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Four Militia Soldiers from Powell Valley Slain

By Emory L. Hamilton

From the unpublished manuscript, Indian Atrocities Along the Clinch, Powell and Holston Rivers, pages 227-231.

Captain Andrew Lewis, Jr., who was in command of the militia troops on the Virginia frontier, with his headquarters at Fort Lee, in the Rye Cove of Scott Co., VA, wrote to the Governor of Virginia, December 19, 1793, (1) thusly:

Agreeable to the Governor's request to me, the following is a statement of manner in which Captain (James) Hawkins' company sustained the loss in October last. On the first day of November I received the information as represented to me - supposed the officer to have acted with neglect. I immediately wrote to Captain Hawkins to inquire into the conduct of the officer and to report to me. On receipt of my letter he came to Fort Lee and reported as follows: 'That he had went out with a party of about 20. After crossing Cumberland Mountain he fell on the sign of 2 or 3 Indians making into the inhabitants; that he directed a small number of his men to follow that trail in and give the settlements notice, which they refused. He then said he would take a few men, come in himself, and the other party consisting of 15 men might go on, which he did, and ordered the party that went to observe the directions of Samuel Oxer (Auxier), a Scout. After going on some time, they fell on the sign of about 10 Indians and pursued them; although the signs appeared fresh, they observed no order, but shot at turkeys, etc., until discovered by the enemy who lay in ambush for them. Just before they came to the enemy Samuel Oxer left them to kill some provisions - had got but a very small distance from the party, when he came upon the Inidans' knapsacks and fell to plundering them - while at that he heard the party fired upon; at which fire Hobbs, Stennett, Fowler, and Knowles fell - the rest fled precipately.' I cannot help regretting the loss of the men - at the same time hope it will be a warning to officers, or rather convince them the necessity of soldiers obeying orders, but no doubt, but he intended well.

Again on the 24th of December, 1793, Captain Lewis wrote to the Honorable James Wood, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, (2) saying:

On conversation with Colonel Charles Cox (Cocke) of Lee County, who appears to be a disinterested person, have collected the following information respecting Captain James Hawkins' conduct in respect to the loss of his troops on the 22nd of October last: 'Horses had frequently been stolen by the Indians, and was generally supposed to be camped over Cumberland Mountain. Captain Hawkins took a part of his company, the number 19, including himself, to endeavor to find them out. After going the distance of about forty miles, he fell on the sign of a small party of Indians making toward the settlements. He proposed then that four men should return on that sign and give the inhabitants notice. There appeared an unwillingness in their disposition to return. At length a non-commissioned officer proposed to return if Captain Hawkins would go with him, which he consented to do with three men. Came in and set the people on their guard. He then directed the main body of his men to take the back trail of the party that they were on and follow it over the mountain, then to turn up the north side of the same, and so into the settlements, and directed them to observe the orders of Samuel Oxer, a Scout, but having no respect to the orders given, they proceeded the distance of about 35 miles over the mountain and fell on the sign of about 10 Indians; followed that a day and a half, paying no respect to orders, firing at everything they met with until discovered by the enemy, who waited on their sign, fired on them, the superior in number, they fled precipatately.

Just where the four soldiers were killed in Kentucky, across the Cumberland mountains from Powell Valley cannot be pinpointed. The four that were killed cannot be traced through the records since no first names are given, but they were probably local residents of the area, certainly the name Hobbs is a Lee County resident.

The scout, Samuel Oxer, was a son of Michael Oxer, who died on Little Copper Creek, prior to 22 March, 1780. Samuel Oxer, at the age of 15 years enlisted in the militia and served the last three years of the Revolutionary War; migrated from Russell Co., VA, to the Blockhouse Bottom near the mouth of John's Creek, Big Sandy River - then Mason County, subsequently Floyd County, and was instrumental in settling Harman's Station near there. Was killed in 1798 or 1799 by being thrown against a tree by his horse that he was riding on a buffalo hunt, married in Virginia in 1779, Sarah (Sallie) Brown (born about 1763, died about 1862), daughter of Nathaniel Brown, and niece of Thomas C. Brown, Revolutionary War soldier. Samuel Oxer was at Kings Mountain in Captain James Dysart's company. (3)

Samuel Oxer was a brother of Simon Oxer who was one of three men who defended Bush's Fort against the attack of 17 Indians in 1783, when Ann Neece was tomahawked and scalped. Also a brother of George Oxer in whose care the McClure family were placed after their rescue from the Indians.

The Oxer family of Russell Co., VA, were of French extraction, all leaving this area and settling in Floyd Co., KY, where the descendants spell the name "Auxier". Old Michael Oxer who die don Little Copper Creek and father of the above mentioned was born in France.

(1) Virginia State Papers, Vol. VI, page 393.
(2) Virginia State Papers, Vol. VI, page 707.
(3) Early Families of Southeastern Kentucky, Kozee, 1961.
NOTE: The Hobbs who was killed was William, son of Vincent, Sr., and brother of Vincent, Jr., who later, the next year, killed the half-breed Indian chief Benge.

This file contributed by: Rhonda Robertson

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