Chapter XXVII
The Abandoned Expedition


The Scots and other frontiersmen were far from being discouraged by their sad experience under Colonel Crawford. The fugitives from the Sandusky plain had barely returned to their homes, when they began to prepare for another campaign. A fierce determination possessed the borderers to crush the "red vipers" along the Sandusky river and arrangements were made to invade the Indian country once more as soon as the wheat and oats were harvested.

Brigadier General Irvine was asked to take the command and the principal men on the frontier agreed to furnish the provisions, not only for the volunteers, but for the regulars from Fort Pitt. The general agreed to lead the expedition if he should be satisfied with its size and equipment, and subscription papers were circulated for men, horses and food. Men of means who were too old for campaigning agreed to assist with horses and provisions.(1) The time for starting was first set for early in August, but the summer being dry and the grist mills without water, flour could not be ground and a postponement was announced until September 20.

General Irvine informed the Pennsylvania government of the preparation on the border, at the same time intimating that aid from the state and from Congress would be acceptable. A conference was held between members of the Pennsylvania Supreme Council and members of Congress, which resulted in a recommendation to General Washington, about the first of September, 1782, that the United States government should take part in a general campaign against the savages. At that time aggressive warfare had been suspended in the East and there was expectation of early peace with Great Britain. General Washington agreed that three expeditions should penetrate the Indian country, each to be composed of regulars, militia and volunteers, and Congress voted to bear the expenses of the regular contingents.

One expedition, to be commanded by Brigadier General Irvine, was to move from Fort Pitt against the Wyandots and Delawares on the Sandusky river; a second, under Major General James Potter, was to advance from Sunbury, Pa., into the Seneca land, in the Genesee valley, and a third was to be sent by the state of New York against the eastern Iroquois in the neighborhood of Oswego.(2)

Two companies of militia, one from York, and the other from Cumberland county, were sent to Westmoreland to guard its settlements while its own men were absent in the Indian country. Detachments of Colonel Moses Hazen's "Canadian regiment," stationed at Lancaster and Carlisle, were ordered to march to Fort Pitt and join General Irvine, who had at that post two companies of the Pennsylvania line under Captains Samuel Brady and John Clark.

General Lincoln, the Secretary at War, proposed that Irvine's force should aggregate 1,200 men, made up as follows: regulars from Ft. Pitt, 150; detachment from Hazen's regiment, 200; Pennsylvania rangers, 60; Pennsylvania and Virginia militia, 300; frontier volunteers, 490. The day for setting forth on the campaign, October 8, was fixed by General Lincoln, and Irvine was assured that by that time Hazen's regulars and the militia from the middle counties would be at Ft. Pitt. General Irvine immediately began his arrangements for operations on an enlarged scale, but when October 8 came he found himself short of the promised reinforcements. On that day he wrote to the president of Pennsylvania that no rangers had appeared, that the few militiamen who had arrived were miserably furnished, and that he could not understand why Hazenrs men had been detained. Still, he was determined to proceed if he could gather a force of boo regulars and volunteers, and he had sent an officer (Captain Brady) along the road to hasten Hazen's detachment. He had again postponed the date until October 20.(3)

While preparations were making for this campaign the Indians came again against the border. At the beginning of September, 1782, Captain Andrew Bradt, with his company of 4o Canadian rangers and 238 Indians, Wyandots, Delawares and Shawnees, set out from Upper Sandusky to attack Wheeling. That settlement was defended by a stockade, called Fort Henry, which contained one swivel gun. The weapon was a useful relic. It had been thrown into the Ohio river by the French when they evacuated Fort Duquesne in 1758, and had been recovered by the pioneers. It had been made and brought to America for service against the British flag, but never fulfilled its mission until used on the fort at Wheeling. Within the stockade, when the approach of the enemy was discovered, all the inhabitants of the settlement took refuge. There were 27 men in the place, but only i8 were fit for duty. Colonel Ebenezer Zane, the pioneer settler, commanded the little garrison.

Captain Bradt's force crossed the Ohio and paraded before Fort Henry in the evening of Wednesday, September ii. The captain displayed the British flag and demanded a surrender. The demand was rejected, and soon afterward firing was opened at long range. At midnight the savages attempted to carry the stockade by storm, but were repulsed. The French swivel gun was used with good effect, as the Indians were very much afraid of any sort of a cannon. Two more futile assaults were made before daylight, and the besiegers then retired to a distance and kept up a steady firing during the day. Captain Bradt sent a negro to the fort with a second but unavailing demand for surrender, and during Thursday night a fourth desperate effort was made to storm the stockade. The brave riflemen again repulsed the savage horde, and shortly after dawn the discouraged assailants withdrew and recrossed the Ohio river. Among the fort's defenders one man had been wounded in the foot.(4)

After the failure at Wheeling about qo of the Indians, anxious for scalps and plunder, cut loose from the main, body of the marauders and went against the blockhouse of Abraham Rice on Buffalo creek, within the present township of Donegal, Washington county. From 2 o'clock in the afternoon of September 13 until 2 o'clock the following morning that blockhouse was successfully defended by only six men. They killed four of the Indians and lost one of their own number, George Felebaum, who was shot in the brain while peering through a loophole. The savages killed many cattle and burned a barn. On their return toward the Ohio river they met and killed two settlers who were going to Rice's relief. This was the last invasion of Western Pennsylvania by a large body of Indians.(5)

At Ft. Pitt General Irvine's preparations had been made and he was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Hazen's regulars, when, on October 23, he received from Philadelphia information that the Indian war was at an end and that his expedition was countermanded.(6)

The cessation of Indian depredations, which had been carried on with terrible results for six years, was the work of General Sir Guy Carleton, who had recently been appointed commander-in-chief of the British forces in America. He was a humane man, and had never approved the employment of savages. Soon after his appointment to the supreme command he was shocked by the burning of Crawford and other American prisoners at Sandusky, and orders were conveyed to all British officers engaged on the border to exert their efforts to prevent further outrages by their red allies.

It is interesting to read the reply of Captain Alexander McKee, at that time a British agent among the Shawnees on the Great Miami and Mad rivers, to the letter which he received in regard to the Indian cruelties. "It is true," he wrote, "they have made sacrifices to their revenge after the massacre of their women and children, some being known to them to be perpetrators of it, but it was done in my absence or before I could reach any of the places to interfere. And I can assure you, sir, that there is not a white person here wanting in their duty to represent to the Indians in the strongest terms the highest abhorrence of such conduct, as well as the bad consequence that may attend it, to both them and us, being contrary to the rule of carrying on war by civilized nations."

General Carleton's protest against cruelties was soon followed by more radical action. He sent an order to the officers in command at Niagara and Detroit to cease entirely the sending out of Indian parties against the American frontiers and to act only on the defensive. This order reached DePeyster, at Detroit, late in August, and he at once sent couriers to the British officers at the Indian towns in Ohio to stop all incursions. The runner sent to Upper Sandusky reached there too late to stop Captain Bradt, who had already marched against Wheeling.

General Washington, in quarters at Newburg-on-theHudson, did not learn of General Carleton's action until September 23, when he immediately wrote to the authorities in Philadelphia to stop the expeditions at Sunbury and Fort Pitt.(7)

General Lincoln, on September 27, wrote to Generals Hazen and Irvine that the expedition was off. The letter to Hazen reached that officer promptly and he returned with his command to Lancaster. The letter to Irvine was not sent by express rider, as it should have been, but was ena trusted to some person traveling on private business. The bearer lingered by the way and was making little progress toward Ft. Pitt, when Captain Brady, riding in quest of Hazen's detachment, found the bearer of the letter at some wayside inn. Thus it was that the countermand reached General Irvine so late.(8)

The last stroke in the border war of the Revolution was inflicted by the Americans. While General Irvine was making ready to invade the Indian country from the eastward, General George Rogers Clark was preparing a similar movement from Kentucky. Correspondence passed between these officers for the purpose of securing simultaneous action. Clark's plan was to ascend the Great Miami and strike the Shawnee towns at the time when Irvine was operating against the Wyandots and Delawares. Early in October General Irvine sent a messenger down the Ohio river to Clark with the information that the Fort Pitt expedition would move on October 20, and Clark arranged to cross the Ohio from Kentucky at the same time. Washington's countermand held Irvine, but it was too late to stop Clark.

With 1,000 horsemen, General Clark crossed the Ohio at the site of Cincinnati, marched up the Great Miami and destroyed the two Shawnee towns of Lower and Upper Piqua, in what is now Miami county, Ohio. A detachment burned also the trading post of Peter Loramie and the adjacent Indian town, on the west branch of the Miami. The Indians had warning in time to hide the women and children in the woods, but they saved none of their property and the Kentuckians carried away a great quantity of plunder. Ten Indian scalps and seven prisoners were taken, while two of the Kentuckians were mortally wounded.

General Carleton's order concluded the Indian war of the Revolution. That is, it ended the incursions of the savages as the allies of Great Britain, acting with British aid and under the direction of British officers, but it did not altogether stop the depredations of some of the Ohio savages acting on their own account. Small bands of Shawnees, seeking revenge for General Clark's work of destruction, invaded the settlements in the spring of 1783 and inflicted considerable injury. In the autumn of 1782, however, the sorely harried borderers were encouraged to believe that their distresses were at an end, and with earnestness they participated in the observance of the first general Thanksgiving Day celebrated in the United States on the last Thursday of November.(9)

1 Washington-Irvine Correspondence, pp. 128, 124, 175; Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. ix., p. 576.

2 Washington-Irvine Correspondence, pp. 133, 134, 181, 183; Pennsylvania Archives, vol. ii., pp. 626. 630, 635, 636.

3 Pennsylvania Archives, vol. ix., p. 648.

4 Washington-Irvine Correspondence, pp. 312, 397; Pennsylvania Archives, vol. ix., p. 638; Western Annals, p. 406.

5 Western Annals, p. 406; Historical Collections of Pennsylvania, p. 661; Frontier Forte, vol. ii., pp. 404 to 410.

6 Washington-Irvine Correspondence, p. 134.

7 Washington-Irvine Correspondence, p. 185; Pennsylvania Archives. vol. ix.. p. 641.

8 Washington-Irvine Correspondence, pp. 134, 184.

9 Pennsylvania Archives, vol ii., p. 660.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 182-188: Old Westmoreland, A History of Western Pennsylvania During the Revolution by Edgar W. Hassler, J.R. Weldon & Co, Pittsburgh, 1900

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