The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution

Larry Holzwarth - February 1, 2020

During the American Revolution, the settlements in Kentucky – then a part of Virginia – and along the Ohio River in what is now West Virginia were threatened by Indian tribes. British rangers, mostly comprised of Loyalists, led attacks in coordination with the tribes. The Delaware, Mingo, Miami, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Shawnee raided colonial settlements. Kentucky and Virginia militia fought back, including raids on villages in the Ohio country along the Mad, Great Miami, and Little Miami Rivers in Ohio. The Indians seized hostages and took scalps, both of which brought them rewards from the British at Fort Detroit. Throughout the war, the raiding continued across the frontier.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Daniel Boone painted late in his life when he resided in Missouri. National Portrait Gallery

Bryan’s Station was a Kentucky settlement founded at present day Lexington in 1775. The Station was a settlement supported by a fort, as was common in the region. During the American Revolutionary several such Kentucky settlements, including Ruddle’s (sometimes spelled Ruddell’s) Station and Martin’s Station, were attacked and their inhabitants massacred by Indians who then fled back to their villages along the rivers north of Ohio. Boonesborough, to the east of Bryan’s Station, withstood a major attack and short siege in 1778. The founder and leader of Boonesborough, Daniel Boone, was court-martialed following the siege, though he was acquitted and promoted to the rank of Major. Here are some of the events in the Ohio and Kentucky territories during the American Revolutionary War.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
The Battle of Point Pleasant was fought as part of Dunmore’s War. Wikimedia

1. Daniel Boone was just one of many superb woodsmen in the Kentucky Territory

Daniel Boone was arguably the most famous of the woodsmen who settled in Kentucky but he was not the first. Harrod’s Town, later renamed Harrodsburg, was settled in 1774, on land which was used as hunting grounds by several Indian tribes including the Cherokee, Shawnee, and Chickasaw. Boone visited Harrod’s Town on a mission to recruit frontiersmen to serve in Lord Dunmore’s War. The war ended when a treaty was agreed to by the Shawnee Chief Cornstalk. The Shawnee gave Virginia the lands south of the Ohio River in the treaty, which now make up the states of West Virginia and Kentucky.

The American Revolutionary War began in 1775. British agents and Loyalist woodsmen incited the tribes in Ohio and Kentucky to attack the western settlements. The agents were equally skilled in the ways of the frontier and included the three Girty brothers, George, James, and the notorious Simon. All had been raised by Indians after being taken hostage and adopted into separate tribes. Simon Girty was raised by the Seneca, and built for himself a reputation as a fierce warrior and superior tactician in frontier fighting and raiding. He was widely respected by the Indians, and greatly feared by the white settlers for his merciless treatment of those who found themselves under his knife.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Daniel Boone led settlers including his family into Kentucky via the Wilderness Road. Wikimedia

2. Attacks in Kentucky and Western Virginia continued throughout the Revolutionary War

The isolated settlements of Kentucky and along the Ohio and its tributaries were attacked in hit-and-run raids, the settlers slaughtered, their cabins and farms burned. Some were taken as hostages to the British fort at Detroit. Raids were common in the western portions of North Carolina, where Daniel Boone was raised and learned his woodland skills. His son Israel was born there, in the Yadkin Valley, and there he spent the early years of his life. His father’s early expeditions to Kentucky were long hunts, during which the elder Boone explored the fertile land of the bluegrass, the hills and mountains, and along the rivers and streams.

In 1773 Boone made his first attempt to settle in Kentucky. In October his eldest son, James, was a member of a hunting party which was attacked by Indians, likely Delaware and Shawnee. James was captured and tortured to death. It was an event which led to Lord Dunmore’s War. The war ended when Virginia militia crushed a Shawnee war party near Point Pleasant, and the Shawnee ceded their lands in Kentucky. Following the victory, North Carolina’s Richard Henderson sent Daniel Boone to visit the Cherokee towns in North Carolina and Tennessee to help negotiate a treaty through which the Indians would give up their hunting grounds in Kentucky.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Boone’s long hunts made him intimately familiar with the lands of Kentucky and western Virginia. Wikimedia

3. The Cherokee sold their lands to Richard Henderson as the American Revolution began

Cherokee leaders agreed to sell their lands in Kentucky in the Transylvania Purchase. Both the Shawnee and Cherokee thus ceded their claims to what became Kentucky before the major influx of settlers began. Following the purchase, Richard Henderson hired Daniel Boone to cut a road through the Cumberland Gap into the area he called Transylvania. Boone’s Wilderness Road became a highway into Kentucky beginning in 1775. In September of that year, he brought his family to a settlement he established on the Kentucky River named Boonesborough. Despite occasional Indian attacks, chiefly on travelers and hunting parties, the settlement and others in Kentucky flourished.

Settlers went west to avoid the violence in the western colonies caused by the American Revolution. Loyalists and Patriots fought in the western areas, often in battles which were little more than the settlement of ancient grudges. During the winter of 1775-76 attacks increased in Kentucky, with Indians determined to drive settlers off the lands they had sold or ceded. By spring of 1776, fewer than 200 settlers remained in Kentucky, the Boones among them. That summer Daniel’s daughter Jemimah and two of her friends were kidnapped by a party of Shawnee. Boone led a party of settlers in pursuit, ambushed the Indians, and freed the girls.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Fort Detroit changed hands during the French and Indian War, and the British used it to receive hostages from their Indian allies. Wikimedia

4. The British began inciting the Indians to attack the settlements in 1777

British Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton, from the Detroit outpost, recruited war parties from the Ohio tribes with promises of payment for scalps and hostages in 1777. He became known to American patriots as “The Hair Buyer”. In April, one such war party attacked Boonesborough, Shawnee led by Chief Blackfish. Boone was caught outside the fort in the surprise attack, wounded in the ankle. He was carried to safety by a recently arrived Virginian, a hulking frontiersman named Simon Kenton. Sporadic raids against the settlement’s outlying buildings continued throughout the summer, with the Indians destroying the settlers’ crops and killing their livestock.

Salt was a critical commodity on the frontier, necessary for the preservation of food. Fortunately for the settlers, Kentucky was liberally supplied with salt springs and licks. Gathering salt was a lengthy and dangerous process, since the salt party had to remain stationary as the water was boiled away and the salt scraped and packed. A salt party had to be large enough to defend itself against war parties, and it needed skilled hunters to ensure enough meat was had to feed the men. In January, 1778, Daniel Boone led a party of men from Boonesborough to a salt link on the Licking River, north of Boonesborough.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Indian attacks made the woods dangerous at all times in Kentucky during the wars. Wikimedia

5. The Shawnee captured Boone and his men in 1778

Thirty men accompanied Daniel Boone to the salt licks in January. The following month Boone was hunting to feed the men when he was captured by Shawnee warriors and taken to Chief Blackfish. Surprised to discover such a large war party south of the Ohio in the dead of winter, Boone convinced Blackfish that he could induce his men to surrender without a fight. Boone’s party surrendered to the Indians on February 8. Blackfish considered continuing to Boonesborough to capture the women and children there, valuable as hostages. Boone managed to convince the Shawnee Chief that the women in Boonesborough were in no condition to make the long journey to Detroit, and promised to return with the Indians in the spring to convince them to surrender.

Boone and his men were carried to Chillicothe, a village north of the Ohio, where they were tortured by running the gauntlet. Those few, Boone among them, who impressed the Shawnee with their bravery were adopted into the tribe. The rest, under guard, were sent to Hamilton in Detroit. Boone was given the name Sheltowee (Big Turtle) and over the winter gained the trust of the Shawnee. He spent a portion of the winter repairing the muskets provided by the Shawnee by the British. In the spring he joined in some hunting parties. In June, 1778, Boone escaped, stealing a horse and covering the 160 miles to Boonesborough in five days. When he arrived at the fort he discovered his family, convinced he was dead, had returned to North Carolina.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Simon Kenton was another frontiersman taken prisoner by the Shawnee and held in towns along the Little Miami River. Wikimedia

6. Boonesborough was besieged for ten days in 1778

Several scouting parties crossed Ohio during the summer of 1778, to ascertain the movements of the Indians and to harass them in the woods and streams. In September a large party of warriors appeared before Boonesborough, about 450 Indians and at least a dozen whites. The majority of the Indians were Shawnee under Blackfish, though several other tribes were represented, including Cherokee, Delaware, Miami, and Wyandot. The white men were coureur du bois, French-Canadians long allied with the Indian tribes, who sold their services to the British following the American invasion of Canada in 1775. It was the largest enemy force to have appeared in Kentucky at that time.

The force had been sent specifically by Hamilton, evidenced by a letter from him which Blackfish presented to Boone in a parley. Hamilton promised the settlers would be well-treated if they surrendered. Blackfish also reminded Boone of the latter’s promise to surrender the post. Boone accepted the parley in order to inspect the enemy force; he was encouraged that there was no artillery to use against the fort’s walls. The fort was manned by the settlers and Virginia militia, of which Boone was then a captain. Boone closed the initial parley with a promise to convey Hamilton’s message to the others and returned to the fort.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Boone explained the settlers’ right to be on the land from the Transylvania Purchase to Blackfish during a parley. Wikimedia

7. Blackfish was misinformed of the strength of the garrison at Boonesborough

Hamilton had informed his Shawnee ally that about 200 men were in the fort, erroneous intelligence received from one of the Loyalists allied with the Indians. Blackfish, wary of attacking, allowed Boone to continue to parley for the next two days. On September 9, Blackfish demanded to know what gave the Americans the right to occupy Indian lands. Boone informed the Shawnee of the treaty signed by the Cherokee, and a Cherokee in Blackfish’s party confirmed its existence. Blackfish then offered to withdraw across Ohio and remain there in peace if the Americans pledged allegiance to the British. Boone and the other leaders of the post agreed.

After the discussion, during which some sources claim a treaty was signed by the parties, the Shawnee attempted to seize the Americans. The latter made a fighting withdrawal to the fort. The Indians then attacked, trying to force the gates of the fort. They were repulsed by the gunfire from the fort’s walls. The Americans masked the weakness of the garrison (there were about 40 men in the fort) by having some of the women dress in men’s clothing and appear on the walls. In command was militia Colonel Richard Callaway, his second in command was Major William Smith. Boone, as a Captain, was third in command, though most of the settlers followed his lead throughout the siege.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Boonesborough as it appeared in 1778, the year of the siege. Wikimedia

8. The Shawnee besieging the fort were plagued by defective muskets

Boone gained the trust of the Shawnee during his captivity and used it to work on their muskets. Under the guise of repairing them, he weakened the locks of the muskets, which broke after being fired a few times. During the course of the siege, the Shawnee fire decreased steadily. Boone encouraged the men in the fort to return fire sparsely, in order to conserve gunpowder. The Indians attempted to set fire to the fort at night, but the tactic proved deadly to them, since they exposed themselves to the accurate fire of the settlers’ long rifles. Squire Boone, Daniel’s brother, fashioned a cannon out of a hollowed-out log, reinforced with barrel bands. It was fired once, perhaps twice, loaded with musket balls, split, and was discarded.

On the second or third day of the siege the Indians, led by the French-Canadians, began to dig a tunnel from the riverbank to beneath the walls of the fort. The intent was to detonate barrels of gunpowder beneath the wall, causing its collapse. Heavy rains collapsed the Indian’s tunnel before it reached its goal. Another attack, intended to set the fort afire by throwing torches over the walls was foiled by the same heavy rains and accurate gunfire from the defenders. On September 18, the Indians under Blackfish, frustrated with their failure, broke up into smaller war parties and abandoned the siege. The parties raided other settlements as they made their way north to Ohio. Only two men of the garrison were killed in the ten-day siege of Boonesborough.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Boone was charged with placing the officers of Boonesborough in danger during the parleys. Wikimedia

9. Boone was court-martialed after the siege

Richard Callaway charged Daniel Boone with several acts which endangered the settlement which bore his name. He was accused of cowardice for surrendering the salt party; treason for agreeing to surrender Boonesborough; and exposing his senior officers to ambush during the ill-fated parley at the beginning of the siege. Boone was acquitted of all charges and promoted to major of the Virginia militia, but he was outraged at the damage to his reputation. He left Boonesborough, returned to North Carolina, and was reunited with his family. He then brought them back to Kentucky, settling at Boone’s Station.

Boone and his family, with several other families, arrived at the site of the new settlement in December, 1779. The ground was snow-covered, and half-shelters were erected after the snow was scraped from the ground. The winter of 1779-80 was the worst of the Revolutionary War in terms of temperature and precipitation. Not until after the spring thaws could cabins be erected and their log walls chinked to keep out the wind and weather. The choice to endure the bitter winter in poorly built huts rather than the relative comfort of Boonesborough was an indication of Boone’s bitterness over his court-martial. He remained at Boone’s Station until 1782, with most of his family around him.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
George Rogers Clark, in the uniform of a General of the Virginia Militia. Wikimedia

10. The Bird Invasion of Kentucky in 1780

In 1780, with France and Spain both at war with Great Britain, the British planned an invasion of the west. Spanish New Orleans was to be attacked, followed by a thrust upriver to St. Louis. An American militia force under George Rogers Clark was to be neutralized at the Falls of Ohio (present day Louisville). To keep Clark from intervening to the west, an Indian force of about 1,000 warriors was assembled, supported by Loyalist militia and a few British regulars. Among the forces was Simon Girty, the Shawnee leader Blue Jacket, and the force commander, Captain Henry Bird of His Majesty’s 8th Regiment of Foot. The force marched through Ohio without incident, arriving at the Ohio River near present day Cincinnati.

The plan called for Bird’s Invasion to follow Ohio downriver to the falls, and engage Clark’s army of militia. Once they reached Ohio the Indians rebelled at the plan, announcing their intention to attack the scattered stations and settlements in Kentucky. Bird had little choice but to remain with his force. On June 21, advance parties reached Ruddle’s Station on the Licking River, destroyed it, and massacred several of the settlers, including women and children. Martin’s Station and Grant’s Station were also destroyed, though Bird and the British Regulars under his command protected the settlers from massacres and took charge of the prisoners. The expedition then returned to Detroit, carrying 300 Kentucky settlers as prisoners, leaving behind at least two dozen dead.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Indian raids continued despite military efforts to eliminate their towns north of the Ohio River. Wikimedia

11. George Rogers Clark invaded Ohio to exact revenge upon the Indians for the Bird Invasion

In August 1780, a militia force of just under 1,000 men, led by George Rogers Clark, crossed the Ohio River and marched up the Little Miami and Mad Rivers, determined to destroy the primarily Shawnee and Miami towns along them. He also wanted to destroy what crops the Shawnee had in the fields. The Shawnee town of Chillicothe was discovered abandoned and burned to the ground. On August 8 the expedition arrived at the Shawnee town of Piqua (not the same site as modern-day Piqua, Ohio). They discovered a well-established village surrounded by a fortified wooden wall, occupied by about 3,000 Shawnee men, women, and children. A bit over 400 of the inhabitants were warriors; Shawnee, Delaware, and Wyandot were among them.

Clark positioned artillery on a bluff above the village and bombarded the stockade, breaching it in several places. He then assaulted the village. The Shawnee fled after heavy fighting, and their ranks were decimated. The number of Indians killed was unknown, Clark reported light casualties to the American force, which were later disputed by other participants. Hundreds of acres of corn were burnt in the fields surrounding the village. The Shawnee fled to the west and north, settling on the Great Miami River where they established a town in the vicinity of present-day Piqua, and the militia returned to the south of the Ohio River. Daniel and Israel Boone both served in the expedition.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Banastre Tarleton’s Legion captured Daniel Boone on his way to join the Virginia legislature in 1781. Wikimedia

12. Daniel Boone was captured again in 1781, in Virginia

Tragedy continued to stalk Boone in Kentucky when the Shawnee killed his brother Ned while the two were hunting in October. Sporadic raids continued throughout the autumn and winter, though Boone’s Station was relatively untouched. Its militiamen, including Daniel and Israel Boone, responded to several alarms throughout the region. In early 1781 Daniel Boone was elected to the Virginia legislature, as a representative of one of the three counties into which Transylvania had been divided. He traveled toward Richmond to take his seat. That summer raids into the Virginia countryside were conducted by units of Cornwallis’s army.

When Boone was near Charlottesville, he was captured by British Dragoons under the notorious Banastre Tarleton. They were part of the same group which was dispatched to Monticello to attempt to arrest Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson eluded them, and Boone, despite carrying his credentials to the legislature, was held for just five days. He was granted his parole and continued to Richmond. At the end of the year, he returned to Kentucky, the news of Cornwallis’s surrender to Washington at Yorktown preceding him. Yorktown ended the fighting of the Revolutionary War in the east, but along the frontier settlements, there was more to come.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Raids throughout the frontier kept the militia busy reinforcing stations as they came under attack. Wikimedia

13. The British continued to incite Indian attacks in 1781 and 1782

In August 1782, yet another large Indian force crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky. By that time, the settlers and militia had developed a system of supporting each other. Settlements under attack sent messengers at the first sign of trouble to other nearby stations. Each responded with detachments to the trouble spot, usually on horseback. In this manner, troops could be shifted between the stockaded settlements without overly weakening any of them. The system failed when the British brought regulars along with artillery as part of the attack, since none of the stockades were capable of withstanding artillery bombardment for any length of time.

The force which crossed that August was almost entirely comprised by Wyandot and Shawnee, commanded by William Caldwell of Butler’s Rangers. Simon Girty led the Indians, the majority of them Wyandot. Girty was a hated and feared man in the frontier settlements. Though he had at times intervened on behalf of white captives, saving them from torture or death, he was also well known as a ruthless fighter and the taker of many white scalps. The force led by Girty was nominally commanded by American Loyalists, William Campbell, Alexander McKee, and Matthew Elliott. But it was to Girty that the Indians answered, and the size of their contingent for all practical purposes gave him the command of the powerful force of nearly 400 warriors.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Builidings outside the stockades were usually simple, one room cabins. Wikimedia

14. The attack at Hoy’s Station began on August 14, 1782

The force led by Girty crossed the Ohio River and a detachment was sent to attack Hoy’s Station. The main force arrived before Bryan’s Station the day after the attack on Hoy’s. Hoy’s followed the pattern established by the militia, sending messengers to other stations, including Bryan’s. Girty had hoped to arrive at Bryan’s Station to find the settlers outside of the stockade, tending to their livestock and crops. Instead, upon arrival he found the majority of the settlers inside the stockade, preparing to send a detachment to relieve Hoy’s, whose messenger had arrived the preceding day. Girty’s diversion had failed to weaken the station, and the men inside were well-armed and ready.

Girty’s force had been detected by a hunter, and word from Bryan’s Station was soon sent out to other settlements, including Boone’s. Bryan’s Station had a significant weakness should it be subjected to a lengthy siege. There was no source of water inside the stockade. Water for the settlement was drawn from a spring outside of the walls. Under a hot August sun, the limited supply stored inside the stockade in barrels was insufficient to provide drinking water for the garrison, let alone fight the inevitable fires the Indians would attempt to set. Bryan’s Station, though not caught by surprise, was nonetheless in serious trouble.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
The women and girls of Bryan’s Station ventured out to obtain water under the eyes of Girty’s warriors. Wikimedia

15. The women supplied drinking water at the outset of the attack

Neither side, on the morning of August 16, had given any indication of each other’s awareness of their presence. The Indian force remained hidden in the woods; the men of the garrison acted as if all was well. It was part of the daily routine of the settlement for the women to gather at the spring each morning and carry pails of water to the fort. Each morning the gathering was as much social as necessary to survival. On that morning the women left the stockade in small groups, chatting amiably as they gathered the water, and returned to the stockade in a leisurely manner, unhurried despite what must have been considerable terror.

Girty, believing his force had not been detected, let them pass. He still hoped to achieve surprise when the men left the fort to conduct their daily business. No men appeared. As the day wore on, Girty’s warriors grew impatient. He finally consented to an attack, or rather, two attacks. The first was a ruse directed at one wall of the stockade. The second, with the main body of Indians, was directed at the opposite wall, with Girty believing the settlers inside would move most of their riflemen to the wall already under attack. The attacks failed miserably, with several warriors lost to the deadly fire of the frontier marksmen. That night 16 horsemen arrived as reinforcements.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Promises of mercy by the Indians were generally disregarded by the Kentucky settlers. Wikimedia

16. Girty offered mercy for the settlers if they surrendered before his cannon arrived

The following morning Simon Girty identified himself to the besieged stockade, and informed the settlers that cannon was due to be delivered to him that afternoon. He pledged to protect those that surrendered before the cannon arrived. In the event, the garrison refused to surrender he would not guarantee the safety of any man, woman, or child. He also ordered his warriors to burn the crops in the fields and all barns and other buildings outside the walls. The garrison refused to surrender and a frustrated Girty, his bluff called, led his force away from Bryan’s Station, moving in the direction of the Licking River to the northwest.

The following day reinforcements arrived, from Harrodsburg and Fayette County. Daniel Boone arrived with 50 men under him, including his son Israel, three of his nephews, and several cousins. The Lincoln County militia also arrived, and brought with them word that Colonel Benjamin Logan was on the way with another 400 men, from Logan’s Station. Colonel John Todd of Lexington took overall command of the force at Bryan’s Station and suggested the immediate pursuit of Girty’s force, without waiting for Logan to arrive. It was normal procedure for pursuit of raiders to begin immediately, since the Indians usually broke into smaller groups as they moved through the woods, making them harder to track.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Large war parties usually split into smaller groups when withdrawing after a raid. Wikimedia

17. The Indians remained in a single group as they withdrew to the north

None of the militia officers present at Bryan’s Station voiced much opposition to immediate pursuit, and about 200 men set off after Girty. Shortly after they started out, Boone noticed several strange signs. The Indians had not dispersed, they were traveling in a single large group. Several attempted to conceal their numbers by walking in the footprints of those who preceded them. Boone reasoned that the Indians were deliberately leading the militia into a trap. His warning was debated by his fellow officers, and disregarded. Moving in such a stealthy manner slowed the Indians’ march, and the militia closed on them quickly.

On August 19, 1782, the militia reached Blue Licks, a salt gathering site on the Licking River about fifty miles northeast of Lexington. It was not far from the site where Daniel Boone had been captured five years earlier. Indians were spotted on a hilltop near a ford across the river. Boone knew the area well from his many earlier visits and hunts conducted over the landscape. During an officer’s conference, he warned that the land on the opposite side of the hill on which the Indians were spotted was deeply creviced with several ravines, a perfect spot for an ambush. Boone recommended they wait for Logan to arrive with his larger force. Colonel Todd agreed. But militia discipline differed from regular Army, and Boone and Todd were called cowards by another officer.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Boone favored waiting for the arrival of a larger force led by Benjamin Logan before attacking at Blue Licks. Wikimedia

18. The militia advanced into an ambush set by Girty and Caldwell at Blue Licks

Major Hugh McGary was well-known among the settlers for his headstrong behavior, which was matched only by his fervent hatred of Indians. Technically McGary was outranked by Todd (and by Boone, a Lieutenant Colonel at the time) and in the regular army, he would have been sent to the rear for insulting his superiors. But militia typically followed individuals, not rank, and when McGary advanced up the hill shouting out to the troops, they followed him. The senior officers had no choice but to follow as well, hoping to maintain order and control their troops. Most of the officers advanced on horseback, the soldiers on foot.

When they reached the crest of the hill overlooking the ford, they were silhouetted against the sky, perfect targets for the Indians undercover in the ravines, as Boone had predicted. Boone’s men provided the left flank and he held his men back, exchanging fire with the Indians, which also included Delaware, Mingo, Miami, and Shawnee. Nearly all of the officers were killed in the opening volley, easy targets on horseback. Those that survived, which included Daniel Boone, dismounted to fight on foot. After the opening volleys, the Indians assaulted the center and right of the militia line, which began to fall back. Boone ordered his men to cover the general withdrawal.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Daniel Boone attempting to rally his men at the Battle of Blue Licks. Wikimedia

19. The withdrawal became a flight for life through the woods

Daniel Boone ordered his son Israel to mount a nearby horse and retreat across the ford. Some accounts say Israel refused to leave his father’s side, others that he hadn’t time to respond. He was shot through the neck and died on the battlefield. Daniel had no choice but to leave his son’s body on the field as he withdrew with his men. Once across the Licking, the retreat became a rout, with the militia fleeing towards Bryan’ Station, hoping to reach Logan’s force, and the Indians in hot pursuit, eager for scalps. The bodies left on the battlefield were quickly scalped and mutilated by Girty’s men, with several wounded killed by the Indians. Caldwell later claimed, preposterously, there were no wounded on the field.

Several Boone’s fought under Daniel at the Battle of Blue Licks, including his nephew, Squire and another nephew, Thomas, who was killed. A detachment from Logan’s force went to the battlefield several days later to bury the dead. They found the Indians had dismembered most of the dead before fleeing to the north. Official records show that 182 militia attacked the larger force of Indians in what some claim was the last battle of the American Revolution. Others point out it was the first battle of the last campaign of the American Revolution, as revenge for the 72 men killed in the ambush on the Licking River. By comparison, Girty and Caldwell suffered 7 killed, and 10 wounded.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
The Shawnee resisted being evicted from their Ohio lands for another two decades. Wikimedia

20. George Rogers Clark launched a retaliatory campaign in November, 1782

If anyone deserved blame for the disaster at Blue Licks it was Hugh McGary, who survived the debacle in which most of his men were killed. In Kentucky, most of the blame was directed at George Rogers Clark, for not destroying the Shawnee during his 1780 campaign along the Little Miami and Mad Rivers. In November, 1782 Clark again crossed the Ohio River with a militia force of about 1,000 men. They advanced up the Great Miami River, where the Shawnee had relocated several of their towns. The 1782 campaign included the destruction of five abandoned Shawnee towns, but little actual fighting. The Shawnee simply receded further into the Ohio and Indiana country.

Clark destroyed the Shawnee town at Piqua, killing at least five Shawnee, at the loss of one man of his own, before turning back to the Ohio River. The campaign was the last of the American Revolutionary War, but not the last against the Indians of the Ohio Country. Nor was it the end of British support of the Indians in what became known as the Northwest Territory. The British attempted to create a state held by the Indians as part of the Treaty of Paris, to serve as a buffer between the new United States and British Canada. Failing in that, they continued to support the Indians in hopes of deterring rapid American settlement of the west.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Several brothers, sons, and close relatives of Daniel Boone died during the Indian Wars. Kentucky Tourism

21. Americans moved into the Shawnee lands north of the Ohio River in large numbers

Clark’s punitive expedition in 1782 was the last campaign of the Revolutionary War, but it was far from the last against the Indians of the Ohio Country, and Kentucky. Following the Revolution, veterans of the Continental Army were given land grants in the Northwest and Kentucky. Would-be settlers streamed down Ohio and up its tributaries. Sporadic attacks on settlers continued, particularly in the Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois territories. The Continental Army was disbanded and the Legion of the United States was created, mostly to protect the new settlements along the frontier. Pressure on the Indian lands increased, and violence between Indians and settlers was continuous.

In 1790, despite numerous treaties and agreements between the factions, a report to the administration of President George Washington claimed more than 1,500 settlers and militia had been killed in Kentucky alone since 1783. Hundreds more had been killed in Ohio and Indiana. The Shawnee and their allies had moved most of their towns west, along the Wabash River in Indiana and Ohio. George Rogers Clark was again commissioned to conduct a campaign along the Wabash to destroy the Indian towns in 1786, which though successful in achieving a ceasefire was marked by a mutiny among his troops. Clark was accused of being drunk on duty. His reputation in tatters he left Kentucky, moving to Indiana.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
A survey report by Daniel Boone from June, 1791. Wikimedia

22. Daniel Boone fought one more campaign against the Shawnee in 1786

After witnessing his son Israel’s death, Daniel Boone moved yet again, to Limestone (today’s Maysville) on the Ohio River, where he opened a tavern. In 1786, he joined an expedition led by Benjamin Logan to destroy the remaining Shawnee villages along the Little Miami and Mad Rivers. The campaign led to the capture and destruction of 13 Shawnee and Miami towns, as well as their crops, and the capture of hundreds of Shawnee, including women and children. There were no major battles. Most of the Shawnee warriors had moved to the Wabash area to defend the towns there from Clark’s expedition. Among the captured was the aging Chief Moluntha, who flew an American flag above his lodge.

Moluntha surrendered peacefully. As his village was destroyed Hugh McGary, by then a Colonel in the militia, asked him if he had been in the Indian force at Blue Licks. Moluntha either misunderstood the question, or had in fact been at the battle (most sources state he had not) and answered in the affirmative. McGary killed the Chief with an axe, striking two blows before taking his scalp. McGary’s action was soon known throughout the Shawnee nation, which increased its attacks along the frontier. McGary was not punished. Daniel Boone witnessed the act, and after his return to Limestone, he took no further part in the Indian wars in the Northwest Territory.

The Events that Led to the Last Battle of the American Revolution
Daniel Boone at Lake Osage in Missouri in the early 19th century. Wikimedia

23. Daniel Boone suffered several financial setbacks near the end of the 18th century

Boone’s tavern was a success, in part due to his fame. Situated in a thriving port on the Ohio River, numerous settlers visited it, eager to meet the famous frontiersman. Legend has it that Boone relocated whenever the population grew too large for his taste, seeking “elbow room”. That legend is false. He was a politically savvy businessman, speculating in land for himself and surveying tracts for others. Boone grew prosperous enough to own seven slaves. He was elected to the Virginia General Assembly three additional times. Land speculation led to several business failures, as disputes over claims led to lengthy legal maneuvers and indebtedness.

In 1788, he sold his tavern and moved to Point Pleasant, where he continued to work as a surveyor and operated a general store and fur trading post. After several years in the river town, he returned to Kentucky in 1795. Legal claims and counterclaims continued to erode his remaining assets. In 1799, frustrated with the American legal process, he moved to Missouri, taking most of his family with him. Missouri was then a part of Spanish Louisiana. The Spanish authorities assigned him as the regional judge, in a legal system in which he was simultaneously the jury, a position known as a syndic. He also received land grants from the Spanish government of Louisiana.

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Daniel Boone has two graves, one in Missouri and another in Kentucky. Find a Grave

24. Boone lost his lands in Missouri following its entry into the United States

In 1804, Missouri became a territory of the United States, and Boone lost his position as syndic and most of his land claims. He successfully petitioned Congress to restore his land claims, though the process took years and they weren’t restored until 1814. He then sold his Missouri claims to pay debts in Kentucky, where several warrants had been issued for his failure to appear in legal actions regarding his old Kentucky claims. Boone continued to hunt, fish, and trap for the rest of his life, including one trip in which he ranged as far as the Yellowstone River, if the stories are true.

Daniel Boone died in September 1820, at his son Nathan’s home in Missouri. He was buried next to his wife’s grave (Rebecca Boone died in 1813) near his daughter Jemima’s Missouri home. According to some, both were disinterred and moved to Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1845. Today, two states claim the graves of Daniel and Rebecca Boone, Missouri and Kentucky. Most of Boone’s descendants support the Missouri claim that he is interred in Old Bryan Farm’s graveyard. Kentucky claims he rests at Frankfort Cemetery.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Simon Girty”. Article, Ohio History Central. Online

“Dunmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era”. Eric Sterner, Journal of the American Revolution. July 13, 2017

“Transylvania Purchase”. Michael Toomey, Tennessee Encyclopedia. Online

“Stern Measures: Thomas Jefferson Confronts the ‘Hair Buyer'”. Joshua Shepard, Journal of the American Revolution. August 22, 2016

“Man of the Wilderness: Daniel Boone Part III: A Life Well-Lived”. Ron Soodalter, Kentucky Monthly. December, 2018

“Daniel Boone Court-Martial: 1778”. Buckner F. Melton Jr. Online

“Destruction of Ruddle’s and Martin’s Forts”. Maude Lafferty, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. October, 1956. Online

“George R. Clark”. Article, Ohio History Central. Online

“American Revolutionary War”. Article, Kentucky National Guard eMuseum. Online

“Boone: A Biography”. Robert Morgan. 2008

“The Women of Bryan’s Station”. Documentary, Kentucky Education Television, Online

“The Battle of Blue Licks”. James Graves, Military History Magazine. August 2002

“George Rogers Clark”. Article, Encyclopedia Virginia. Online

“Blue Jacket: Warrior of the Shawnees”. John Sugden. 2000