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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

THE FIRST OF THE ARMIES

Of White Men That Ever Marched Through
Warren County, Ohio.

Was That of Col. John Bowman In His Expedition Against The Indian Town of Old Chillocothe Three Miles North of The Site of Xenia in 1779--Details of Campaign--
Newly Printed History.

December 1, 1910

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 26 August 2004
Source:
article from the book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow." by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

The first army of white men that ever marched thru Warren county and the Miami Valley was the one led by Col. John Bowman against the Indian town of Old Chillicothe in Greene county, early in the year 1779.
This army was composed chiefly of Kentuckians and accounts of the expedition as given by Kentucky historians have been conflicting and unsatisfactory. The most detailed relation yet published appears in the last number of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly and is printed from an original manuscript of the Draper collection in the possession of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The Draper Manuscripts.

Lyman C. Draper, who made this large collection of manuscripts, spent much of his life in gathering materials for biographies of border heroes by correspondence and by visits to the homes of pioneers and their descendants. He traveled over 60,000 miles on foot and horseback with a knapsack and large notebooks, interviewing back- woodsmen, many Indians and some of distinction. In 1857 he estimated that his materials comprised "Some 10,000 foolscap pages of notes of the recollections of warrior pioneers, either written by themselves or taken down from their own lips and some 50,000 more of original manuscript journals, memorandum books, and old letters written by nearly all the border heroes of the west." Dr. Draper intended to write and publish a series of biographies of border heroes, but these biographies were never written, and he died in 1891 leaving a wealth of material in manuscript for others to use. The result of his labors is a collection of 400 folio manuscript volumes which have been classified and indexed. His manuscript on Col. Bowman's expedition is now printed for the first time.

The Indian Town.

At the time of the expedition Ohio was a vast forest and nine years elapsed before the first permanent settlements were made at Marietta and Cincinnati. The expedition was directed against the Indian town of Old Chillicothe, situated on the east side of the Little Miami about three miles north of the site of Xenia. This was the first Indian town the early explorers found as they ascended the Little Miami. The town was well built, its center about 170 rods east of the river with a large fine spring between the town and the river. Extensive prairies lay adjoining the town which were cultivated by the Indian women and upon which large crops of corn, beans and vegetables were grown. All the towns of the Indians in the Miami country were situated on or near treeless plains which they could use for fields and gardens.
There were no Indian towns in Kentucky but the white settlements there were attacked by Indian war parties from the north side of the Ohio and the Shawnees from the towns on the Miamis were the most blood thirsty of the attacking parties. Early in 1779 Col. John Bowman who resided at Harrodsburg, planned an expedition against Old Chillicothe, and took the command of it in person. It was the first expedition planned in Kentucky against the Indians north of the Ohio.

The Rendezvous.

The militia from all the pioneer settlements in Kentucky were urged to join in the campaign. They were, after corn planting, to meet at the mouth of the Licking where Covington now is. From the figures given by Draper the expedition was a larger and more formidable one than has heretofore been supposed. On June 13, 1779, Col. Bowman wrote Gen. George Rogers Clark: "I had gathered 296 men." The following is given in the number of each company:

Capt. Logan's Co.................48 men
Capt. Harrod's Co................99 men
Capt. Holder's Co................58 men
Capt. Todd's Co..................28 men
Capt. Harlan's Co................43 men
Capt. Haggin's Co................19 men
Col. Bowman's Co.................1 man

Total 296

The largest of the companies, Capt. Harrod's, came from the Falls of the Ohio (Louisville). In it were a number of men from Redstone Old Fort in Pennsylvania on their way home, but who proposed to join the expedition. Capt. Harrod had been ordered by Bowman to bring boats to enable the troops to cross the Ohio, and two keel boats and three canoes were brought to the place of rendezvous for that purpose. The men from the Falls had arrived before the others and employed their time in hunting buf- falo, bear and deer for provisions.

March in the Wilderness.

On the morning of May 28, 1779, the army crossed the Ohio just below the mouth of the Licking, landing in the wilderness where is now the great city of Cincinnati. Of the 296 men thirty-two remained to guard the boats and the remainder set forward for the Indian town. On the march one of the men was bitten by a rattlesnake and he was sent back with a comrade to the boats with orders to be sent to the Falls of the Ohio.
The army marched along an Indian trail. The course is not given except they made their way to the Little Miami which they were to follow to the Indian town. It is probable that this army followed the same course afterward taken by George Rogers Clark in 1780 and by Harmar in 1790, and that they passed by the sites of Sharon and Lebanon and crossed to the east side of the Little Miami about a mile below the mouth of Caesar's creek.
The men were mostly on foot, not very heavily encumbered, each man carrying a peck of parched corn and some dried or "jerked" meat. Firing was interdicted after crossing the river. Following their guides they marched rapidly, intending to surprise the Indians. The distance to the Indian town from the Ohio was estimated at sixty- five miles. The army arrived within ten miles of town at dusk on the evening of the second day, having made 55 miles in two days. Not an Indian had been seen on the whole march, and the commander was sanguine of surprising the enemy.

The Battle.

After a council the last ten miles were made in the night, and the prairie near the town was reached after midnight. It was planned that the men should remain quiet until daylight when the town was to be attacked in three divisions. It was not long, however, before the Indians' dogs set up a loud and persistent barking. Un- fortunately a lone Indian hunter, making his way to town, neared some of the men and he was shot and scalped. This shot alarmed the town and some Indians came out in the direction of the report to ascertain the cause, and the attack was begun before daylight. The battle continued until the sun was about two hours high. Most of the Indian warriors took refuge in the council house which was strongly built and from it they could not be dislodged.
The whites plundered the abandoned huts and then set them on fire. They secured a considerable quantity of booty and captured 180 of the Indian's horses in an open space near the town. By nine o'clock marching orders were given for the army to start upon its return after a loss of eight men. The noted leader of the Shawnees, Black Fish, was wounded in the knee and died about six weeks later.
Before the march homeward began, a negro woman living with the Indians, came to the whites and told them that Simon Girty, with one hundred warriors from Piqua, twelve miles distant, was coming to the assistance of the Redmen. The story was not believed by the officers, but it caused alarm among the men.

Homeward March--Spoils of War.

After making fourteen miles on the homeward march the Indians were discovered in pursuit, and they continued to annoy the men. Three of the whites were wounded on the march, none killed. A detachment charged upon the pursuers and routed them. In this engagement the only one between the Indians and the whites in Warren county, one Indian was killed. After this they were not again molested.
The army took a different course on its homeward march and reached the Ohio just above the mouth of the Little Miami where they found the boats waiting for them. Once again in Kentucky, the men rested at their ease en- camped by a fine spring. Hunting and fishing supplied the famished men and the pea-vines, wild clover and wild rye furnished abundant food for the horses.
The number of horses captured from the Indians and brought safely to Kentucky was 163. It was now agreed to have a sale of the horses and other booty and the amount realized was to be equally divided. The sale realized over 32,000 pounds giving each man over 100 pounds in the depreciated continental currency. When a man bid in more than his share he was expected to pay over to his captain the surplus after reaching home. But the men were so widely scattered that no collection were ever made so that each man received as his reward just what was struck off to him at the sale.


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This page created 26 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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