The Battle of Blue Licks Centennial
Monument Dedication, 1882
The Flemingsburg Times newspaper issued a supplementary issue on
August 26, 1882, which presented coverage of the centennial anniversary of the
battle of Blue Licks. The celebration was held on the battlefield on August 19,
1882. Those in attendance at the ceremony included, Governor L. P. Blackburn and
his staff, "the Historical Society Orators and Poet, descendants of the
heroes of the battle, distinguished invited guests, Carlisle Commandery of
Knight Templars, company of pioneers, five companies of State Guards, viz.,
McCreary guards, Lexington Guards, Blackburn Guards, Nuckols Buards, Emmett
Guards, citizens in carriages, citizens on horseback and citizens on
afoot." Several rather lengthy speeches were reported in the newspaper
The address of Mrs. Thomas L. Jones described portions of the battle as follows.
"Who of us that in days gone by were accustomed to visit the Blue Lick Springs does not remember the interest with which we listened to the thrilling story of the battle between the Indians and pioneers and how, when we drove to the battleground, we would stop to behold the spot, and to hear it told that there were the two ravines where the savages lay in ambush and whence they came up and surprised the whites.
Let us congratulate ourselves that we are assembled today, under circumstances so solemn and imposing to mark the spot on the sacred soil and to assist in laying the cornerstone of a monument to the brave men who here sacrificed their lives a hundred years ago.
It is appropriate that the Historical Society should participate in the impressive ceremonies of this centennial anniversary, and the ladies' branch, while uniting in doing honor to the heroes of this battle, embraces the opportunity to celebrate the bravery of the women of that pioneer period. History tells us that four days before the battle of the blue Licks, six hundred Indians, guided by the notorious Simon Girty, having appeared before Bryan's Station, demanded the surrender of the fort, and then was performed that ever memorable act of courage upon the part of the women.
The fort was destitute of water, the spring at some distance. The men dared not expose themselves to the fire of the savages, who were in ambush on either side, and in this dire necessity, they summoned the women, who with fearless composure, marched in a body to the spring, filled their buckets and retraced their steps in safety, bearing the life giving element in the suffering garrison. The siege was raised and the Indians disappeared. The fort having been reinforced, the pioneers were elated with hope, and rashly impetuous, without waiting for General Logan's superior force to join them, they pursued the savage foe and precipitated the attack, which resulted in the cruel slaughter of so many brave men.
The ridge, the ravines and the river were crimson with the blood of the flower of Kentucky's chivalry. The survivors fled in dismay to Bryan's Station, where the same noble women were ready to comfort and to cheer. Mourning was spread over the land as the lamentations resounded from settlement to settlement throughout the district. The incidents of that battle fill the bloodiest page in the annals of Kentucky pioneer warfare.
How forcibly do the recurrences of history serve to bring before us events of the past! In the now frequent deadly encounters with the Indians in the distant Territories are re-enacted the perilous adventure of our pioneer settlers. And when we recall the dreadful Indian massacre, only a few years ago of General Custer's force on the Little Big Horn, but on the far Western frontier, where fell our own gallant young Crittenden, we are somewhat taught what the grief must have been when messengers bore through the wilderness to the mother State, Virginia, tidings of bloody Blue Licks, where many an adventurous son had perished.
The names of the heroes of the Blue Licks have been consecrated within the life of the State of Kentucky. Their descendants and kindred have been from time to time, distinguished in the service of their country, and now occupy the high positions of Secretary of War and a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, whose dirge has so recently been sung, was a relative of Colonel John Todd, who here fell first in command.
Dear to the hearts of Kentucky are the names of al her heroes, dearer still will they become as time rolls on and other...to brighter her historical horizon and kindle the enthusiasm of her people. Amidst the enjoyment of our great prosperity and high advance it is difficult to realize the hardships and privations of a hundred years ago, nor can we ever learn all the trials, which our pioneer mothers so nobly endured in the settlement of this beautiful land. But we know that their energy, fortitude and courage have been inherited by their daughters. From the capture of Betsy and Fanny Calloway and Jemima Boone by the Indians in 1776, down to the latest days of danger, the women of Kentucky have exhibited an intrepidity worthy of admiration. In every war they have watched and waited and hoped. The battlefields, the hospitals and the prisons have witnessed deeds of female heroism, which may yet adorn the pages of history.
The women of our State would share with men in honor and laudation to her brave defenders. And we of the Historical Society, with reverence for the heroes slain at the Blue Licks, assist in laying the cornerstone of this Battle Monument, and when it shall rise, and the sculptor shall thereon inscribe the names and delineate the tragic scenes of August 19, 1782, let them mingle with the epitaph and be carved in bas relief, a grateful tribute to the noble women of Bryan's Station."
A portion of the address of Colonel John Mason Brown reviewed the history of the troubles with the Indians that led eventually to the Battle of Blue Licks. In a couple of areas, parts of a sentence was obscured by the fold of the newspaper. This is noted by (...) I also skipped some parts that just went on and on, rhetorically.
"From the time when John Finley, in 1767, crossing the Cumberland from North Carolina, penetrated to the valley of Elkhorn and the Kentucky River, and returning, told of the hunters' paradise he had found beyond the mountains, the romantic story takes its beginning. Who he was and who were two or three that bore him company in his adventure, we shall never know. No history of them has been written, nor has tradition preserved more than the mere name of Finley. But in no assembly of our people should his name be mentioned, save with honor, for he made the double discovery of the country of Kentucky and of Daniel Boone, its pioneer.
The story which Finley told of his expedition into the new country was listened to with eager ears by the adventurous men, who like himself, had already pushed their habitations far into the solitudes of Western North Carolina. The spring of 1769 saw him returning to his new found hunting grounds and with him the five companions whom every historian of our State must record as the advance guard of Kentucky. They were with the single exception of Boone, obscure men, whose past experience was of the rudest life, and to whom no dream of ambition or thought of fame was known. They filled their appointed place in the great drama that was preparing and passed into oblivion with the shifting of its first scene.
John Stuart, Joseph Holden, James Mooney and William Cool, with Finley and Boone were the first that ever Burst into the unknown West. (This is not the present day version of the first white men in Kentucky). It is much to be regretted that Boone in the brief narrative, which he dictated to Filson, did not identify more closely the spot, as he so accurately fixed the time, where the little band first was the glorious panorama of Central Kentucky.
'On the 7th June (so runs Boone's narrative), after traveling through a mountainous wilderness, in a western direction, we found ourselves on Red River, where John Finley had formerly been trading with the Indians, and from the top of an eminence saw with pleasure the beautiful level of Kentucke.'
A number of considerations, as well topographical as historical, seem to warrant the opinion that the spot whence Boone and his companions had this memorable first view of their promised land, must have been in the near vicinity of the Indian Old Fields, eastward of the town of Winchester and on the waters of Lulbegrad Creek.
Finley had trade in some small fashion with the Indians, as we learn from Boone and doubtless conducted his little party to the localities, which he had before best known. The Shawnees alone, of all the Indian tribes, had attempted a permanent settlement in Kentucky, and had as late as 1750, perhaps later, occupied a town on the Lulbegrud. The subsequent return of Boone to that vicinity and the ready explanation, which the topography of the country gives of his ultimate explorations along the watercourses and settlement at Boonesborough, seems to confirm the conjecture. But the office of Finley and Holden and Mooney and Cool and Stuart was as has been remarked, only to introduce to his new empire the prince of pioneers.
On the 22nd of December, Boone and Stuart were captured by Indians and escaped a few days later, only to find, on returning to their former haunts, that their comrades were gone and the camp destroyed.
The lonely survivors were cheered, however by the appearance of Squire Boone, who had with a single companion followed his brother into the wilderness, and by mere chance, discovered his camp. But Stuart was soon after killed by the Indians, and the stranger abandoned them, so that the brothers Boone spent the winter of 1769-1770 together, the only whites within Kentucky, an isolation only to be made absolute by the return of Squire Boone to North Carolina in May 1770. The pioneer was left alone without bread, salt or sugar or even a horse or dog.
It was from such a small beginning that our Commonwealth has arisen. The fortitude, the intelligent courage, the enthusiasm of one man, was the nucleus about which rapidly gathered an adventurous emigration from the older States...
The spring of the year 1782 opened upon what indeed, seemed an era of prosperity and security for the West. The surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in the preceding autumn had ended the War of Independence. Peace with England brought with it a recognized American title to the great Northwest as far as the lakes and beyond Detroit. The splendid dream of Clark, which none but Jefferson seemed fully to comprehend, was fulfilled in the cession of an empire. Strong men had come in numbers to seek fortune and adventure in the brakes and forests of Kentucky. Brave women encountered the hardships of the frontier, and followed husbands and fathers into the wilderness. Families had been established and children had been born to the pioneer. Already was cradled the generation of Kentucky riflemen destined to crush in after years, the great confederation of Tecumseh, and to assure the northern boundary of the Union.
The log cabin, which James Harrod built in 1774, first of log cabins in the wilderness of Kentucky, no longer stood solitary in the West. Around it others had risen and the hamlet of Harrodsburg been formed. At that place formal territorial councils had been held and resolutions of supreme public importance been taken. Louisville had begun to rise and a village to cluster at the Falls of the Ohio. Lexington had been named and settled, protected in its infant growth by the stations, which Todd, on the one side, and Bryant in another quarter, had for several years maintained. Stout Ben Logan held St. Asaph Station, near the present town of Stanford, and towards the North and East, on the southern tributaries of the Licking, lay Martin's and Ruddge's Stations, advanced posts, watching the incursion of the Mingos, the Shawnees, the Delawares, and the Wyandots, who dwelt beyond the Ohio. A growing sense of security prevailed.
Commerce too then plumed her wing for a more daring flight than two centuries had known. Filled with the inspiration of those brave days, Jacob Yoder in May 1782, built at Fort Redston, on the Monongahela, a large flatboat and loading it with produce, and manning it with a picked crew, he first of all carried commerce down the broad highway of the Ohio and Mississippi to the Spanish forts at new Orleans. The return of the adventurers was by way of Havana and Philadelphia and thence, through Fort Pitt, to the Falls of the Ohio, and thus was the trade of the South and West opened, by a veritable circumnavigation.
But if the pioneers, worn with the toils of unceasing warfare, and harassed by the continued incursion of their Indian foe, hailed with grateful hope this early dawn of the coming day of civilization and peace, a far different feeling agitated the breasts of their old enemies.
The peace with England ended the subsidies and material support that had given organized vigor to the Indian war. There were no longer at Detroit, or elsewhere along the border, men who, disgracing the uniform of a gallant army, and removed from the control of civilized opinion, incited the barbarities of savage war, and openly paid in British goods for the scalps of Americans.
Thirty years were to go by before Proctor should abandon his prisoners of war to a savage massacre, and Elliott permit the murder of the gallant Hart, whose hospitality he had received while himself a prisoner of war in Kentucky. The withdrawal of English aid brought serious reflection and well founded alarm to the abler men of the principle Indian tribes. The fear seemed to them a just one that the pioneers, who had in smaller numbers and against unexampled discouragements, withstood the Indians, armed and equipped by British aid, would now find it but a light task to wrest from their Indian foes all that they might want of the lands of the Northwest. It was the sad presage of Captain Pipe (Hopocan) the was chief of the Delawares, that when the whites ceased their wars, the Indians would be abandoned to an inevitable destruction. This apprehension was shared by all the most sagacious and influential of his race, and prepared them for concerted desperate action.
But most potent, perhaps, of all the immediate cause that led to the attack on the Kentucky settlements in 1782, and to the battle of the Blue Licks, was the malignant activity of the renegade Simon Girty.
The atrocities attributed to Girty or immediately associated with his name, exceed the horrors of even savage barbarity. To his bloody imagination the tomahawk and scalping knife were but the toys of war, and the slaughter of captives, without distinction of age or sex, the merest matter of course. His delight was in the prolonged torture of his victims and he seemed to enjoy a double pleasure in the exquisite torment of the sufferer, and the frenzied cruelty of the Indians, whom he knew only too well how to excite.
His rude and bold nature had received a sinister education and he seemed marked from his infancy to be the scourge of the frontier.
Simon Girty was one of four sons of an Irish emigrant, (who) settled in Pennsylvania, a vicious and drunken wretch, who was killed by his wife's paramour. The four boys were captured in early childhood by a war party and three of them permanently adopted an Indian life. George became a Delaware and continued with them until his death. He is said, of one well informed, to have lost every trait and habit that marks the white man and to have become an absolute savage. His fidelity to his adopted people never wavered, indeed, he knew no other kindred, and he surpassed the native Indian in that skill and cunning which is peculiarly his own. He is said to have been very brave and to have fought the whites with skill and distinction at the Kanawha, at Sandusky, and at the Blue Licks. Tradition has rated him as a mere Indian, and he has escaped the execration that attaches to his brother's name.
James Girty was adopted by the Shawnees. He passed, in his earlier life, repeatedly between the camp and war path of the Indian and the frontier rendezvous of most abandoned whites. He imbibed all the worst vices of both races and exaggerated them in the fury of an unbridled lust for carnage. His delight was to devise new and lingering tortures for captives and to superintend their application.
Even after disease had destroyed his power of walking, he would cause captive women and children to be force within his reach that he might hew them with his tomahawk. His life stands unrelieved by a single good deed or a single savage virtue. Once he pretended to warn some whites against an impending attack, but it seems probable that some cunning design was hidden behind it. It is possible as some have insisted, that much of the infamy that has been accorded Simon Girty, belongs properly to James. It may be that if it were possible to test the traditions, which have come down to us, an impartial judgment might absolve the more famous renegade from many a crime that has been laid to his charge. For Simon Girty showed intellectual qualities and at times was kindly beyond his brothers or the other renegade whites. He remembered Kenton as an ancient friend and saved his life. In other instances, he showed an almost pity. But (unreadable...in his earlier life as a warrior and before the ear 1778.
Simon Girty became, in his childhood, a Seneca Indian. They were his people and his friends. Though he wandered back at intervals to the verge of the white settlements, and was even for a brief time, Kenton's comrade as a spy for Lord Dunsmore's expedition, he returned again to his Indian life. His hatred of the whites seemed to be intensified when the Indian tribes took up the hatchet as allies of England and after 1778, he carried on an unrelenting war For such a man, stained with so many cruelties, abhorred and dreaded throughout the frontier, to return to his race, or hope to live within the pale of civilization, was impossible.
The peace with Great Britain left Girty no choice but that of the Indian life, so congenial to him, no occupation, but that of war to the death. Other whites too, had like Girty, become identified with the Indians, and had shared in their barbarities. Elliott and McKee, who had traded with the Shawnees, cast their fortunes with Girty and like him, devoted every energy to stirring up the Indians to war.
There were, therefore, abundant reasons why the year 1782 should have been signalized by a mighty effort against the Kentucky settlements. As has been seen, the leading Indians looked with dismay to their future, the renegade whites were desperate. But as often happens when affairs are ripe for great events, an occasion for revenge, and an argument for a great expedition, was furnished to the hands of Girty and his allies.
During the preceding year, an expedition of retaliation against the Wyandots had marched from the Pennsylvania frontier. It was followed in the early spring of 1782 by one under command of Williamson, who chose to think that the Christian Indians upon the Sandusky, where the Moravian Mission had been established, were participants in the Wyandots' forays. With a barbarity that might have shamed Girty, he caused forty men, twenty women and thirty-four children, whom he had captured to be murdered in cold blood. The awful deed was perpetrated with a formal deliberation that lent a more revolting horror to the tragedy. Williamson and his ninety men took a solemn vote and but sixteen favored mercy. The prisoners had been captured as they gleaned the poor remnants of their ravaged fields, planted under their missionaries' care, and cultivated as part of their education into a civilized life. And there they were murdered, all of them, defenseless and innocent fellow Christians.
The awful crime of Williamson and his party, far from exciting horror, roused only a frenzy of impatience to complete the work of extermination. Another expedition was at once organized against the towns of the Moravian Delawares and Wyandots upon the Sandusky. It rendezvoused not far from Fort Pitt o the 20th May, and was commanded by Col. William Crawford, the former trusted agent of Washington. Nearly five hundred men took part in it, all well armed and mounted, and the purpose of the march was ostentatiously declared; No Indian was to be spared, friend or foe, every red man was to die.
Indian chiefs and Girty and his fellows, found a ready response to their cry for resistance and revenge. So well were their measures taken that they killed and captured the greater part of Crawford's command. Williamson, the murderer of the Moravians, escaped, deserting homeward before the crisis of the expedition. The torture of Crawford and his death at the stake, the fiendish laughter of Girty, as he witnessed his agony and denied the wretched sufferer's prayer for speedy death, have come down to us in the narrative of an eye witness. The dreadful story need not be here repeated. The fortitude of the dying soldier was as conspicuous as were his agonies prolonged and acute. He died bravely and the story of his death is one of the most familiar examples of Indian barbarity.
Let us, however, now that a century has elapsed since that dark deed was done, recognize how great was the provocation that inspired Captain Pipe and his Indians. It was retaliation by extermination and torture on the part of the rude savage who knew no other code, against Crawford's open boast that he came to destroy friend and foe alike.
We may well fell a pride in the fact that, although the brunt of Indian vengeance was born by Kentucky, though her best blood paid the penalty of Williamson's crime and Crawford's error, no Kentuckian had lot or part in either. Neither expedition was suggested, organized, or promoted in any respect by the Kentucky settlers.
In all the chronicles of those long years from Finley's first journey in 1767 to the end of the Indian wars at the Battle of the Thames in 1813, no instance, save McGary's murder of Moluntha, occurs where Kentuckians met the foe on other than equal terms and in fair fight. Hundreds of instances attest their equal readiness for single combat or contest of numbers, and almost every encounter brought death to the pioneer or his foe, but the escutcheon of Kentucky has never been tarnished with the blot of cruelty, nor her lofty courage soiled, by massacre of the defenseless, or by indignity to prisoners of war.
The excitement of Crawford's expedition and the exultation that followed his defeat, enabled Girty and the chiefs to arrange with celerity and secrecy for a formidable incursion into Kentucky. The warriors ere flushed with victory and mad with hate. An army of whites had already been destroyed and the prestige of the Indian name restored by a victory in the open field over a well equipped force, commanded by a veteran and trusted officer. An achievement had crowned the Indian arms greater than the victory over Braddock or the successes of Pontiac and his allies. Heretofore ambuscade and surprise had been their reliance. Crawford's defeat and capture had shown that the Indian could defend his own country with equal numbers in the open field. The dream of Pontiac seemed realized, the confederation, which he had labored to organize, seemed now accomplished, and its mission at hand. The warriors of all that broad territory that stretched from the Ohio to the lakes and extended from the Wabash on the west to Fort Pitt and the Allegheny River on the east, were united in counsel and in hope. The concerted action of all the ablest chiefs gave direction to a universal impatience for a march in attack. The great league, which Pontiac had once before formed, and which in after years, was to be revived by Tecumseh, in the death struggle of the Indian power, was consolidated and ready for immediate e action. No opportunity ever presented itself to the Indian at one so full of hope and so stimulating to his patriotism.
The chiefs, in passionate language called for a march that was to recover their old hunting grounds, and at the same time, secure themselves from invasion. If the continued settlement of Kentucky were to be allowed without resistance, the fate of the Northwest was only too plain; but could the victorious league sweep from the soil of Kentucky the scattered occupants that in seven years' time had dotted its isolated center and exterminate the pioneers as Crawford had been defeated, then would the West be indeed regained and the Alleghenies become once more the bound to the white man's intrusion, and the bulwark of the Indian territory.
It was a large and bold design that inspired the able chiefs of the confederated tribes. Their purpose was to regain Kentucky...the entire West from the Gulf northward to the lakes, and that purpose must have succeeded but for the men whose bones lie buried here...
It was Monday, the 19th of August, just one hundred years ago. AS the morning advanced, the speed of the pursuit was quickened, for many unerring signs betokened that the enemy could not be very far in advance. Still all was order and circumspection, for the leaders were as prudent as they were brave and every man was a veteran. The advance continued still following the trace and well marked route of the foe. Yet not an Indian was seen nor any preparation for resistance observed. Farther still, the Kentuckians pressed on, vigilant against surprise and wary of ambuscade and still the enemy were unreached.
But as the column approached the Licking River, the advanced guard caught the first sight of Indians on the further bank. Girty had safely crossed the stream and felt that he had the vantage ground, as well as superiority of numbers.
The Indians, when first seen, were leisurely ascending the rocky ridge that leads up from the river on its southern bank. They were but few. They paused and seemed to regard the whites with indifference, and then disappeared over the crest of yonder hill.
Time has not yet effaced the features that then marked this spot. For ages, the grateful salt sulphur spring that gives it name, had been, the resort of countless buffaloes, whose sharp hoofs had worn away the soil and destroyed vegetation. The noble forest that crowned the surrounding scenery was there obliterated. The trace, which the pursuers had followed, coming down to the stream by a narrow and difficult approach on the south bank, led up the bare acclivity on the other side, surmounting its crest where a narrow ridge gave passageway between two ravines that spread on either side, with easy sweep towards the stream. Here it was that the Indians chose their battlefield.
A better choice could not have been made, whether the purpose were to resist an assault or lay an ambuscade. The warriors wee carefully secreted within the dense shrubbery that filled the ravines, and there awaited the approach of the whites.
The pioneers stopped on the southern bank for consultation. It must be plain to all who will recall the circumstances of the assembly and the march and bear in mind that the whole country was arouse and in motion to reinforce them, that the pioneers had but little cause to fear an attack. Their position was strong. Flanked by yonder difficult hills and protected by the river in their front, they might well have county on repelling assault and holding good their own until the coming up of their friends, would enable them to take the aggressive. There was no cause or reason for retreat, but the question of advance was one of profound moment.
Whose voice should have weight in such a crisis? Whose counsel should control or whose opinion govern? All eyes turned to the veteran, who better than living man knew the foe before them, and all listened with respectful attention to the simple reply he gave when interrogated by Todd. His plan was simple. It was to await the arrival of Logan, already on the march with more than two hundred men. With such a reinforcement, the Indians could be attacked and victory fairly expected. And when Logan should arrive, the old veteran further counseled, that the attack be not made directly up the rocky point, but by flanking the hills and ravines, so obviously dangerous.
Boone knew the locality perfectly well, for he had repeatedly visited it and four years before had been captured on the spot and led away a prisoner. He was entitled, by every right, to advise, and his advice met the approval of all the wiser and cooler men present...Todd and Trigg and Harlan certainly wished to await Logan's arrival...Major Silas Harlan had come in 1774, from Berkeley County Virginia and joined Harrod in his new settlement...Lt. Colonel Stephen Trigg was a much more recent immigrant to Kentucky, for he only came hither in 1779...It was at the battle of Point Pleasant and in the campaign of 1774 against the Scioto towns, that Todd had his first taste of war, and first proved his fitness for adventurous life...
The four officers chief in rank agreed that Logan's arrival should be waited for. The junior officers, Majors Levi Todd and McBride, Captains Patterson, Gordon, Bulger and others acquiesced. The entire command was content to obey the order to halt from those whose courage and judgment they implicitly trusted.
But there was one man whose restless and insubordinate nature and rash indifference to danger could not brook the delay. To his charge has justly been laid the disorder, the tumultuous and blind rush, the heedless and unhappy disregard of Boone's counsel and Todd's commands, the brave lives lost on that day.
The name of Major Hugh McGary will be remembered until Kentuckians forget the story of the pioneers. It will be mentioned whenever men tell of the battle of the Blue Licks. It will remain conspicuous in the annals of our earlier times. But it is a sad and unenviable fame that has survived him. Even his virtues of courage and endurance come down to us and will be further transmitted in our history clouded by the great misfortune of which he was the cause. He was a rude, brave, violent man. No early discipline, either of the family or the school, had taught him deference to the authority of others, or formed the habit of self-control. The resolute and tranquil philosophy of Boone he could not understand. The large and noble character of Logan was beyond his comprehension, and he despised the accomplishments of Todd and Trigg. His daring was proverbial, and his adventures as rash as they were numerous. But his bravest feats were of times the outgrowth of mere turbulence, and soiled by the inspiration of personal revenge. He rose not to the noble thought that a new people and a great State were to honor in the coming years, those who with unselfish courage should lay the foundations of the Commonwealth. Revenge for the loss of his horses was his highest motive for Indian war. Envy, too perhaps, unknown to himself, gave to his judgments of men and their motives, an often sinister cast. Happily, there is no other instance of that malign passion in the history or traditions of our pioneers.
He was foremost in every peril and prominent in every strife. His hot blood made him dangerous even to his friends, and he once was scarce prevented by his own wife form shooting down James Harrod in some trifling dispute.
It was he who, as late as 1788, murdered the old Shawnee, Chief Moluntha, simply because he had participated in the Battle of the Blue Licks, and with ruffian vociferation, denounced all who condemned the foul deed.
But the courage and reckless daring with which he courted peril made him a man of mark and value in those dangerous times. Offended perhaps at not being called into the consultation that had just been held, McGary chose to construe as a want of proper courage, the obvious prudence of his superior officers. A few hot words passed as he spoke with Todd and Boone and then with headlong impetuosity, he turned his horse's head and dashed into the stream, calling on all who were not cowards, to follow him.
The unfortunate example was contagious, whether it was that they imagined that the order for advance had been given or whether because of mere unreasoning enthusiasm, the hunter-soldiers followed with a shout and rushed in disorder across the ford. It was in vain, that Todd and Boone and Trigg and Harlan endeavored to restrain the excited crowd. Their men were deaf to entreaty and to command. The entire force passed the river, and they had no choice but to follow. With utmost difficulty a that was induce, after the crossing was accomplished on yon low ground, where the ridge comes down with its rocky base to join the narrow plain. Disorder reigned and authority had been defied. The scene lies there before us. Survey it and judge ye whose eyes have witnessed hard fought fields and who have been taught in the greatest of wars. Consider their difficulties and dangers, the peril of their new position and vindicate the memory of Boone and Todd.
The barrier of the river in front had been abandoned. Those flanking hills and the narrow ford, that forbade attack so long as the river intervened, could no longer afford protection to the little band. The river and its difficult passage was now in their rear. No kindly shelter covered either flank. In front was the rocky acclivity rising with rugged ascent to the point where the buffalo trace disappeared over the hilltop, its nakedness relieved only by the thick branches and stunted cedars that made it the more difficult to surmount.
To recross the river was impossible. McGary's insubordination had so infected the men that it was not to be though of. To remain in the new position was madness, even had the contest been one of equal numbers. No choice was left but to advance to where fortune should offer a new and safer halting place. With customary prudence, Boone advised a careful examination towards the front. The bold men sent forward to reconnoiter passed the ridge, inspecting as they went either side of the road. They examined with care those converging ravines and the narrow way between them at the crest. Still further they went, until they had explore a hl mile or more beyond. They were faithful men and brave, they were chosen because of their experience. How came it that they made report that no enemy was to be found?
Girty handled his Indians with ability and firmness. His clear judgment appreciated the prospect for a victory that the locality afforded him. He had enough of authority to cause his Indians to fall back noiselessly and rapidly on either side, back from the sides of the trace and from the ravines into the dense and secure cover of the adjoining hills. There they lay in perfect silence and secrecy while the reconnaissance was made. As the scouts passed in return towards the river, the Indians, with perfect order and in dead silence, moved back to their chosen position.
It was a masterly move, most difficult of performance and most completely performed. It stamps Girty as a soldier and his powers of command as extraordinary.
The report of the reconnoitering party was explicit and satisfactory. All had right to accept it; none discredited it. Even Boone's caution seems to have been satisfied and his apprehension allayed. The advance commenced.
Ranged in single line its center pursuing the trace, while o either hand the flanks extended beyond it, the little army was told off into three divisions. Boone was on the left, there towards the west; Trigg was on the right and with him the Harrodsburg troops. Todd remained in the center in general command, while Major McGary had charge of that body. In front of all Harlan with twenty-five men, moved up the trace as an advanced guard. The difficult march up the hill continued until Harlan had reached the crest, where the ravings converge. The mainbody was just surmounting the slope. The Kentuckians were well within the net, and the murderous fire began.
The Indians, from their secure cover and at short range, began their battle on the right. Trigg and nearly all the men from Harrodsburg fell in a brief space. Instant, Harlan was fired upon from both flanks and he and all his men but three were killed. The sudden and effective fire of the enemy checked the advance and threw the line into confusion. Girty instantly extended his line and turned the flank where Trigg had fallen and the Indians in overpowering numbers, rushed forward with tomahawk and rifle.
The resistance was desperate but hopeless. Todd rallied his men with voice and example. His white horse made him a conspicuous mark and it was not many minutes before he received a death shot through the body. Mounting again, careless of his mortal wound, he renewed his effort to hold the men around the spot where Boone was still contending on the left. But he day was lost. He was seen to reel in his saddle, the blood gushing from his wounds, and he fell.
The defeat became a rout. As may well be seen, the place afforded no shelter for a defeated force. The only hope of safety was in recrossing the river and regaining the ground which had been so rashly abandoned. The narrow ford was crowded with fugitives who fell in numbers as they attempted to escape. Last to leave the field was Boon and his young son, mortally wounded and borne in his father's army until death ended his agonies.
The wisdom of Todd and Boone had been dreadfully vindicated. McGary survived unhurt to witness, though he professed not to regret, the fearful consequences of his insubordinate folly. The renegade Girty had glutted his vengeance in the best blood of Kentucky, and pursued his way across the Ohio, no more to appear upon its soil. Thirty years were to pass before he should again confront Kentuckians in fight, and yield his life, where Tecumseh fell, to the rifles of the sons of the pioneers.
The day close. Its sun went down on an anguish that was unspeakable. Desolation and mourning had come to every station within the settlements, and sorrow was in every heart. For the fallen were good men of the people. They were the heads of families, the husbands of wives now unprotected, the fathers of little ones, now orphans in a wilderness. They were the hope of the rising state, its strong defense in its need; its tried and true and brave citizens.
In every settlement, in every cabin the dry of woe was heard. Those who had not lost husbands, wept for slain brothers, or cowered in agony at the though that strong fathers would never more return. No one but lamented a friend. The whole of the people was stricken sore. The common danger and the habit of mutual aid in their perils and privations, had made, as it wee, one family of all the pioneers.
Strong men wept as they comforted the widows of their friends, and vowed fatherly care for their little ones.
And while the universal grief went up for the slain and the bereaved, the hearts of men wee warmed with a noble glow as the unselfish bravery of that fatal day was told. Those who survived brought the word how gallantly Todd and Trigg and Harlan and McBride, Bulger and Gordon, Overton and McConnell, Lindsay and Graham, and Kennedy and Stewart and others, had died in the bloody fight. The country rang with praise of those who, like Netherland, were conspicuously heroic and like Reynolds, saved the lives of friends at the peril of their own.
The dreadful sacrifice was not in vain, for the fight of that day was the decisive struggle for supremacy in Kentucky. The men who died on this spot achieved in their death the future safety of their friends and the State. The last incursion of an Indian force had been attempted and no more, were able, and cruel men to assemble tribes and march savage armies into our border. The great danger was forever gone. The recovery of Kentucky was never again attempted. The homes of the pioneers were for all time secure. It was for this that the devoted band died, and this in their death they achieved. The result was worth the sacrifice, great as the sacrifice was. In the blood of that day was cemented the solid foundations of a powerful State. A victory was plucked from defeat.
The news of the disaster quickly reached Logan, who was pushing on with a strong reinforcement. Too late the survivors saw how Logan's aid would have saved the day. One melancholy duty only was to be performed. The mutilated bodies of the slain were reverently collected and interred on the field of battle. And here they have laid for an hundred years, sepulchered in the soil they loved so well. Their sleep has been the rest of warriors in honored graves.