BATTLE OF POINT PLEASANT
Formation of the Army--Lord Dunmore and General Lewis to form a junction at the Mouth of the Kanawha--Lewis' March from Fort Union--Captain Arbuckle as Guide--Lord Dunmore moves towards the Shawnee Towns on the Scioto--Two Soldiers fired upon by the Indians--The Beginning of the Battle--The 10th of October, the Great Field Day--Death of Colonel Charles Lewis and Colonel Fleming--Tactics of General Lewis--Plan of the Battle--Consternation and Defeat of the Indians--The Dead and Wounded--Cornstalk, the Great Chief, in Command of the Indians--VanBibber's Account of the Battle--The Centennial Celebration--A monument to be erected--The Old Fort.
The battle of Point Pleasant, fought October 10, 1774, between the whites and Indians, during Dunsmore's war, was the bloodiest of all engagements fought on this continent prior to the Revolution.
The army destined for this expedition was composed of volunteers and militia, chiefly from the counties west of the Blue Ridge, and consisted of two divisions. The northern, comprehending the troops collected in Frederick, Dunmore (now Shenandoah,) and the adjacent counties, was to be commanded by Lord Dunmore in person; and the southern, compromising the different companies raised in Botetourt, Augusta, and the adjoining counties east of the Blue Ridge, was to be led on by General Andrew Lewis. These tow divisions, proceeding by different routes, were to form a junction at the mouth of the Big Kanawha, and from thence penetrate the country north-west of the Ohio river, as far as the season would admit of their going, and destroy all the Indian towns and villages which they could reach.
About the first of September, the troops placed under the command of General Lewis rendezvoused at Camp Union, (now Lewisburg,) and consisted of two regiments, commanded by Colonel William Fleming of Botetourt, and Colonel Charles Lewis of Augusta, containing about four hundred men each. At camp Union they were joined by an independent volunteer company under Colonel John Field of Culpepper, a company from Bedford under Captain Buford, and two from the Holstein settlement, (now Washington county,) under Captains Evan Shelby and Harbert. These three latter companies were part of the force to be led on the Colonel Christian, who was likewise to join the two main divisions of the army at Point Pleasant, so soon as the other companies of his regiment could be assembled. The force under General Lewis, having been thus augmented to eleven hundred men, commenced its march for the mouth of Kanawha on the 11th of September, 1774.
From Camp Union to the point proposed for the junction of the northern and southern divisions of the army, a distance of one hundred and sixty miles, the intermediate country was a trackless forest, so rugged and mountainous as to render the progress of the army at once tedious and laborious. Under the guidance of Captain Matthew Arbuckle, they succeeded, however, in reaching the Ohio river, after a march of nineteen days; and fixed their encampment of the point of land immediately between that river and the Big Kanawha. The provisions and ammunition, transported on pack-horses, and the beeves in droves, arrived after.
When the southern division arrived at Point Pleasant, Governor Dunsmore, with the forces under his command, had not reached there; and unable to account for his failure to form the preconcerted junction at that place, it was deemed advisable to await that event; as by so doing a better opportunity would be afforded to Colonel Christian of coming up with that portion of the army which was then with him. Meanwhile General Lewis, desiring to learn the cause of the delay of the northern division, dispatched runners by land in the direction of Fort Pitt, to obtain tidings of Lord Dunmore, to be communicated to him immediately. In their absence, however, advises were received from his lordship, that he had determined on proceedings across the country, directly to the Shawnee towns; and ordering General Lewis to cross the river, march forward, and form a junction with him near them. These advises were received on the 9th of October, and preparation of the troops over the Ohio river.
Early morning of Monday the tenth of that month, two soldiers left the camp, and proceeded up the Ohio river, in quest of deer. When they had progressed about two miles, they unexpectedly came in sight of a large number of Indians rising from their encampment, and who, discovered the two hunters, fired upon them and killed one; the other escaped unhurt, and running briskly to the camp, communicated the intelligence, "that he had seen a body of the enemy, covering four acres of ground, as closely as they could stand by the side of each other." The main part of the army was immediately ordered out under Colonels Charles Lewis and William Fleming; and having formed into two lines, they proceeded about four hundred yards, when they met the Indians, and the action commenced.
At the first onset, Colonel Charles Lewis having fallen, and Colonel Fleming being wounded, both lines gave way and were retreating briskly towards the camp, when they were met by a reinforcement under Colonel Field, and rallied. The engagement then became general, and was sustained with the most obstinate fury on both sides. The Indians perceiving the "tug of war" had come, and determined on affording the colonial army no chance of escape, if victory should declare for them, formed a line extending across the point, from the Ohio to the Kanawha, and protected in front by logs and fallen timber. In this situation they maintained the contest with unabated vigor, from sunrise till towards the close of evening; bravely and successfully resisting every charge which was made on them; and withstanding the impetuosity of every onset, with the most invincible firmness, until a fortunate movement on the part of the Virginia troops decided the day.
Some short distance above the entrance of the Kanawha river into the Ohio, there is a stream called Cooked creek, emptying into the former of these, from the north-east whose banks are tolerably high, and were then covered with a thick and luxuriant growth of weeds.
Seeing the impracticability of dislodging the Indians by the most vigorous attack, and sensible of the great danger which must arise to his army, if the contest were not decided before night, General Lewis detached the three companies which were commanded by Captains Isaac Shelby, George Matthews and John Stuart, with orders to proceed up the Kanawha river and Crooked creek, under cover of the banks and weeds, till they should pass some distance beyond the enemy; when they were to emerge from their covert, march downward towards the point, and attack the Indians in their rear.
The maneuver thus planned by General Lewis, was promptly executed, and gave a decided victory to the Colonial army. The Indians finding themselves suddenly and unexpectedly encompassed between two armies, and not doubting but that in their rear was the looked for reinforcement under Colonel Christian, soon gave way, and about sundown commenced a precipitate retreat across the Ohio, to their towns on the Scioto. The victory, indeed, was decisive, and many advantages were obtained by it; but they were not cheaply bought. The Virginia army sustained in this engagement a loss of seventy-five killed, and one hundred and forty wounded--about one-fifth of the entire number of the troops.
Among the slain were Colonels Lewis and Field; Captains Buford, Morrow, Wood, Cundiff, Wilson, and Robert McClanahan; and Lieutenants Allen, Goldsby, and Dillin, with some other subalterns. The loss of the enemy could not be ascertained. On the morning after the action, Colonel Christian, who had arrived after the battle was ended, marched his men over the battle-ground and found twenty-one of the Indians lying dead; and twelve others were afterwards discovered, where they had been attempted to be concealed under some old logs and brush.
From the great facility with which the Indians wither carry off or conceal their dead, it is always difficult to ascertain the number of their slain; and hence arises, in some measure, the disparity between their known loss and that sustained by their opponents in battle. Other reasons for this disparity are to be found in their peculiar node of warfare, and in the fact that they rarely continue a contest, when it has to be maintained with the loss of their warriors. It would not be easy otherwise to account for the circumstance, that even when signally vanquished, the list of their slain does nor, frequently, appear more than half as great as that of the victors. In this particular instance, many of the dead were certainly thrown into the river.
Nor could the number of the enemy engaged be ever ascertained. Their army is known to have been composed of warriors from the different nations north of the Ohio, and to have comprised the flower of the Shawnee, Delaware, Ming, Wyandotte, and Cayuga tribes; led on by men whose names were not unknown to fame, and at the head of whom was Cornstalk, sachem of the Shawnees, and king of the northern confederacy.
This distinguished chief and consummate warrior proved himself on that day to be justly entitled to the prominent station which he occupied. his plan of alternate retreat was well conceived, and occasioned the principal loss sustained by the whites. If at any time his warriors were believed to waver, his voice could be heard above the din of arms, exclaiming, in his native tongue: "Be strong! be strong!" and when one near hi, by trepidation and reluctance to proceed to the charge, evinced a dastardly disposition, fearing the example might have a pernicious influence, with one blow of his tomahawk he severed his skull. It was, perhaps, a solitary instance in which terror predominated. Never did men exhibit a more conclusive evidence of bravery in making a charge, and fortitude in withstanding an onset, than did these undisciplined soldiers of the forest in the field at Point Pleasant. Such, too, was the good conduct of those who composed the army of Virginia on that occasion, and such the noble bravery of many, that high expectations were entertained of their future distinction. Nor were those expectations disappointed. In the various scenes through which they subsequently passed, the pledge of after eminence then given was fully redeemed, and the names of Shelby, Campbell, Matthew, Fleming, Moore, and others, their compatriots in arms on the memorable 10th of October 1774, have been inscribed characters on the roll of fame.
Having buried the dead, and made every arrangement which their situation admitted, for the comfort of the wounded, entrenchments were thrown up, and the army commenced its march to form a junction with the northern division, under Lord Dunsmore. Proceeding by the way of the Slat Licks, General Lewis pressed forward with astonishing rapidity, (considering that the march was through a trackless desert;) but before he had gone far, an express arrived from Dunsmore with orders to return immediately to the mouth of the Big Kanawha. Suspecting the integrity of his lordship's motives, and urged by the advice of his officers generally, General Lewis refused to obey these orders, and continued to advance till he was met (at Kilkenny Creek, and in sight of an Indian village, which its inhabitants had just fired and deserted) by the Governor, accompanied by White Eyes, who informed him that he was negotiating a treaty of peace, which would supersede the necessity of the further movement of the southern division, and repeating the order for its retreat.
The army under General Lewis had endured many privations and suffered many hardships. They had encountered a savage enemy in great force, and purchased a victory with the blood of their friends. When arrived near the goal of their wishes, and with nothing to prevent the accomplishment of the object of the campaign, they received those orders with evident chagrin, and did not obey them without murmuring. Having, at his own request, been introduced severally to the officers of that division, complimenting them for their gallantry and good conduct in the late engagement, and assuring them of his high esteem, Lord Dunmore returned to his camp; and General Lewis commenced his retreat.
This battle--says Colonel Stuart, in his historical memoir--was, in fact, the beginning of the Revolutionary war, that obtained for our country the liberty and independence enjoyed by the United States--and a good presage of future success; for it is well known that the Indians were influenced by the British to commence the war to terrify the following year at Lexington. It was though by British politicians, that to excite an "Indian war would prevent a combination of the Colonies for opposing parliamentary measures to tax the Americans." The blood, therefore, split in this memorable battle, willing be remembered by the good people of Virginia and the United States with gratitude.
VANBIBBER'S ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE
Mr. Howe also gives the following brief account of this battle, as being related to him by Mr. Jesse Van Bibber, an aged pioneer of this county, who lived upon Thirteen-Mile creek of Kanawha:
"During the action, those troops from the more eastern part of the State, unaccustomed to fighting with the Indians, were all the day engaged in making breastwork at the junction of the Kanawha with the Ohio, so that the army, if defeated, should have a secure retreat. Ignorant of how the action would terminate, they worked as if for their lives. and before the day was finished had a strong fortification erected. When the alarm was given that the Indians were near, General Lewis deliberately lighted his pipe, and then coolly gave the orders to his brother, Colonel Charles Lewis, to advance upon them. The soldiers in Colonel Fleming's regiment used a stratagem that proved very effectual. They concealed themselves behind trees, and then held out their hats, which the Indians mistakenly shat at. The hat being at once dropped, the Indian would run out from his covert to scalp his victim, and thus met a sure death from the tomahawk of his adversary. The whites in this action being all backwoodsmen, were more successful marksmen that the savages; a fact in part owing to the want of the mechanical skill in the Indians, requisite to keeping their rifles in order. At the close of the action, the Indians went off hallooing as if coming on to renew the attack. This stratagem deceived the whites, and enabled them to retreat in more safety. They recrossed the Ohio on rafts, three miles above, near the old Shawnee town."
CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION OF THE BATTLE
On the 10th of October, 1874, a grand celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the battle of Point Pleasant took place; and although not now a part of the legitimate history of Kanawha county, I know that I will be excused for giving a brief account of it, and offering it in continuation of the history of the original battle:
The day was beautiful. The sun smiled upon the vast multitude, who had assembled to witness the anniversary celebration of the last battle on the frontier, and the first battle of the Revolution. Brass bands were present; among the number was the Cornstalk band of Point Pleasant. Sweet music rolled upon the air. Able orations were delivered. The people listened as thought he words spoken were divine. The patriot sires who fell upon that field of blood one hundred years before, were appropriately extolled for their noble and manly virtues. It was a grand occasion, and an effort worthy of the noble citizens of Mason county. It will be remembered for many years in the future as having an intimate and inseparable connection with the battle itself--reviving old memories well nigh obscured by the dust of time.
A movement was then placed on foot to secure a fund sufficient to raise a monument over the graves of the heroes who fell in the battle of "the Point." This was an appropriate movement, and every good citizen should be interested in its success.
Rev. W.E. Hill, of Point Pleasant, has been recently appointed by Governor John J. Jacob, of West Virginia, to solicit the cooperation of the Legislatures of Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, in the erection of a suitable monument to commemorate the decisive battle of Point Pleasant: and he is now at work, and hopes to succeed in the accomplishment of his object.
The design of the monument indicates that it will, when completed, be an elegant structure. There will be engraves upon its walls the names of all the heroes who fell in the battle. There is also to be a slab in the basement in memoriam of the great and brave Indian Chieftain, Cornstalk, who was treacherously and brutally murdered a few years after the battle, and whose remains lie buried in the court-house yard at Point Pleasant.
FORT AT POINT PLEASANT
A fort was erected at Point Pleasant just after the battle, at the mouth of the Kanawha. It was a rectangular stockade, about eighty yards long, with blockhouses at two of its corners. It was finally destroyed, and a smaller one erected about fifty rods further up the Ohio, on the site of the store of James Capehart. It was composed of a circle of cabins, in which the settlers lived. No vestige of it now remains.
Family Members: VanBibber, Isaac, VanBibber, Jesse, VanBibber, Jacob, VanBibber, John, VanBibber, Mathias, VanBibber, Peter
William H. Rose
Military: First Battalion 4th Regt.N.C. Continental Line
Enlisted: April 23 1776 to August 1783
He died at the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774, Va.