Cornstalk, The Shawnee Chief
Published in the Southern Literary Messenger
Volume 16, Issue 9, pp. 533-540, Richmond, Virginia. 1850
Transcribed by Valerie F. Crook, 1998
There was a time when the name of Cornstalk thrilled every heart in West Virginia. Here and there among the mountains may be found an aged one, who remembers the terrors of Indian warfare as they raged on the rivers, and in the retired glens, west of the Blue Ridge, under that noted savage. Cornstalk was to the Indians of West Virginia, what Powhatan was to the tribes on the Sea Coast, the greatest and the last chief. At the time of his greatest power he lived west of the Ohio. His tribe, the Shawanees, built their towns on the Scioto and Muskingum. They had held part of the valley of the Shenandoah, but had retired at the approach of the whites.
The first settlers in the valley found but few Indians, resident east of the Alleghany: and these few appeared the remains of once flourishing tribes, or as straggling companies from tribes farther west. A short time previous to the war of 1756, called Braddock’s war, all the Indians disappeared from the Shenandoah, and for years never returned except for massacre or for plunder. The names of all the smaller tribes that were scattered over the country, from the Blue Ridge to the Ohio, cannot be gathered; and no historical fact of importance depends upon their preservation. There was a name applied to the collections of the tribes, but no one can tell whether it was generic, or from conquest, or confederacy, or the result of them all. The Eastern Indians called the Western, with whom they were continually at enmity, Massawomecs, and described them as powerful and extending from the Blue Ridge to the great Lakes. The tribes under this general name passed away, some to the South, to the Catawbas, some to the regions west of the Ohio, where they formed the powerful confederacy that under Cornstalk gave Virginians the most bloody battle in the annals of Southern and Western Colonial warfare.
About the time of the settlement of the valley of the Shenandoah, the head waters of the Potomac, including the beautiful Valley, were the scene of fierce contests between the Catawbas from the southern river of that name, and the Delawares from the river of the same name at the North. It was becoming, notwithstanding its beautiful prairies and rivers, like Kentucky, “a dark and bloody ground.” All traditions of battles, and there are many in this region, relate to contests between these tribes and their allies. They were fierce and relentless, and their battles bloody and cruel. For many years the whites in the lower part of the Valley were undisturbed by savage depredations, while the first settlements, on the upper end, experienced a bloody reception.
Cornstalk, like other savages, has no youth in history. We knew nothing of his early training, and suppose it differed nothing from the discipline of the tribe, in its early exercises. The first we know of him, he led an expedition in 1763 against the inhabitants of Greenbrier, and exterminated the infant Settlements. These were on Muddy Creek and the Levels. It was a time of peace and profound security. The savages were received as on a friendly visit; and after being feasted murdered all the males but one, who being a little distance from the house, when the carnage began, took the alarm and fled. The women and children were carried away into slavery, but few of them being murdered. Cornstalk passed on to Jackson’s river, in Bath, and found the families on their guard by the alarm given by the fugitive from the Levels. As they fled to Augusta, Cornstalk passed on to Carr’s Creek in Rockbridge, and massacred or took prisoners many families. In the course of the year, the depredations were extended to the neighborhood of Staunton, with great ferocity. The war was not general, as in the year 1655 and onward, when numerous bands of Indians traversed the upper end of the Shenandoah Valley, the pastures of the Roanoke; but was more bloody, as the country was taken unawares by the Shawanees, who stood foremost as enemies of the Virginians. Colonel Bouquet was ordered to Fort Pitt with a regiment of British Regulars, and some companies of Militia from the frontiers. The Shawanees intimidated by this force concluded a treaty on the Muskingum, and delivered up their prisoners, which were numerous, to return to desolated houses and murdered families. With this introduction Cornstalk passes unobserved for a number of years; till as the reward of his bravery and management, in 1774 he appears at the head of the great Confederacy of Virginia Indians, West of the Ohio, to resent the encroachments of the whites, or “long knives” as the Western Indians called the Virginia troops, and stop the current of emigration to the West.
All savages seem to us alike as the trees of the distant forest. Here and there one unites in his own person, all the excellencies, and becomes the favourable representative of the whole, the image of savage greatness, the one grand character in which all others are lost to history or observation. Cornstalk possessed all the elements of savage greatness, oratory, statesmanship and heroism, with beauty of person and strength of frame. In appearance he was majestic, in manners easy and winning. Of his oratory, Colonel Benjamin Wilson, Senr., an officer in Dunmore’s army, in 1774, having heard the grand speech to Dunmore in Camp Charlotte, says — “I have heard the first orators in Virginia, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, but never have I heard one whose powers of delivery surpassed those of Cornstalk on that occasion.” Of his statesmanship and bravery there is ample evidence both in the fact that he was chosen head of the Confederacy, and in the manner he conducted the war of 1774, and particularly by his directions of the battle at Point Pleasant.
The Indians had abandoned the country east of the Ohio, and the whites had followed their retreat to the rivers that fall into that beautiful stream. The attempts to form settlements in Kentucky alarmed the whole savage race; and the preparations to lay off for the soldiers in Braddock’s war their bounty lands near the City of Louisville on the falls, exasperated them to the highest degree. A Confederacy was formed of which Cornstalk was made the head. The immediate apparent cause of hostilities was found in the plunderings and murders perpetrated on the frontiers. The savages were incensed by encroachments; the whites were jealous of the Indians, and many of them not averse to an outbreak; causes of complaint arose on both sides, from individual wrong and suffering; some traders gave offence and were murdered; retaliation produced more murders; and murders provoked retaliation. Before the war of 1774 was ended there was a general conviction, in West Virginia, that the Governor was less ignorant of the designs of the savages, than his efforts to defend the country would justify; and that the troubles on the frontiers were an anticipated check to the revolutionary movements then agitating the colony. In April of 1774 Col. Angus McDonald of the Valley of the Shenandoah, was sent with a regiment to intimidate the Indians on the Muskingum, and prevent a confederacy by immediate danger. After a sharp skirmish he destroyed their towns, and returned with some hostages. This excursion, though successful, did not hinder their warlike preparations; the confederacy already formed, was strengthened and the savage spirit thirsted for revenge. All the savages of Ohio declared for war with Virginia.
While McDonald was making his excursion, a more formidable force was in preparation, in two divisions, one to he conducted by the Governor, Lord Dunmore, and the other by General Andrew Lewis, of Botetourt. Dunmore was to collect his forces from Frederick, Shenandoah, and the country in the direction of Fort Pitt, and march directly to that place, and then proceed down the river in boats to Point Pleasant. At this place he was to be reinforced by Lewis with the forces from Augusta, Botetourt, Bedford, Culpepper and Washington counties. General Lewis rendezvoused at Lewisburg, Camp Union, about the 4th of September. His brother Col. Charles Lewis had command of the Augusta Companies, under Captains George Matthews, Alexander McClenachan, John Dickenson, John Lewis, Benjamin Harrison, William Paul, Joseph Haynes and Samuel Wilson. Colonel William Fleming commanded the Botetourt companies, under Captains Matthew Arbuckle, John Murray, John Lewis, James Robertson, Robert McClenachan, James Ward, and John Stuart. Col. John Fields, who was a lieutenant in Braddock’s war, and had narrowly escaped massacre in Cornstalk’s inroad on Greenbrier, raised a company in Culpepper, his native county, and joined the camp. Captains Evan Shelby, William Russell, and _____ Herbert, led companies from Washington; and Captain Thomas Buford, from Bedford. These four companies were to be under Col. William Christian, who was collecting more men, and expected to join Lewis at Point Pleasant. On the 11th of the month General Lewis began his march for the mouth of the Kenawha, his forces amounting to about eleven hundred men. There was no track for the army and few white men had ever gone down the Kenawha. Capt. Matthew Arbuckle was the principal pilot through the mountains. The army received its supplies from pack horses and droves of cattle that followed in the rear; and performed the march one hundred and sixty miles in 19 days. Col. Fields at first declined the authority of General Lewis and marched by himself, till falling in with Indian scouts, he thought it prudent to unite with Lewis.
A braver force was never raised in Virginia than that which marched to Point pleasant under Lewis. “It consisted,” says Captain Stuart, “chiefly of young volunteers, well trained to the use of arms, as hunting in those days was much practised, and preferred to agricultural pursuits by enterprising young men. The produce of the soil was of little value on the west side of the Blue Ridge, the ways bad, and the distance to market too great to make it esteemed. Such pursuits enured them to hardships and dangers. They had no knowledge of the use of discipline or military order, when in an enemy’s country, well skilled in their own manner of warfare, and were quite unacquainted with military operations of any kind. Ignorance of their duties, together with high notions of Independence and equality of condition, rendered the service extremely difficult and disagreeable to the commander, who was by nature of a lofty and high military spirit.” One of the Augusta companies that took its departure from Staunton excited admiration for the height and uniformity of their stature. In the bar room of Sampson Matthews’ tavern a measure was taken. The greater part of the men in the company were six feet two inches without their shoes. But two were only six feet. This mark remained upon the wall till the tavern was consumed by fire in 1833.
Patriotic and brave the Valley boys submitted to the rigid discipline of Lewis with reluctance, but fought with valor. Passing through an untrod wilderness they outmarched Dunmore on a beaten track. Their General had seen much service. A Captain in 1752, he was with Washington in the attack of the French at Little Meadows, and received two wounds. In 1775, he was Major under Washington, and in attempting to rescue Grant from the consequences of his rash adventure, was taken prisoner. While in captivity he had the famous quarrel with Grant for abusing the Americans, which he ended by spitting in the English Major’s face. When nominations were about to he handed in for Commander-in-Chief a few years after the battle of Point Pleasant, Washington named Lewis to his colleagues, as a fit person for the general command. “In person,” says Stuart, “upwards of six feet high, of uncommon strength and agility, and his form of the most exact symmetry that I ever beheld in human being, he had a stern and invincible countenance, and was of a reserved and distant deportment, which rendered his presence more awful than engaging.” The Governor of New York observed of him at the treaty at Fort Stanwix, 1768, at which he was commissioner from Virginia, that “the earth seemed to tremble under him as he walked along,” – of his bravery and general fitness to command, his troops never expressed a doubt; but of the severity of discipline they loudly complained. A reference to this clamor by Washington’s colleagues prevented his nomination for Commander-in-Chief. Col. Charles Lewis was of a noble appearance, had been in frequent skirmishes with the Indians and was greatly beloved by his troops. From the forces under General Lewis’s command the following names are found eminent in afterlife, Col. William Fleming, Governor of Virginia, General Isaac Shelby, first Governor of Kentucky, and Secretary of War, Gen. William and Col. John Campbell, heroes of King’s Mountain, Gen. Evan Shelby of Tennessee, Gen. Andrew Moore, the first and for a long time the only member of the Senate of the United States west of the Blue Ridge; Col. John Stuart of Greenbrier; Gen. Tate of Washington county; Col. William McKee, of Kentucky; Col. John Steele, Governor of the Mississippi Territory; Col. Charles Camreron of Bath; Gen. Bazaleel Wells, of Ohio; and Gen. George Mathews, distinguished at Guilford, and particularly at Brandywine, Governor of Georgia and Senator of the United States.
When we consider the bravery and number of forces under Lewis, we shall more admire the courage and conduct of Cornstalk, in the battle at Point Pleasant. And his warriors merited renown as “the terrible Shawanees.”
On reaching Point Pleasant, there was no trace of Dunmore. After waiting some days, General Lewis dispatched two men to proceed by land to Fort Pitt, in search of the Governor. On Sabbath the 9th of October, three men came to Lewis’s camp, as express from the Governor, bearing information of his march by land from the mouth of the Hockhocking, directly for the Shawanee towns, accompanied with orders to Lewis to join him there. This unexpected change in the Governor’s movements surprised Lewis, and connexion in with the events of the succeeding day gave rise to suspicions greatly injurious to the Governor’s character. Nothing less than the designed exposure of Lewis’s army to the savage force has been charged upon Dunmore. And the events of a few succeeding years have given this suspicion a place in history, though Dunmore’s march can be accounted for on other principles.
One of the express, by name McCullough, enquired for Capt. John Stuart, with whom he had made some acquaintance, a few years previous, in Philadelphia. Capt. Stuart, afterwards Col. Stuart, of Greenbrier, was then on guard. In his narrative of Indian wars, which in many thing is our authority, he says of McCullough — “he made it his business to visit me, to renew our acquaintance; and in the course of our conversation he informed me he had recently left the Shawanee towns and gone to the Governor’s camp. This made me desirous to know his opinion of our expected success in subduing the Indians, and whether he thought they would be presumptuous enough to offer fight to us, as we supposed we had a force superior to any thing they would afford us. He answered –‘Aye, they will give you grinders, and that before long.’– and repeating it with an oath, swore we should get grinders very soon.” The express left the camp that evening to return to the Governor. This conversation shows that the forces under Lewis were not aware of the confederacy of the Indians. They were thinking only of the Shawanees with their few hundred warriors.
The Battle of Point Pleasant took place the next morning, Monday, October 10th “Two young men,” says Stuart, “set out very early to hunt for deer. They happened to ramble up the river (Ohio) two or three miles, and on a sudden fell on the camp of the Indians, who had crossed the river the evening before, and were just fixing for battle. They discovered the young men and fired upon them; one was killed, the other escaped, and got into our camp just before sunrise. He stopped just before my tent, and I discovered a number of men collecting around him as I lay in my bed. I jumped and approached him to know what was the alarm, when I heard him declare that he had seen above five acres of land covered with Indians, as thick as they could stand one behind another.” This body of Indians was composed of the entire forces of the Shawanees, and with them were united the Wyandots and Delawares, Mingos and Cayugas, each comprising some small tribes. At the head of this army was Cornstalk, the bravest man of the bravest tribe. Of all the Indians,” says Stuart, “the Shawanees were the most bloody and terrible, holding all other men, as well Indians as Whites, in contempt as warriors in comparison with themselves. This opinion made them more restless and fierce than any other savages; and they boasted that they had killed ten times as many whites as any other Indians did. They were a well formed, active and ingenious people, were assuming and imperious in the presence of others not of their nation, and sometimes very cruel. It was chiefly the Shawanees that cut off the British army under General Braddock, in the year 1755, only nineteen years before our battle, when the General himself, and Sir Peter Hackett, the second in command, were both slain, and the mere remnant of the whole army only escaped. It was they, too, defeated Major Grant and his Scotch Highlanders, at Fort Pitt, in 1758. where the whole of the troops were killed and taken prisoners.” The number of warriors assembled could never be ascertained. They have been variously estimated from one thousand to four hundred. On Sabbath evening, October 9th, they crossed the Ohio to the east bank, about the time the express of the Governor left the camp of Lewis.
The plan of the Indians appears to have been to surprise the camp of Lewis before he formed a juncture with Dunmore, and the principle and outlines of attack as well as time and place were well chosen. Cornstalk after crossing the Ohio and encamping about two miles from Lewis, who was entirely unconscious of the approach of a savage force, called a council and proposed to go into camp and ask for peace. Whether he had become convinced of the impossibility of restraining the advance of the Virginians westward, by force of arms, since, after all his warriors had done the tide rolled on almost unbroken by their terrible battles and murderous victories, and hoped now with a show of force to make an advantageous peace;- or whether he wished only to try the spirit of their warriors, now almost in sight of their enemy, has never been revealed. But battle was unanimously demanded by the council; and preparations made to surprise the camp of Lewis at sunrise. Early on the morning of the tenth, as they were about commencing their march, they were discovered by the two deer hunters, the survivor spread the alarm in the camp. The General deliberately lighted his pipe, and then coolly ordered his brother. Col. Charles Lewis, and Col. Fleming each to lead a detachment of their troops under their eldest captains, in the direction of the reported enemy. The camp was put in order for immediate action. So rapid was the advance of the savages the detachments were met about four hundred yards from the camp, in sight of their guards. The scouts in advance of each detachment were shot down, and a heavy firing commenced on the whole line. At the first volley the Colonels fell badly wounded. Lewis having discharged his piece, and as he said, “sent one of the enemy before to eternity,” fell at the root of a tree. Recovering himself he unwillingly returned to camp supported by Capt. Murry, his brother-inlaw, and Mr. Bailey of Capt. Paul’s company, and in a few hours breathed his last in his tent, while the battle was raging around him. Col. Fleming was borne in disabled. The suddenness of the attack, the fall of the Colonels, and the bearing them back to camp, threw the detachments into confusion, and a retreat to the camp was begun. Col. Fields met them with his troops; they rallied and pressing rapidly on the foe drove them back some distance from the ground of the first attack. The Indians disappeared; and after a short time rushed on furiously to the attack, and again gave way to the advancing Virginians. Forming a line from the Ohio to the Kenawha, which met each other at right eagles, the savages enclosed Lewis’s forces an the Point, and stationing a hand of warriors on the opposite bank of the Ohio, to prevent their escape in the event of their defeat, by alternately advancing and retreating, they carried on the battle through the whole day with unremitting ardor. Coming near the camp they would sometimes shout “we are eleven hundred strong, and two thousand more coming,” referring to the number of Lewis’s men and the expected reinforcement under Col. Christian. This excited suspicion in the camp that they had been betrayed by the Governor or his express, who alone could have told these Indians the circumstances of the camp.
Cornstalk’s voice was heard through the day, above the din of battle, shouting to his men. One who bad been a prisoner recognized the voice and knew the words. “What is he saying,” enquired Capt. Stuart. “He says be strong, be strong,” replied the soldier. One of the warriors near him showing, in the midst of the battle, less courage than became a brave, with one blow of his tomahawk, Cornstalk cleft his skull. In one of the assaults the brave Col. Fields was shot. His fall greatly dispirited his men for a time. “Be Strong!” “Be Strong!” echoed terribly over the battle, while the fall of the three Colonels, and Captain after Captain, and files of men, inspirited the savages to press on with renewed vigor. The bravery of the commander never wavered, he was equal to the emergency. His majestic person was seen moving from place to place, with “a stern invincible countenance.” The courage of his men having suffered a temporary shock, in the sudden attack and the loss of their beloved officers, arose with their danger and the terrible Shawanees found the “longknives” fully prepared to avenge the death of their comrades. Early in the day Lewis contrived to despatch two runners up the Kenawha to hasten the advance of Col. Christian. Towards evening, perceiving that the assaults of the savages were unabated in violence, and fearing lest night might give the Indians some advantage unless the battle was brought to a close before the day departed, he sent a detachment under Captains Isaac Shelby, George Mathews, and John Stuart, to proceed up the Kenawha, under cover of the banks, to Crooked Creek, and up that creek, under the banks and weeds, some distance to the rear of the enemy, and then to march down upon the savages towards the point. The unlooked-for appearance of this company in their rear alarmed the Indians. They supposed the detachment to be the expected reinforcement under Col. Christian and gave way. Before sundown they crossed the Ohio, leaving many of their dead. Col. Christian reached the camp before midnight and found preparations for a renewed attack, as the retreat of the Indians was looked upon as a feint. But the battle had been decisive, the savages retreated to their towns. The loss of Lewis in this day’s battle was 2 Colonels, 6 Captains, 3 Lieutenants, and 64 subalterns and privates killed; and 140 wounded. About one fifth of his whole force was disabled. The loss of the Indians was unknown. Col. Christian marched over the field of battle on the morning of the 11th and found thirty-three dead, left by the Indians in their rapid retreat. Their loss during the day was probably greater than that of the Virginians. With them it was a desperate battle; if they were vanquished they had no hope of future success; if victorious they might yet triumph. And they fought like men that staked all upon the issue of that day’s contest.
Upon reaching a place of safety the Indians held a council. Cornstalk inquired what was to be done. They had been defeated, and “the long knives” were pressing on them. No one made reply. After a pause Cornstalk arose and said, “We must fight, or we are undone.” “Let us kill all our women and children, and go fight till we die.” No answer was made. After a pause he arose again and striking his tomahawk into the post in the centre of the council, said- “I’ll go and make peace.” The warriors around all grunted out–“Ough, ough, ough.” Runners were immediately dispatched to the Governor to solicit peace and protection from the “Big knife,” and Cornstalk with his sister, the Grenadier Squaw set out to meet Dunmore.
After burying the dead, and making suitable accommodations for the wounded, Lewis, leaving a guard at the Point, marched rapidly towards the towns on the Scioto. In a short time he was met by an express from Dunmore, with orders to return to Kenawha as he was about to make a treaty with the Indians. Lewis on consultation with his officers determined to press on towards the Scioto. The Indian spies reported the advance of “the long knives,” and the chiefs expressed great uneasiness, believing their towns to be in danger, and fearing that Dunmore could not prevent their destruction. The Governor with the chief White Eyes, met the General at Kellecanie creek, in sight of a village the Indians had just deserted and set on fire, and informing him of the treaty in progress, repeated the orders for the return of the Virginians to the Kenawha. The Governor requested an introduction to the officers individually, and expressed his high approbation of their spirit, complimenting them on their gallantry in the late action. Lewis reluctantly commenced his retreat, and Dunmore returned to his camp.
The Virginians very unwillingly let go the opportunity of destroying the Indian towns. The memory of the massacres on Muddy Creek, the Levels, and Cave’s Creek, and other murders of families and individuals, and the loss of so many brave companions in the late battle stirred up the spirit of retaliation, and the desire to strike a blow that should forever intimidate the savages. General Lewis carried with him to his grave a full belief that Dunmore acted in concert with the Indians.
The Governor marched on towards Chillicothe and encamped on a plain appointed for his conference with the Indian chiefs. On the third day Cornstalk came with eight chiefs to visit the Governor, and was introduced by the interpreters. Dunmore read from a written paper the charges against the Indians, their infraction of former treaties, and their unprovoked murders. Cornstalk replied, and in strains of commanding eloquence defended his red brethren, and made recriminations. A time was fixed by mutual agreement for the chiefs of the different tribes to come and arrange the articles of the treaty. After a few days Cornstalk came alone and informed Dunmore that none of the Mingoes would attend, and that he feared the result as to the other tribes. Dunmore sent two interpreters to Logan, the Mingo, to request his attendance. He replied, “I am a warrior and not a counsellor and I will not go.” Shortly after Cornstalk came again with two chiefs; and negotiations were entered upon in good faith. Colonel Wilson says- “When Cornstalk arose, he was in no wise confused or daunted, but spoke in a distinct and audible voice, without stammering, or repetition, and with peculiar emphasis. His looks while addressing Dunmore were truly grand, yet graceful and attractive.” As he became excited he spake so as to be heard throughout the camp. In the strains of commanding eloquence, and with the skill of a statesman, he negotiated the treaty. He sketched in lively colors the once prosperous condition of the Indians, and set in sad contrast their present degradation. Exclaiming against the perfidiousness of the whites, and particularly the dishonesty of the traders, he proposed as the basis of a treaty, that no persons should be permitted to trade with the Indians on private account; that such things as they needed should be sent by honest men who should exchange at a fair price for their skins and furs: and finally, that no spirits of any kind should be sent amongst them, because the fire-water brought evil to the Indians.
It was agreed by Dunmore and Cornstalk that hostilities should cease, that the prisoners should be delivered up, and that as many of the chiefs as could be prevailed upon, should meet commissioners from Virginia the next summer at Fort Pitt to ratify a treaty.
Cornstalk won the highest admiration from the Virginians, for his conduct in the battle at Point Pleasant, and for the manner he conducted the negotiations for peace. He attacked the forces his enemies before they could form a juncture, and fought bravely in hopes of subduing them in detail. And had he conquered Lewis, Dunmore and his troops would probably have been massacred. Failing in the battle, he hastened to save his towns by negotiation with the Governor; and effected his purpose notwithstanding the shortsighted obstinacy of the chiefs, which exposed the whole to ruin. Whatever may have been the designs of Dunmore in regard to the Indians and the Virginians, it is evident Cornstalk was more sagacious than the Governor.
We have nothing more of Cornstalk worthy of special notes, till the spring of 1777. The coalition formed by the English and all the tribes west of the Ohio, against the colonies contending for their independence, was nearly complete. The Shawanees alone had not entered into the confederacy. The young warriors, thirsting to avenge their countrymen slain at the Point, and jealous of the Virginians, were eager for war. Cornstalk opposed the confederacy. He dreaded war with “the long knives.” He believed the safety of his tribe could now be found only in the friendship of the Virginians. In this posture of affairs, he visited Point Pleasant in company with Red Hawk and another Indian, and sought an interview with Capt. Arbuckle, the commander of the garrison. To him Cornstalk communicated the situation and design of the Indians; that all his nation but his own tribe were for war; and that they “would float with the stream in spite of his endeavors to stem it;” and that hostilities would speedily commence. Capt. Arbuckle thought it proper to detain Cornstalk and his companions as hostages for the Shawanees; and sent information of the true state of things to Williamsburg. Orders were immediately issued to raise in the Valley and Western settlements a volunteer force, to march under Col. George Skillem of Rockbridge. With much difficulty a force was collected. In Greenbrier a small company only joined the Colonel, and that was raised principally by the efforts of Capt. John Stuart. It was composed largely of militia officers who went as privates, among whom was Stuart. They reached the Point in safety, expecting General Hand from Pittsburg to take the command and lead them against the Indian towns.
While waiting for Gen. Hand, the officers held frequent conversations with Cornstalk, who appeared to take pleasure in making them acquainted with the geography of the country west of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi. One afternoon while delineating upon the door a map of the country between the Shawanee towns and the Mississippi, shewing the direction of the various rivers emptying in those mighty streams, a shouting was heard from the opposite bank of the Ohio. Cornstalk rose deliberately, went out and answered the call. Immediately a young chief crossed the river, whom Cornstalk embraced with the greatest tenderness. It was his son Elinipsico, who, distressed at the long absence of his father from his tribe, had come in search of him.
The next morning a council of officers was held, on account of the long delay of Gen. Hand. Cornstalk was invited to be present. He made a speech, in which he recounted his actions after the battle at the Point three years before,-that he had proposed to the warriors to kill the women and children, and there to fight till they were all killed, and on their refusing to do this, that he had proposed to Dunmore peace. Previous to this the Indians had refused to listen to the Governor. He closed every sentence of his speech, says Stuart, with these words–“When I was a young man and went to war, I thought that might be the last time, and I would return no more. Now I am here among you; you may kill me if you please; I can die but once; and it is all one to me, now or another time.” His countenance was dejected, while he declared he expected to be compelled to go with the stream, and that all the Indians were joining the British standard.
While the council was in session, two young men, Hamilton and Gilmore, crossed the Kenawha to hunt deer. On their return to the camp, about the time the council closed, some Indians concealed on the bank, viewing our encampment, fired upon them and killed Gilmore. “Capt. Arbuckle and myself,” says Stuart, “were standing upon the opposite bank when the gun fired, and whilst we were wondering who it could be shooting, contrary to orders, or what they were doing over the river, we saw Hamilton run down the bank, who called out that Gilmore was killed. Gilmore was one of the company of Capt. John Hall, of that part of the country now Rockbridge county. The Captain was a relation of Gilmore’s, whose family and friends were chiefly cut off by the Indians in the year 1763, when Greenbrier was cut off. Hall’s men instantly jumped into a canoe and went to the relief of Hamilton, who was standing in momentary expectation of being put to death. They brought the corpse of Gilmore down the bank, covered with blood and scalped, and put it into the canoe.”
The interpreter’s wife, who had lately returned from captivity, and entertained a kindly feeling for Cornstalk and his companions, hearing the tumult, ran out to inquire the cause; and hearing threats from some of the men against the Indians in the garrison, she hastened to the cabin of Cornstalk, and told him that Elinipsico was charged with bringing the Indians that had just killed Gilmore, and that the soldiers were threatening them all with death. Elinipsico denied bringing the murderers with him; declared he came alone, and for the sole purpose visiting his father, who had been so long absent. As the canoe that bore the dead body was passing the river, “I observed to Capt. Arbuckle,” says Capt. Stuart, “that the people would be for killing the hostages as soon as the canoe would land. He supposed that they would not offer to commit so great a violence upon the innocent, who were in no wise accessory to the murder of Gilmore. But the canoe had scarcely touched the shore until the cry was raised–let us kill the Indians in the fort;-and every man, with his gun in his hand, came up the bank pale with rage. Capt. Hall was at their head and leader. Capt. Arbuckle and I met them, endeavored to dissuade them from so unjustifiable an action; but they cocked their guns, threatened us with instant death if we did not desist, and rushed by us into the fort.”
Cornstalk had led the expedition, years before, by which Gilmore’s family had been murdered: Cornstalk was now in the Fort. Elinipsico, his son, had come the day before; and now Indians had just killed Gilmore. These men must be a sacrifice. These feeling governed Hall and his men, as they rushed shouting to the cabin of Cornstalk.
Elinipsico hearing their approach trembled greatly. Cornstalk said-“My son, the Great Spirit has seen fit that we should die together; and has sent you here. It is his will. Let us submit. It is best:”–and turned to meet the soldiers at the door. In a moment he received seven bullets in his body and fell without a groan. Elinipsico sat upon his stool unmoved. His father’s words had calmed his trepidation: his father’s death called up in his bosom all his savage stoicism. He received the shots of the soldiers and died without motion. Redhawk, on hearing the tumult, concealed himself in the chimney, which was too small to admit his escape. He was soon discovered and shot in his hiding-place, and fell in the ashes dead. The other Indian was cruelly mangled and murdered by piece-meal.
The suddenness of the massacre prevented its arrest. The fatal deed covered the fort with gloom. Col. Skillem did not arrest the murderers; perhaps his authority over the volunteers was too weak. General Hand arrived in a few days without forces or supplies, and took no notice of this deed. In a few days the soldiers were ordered to return home. The Court of Rockbridge county made some inquiries respecting the murderers, but did not pursue the subject to a judicial conclusion. The Shawanees in the war that followed took ample revenge for their chief. The blood of multitudes flowed for Cornstalk and his son: and no man was heard to glory in being the principal or accessory of his death.