"Lochry's Defeat," Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio 1778-1783 and Life of Gen. George Rogers Clark, Vol. II, 722-733



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  • Title "Lochry's Defeat," Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio 1778-1783 and Life of Gen. George Rogers Clark, Vol. II, 722-733 
    Short Title "Lochry's Defeat," Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio 1778-1783 and Life of Gen. George Rogers Clark, Vol. II, 722-733 
    Author William Hayden English 
    Publisher Indianapolis, IN and Kansas City, MO: The Bowen-Merrill Co., 1897 
    Repository Internet Archive 
    Source ID S437 
    Text (page 722) —————

    LOCHRY’S DEFEAT

    Part of the troops which General Clark expected would join him at Wheeling, Virginia, where there was then a fort, called Fort Henry, were recruited largely in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, by Colonel Archibald Lochry, the county lieutenant of that county. In the command of Colonel Lochry were a company of volunteer riflemen raised by Captain Robert Orr, two companies of rangers under Captains Samuel Shannon and Thomas Stockley, and a company of horse under command of Captain William Campbell; but these companies could not have been full, as there were but one hundred and seven men in the party when they passed down the Ohio river.

    Colonel Lochry started with his command from Carnahan's block-house, eleven miles west of Hannastown, Pennsylvania, late in July or early in August, 1 78 1 , to join General Clark's forces. It is pretty certain that the date of departure from Carnahan's was not earlier than the 24th of July, or later than the 3d of August, and all accounts agree that the party reached Wheeling on the 8th of the latter month, coming by land as far as Pittsburgh, and from thence by water.

    There had, apparently, been unexpected and unavoidable delay, which proved to be most unfortunate, as will be seen in the sequel. General Clark waited at Wheeling

    * Virginia State Papers, Vol. 2. p. 294.

    (p 723) —————

    five days longer than was intended, and, finding further delay dangerous, as his troops were restless and many deserting, he left Wheeling the day before the arrival of Colonel Lochry's party, hearing nothing from them, and dropped down the river "about twelve hours," leaving provisions and boats for their use, with directions to follow him.

    But here was another serious delay, for they did not arrive at the place below, to which Clark had gone, until ten days later, having been detained, mainly, by preparation of additional boats for the transportation of men and horses. Again they were one day too late, as General Clark had departed the day before for the mouth of the Kanawha river, where he expected to await their arrival, and he left Lieutenant Creacraft and some men, with a boat, but, unfortunately, did not leave ammunition and provisions, of which the Lochry party were now in great need, although that fact was probably not known by General Clark.

    Misfortunes were still pursuing them. So much dissatisfaction had developed among the troops with General Clark that there was danger of the force being greatly reduced by desertions, a party of nineteen having already deserted, and therefore he decided not to remain at the mouth of the Kanawha, for the Lochry party to come up, as he had intended. He left a letter, suspended from a pole, directing the party to come down the river. But the river was low, and none of the Lochry partv seemed familiar with the channel, and their supplies having run short they now felt themselves in such bad condition that they lost hope of overtaking Clark with their whole force,

    (page 724) —————

    but decided to send Captain Shannon, with seven men in a swift moving boat, to overtake him, if possible, and inform him of the situation.

    This, under ordinary circumstances, was a wise determination, and would doubtless have been successful but for an overwhelming and unexpected disaster which occurred to Captain Shannon and most of his men. They were captured by the Indians, and with them a letter to Clark, disclosing the situation of Lochry's party, which before was unknown to the Indians and their British leaders, who supposed that Clark and Lochry"s forces were coming down the river together.

    This capture was the greatest misfortune that had yet befallen the Americans. Their weak and divided condition was now definitely made known to the enemy, who promptly decided to take advantage of the opportunity. They had long been advised of the intended expedition against Detroit, and were watching Clark's voyage down the river, but overestimated both his force and the number of his cannon, and, thus far, had made no attack. Now they were better informed, and determined, when the right time came, to attack Lochry's party.

    They watched their opportunity, and finally collected, about eleven miles below the mouth of the great Miami river, three hundred strong, under able leaders. The celebrated chief, Brant, is said to have been one of them, but this is not entirely certain.

    The Indians, with their usual cunning, forced and persuaded Shannon's party, under promise of release, to station themselves at a prominent place on the north side of the

    (page 725) —————

    river to hail the Lochry party as they descended and induce them to surrender, on the ground that resistance against such an overwhelming force would result in certain destruction, whereas if they surrendered their lives would be spared. It is said the prisoners ( of course with guards near enough to prevent escape) were stationed at the head of an island about three miles below a creek flowing into the Ohio, now the dividing line between Dearborn and Ohio counties, in the state of Indiana, and called Lochry, as is also the island, after the unfortunate commander of this division of the expedition.

    The Indians, however, attacked the Lochry party before reaching this point, probably at or near the mouth of the creek before referred to, there being some dispute as to the exact spot where the attack was made. The righting appears to have been brought on earlier and a little higher up than the Indians intended, because of the Americans having stopped their boats here to take the horses on the shore to graze, feed for them on the boats being exhausted.

    Lieutenant Isaac Anderson, who had command of Captain Shannon's company, and was taken prisoner, kept a journal of the campaign, from which the following extracts are taken:

    August 8, 1781. Arrived at Wheeling fort, and found Clark was settled down the river about twelve hours.

    August 9th. Colonel Lochry sent a quartermaster and officer of the horse after him, which overtook him at Middle island and returned; then started all our foot troops on seven boats and our horses by land to Grave creek.

    (page 726) —————

    August 13th. Moved down to Fishing creek; we took Lieutenant Baker and sixteen men, deserting from General Clark, and went that day to middle of Long Reach, where we staid that night.

    August 15th. To the Three islands, where we found Major Creacroft waiting on us with a horse-boat. He, with his guard, six men, started that night after General Clark.

    August 16th. Colonel Lochry detailed Captain Shannon with seven men and letter after General Clark, and moved that day to the Little Kanawha with all our horses on board the boats.

    August 17th. Two men went out to hunt who never returned to us. We moved that day to Buffalo island.

    August 18th. To Catfish island.

    August 19th. To Bare Banks.

    August 20th. We met with two of Shannon's men, who told us they had put to shore to cook, below the mouth of the Siotha (Scioto), where Shannon sent them and a sergeant out to hunt. When they got about half a mile in the woods they heard a number of guns fire, which they supposed to be Indians firing on the rest of the party, and they immediately took up the river to meet us; but, unfortunately, the sergeant's knife dropped on the ground and it ran directly through his foot, and he died of the wound in a few minutes. We sailed that night.

    August 21st. We moved to Two islands.

    August 22d. To the Sassafras bottom.

    August 23d. Went all day and all night.

    (page 727) —————

    August 24th. Colonel Lochry ordered the boats to land on the Indiana shore, about ten miles below the mouth of the Great Meyamee (Miami) river, to cook provisions and cut grass for the horses, when we were fired on by a party of Indians from the bank. We took to our boats, expecting to cross the river, and were fired on by another party in a number of canoes, and soon we became a pre}' to them. They killed the colonel and a number more after they were prisoners. The number of our killed was about forty. The}' marched us that night about eight miles up the river and encamped.

    August 25th. We marched eight miles up the Meyamee river and encamped.

    August 26th. Lay in camp.

    August 27th. The party that took us was joined by one hundred white men under the command of Captain Thompson and three hundred Indians under the command of Captain McKee.

    August 28th. The whole of the Indians and whites went down against the settlements of Kentucky, excepting a sergeant and eighteen men, which were left to take care of sixteen prisoners and stores that were left there. We lay there until the 15th of September.

    September 15, 1781. We started toward the Shawna towns on our way to Detroit.

    Lieutenant Anderson was first taken to Detroit, then to Fort Niagara, finally to Montreal, where he escaped, reaching his home in Pennsylvania just one year after his departure on the unfortunate expedition.

    (page 729) —————

    The place where the attack on Colonel Lochry's party was made was where a sand bar projected far out from the shore making the river, which was then at a low stage of water, very narrow at that point. As the Indians knew perfectly well that they were three times as strong in numbers as the party they were going to attack, it is believed that they had a portion of their force on each side of the river, so as to take advantage of the advance or retreat of the Americans in either direction; and the attack was probably made from both sides, which has led to some confusion as to where the right began. The evidence, however, is positive that the main attack, and the slaughter and capture of Lochry's party was on the Indiana side, at, or near, the mouth of Lochry's creek.

    General Clark had already passed on down the river in safety, and was entirely ignorant of the threatened calamity to Colonel Lochry's command. It is not likely the latter had any idea the Indians were near in such force, or that he was in immediate danger. However, as Captain Shannon had not returned, it seems somewhat strange that he, and his command, did not act with greater caution and make a better defense, but their helpless condition should be remembered, and that they had no positive evidence of Indians being in the immediate vicinity.

    They were in a strange country, on a part of the river unknown to them, out of provisions, and almost out of ammunition. The horses were starving and were landed at a favorable spot to feed upon the luxuriant grass and pea vines growing in that locality. The men, too, were greatly in need of food, and had killed a buffalo, which some of

    (page 730) —————

    them were cooking when the Indians rushed upon them with such impetuosity and overwhelming numbers that all the Americans were either killed or captured.

    This was the sad and deplorable ending of Colonel Lochry's unfortunate expedition, and it was more destructive and disastrous to the whites than any conflict with the Indians that had ever before occurred on what is now Indiana soil — or probably any that had occurred in the western country. Forty-one Americans were killed and the rest taken prisoners. Of the whole number who left Pennsylvania on the expedition only a month before, less than half returned to their homes. The mournful tidings did not reach Pennsylvania for several months but when it did "their misfortunes threw the people of the country into the greatest consternation and despair, particularly Westmoreland county, Lochry's party being all the best men of their frontier." *

    But it was not in Pennsylvania alone that the sad news filled the hearts of the people with sorrow. It was mourned and deplored by sympathizing Americans everywhere; but by none more sincerely than by General Clark, and for many reasons, not the least of which was that it was the finishing blow that extinguished, forever, all hope of a successful campaign against Detroit, which he had so long and so fondly cherished, as well as all hope of any immediate campaign against the Indians.

    His distress was increased by unjust criticism of some of the people of Pennsylvania who thought he ought to have prevented Lochry's defeat, which censure was the out-

    * Letter of General Irvine to General Washington.

    (page 731) —————

    growth of the strong prejudice and unfriendly feeling existing between certain parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia at that period, on account of the disputed boundary line between the two commonwealths. This condition of affairs had much to do in preventing General Clark from getting the men he expected to join him at Pittsburgh. Major William Croghan, writing from that place to Colonel William Davis, speaks of General Clark's departure with only four hundred men, and says: "The reason so few went with him from this place is owing to the dispute that subsists here between the Virginians and Pennsylvanians respecting the two bounds of the latter. And the general, being a Virginian, was opposed by the most noted men here of the Pennsylvania party." It should not be forgotten, however, that the reason assigned by Major Croghan did not operate in Berkeley, Hampshire and Frederick counties, in Virginia, where the failure was equally marked and disappointing.

    General Clark's conduct in this matter, as well as in the contemplated expedition against Detroit, appears to need no defense; but if it did, it is amply given in a letter written to the governor of Virginia (Harrison) by Colonel Joseph Crockett, who was in the expedition, and familiar with all the circumstances. The following: is an extract from this letter:

    "I received Your Excellency's letter of the 16th instant, the purport of which I am at loss to answer as clearly as I could wish. As for General Clark's conduct, last campaign whilst I had the honor to serve under his command,

    as touching his military character, I can not think he is

    (732) ————

    deserving censure; his greatest misfortune and loss of useful operations of this campaign was the want of men, although the general strained every nerve in his power to raise a sufficient number to penetrate into the heart of the enemy's country, and was assisted by a small number of good men, to complete his laudible design. It appeared to me to be out of the power of any human existence to cause a sufficient number to enter the field, or subject those few that were already there to good order. The general often told them of the evils that has already (befallen) them, if that campaign miscarried.

    "One place of general rendezvous was Wheeling, where the general expected to be joined with a thousand militia from the counties over the mountains; out of which two hundred and fifty only joined, and the half of them deserted, after drawing a quantity of arms, blankets, leggins, shirts, etc., etc.; the greatest part of those (who) did not desert threatened mutiny for several days.

    "Nor was this all of the general's disappointment. There was a certain quota of men to be sent him from the counties of Berkeley, Frederick and Hampshire, of which he never received one.

    "I know the general is much censured in the neighborhood of Fort Pitt for the loss of Colonel Laugherry's party, for whom he waited five days at Wheeling; disappointments being so frequent, he lost all hopes of his coming, and moved down the river. The colonel, coming to Wheeling the next day, sent a boat after, with a letter to the general that he would be glad if he would wait for

    (page 733) —————

    him, as he had one hundred and thirty men without provisions.

    “The general sent a small boat with ten kegs of flour, and wrote the colonel he would leave boats enough at a certain island, under a small guard, for the reception of his men, with a quantity of flour, ammunition, etc.; to prevent desertion, he would move slowly down the river. The unhappy colonel, without proper caution, landed his men at the mouth of the Miami, at which place was a large number of Indians, who destroyed the whole of the colonel's party."

    *Virginia State Papers, Vol. 3, p. 358.
     

  • Documents
    Lochry's Defeat by Will Vawter from <i><i>Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio 1778-1783 and Life of Gen. George Rogers Clark</i>, Vol. II, William Hayden English, Indianapolis, IN and Kansas City, MO: The Bowen-Merrill Co., 1897, p 728
    Lochry's Defeat by Will Vawter from Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio 1778-1783 and Life of Gen. George Rogers Clark, Vol. II, William Hayden English, Indianapolis, IN and Kansas City, MO: The Bowen-Merrill Co., 1897, p 728

    Histories
    'Lochry's Defeat,' Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio 1778-1783 and Life of Gen. George Rogers Clark, Vol. II, William Hayden English, Indianapolis, IN and Kansas City, MO: The Bowen-Merrill Co., 1897, 722-733
    "Lochry's Defeat," Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio 1778-1783 and Life of Gen. George Rogers Clark, Vol. II, William Hayden English, Indianapolis, IN and Kansas City, MO: The Bowen-Merrill Co., 1897, 722-733