Posts Tagged ‘1782’

It’s easy for us to think that when Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in October of 1781, the American Revolution ended.  But news didn’t travel very quickly in the 18th century, and even if it did, the British didn’t consider the conflict over.  Yorktown ended up being the last major conflict, but Britain actually stopped fighting (two years later, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris)  more for political reasons than because it felt like it had lost the war.

So while fighting largely ceased in the eastern part of the Colonies, it continued in the west as the British worked in conjunction with the various Indian tribes to fight the militias.  As the Colonists drifted westward, many of the native tribes were being pushed off their ancenstral homelands.  And they felt as though this was the last best chance to push the white man back east and reclaim lands they believed rightfully theirs.  The British used this situation to their advantage, arming the Indians and feeding both their desires and their fears.

It’s here that Simon Girty enters the stage.  A white man raised by the Indians, he had defected from the Colonists in 1778 to fight with the British.  And now, in 1782, a large contingent of natives gathered in Ohio and made ready to raid settlements in Kentucky.  In his biography of Daniel Boone, Robert Morgan writes that Girty fired up the various tribes with a bold speech.  Concluding, he said, “Brothers, the intruders on your lands exult in the success that has crowned their flagitious acts….Was there a voice in the trees of the forest, or articulate sounds in the gurgling waters, every part of this country would call on you to chase away these ruthless invaders, who are laying it waste.” If you’re interested in learning more about this man (who was one of the most hated men in America at the time), check out an excellent piece from Frances Hunter’s website…it’s well worth the read.

The British and Indian tribes swept south.  One of their destinations was Bryan Station, a fort and settlement in modern-day Lexington, Kentucky.  But the settlers got advanced warning of their approach and retreated to the protection of the fort.  In response, men from the surrounding area gathered at Boone’s Station and headed north, pursuing the Indians who had left the area.  Among them was Daniel Boone and his son Israel.

All along the path, Boone found signs of the enemy camps, and it worried him immensely.  The natives normally didn’t leave obvious clues to their whereabouts and travels.  Morgan writes, “Their campfires were left burning; their trail was plainly marked; and every indication showed that they desired a pursuit…”.  Daniel Boone smelled a trap.

On August 19, 1782, Boone and 180 other men (led by John Todd and Stephen Trigg) approached Blue Licks, an area of rising ground where the Licking River forms a U-shape as it meanders.  Boone was familiar with the territory and knew that beyond the river, there were ravines where the enemy would be waiting.  He urged caution and a delay for more reinforcements, but others jumped the gun and crossed the river.  The battle was about to be joined, and Boone could do little but go along.

It was a perfect trap as the 180 men reached the high ground, and there met a withering fire from Girty, the Indians, and the British, led by William Caldwell.  Things fell apart very quickly.  Both Colonels Todd and Trigg were shot down early in the battle, and only Boone’s group could make any advance, before retreating for fear of being flanked and surrounded.

Men were falling fast and Daniel Boone wanted to get his son out of the action.  Turning to look for a horse, he heard a thud behind him.  He wheeled around to see Israel fall with a bullet to the heart, his son dying almost instantly in front of him.  With the enemy bearing down, a grief-stricken father couldn’t even stop to grab his son’s body, but rather mounted the horse and made his escape.

The Battle of Blue Licks cost the Kentucky militia dearly, as 77 of the 182 men were killed.  The British counted fewer than a dozen killed.  And for Daniel Boone, the loss of his Israel was devastating.  Another son, Nathan, would later recount, “Father used to be deeply affected, even to tears, when he spoke of the Blue Licks defeat and the death of his son.”

Recommended Reading:  Daniel Boone – Morgan’s biography is upcoming on my list.

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