Dick Pointer

Extracted from Sketches of History, Life, and Manners in the United States by a Traveller
Published in 1826 by Anne Royall

Lewisburg. - Lewisburg takes its name from Gen. Andrew Lewis, who commanded at the battle of the Point already mentioned. On his way thither, he encamped upon the ground where Lewisburg now stands, which, at that time, was nothing more than a bleak savannah. In the following year, Col. John Stewart, (now living) and Mr. George Matthews, of Augusta, Va. opened a store on this savannah; a fort was likewise built on it, to protect them from the Indians. I am now (1824) sitting on the site where this fort once stood: not the least vestige of it, however, remains. It is now the property of Mrs. Welsh, whose house and garden stands within the limits once occupied by this fort. From Mrs. W. who is now in her seventieth year, I collected these particulars. She is now sitting by me, and goes on to relate "That she was one of the earliest permanent settlers of Greenbriar, and lived within a mile of the fort just mentioned, which was called Fort Savannah. She was then the wife of a Mr. Arbuckle, who was in the famous battle of the Point, and spent all his time in guarding the settlements. There was, besides Fort Savannah, another about eight miles north-east of it, called Donnally's Fort.

The Indians, actuated by revenge, for the treatment they met with from Gen. Lewis, and his men, meditated the destruction of this second settlement of Greenbriar, and sat off accordingly in a large body, from their towns, with this design. At that time there was a party of men stationed at Point Pleasant,* (*One hundred and fifty miles distant from the settlement, with vast mountains and rivers between.) (where the battle was fought,) by government, with a view of guarding the settlement, and to watch the movements of the Indians. These men, by some means, got intelligence of their march; but who would undertake the perilous task of going to apprise those unsuspecting people of their danger! The Indians were several days on their march before they were informed of it. It was an enterprise that required the utmost courage, trust, and dispatch: a counsel was held; silence, for a long time, reigned in the terrified party. At length, two champions stepped forth, John Prior and Philip Hammond: We will go, said these brave and worthy men. No time was to be lost, they sat off that instant travelled night and day, saw the Indians as they passed them; almost spent, and out of breath, they arrived at the settlement the third day, a few hours before the Indians.

The inhabitants flew to Donnally's Fort, to the amount of three hundred souls. It was late in the evening before they were all fairly in, principally women and children: there were but four men besides Col. Donnally, and a negro man belonging to him, and three or four guns in the fort. The negro's name was Dick Pointer, and Dick saved the fort! On the same night the Indians drew near, old Dick (as he now is, for he is still living,) and the four men, were standing guard. Col. Donnally's house made a part of the fort, the front of it forming a line with the same, the door of the house being the door of the fort. Near this door, Dick and his companions were stationed, and about midnight Dick espied, through a port- hole, something moving, but the night was so dark, and the object making no noise, it was long before he discovered it to be an Indian, creeping up to the door on all fours. The negro pointed it out to his companions, and asked "if he might shoot;" "no," they replied, not yet. In about twenty minutes after this, a large force was at the door, thundering it to pieces with tomahawks, stones, and whatever weapon offered. The door being of the stoutest sort, resisted their efforts for some time; at length they forced one of the planks. Dick, (who, from every account, is as brave as Cesar,) had charged his musket well with old nails, pieces of iron, and buck shot; when the first plank dropped, he cried out to his master, "May I shoot now, sir?" "Not yet, Dick:" he stood ready, with his gun cocked. The Indians, meanwhile, were busy, and the second plank began to tremble. "O master, may I shoot now?" "Not yet," his master replied. The second plank falls; "Now Dick," said his master; he fired, killed three, and wounded several; the Indians ran into some rye, with which their fort was surrounded, leaving the dead bodies at the door. Shortly after this, or at least before day, they were attacked by a large party of men, under the command of Col. Samuel Lewis, who had, during the while, been collecting and preparing for that purpose, and were totally routed by these men. Mrs. Welsh's husband, Arbuckle, was one of them. But had it not been for Dick Painter's [sic] well-timed shot, every soul in the fort must have been massacred. (*This house is still standing, and the bullet holes made in it by the Indians when they were attacked by the whites, are still visible. Mr. A. Rayder now lives in it.) I have had the relation from several persons, and from old Dick himself. The poor old creature wanders about very shabby: the country does allow him something, but his principal support is derived from donations by gentlemen, who visit this place and admire his character. He does not know hold old he is, he thinks he was twenty-five at the attack of Donnally's Fort. His head is as white as wool, which, contrasted with his black keen eye, gives him a singular appearance. His master, some years after the signal service he rendered his country, set him free.

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