Memoirs of Col. John Stuart, of Greenbrier – Part 3 of 3

It is said that there is a book now extant, in this country, with the title of “Smith’s Travels in America,”which was written in England, wherein the author asserts that he was on the expedition in the nar 1774, and that he joined the Augusta troops in Staunton. He gives a particular description of Mr. Sampson Matthew’s tavern and family, who kept the mdst noted public house in town, and of the march of our army from Camp Union to Point Pleasant. He also gives an account of the battle, and of Colonel Lewis being killed in the engagement.

If such a person was along, I am persuaded he was incognito, and a creature of Lord Dunmore; for I was particularly acquainted with all the officers of the Augusta troops, and the chief of all the men, but knew no such man as Smith. I am the more confirmed in this opinion from what General Lewis told me in the year 1779, that he was well informed that on the evening of the 10th October, the day of our battle, Dunmore and the noted Doctor Connelly, of tory memory, with some other officers, were taking a walk, when Dunmore observed to the gentlemen that he expected by that time Colonel Lewis had hot work.

This corresponds with my suspicions of the language of M’Cullough, who promised us “grinders.” Had not M’Cullough seen the Indians, coming down the river and on his return, the evening before the battle, they could not have known the strength of our army, or amount of our troops so correctly as they certainly did; for, during the battle, I heard one of the enemy halloo, with abusive terms in English, that they had eleven hundred Indians, and two thousand coming. The same boast was vociferated from the opposite side of the river, in the hearing of most of our officers and men who occupied the Ohio bank, during the battle.

The valley of Indian Creek, from “Elk’s Rock,” near the Estill Blockhouse in Monroe County, WV.

As the number mentioned, of eleven hundred, was precisely our number, and the expectation entertained by some, that Colonel Christian would come on with two thousand more, the intelligence must have been communicated to the Indians by the Governor’s scouts, for there could have been no other means of conveying such exact information ft them. Colonel Christian had but three hundred altogether including the companies of Shelby, Russell, and Harbert, he arrived at our camp.

Having finished the entrenchments, and put everything in order for securing the wounded from danger after the battle, we crossed the Ohio river on our march to the Shawnee towns. Captain [Matthew] Arbuckle was our guide, who was equally esteemed as a soldier and a fine woodsman. When we came to the prairie, on Killicanic creek, we saw the smoke of a small Indian town, which was deserted and set on fire upon our approach. Here we met an express from the Governor’s camp, who had arrived near the nation and proposed peace to the Indians. Some of the chiefs, with the Grenadier Squaw, on ‘ the return of the Indians after their defeat, had repaired to the Governor’s army to solicit terms of peace for the Indians, which I apprehend they had no doubt of obtaining. The Governor promised them the war should be no further prosecuted, and that he would stop the march of Lewis’s army before any more hostilities should be committed upon them. However, the Indians endeavor were rapidly approaching, began to suspect that the Governor did not possess the power of stopping us, whom they designated by the name of the Big Knife Men; the Governor, therefore, with the White ‘Fish warrior, set offand met us at Killicanic creek, and there Colonel Lewis received his orders to return with his army, as he had proposed terms of peace with the Indians, which he assured should be accomplished.

His lordship requested Colonel Lewis to introduce him to his officers; and we were accordingly ranged in rank, and had the honor of an introduction to the Governor and commander in chief, who politely thanked us for services rendered on so momentous an occasion, and assured us of his high esteem and respect for our conduct.

On the Governor’s consulting Colonel Lewis, it was deemed necessary that a garrison should be established at Point Pleasant, to intercept and prevent the Indians from crossing the Ohio to our side, as also to prevent any whites from crossing over to the side of the Indians; and by such means. to preserve a future peace, according to the conditions of the treaty then to be made by the Governor with the Indians. Captain Arbuckle was appointed commander of the garrison, with instructions to enlist one hundred men, for the term of one year from the date of their enlistment, and proceed to erect a fort, which was executed in the following summer. [NOTE: this was Fort Blair, built in 1774 by the army of Virginians. Two years later, in 1776, the better-known Fort Randolph was built, in essentially the same location.]

The next spring, the revolutionary war commenced between the British army, under General Gage, at Boston, and the citizens of the state of Massachusetts, at Lexington. Virginia soon after assumed an independent form of government, and began to levy troops for the common defence, when another company was ordered to the aid of Captain Arbuckle, to be commanded by Captain William M’Kee.

But the troubles of the war accumulated so fast, that it was it was found too inconvenient and expensive to keep a garrison, at so great an expense and so great a distance from any inhabitants. There was, also, a demand for all the troops that could be raised, to oppose British force, and Captain Arbuckle was ordered to vacate the station and to join General Washington’s army. This he was not willing to do, having engaged, as he alleged, for a different service. A number of his men, however, marched and joined the main army until the time of their enlistment expired.

In the year 1777, the Indians, being urged by British agents, became very troublesome to frontier settlements, manifesting much appearance of hostilities, when the Corn-stalk warrior, with the Red- hawk, paid a visit to the garrison at Point Pleasant. He made no secret of the disposition of the Indians; declaring that, on his own part, he was opposed to joining in the war on the side of the British, but that all the nation, except himself and his own tribe, were determined to engage in it; and that, of course, he and his tribe would have to run with the stream, (as he expressed it.) On this Captain Arbuckle thought proper to detain him, the Red-hawk, and another fellow, as hostages, to prevent the nation from joining the British.

In the course of that summer our government had ordered an army to be raised, of volunteers, to serve under the command of General Hand; who was to have collected a number of troops at Fort Pitt, with them to descend the river to Point Pleasant, there. to meet a reinforcement of volunteers expected to be raised in Augusta and Botetourt counties, and then proceed to the Shawanee towns and chastise them so as to compel them to a neutrality. Hand did not succeed in the collection of troops at Fort Pitt; and but three or four companies were raised in Augusta and Botetourt, which were under the command of Colonel George Skjllern, who ordered me to use my endeavors to raise all the volunteers I could get in Green- brier, for that service. The people had begun to see the difficulties attendant on a state of war and long campaigns carried through wildernesses, and but a few were willing to engage in such service.

But as the settlements which we covered, though less exposed to the depredations of the Indians, had showed their willingness to aid in the proposed plan to chastise the Indians, and had raised three companies, I was very desirous of doing all I could to promote the business and aid the service. I used the utmost endeavors, and proposed to the militia officers to volunteer ourselves, which would be an encouragement to others, and by such means to raise all the men who could be got. The chief of the officers in Greenbrier agreed to the proposal, and we cast lots who should command the company. The lot fell on Andrew Hamilton for captain, and William Renick lieutenant. We collected in all, about forty, and joined Colonel Skillern’s party, on their way to Point Pleasant.

[NOTE: In 1777, John Stuart mentions elsewhere trying to raise men under Captain James Byrnside, presumably from our fort – Byrnside’s Fort. The said Andrew Hamilton possibly had a fort – Hamilton’s Fort – on Muddy Creek – in present day Greenbrier County (See Chapman pension application) or may have used Keeney’s Fort, or Arbuckle’s Fort, which were also on or near Muddy Creek in the same area. Hamilton, who eventually became a colonel in the Virginia militia, went to Fort Randolph at Point Pleasant with forty men under Col. George Skillern, as discussed here by Stuart. William Renick had a fort – Renick’s Fort, of course – on Spring Creek in northern Greenbrier County. He had been present at the Battle of Point Pleasant, as well as the murder of Cornstalk. He served will Hamilton, as mentioned by Stuart. And apparently Hamilton considered to be a commander of local militia.

The site of Renick’s Fort, where I believe it must have stood. At least somewhere in this immediate vicinity. To my knowledge nobody has ever found evidence of the exact spot.

Ex-militiaman John Kincaid, in his pension application notes that he was drafted into the Virginia Militia in 1781, with Maj. Andrew Hamilton being his commanding officer. The place of rendezvous at the time of his draft was at Byrnside’s Fort on February 15, 1781. They marched from Byrnside’s Fort to Fort Chiswell [Wythe County, Virginia. They remained there for eight weeks, and then marched back to Greenbrier at Wood’s Fort, near the New River [near Peterstown, WV], and remained there in service under Capt. Archibald Woods “guarding Indians and tories.” There he helped to retake eleven Americans taken prisoner by an Indian war party.]

Byrnside’s Fort, as it appears today. The logs are underneath the old board and batton weatherboard siding. The stockade wall on this side attached at about the second to right porch pillar on the front porch, and used the blockhouse itself as a large bastion.

When We arrived, there was no account of General Hand or his army, and little or no provision made to support our troops, other than what we had taken with us down the Kenawha. We found, too, that the garrison was unable to spare us any supplies, having nearly exhausted, when we got there, what had been provided for themselves. But we concluded to wait there as long as we could for the arrival of General Hand, or some account from him. During the time of our stay two young men, of the names of Hamilton and Gilmore, went over the Kenawha one day to hunt for deer; on their return to camp, some Indians had concealed themselves on the bank amongst the weeds, to view our encampment; and as Gilmore came along past them, they fired on him and killed him on the bank. Captain Arbuckle and myself were standing on the opposite bank when the gun fired; and whilst we’were wondering who it could be shooting, contrary to orders, or what they were doing over the river, we saw Hamilton run down the bank, who called out that Gilmore was killed. Gilmore was one of the company of Captain John Hall, of that part of the country now Rockbridge county. [Lexington, VA area] The captain was a relation of Gilmore’s, whose family and friends were chiefly cut off by the Indians, in the year 1763, when Greenbrier was cut off.

A reconstruction of Fort Randolph, a mile or so away from Point Pleasant.
View through the gap in the gates of the reconstructed Fort Randolph.

Hall’s men instantly jumped into a canoe and went to the relief of Hamilton, who was standing in momentary expectation of being put to death. -They brought the corpse of Gilmore down the bank, covered with blood and scalped, and put him into the canoe. As they were passing the river, I observed to Captain Arbuckle that the people would be for killing the hostages, as soon as the canoe would land. He supposed that they would not offer to commit so great a violence upon the innocent, who were in no wise accessary to the murder of Gilmore. But the canoe had scarcely touched the shore until the cry was raised, let us kill the Indians in the fort;— and every man, with his gun in his hand, came up the bank p’ale with rage. Captain Hall was at their head, and leader. Captain Arbuckle and I met them, and endeavored to dissuade them from so unjustifiable an action; but they cocked their guns, threatened us with instant death if we did not desist, rushed by us into the fort, and put the Indians to death. [NOTE: this describes the murder of Shawnee Chief Cornstalk, and his son, Elinipsico.]

On the preceding day, theCorn-stalk’s son, Ehnipsico, had come from the nation to see his father, and “to know if he was well, or alive.” When he came to the river opposite the fort, he hallooed. His father was, at that instant, in the act of delineating a map of the country and the waters between the Shawanee towns and the Mississippi, a tour request, with chalk upon the floor. He immediately recognized the voice of his son, got up, went out, and answered him.

The young fellow crossed over, and they embraced each other in the most tender and affectionate manner. The interpreter’s wife, who had been a prisoner among the Indians, and had recently left them on hearing the uproar the next day; and hearing the men threatening that they would kill the Indians, for whom she retained much affection, ran to their cabin and informed them that the people were just coming to kill them; and that, because the Indians who killed Gilmore, had come with Elinipsico the day before. He utterly denied; declared that he knew nothing of them, and trembled exceedingly. His father encouraged him not to be afraid, for that the

Great-Man-Above had sent him there to be killed and die with him. As the men advanced to the door, the Corn-stalk rose up and met them; they fired upon him, and seven or eight bullets went through him. So fell the great Corn-stalk warrior,—whose name was bestowed upon him by the consent of the nation, as their great strength and support. His son was shot dead, as he sat upon a stool. The Red-hawk made an attempt to go up the chimney, but was shot down. The other Indian was shamefully mangled, and I grieved to see him so long in the agonies of death.

Point Pleasant, as it appears today.
Sit of the Mason County courthouse, in Point Pleasant. This is the exact location where Cornstalk was initially buried. At some point, he was exhumed, and moved to the location where the current monument to him stands today, within the current park at the point.

The Corn-stalk, from personal appearance and many brave acts, was undoubtedly a hero. Had he been spared to live, I believe he would have been friendly to the American cause; for nothing could induce him to make the visit to the garrison at the critical time he did, but to communicate to them the temper and disposition of the Indians, and their design of taking part with the British. On the day he was killed we held a council, at which he was present. His countenance was dejected; and he made a speech, all of which seemed to indicate an honest and manly disposition. He acknowledged that he expected that he and his party would have to run with the stream, for that all the Indians on the lakes and northwardly, were joining the British. He said that when here turned to the Shawnee towns after the battle at the Point, he called a council of the nation to consult what was to be done, and upbraided them for their folly in not suffering him to make peace on the evening before the battle.— ” What,” said he, ” will you do now? The Big Knife is coming on us, and we shall all be killed. Now you must fight, or we are undone.” But no one made an answer. He said, then let’s kill all our women and children, and go and fight till we die. But none would answer.

Where Cornstalk is buried, following his remains being moved from the initial spot of burial.

At length he rose and struck his tomahawk in the post in the centre of the townhouse: “I’ll go,”said he,”and make peace;” and then the warriors all grunted out ” ough, ough, ough,” and runners were instantly despatched to the Governor’s army to solicit a peace and the interposition of the Governor on their behalf.

When he made his speech in council with us, he seemed to be impressed with an awful premonition of his approaching fate; for he repeatedly said, “When I was a young man and went to war, I thought that might be the last time, and I would return no more. Now I am here amongst you; you may kill me if you please; I can die but once; and it is all one to me, now or another time.” This declaration concluded every sentence of his speech. He was killed about one hour after our council.

A few days after this catastrophe General Hand arrived, but had no troops. We were discharged, and returned home a short time before Christmas. Not long after we left the garrison a small party of Indians appeared near the fort, and Lieutenant Moore was ordered, with a party, to pursue them. Their design was to retaliate the murder of Corn-stalk. Moore had not pursued one-quarter of a mile until he fell into an ambuscade and was killed, with several of his men.

The next year, 1778, in the month of May, a small party of Indians again appeared near the garrison, and showed themselves and decamped apparently in great terror. But the garrison was aware of their seduction, and no one was ordered to pursue them. Finding that their scheme was not likely to succeed, their whole army rose up at once and showed themselves, extending across from the bank of the Ohio to the bank of the Kanawha, and commenced firing upon the garrison, but without effect, for several hours. At length, one of them had the presumption to advance on the fort as to request the favor of being permitted to come in, to which Captain M’Kee granted his assent, and the stranger very composedly walked in. Captain [Matthew] Arbuckle was then absent, on a visit in Greenbrier, to his family.

During the time the strange gentleman was in the fort, a gun went off in the fort, by accident. The Indians without, raised a hideous yell, supposing the fellow was killed; but he instantly jumped up into one of the bastions and showed himself, giving the sign that all was well, and reconciled his friends. Finding that they could make no impression upon the garrison, they concluded to come on to Greenbrier; and collecting all the cattle about the garrison, for provision on their march, set off up the Kenawha, in great military parade, to finish their campaign and take vengeance on us for the death of Corn-stalk.

Captain M’Kee perceiving their design, by the route they were pursuing, despatched Philip Hammond and John Prior after them, with orders, if possible to pass them undiscovered, and to give the inhabitants notice of their approach. This hazardous service they performed with great fidelity’. The Indians. had two days start of them, but they pursued with such speed and diligence, that they overtook and passed the Indians at the house of William M’Clung, at the Meadows, about twenty miles from Lewisburg. It was in the evening of the day, and M’Clung’s family had previously removed farther in amongst the inhabitants for safety, as they were the frontier family on the way to Point Pleasant.

At this place Hammond and Prior had a full view of the Indians,as they walked upon a rising ground between the house and the barn, and appeared to be viewing the great meadows lying in sight of the house.

[NOTE: the William McClung cabin was near the mouth of Big Clear Creek, near the present day town of Rupert, West Virginia, in the western end of Greenbrier County. He had moved his family there in 1773. During Lord Dunmore’s War, they “forted up” at Donnally’s Fort, or closer to it, anyways. They then moved back to the mouth of Big Clear Creek in 1776. This was an area which became known as “McClung’s Meadows,” and it’s still today somewhat of a marshy looking glade area. See Defending the Wilderness, by David J. Emmick, at page 7.]

The mountains overlooking the valley where Donnally’s Fort was located.

Hammond and Prior were in the meadows, concealed by the weeds, and had a full view of their whole party undiscovered, and calculated their numbers at about two hundred warriors. Having passed the Indians, they came on in great speed, to Colonel Donnally’s, and gave the alarm of the approach of the Indians. Colonel Donnally lost no time to collect in all his nearest neighbors that night, and sent a servant to my house to inform me. Before day about twenty men, including Hammond and Prior, were collected at Donnally’s, and they had the advantage of a stockade fort around and adjoining the house. There was a number of women and children, making in all about sixty persons in the house. On the next day they kept a good look-out, in momentary expectation of the enemy.

Col. Andrew Donnally. Late in the 18th century, he sold his farm to Rader – which thereafter became “Rader’s Valley,” as it is today. He then moved to what is now Kanawha City, across from the WV State Capitol. He had a great farm there, and was buried there.

Colonel Samuel Lewis was at my house when Donnally’s servant came with the intelligence; and we lost no time in alarming the people, and to collect as many men for defense, as we could get at Camp Union all the next day. But all were busy; some flying with their families to the inward settlements and others securing their property,— so that in the course of the day, we had not collected near one hundred men. On the following day we sent out two scouts to Donnally’s, very early in the morning, who soon returned with intelligence that the fort was attacked. The scouts had got within one mile, and heard the guns firing briskly. We determined to give all the aid we could to the besieged, and every man who was willing to go was paraded.

A map by Stephen and Kim McBride, which shows the location of Donnally’s Fort, in relation to Fort Savannah, or “Camp Union,” which is the name used by Stuart.
Historical marker for Fort Donnally, off US Route 60, which is a few miles from the fort site.
Early 20th century D.A.R. historical marker erected on the actual site of the fort.
The marker’s plaque.
The marker in relation to the farmhouse which currently sits on the property.
One of the stone piers upon which stood one of the corner bastions of Donnelly’s Fort, uncovered during a prior archaeological excavation by Stephen and Kim McBride, of the University of Kentucky.

They amounted to sixty-eight in all, including Colonel Lewis, Captain Arbuckle, and myself. We drew near Donnally’s house about two o’clock P.M. but heard no firing. For the sake of expedition we had left the road for a nearer way, which led to the back side of the house, and thus escaped falling into an ambuscade, placed on the road some distance from the house, which might have been fatal to us, being greatly inferior to the enemy in numbers. We soon discovered Indians, behind trees in a rye-field, looking earnestly at the house.

About the view Stuart and his men would have had of Donnelly’s Fort, from their hiding place behind the fort.

Charles Gatliff and I fired upon them, when we saw others running in the rye, near where they stood. We all ran directly to the fort. The people, on hearing the guns on the back side of the house, supposed that it was another party of Indians, and all were at the port holes ready to fire upon us; but some discovering that we were their friends, opened the gate, and we all got in safe. One man only, was shot through his clothes. When we got into the fort, we found that there were only four men killed. Two of them who were coming to the fort, fell into the midst of the Indians, and were killed.

Another view of the actual site of Donnally’s Fort.

A servant of Donnally’s was killed early in the morning on the first attack; and one man was killed in a bastion in the fort. The Indians had commenced their attack about daylight in the morning, when the people were all in bed, except Philip Hammond and an old negro. [Dick Pointer] The house formed one part of the fort, [just like we discovered nearby Byrnside’s Fort was constructed] and was double, the kitchen making one end of the house, and there Hammond and the negro were. A hogs head of water [NOTE: a “hogshead” is a large cask or barrel, generally of wine or beer, measuring about 63-64 gallons.] was placed against the door. The enemy had laid down their guns at a stable, about fifty yards from the house, and made their attacks with tomahawks and war clubs. Hammond and the negro held the door till they were splitting it with their tomahawks: they suddenly let the door open, and Hammond killed the Indian on the threshold, who was splitting the door.

The historical marker on the site of Donnally’s Fort, put up by the D.A.R. in the early 20th century, I believe.

The negro [Dick Pointer] had a musket charged with swan shot, and was jumping about in the floor asking Hammond where he should shoot? Hammond bade him fireaway amongst them; for the yard was crowded as thick as they could stand. Dick fired away, and I believe, with good effect; for a war club lay in the yard with a swan shot in it. [NOTE TO SELF: be on the lookout for an old war club with a piece of lead shot stuck in it…. Also, there are two West Virginia museums, both of which claim to have the musket fired by Dick Pointer. The West Virginia State History Museum, and the Greenbrier Historical Society’s Museum, known as the North House Museum – though the GCHS has now stopped referring to their gun as the Dick Pointer gun, because truthfully they have no proof. Though I have personally inspected it, and think they have a realistic possibility of having the real thing, while the state museum doesn’t, at least in my opinion, which I wrote about here:

Check out this blog post I did on the “Dick Pointer gun” in Lewisburg.

Some pics of the possible wall-gun used by Dick Pointer. It could be the one….. but unfortunately there’s no proof.

Dick is now upwards of eighty years old, has long been abandoned by his master, as also his wife, as aged as himself, and they have made out to support their miserableexistence,manyyearspast,bytheirownendeavors. This isthenegrotowhom ourassembly,atitslastsession,refusedto grant a small pension to support the short remainder of his wretched days, which must soon end, although his humble petition was sup ported by certificates of the most respectable men in the county, of his meritorious service on this occasion, which saved the lives of many citizens then in the house.

Dick Pointer’s pension application, which unfortunately was denied, despite being supported and verified by John Stuart, personally, as well as other important local people:

I John Stuart do certify that Colo Samuel Lewis Capt Mathew Arbuckle & myself went with a party of men to the relief of Colo Andrew Donnallys garrison in the year 1778 and entered the same when surrounded with Indians and the people in the utmost danger of being destroyed, and who affirmed to us they were saved on the morning of that day only by the valour of Phil. Hammon and the above Negro Dick who kill’d two of the Indians at the door and repeled the rest

John Stuart

The firing of Hammond and Dick awakened the people in the other end of the house, and upstairs, where the chief of the men were lying. They soon fired out of the windows on the Indians so briskly, that when we got to the fort, seventeen of them lay dead in the yard, one of whom was a boy about fifteen or sixteen years old – his body was so torn b y the bullets that a man might have run his arm through him, yet he lived almost all day, and made a most lamentable cry.

The Indians called to him to go into the house. After dark, a fellow drew near to the fort and called out in english that he wanted to make peace. We invited him in to consult on the terms, but he declined our civility. They departed that night, after dragging eight of their slain out of the yard; but we never afterwards found where they buried them.

They visited Greenbrier but twice afterwards, and then in very small parties, one of which kill a man and his wife, of the name of Munday, and wounded Capt.

Samuel McClung. [NOTE: this is the brother of the aforesaid William McClung. He lived on Muddy Creek.] The last person killed was Thomas Griffith, and his son was taken, but going down the Kanawha, they were pursued, one of the Indians was killed, and the boy was relieved, which ended our wars in Greenbrier with the Indians, in the year 1780.

[Signed,] JOHN STUART.

The above is a correct copy from the original, in my possession, with slight variations of orthography and punctuation. I do not

know at what date it was written.

January 14th, 1833.

[signed,] CH: A. STUART.

The following was written by John Stuart on July 15, 1798, while he was County Clerk of Greenbrier County, and is recorded in the courthouse in Deed Book No. 1, at page 754:

 May I here hazard a conjecture that has often occurred to me since I inhabited this place, that Nature has designed this part of the world a peaceable retreat for some of her favorite children, where pure morals will be preserved by separating them from other societies at so respectful a distance by ridges of mountains; and I sincerely wish time may prove my conjecture rational and true. From the springs of salt water discoverable along our river, banks of iron ore, mines pregnant with salt-petre and forests of sugar trees so amply provided and so easily acquired, I have no doubt the future inhabitants of this County will surely avail themselves of such singular advantages greatly to their comfort and satisfaction, and render them a grateful and happy people.

I think that most of us who are now those “future inhabitants,” are indeed grateful and happy…..

I have been fortunate to get to know the owner of the fort site, and he has graciously allowed us to engage in some scavengeology on the property.

Digging at the site of Donnally’s Fort, in the winter of 2018.

Here’s a few of our finds:

Memoirs of John Stuart – Part 1 of 3

Memoirs of John Stuart – Part 2 of 3

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