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Death of Cornstalk.

"Narrative by Captain John Stuart of General Andrew Lewis' Expedition Against the Indians in the Year 1774, and of the Battle of Pleasant Point, Virginia," in Magazine of American History, November 1877

In the year 1777 the Indians, being urged by British Agents, became very Troublesome to frontier Settlements, manifesting much Appearance of Hostilities, when the Cornstalk Warriour, with the young Redhawk, 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 Rest of the Nation but himself and his own Tribe were determined to engage in the War, and that of Course, he and his Tribe would have to run with the Stream (as he expressed it); on which Capt. Arbuckle thought proper to detain him, the young Redhawk 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 Genl. 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 Re-enforcement of Volunteers expected to be raised in Augusta and Botetourt Counties, and then to proceed to the Shawnee towns and chastise the Indians, so as to compel them to a neutrality; but Hand did not succeed n the Collection of Troops at Fort Pitt, and but three or four Companies only were raised in Botetourt and Augusta, and which were under the Command of Col. George Shilleran, who had ordered me to use my Endeavors to raise all the Volunteers I could get in Greenbrier 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 few were willing to engage in such Service, but the Settlements we covered being less exposed to the Depredations of the Indians, had shown a willingness to aid in the proposed plan to chastise the Indians, and had raised three Companies. I was very anxious of doing all I could to promote the business and aid the Service, used the utmost Endeavors by proposing to the Militia Officers to Volunteer ourselves, which would be an Encouragement to others, and by such Means, raise all the Men that 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 for Lieutenant, and we collected in all a bout forty Men and joined Col. Shilleran's party on their Way to Point Pleasant. When we arrived at Point Pleasant, there was no Account of Genl. Hand, or his Army, and little or no provisions made to support our Troops, except what we had taken with us down the Kanahway, and we found that the Garrison was unable to spare us any supplies, being nearly exhausted, when we got there, what had been provided for themselves; but we concluded to remain there as long as we could to wait the Arrival of Genl. Hand or some Account from him. But during the Time of our Stay, two young men of the name of Hamilton and Gilmore went over the Kanahway one day to hunt for Deer. On their Return to the 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. Capt. Arbuckle and I were standing upon the opposite Bank, when the Gun fired and whilst we were wondering who could be shooting contrary to orders, or what they were doing over the River, we say Hamilton run down the Bank and called out saying: "Gilmore is Killed."

Gilmore was one of the Company of Capt. John Hall, of that part of the Country (now Rockbridge County), and a Relation of Gilmore, whose Family and Friends were chiefly cut off by the Indians in the year 1763, when Greenbrier was cut off. 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; and they brought the Corpse of Gilmore down the Bank covered with Blood and Scalped. They put him into a Canoe, and as they were passing the river, I observed to Capt. Arbuckle, that the people would be for Killing the Hostages, as soon as the Canoe would land, but he supposed they would not offer to commit so great an Outrage on the innocent, who were in no wise accessory 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 as pale as death with Rage. Capt. Hall was at their Head and leader. Arbuckle and I met them and endeavoured to dissuade them from so unjustifiable an Action, but they cocked their Guns, and threatened us with instant Death if we did not desist. They rushed by us into the Fort and put the Indians to death. On the preceding Day the Cornstalk's Son Elinipsico had come from the Nation to see his Father, and to Know if he were Well, or yet alive. When he came to the River opposite the Fort, he halloed over. His Father was at that Instant in the Act of delineating a Map of the Country and Waters between the Shawnee Towns and the Mississippi, at our request, with Chalk upon the Floor. He immediately recognized the Voice of his Son, got up, and went out and answered, and 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 with 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 that Killed Gilmore had come with Elinipsico the Day before. He utterly denied it, declared that he Knew Nothing of them, and trembled exceedingly. His Father encouraged him not to be afraid, for the Great Man above had sent him there to be Killed, and die with him. As the men advanced to the Door, the Cornstalk rose up and met them. They fired upon him, and seven or eight Bullets passed through him. Thus fell the great Cornstalk 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 Redhawk made an Attempt to go up the Chimney, but was shot down. The other Indian was Shamefully mangled, and I grieved to see him long in the Agonies of Death.

The Cornstalk 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. Nothing could have induced him to make the visit to the Garrison, at the critical Time he did, but to communicate the Temper and Disposition of the Indians, and their Design of taking part with the British. On the Day that he was Killed, we had held a Council, in which he was. 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 he and his party would have to run with the Stream, for all the Indians on the Lakes, and Northwardly, were joining the British. When he returned to the Shawnee Town, after the Battle at the Point, he called a Council of the Nation, to consult what was to be done, and upbraided the Indians, for their Folly in not suffering him to make Peace, on the Evening before the Batttle, saying: What 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 answer. He then said: 'Let us Kill all our Women and Children and go and fight till we die." But none would answer. At length, he arose and struck his Tomahawk in the Post, in the Centre of the Town House, and said, "I'll go and make Peace!" and then the Warriours all grunted out "Ough! Ough! Ough!" And Runners were instantly despatched to the Governour's Army to solicit a peace, and the Interposition of the Governour on their Behalf. When he made his Speech in the Council with us, he seemed impressed with an awful prediction 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," said he, "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!" And this Declaration concluded every sentence of his Speech. He was Killed about one hour after our Council broke up.

A few days after this Catastrophe, Genl. Hand arrived, but had no Troops, and 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 Lieut. Moore was ordered with a party to pursue them. Their Design was to retaliate the Murder of the Cornstalk.

Moore had not proceeded over one quarter of a Mile, until he fell into an Ambuscade and was Killed with several of his Men.

Revolutionary War