carried out their plans he had no doubt of their success, but a war would surely result, and they could justifiably be blamed for it. Instead he suggested the group should return to Wheeling, West Virginia for a few weeks to see what would develop, and if the situation calmed they would then resume their journey to Kentucky. The group agreed.
When they arrived at Wheeling they found the whole area in an uproar, panicked by what was believed to be imminent war with the Native Americans. People from the surrounding countryside flocked to the town for protection, and the ranks of Cresap’s group soon swelled with volunteers willing to fight. Word of the group’s arrival reached Fort Pitt, and Capt. John Connolly, commander of the fort, sent a message asking that the group remain in Wheeling a few days, as messages had been sent to the local tribes to determine their intentions. A reply was sent to Connolly saying the group would do as he asked, but before it got to Fort Pitt a second message from Connolly was received, addressed to Cresap, stating the tribes had signaled they intended war.
A council was called April 26 and after Cresap read Connolly’s letter to the assembly, war was declared. The following day some Native canoes were spotted on the river, and after chasing them fifteen miles downriver to Pipe Creek the settlers engaged them, and a battle ensued. Both sides suffered a few wounded. The following day, Clark's party abandoned the original idea of proceeding to Kentucky, as they anticipated retaliation would follow for the attack at Pipe Creek. They broke camp and marched with Cresap's men to his headquarters at Redstone Old Fort.
Growth of violence
Immediately after the occurrence of the Pipe Creek incident came the murder of the relatives of the Mingo Chief Logan, who up to this point had been peaceful towards the settlers. Logan and his hunting party were camped on the west bank of the Ohio at Yellow Creek, about thirty miles above Wheeling (near present day Steubenville, Ohio) across the river from Baker’s Bottom. On April 30 some members of the hunting party (Logan was not among them) crossed the river to Baker’s tavern for their customary ration of rum. When most of them were intoxicated a group of settlers that had been lying in wait killed all of them except for an infant child. The settlers who did the killing were under the leadership of Daniel Greathouse, a settler living near the mouth of King's Creek. Logan believed, as did others at the time, that Capt. Cresap was responsible for the murder of Logan’s family, as he was known to have killed other Native Americans. However, several people familiar with the incident (including George Rogers Clark) have stated that Daniel Greathouse and his party were the ones who committed the murders, and Cresap was not involved at all.
The settlers along the frontiers, knowing the Native Americans would surely make war in revenge for the killing of their people, immediately sought safety, either in blockhouses or by abandoning their settlements and flying eastward across the Monongahela, with many traveling back across the Allegheny Mountains. This fear was well founded: Logan, whose former friendship for the settlers had been turned into hatred by the killing of his people, came in with his band to ravage the settlements on the west side of the Monongahela.
Lord Dunmore's response
Early in May 1774 Virginia's Governor John Murray, Lord Dunmore received word of the hostilities that commenced at Yellow Creek and other points on the Ohio. In response he mustered forces for the invasion of the Native territories. He split his force into two groups: one would move down the Ohio from Fort Pitt, under the Governor himself, and another body of troops under Colonel Andrew Lewis would travel from Camp Union (now Lewisburg, West Virginia) to meet Dunmore at the mouth of the Great Kanawha River. Under this general plan Governor Dunmore traveled to Fort Pitt and then he proceeded with his forces down the Ohio River, and on September 30 arrived at Fort Fincastle (later Fort Henry) which recently had been built at Wheeling by Dunmore's order. The force under Col. Lewis, eleven hundred strong, proceeded from Camp Union to the headwaters of the Kanawha, and then downriver to the appointed rendezvous at its mouth, which was reached on October 6. Gen. Lewis, not finding Lord Dunmore already there, sent messengers up the Ohio to meet him and inform him of the arrival of the column at the mouth of the Kanawha. On October 9 a dispatch was received from Dunmore saying that he (Dunmore) was at the mouth of the Hocking River, and that he would proceed thence directly to the Shawnee towns on the Scioto, instead of coming down the Ohio to the mouth of the Kanawha as originally planned. At the same time he ordered Lewis to cross the Ohio and march to meet him (Dunmore) at the Shawnee towns.
On October 10, before Col. Lewis had commenced his movement across the Ohio, he was attacked by a large body of Shawnee warriors under Chief Cornstalk. The fight (known as the Battle of Point Pleasant) raged nearly all day, and resulted in the defeat of the Native warriors, who subsequently retreated across the Ohio. Dunmore and Lewis advanced from their respective points into Ohio to within eight miles of the Shawnee town on the Scioto and erected a temporary camp called Camp Charlotte , on Sippo Creek. Here they met Cornstalk to begin peace negotiations. Chief Logan, although he stated he would cease fighting, would not attend any of the formal peace talks. The Shawnee accepted the terms but the Mingo did not; Major William Crawford was therefore sent against one of the Mingo villages, called Seekunk, or Salt Lick Town. His force consisted of two hundred and forty men, with which he destroyed the village.
These operations and the submission of the Shawnee and Mingo at Camp Charlotte virtually closed the war. Governor Dunmore immediately set on his return, and proceeded by way of Redstone and the Great Crossings of the Youghiogheny River to Fort Cumberland, and then to the Virginia capital.
- History of Washington County, Pennsylvania With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, Boyd Crumrine, L. H. Everts & Co. (Philadelphia, 1882).
- The Border Wars of the Upper Ohio Valley (1769-1794), William Hintzen, Precision Shooting Inc. (Manchester, CT 2001).
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