Chapter XXI
Lochry's Disaster


The destruction of Colonel Lochry's detachment, while it was trying to overtake General Clark, was the heaviest loss suffered by Westmoreland county during the Revolution. It involved about one hundred choice men of the border, including the energetic county lieutenant and half a dozen capable officers. In the spring of 1781 the General Assembly of Pennsylvania voted the formation of four companies of rangers, to be enlisted and employed in the northern and western counties for the remainder of the war. One of these companies was allotted to Westmoreland, and was raised by Captain Thomas Stokely. It was made up of experienced woodsmen, and, being intended for a permanent corps, was counted on to perform much better service in defense of the settlements than had been rendered by the small bodies of militia called out at intervals for short periods. This company, recruited to the number of 38, was involved in Lochry's disaster. Another party lost in this expedition was .Captain Samuel Shannon's company of volunteers, about 20 strong, enlisted for four months for the frontier defense. Captain Robert On, of Hannastown, raised and equipped a small company of riflemen, and Captain William Campbell commanded a squad of horsemen.(1)

The militia officers of the county had directed Colonel Lochry to raise 3oo men for Clark's campaign, but only one-third of that number could be enlisted. The reluctance of the settlers to engage in an incursion into the Indian country grew out of the fact that their own homes were threatened daily. During the summer of 1781 the Indian raids into Westmoreland county were unprecedented in number and destructiveness. Many families deserted their improvements and sought safety east of the mountains, and most of those who stood their ground felt it to be their chief duty to protect their families and property. It was with great urging and exertion that Colonel Lochry secured nearly 100 men for the western campaign. It is probable that he ordered the companies of Stokely and Shannon into this special service, but the two other companies were strictly volunteer formations of militiamen, No evidence is found that Lochry resorted to the draft to raise his contingent.

Lochry's men were detained until the harvest was finished, but on August 1 they began to gather at Carnaghan's blockhouse, eleven miles northwest of Hannastown.(2) There the formal muster was held on the following day, and on Friday, August 3, the little band, under Colonel Lochry's command, began its march to join Clark at Wheeling. Only 83 men took the road. These were the pick of the frontier riflemen, but they were poorly provided for a campaign. Their chief article of food was flour, carried on horses. They were badly clothed, one writer saying that they were "in a manner naked." Before their arrival at Wheeling, they were joined by a few additional men, so that the entire force was nearly 100.

The first camp was at Gaspard Markle's mill, on Big Sewickley creek, two miles east of West Newton. At that place Lochry received, by a fast-riding express, a letter, from the president of Pennsylvania, approving Westmoreland's participation in Clark's enterprise. In reply to this,. before marching in the morning, Lochry wrote his last letter that has been preserved, saying therein: "I am now on my march with Captain Stokely's company of rangers and about 5o volunteers from this county. We shall join General Clark at Fort Henry. . . . I expected to have had a number more volunteers, but they have by some insinuations been hindered from going.'(3)

The determined little band did not travel by way of Fort Pitt. It crossed the Youghiogheny at the site of West Newton, crossed the Monongahela at Devore's ferry, where Monongahela City now is; went overland by the settlements on the headwaters of Chartiers and Raccoon creeks, and reached Fort Henry in the evening of Wednesday, August 8. Here was a disappointment. General Clark had departed by boats that morning. To prevent the desertion of his men, he had found it necessary to remove farther from the settlements, and he left a message that he would wait for Lochry at the mouth of the Little Kanawha. But Lochry had no boats and could not follow immediately. For four days he was detained at Wheeling while seven boats were built, and these four days were fatal.

From the mouth of the Little Kanawha Clark's men began to desert, cutting across through the woods toward the settlements on the Monongahela, and to prevent the entire breaking up of his small force the general was compelled to move on down the river.

On August 13 Lochry's boats were ready and most of his men embarked in them, while the horses were conducted along shore. At this time the Ohio river was the dividing line between the white man's country and the Indian's. The boats kept near the southern shore and all encampments were on the left bank. Although Colonel Lochry and his men did not know it, they were watched by Indian spies following them through the forests and thickets on the farther shore, keeping in touch by swift runners with the Indian chiefs on the Scioto and the Miamis. On those streams the red warriors were gathering to resist Clark's advance, and a greater chief than any among the Ohio o tribes had come with his Mohawks from Central New York to fight the white invaders.

At Fishing creek Lochry met 17 men who had deserted from Clark and were trying to make their way to Fort Pitt. These he forced to join his party. At the Three Islands, below the Long Reach, Lochry found Major Charles Crascraft and six men who had been left by Clark in charge of a large horse boat for Lochry's animals. Into this boat the horses were put, and after that the party was able to move with increased speed. Crascraft did not remain with Lochry, but in a skiff hurried away after Clark.

On the following day, August 16, Colonel Lochry sent Captain Shannon and seven men in a small boat, to endeavor to overtake Clark and beg him to leave some provisions for the Westmoreland men. Lochry's flour was almost exhausted, and food could be secured only by sending out hunters, whose excursions delayed progress. On August 17 two men who were sent out to hunt did not return, and they were never heard of. It is probable they were killed by Indians.

Three days later two of Captain Shannon's men, half starved, were picked up from the southern shore. They told a story of the first disaster. Their little party had landed on the Kentucky side, below the mouth of the Scioto, to cook a meal, and the two survivors, with a sergeant, had gone out to hunt. When they were about half a mile in the woods they heard the firing of guns in the direction of their camp. They had no doubt that Indians had fallen upon Shannon and his four companions, and, being too badly frightened to return to the river bank to investigate, they immediately set out up stream to rejoin Lochry. In scrambling through the underbrush the sergeant's knife fell from its sheath, and, sticking upward in the bush, the sergeant instantly trod upon its keen point. The blade passed through his foot, and the unfortunate man died in a few hours, after suffering great agony.

The direst result of this calamity was not the death of the captain and his men, but the capture from them of a letter from Lochry to Clark, revealing the weakness of Lochry's party and its distressed condition. Through this information the fate of the Westmoreland men was sealed.

Lochry was now fully aware that both shores of the river were beset by savages, and for two days and nights no landing or halt was made. The little flotilla passed swiftly down the stream. But this could not be long continued. It became absolutely necessary to land somewhere, to feed the horses and seek meat for the men.

In the forenoon of Friday, August 24, the boats approached a quiet and charming level spot at the mouth of a little creek on the Indian shore. This stream has since been called Lochry's run. It is the dividing line between Ohio and Dearborn counties, in the southeastern corner of Indiana. On that quiet summer morning it seemed to be the abode of eternal peace. The river was low, and a long sandbar, reaching out from the Kentucky shore, compelled the boats to pass close to the level spot on the northern bank. A buffalo was drinking at the river's edge, and one of the riflemen brought it down. Colonel Lochry at once ordered a landing, for here was meat for his hungry men and luxuriant grass for his horses. The boats were beached and men and horses were soon ashore.

Suddenly half a hundred rifles blazed from the wooded bank that flanked the little strip of meadow. Some of the whites were instantly killed and others wounded. The men made for the boats and many got into them, shoving off toward the southern shore. Painted savages then appeared, shrieking and firing, and a fleet of canoes, filled with other savages, shot out from the Kentucky shore, completely cutting off the escape of the white men. The Westmorelanders returned the fire for a minute or two, but were fatally entrapped, and Colonel Lochry stood up and called out a surrender. The combat ceased, the boats were poled back to shore and the little force landed a second time. Human blood was now mingled with that of the buffalo in the languidly flowing river.

The Westmoreland men found themselves the prisoners of Joseph Brant, the famous war chief of the Mohawks, with a large band of Iroquois, Shawnees and Wyandots. George Girty, a brother of Simon, was in command of some of the Indians. The fierce Shawnees could not be controlled, and began at once to kill their share of the prisoners. While Lochry sat on a log a Shawnee warrior stepped behind him and sank his tomahawk into the colonel's skull, tearing off the scalp before life was gone. It was with great difficulty that Brant prevented the massacre of the men assigned to the Mohawks and Wyandots.

About 40 of the Westmorelanders were slain, most of them after the surrender. The captives whose lives were spared numbered 64. Among those who escaped death were Captains Stokely and Orr, the latter being severely wounded in the left arm.(4)

The mutilated dead were left unburied on that lovely spot beside the Ohio, and the prisoners were hurried away into the Indian country. Some of them were scattered among the savage tribes, but most of them were taken by the Mohawks to Detroit, where they were given up to Major DePeyster, the British commandant. They were transferred to a prison in Montreal. From that place a few escaped and the remainder were released and sent home after the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States.

As far as the records show, the following were the only members of this expedition who returned to their homes in Westmoreland:(5)

Richard Wallace, of Fort Wallace, who was quartermaster to Colonel Lochry.

Captain Thomas Stokely, Lieutenant Richard Fleming, Robert Watson, John Marrs, Michael Hare, John Guthrie, John Scott, James Robinson, James Kane, John Crawford, Peter McHarge and James Dunseath.

Lieutenant Isaac Anderson, of Captain Shannon's company.

Ezekiel Lewis, of Captain Campbell's company. Captain Robert Orr, Lieutenant Samuel Craig,, Jr., Ensign James Hunter and Manasseh Coyle.

James McPherson, one of the captives, accepted British service, and acted with the Indians on the northwestern border until after Wayne's victory in 1794.(6)

1 Pennsylvania Archives, vol. viii., pp. 749, 751; vol. ix., pp. 18, 28, 330; Western Annals. p. 832.

2 For the details of the expedition see Lieutenant Ieaae Anderson's. Journal, in Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, vol. ix. Also Frontier Forts, vol. LL, p. 334; Pennsylvania. Archives, First Series, vol. ix.,. p. 389.

3 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. ix., p. 333.

4 Pennsylvania Archives, vol. ix., p. 458; Washington-Irvine Correspondence, p. 67; Western Annals, p. 333; The Girtys, p. 129; Hist. Collections of Pa., p. 97; Wlnsor's Westward Movement, p. 193.

5 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. ix., pp. 574, 733; Colonial Records of Pa., vol. xiii., pp. 325, 473; Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series. vol. xiv.

6 Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio, vol. ii., p. 104.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 139-145: Old Westmoreland, A History of Western Pennsylvania During the Revolution by Edgar W. Hassler, J.R. Weldon & Co, Pittsburgh, 1900

Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (

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