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West Virginia Archives and History Library
Thursday Programs

The Roots of Un-civil War: The 250th Anniversary of Cornstalk’s Campaign
March 14, 2013


On March 14, 2013, Douglas McClure Wood will present “The Roots of Un-civil War: The 250th Anniversary of Cornstalk’s Campaign,” at the Thursday evening lecture in the Archives and History Library in the Culture Center in Charleston. The program will begin at 6:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Shawnee Warrior Cornstalk was relatively unknown to European Americans in 1763, when he burst onto the stage of history as leader of one of the most effective campaigns against the British colonies during “Pontiac’s War.” A hero to the Shawnee, a fearsome foe to the Virginians, Cornstalk was perhaps the most brilliant military strategist ever to spring from the Shawnee nation. Cornstalk’s coalition-building efforts, strategic planning, campaign coordination, and battle tactics were mirrored nearly 50 years later by another Shawnee military leader, Tecumseh. However, it was Cornstalk’s generation of Shawnee warriors who first melded American Indian tactics with European tactics to forge a powerful military alliance that nearly defeated the greatest military presence on North American soil in 1763. The Virginia frontiersmen’s response to Cornstalk’s Campaign was to become more like the enemy in order to “fight fire with fire.” Honing his skills at frontier warfare, the western Virginia militiaman eventually could stand toe to toe with his native enemy fighting in the “Indian manner.” Frontier fighting skills became very useful to western Virginians in subsequent 18th- and 19th-century wars, including the Civil War, when small units of “home guards” and “bushwhackers” used those skills to thwart the efforts of invading enemy armies.

In his presentation, Wood will focus on Cornstalk’s 1763 campaign in the context of the larger Pontiac's War. He will discuss the influence of the campaign on subsequent Shawnee-Virginian relations and on the evolution of Virginian fighting forces.

Doug Wood earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Management from WVU in 1977. He worked as an aquatic biologist and ecologist for 33 years before retiring from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in October of 2011. Since college, he has researched 18th-century middle Appalachian cultures, with a particular focus on American Indian cultures of the Ohio Valley region. Wood says he has found a particularly rich resource collection in the West Virginia State Archives, and visits often to gain new insight into historic people, places, and events.

Wood has also educated thousands through living history events since 1987. Currently, he portrays Man Killer Ostenaco, a Cherokee military leader who fought for three years against the French during the French and Indian War, for the Humanities Council’s History Alive! Program. Wood’s current living history project highlights Cornstalk’s exploits and 18th-century Shawnee culture in a series of five events scattered along the campaign route from Point Pleasant to Neola. During this 250th anniversary year of Cornstalk’s Campaign, programs will be held Kanawha State Forest in May, Tu-Endie-Wei State Park and Lake Sherwood Recreation Area in June, Sandstone Visitor Center in July, and Hawks Nest State Park in September.

For planning purposes, participants are encouraged to register for the lecture, but advance registration is not required to attend. To register in advance, contact Robert Taylor, library manager, by e-mail or at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163. Participants interested in registering by e-mail should send their name, telephone number and the name and date of the session. For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.


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