Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cone 1905

 [text merged for research]

Volume 17


[Mr. Cone is a resident of Hamilton, Ohio. During a long life he has been a student of Ohio history, has written many articles for publication and with Mr. Bert S. Bartlow was one of the co-editors of the Centennial History of Butler County.-- EDITOR.]
In the far-famed Miami valley, nine miles below Hamilton, on the banks of the Miami river, more than one hundred and fourteen years ago, there occurred an incident of our pioneer annals that on account of its local character may be of interest to recount in these columns. We speak of the Indian attack upon Dunlap's station, later called Fort Dunlap, afterward Colerain, located upon the east bank of the Miami, just below the iron bridge crossing that river on the Colerain turnpike at Venice.   It was a stirring event in the history of Hamilton county. It occurred on the 9th, 10th and 11th of January, 1791.
Dunlap's station was a military blockhouse, erected for the protection of a settlement of pioneers who went out from the garrison at Fort Washington to clear and settle the lands along the Big Miami. It was the custom for those whose lands were in the same neighborhood to unite, as one party or family.
Judge Burnet says: "Each party erected a strong blockhouse, near to which their cabins were put up, and the whole was enclosed by strong log pickets. This being done they commenced clearing their lands and preparing for planting their crops. During the day, while they were at work, one person was placed as sentinel to warn them of their approaching danger. At sunset they retired to the blockhouse and their cabins, taking everything of value within the pickets. In this manner they proceeded from day to day and from week to week, till their improvements were sufficiently extensive to support their families.
During this time they depended for subsistence on wild game obtained at some hazard, more than on the scant supplies which they were able to procure from the settlement on the river.


Indian Attack on Fort Dunlap.             65

"In a short time these stations gave protection and food to a large number of destitute families. After they were established the Indians became less annoying to the settlements on the Ohio, as part of their time was employed in watching the stations. They viewed these stations with great jealousy, as they had the appearance of permanent military establishments intended to retain possession of the country. In that they were correct, and it was fortunate for the country that the Indians wanted either the skill or the means to demolish them." [from 1882, Beers?]
Just such an establishment was Dunlap's station. The fort
was on the east side of the Big Miami, and was picketed on the
three sides while the fourth was protected by the deep water
of the stream. A small detachment of United States troops,
under the command of Lieutenant Kingsbury, occupied the
fort. It consisted of a corporal and eleven men, besides the
commandant. Their names were Taylor, Neef, O'Neal, O'Leary,
Lincoln, Grant, Strong, Sowers, Murphy, Abel, McVicar and
Wiseman. There were on the north side of the fort, Horn, Mc-
Donald, Barrott and Barket, with their families, and on the south
side, White, with his family, and McDonald, whose family was
not at the station; all of whom were busy at their clearings dur-
ing the day, but sought the shelter of the fort in the evenings.
The Indians numbered about three hundred and fifty and
their leader was a renegade white man, infamously notorious as
Simon GirtyThere was present also a Shawnee chief of portly
form, who was called Blue Jacket, who after the treaty of
Greenville, talked with our informant of the incidents of the
event, and who settled at, and it is believed died at Fort Wayne.
On the night of January 7, 1791, a surveying party consist-
ing of Sloan, Hunt, Cunningham and Wallace, who were on an
exploring tour, encamped on the west bank of the Big Miami.
On the 8th (Saturday) after roasting and eating some venison,
they set out to explore and survey the Miami bottoms opposite
10, but in the neighborhood of, the fort. After having gone
about seventy yards from camp, the Indian scouts fired a volley
of eight or ten guns from their rear. Cunningham fell dead;
Hunt's horse threw him, and he was made prisoner before he
Vol. XVII - 5.

66       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
could recover; Sloan was shot through the body, but sat on his
horse and made off as fast as his horse could carry him, the
loose horse (Hunt's) following him. Two Indians pursued him
about a mile and a half, during which they shot at the pursued
(Wallace) twice, but without effect. At the moment they fired
they exulted over him by hallooing the first shot, he tripped and
fell; "wou-ouh"; supposing they had gained their object-they
would have got a first-rate rifle and scalp. He, however, over-
took Sloan holding Hunt's horse, mounted him, and they made
their way up the river and crossed over. Sloan now complained
of faintness, from his wound, he was told to thrust his shirt in
the bullet holes. They left the river and directed their course for
Fort Washington. On traveling about six miles, they fell into
the trace from Dunlap's station to Fort Washington. There they
held a council; the result was to go to the station and inform
the inhabitants to be on their guard. They reached the station
about sunset. This night it rained, froze, and snow fell from
four to five inches deep. It was not apprehended that the In-
dians were infesting the station in such numbers; it was sup-
posed that the party had been fallen upon by a few stragglers
only upon a predatory excursion, and on the 9th (Sunday)
Wallace, with five or six of the garrison, crossed over to the bot-
toms and buried the dead body of Cunningham, without molesta-
tion, or seeing any evidence that there was a large hostile body in
their neighborhood.
It was owing only to a lucky chance of vigilance, on the
part of Lieutenant Kingsbury himself, that the fort was not
taken by complete surprise. With soldier-like generosity he had
yielded his quarters to the wounded Sloan, and on Sunday night
he occupied himself by entertaining with lively stories and jocose
anecdotes his small command, who were willing to forego their
wonted repose and share in the forced vigilance of their com-
mander. They had, however, retired to bed. The sentinels, to
be sure, were duly posted, but it was apprehended that they had
fallen into the arms of the dreamy god, since the alarm which
it was theirs to give was first given by the commander himself.
He, towards the dawn of Monday morning, indicated his resolu-
tion to the company, which had kept awake during the night in

Indian Attack on Fort Dunlap.             67

the blockhouse, his purpose of seeking somewhere a place of re-
pose. Leaving the blockhouse for this purpose, in the space of
less than five minutes, he gave the alarm by clapping his hands
and crying, "Indians! Indians!"
It indicates the security in which the garrison was, and how
little they expected an attack, that all but the sentinels and the
commandant were in bed. The alarm was received with in-
credulity, yet each man sprang to arms. It was found now that
the small stockade was infested by a large body of savages, sup-
posed at the time to number over five hundred. That number
at least they claimed in the parley which succeeded. The pris-
oner (Abner Hunt, of New Jersey), who had been taken on Sat-
urday, was put forth as interpreter, Girty, probably with some
remnant of shame, not choosing to show himself. The surrender
of the garrison was demanded-the terms promised were so
equivocal that Lieutenant Kingsbury, like General Taylor on a
subsequent similar occasion, was compelled to decline, as re-
spectfully as he could, compliance with the imperious demand.
The parley between Kingsbury, leaning over the pickets, and the
prisoner Hunt, pinioned without and held by Girty, who was
lying concealed behind a tree, lasted about an hour. This passed
on the east side of the fort. Meanwhile the soldiers on the west
side, as often as a savage would peep from the shelter of a dead
log tree, would crack at him with their muskets, and some
undoubtedly were killed, for the remains of two were afterward
discovered, while others were removed and buried by their
savage associates. Girty, through his interpreter, complained,
"What sort of a treaty is this, where you keep up a constant fire
pending the parley?" The commandant turned around, and with
a soldierly oath, threatened instant death to the next one that
fired a musket, but took care to add, sotto voice, "Kill the rascals,
if you can."
The end of the parley was succeeded by incessant volleys of
musketry from the assailants, which lasted over two hours, when
they retired to recruit, threatening to return in the evening to
carry all by storm. The garrison was illy provided with ammu-
nition, having only twenty-four rounds of cartridges per man,
and no ordnance; none was therefore to be wasted; though the

68        Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
women, to remedy the scarcity of ammunition, cast their pewter
plates and spoons into bullets. The enemy renewed the attack
in the afternoon with musketry, and also by bows and arrows,
firing brands within the stockade with the hope of firing the fort.
The volleys were continued during the evening, interrupted by
moments of parley through the prisoner Hunt, who earnestly
begged on his own behalf the surrender of the garrison, because
he was threatened with a death of horribly lingering torture.
About midnight they retired to execute the threat. The prisoner
was nearly stripped naked, laid upon the ground, and pinioned
by his wrists and ankles, his arms and legs outstretched in a
most painful manner. They then built a fire upon his naked
abdomen. His groans were distinctly heard by the garrison dur-
ing the remainder of that sad night becoming fainter and fainter,
till about daybreak, they finally ceased.
When morning dawned the Indians returned to the attack,
and continued their firing for a half hour or more. It was a
crisis which tried the souls of the little garrison as well as their
valiant commander.
The fort was completely infested by the Indians, and the at-
tack most violent. They began the fight like they were certain
of victory, and the garrison, while bravely repelling the attacks,
considered itself in extreme danger.  The Indians, however,
finally despairing of success, and apprehensive of reinforcements
arriving, abandoned the enterprise and withdrew.
The fort was entirely of wood, consisting of a few block-
houses and cabins, with a line of pickets, and was particularly
exposed to the assaults, as the cabins, contrary to the usual and
proper plan, presented the low edges of their roofs outside, some
of them being so low, that, it is stated a dog which had been
shut out of the station, leaped from a stump outside onto the
roof of one of the cabins. During the siege the most active
efforts of the assailants were directed to setting the roofs of the
buildings on fire, both by fire-arrows and by carrying brands of
fire. One Indian ran with a burning brand to a building which
he had nearly reached, when a volley stretched him lifeless.
When the Indians retreated, as their tracks showed, they filed
off, right and left from the fort.

Indian Attack on Fort Dunlap.           69

The little garrison, though but a handful compared with
their assailants, displayed great bravery, in some instances
amounting to rashness. During the firing, they frequently ex-
posed their persons above the tops of the pickets, mocking the
savages and daring them to come on. Women, as well as men,
used every expedient in their power to provoke and irritate the
enemy. They exhibited the caps of the soldiers above the pickets,
as a mark to be shot at.
Their apparent confidence in their security, when subjected
to the gravest danger, may have had the tendency to induce the
Indians to abandon the siege as soon as they did.
Accounts differ as to how word was received at Fort Wash-
ington of the attack. One account, that given by Judge Burnet,
states that John S. Wallace, who had made his escape from the
Indians on the eighth, was still in the fort. It is said that at ten
o'clock at night during the attack of the Indians he made an
effort to pass through the Indian lines and go to Cincinnati for
the purpose of obtaining re-enforcements from General Harmar, at
Fort Washington, but finding the Indians encompassing him on
every side, he was obliged to return. Fortunately the night
happened to be very dark, and at three in the morning Wallace,
accompanied by a soldier named William Wiseman, got into
a canoe on the side of the fort next to the water's edge, and
silently paddled across and landed on the opposite bank, from
whence they took to the bushes, and made their way down the
river and took the woods for Cincinnati. When about five or
six miles out from that place they met a party of soldiers, under
General John S. Gano, from Columbia, and returned with them
to the station.
Another account states that Lieutenant Kingsbury endeav-
ored to induce several old veterans, by the promise of a reward,
to go to Fort Washington to give the alarm and bring relief,
but in vain. This was overheard by a young stripling of eight-
teen years, who had been relieved just then from duty outside all
night, but who was allowed the relief of watching through a
port-hole a crafty warrior who, behind a tree, was endeavoring
by several tricks to draw his fire and allow him an opportunity to
escape. The commandant's declaration that he could induce no

70       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

one to go, surprised him, and he volunteered to go provided the
officer would parade the garrison in front of the blockhouse
and let them see him across the river. It is related that this was
done, and in broad daylight (ten o'clock A. M.) amid the volleys
of musketry of the Indian assailants, the young man, alone in
the canoe, succeeded in setting himself across the river, and,
regaining the opposite bank, he took his course with all speed
down the stream, and after stripping off and making two at-
tempts to wade, in vain, concluded he must make the best way
to North Bend-but in the course of two or three hundred yards
further he fortunately discovered the fording place, which he was
enabled to pass without finding it more than knee deep. About
three o'clock P. M. he reported himself to General Harmar, the
commandant at Fort Washington, with the news of the critical
state of things at Dunlap's station.
It is related that General Harmar dispatched a message to
Columbia, for re-enforcements, which arrived at Fort Wash-
ington that evening, or the next morning. A force of about fifty
regulars and militia were dispatched on Wednesday morning,
under the command of Colonel Strong, which, guided by William
Wiseman (for that was the name of the young hero) reached
the infested post soon after noon. The Indians, aware of the
force advancing against them, speedily raised the siege and re-
treated up the river, the last raft crossing the stream as Colonel
Strong came in sight. Finding it impossible to pursue them
without the means of crossing the river, he returned to Cin-
These accounts are probably both colored in the interest of
the two men, Wallace and Wiseman. One seeks to make Wal-
lace the hero, but mentions Wiseman as accompanying him on
the journey. The other gives Wiseman all the credit, and makes
no mention of Wallace. Perhaps the most accurate account is
that related by Thomas Irwin, who was one of the early pioneers
of Butler county, having settled near Blue Ball, and for fourteen
years represented Butler county in the Ohio legislature. At the
time of the attack of Fort Dunlap, Mr. Irwin, who then lived in
Cincinnati, states that a hunter by the name of Cox, afterward
one of the first to take up lands in Union township. Butler
Indian Attack on Fort Dunlap.            71

county, happened to be out hunting in the neighborhood of Dun-
lap's Station, and hearing the firing of the guns suspected the
cause and went to Cincinnati and informed the commandant at
Columbia and Fort Washington. A volunteer force of thirty-
eight men, of whom Irwin was one, turned out immediately.
The same number of men were taken from the regulars, the
whole being placed under the command of Captain Truman;
and about twenty volunteers from Columbia, under command
of Captain Gano, started before daylight the next morning for
Dunlap's Station, all on horseback, for the relief of the place.
John Riley, afterwards a clerk of the court of Butler county,
and Patrick Moore, who also settled in Butler county, were in the
party, and both rode white horses, and preceded a short distance
in advance, as picket guard, or spies, to give notice if the enemy
should appear. Samuel Davis, afterward a resident of Wayne
township, Butler county, was also one of the volunteers from
Cincinnati on that occasion. When the party had proceeded
about six miles, they met Wallace and Wiseman on their way to
Fort Washington, to tell the news of the attack. Finding that
the news had preceded them they turned about and accompanied
the relief party to the station.
About ten o'clock the party arrived at the top of the hill,
which overlooks the plain on which Dunlap's Station was situ-
ated, when it was discovered the Indians had abandoned the
siege and gone. On arriving at the fort, it was found that the
garrison, though in imminent danger, had sustained but little
injury. On the first fire, the Indians fired into a building where
the hand mill was kept, between the logs which had not been
chunked, by which they killed one man and wounded another.
The body of Abner Hunt was found near the station, shockingly
mangled,-his brains beaten out, two war clubs laid across his
breast, and a blazing firebrand placed in his bowels.
Dunlap's station was soon after abandoned on account of its
exposed danger to the excursions of the savage foe. Both the
settlers and military left it, inasmuch as in the attack, which we
have been describing the Indians had destroyed the accumulations
of the preceding season, and a scene of wild ruin and desolation
was spread around. The houses of many, besides those whose

72       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
names we have given, who had provided dwellings which they purposed to occupy in the spring, shared in the common conflagration and ruin, and the panic for awhile retarded the settlement of a locality now among the most flourishing and peaceful in the state of Ohio."