Last week, I left you with Andrew Lewis’ arrival at the mouth of the Great Kanawha, now our county seat. This was on the 6th of October, 1774, and three days later, they received orders from Lord Dunmore to continue their march and meet him at the Pickaway Plains. Once there, they would march on Cornstalk’s village. However, the Shawnee had been following Lewis since his departure from Lewisburg, and reported his movements to the chieftains. It was decided that they would attempt to destroy the Virginian armies before they could join forces, and on the night of October 9th, the Shawnee crossed the Ohio on rafts, making camp near the mouth of Old Town Creek.
The next morning, as breakfast was needed, two men were sent out to hunt deer. Much to their surprise, they found a Shawnee army only a mile from their camp, and hastened to warn Colonel Lewis. He immediately ordered 300 men into battle, led by his brother, Col. Charles Lewis, and Col. William Fleming. The encountered the Shawnee army, at least 500 strong, in the vicinity of what is now the courthouse. Within minutes, Lewis and Fleming were both severely injured, and Charles Lewis would die of his injuries.
Meanwhile, Lewis ordered more of his men into battle, forcing the Shawnees into a temporary retreat. Within hours, the battle turned into a stalemate. The Shawnee army had formed an arc around the Virginians, stretching from the banks of the Ohio to the Great Kanawha. Lewis was trapped, and he knew it. Rather than force his way out, he opted to send a small group of men, numbering no more than 50, along the low bank of the Kanawha River and behind the enemy. From here, they marched along Crooked Creek into the hills above the battlefield, gaining a point high above the Shawnee forces. In one swift stroke that would effectively end the battle, they rained fire down upon the Native Americans, tricking them into thinking that Virginian reinforcements had arrived. This was at three o’clock in the afternoon, almost 9 hours into the engagement.
Soon afterwards, the Shawnee began their retreat to Pickaway Plains, throwing their dead into the river as they went. The Virginians, as they marched back towards their camp, collected the dead and wounded, numbering approximately 81 and 140 respectively. The dead officers, among them Charles Lewis, were buried in Camp Pleasant’s powder magazine, now a part of Tu-Endie-Wei State Park. The others were buried in various places around the camp and battlefield.
The next day, after arriving back to his town, Cornstalk called a council of chieftains, and he scolded the others for not allowing him to seek peace before the battle. He then sent messengers to meet Lord Dunmore’s army, at that time in Athens, and ask for a peace conference. The Virginians, on the other hand, spent the next week burying their dead, constructing a fort to protect the wounded, reorganizing their ranks, and gathering supplies. On the 17th, Lewis crossed the Ohio River with 1,150 soldiers. However, by the time Lewis met Dunmore on the 22nd, a peace treaty had already been signed. Dunmore had arrived 5 days earlier, on the 17th, and began a conference with his officers and the Shawnee chieftains. Among the officers were Adam Stephens, Daniel Morgan, George Rogers Clark, William Crawford, and John Gibson, who would all later became important Patriots in the American Revolution.
The treaty signed between Dunmore and Cornstalk, known as the Treaty of Camp Charlotte, agreed that any currently held prisoners would be returned to the Virginians, the Shawnees would give up any claim to western Virginia, and Dunmore would prevent settlers from spreading into Ohio. As far as the Virginians were concerned, Lord Dunmore was a hero, and Cornstalk was now one of the great, peaceful Native American chiefs. However, Chief Logan of the Mingo tribe chose not to sign the treaty, and fought settlers on the frontier throughout the Revolution. The Shawnee would later abandon Cornstalk’s principles and do the same, leading to his murder, but we’ll talk about that in a later edition.
Information from Virgil Lewis’ “History of the Battle of Point Pleasant.”
There will be no meeting of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society this month. Our next meeting will be in November.
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society.