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Lord Dunmore's War

Dunmore's War was a conflict between the Colony of Virginia and the Native Americans of the Ohio Valley. This conflict was the ultimate outcome of rapid colonization west of the Allegheny Mountains. Such settlement in these western lands had been declared illegal by the Proclamation of 1763 but colonization persisted. Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, gave veterans of the French and Indian War who fought under him land that belonged to the Shawnee. Following increased raids and attacks on frontiersmen in this region, Lord Dunmore organized a large force of militia and marched to Fort Pitt arriving at the end of August 1774.

The British, in the Proclamation of 1763, told their colonists not to move west of the Appalachian Mountains because the land belonged to the Indians. Few settlers listened. As more settlers moved onto Indian lands, fighting increased between the two groups. In 1774, the governor of Virginia, Lord John Murray Dunmore, sent troops to conquer the Indians. Tarhe assisted Cornstalk, a chief of the Shawnee Indians, against the whites. Unfortunately for the natives, the whites emerged victorious from Lord Dunmore's War.

Most histories of trans-Alleghany pioneering ascribe the origin of the Dunmore War of 1774 to an isolated set of occurrences upon the upper Ohio, happening in the spring of that year. But its roots went far deeper than this. It was the culmination of a long series of mutual grievances and outrages between the frontiersmen of Virginia and Pennsylvania and the naatives of the Ohio Valley.

The crushing of New France by Great Britain brought but partial rest to the English borderers. The pioneers of the British colonies relentlessly pushed westward; aboriginal hunting grounds were converted first into their own game walks and then into farms, and in the process the tribesmen were often harshly treated. Indian resentment and reprisal were to be expected — blazing into the swift flame of Pontiac's conspiracy (1763), and only half smothered by the severity of Bouquet's retaliatory expedition.

The frontier was the line of contact for two irreconcilable peoples; real peace could not be had, until one or the other was vanquished beyond question. The policy of the English government had been to limit settlement by the Alleghanies, but pressure was exercised by influential persons interested in American development, and by 1768 native title to lands between the mountains and the south bank of the Ohio was quieted by the treaty of Fort Stanwix, reinforced by that of Lochaber (1770) with the Southern Indians, whose boundary was then fixed at Kentucky River.

The backwoodsmen of Pennsylvania and Virginia were a special class, formed chiefly of Scotch-Irish and German settlers, whom Lord Dunmore, then governor of Virginia, thus characterized in a report to the colonial secretary in London: "They acquire no attachment to Place: but wandering about Seems engrafted in their nature; and it is a weakness incident to it, that they Should forever imagine the Lands further off, are Still better than those upon which they are already settled."

Into the vast transmontane region which had been acquired at Stanwix and Lochaber, these men feverishly pressed, eager for fresh hunting grounds and virgin farms. Collision between them and the aborigines, many of whom denied the validity of the cessions, was inevitable.

North of the Ohio, a readjustment of tribes had recently taken place. The Delawares, first encountered by whites in the river valleys of eastern Pennsylvania, had gradually been dispossessed, and forced westward, until they reached the fertile valleys of the Muskingum and the Tuscarawas, in the eastern part of the present Ohio. Thither a peaceful remnant had brought Moravian missionaries, who built the towns of Beautiful Spring (Schonbrunn), Tents of Grace (Gnadenhiitten), and Peace (Salem), where they gathered their converts about them.

These Christian villages probably were the most important element in restraining the Delaware tribe from yielding to the importunities of their neighbors to take up the hatchet against the Virginians. White Eyes, their principal chief, kept his people loyal to their peace pledge, and aided Lord Diinmore with information and advice that was as valuable as disinterested.

Neighbors to the Delawares, dwelt the fierce Shawnee. Their history is involved in much obscurity, but their first home appears to have been to the south and west. In the first decades of the eighteenth century, their migration northward was being urged by French officials. From the middle of the century they were securely seated upon the Scioto, which became a centre of marauding parties launched against the Virginia frontier. Originally somewhat mild and peaceful under French control, their growth in numbers and influence made them the terror of the English border. Back of the Shawnee lay the tribes that had engaged in Pontiac's uprising—the Wyandot, the Ottawa, and the great confederacy of the Miami.

The famous Mingo Indian Chief Logan was named by his father after his friend James Logan, secretary of the province of Pennsylvania, who was partially responsible for Logan's education. Logan was considered friendly and cooperative by most settlers, until ten Indians, including two women - Logan’s mother and sister - were killed and scalped by Englishmen on April 30, 1774 on Yellow Creek, in the Northern Panhandle. Among the victims were members of Logan's family.

Several versions of the massacre circulated on the frontier. Lord Dunmore blamed a settler named Daniel Greathouse while Logan, called Tah-gah-jute by his people, blamed Michael Cresap, a Maryland soldier and land speculator who was building cabins along the Ohio River as a means of securing land. Although the evidence suggests that Cresap was in the vicinity at the time of the massacre, most historians believe that he was not involved in the murders. In any case, following the massacre, Logan allied his tribe with the British and went on the warpath, leading four deadly raids on the Virginia and Pennsylvania frontiers and instigating what would later be called Lord Dunmore's War of 1774.

Early in 1774 Dr. John Connolly occupied Fort Pitt in the name of Virginia and began to encourage nearby frontiersmen to aggression against the Indians. Lord Dunmore ordered Colonel Andrew Lewis, commander of the southwestern Virginia militia, to raise an army in the south and meet Dunmore's force along the Ohio River. Lewis formed militia companies from Augusta, Botetourt, Fincastle, Bedford, Culpeper, Dunmore, and Kentucky counties.  When Lewis’s army left for Point Pleasant, it has been estimated that the total number  of settlers within the Greenbrier Valley was between three and four thousand.  These settlers erected forts for protection.  Most were little more than fortified  residences for neighboring families.

The Battle of Point Pleasant, in October 1774, is the best known conflict in the region between local Indian populations and Euro-American colonists. The Shawnee and their Indian allies, led by the Shawnee chief Cornstalk (Holokeska), fought an American colonial army to a draw in the Battle of Point Pleasant, where the Kanawha joins the Ohio in modern West Virginia. Col. Andrew Lewis, with about 1,100 men from southwestern Virginia, marched up the Kanawha to Point Pleasant where Chief Cornstalk with a large force of Shawnee attacked him early in the morning of October 10, 1774. The Indians withdrew in the late afternoon, after heavy fighting which produced severe casualties: 50 Virginians killed, 100 wounded.

The Virginia colonial militia, led by General Anthony Lewis, defeated the Indians at Point Pleasant, in spite of heavy casualties. This led to the end of what is known as Lord Dunmore’s War which had begun in the Spring of 1774 and ended shortly after the Battle of Point Pleasant. This was the only major engagement of Dunmore’s War, a western prelude to the forthcoming American Revolution. The Shawnee were thereafter unable to halt the settlement of Kentucky or to destroy the weak Kentucky stations during the crucial early years of the War for Independence.

After Colonel Lewis' victory at the Battle of Point Pleasant, Dunmore successfully negotiated a peace treaty with the Delaware, Mingo, and Shawnee chiefs which prevented them from settling or hunting south of the Ohio River.

Lord Dunmore’s War ended in peace talks that Logan refused to attend. Instead, he sent a speech, which came to be known as Logan’s Lament, in which he pledged to continue fighting the English. He stayed true to his pledge until the end of his life in 1780, but was unable to stop the settlers from moving into the Ohio Country.

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Page last modified: 16-10-2017 12:41:14 ZULU