Author: Butterfield, Consul Willshire, 1824-1899
Publisher: Cincinnati : R. Clarke
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
Publisher: Cincinnati : R. Clarke
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
History of the Girtys. CHAPTER XXV.
Simon Girty is not very active in 1789. 244
He is again visited by his half-brother, John Turner 245
Hostility of the Wabash and Miami Indians 245
An unsuccessful expedition
led by Gen. Harmar against the Miamis 246
Maj. Hamtramck lays waste Wabash towns 247
The Western savages determine upon war 248
A fiction as to Simon Girty attacking Baker's Station 249
John Dunlap forms a settlement on the Great Miami 249
Girty leads an Indian force against Dunlap's Station 251
Shocking torture of Abner Hunt 252
The siege of Dunlap's Station raised 254
The U. S. endeavor to treat with the hostile savages 256
The marching of General Harmar against the Indians of the Maumee, and of Major Hamtramck against those of the Wabash, as the result of the hostile attitude of those savages, induced the calling at once of a grand council by the Indians at the foot of the rapids of the Maumee (near Lake Erie).The object was to take into consideration the propriety of the nations all uniting against the Americans. McKee (British Indian Agent) attended the conference and put forth active exertions to fan the hostile spirit of the red-men into a flame. He summoned Simon Girty from his home in Canada. Immediately "great quantities of provisions, ammunition, and other necessaries were sent to the Maumee to supply the Indians," all under Girty's charge and that of "some other persons from the garrison of Detroit." *
• Col. Thomas Proctor's Journal, in Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, Vol. IV, p. 698.
Nothing was left undone by the Deputy Agent of Indian Affairs and the commandant, at that post, in their power to do, to help the savages, short of sending actual reinforcements of British soldiers to the Maumee.
Girty took part in the deliberations of the chiefs who were assembled at the Maumee. His voice was for sending speeches to all the nations far and near to assemble at that point in the early spring to combat the forces which would be sent against them. Before the council broke up, a general war was determined upon, to the great delight of all the British agents and traders there assembled, and to none more so than Girty, whose advice as to sending war-belts to the nations was adopted. A deputation was appointed to go to Quebec to confer with Lord Dorchester (BNA Gov. Gen'l). Active measures were not postponed until the coming spring on the part of the Indians. Already the chilling blasts of winter were felt at the north. A campaign, but not on a large scale, was proposed by Girty against some one of the forts or stations north of the Ohio, to be carried on notwithstanding the inclement weather. He would lead the force himself. The proposition was favorably received and soon acted upon, it was now December, 1790.
And here it is proper for a moment to digress somewhat in our narrative. About this period, Baker's Station, located not far below Grave creek, on the Virginia side of the Ohio, was "attacked by about three hundred Indians," so the tradition runs, "with Simon Girty at their head." This was another instance of mistaken identity. Girty never crossed the Ohio to the eastward or southward — either into Virginia, Pennsylvania, or Kentucky — during the Indian war which followed the Revolution. The account goes on to say : "The whites had sufficient warning of their approach to enter the fort, and were prepared for its defence. When the Indians advanced along the hill-side (near the base of which the fort stood), Simon Girty called out to those in the fort to turn out and surrender. The voice of Girty was recognized by some of the men, who answered him by curses, telling him, if they did not leave before morning (this being between sundown and dark), they would come out and drive them from the country.
The Indians, however, fired upon the fort, and perceiving that their shots would not take effect from their present position, they proceeded further up the hill, in order the more easily to discover those in the fort. From this position, they engaged the fort all the next day and part of the next night. But the whites concealed themselves under cover of the walls so securely that no one sustained any injury. The Indians finding their efforts to be vain, abandoned the attack, and went off" without effecting their purpose." *
* Communication of A. B. Tomlinson, in American Pioneer, Vol. II, pp. 352, 353.
In 1790, John Dunlap, who had been one of John Cleves Symmes's confidential surveyors, formed a settlement on the east side of the Great Miami river, at a point eight miles from where the town of Hamilton now is, and seventeen miles from Cincinnati; "The county of Hamilton," says a writer in 1791, "lies between the two Miami rivers. Just below the mouth of the Little Miami, is a garrison called Fort Miami; at a small distance below this garrison, is the town of Columbia. About six miles from Columbia, is the town of Cincinnati, which is the county-seat of Hamilton [county]; and here is erected Fort Washington, the head-quarters of the Federal army. This fort is pleasantly situated on the banks of the Ohio river. Seven miles below this, is a settlement of eighteen or twenty families called South Bend. About seven miles from this, also on the Ohio river, is the City of Miami founded by the Hon. John Cloves Symmes. Twelve miles up the Great Miami is the settlement called Dunlap's Station; and twelve miles up the Little Miami, is a settlement called Covalt's Station. The number of militia in these places, according to the best accounts I have received are, at Columbia, two hundred; Cincinnati, one hundred and fifty; South Bend, twenty; City of Miami, eighty; Dunlap's, fifteen; and at Covalt's, twenty."*
* Dr. W. Goforth, from Ft. Washington, N. W. Territory, September 3, 1791. See Cist's Cincinnati Miscellany, Vol. I, p. 200.
The settlers at Dunlap's erected a fortification for their security, consisting of several block-houses built of logs and a number of cabins, with pickets in the unoccupied spaces between them, in the form of a square, inclosing a little more than an acre of ground. Their situation was considerably exposed, and Indians were frequently hovering about. The consequence was that, in the early part of the winter of 1790-1791, General Harmar sent them a detachment of soldiers for their protection, from Fort Washington, consisting of a lieutenant — Jacob Kingsbury — and eighteen privates.
On the night of the 7th of January, 1791, four men were encamped on the river bank just above the settlement. They had been out exploring the country on the west side of the Miami, and were wholly unsuspicious that danger was near. The next morning, they had not proceeded more than a hundred yards from their camp, when they were attacked by savages, who fired a volley of eight or ten guns. One of the men was killed ; one made prisoner, whose name was Abner Hunt; the other two escaped (one badly wounded), and finally reached the station (Dunlap's), apprising the garrison of the presence of the Indians in the vicinity. The next day, a party of six men went out, found the dead man, buried his body, and returned to the fort. The utmost vigilance was exercised by the officer in command, during that day and the next. There were in the inclosure, besides Lieutenant Kingsbury, "thirty-five men total, old and young, sick and well, in such bad works;" also quite a number of women and children. The commander fully realized the peril he was in, so far in the country, with so small a force, and he did not, for a moment, relax his watchfulness. It was this unusual caution, as we shall soon see, that saved the station.
Simon Girty, who had, as we have shown, solicited the command of a war party, went on to the Miami towns at the head of the Maumee, with the Indians who lived there and in the vicinity, soon after the breaking up of tho council at the Rapids, and immediately organized a force to march toward the infant settlements on the north side of the Ohio. Their destination was Dunlap's, the first that could be reached after crossing over to the upper waters of the Great Miami, and then descending that stream. They numbered nearly three hundred.
Girty sent a few warriors in advance of the main force to reconnoitre the situation. It was this party that attacked the four men on the morning of the eighth of January, making prisoner of Abner Hunt. These savages returned leisurely up the river with their captive securely bound.
Girty, on his downward march, was soon met and the whole proceeded toward the station, arriving in its immediate vicinity in the evening of the ninth, undiscovered. Before sunrise the next morning, Girty and his Indians suddenly made their appearance, firing a volley as they approached the fortification, which wounded one of the soldiers. The commander inside the stockade immediately posted his men to the best advantage, and the fire was returned.
The investment of the works was soon made complete, and the attack was kept up during the entire day. Attempts were made by the savages to fire the cabins and pickets, but these were foiled by the vigilance and activity of those within.
During the night, the enemy shot blazing arrows against the stockade and upon the roofs of the buildings, but these efforts were everywhere thwarted by the coolness and bravery of the regulars and settlers. Before morning two of the besieged managed to silently pass out of the station, cross the river, and hasten toward Cincinnati, to obtain aid from General Harmar, at Fort Washington. On their way they met a force Marching rapidly to the relief of the place from Columbia and Cincinnati, alarm having been given by some hunters who had heard the firing at the fort when it first began, and had rightfully concluded it was attacked by savages. Between ten and eleven o'clock, the relief party arrived at the top of the hills overlooking the plain on which the station was located, when it was discovered that the Indians had raised the siege and were gone. Such, in brief, was the attack on Dunlap's Station, during which, it must be admitted the enemy evinced under the leadership of Girty, who had with him his brother George, a determination to succeed that nothing but the presence of regulars and the coolness of their commander could have withstood. But there was one circumstance (which is now to be related) which is but an accumulation of positive evidence of the savagery of Simon at this period.
The unfortunate prisoner, Abner Hunt, was brought back by the Indians to the vicinity of the station, accompanied by the party that had captured him, and, soon after the attack commenced, was placed on a stump within speaking distance of the garrison and compelled by Girty to urge a surrender, which, in hope of saving his own life, he did in the most pressing terms, promising that, if it were done, life and property would be spared. As he carried a flag, the garrison ceased firing and listened as best they could to his enforced plea, but determined not to yield. His failure doomed the unfortunate prisoner to the stake. He was tortured with the most shocking barbarity during the night of the siege. "The Indians tied him to a sapling within sight of the garrison, who distinctly heard his screams, and built a large fire so near as to scorch him, inflicting the most acute pain; then, as his flesh, from the action of the fire and the frequent application of live coals, became less sensible, they made deep incisions in his limbs, as if to renew his sensibility of pain. They answered his cries for water, to allay the extreme thirst caused by burning, by fresh tortures. Finally, when, exhausted and fainting, [and] death seemed approaching to release the wretched prisoner, they terminated his sufferings by applying flaming brands to his naked bowels."
"They stripped him naked," says William Wiseman, who was inside the fort, "pinioning his outstretched hands and feet to the earth, kindling a fire on his naked abdomen, and thus, in lingering tortures, they allowed him to die. His screams of agony were ringing in our ears during the remainder of the night, becoming gradually weaker and weaker till toward daylight, when they ceased." *
* Cist's Cincinnati in 1859, p. 95.
"During the night,' is the language of Samuel Hahn, who was also of the garrison," and at a late hour, finding that they could do nothing with us, they brought up Hunt, within a short distance of the fort, for the purpose of burning him alive. Accordingly, having stripped and fastened him to a log, they kindled a fire of dead limbs upon his belly, and commenced a horrid dance, whooping and yelling around the wretched object of their revenge. The screams of Hunt were plainly heard by the garrison, in the midst of these yells, for a long time, growing fainter as life expired."↟
↟ Id., p. 106. Many western writers have heretofore not been well informed as to Hunt's death.
"In February, 1791," says the Magazine of American History, Vol. XV, p. 270, "at the head of a large force of savages, he [Simon] Girty attacked and besieged Dunlap's Station, on the Great Miami, but he failed as he did at Bryant's, after trying by every device of skill and terror to induce the brave and determined garrison to surrender. It was at this place that Abner Hunt met his death, but exactly how will probably never be known. O. M. Spencer, who was captured by the Indians about this time, and while he was yet a child, says in Captivity, that Hunt was burned and tortured to death by Girty's Indians. Judge Burnet, in his well known and valuable Notes, makes no mention whatever of the burning, but says: 'Mr. Hunt was killed before he could reach the fort.' "
If Simon Girty did not actually assist in this horrible affair, he must have ordered it, or, at least, given it his approval; and, judging from what Dr. Knight saw when the unfortunate Crawford was undergoing a like fate, he must have looked upon the cruel scene with the keenest pleasure.
The retiring of the besiegers on the morning of the 11th of January, was because they had come to despair of success and were apprehensive of the alarm having reached Fort Washington. They soon returned to the Miami towns, and Girty hastened onward to Detroit, nowise discouraged by his failure to capture Dunlap's Station.
It was not long after this gallant defense before Lieutenant Kingsbury received the following from General Harmar:
"Fort Washington, 14th January, 1791.
"Extract of General Orders: — The general is highly pleased with the cool and spirited conduct displayed by Lieutenant [Jacob] Kingsbury in repulsing a body of about three hundred savages, who surrounded Dunlap's Station on Monday last and besieged it, endeavoring to set it on fire with their arrows, and keeping up a heavy fire against his small party for the space of twenty- four hours. . . . The spirited defense made by Lieutenant Kingsbury, with so small a force as thirty-five men total, old and young, sick and well, and in such bad works, reflects the greatest credit upon him and his party. The general returns his thanks to him, and directs that the adjutant transmit him a copy of these orders by first conveyance. Jos. Harmar. Brigadier-General." *
*Woodward’s History of Franklin County, Connecticut, pp. 85, 86.
Before dismissing the subject of the attack on Dunlap's Station, it is proper to consider what has passed into current history as the conversation had between the prisoner, Hunt, and Lieutenant Kingsbury, beside what has already been suggested in this narrative. It is stated, that "Lieutenant Kingsbury took an elevated position where he could overlook the pickets, and promptly rejected all their propositions [made through Hunt], telling them that he had dispatched a messenger to Judge Symmes, who would soon be up to their relief, with the whole settlement on the Ohio. He failed, however, to impose on them [the savages]. They replied that it was a lie, as they knew Judge Symmes was then in New Jersey; and informed him that they had five hundred warriors, and would soon be joined by three hundred more; and that, if an immediate surrender was not made, they [the Americans] would all be massacred and the station burned. Lieutenant Kingsbury replied, that he would not surrender if he were surrounded by live hundred devils, and immediate' leaped from his position into the fort. The Indians fired at him, and a ball struck off the white plume he wore in his hat."
* Much in this account, it is evident, is an exaggeration. It is hardly to be presumed that the lieutenant would have referred to Judge Symmes, when the name of General Harmar, at Fort Washington, would have been so much more effective; besides, it is quite incredible that he would have exposed himself, as stated in the account, to the treacherous foe he had to deal with.
* McBride's Pioneer Biography, Vol. I, p. 18.
Note I. — It has been stated on a previous page that George Girty was present at the attack on Dunlap's Station. William Wiseman, in 1850, told Charles Cist that it was indicated, in the course of the parley which ensued, not only that Simon Girty was in command, but that his brother, George, was with him. Mr. Cist was also told by Samuel Hahn, at the same time, that George was of the party. (Sec Cist's Cincinnati in 1859, pp. 94, 105.) I find no evidence to the contrary of this. Wiseman and Hahn were both in the fort when it was beset by the enemy.
"In 1850, I had the pleasure of bringing together, after a separation of sixty years, two of the surviving defenders of Dunlap's Station, which, it will be remembered, was attacked by the Girtys and a large body of savages on the 7th February [January], 1791.”
— Charles Cist, in Cincinnati in 1859, p. 90.
This has led some writers to suppose that all three of the Girtys — Simon, George, and James — were present; but the context shows that the writer meant by "the Girtys," only Simon and George.
See pp. 94, 105, in the publication of Cist referred to.
"George and James Girty were as completely identified with the Indians all this time as if they had been actually born savages. They lived with them, fought with them, and apparently wanted no other society. . . . They participated in the attack on Dunlap's Station, and each took an Indian's part in the struggle then in progress.”
— Magazine of American History, Vol. XV, p. 271.
But James was not at the attack on Dunlap’s Station; did not fight with the Indians against the Americans after the close of the Revolution; and, besides, it is improper to suppose (as already mentioned) that, in all respects, he was as thoroughly an Indian as if born one.
Note II. — Chronological Record:
(1) Peace with Great Britain proclaimed April 19, 1783.
(2) Claiming states (except Connecticut) yield their claims to the Northwest on or before March 1, 1784.
(3) Surveying began west of the Ohio, September, 1785.
(4) Fort Harmar at mouth of the Muskingum erected 1780.
(5) Ordinance for government of the North-West passed July 13, 1787.
(6) The Ohio Company and John Cleves Symmes make large purchases in south-eastern and southern portions of the present State of Ohio in October following.
(7) Arthur St. Clair commissioned governor of the territory north-west of the Ohio, February 1, 1788.
(8) Marietta settled April 7, following.
(9) Cincinnati founded January 7, 1789.
(10) Fort Washington completed at Cincinnati, December following.
Note III. — In 1790, Symmes's Purchase had a population of 1,300; the Ohio Company's, 1,000. Against this population, the savages were then particularly hostile; although, as we have seen, they had made, since the close of the Revolution, numerous raids across the Ohio, southward and eastward.