Published on January 30, 2013 by Carol
The Virginia frontier’s development was impacted by terms of two treaties following the colonial wars with the French:
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White settlers, many from Virginia, ignored the treaties from the beginning. Thousands crossed the Appalachians and lesser numbers pushed beyond the Ohio. Clashes between the races became increasingly frequent. In May 1774, eleven Mingos were killed in a confrontation near present-day Steubenville, Ohio; included among the dead were the father, brother and sister of Logan, a Mingo chief. Many natives in the area wanted full-scale war against the white intruders, but the Shawnee chieftain Cornstalk resisted.
Logan sought out the perpetrators of the killings and led an attack into western Pennsylvania. Thirteen whites were killed during the foray, prompting the British commander at Fort Pitt to stage counterattacks against a series of Mingo villages.
The governor of Virginia at this time was John Murray, the fourth earl of Dunmore. Lord Dunmore had served in the House of Lords prior to a brief stint as governor of New York. Dunmore was a staunch supporter of the Crown and on three occasions closed down the Virginia legislature as a means to dampen patriot enthusiasm.
Dunmore’s decision to inject himself into frontier warfare has been the subject of considerable speculation. Some have argued that he was concerned about the growing number of Pennsylvanians crossing the mountains into the west and wanted to advance the claims of Virginians. Others have maintained that Dunmore was totally self-serving and was simply trying to open the west for his own speculative ventures.
The governor prepared a two-pronged offensive, one directed against the natives in the Kentucky (present-day West Virginia) area; the other, led by Lord Dunmore himself, marched toward Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania.
The defining event of Lord Dunmore’s War occurred under the leadership of Andrew Lewis, who led his force into the Little Kanawha valley. The presence of a British force in native lands convinced Cornstalk that he should discard his moderation and form a large war party. In the Battle of Point Pleasant (October 10, 1774), the Shawnee were defeated and forced northward to the villages across the Ohio River.
The Shawnee, Mingo and Delaware later signed the Treaty of Camp Charlotte (near present-day Chillicothe, Ohio), in which they pledged to allow free navigation on the Ohio River, to return all captives and release their claims to the lands south and east of the Ohio (the first time that the actual residents of the area had made such an agreement).
By the middle of 1775, Lord Dunmore had managed to alienate all of Virginia. In June, he took his family and fled to the safety of a British warship, which he thereafter judged to be the seat of government. On November 7, Dunmore issued a proclamation offering freedom to slaves and indentured servants who would leave their rebellious masters and fight for the Crown. The appeal did not meet with success and Dunmore soon returned to England to resume his seat in the House of Lords.