Footage and Finds: Donnally’s Fort in Greenbrier County

Old DAR monument marking the site of Donnally’s Fort

Donnally’s Fort, in Greenbrier County, was the site of the 2nd largest Revolutionary War era battle between Native Americans and white settlers in West Virginia, second only to the epic Battle of Point Pleasant. This battle was epic in its own way. Check out the connection we made with this event…..

Narrative of the Attack on Fort Donnally:

West Virginia Daily News (Ronceverte)
March 3, 1969, By Mrs. Sharelle Renick:

In the month of May, 1778, a band of Indians crossed the Ohio river at the mouthof Campaign creek, about seven miles up the river from the mouth of Great Kanawha river. They started immediately for the Greenbrier county – as it was then known. As soon as the people knew the direction the Indians had taken, two men set out from the fort at Point Pleasant to notify the settlement of the advance of the Indians. After following them several days they became frightened and returned to Point Pleasant. Capt. McKee formed his men in line and asked if two men would volunteer to go to Greenbrier county and notify the people of their danger. John Pryor and Philip Hammond stepped forward and said they would go.

A Grenadier squaw, a sister of Cornstalk, but a friend of the of the white, painted them as Indians, and though the Indians had several days head start still by traveling day and night they were able to overtake the Indians at the mouth of Big Clear creek, only twenty miles from Fort Donnally. They attempted to pass them. Not knowing whether the Indians had attacked the settlement or not, one of the men climbed a tree so by their actions they could judge what they were intending to do. The Indians were preparing for the massacre.

Pryor and Hammond immediately started for the settlement to warn people of their danger. The following men with their families to-wit: Col. Andrew Donnally, Capt. Jack Williams, William Blake, William Hughart Jr., William Hughart Sr., John McFerrin, William McCoy Sr., William McCoy, Jr., Henry Hedrick, James Jordan, Thomas George, William Hamilton, John Pryor, James Graham, William Strickland, Griffith, Philip Hammond, Dick Pointer (colored), William Prichart, Alexander Ockeltree and James Burns were notified of their danger and with their families came to the fort.

William Prichart, an Irish servant of Col. Donnally, on the morning just before daylight, went across the run to an old tantrough, either to wash or get some kindling and was there tomahawked. No one knew of his going out, therefore, his absence created no alarm, but he had left the stockade gate open.

The evening before battle, the Indians came to the top of Brushy ridge at a point called Bald Knob, one mile from the fort. In the morning they left the ridge, came down to the creek, about one quarter of a mile from the fort, then followed the creek down to the fort; then knowing the stockade gate was open, made a sudden rush for the fort. William Hughart, who was standing at the door, saw the Indians and instead of firing his gun to give the alarm he drawled out in his peculiar style, “Yonder they come,” and pushed the door shut.

The Indians made a rush for the door and began to cut it down with their tomahawks. They could open the door only partially, on account of a hogshead of water placed be hind the door. Hammond was soon on his feet. Dick Pointer has seized an old musket loaded heavily with swan shot, etc., and was trying to decide what to do. At this the Indians had partly forced the door open. Hammond cut the first down with his tomahawk and Dick fired, mowing a swathe to the stockade gate, the recoil of the gun knocking him over. This awakened the people above, and springing from their beds, they grasped their rifles and opened a galling fire, which drove the Indians outside the stockade.

Some of the Indians before they retreated got under the floor, and tried to set the building on fire. The striking of the flint and steel attracted attention, and when they tried to raise the floor, the whites helped them, and all the Indians under the floor were killed. The Indians continued the battle, using every conceivable method to capture the fort. By climbing a tree one of the Indians was enabled to glance a bullet so it struck William Blake on the forehead and gave him a scalp wound. But the Indian paid for his folly by receiving a ball from the gun of Capt. Jack Williams, which went through his brains. The whites were scarse of ammunition and were constantly warning each other in the use of their ammunition. An Indian had got within the stockade, and climbed the corner of the fort. He commenced to mock them by Crying, “Load ’em, shoot ’em sure, ammunition scarse, “Richard Williams dug a hole through the mud and sent a ball through his body, which made the Indian swing around and fell into a soap trough.

About the same time, another Indian had got ten under the floor. A kettle of boiling water or soap scared him out and a bullet from Hammond’s gun stopped him as he started to climb the stockade fence.

The whites’ loss was four men killed and two wounded – Prichart, at the tan trough, Alexander Ockeltree, and James Burns, who were on the road to the fort, and James Graham, within the fort. William Blake was wounded in the head, and William Hamilton in the finger. Burns fell dead when shot, Ockeltree ran about three hundred yards and fell, pierced by seven balls.

The news was carried to Fort Savannah (now Lewisburg) by a scout sent out for the purpose by Capt. John Stuart. He and Col. Lewis, accompanied by sixty-six men, started about noon for the west to Raders creek, then through a rye-field to the fort, arriving about 4 p.m. When they approached they thought the Indians had withdrawn, as firing had ceased, but seeing an Indian behind a tree Capt. Stuart and Charles Gatliff fired and the Indian went to rest. Then with butts of guns foremost they made a rush for the fort. The people within thought it to be a charge of the Indians but soon discovered them to be friends, and threw open the doors. Although the Indians opened fire upon Capt. Stuart and his men, and many of them had their clothes pierced by bullets, not one was injured.

The Indians continued firing slowly from an old barn 200 yards northwest from the fort, and at dark withdrew. A few minutes before dark, an old Indian approached the fort and said they “wanted peace.” but the whites could not induce him to enter the fort. They carried away all their dead accessible to them, but seventeen were left within the stockade fence. These Dick Pointer buried the next day in a hole, about thirty yards south of the fort. He dragged them to the fort, hitching a hook in their mouths, with a fork. He dragged them to the fort, hitching a hook in their mouths, with a horse. Where they buried the remainder of them is not known.

The engagement , except the cry of Hughart, was a complete surprise to the whites, who fought as they came from their beds, and many of the women in nigh[t] attire molded bullets.

The fort was a single log house, two stories high, and a kitchen one and a half story high, with a passage way of eight feet between them. The stockade was eight feet high – made of split logs. The logs of the main building were used by A Rader for a barn. The fort stood on the east side of Raders creek, in Williarnsburg District, ten miles north of Lewisburg.

Dick Pointer was granted his freedom for his work on the day of battle. John Davis gave him a life lease to a piece of land and on this people built him a cabin. There Dick eked out a kind of life, and at his death they buried him with “honors of war” in Lewisburg Cemetery fulfilling the saying “Man’s good deeds are never known through life, but they live after death.”

Dick in appearance was a large powerful man, very black, and in the latter part of his life became very dissipated. No monument marks his resting place, but one should be erected over the grave of him who saved more than seventy human beings – the greater number women and children – from the tomahawk and scalping knife of the savage.

A remarkable incident of the day was the birth of a male child who grew to manhood and for his great size was known far and wife as Big Joe Hughart.

After the signal defeat at Donally’s Fort, the Indians made but two more incursions into Greenbrier County, and then in small parties. In the first they came to Muddy creek, wounded Capt. Samuel McClung and killed Mr. Munday and his wife, and in the last they came to the same place, and Thomas Griffith, the last victim of savage butchery was killed, (1780). His son was carried away a prisoner, but while going down the Kanawha they were pursued and overtaken by a body of whites. One Indian was killed, the boy released and returned to his friends. Thus ended the Indian War in Greenbrier County in the year 1780.


3 thoughts on “Footage and Finds: Donnally’s Fort in Greenbrier County

  1. enjoyed the short film, I have been there but am a bit confused as to the 4 directions, North, South, East, and West when standing at Fort location, also it is my understanding that Philip Hamman (the German spelling, of the family) and Pryor went afoot from Pt Pleasant to the settlements, took them several days to over take the raiding party and move beyond them.

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