Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 22 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 22 of 193)
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whites; but it was merely a skirmish at long range,
and in no sense a battle. It was kept up during the
greater part of the day, but little harm was done, only
four of Crawford's men being wounded, and none
killed. Col. Crawford, as we have seen, was not pre-
pared for a close conflict, but he, as well as his officers ■
and men, felt confident of their ability to defeat the
enemy when the proper time should come, attrilniting
the apparent unwillingness of the Indians to come to •
close quarters to their having been badly crippled in
the fight of the 4th. But the fact wa-i that the sav-
ages were content with making a show of fight sufli-
cient to hold their white enemies at bay while wait-
ing for the arrival of their reinforcements, which fliey
knew were approaching and near at hand.

The day wore on. The red warriors kept up their
desultory firing, and the white skirmishers reiilicd,
while their comrades were busily and confidently
making preparations for the intended night a'^saultj
but it was a delusive and fatal confidence. Suddenly,
at a little past noon, an excited scout brought word
to Col. Crawford that a body of white horsemen were
approaching from the north. This was most alarming
intelligence, but it was true. The British detachment'
from Detroit — Butler's Rangers — had arrived, and
were then forminga junction with the Wyandot forces.
But this was not all. Almost simultaneously with the
arrival of the British horsemen, a large body of Shaw-
anese warriors appeared in the south, in full view
from Col. Crawford's position, and joined the line of
the Delawares.

In this state of affairs the idea of an attack on the
Indian camps could no longer be entertained. The
commandant at once called a council of war of his ■
officers to determine on the course to be pursued in
this dire emergency. Tiieir deliberations were very
short, and the decision unanimously rendered was to
retreat towards the Ohio. In pursuance of this de-
cision, preparations for the movement were at once
commenced. The dead had already been buried, and
fires were now built over them to prevent their dis-

1 been nmdo sicli hy llie great
lay, and liy tlie vcr.v Iiad water
whicli they liad Itcen compelled to driiili, the only water wliit li could
he found in the virinity of the hattle.ground being a stagnant pool '
which had formed ntider the routs of a tree which had been blown over.
Mnj. Hose, in his re|iort to Gen. Irvine, siid, " Wo were so much encnni-
hen-il with our wounded aud sick Ihat the whole day was s|>cnt in their



covery and desecration by the savages. Most of the
wounded were able to ride, but for the few who were
not, stretchers were prepared. These and other nec-
essary preparations were completed before dark, and
the volunteers were ready to move at the word of
command. Meanwhile, war-parties had been hourly
arriving to reinforce the Indian forces, which had now
become so overwhelming in numbers that any oflen-
sive attempt against them would have been madness.

As soon as the late twilight of June had deepened
into darkness, all scouts and outposts were called in,
the column was formed in four divisions, each under
command of one of the field-majors, as on the out-
ward march,' and the retreat was commenced, the
command of Maj. John McClelland leading, and Col.
Crawford riding at the head of all. Usually in a re-
treat the post of honor, as of danger, is that of the
rear-guard, but in this case the head of the column
was as much or more exposed than the rear, as the
line of march lay between the positions held by the
Delawares and Shawanese. That the advance was
here considered to be the post of danger is shown by
the fact that orders were given to carry the badly
wounded in the rear.

The Indians had discovered the movement almost
as soon as the preparations for it commenced, and
hardly had the head of the column begun to move
when it was fiercely attacked by the Delawares and
Shawanese. The volunteers pushed on, fighting as
they went, but they suffered severely, and soon after,
Miij. McClelland was wounded, and, falling from his
horse, was left behind to the tender mercies of the
savages.'^ The division, however, fought its way clear
of the Indians, who did not then follow up the pursuit,
probably for the reason that they felt doubtful as to
the actual intent of the movement, thinking it might
prove to be but a feint, covering the real design of a
general assault; so, fearful of some unknown strata-
gem or trap, they remained within supponing dis-
tance of the Wyandots and Rangers, and by failing to
pursue probably lost the opportunity of routing, per-
haps annihilating, the head division.

When the advance-guard received the attack of
the Delawares and Shawanese, the other three divis-
ions, which, although not wholly demoralized, were
undoubtedly to some extent panic-stricken, most un-
accountably abandoned McClelland's command, and
in disregard of the orders to follow the advance in a
solid column, moved rapidly off on a line diverging
to the right from the prescribed route. They had not
proceeded far, liowever, before some of the companies
became entangled in the mazes of a swamp, in which
several of the horses were lost. During the delay

> Excepting tlint of MajBi!
now commiintleil l.y Tli L 1 1, i

2 It was lielievra ,.i

Clellaiid was Uillc-d .

effort was made t.. sn ' im ;;

I was wounded. His division was

Itioers and men tliatMaj. Mc-
■A IS donbllcss the reason wliy no

I I . Tlie belief was erroneous', as

caused by this mishap, the rear battalion was attacked
by the Indians, and a few of the men were wounded,
but the enemy did not push his advantage, and the
divisions pushed on as rapidly as possible, and de-
flecting to the left beyond the swamp, and striking
the trail by which they came on the outward march,
came about daybreak to the deserted Indian village
on the Sandusky, where they found the men of Mc-
Clelland's division, who had reached there an liour or
two earlier, disorganized, panic-stricken, and leader-
less, for Maj. McClelland had been left for dead on
the field, as before narrated ; and during the hurried
march, or more properly the flight, from the scene of
the fight to the abandoned village, the commander.
Col. Crawford, had disappeared, and no one was able
to give any information concerning him, whether he
had been wounded, killed, captured, or lost in the
woods. John Slover, the guide, and Dr. Knight, the
surgeon, were also missing. These facts, when known
by the men, greatly increased their uneasiness and

At this point (the deserted Wyandot village), Maj.
Williamson, as Col. Crawford's second in command,
assumed the leadership of the forces, and after a brief
halt the entire command, now numbering something
more than three hundred and fifty men, continued
the retreat over the route by which they had come on
the outward march. The new commander, never
doubting that tlie Indians would pursue him in force,
hurried on his men with all possible speed, keeping
out the most wary and trusty scouts on his rear and
flanks. The command passed tiie mouth of the Little
Sandusky without seeing any signs of an enemy, but
while passing through the Plains, at about eleven
o'clock" in the forenoon, the scouts discovered far in
their rear a pursuing party, apparently composed of
botli Indians and white men. They were afterwards
found to be Wyandots and British Rangers, all
mounted. It was now the purpose of Maj. William-
son to cross the Plain country and reach the shelter
of the timber before being overtaken by the pursuers ;
and the latter were determined, if possible, to
possess themselves of the woods in advance of the
Americans. The race was an eager and exciting one
on both sides, but at last Maj. Williamson found that
the Indians were gaining on him so rapidly that he
would be compelled to stand for battle before reach-
ing the timber. Maj. Rose, in his report of these
operations to Gen. Irvine, said, " Tliough it was our
business studiously to avoid engaging in the Plains,
on account of the enemy's superiority in light cav-
alry, yet they pressed our rear so hard that we con-
cluded on a general and vigorous attack, whilst our
light-horse' secured the entrance of the woods."

The place where Maj. Williamson found himself
compelled to stand at bay before the pursuing horde

3 Referring to one of tlie companies, which Col. Crawford bad selected
and equipped for special duty as skirnu^heri and scouts.



of AVyandots and British Rangers, in the early after-
noon of the 6th of June, was near the creek called
Olentangy,^ a tributary of the Scioto, near the eastern
edge of the Plains, where the column of Col. Craw-
ford had first debouched from the shades of the forest
into the open country on the morning of the 3d,
when moving towards the Wyandot town, which they
found deserted. But the aspect of afliiirs was materi-
ally changed since that time. Then they were ad-
vancing in high spirits and confident of victory
over the savages, now, in headlong flight before the
same barbarous foe, they were turning in sheer des-
peration to fight for their lives.

The battle-line of the Pennsylvanians faced to the
west, and in its rear, holding the edge of the woods,
and ready to act as a reserve corps in case of emer-
gency, was the company of light-horsemen. The pur-
suing force, close upon them, attacked unhesitatingly
and with fierce energy, first striking the front, then
quickly extending their battle-line around the left
flank to the rear of Williamson's force, which was
thus compelled to meet the savage assault in three
directions. But the panic and demoralization of the
volunteers had entirely disappeared,- and they met
each successive onslaught with such cool bravery and
steadiness, and fought with such desperation, that at
the end of an hour from the commencement of the
battle the enemy withdrew, discomfited, and appa-
rently with heavy loss. Perhaps the sudden cessa-
tion of their firing was in some degree due to the fact
that just then a furious thunder-storm, which had for
some time been threatening, burst upon the combat-
ants. The men were drenched and chilled to the
bone, while much of their ammunition was rendered
useless by the rain. This, however, operated tjuite as
unfavorably to the Indians as to the whites.

As soou as the savages and Rangers withdrew, Maj.
Williamson, without a moment's delay, caused the
dead to be buried and the wounded^ cared for, and
then the retreat was resumed. Capt. Biggs' company,
which seems to have always held the post of danger,
leading the advance in the outward march, now
formed the rear-guard, though its ranks were reduced
to nine men and all its oflicers were missing. It was


lu«', anil \v.aste not a
■I'eml upon it!" These
iMipc'U'SsiK'ss of escujie

1 to stand firm, resolved to fight

IS3 of the yolnnteers in this flglit was tlii'co Uillcd and eigh

afterwards relieved, however, and from that time each
of the companies in turn took position to guard the
rear of the retreating column.

When Williamson commenced his retreat from the
battle-field, the enemy, who had in the mean time
scattered over the Plains, soon concentrated and re-
newed the pursuit, firing rapidly but at long range.
Soou, however, they began to press the rear mori
closely, throwing the volunteers into some disorder,
which must have grown into a panic but for the cool-
ness and intrepidity of the commander and Maj.
Rose. These officers were unceasing in their efforts,
constantly moving along the line, entreating the vol-
unteers to keep solidly together and preserve unbroken
the order of march, and warning them tliat if any
should leave the column and attempt to escape singly
or in squads they would certainly lose their scalps.
Finally they became steady, and the order of march
was preserved unbroken during the remainder of the
day. The Indians kept up the pursuit, and occasion-
ally attacked with much vigor, though, as William-
son's force was now moving through the timbered
country, the savages no longer held the relative ad-
vantage which they had possessed in fighting on the

The volunteers bivouacked that night (June 6th)
on the Sandusky River, about six miles from the
battle-field of the afternoon ; the enemy's force
camped about a mile farther to the rear. Unusual
precautions were taken by Maj. Williamson to guard
against a surprise during the night, and at the first
streakings of dawn on the 7th the men fell in to re-
sume the march ; but hardly had the column been
formed when the Indians came up and opened fire
ujion the rear. A lively skirmish followed, in which
two of the men fell into the liands of the savages, but
no disorder ensued. The retreat was continued
steadily and in good order, and, much to Jlaj. Wil-
liamson's surprise, the Indians suddenly abandoned
the pursuit. The last shot from the savages was fired
at a point near the present town of Crestline. From
there the column moved rapidly on in good order
and without molestation to the Ohio, which it crossed
on the 13th of June. On their arrival on the Vir-
ginia side of the river, the men not being compelled
to wait for a formal dischai-ge, dispersed to their

Having seen how Maj. Williamson with the main
body of the troops reached and crossed the Ohio
River, let us return to trace the adventures and mis-
fortunes of the brave Col. Crawford, his faithful
friend Dr. Knight, and others who had become sepa-
rated from the column and were struggling on through
the wilderness, with dangers surrounding them on
every side, in their endeavors to escape from the

When the volunteers commenced their retreat from
the battle-field of the 4th and otli of June, at about



nine o'clock in the evening of tlie last-mentioned
day, Col. Crawford rode at the head of the leading
division (McClelland's). A very short time after-
wards they wore attacked by the Delawares and
Shawanese, and (as has already been mentioned) the
rear divisions left their position in the line of march
and moved away to the right, leaving the front di-
vision to extricate itself from its perilous situation.
They left in such haste that no little disorder ensued,
in which some of the sick and wounded were left
behind, though it is believed that all but two were
finally saved from the enemy. While the Indian
attack on the advance division was in progress, Col.
Crawford became anxious concerning his son John,
liis nephew, William Crawford, and his son-in-law,
William Harrison, and rode back to find them or
re himself of their safety, but in this he was un-
successful. While engaged in the search he was
joined by the surgeon, Dr. Knight, whom he re-
quested to remain with and assist him. With this
equest the doctor readily complied. He thought
the missing men were in the front, but as the colonel
assured him they were not, the two remained behind

considerable time after the last of the troops had
passed on, the commander in the meanwliile express-
liimself in terms of indignation at the conduct of
the three battalions in disobeying his orders by leaving
the line of march and pressing on in their semi-panic,
forgetting the care of the sick and wounded, and

jardless of everything but their own safety.

After the last of the troops had passed on, and
when Crawford and the surgeon found it useless to
remain longer, they followed as nearly as they could
in the track of the larger column, which, however,
by this time was a considerable distance away and
lost to view iu the darkness. Proceeding rather
lowly on (for the colonel's horse had become jaded
and nearly worn out by the fatigues of the day), they
were soon after overtaken by two stragglers who came
up from the rear, one of them being an old man and
the other a stripling. Neither of these had seen or
knew anything about the two young Crawfords and

The colonel and his three companions had not
proceeded far when the sound of fire-arms was heard
in front of them and not very far away. It was from
the attack which the savages made on the rear of the
retre.ating column at the time when a part of it be-
came entangled in the swamp, as has been mentioned.
The noise of the firing before them caused Crawford's
party to turn their course in a more northerly direc-
tion, on which they continued for two or three miles,
when, believing that they were clear of the enemy,
they turned at nearly a right angle, now facing nearly
east, and moving in single file, Indian fashion. At
about midnight they reached and crossed the San-
dusky River. Near that stream they lost the old
man, who had lagged behind, and was probably
killed by Indians.

From the Sandusky they continued in an easterly
direction, but when morning came, they turned more
southerly. Early in the day the horses ridden by Col.
Crawford and the boy gave out entirely and were
left behind. Early in the afternoon they were joined
by Capt. Biggs and Lieut. Ashley, the latter mounted
on Biggs' horse, and suffering severely from the
wound received in the battle of the 4th. The captain
had bravely and generously stood by the wounded
lieutenant, and now marching on foot by his side,
resolved to save him if possible, even at the risk of his
own life. And a fearful and fatal risk it proved to be.

At almost precisely the time when Biggs and Ashley
were found by Col. Crawford's party (about two o'clock
P.M. on the (Jth of June), the main body of volunteers,
under Williamson, were facing to the rear, forming
line of battle to meet the attack of the pursuing In-
dians, as has already been noticed. The distance
from the field where the battle was raging to the
place where the party of fugitives were at that time
was about six miles in a northwest direction. After
beingjoinod by Biggs and Ashley, the colonel and his
companions moved on slowly (being encumbered by
the care of the wounded officer) for about an hour,
when their flight was interrupted by the same thunder-
storm that burst over the battle-field of Olentangy at
the close of the conflict. Being now drenched with
the rain, and wearied by their eighteen hours' flight,
the commander thought it best to halt, and accord-
ingly they made their night bivouac here,' amid the
most cheerless surroundings, wet, shivering, and in
constant dread of being discovered by prowling sav- '

Early in the morning of the 7th' the party pushed
on in iTearly the same southeasterly direction, recross-
ing the Sandusky River. An hour or two after their
start they came to a place where a deer had been
killed. The best parts of the carcass had been cut off"
and wrapped in the skin of the animal, as if the owner
had intended to return and carry it away. This they
took possession of and carried with them, as also a
tomahawk which lay on the ground near by. A mile
or so farther on they saw smoke rising through the
trees. Leaving the wounded officer behind, in charge
of the boy, the others advanced cautiously towards the
fire. They found no person there, but they judged,
from the indications, that some of the volunteers had
been there, and had left the place only a short time
before. Lieut. Ashley was then brought up, and they
proceeded to roast the venison which they had cap-
tured. As they were about finishing their meal a
white man was seen near by, who, on being called to,
came up very cautiously, and was recognized by Col.
Crawford as one of his own men. He said he was the
slayer of the deer, and that he had been frightened
away from the carcass by the approach of the colonel

nmpeil that night is about t



and his companions. Food was given him, and after
eating he moved on with the party.

Ahout the middle of the afternoon they struck the
route of the army's outward march, at a bend in the
Sandusky, less than two miles distant from the i)lace
where Williamson's force had bivouacked the night
before, and where, in the morning of the same day,
the pursuing Indians had made their last attack on
the retreating column. They were still nearer to the
camping-place occupied by the Indians during the
jirevious night, and it is difficult to understand how
the practiced eye of Col. Crawford could have failed
to discover the proximity of Indians, but it is cer-
tain that such was the case, for when Dr. Knight and
Capt. Biggs advised him to avoid following the trail,
for fear of encountering the enemy, he replied with
confidence that there was little danger of it, for the
savages would not follow the retreating column after
it reached the timbered country, but would aban-
don the pursuit as soon as they reached the eastern
verge of the Plains.

From the point where they struck the trail at the
bend of the river, then, they moved on over the route
which had been passed by the troops in their out-
ward march. Col. Crawford and Dr. Knight, both
on foot, led the way; Capt. Biggs (now riding the
doctor's horse) followed some fifteen or twenty rods
behind, and in the rear marched the boy and the
killer of .the deer, both dismounted. In this manner
they proceeded along the south side of the river until
they came very near the iihu-e where Williamson had
made his camp of the previous evening. It does not
appear that they had yet detected the proximity of an
enemy, or that they were using more than ordinary
precaution as they traveled. Suddenly, directly in
front of Crawfjrd and Knight, and not more than fifty
feet from them, three Indians started up in full view.
Crawford stood his ground, not attempting to gain
cover, but the surgeon instantly took to a tree and
raised his piece to fire, but desisted from doing so at
the peremptory command of the colonel. Imme-
diately afterwards, however, Capt. Biggs saw the sav-
.iges and fired, but without effect. One of the Indians
came up to Crawford and took him by the hand, while
another in like manner advanced and took the hand
of the surgeon, at the same time calling him "doc-
tor," for they had previously been acquainted with
each other at Fort Pitt.

The Indians told Crawford to order Biggs and Ash-
ley, with the two other men in the rear, to come up
and surrender, otherwise they would go and kill them.
The colonel complied, calling out to them to advance,
but this was disregarded, and all four of them es-
caped, though Biggs and Ashley were afterwards
taken and killed by the savages.

It was a ])arty of the Delawares who captured Col.
Crawford and' Dr. Knight, and they immediately
took their captives to the camj) of their chief, Winge-

I nund. The time this occurred was in the afternoon
of the 7th of June (Friday), only five days after the
army had passed by the same place in its outward
march in the highest spirits, and with the brave
Crawford riding at its head, happily unconscious of
the awful doom which awaited him.

Crawford and Knight remained at the camp of the
Dclawares for three days. During their stay there
(in the evening of Sunday, the 9th) a party of out-
lying scouts came in, bringing the scalps of Lieut.
Ashley and Capt. Biggs, as also the horses which had
been ridden by those unfortunate ofhccrs. Besides
Crawford and Knight, there were nine other white
prisoners at the Delaware camp, all half-starved and
guarded with the utmost vigilance by the seventeen

I warriors who composed the war-party at the camp. •
Several of these savages were personally known to

I Crawford'and Knight.

I On the morning of the 10th the camp was broken
up, and the warriors set out with their prisoners for
the Sandusky towns. All of them except Crawford
were taken to the old town at Upper Sandusky ; but
the colonel was taken by a different route to the head-
quarters of Pomoacan, the great sachem of the Wyan-
dots. There were two reasons for his being sent to
that village, one of them being to have him guide his
captors over the route by which he and Knight had
come, so that they might possibly find the horses
which luid been left behind, and the other reason
being to allow the colonel to see Simon Girty, who
was known to be at the Half-King's town. Girty was
an old acquaintance of Crawford's, as has been seen,
and the latter had a foint hope that by a personal in-
terview with the renegade he might be induced to
use his influence with the Indians to save the prison-
er's life, or at least to save him from the torture by

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 22 of 193)