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white men_. Scattered through the tribes east of the Alleghanies,
before and during the American Revolution, there were many such
miscreants. Among the Western tribes, during the early settlement of
Kentucky and Ohio, and at the period of the last war with Great Britain,
there were a number, some of them men of talent and great activity.
One of the boldest and most notorious of these latter, was one whom we
have had frequent occasion to mention, SIMON GIRTY - for many years the
scourge of the infant settlements in the West, the terror of women, and
the bugaboo of children. This man was an adopted member of the great
Wyandot nation, among whom he ranked high as an expert hunter, a brave
warrior, and a powerful orator. His influence extended through all the
tribes of the West, and was generally exerted to incite the Indians to
expeditions against the "Stations" of Kentucky, and to acts of cruelty
to their white prisoners. The bloodiest counsel was usually his; his
was the voice which was raised loudest against his countrymen, who were
preparing the way for the introduction of civilization and Christianity
into this glorious region; and in all great attacks upon the frontier
settlements he was one of the prime movers, and among the prominent

Of the causes of that venomous hatred, which rankled in the bosom of
Simon Girty against his countrymen, we have two or three versions:
such as, that he early imbibed a feeling of contempt and abhorrence of
civilized life, from the brutality of his father, the lapse from virtue
of his mother, and the corruptions of the community in which he had his
birth and passed his boyhood; that, while acting with the whites against
the Indians on the Virginia border, he was stung to the quick, and
deeply offended by the appointment to a station over his head, of one
who was his junior in years, and had rendered nothing like his services
to the frontiers; and that, when attached as a scout to Dunmore's
expedition, an indignity was heaped upon him which thoroughly soured his
nature, and drove him to the Indians, that he might more effectually
execute a vengeance which he swore to wreak. The last reason assigned
for his defection and animosity is the most probable of the three, rests
upon good authority, and seems sufficient, his character considered, to
account for his desertion and subsequent career among the Indians.

The history of the indignity alluded to, as it has reached the
writer[47] from one who was associated with Girty and a partaker in it,
is as follows: The two were acting as scouts in the expedition set on
foot by Governor Dunmore, of Virginia, in the year 1774, against the
Indian towns of Ohio. The two divisions of the force raised for this
expedition, the one commanded by Governor Dunmore in person, the other
by General Andrew Lewis, were by the orders of the governor to form a
junction at Point Pleasant, where the Great Kenhawa empties into the
Ohio. At this place, General Lewis arrived with his command on the
eleventh or twelfth of September; but after remaining here two or three
weeks in anxious expectation of the approach of the other division, he
received dispatches from the governor, informing him that Dunmore had
changed his plan, and determined to march at once against the villages
on the Scioto, and ordering him to cross the Ohio immediately and join
him as speedily as possible. It was during the delay at the Point that
the incident occurred which is supposed to have had such a tremendous
influence upon Girty's after-life. He and his associate scout had
rendered some two or three months' services, for which they had as
yet drawn no part of their pay; and in their present idleness they
discovered means of enjoyment, of which they had not money to avail
themselves. In this strait, they called upon Gen. Lewis in person,
at his quarters, and demanded their pay. For some unknown cause this
was refused, which produced a slight murmuring on the part of the
applicants, when General Lewis cursed them, and struck them several
severe blows over their heads with his cane. Girty's associate was not
much hurt; but he himself was so badly wounded on the forehead or temple
that the blood streamed down his cheek and side to the floor. He quickly
turned to leave the apartment; but, on reaching the door, wheeled round,
planted his feet firmly upon the sill, braced an arm against either
side of the frame, fixed his keen eyes unflinchingly upon the general,
uttered the exclamation, "_By God, sir, your quarters shall swim in
blood for this_!" and instantly disappeared beyond pursuit.

General Lewis was not much pleased with the sudden and apparently
causeless change which Governor Dunmore had made in the plan of the
expedition. Nevertheless, he immediately prepared to obey the new
orders, and had given directions for the construction of rafts upon
which to cross the Ohio, when, before daylight on the morning of the
10th of October, some of the scouts suddenly entered the encampment
with the information that an immense body of Indians was just at hand,
hastening upon the Point. This was the force of the brave and skillful
chief Cornstalk, whose genius and valor were so conspicuous on that day,
throughout the whole of which raged the hardly-contested and moat bloody
_Battle of the Point_. Girty had fled from General Lewis immediately to
the chief Cornstalk, forsworn his white nature, and leagued himself with
the Redman forever; and with the Indians he was now advancing, under
the cover of night, to surprise the Virginian camp. At the distance of
only a mile from the Point, Cornstalk was met by a detachment of the
Virginians, under the command of Colonel Charles Lewis, a brother of the
general; and here, about sunrise on the 10th of October, 1774, commenced
one of the longest, severest, and bloodiest battles ever fought upon the
Western frontiers. It terminated, as we have seen, about sunset, with
the defeat of the Indians it is true, but with a loss to the whites
which carried mourning into many a mansion of the Old Dominion, and
which was keenly felt throughout the country at the time, and
remembered with sorrow long after.

Girty having thrown himself among the Indians, as has been related,
and embraced their cause, now retreated with them into the interior
of Ohio, and ever after followed their fortunes without swerving. On
arriving at the towns of the Wyandots, he was adopted into that tribe,
and established himself at Upper Sandusky. Being active, of a strong
constitution, fearless in the extreme, and at all times ready to
join their war parties, lie soon became very popular among his new
associates, and a man of much consequence. He was engaged in most of
the expeditions against the frontier settlements of Pennsylvania and
Virginia - always brave and always cruel - till the year 1778, when
occurred an incident which, as it is the only bright spot apparent
on the whole dark career of the renegade, shall be related with some

Girty happened to be at Lower Sandusky this year, when Kenton - known at
that period as Simon Butler - was brought in to be executed by a party
of Indians who had made him a prisoner on the banks of the Ohio.
Years before, Kenton and Girty had been bosom companions at Fort Pitt,
and served together subsequently in the commencement of Dunmore's
expedition; but the victim was already blackened for the stake, and the
renegade failed to recognize in him his former associate. Girty had at
this time but just returned from an expedition against the frontier of
Pennsylvania, which had been less successful than he had anticipated,
and was enraged by disappointment. He, therefore, as soon as Kenton was
brought into the village, began to give vent to a portion of his spleen
by cuffing and kicking the prisoner, whom he eventually knocked down.
He knew that Kenton had come from Kentucky; and this harsh treatment was
bestowed in part, it is thought, to frighten the prisoner into answers
of such questions as he might wish to ask him. He then inquired how many
men there were in Kentucky. Kenton could not answer this question, but
ran over the names and ranks of such of the officers as he at the time
recollected. "Do you know William Stewart?" asked Girty. "Perfectly
well," replied Kenton; "he is an old and intimate acquaintance."
"Ah! what is _your_ name, then?" "Simon Butler," answered Kenton; and
on the instant of this announcement the hardened renegade caught his
old comrade by the hand, lifted him from the ground, pressed him to his
bosom, asked his forgiveness for having treated him so brutally, and
promised to do every thing in his power to save his life, and set him
at liberty. "Syme!" said he, weeping like a child, "you are condemned
to die, but it shall go hard with me, I tell you, but I will save you
from _that_."

There have been various accounts given of this interesting scene, and
all agree in representing Girty as having been deeply affected, and
moved for the moment to penitence and tears. The foundation of McClung's
detail of the speeches made upon the occasion was a manuscript dictated
by Kenton himself a number of years before his death. From this writer
we therefore quote:

"As soon as Girty heard the name he became strongly agitated; and,
springing from his seat, he threw his arms around Kenton's neck, and
embraced him with much emotion. Then turning to the assembled warriors,
who remained astonished spectators of this extraordinary scene, he
addressed them in a short speech, which the deep earnestness of his
tone, and the energy of his gesture, rendered eloquent. He informed
them that the prisoner, whom they had just condemned to the stake, was
his ancient comrade and bosom friend; that they had traveled the same
war-path, slept upon the same blanket, and dwelt in the same wigwam.
He entreated them to have compassion on his feelings - to spare him the
agony of witnessing the torture of an old friend by the hands of his
adopted brothers, and not to refuse so trifling a favor as the life of
a white man to the earnest intercession of one who had proved, by three
years' faithful service, that he was sincerely and zealously devoted to
the cause of the Indians.

"The speech was listened to in unbroken silence. As soon as he had
finished, several chiefs expressed their approbation by a deep guttural
interjection, while others were equally as forward in making known their
objections to the proposal. They urged that his fate had already been
determined in a large and solemn council, and that they would be acting
like squaws to change their minds every hour. They insisted upon the
flagrant misdemeanors of Kenton - that he had not only stolen their
horses, but had flashed his gun at one of their young men - that it was
vain to suppose that so bad a man could ever become an Indian at heart,
like their brother Girty - that the Kentuckians were all alike - very bad
people - and ought to be killed as fast as they were taken - and finally,
they observed that many of their people had come from a distance, solely
to assist at the torture of the prisoner, and pathetically painted the
disappointment and chagrin with which they would hear that all their
trouble had been for nothing.

"Girty listened with obvious impatience to the young warriors who had
so ably argued against a reprieve - and starting to his feet, as soon
as the others had concluded, he urged his former request with great
earnestness. He briefly, but strongly recapitulated his own services,
and the many and weighty instances of attachment he had given. He asked
if _he_ could be suspected of partiality to the whites? When had he ever
before interceded for any of that hated race? Had he not brought seven
scalps home with him from the last expedition? and had he not submitted
seven white prisoners that very evening to their discretion? Had he ever
expressed a wish that a single captive should be saved? _This_ was his
first and should be his last request: for if they refused to _him_, what
was never refused to the intercession of one of their natural chiefs,
he would look upon himself as disgraced in their eyes, and considered
as unworthy of confidence. Which of their own natural warriors had
been more zealous than himself? From what expedition had he ever
shrunk? - what white man had ever seen his back? Whose tomahawk had been
bloodier than his? He would say no more. He asked it as a first and last
favor, as an evidence that they approved of his zeal and fidelity, that
the life of his bosom friend might be spared. Fresh speakers arose upon
each side, and the debate was carried on for an hour and a half with
great heat and energy.

"During the whole of this time, Kenton's feelings may readily
be imagined. He could not understand a syllable of what was said.
He saw that Girty spoke with deep earnestness, and that the eyes of
the assembly were often turned upon himself with various expressions.
He felt satisfied that his friend was pleading for his life, and that
he was violently opposed by a large part of the council. At length the
war-club was produced, and the final vote taken. Kenton watched its
progress with thrilling emotion - which yielded to the most rapturous
delight, as he perceived that those who struck the floor of the
council-house, were decidedly inferior in number to those who passed it
in silence. Having thus succeeded in his benevolent purpose, Girty lost
no time in attending to the comfort of his friend. He led him into his
own wigwam, and from his own store gave him a pair of moccasins and
leggins, a breech-cloth, a hat, a coat, a handkerchief for his neck,
and another for his head."

In the course of a few weeks, and after passing through some
further difficulties, in which the renegade again stood by him
faithfully, Kenton was sent to Detroit, from which place he effected
his escape and returned to Kentucky. Girty remained with the Indians,
retaining his old influence, and continuing his old career; and four
years after the occurrences last detailed, in 1782, we find him a
prominent figure in one of the blackest tragedies that have ever
disgraced the annals of mankind. It is generally believed, by the old
settlers and their immediate descendants, that the influence of Girty
at this period, over the confederate tribes of the whole northwest,
was almost supreme. He had, it is true, no delegated authority, and
of course was powerless as regarded the final determination of any
important measure; but his voice was permitted in council among the
chiefs, and his inflaming harangues were always listened to with delight
by the young warriors. Among the sachems and other head-men, he was what
may well be styled a "power behind the throne;" and as it is well known
that this unseen power is often "greater than the throne itself," it may
reasonably be presumed that Girty's influence was in reality all which
it is supposed to have been. The horrible event alluded to above, was
the _Burning of Crawford_; and as a knowledge of this dark passage in
his life, is necessary to a full development of the character of the
renegade, an account of the incident, as much condensed as possible,
will be given from the histories of the unfortunate campaign of that

The frontier settlements of Pennsylvania and Virginia, had been
greatly harassed by repeated attacks from bands of Indians under Girty
and some of the Wyandot and Shawnee chiefs, during the whole period
of the Revolutionary War; and early in the spring of 1782, these savage
incursions became so frequent and galling, and the common mode of
fighting the Indians on the line of frontier, when forced to do so
in self-defense, proved so inefficient, that it was found absolutely
necessary to carry the war into the country of the enemy. For this
purpose an expedition against the Wyandot towns on the Sandusky, was
gotten up in May, and put under the command of Colonel William Crawford,
a brave soldier of the Revolution. This force, amounting to upward
of four hundred mounted volunteers, commenced its march through the
wilderness northwest of the Ohio River, on the 25th of May, and
reached the plains of the Sandusky on the 5th of June. A spirit of
insubordination had manifested itself during the march, and on one
occasion a small body of the volunteers abandoned the expedition and
returned to their homes. The disaffection which had prevailed on the
march, continued to disturb the commander and divide the ranks, after
their arrival upon the very site (now deserted temporarily) of one of
the enemy's principal towns; and the officers, yielding to the wishes of
their men, had actually determined, in a hasty council, to abandon the
objects of the expedition and return home, if they did not meet with the
Indians in large force in the course of another day's march. Scarcely
had this determination been announced, however, when Colonel Crawford
received intelligence from his scouts, of the near approach of a large
body of the enemy. Preparations were at once made for the engagement,
which almost instantly commenced. It was now about the middle of the
afternoon; and from this time till dusk the firing was hot and galling
on both sides. About dark the Indians drew off their force, when the
volunteers encamped upon the battle-ground, and slept on their arms.

The next day, the battle was renewed by small detachments of the
enemy, but no general engagement took place. The Indians had suffered
severely from the close firing which ensued upon their first attack,
and were now maneuvering and awaiting the arrival of reinforcements.
No sooner had night closed upon this madly spent day, than the officers
assembled in council. They were unanimous in the opinion that the enemy,
already as they thought more numerous than their own force, was rapidly
increasing in numbers. They therefore determined, without a dissenting
voice, to retreat that night, as rapidly as circumstances would permit.
This resolution was at once announced to the whole body of volunteers,
and the arrangements necessary to carry it into effect were immediately
commenced. By nine or ten o'clock every thing was in readiness - the
troops properly disposed - and the retreat begun in good order. But
unfortunately, says McClung, "they had scarcely moved an hundred paces,
when the report of several rifles was heard in the rear, in the
direction of the Indian encampment. The troops instantly became very
unsteady. At length a solitary voice, in the front rank, called out that
their design was discovered, and that the Indians would soon be upon
them. Nothing more was necessary. The cavalry were instantly broken;
and, as usual, each man endeavored to save himself as he best could.
A prodigious uproar ensued, which quickly communicated to the enemy that
the white men had routed themselves, and that they had nothing to do but
pick up stragglers." A scene of confusion and carnage now took place,
which almost beggars description. All that night and for the whole of
the next day, the work of hunting out, running down, and butchering,
continued without intermission. But a relation of these sad occurrences
does not properly belong to this narrative. The brief account of the
expedition which has been given, was deemed necessary as an introduction
to the event which now claims attention.

Among the prisoners taken by the Indians, were Colonel Crawford,
the commander, and Dr. Knight of Pittsburg, who had gone upon the
expedition as surgeon. On the 10th of June, these gentlemen were
marched toward the principal town of the Wyandots, where they arrived
the next day. Here they beheld the mangled bodies of some of their late
companions, and were doomed to see others, yet living, butchered before
their eyes. Here, likewise, they saw Simon Girty, who appeared to take
an infernal delight in gazing upon the dead bodies, and viewing the
tortures which were inflicted upon the living. The features of this
wretch, who had known Colonel Crawford at Fort Pitt, were clad in
malicious smiles at beholding the brave soldier in his present strait;
and toward Dr. Knight he conducted himself with insolence as well as
barbarity. The Colonel was soon stripped naked, painted black, and
commanded to sit down by a large fire which was blazing close at hand;
and in this situation he was surrounded by all the old women and young
boys of the town, and severely beaten with sticks and clubs. While this
was going on, the Indians were sinking a large stake in the ground, and
building a circle of brushwood and hickory sticks around it, with a
diameter of some twelve or fifteen feet. These preparations completed,
Crawford's hands were tied firmly behind his back, and by his wrists
he was bound to the stake. The pile was then fired in several places,
and the quick flames curled into the air. Girty took no part in these
operations, but sat upon his horse at a little distance, observing them
with a malignant satisfaction. Catching his eye at the moment the pile
was fired, Crawford inquired of the renegade if the savages really
meant to burn him. Girty coldly answered "Yes," and the Colonel calmly
resigned himself to his fate. The whole scene is minutely described
in the several histories which have been written of this unfortunate
expedition; but the particulars are too horrible to be dwelt upon
here For more than two hours did the gallant soldier survive at that
flame-girdled stake; and during the latter half of this time, he was
put to every torture which savage ingenuity could devise, and hellish
vengeance execute. Once only did a word escape his lips. In the
extremity of his agony he again caught the eye of Girty; and he is
reported to have exclaimed at this time, "Girty! Girty! shoot me through
the heart! Do not refuse me! quick! - quick!" And it is said that the
monster merely replied, "Don't you see I have no gun, Colonel?" then
burst into a loud laugh and turned away. Crawford said no more; he sank
repeatedly beneath the pain and suffocation which he endured, and was
as often aroused by a new torture; but in a little while the "vital
spark" fled, and the black and swollen body lay senseless at the foot
of the stake.

Dr. Knight was now removed from the spot, and placed under the charge
of a Shawanee warrior to be taken to Chillicothe, where he was to share
in the terrible fate of his late companion. The Doctor, however, was
fortunate enough to effect his escape; and after wandering through the
wilderness for three weeks, in a state bordering on starvation, he
reached Pittsburg. He had been an eye-witness of all the tortures
inflicted upon the Colonel, and subsequently published a journal of the
expedition; and it is from this that the particulars have been derived
of the several accounts which have been published of the _Burning of

It was not to be expected that such a man as Simon Girty could, for a
great many years, maintain his influence among a people headed by chiefs
and warriors like Black-Hoof, Buckongahelas, Little Turtle, Tarhé, and
so forth. Accordingly we find the ascendancy of the renegade at its
height about the period of the expedition against Bryant's Station,
already described; and not long after this it began to wane, when,
discontent and disappointment inducing him to give way to his natural
appetites, he partook freely of all intoxicating liquors, and in the
course of a few years became a beastly drunkard. It is believed that
he at one time seriously meditated an abandonment of the Indians, and a
return to the whites; and an anecdote related by McClung, in his notice
of the emigration to Kentucky, by way of the Ohio River, in the year
1785, would seem to give color to this opinion. But if the intention
ever was seriously indulged, it is most likely that fear of the
treatment he would receive on being recognized in the frontier
settlements, on account of his many bloody enormities, prevented him
from carrying it into effect. He remained with the Indians in Ohio till
Wayne's victory, when he forsook the scenes of his former influence and
savage greatness, and established himself somewhere in Upper Canada.
He fought in the bloody engagement which terminated in the defeat and
butchery of St. Clair's army in 1791, and was at the battle of the
Fallen Timbers in 1794; but he had no command in either of those
engagements, and was not at this time a man of any particular influence.

In Canada, Girty was something of a trader, but gave himself up almost
wholly to intoxicating drinks, and became a perfect sot. At this time
he suffered much from rheumatism and other diseases; but he had grown

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Online LibraryCecil B. HartleyLife of Daniel Boone, the Great Western Hunter and Pioneer → online text (page 11 of 18)