Lord Dunmore’s War (1774)

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Lord Dunmore’s War (1774

In 1774 the Mingo and Shawnee nations ad the Colony of Virginia entered into Lord Dunmore’s War, which was also often known simply as Dunmore’s War.The Iroquois people had claimed the area to the Ohio River’s south for a long time, and they were considered to be the strongest of all of the Indian nations in the north. However, other tribes often hunted in the area and made claims to the land. In 1768, the Treaty of Fort Stanwix was signed between the Iroquois and the colonists. The result was that the colonists were given the right to settle on the land, which was located in what are now Kentucky and West Virginia. However, other tribes, especially the Shawnee, were not willing to give up the land to the settlers, despite the fact that they had no legal claims to it according to the Iroquois or the settlers. So, they setup a resistance to fight the settlers.

A then-unknown hunter by the name of Daniel Boone led a group of 50 British colonists to a new settlement in Kentucky County, Virginia in 1773. That area later became part of Kentucky. The following month, on October 9, a small group of boys and men were retrieving supplies when they were attacked by Cherokee, Delaware, and Shawnee tribe members. Among the people who were attacked was Daniel Boone’s eldest son, James. He and another boy were taken prisoner, tortured, and eventually killed. The attack was so shocking that it caused Boone and the rest of the settlers to flee the area, but that started Dunmore’s War. Over the next several years, many attacks and small skirmishes took place because various tribes did not want to acknowledge the validity of the treaty. Many settlers were enslaved, tortured, or killed.

Even though the History of Lord Dunmore’s War often portrays the Indians as the sole aggressors, the white settlers often attacked the Indians as well. One such attack was a major starting point of the war. It took place on April 30, 1774 and it was known as the Yellow Creek Massacre. A dozen members of the Mingo tribe were killed by a group of Virginia frontiersmen. Many of those who died were relatives of John James Logan (1725-1780) who had been a friendly Mingo/Iroquois. At the time, several chiefs, including Guyasuta (Mingo/Seneca), White Eyes (Lenape),and Constalk (Shawnee) tried to institute a peace treaty before things got out of control, but it was no use. Shawnee and Mingo warriors soon banded together to capture and kill settlers. It is said that Logan himself scalped at least 30 colonists. Although, the exact numbers are unknown.

As one would expect, the Virginia colonists soon prepared to fight back. John Murray, who was the 4th Earl of Dunmore, was the Governor of Virginia at the time. In May of 1774, he requested that the House of Burgesses declare war against both the Shawnee and Mingo Indians. War was officially declared and, on June 10, 1774 Lord Dunmore sent Colonel Andrew Lewis and his militiamen to the southwest portion of Virginia. Governor Dunmore left for the Ohio Valley on July 10, 1774. Although, he did not arrive there until October. Meanwhile, Major Angus McDonald led the Frederick County militia in raids against Muskingum River Indian towns in August of that year.

Dunmore had a simple plan. He wanted to raise 3 regiments to the Blue Ridge’s west. He would command 2 of them himself, while regiment 3 would be commanded by Colonel Andrew Lewis. Lewis was to lead 1,100 men. The group left from Camp Union (Lewisburg, West Virginia) and traveled to the Kanawha River. Then they moved down the river to a rendezvous point that had been predetermined. They arrived there on October 6. Meanwhile, Lord Dunmore moved his forces first to Fort Pitt and then down the Ohio River, but he hadn’t yet arrived when Lewis and his men got there. Lewis decided to send messengers up the river to find Lord Dunmore, and Dunmore sent a message back to Lewis that he planned to go to the Scioto and attack the Shawnee towns there. He told Lewis to meet him there.

Unfortunately for Lewis and his men, they were ambushed on October 10 by Chief Cornstalk and a group of 1,100 of his men. That group, however, did not include Logan. The fight there became known as the Battle of Point Pleasant. It took all day and, when it was over, Lewis and his men came out the winners. Although, they took heavy losses in the process.

Both Lewis and Dunmore moved toward the Shawnee towns in Ohio, stopping at Sippo Creek to setup a temporary camp called Camp Charlotte. Captain Daniel Morgan led a company there, with John Houseman under his command. They served for 164 days, but spent some of that time at the camp. They may also have served in the Battle of Point Pleasant, but that information isn’t historically verified. Cornstalk and Dunmore soon met to start peace negotiations, but history is again unclear about whether or not Lewis joined them. Some historians say that Chief Logan promised to stop fighting at that point. Although, some accounts say that he didn’t even meet with the rest of them for the peace talks. Nevertheless, the Treaty of Camp Charlotte was signed. Under its terms, there would be no more hunting in the area by the Indians, and the Ohio River would become the boundary between the British colonies and the Indian Lands. That treaty effectively brought Lord Dunmore’s War to a close. However, the Mingo Indians did not agree to the terms of the treaty. So, their village, which was known as Seekunk, was destroyed by 240 men led by Major William Crawford.

French, German, and English newspapers covered the Battle of Point Pleasant. It was considered to be one of the most major battles in American history to that point. So, it was a world-wide news event.

Lord Dunmore returned to Virginia a conquering hero. He joined the King’s cause and became one of the most loyal of all Loyalists in the colonies. He fought hard against American independence from the crown for the remainder of his time in America. The British were more determined than other to keep American colonists from expanding their territory to the west in order to maintain peace with the Native Americans.

Unfortunately, that British policy didn’t sit well with the American colonists. Lord Dunmore tried to keep the Virginia colonists from setting up their own systems of government. In fact, he had even successfully disbanded the legislatures the colonists tried to create in 1773, as well as 1774. However, Andrew Lewis and several others thought that Dunmore wanted to feather his own cap and further his own political agenda.

In fact, Lewis reported to General Washington that he thought Dunmore had deliberately planned the Battle of Point Pleasant in order to make himself look better. He was thought to have deliberately arranged it so Lewis would be at that place at that time and the Indians could attack, weakening the spirits of the Virginian colonists, who were beginning to rebel against British rule.

By 1775, almost every resident of Virginia opposed Lord Dunmore. In March of that year, Dunmore tried to create a slave insurrection because he was angry about the Virginia Convention taking place. The following month, he stole a gunpowder supply from Williamsburg. However, Patrick Henry assembled volunteers to march to Williamsburg, Virginia and make Dunmore pay for the gunpowder. Later that year, Dunmore and some others tried to get the Indians to attack the frontiersmen in Virginia, but they were caught. In November, Dunmore ordered that any slaves willing to fight the “rebels” would be given their freedom. He also declared martial law in the region. The emancipation of the slaves helped him to increase his number of followers from approximately 300 to 1,100. Soon, he and his men began to destroy Virginia and attack the Whigs. However, the Virginian colonists prepared a militia to fight back against Dunmore and his men. On December 9, they stopped Dunmore and his men at Great Bridge, Virginia. Dunmore retreated to Norfolk, where his ships were docked. The town refused to support him. So, he set it ablaze. General Andrew Lewis and his men decimated Dunmore’s navy only 14 months after supposedly being on the same side in Lord Dunmore’s War. Dunmore soon wound up retreating back to England. He was the last of Virginia’s Royal Governors.

Although Dunmore was gone, trouble with the Native Americans in the area continued. In fact, Native Americans had a major role in the Revolutionary War. The Indians, particularly the Cherokee and the Shawnee, were determined to fight the colonists. In May of 1776, they officially declared war. While the battles of the Revolutionary War took place, Indians and Colonists also wound up fighting multiple times. According to Theodore Roosevelt, Lord Dunmore’s War was actually helpful to the American colonists because it kept the northwestern Indians occupied during the early stages of the American Revolution.

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