Mason County Memories: One war ends and another begins

One war ends and another begins

By Chris Rizer - Special to the Register

Continuing from last week, it’s October 11th. Last night, not long after the battle ended, Colonel William Christian arrived with the 350-strong rear guard of the Southern Army, answering the prayers of the those who feared a second attack. Today, the army must set about the grim task of burying their fallen comrades, 55 in all. Among them are Colonel Charles Lewis, their beloved commander, and Major John Fields, whose leadership saved them all from certain destruction. Another 170 or so are wounded, and 26 of them will die in the coming week, bringing the total up to 81.

With that finished, the next order of business was the construction of a fort to protect the Kanawha and Shenandoah Valleys while the army continued into Ohio. This was Fort Blair, the predecessor to Fort Randolph. After a week, this was nearly done, and Lewis was ready to resume their war. He left 200 men behind the garrison the fort and protect the wounded and crossed the Ohio with an army numbering approximately 1,150.

The march through Ohio was fairly uneventful, the Shawnee having retreated to their towns near present-day Circleville. They arrived on the Pickaway Plains on October 24th, where they found Dunmore in peace talks with Cornstalk and the other chieftains. Many point to this as evidence of Dunmore’s supposed treason, but it is important to remember that he received word of the battle from Lewis soon after it happened. In fact, the news arrived while Dunmore was encamped near Nelsonville. In addition, while at Fort Gower he had been told by Chief White-Eyes, a friendly Delaware, that the Shawnee “had went to the south to speak with the army there.”

With the knowledge in hand, he did what any military commander of the era would do and tried to cut off the Shawnee retreat. We know from Cornstalk’s own account that Dunmore arrived too late; however, the arrival of the Northern Army was enough to force the Shawnee to the negotiating table. As Cornstalk told John Stuart in 1777, he presided over a council of chieftains and told them that they’re only option was kill their women and children and fight to the last man. Receiving no response, he rose and said, “Then I will go and make peace.” What was Dunmore to say? Sorry Chief, I (a Scottish lord, royal governor, and general) have to wait on the lowly colonel that follows my orders? No, that would have been a sign of weakness, and Dunmore was fully within his right as general to begin peace talks.

The terms were harsh, though the certainly could have been worse. Indeed, Lord Dunmore and Andrew Lewis, with a combined army of 2,200 of Virginia’s elite riflemen, could have simply destroyed the Native American confederacy. As it stood, the tribes were to surrender all lands to the south and east of the Ohio River, allow free trade on the same river, return all prisoners taken since Pontiac’s War, and pay for all goods stolen since the same war. The Shawnee quickly accepted, though the Mingo, led by Chief Logan, offered resistance. That is, until Dunmore sent William Crawford and 250 militiamen to destroy their capital. That settled the matter, and the leaders of both sides agreed to meet at Fort Pitt in the spring to sign the Treaty of Camp Charlotte.

Following the end of peace talks, the armies began their long march home. The two continued together to Fort Gower at Hockhocking, where they received the first news of the Powder Alarm and General Gage’s action in Boston. In response, they published the Fort Gower Resolves, which resolved that “having concluded the campaign… the strongest assurance that we are ready… to defend her (America’s) just rights and privileges… that we will bear the most faithful allegiance to His Majesty King George III. Whilst his majesty delights to reign over a brave and free people…” It’s obvious that the Virginians considered these two wars separate and that, having secured the safety of their families, they could now support a fight for independence. Additionally, they voiced their respect for Lord Dunmore, who “we are confident, underwent the great fatigue of this singular campaign from no other motive than the true interest of this country.” These Resolutions were signed by such Patriots as George Rogers Clark, Andrew Lewis, Daniel Morgan, Isaac Shelby, and Adam Stephens.

Upon arrival home, the Fincastle Regiment and the House of Burgesses, which consisted of men such as Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, published their own resolutions affirming the widespread support for Lord Dunmore. Of course, that would all change following the outbreak of the Revolution in less than 6 months, but that’s another story.

Information from the writings of Lord Dunmore, Andrew Lewis, William Fleming, William Christian, and John Stuart.
One war ends and another begins

By Chris Rizer

Special to the Register

Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society.

Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society.