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measure of their infamy, they spoke the Indians fair, assured them that
they meant well, and spent an hour or two in gathering together those
who were in Salem and Gnadenhutten, putting them all in two houses at
the latter place. Those at the third town, of Schönbrunn, got warning
and made their escape.

As soon as the unsuspecting Indians were gathered in the two houses, the
men in one, the women and children in the other, the whites held a
council as to what should be done with them. The great majority were for
putting them instantly to death. Eighteen men protested, and asked that
the lives of the poor creatures should be spared; and then withdrew,
calling God to witness that they were innocent of the crime about to be
committed. By rights they should have protected the victims at any
hazard. One of them took off with him a small Indian boy, whose life was
thus spared. With this exception only two lads escaped.

They are Massacred.

When the murderers told the doomed Moravians their fate, they merely
requested a short delay in which to prepare themselves for death. They
asked one another's pardon for whatever wrongs they might have done,
knelt down and prayed, kissed one another farewell, "and began to sing
hymns of hope and of praise to the Most High." Then the white butchers
entered the houses and put to death the ninety-six men, women, and
children that were within their walls. More than a hundred years have
passed since this deed of revolting brutality; but even now a just man's
blood boils in his veins at the remembrance. It is impossible not to
regret that fate failed to send some strong war party of savages across
the path of these inhuman cowards, to inflict on them the punishment
they so richly deserved. We know that a few of them were afterwards
killed by the Indians; it is a matter of keen regret that any escaped.

When the full particulars of the affair were known, all the best leaders
of the border, almost all the most famous Indian fighters, joined in
denouncing it. [Footnote: Col. James Smith, then of Kentucky, in 1799
calls it "an act of barbarity equal to any thing I ever knew to be
committed by the savages themselves, except the burning of prisoners."]
Nor is it right that the whole of the frontier folk should bear the
blame for the deed. It is a fact, honorable and worthy of mention, that
the Kentuckians were never implicated in this or any similar massacre.
[Footnote: The Germans of up-country North Carolina were guilty of as
brutal massacres as the Scotch-Irish backwoodsmen of Pennsylvania. See
Adair, 245. There are two or three individual instances of the barbarity
of Kentuckians - one being to the credit of McGarry, - but they are
singularly few, when the length and the dreadful nature of their Indian
wars are taken into account. Throughout their history the Kentucky
pioneers had the right on their side in their dealings with the Indians.
They were not wanton aggressors; they entered upon vacant
hunting-grounds, to which no tribe had a clear title, and to which most
even of the doubtful titles had been fairly extinguished. They fought
their foes fiercely, with varying fortune, and eventually wrested the
land from them; but they very rarely wronged them; and for the numerous
deeds of fearful cruelty that were done on Kentucky soil, the Indians
were in almost every case to blame.]

But at the time, and in their own neighborhood - the corner of the Upper
Ohio valley where Pennsylvania and Virginia touch, - the conduct of the
murderers of the Moravians roused no condemnation. The borderers at
first felt about it as the English Whigs originally felt about the
massacre of Glencoe. For some time the true circumstances of the affair
were not widely known among them. They were hot with wrath against all
the red-skinned race; and they rejoiced to hear of the death of a number
of treacherous Indians who pretended to be peaceful, while harboring and
giving aid and comfort to, and occasionally letting their own young men
join, bands of avowed murderers. Of course, the large wicked and
disorderly element was loud in praise of the deed. The decent people, by
their silence, acquiesced.

A terrible day of reckoning was at hand; the retribution fell on but
part of the real criminals, and bore most heavily on those who were
innocent of any actual complicity in the deed of evil. Nevertheless it
is impossible to grieve overmuch for the misfortune that befell men who
freely forgave and condoned such treacherous barbarity.

Crawford Marches against Sandusky.

In May a body of four hundred and eighty Pennsylvania and Virginia
militia gathered at Mingo Bottom, on the Ohio, with the purpose of
marching against and destroying the towns of the hostile Wyandots and
Delawares in the neighborhood of the Sandusky River. The Sandusky
Indians were those whose attacks were most severely felt by that portion
of the frontier; and for their repeated and merciless ravages they
deserved the severest chastisement. The expedition against them was from
every point of view just; and it was undertaken to punish them, and
without any definite idea of attacking the remnant of the Moravians who
were settled among them. On the other hand, the militia included in
their ranks most of those who had taken part in the murderous expedition
of two months before; this fact, and their general character, made it
certain that the peaceable and inoffensive Indians would, if
encountered, be slaughtered as pitilessly as their hostile brethren.

How little the militia volunteers disapproved of the Moravian massacre
was shown when, as was the custom, they met to choose a leader. There
were two competitors for the place, Williamson, who commanded at the
massacre, being one; and he was beaten by only five votes. His
successful opponent, Colonel William Crawford, was a fairly good
officer, a just and upright man, but with no special fitness for such a
task as that he had undertaken. Nor were the troops he led of very good
stuff [Footnote: A minute and exhaustive account of Crawford's campaign
is given by Mr. C. W. Butterfield in his "Expedition against Sandusky."
(Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1873). Mr. Butterfield shows
conclusively that the accepted accounts are wholly inaccurate, being
derived from the reports of the Moravian missionaries, whose
untruthfulness (especially Heckewelder's) is clearly demonstrated. He
shows the apocryphal nature of some of the pretended narratives of the
expedition, such as two in "The American Pioneer," etc. He also shows
how inaccurate McClung's "sketches" are - for McClung was like a host of
other early western annalists, preserving some valuable facts in a good
deal of rubbish, and having very little appreciation indeed of the
necessity of so much as approximate accuracy. Only a few of these early
western historians had the least conception of the value of evidence or
of the necessity of sifting it, or of weighing testimony.

On the other hand, Mr. Butterfield is drawn into grave errors by his
excessive partisanship of the borderers. He passes lightly over their
atrocious outrages, colors favorably many of their acts, and praises the
generalship of Crawford and the soldiership of his men; when in reality
the campaign was badly conducted from beginning to end, and reflected
discredit on most who took part in it; Crawford did poorly, and the bulk
of his men acted like unruly cowards.]; though they included a few
veteran Indian fighters.

The party left Mingo Bottom on the 25th of May. After nine days' steady
marching through the unbroken forests they came out on the Sandusky
plains; billowy stretches of prairie, covered with high coarse grass and
dotted with islands of timber. As the men marched across them they
roused quantities of prairie fowl, and saw many geese and sand-hill
cranes, which circled about in the air, making a strange clamor.

Crawford hoped to surprise the Indian towns; but his progress was slow
and the militia every now and then fired off their guns. The spies of
the savages dogged his march and knew all his movements [Footnote:
Heckewelder, 336. Butterfield shows conclusively that there is not the
slightest ground to accept Heckewelder's assertion that Crawford's
people openly declared that "no Indian was to be spared, friend or
foe."]; and runners were sent to Detroit asking help. This the British
commandant at once granted. He sent to the assistance of the threatened
tribes a number of lake Indians and a body of rangers and Canadian
volunteers, under Captain Caldwell. [Footnote: Haldimand MSS. May 14,
1782. De Peyster to Haldimand.]

The Fight at Sandusky.

On the fourth of June Crawford's troops reached one of the Wyandot
towns. It was found to be deserted; and the army marched on to try and
find the others. Late in the afternoon, in the midst of the plains, near
a cranberry marsh, they encountered Caldwell and his Detroit rangers,
together with about two hundred Delawares, Wyandots, and lake Indians.
[Footnote: _Do_. Official report of Lt. John Turney of the rangers, June
7, 1782.] The British and Indians united certainly did not much exceed
three hundred men; but they were hourly expecting reinforcements, and
decided to give battle. They were posted in a grove of trees, from which
they were driven by the first charge of the Americans. A hot skirmish
ensued, in which, in spite of Crawford's superiority in force, and of
the exceptionally favorable nature of the country, he failed to gain any
marked advantage. His troops, containing so large a leaven of the
murderers of the Moravians, certainly showed small fighting capacity
when matched against armed men who could defend themselves. After the
first few minutes neither side gained or lost ground.

Of the Americans five were killed and nineteen wounded - in all
twenty-four. Of their opponents the rangers lost two men killed and
three wounded, Caldwell being one of the latter; and the Indians four
killed and eight wounded - in all seventeen. [Footnote: _Do_. Probably
some of this loss occurred on the following day. I rely on Butterfield
for the American loss, as he quotes Irvine's official report, etc. He of
course wrote without knowledge of the British reports; and his account
of the Indian losses and numbers is all wrong. He fails signally in his
effort to prove that the Americans behaved bravely.]

That night Crawford's men slept by their watch-fires in the grove, their
foes camping round about in the open prairie. Next morning the British
and Indians were not inclined to renew the attack; they wished to wait
until their numbers were increased. The only chance of the American
militia was to crush their enemies before reinforcements arrived, yet
they lay supine and idle all day long, save for an occasional harmless
skirmish. Crawford's generalship was as poor as the soldiership of his

Rout of the Whites.

In the afternoon the Indians were joined by one hundred and forty
Shawnees. At sight of this accession of strength the disspirited militia
Rout gave up all thought of any thing but flight, though they were still
equal in numbers to their foes. That night they began a hurried and
disorderly retreat. The Shawnees and Delawares attacked them in the
darkness, causing some loss and great confusion, and a few of the troops
got into the marsh. Many thus became scattered, and next morning there
were only about three hundred men left together in a body. Crawford
himself was among the missing, so Williamson took command, and hastily
continued the retreat. The savages did not make a very hot pursuit;
nevertheless, in the afternoon of that day a small number of Indians and
Detroit rangers overtook the Americans. They were all mounted. A slight
skirmish followed, and the Americans lost eleven men, but repulsed their
pursuers. [Footnote: Who were probably at this point much fewer in
number than the Americans; Butterfield says the reverse, but his account
is untrustworthy on these matters.] After this they suffered little
molestation, and reached Mingo Bottom on the 13th of the month.
[Footnote: As Butterfield shows, Heckewelder's account of Crawford's
whole expedition is a piece of sheer romancing.]

Many of the stragglers came in afterwards. In all about seventy either
died of their wounds, were killed outright, or were captured. Of the
latter, those who were made prisoners by the Wyandots were tomahawked
and their heads stuck on poles; but if they fell into the hands of the
Shawnees or Delawares they were tortured to death with fiendish cruelty.
Among them was Crawford himself, who had become separated from the main
body when it began its disorderly night retreat. After abandoning his
jaded horse he started homewards on foot, but fell into the hands of a
small party of Delawares, together with a companion named Knight.

These two prisoners were taken to one of the Delaware villages. The
Indians were fearfully exasperated by the Moravian massacre [Footnote:
Haldimand MSS. De Peyster to Haldimand, June 23, 1782.]; and some of
the former Moravians, who had rejoined their wild tribesmen, told the
prisoners that from that time on not a single captive should escape
torture. Nevertheless it is likely that Crawford would have been burned
in any event, and that most of the prisoners would have been tortured to
death even had the Moravians never been harmed; for such had always been
the custom of the Delawares.

The British, who had cared for the remnants of the Moravians, now did
their best to stop the cruelties of the Indians, [Footnote: _Do_. Aug.
18, 1782.] but could accomplish little or nothing. Even the Mingos and
Hurons told them that though they would not torture any Americans, they
intended thenceforth to put all their prisoners to death. [Footnote:
_Do_. Dec. 1, 1782.]

Crawford Tortured to Death.

Crawford was tied to the stake in the presence of a hundred Indians.
Among them were Simon Girty, the white renegade, and a few Wyandots.
Knight, Crawford's fellow-captive, was a horrified spectator of the
awful sufferings which he knew he was destined by his captors ultimately
to share. Crawford, stripped naked, and with his hands bound behind him,
was fastened to a high stake by a strong rope; the rope was long enough
for him to walk once or twice round the stake. The fire, of small
hickory poles, was several yards from the post, so as only to roast and
scorch him. Powder was shot into his body, and burning fagots shoved
against him, while red embers were strewn beneath his feet. For two
hours he bore his torments with manly fortitude, speaking low, and
beseeching the Almighty to have mercy on his soul. Then he fell down,
and his torturers scalped him, and threw burning coals on his bare
skull. Rising, he walked about the post once or twice again, and then
died. Girty and the Wyandots looked on, laughing at his agony, but
taking no part in the torture. When the news of his dreadful fate was
brought to the settlements, it excited the greatest horror, not only
along the whole frontier, but elsewhere in the country; for he was
widely known, was a valued friend of Washington and was everywhere
beloved and respected.

Knight, a small and weak-looking man, was sent to be burned at the
Shawnee towns, under the care of a burly savage. Making friends with the
latter, he lulled his suspicions, the more easily because the Indian
evidently regarded so small a man with contempt; and then, watching his
opportunity, he knocked his guard down and ran off into the woods,
eventually making his way to the settlements.

Another of the captives, Slover by name, made a more remarkable escape.
Slover's life history had been curious. When a boy eight years old,
living near the springs of the Kanawha, his family was captured by
Indians, his brother alone escaping. His father was killed, and his two
little sisters died of fatigue on the road to the Indian villages; his
mother was afterwards ransomed. He lived twelve years with the savages,
at first in the Miami towns, and then with the Shawnees. When twenty
years old he went to Fort Pitt, where, by accident, he was made known to
some of his relations. They pressed him to rejoin his people, but he had
become so wedded to savage life that he at first refused. At last he
yielded, however, took up his abode with the men of his own color, and
became a good citizen, and a worthy member of the Presbyterian Church.
At the outbreak of the Revolution he served fifteen months as a
Continental soldier, and when Crawford started against the Sandusky
Indians, he went along as a scout.

Slover, when captured, was taken round to various Indian towns, and saw
a number of his companions, as well as other white prisoners, tomahawked
or tortured to death. He was examined publicly about many matters at
several Great Councils - for he spoke two or three different Indian
languages fluently. At one of the councils he heard the Indians solemnly
resolve to take no more prisoners thereafter, but to kill all Americans,
of whatever sex and age; some of the British agents from Detroit
signifying their approval of the resolution. [Footnote: Slover asserts
that it was taken in consequence of a message sent advising it by the
commandant at Detroit. This is doubtless untrue; the commandant at
Detroit did what he could to stop such outrages, although many of his
more reckless and uncontrollable subordinates very probably pursued an
opposite course. The ignorant and violently prejudiced backwoodsmen
naturally believed all manner of evil of their British foes; but it is
singular that writers who ought to be well informed should even now
continue to accept all their wild assertions as unquestioned facts. The
conduct of the British was very bad; but it is silly to describe it in
the terms often used. The year after their escape Slover dictated, and
Knight wrote, narratives of their adventures, which were together
published in book form at Philadelphia in 1783. They are very

Slover's Escape.

At last he was condemned to be burned, and was actually tied to the
stake. But a heavy shower came on, so wetting the wood that it was
determined to reprieve him till the morrow. That night he was bound and
put in a wigwam under the care of three warriors. They laughed and
chatted with the prisoner, mocking him, and describing to him with
relish all the torments that he was to suffer. At last they fell asleep,
and, just before daybreak, he managed to slip out of his rope and
escape, entirely naked.

Catching a horse, he galloped away sitting on a piece of old rug, and
guiding the animal with the halter. He rode steadily and at speed for
seventy miles, until his horse dropped dead under him late in the
afternoon. Springing off, he continued the race on foot. At last he
halted, sick and weary; but, when he had rested an hour or two, he heard
afar off the halloo of his pursuers. Struggling to his feet he continued
his flight, and ran until after dark. He then threw himself down and
snatched a few hours' restless sleep, but, as soon as the moon rose, he
renewed his run for life, carefully covering his trail whenever
possible. At last he distanced his enemies. For five days he went
straight through the woods, naked, bruised, and torn, living on a few
berries and a couple of small crawfish he caught in a stream. He could
not sleep nor sometimes even lie down at night because of the
mosquitoes. On the morning of the sixth day he reached Wheeling, after
experiencing such hardship and suffering as none but an iron will and
frame could have withstood.

Woe on the Frontier.

Until near the close of the year 1782 the frontiers suffered heavily. A
terrible and deserved retribution fell on the borderers for their crime
in failing to punish the dastardly deed of Williamson and his
associates. The Indians were roused to savage anger by the murder of the
Moravians, and were greatly encouraged by their easy defeat of
Crawford's troops. They harassed the settlements all along the Upper
Ohio, the Alleghany and the Monongahela, and far into the interior,
[Footnote: Va. State Papers, III., 235.] burning, ravaging, and
murdering, and bringing dire dismay to every lonely clearing, and every
palisaded hamlet of rough log-cabins.



Illinois Made a County.

The Virginian Government took immediate steps to provide for the civil
administration of the country Clark had conquered. In the fall of 1778
the entire region northwest of the Ohio was constituted the county of
Illinois, with John Todd as county-lieutenant or commandant.

Todd was a firm friend and follower of Clark's, and had gone with him on
his campaign against Vincennes. It therefore happened that he received
his commission while at the latter town, early in the spring of '79. In
May he went to Kaskaskia, to organize the county; and Clark, who
remained military commandant of the Virginia State troops that were
quartered in the district, was glad to turn over the civil government to
the charge of his old friend.

Together with his commission, Todd received a long and excellent letter
of instructions from Governor Patrick Henry. He was empowered to choose
a deputy-commandant, and officers for the militia; but the judges and
officers of the court were to be elected by the people themselves. He
was given large discretionary power, Henry impressing upon him with
especial earnestness the necessity to "cultivate and conciliate the
French and Indians." [Footnote: See Col. John Todd's "Record Book,"
while County Lieutenant of Illinois. There is an MS. copy in Col.
Durrett's library at Louisville. It is our best authority for these
years in Illinois. The substance of it is given on pp. 49-68 of Mr.
Edward G. Mason's interesting and valuable pamphlet on "Illinois in the
18th Century" (Chicago, Fergus Printing Co., 1881).] With this end in
view, he was bidden to pay special heed to the customs of the creoles,
to avoid shocking their prejudices, and to continually consult with
their most intelligent and upright men. He was to coöperate in every way
with Clark and his troops, while at the same time the militia were to be
exclusively under his own control. The inhabitants were to have strict
justice done them if wronged by the troops; and Clark was to put down
rigorously any licentiousness on the part of his soldiers. The wife and
children of the former British commandant - the creole Rocheblave - were
to be treated with particular respect, and not suffered to want for any
thing. He was exhorted to use all his diligence and ability to
accomplish the difficult task set him. Finally Henry advised him to lose
no opportunity of inculcating in the minds of the French the value of
the liberty the Americans brought them, as contrasted with "the slavery
to which the Illinois was destined" by the British.

This last sentence was proved by subsequent events to be a touch of
wholly unconscious but very grim humor. The French were utterly unsuited
for liberty, as the Americans understood the term, and to most of them
the destruction of British rule was a misfortune. The bold,
self-reliant, and energetic spirits among them, who were able to become
Americanized, and to adapt themselves to the new conditions, undoubtedly
profited immensely by the change. As soon as they adopted American ways,
they were received by the Americans on terms of perfect and cordial
equality, and they enjoyed a far higher kind of life than could possibly
have been theirs formerly, and achieved a much greater measure of
success. But most of the creoles were helplessly unable to grapple with
the new life. They had been accustomed to the paternal rule of priest
and military commandant, and they were quite unable to govern
themselves, or to hold their own with the pushing, eager, and often
unscrupulous, new-comers. So little able were they to understand
precisely what the new form of government was, that when they went down
to receive Todd as commandant, it is said that some of them, joining in
the cheering, from force of habit cried "Vive le Roi."

For the first year of Todd's administration, while Clark still remained
in the county as commandant of the State troops, matters went fairly
well. Clark kept the Indians completely in check, and when some of them
finally broke out, and started on a marauding expedition against
Cahokia, he promptly repulsed them, and by a quick march burned their
towns on Rock River, and forced them to sue for peace. [Footnote: In the
beginning of 1780. Bradford MS.]

Online LibraryTheodore RooseveltThe Winning of the West, Volume 2 From the Alleghanies to the Mississippi, 1777-1783 → online text (page 12 of 32)