Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Revolutionary War History in the Midwest, etc.
In late 1778, George Rogers Clark, or a young Virginia militia officer, launched a campaign to get the sparsely garrisoned Illinois County from the British. He had a company of volunteers. Clark captured Kaskaskia or the chief post in the Illinois Country, on July 4, 1778. It was later secured the submission of Vincennes. Vincennes was recaptured by General Henry Hamilton or the British commander of Detroit. In February 1779, Clark marched to Vincennes in a surprise winter march and captured Hamilton himself. To American frontiersmen, Hamilton was known as "the Hair-buyer General" because, they believed, he encouraged Native Americans to kill and scalp American civilians. For this reason, Governor Thomas Jefferson brought Hamilton to Williamsburg, Virginia, to be tried as a war criminal. After British officials threatened to retaliate against American prisoners of war, Jefferson relented, and Hamilton was exchanged for an American prisoner in 1781. By 1780, there was a major British and Native American offensive. During the next years of the war, both sides launched raids against each other. They usually targeted settlements. In 1780, hundreds of Kentucky settlers were killed or captured in a British-Native American expedition into Kentucky. George Rogers Clark responded by leading an expedition in August 1780 which destroyed two Shawnee towns along the Mad River, but doing little damage to the Indian war effort. In late May Spanish-held St. Louis was attacked by a British force mostly made up of Native Americans and was successfully defended by the mixed Spanish and French creole force. Fort San Carlos, a stone tower in modern downtown St Louis, was the center of this defense. In the Illinois territory, French officer Augustin de La Balme assembled a militia force of French residents in an effort to take Fort Detroit. The force was destroyed in November by the Miami under Chief Little Turtle. At the same time, the nearly abandoned Fort St. Joseph was raided by Americans from Cahokia. On their return trip, however, they were overtaken by British loyalists and Native Americans near Petit fort.
During the Revolutionary War, the Spanish Governor Francisco Cruzat in St. Louis sent a force of about 140 Spanish soldiers and Native Americans under Captain Eugenio Pourre to capture Fort St. Joseph. It was captured and plundered on February 12, 1781. In late 1780, George Rogers Clark traveled east to consult with Thomas Jefferson (who was the governor of Virginia back then) about an expedition in 1781. Jefferson created a plan. This plan wanted Clark to lead 2,000 men against Detroit. Recruiting enough men was a problem. The reason was that during a time of war, most militiamen preferred to stay close to their homes instead of going on extended campaigns. Furthermore, Colonel Daniel Brodhead refused to detach the men because he was staging his own expedition against the Delawares, who had recently entered the war against the Americans. Broadhead marched into the Ohio Country and destroyed the Delaware Native American capital of Coshocton in April 1781. This only made the Delawares more determined enemies and deprived Clark of badly needed men and supplies for the Detroit campaign. Most of the Delawares fled to the militant towns on the Sandusky River. When Clark finally left Fort Pitt in August 1781, he was accompanied by only 400 men. On August 24, 1781, a detachment of one hundred of his men was ambushed near the Ohio River by Native Americans led by Joseph Brant, a Mohawk leader temporarily in the west. Brant's victory ended Clark's efforts to move against Detroit. Between the combatants on the Sandusky River and the Americans at Fort Pitt were several villages of Christian Delawares. The villages were administered by the Moravian missionaries David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder. Although non-combatants, the missionaries favored the American cause and kept American officials at Fort Pitt informed about hostile British and Indian activity. In response, in September 1781, Wyandots and Delawares from Sandusky forcibly removed the Christian Delawares and the missionaries to a new village (Captive Town) on the Sandusky River.
The year of 1782 of the Western theater of the American Revolutionary War was very bloody. In March of 1782, 160 Pennsylvania militiamen under Lieutenant Colonel David Williamson rode into Ohio County. He wanted to find the Native Americans who were responsible for ongoing raids against Pennsylvania settlers. Williamson accused some Native Americans of murdering a white woman and a baby. Williamson’s men detained about 100 Christian Delaware Native Americans at the village of Gnadenhütten. The Christian Delawares had returned to Gnadenhütten from Captive Town in order to harvest the crops that they had been forced to leave behind. Accusing the Christian Native Americans of having aided Native American raiding parties, the Pennsylvanians murdered the 100 Christian Native Americans—mostly women and children—with hammer blows to the head. Colonel William Crawford of the Continental Army came out of retirement. He led 480 volunteer militiamen (mostly from Pennsylvania) deep into American Native American territory. He wanted to surprise the Native Americans. The Native Americans and their British allies from Detroit had learned about the expedition in advance. They brought about 440 men to the Sandusky to oppose the Americans. There was a day of indecisive fighting. The Americans found themselves surrounded and tried to retreat. The retreat turned into a rout, but most of the Americans managed to find their way back to Pennsylvania. About 70 Americans were killed; Native American and British losses were minimal. During the retreat, Colonel Crawford and an unknown number of his men were captured. The Native Americans executed many of these captives in retaliation for the Gnadenhütten massacre earlier in the year, in which about 100 Native American civilians were murdered by Pennsylvania militiamen. Crawford's execution was particularly brutal: he was tortured for at least two hours before being burned at the stake. The failure of the Crawford expedition caused alarmed among the settlers along the American frontier. Many Americans feared that Native Americans would be emboldened by their victory and launch a new series of raids. There would be more defeats for the Americans. This year was bloody. On July 13, 1782, the Mingo leader Guyasuta led about 100 Native Americans and several British volunteers into Pennsylvania, destroying Hannastown and killing nine and capturing twelve settlers. It was the hardest blow dealt by Native Americans in Western Pennsylvania during the war.
In Kentucky, the Americans went on the defensive while Caldwell, Elliot, and McKee with their Native American allies prepared a major offensive. In March of 1782, Fort Estill was attacked by Wyandot Native Americans. Colonel Benjamin Logan, commanding officer of the region and stationed at Logan’s Station learned that the Wyandot warriors were in the area on the warpath. The Native Americans, aided by the British in Detroit, had raided from Boonsborough past Estill’s Station along the Kentucky River. Logan dispatched 15 men to Captain Estill at Estill’s Station with orders to increase his force by 25 more men and reconnoiter the country to the north and east. Captain Estill followed orders and reached the Kentucky River a few miles below the mouth of Station Camp Creek. He camped that night at Sweet Lick or known as Estill Springs. On that day after they left Estill’s Station, a group of Native Americans appeared there at dawn on March 20. They raided the fort, scalped and killed a Miss Innes in sight of the fortification and took Monk (a slave of Captain Estill) and killed all the cattle. When the Native Americans retreated, Samuel South and Peter Hackett, both young men, were dispatched to take the trail of the men and inform them of the news. The boys found them near the mouth of Drowning Creek and Red River early on the morning of March 21. Of the 40 men, approximately 20 had left families within the fort. They returned with the boys to Estill's Station. The remainder crossed the Kentucky River and found the Native American trail. Captain Estill organized a company of 25 men, followed the Native Americans, and suffered what is known as Estill's Defeat, later known as the Battle of Little Mountain (March 22, 1782) in Montgomery Co. In July 1782, more than 1,000 Native Americans gathered at Wapatomica, but the expedition was called off after scouts reported that George Rogers Clark was preparing to invade the Ohio Country from Kentucky. The reports turned out to be false, but Caldwell still managed to lead 300 Native Americans into Kentucky and deliver a devastating blow at the Battle of Blue Licks in August. With peace negotiations between the United States and Great Britain making progress, Caldwell was ordered to cease further operations. Similarly, General Irvine had gotten permission for a Continental Army expedition into the Ohio Country, but this was cancelled. In November, George Rogers Clark delivered the final blow in the Ohio Country, destroying several Shawnee towns, but inflicting little damage on the inhabitants.
The war in the Northwest, in the words of historian David Curtis Scaggs, Jr. "ended in a stalemate.” In the war's final years, each side could destroy enemy settlements, but could not stay and hold the territory. For the Shawnees, the war was a loss: the Americans had successfully defended Kentucky and increased settlement there, so that prime hunting ground was now lost. Although the Native Americans had been pushed back from the Ohio River and were now settled primarily in the Lake Erie basin, the Americans could not occupy the abandoned lands for fear of Native American raids. News of the pending peace treaty arrived late in 1782. In the final treaty, the Ohio Country was signed away by Great Britain to the United States, even though "not a single American soldier was north of the Ohio River when the treaty was signed.” Great Britain had not consulted the Native Americans in the peace process, and the Native Americans were nowhere mentioned in treaty's terms. For the Native Americans, the struggle would soon continue as the Northwest Indian War, though this time without the explicit support of the British.