Currently Browsing: Blog

Why I am Still Patriotic

For the past couple of years, I’ve chosen a word to summarize my focus for that year. In 2021, it was Patience. And, boy, did I need it that year, between lingering Covid and Al having some pretty serious surgery that involved a very long recovery.

This year, my theme is Hope. And, again, I find that I set myself an appropriate challenge. We have an important mid-term election coming up, and it seems that many people feel despair that our country can ever overcome the terrible divisiveness of the past five years. I admit that I’m not especially optimistic, at least over the short term. I don’t necessarily feel hopeful. But, similar to faith, I believe that hope is a verb more than a feeling. I believe that hope is in what we do. So, I will be canvassing for my preferred candidates every Saturday between now and the election.

Do I love doing that? No, I do not. The weather isn’t always agreeable, and people aren’t always happy to see you. But I will make myself do it because, in spite of the rancor of the past five years, I still love my country. One of my five-star books for 2021 was about the topic of patriotism, and I’m republishing my review here because I don’t have any better words to explain why I’m still patriotic, and why I’ll be out there canvassing regardless of weather, and regardless of slammed doors and argumentative rightists. God bless America!

My Review of Reclaiming Patriotism

My heart broke on November 8, 2016. I have always been patriotic, but I have struggled since 11/8/2016 to maintain my faith and pride in my country. 1/6/2021 didn’t help.

This book was like an elixir. Smith is a professor of Philosophy and Political Science at Yale, and his writing reflects that. He doesn’t just expound his own opinions at the reader. Referencing sources from Aristotle to the Federalist papers, he relies especially on Lincoln’s speeches and writings, in his defense of patriotism.

He defines patriotism as loyalty to one’s home country in the first chapter. Then he contrasts patriotism with both nationalism and cosmopolitanism. And, finally, in the last two chapters he describes what enlightened patriotism looks like and discusses the values and character of the United States, the things that we can love and take pride in.

This book took me a couple of weeks to read. It was both intellectually and emotionally dense for me. I had to read a little, and then ponder what I’d read before reading more. But it was well worth it.

In a nutshell, Smith’s argument is that you can recognize that your nation is flawed and still love it. You can respect that other people love their own countries, too, and still love you own. It isn’t even necessary to think, as many Americans do, that you live in the best country in the world. You can still love America because it is your own. Your home.

I thought about how the people of America gave me an education. I thought about how my family would have lost our home after my dad died, if the American people hadn’t sent us Social Security survivor’s benefits every month. My country has given me so much. This is my home. I enjoy French culture and language, but I don’t love France. I didn’t grow up in Paris or on the wide plains of the French countryside. Instead, I grew up in the hills and valleys of Appalachia, and there lies my heart.

But those affinities – “habits of the heart” as Smith calls them – aren’t the only reasons to love America. Smith mounts a full-throated defense of all that is good about our country, all that is worth loving. First and foremost, our dedication to the notion of the “equal moral dignity” of every human being. Have we always fully lived that principle? Obviously not. But, to an extent that no other nation can match, it is our creed. Smith also calls out our Constitution, which has managed to maintain rule of law for almost 250 years. He also points to our cultural, artistic, economic and scientific achievements. And I would add that we have also defeated tyranny twice in the past century. That’s a record to be proud of.

You can weep for our country’s flaws and errors. I certainly do. But this book reminded me that nations are like human beings: tragically flawed and gloriously noble both at the same time. It reminded me that I am not free to give up on our country any more that I am free to give up on the people I love. It gave me back my hope and pride


The Pressed Steel Car Strike

One of the bloodiest battles of the early twentieth century labor movement took place just a few miles from downtown Pittsburgh, in my old hometown of McKees Rocks.

Imagine earning only $122* for 110 hours of work over eleven days. You pay $400* a month to rent half of a small company-owned duplex. You have to buy all your groceries and supplies at inflated prices at a company store. On average, of the 6000 men working in your plant, one dies in an industrial accident every day. And your wife or daughter may be asked for sexual favors to help you keep your job or to forestall payment on your debt at the company store.  

These conditions led to The Pressed Steel Car Strike in 1909. It was the most significant labor dispute in the Pittsburgh area since the 1892 Homestead Strike, and a precursor to the Great Steel Strike of 1919.

*Note: all dollar amounts in this post adjusted to 2022 dollars

The P&LE and the Pressed Steel Car Company

The Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad started business in 1879, transporting coal, coke, iron ore, and limestone into Pittsburgh’s steel mills, and transporting the finished steel out. They located their 100-acre repair and maintenance center in McKees Rocks in 1888. The railroad employed thousands over the years, including one of my uncles. Immigrants flocked to the Rocks for the work opportunities. By 1920, the population of the town reached 14,702, 42% of which were immigrants. Between 1879 and 1920, many Italian and Slavic immigrants arrived, adding to the German and Irish populations already settled in the Rocks.

In 1899, in Joliet, IL, the Pressed Steel Co. and Fox Solid Press Steel Co merged to form The Pressed Steel Car Company. Run by Frank Norton Hoffstot, the company manufactured passenger and freight railroad cars.

At the time, it was the second-largest rail car producer in the United States. Locating a plant in McKees Rocks near the railroad hub and so much cheap labor seemed like a no-brainer.

Background of the Strike

By 1909, the plant employed 6000 men of sixteen different ethnicities, most of them foreign-born. But it had a reputation for brutal oppression. Workers called it “the last chance” and “the slaughterhouse.” The priest of St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in the Rocks said that “men are persecuted, robbed and slaughtered, and their wives are abused in a manner worse than death. . . all to obtain or retain positions that barely keep starvation from the door.”

Laborers worked under a “Baldwin contract,” a form of labor pooling. The company parceled out jobs in lots to foremen who contracted to get the work done for a set sum. The less the foremen paid the workers under them, the more they got to keep for themselves. So, the foremen had a strong incentive to race each other to the bottom of the pay scale. And workers couldn’t count on the size of their paychecks from one project to the next.

A newspaper reporter investigated the pooling scheme and found that one worker worked nine days, ten hours a day, and received pay of $89.53*. Before pooling, workers had averaged as much as $130* a day. But after pooling went into effect, average pay plummeted to $16* per day.

The strike begins

July 10, 1909, was a payday. Many workers noticed that their pay seemed especially scanty on that day, even less than the paltry amount they had bargained for. They demanded to speak to plant management. The managers refused. Violence erupted immediately.  The first fatality was an immigrant worker named Stephen Horvat. More deaths would follow.

The leaders of the strike were a former German metalworker and union leader, Hungarian veterans of railway strikes, and three Russians who had been involved labor strife in St. Petersburg in 1905.

Five thousand of the plant’s 6000 workers joined the strike. Three thousand more from the Standard Steel Car Company of Butler also went out on strike in solidarity. The carpenters’ union sent wagons of food, and the Pittsburgh Leader newspaper took up a collection. Sensing an opportunity, the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, sometimes called the “Wobblies”) came to the aid of the strikers. Big Bill Haywood himself, leader of the IWW, even showed up.

The company wasted no time in hiring scabs. By the end of July, 100 new workers had been brought into the plant, On July 14, a riverboat pulled up to deliver more strikebreakers. The strikers fired on the boat, forcing it to retreat. When deputy sheriffs tried to intervene, a riot broke out, resulting in 100 injuries from rocks, clubs and bullets. A mob of 1000 strikers attacked fifty mounted officers and broke a state trooper’s leg. Law enforcement got orders to shoot to kill.

Escalating Violence

On July 23, the company established an “information bureau” where workers could state their grievances. But the strike, and the violence, continued into August. In mid-August, the company hired 450 more strikebreakers.  On August 19, strikers attacked streetcars bringing workers into the plant. On August 21, they shot at the company doctor, W. J. Davidson, as he approached the plant. Workers’ wives also joined the rioting. When state troopers and local deputy sheriffs arrived, the strikers attacked them, too.

By August 22, 200 state constables (whom the Slav workers called “Black Cossacks”) and 300 deputy sheriffs had been deployed to protect the strikebreakers. That day, when strikers again boarded a street car to turn back scabs, armed deputies confronted them and opened fire.

The next day, the rioting strikers killed the deputy sheriff, Harry Exley. On August 22 and 23, the bloodiest days of the strike, Exley, two state troopers, and at least ten strikers lost their lives.

The Strike Ends

The tide of the strike turned on a newspaper photograph and an ill-advised attack on company housing.

The workers’ housing stood near the plant, in the little neighborhood called Presston (also known as Hunky Town). The area remained rural enough that workers had gardens to supplement their diets.

During the strike, the company began to evict workers, who were neither working in the plant nor paying their rent. On August 21, a local newspaper published a photograph of one family’s eviction. The photo included the heartbreaking feature of a baby buggy loaded into the wagon of possessions being carted away, and it gained much outraged sympathy for the workers.

Then, on August 23, state troopers stormed Presston to facilitate the evictions, attacking both men and women.

The Strike’s Legacy

The work stoppages and the bad publicity forced the company to settle the strike on September 8. The pooling practice ended. Wages were increased. The company began to offer English classes to immigrant workers. They improved housing in Presston, built a playground and planted trees. For many years after, the company sponsored free annual festivities on Independence Day, with races, garden competitions and cash prizes.

Workers won a victory on September 8, 1909, part of the labor movement’s long progress towards decent pay and working conditions.

The community of Presston still stands, in the form of about 200 duplex houses on Ohio and Orchard Streets.

The Pressed Steel Car Company went on to contribute significantly to the World War Two industrial effort, designing and produced tanks, gun carriages and motor carriers. The company was bought by U.S. Steel in 1956.

The P&LE Railroad went out of business in 1992.

The McKees Rocks Bottoms, where the P&LE yard and the Pressed Steel Car plant stood, is still home to a small railyard and several industrial plants, including Tudi Mechanical Systems, Standard Forged Products, and McKees Rocks Forgings. An historical marker and small memorial live on a nearby corner. The memorial is adorned with ten small American flags: one for each of the workers’ lives lost on August 22, 1909.

Presston early 20th century

Presston today. The 1899 duplexes still stand.

Sources

Agreen, Bernadette Sulzer, and the McKees Rocks Historical Society. Images of America: McKees Rocks and Stowe Township. Charleston, SC: Acadia Publishing, 2009.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressed_Steel_Car_strike_of_1909#:~:text=The%20Pressed%20Steel%20Car%20strike%20of%201909%2C%20also,private%20security%20agents%2C%20and%20the%20Pennsylvania%20State%20Police.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressed_Steel_Car_Company

https://www.post-gazette.com/business/businessnews/2009/08/16/Pressed-Steel-Car-strike-in-McKees-Rocks-reaches-centennial-anniversary/stories/200908160200


Nemacolin’s Trail

The Old National Road is the gift that keeps on giving. This summer, Al and I realized that we’d given the Maryland section of the road short shrift, and we decided to return and do it justice.

Nemacolin

The section of National Road between Cumberland, MD, and Brownsville, PA, is also called Nemacolin’s Path or Nemacolin’s Trail. I was especially curious about Nemacolin’s contribution, because of my recent interest in the original natives of our area.

Nemacolin, of course, also has a very swanky resort in the Laurel Highlands named after him. He was born in 1715 near Brandywine Creek and a Swedish trading post that later became Fort Christina and, still later, Wilmington, Delaware.

His father was is variously named as either Checochinican or Leni Lenape, a chief of the Fish Clan of the Turtle tribe of the Delaware/Lenape nation.

The Delaware nation originally lived along the Delaware River in New Jersey. They spoke a form of Algonquin and were related to the Miami, Ottawa and Shawnee. The other Algonquin tribes called them “grandfathers” because they believed the Delaware were the most ancient Algonquin tribe. The tribe had moved west as the British encroached on New Jersey and Delaware.

By treaty with William Penn in 1726, the tribe ceded their land on both sides of the Brandywine. Thus, Nemacolin grew up near Shamokin, PA, in a village along the Susquehanna River. The Indians called Shamokin “Schahamokink” (“place of eels”). An Indian tribe called the Saponi had already settled there. The came from North Carolina or Virginia and spoke a Siouan language. Their name may have come from the Siouan word for black: “sapa”. Or it may have come from the name of a female goddess of their religion, Sepy. In the seventeenth century the English explorer John Lederer described them as “governed by an absolute Monarch; the People of a high stature, warlike and rich.”

Nemacolin and the National Road

Nemacolin and his family later moved south and west and lived for a while with the Cresap family. Thomas Cresap was born in 1702 in Skipton, Yorkshire. He later settled as a farmer and trader near Wills Creek in present-day Cumberland.

In 1750, Cresap was commissioned to improve the old Indian path through the Cumberland Narrows, across the Appalachian Mountains.

Cresap hired his friend Nemacolin and Nemacolin’s two sons to help with the stretch between Wills Creek and Redstone Creek (present-day Brownsville, PA). Christopher Gist oversaw their work, which crossed harsh, mountainous terrain.

Later during the French & Indian War, Gist led George Washington along the trail, which became part Braddock’s Trail, then Forbes Trail, and finally the National Road.  

Nemacolin lived to see the British increasingly encroach on his tribe’s land. The treaty of Easton in 1758 compelled the Delaware to move to the Ohio Territory. There, they fought with the Iroquois and were driven further west. Many lived along the Muskingum River in eastern Ohio, or along the Auglize River in the northwestern part of the state. Similar to Guyasuta’s Mingo, the Delaware tried to stay neutral in the American Revolution.

After the Revolution, the Delaware struggled against more white encroachment in the Ohio territory. They were part of the force defeated by General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. They lost most of their land in the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, and the rest in 1829. Finally, they moved west of the Mississippi River.

Nemacolin eventually moved his tribe to a Shawnee town on Blennerhassett Island in the Ohio River. The island sits on a stretch of the river between West Virginia and Ohio, along Route 50. Nemacolin died there in 1767.

Our Drive Along Nemacolin’s Trail: Cumberland

We began at the official start of the road in Cumberland. Cumberland, Maryland, is a small, pretty city with lots of nineteenth-century architecture and much of historical interest. The people there are very friendly and helpful. When we had trouble locating the site of the National Road’s start, we stopped at a museum to see if we could find information there. The museum was closed, but the County Comptroller’s Office next door was open. The clerk there directed us to the railroad station across the street and told us we could leave our car parked in her office’s free parking lot. At the railroad station, we met a very knowledgeable local who took the time to point us to abundant historical resources. Again and again in our travels, we find people who love their hometowns and are eager to share them.

In addition to the starting point of the National Pike, Cumberland was home to George Washington’s headquarters during the French & Indian War. The building still stands.

The town is also home to both the old C&O Canal and several Civil War sites. We vowed to return and explore those at a future date.

Our Drive Along Nemacolin’s Trail: LaVale Tollhouse and Casselman Bridge

Along the drive to from Cumberland to Brownsville, we also explored another toll house, the LaVale Tollhouse. It looked very much like the ones we’d seen last year. But each toll house is different in what it provides. This one had a very nicely reproduced interior (see photos below). And we learned that the toll collectors were paid $200 per year, in addition to their free lodging in the toll house. The collectors had to be alert, because many people tried to avoid paying the toll. We learned, too, that the LaVale Tollhouse collected almost $10,000 in tolls in its first year of operation.

We also discovered the magnificent Casselman River Bridge, now surrounded by a pretty Maryland state park. This stone arch bridge, dating to 1813, remained in use until the rerouting of Route 40 in 1933. When it was constructed, it was the largest single-span stone arch bridge in the United States. Presidents James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, James Polk, Zachary Taylor, and Abraham Lincoln all crossed this massive, well-maintained stone bridge.

Nemacolin’s Trail ends at Brownsville, which we had visited last year. The improvements to this old Indian Trail between Wills Creek and Redstone Creek mark the true birth of the National Road, sixty years before its official start.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemacolin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemacolin%27s_Path

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamokin,_Pennsylvania

https://www.ancestry.com/genealogy/records/nemacolin-native-american-24-2z6gyhz

https://www.ancestry.com/genealogy/records/nemacolin-native-american-24-2z6gyhz

https://ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Delaware_Indians

https://www.nps.gov/articles/a-long-legacy.htm#:~:text=In%20response%20to%20these%20tensions,expansion%20quickly%20nullified%20the%20agreement.


Guyasuta’s Final Chapter

Like smaller, weaker nations always and everywhere, the American Indians were blown in all directions by the hurricane of the American revolution. By 1778, only the Delaware and Oneida sided with the Americans. Across Iroquois country, Indian villages suffered attack by either the Americans or the British or Indians who sided with one or the other. The Indians near Fort Niagara were attacked so viciously that the very cold winter of 1779-80 left them close to starvation.

Ever the displomat, Guyasuta accompanied Cornplanter to the fort to plead with the British for help. It was their only hope. By this time, the Iroquois ability to hunt or wage war was so weak that they were reduced to begging.

Although offered only minimal help by his British allies, Guyasuta returned to the Ohio country in 1780 . He urged the Mingo people to remain loyal to the crown. Later in 1780, he led thirty Wyandot warriors in an attack on the Americans’ Fort McIntosh.

The Delaware and the Americans continued to attack Mingo villages. And Guyasuta became impatient with the British refusal to provide either protection or retribution. In the summer of 1782, he participated in a raid on the Patriot town of Hanna’s Town. The one-day fight destroyed thirty homes, dozens of acres of crops and 100 cattle. The town was never rebuilt. It was Guyasuta’s last battle.

In the 1782 Treaty of Paris that officially ended the war, the British signed over to the Americans all of their territory east of the Mississippi River. No one had consulted the Indians who lived there. They had no representative at the peace conference.

In 1784 and 1785, the Iroquois and the Mingo signed peace treaties with the United States, confirming the terms of the Treaty of Paris. But it was a mere formality. All was already lost. Once again, Guyasuta had backed the losing side.

The (Iroquois) Empire Strikes Back

The white men weren’t the only ones who broke treaty terms. Although the Indians had signed a peace treaty with the new United States, many young warriors refused to honor it. With the authority of the old Iroquois Confederacy weakened, bands of young warriors conducted freelance raids. Gradually, a new western confederacy of anti-treaty warriors emerged, supplied by British Canada. The frontier was still a dangerous place for isolated white settlers.

Against Guyasuta’s and Cornplanter’s objections, a former Mingo ally named Thayendanegea (also called Joseph Brant) assembled a force of 1500 warriors from the Wyandot, Shawnee, Delaware, Ottawa, Chippewa, Miami, Mingo, Creek and Cherokee tribes. Between 1786 and 1791, Thayendanegea’s army and their allies massacred 1500 settler families.

In 1791, President George Washington sent an army into the Ohio country led by Arthur St. Clair. But a near-bankrupt Congress could supply the army very poorly, and most of them were militia or 6-month draftees. Of the 2000 troops mustered, 600 deserted. The Miami general Little Turtle easily defeated St. Clair’s force.

Logstown: The Birthplace of the Professional United State Army

But Washington didn’t triumph in the Revolution by being a quitter. By the winter of 1792, Washington had selected General Anthony Wayne to lead the next attempt. Similar to Forbes in 1755, Wayne took a more methodical approach than his predecessor. From the 2500 soldiers remaining in the Continental Army and some new recruits from Pittsburgh, Wayne established the Legion of the United States.

He built a training camp at the abandoned site of Logstown (see this previous post), renaming it Legionville. Wayne spent the winter training and drilling his new army, which included Meriweather Lewis, William Clark and future president William Henry Harrison.

By this time, Guyasuta was about 70 years old. He had settled with two wives on a piece of fertile land along the Allegheny River near Pittsburgh.

Guyasuta visited the training camp twice. In his first visit during the winter, he asked for clothing and supplies. He also warned Wayne that the Western Confederacy was still on the warpath. His second visit took place in March of 1793. He pleaded with Wayne not to launch an attack on the Confederacy until all diplomacy was exhausted. But the Confederacy would settle for nothing less than a return to the 1768 treaty, which stipulated no white settlement west of the Ohio River. And the new United States would never agree to that.

Again like Forbes, Wayne built a string of forts between the fall of 1793 and the summer of 1794. Marching west, his Legion supplemented by 800 Kentucky militia, he burned every Indian village between present-day Fort Recovery Ohio and Defiance, Ohio, a distance of about 63 miles. The two towns still bear the names of the forts that Wayne built on their sites.

The Battle of Fallen Timbers

The Indians debated surrender, but decided to make one last stand. They chose a site near British Fort Miami, where they could still get supplies from the British and could retreat if needed. They thought this would be a good place to ambush Wayne’s army. On August 20, 1894, the forces of Little Turtle and Blue Jacket suffered defeat in the 80-minute Battle of Fallen Timbers. When they attempted to retreat to Fort Miami, they found it closed to them. Indian power in the Ohio country was finally completely beaten.

The peace treaty signed at Fort Greenville on August 3, 1795, ceded the Ohio river and most of the state of Ohio to the United States. In exchange, the Indians received a small annuity and a stipend of commodities.

Death of Guyasuta

Guyasuta had died just a few months earlier, in late 1794 or early 1795. He started his life in Logstown, a prosperous little town along the Ohio. And he ended it in another prosperous Ohio River town: the growing city of Pittsburgh. He had been a sachem, a warrior and a diplomat. In every war of his lifetime, he had the bad luck to choose the wrong side. His life as a representative of an empire in defeat tragically illustrates the fates of thousands of American Indians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

As a student in the Pittsburgh Public Schools in the 1960s and 1970s, I learned little about the fates of the original natives of our nation. They used to live here. Our white ancestors came and displaced them. Now they live on reservations in the west. The end. In this series about Guyasuta, I’ve tried to bring to life the people who were native to Western Pennsylvania before it was part of the United States. And I’ve tried to show parallels between them and other fallen nations. Nothing can ever do justice for the loss of their home. But they were the first Americans and it is right that we remember them.

If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend Brady J. Crytzer’s book, listed in my Sources.

Sources:

Crytzer, Brady J. Guyasuta and the Fall of Indian America. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, LCC, 2013.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Wayne

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Fallen_Timbers


Guyasuta and the American Revolution

Guyasuta was a signatory to the 1765 treaty between the Indians and the colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia. The treaty allowed British forts in the Ohio Country, but no white settlers. He probably doubted from the start that the white settlers would respect the treaty’s terms. But I wonder if he expected to be betrayed by his Iroquois cousins.

Surprise! The White Men Break a Treaty

Eager white settlers, of course, continued to stream west into the Ohio Country. The Washington brothers, and other speculators, had succeeded in acquiring title to large tracts in what was ostensibly Indian country. So, the settlers were often squatters. By 1768, the 1765 treaty had become meaningless. Unsurprisingly, the Indians objected to the encroachments of the white settlers, and committed acts of violence. Then whites attacked Indians in retribution – very often, not the same Indians who had attacked them. By this time Guyasuta and Superintendent if Indian Affairs Johnson were actually allies. Both wanted to end the cycle of violence and retribution. Both had an interest in peace. But Johnson believed that the Mingo should fold back into the Iroquois Confederacy. He wanted only one Indian nation to deal with.

Colonial officials and Indians met again, this time at New York’s Fort Stanwix, to revise the boundaries of settlement. Present were Johnson, a few other colonial officials, and the leaders of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. Notably absent: any representative of the Mingo, whom Johnson stubbornly saw as being represented by the Iroquois.

In the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix, the Iroquois allowed the opening of all of southwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky to white settlement.

Most of the Mingo from the ceded territory migrated to Ohio. Others stayed, and the bloodshed on both sides continued. Somewhat ironically, in 1770, George Washington visited Guyasuta’s hunting camp near where the Hocking River flows into the Ohio. He was seeking to buy more land.

Lord Dunmore’s War

Meanwhile, the white colonists grew restive. The British victory in the French & Indian War came at a very high financial cost. Naturally, the British government felt that some of that cost should be borne by the colonists themselves. But the colonists objected to the 1764 sugar tax and the 1765 stamp tax. In 1767, they objected again to the Townsend Duties on lead, glass, paint and tea. In 1770, violence erupted between civilians and British soldiers. The incident became known as the Boston Massacre.

When a nation is bitterly divided internally, someone always comes up with the idea of distracting the feuding sides by creating an external enemy. In 1774, the person who came up with the distraction was John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, and the colonial governor of Virginia.  

Indian versus settler violence had continued in West Virginia and Kentucky, both claimed by Virginia at that time. Lord Dunmore thought that a war against the Mingo and Shawnee would rally the colonials back to the mother country’s side. He also hoped to clear the Indians out of the area once and for all. And, even if he failed at both of those goals, a nice little war would weaken colonial military power.

Dunmore sent two columns toward the disputed territory. One column of 1000 colonials moved west from Virginia under Col. Andrew Lewis. Another 1000-man column moved south from Fort Pitt under Dunmore himself. Lewis was ambushed by 600 Ohioans under the Shawnee chief Cornstalk at Point Pleasant (or Tu-Endie-Wei, “point between the waters”). Despite being taken by surprise, the colonials won a victory because, by this time, they had learned to fight “Indian style.”

A New Treaty

Dunmore joined Lewis at Camp Charlotte, near modern-day Chillicothe, Ohio, to negotiate surrender terms with Cornstalk. The terms forced the Indians to turn over all the lands south of the Ohio river that they had won in the Treaty of Ft. Stanwix. In addition, Dunmore won Cornstalk’s promise that, in case of a war between the provincials and the mother country, the Mingo and Shawnee would remain neutral.

Guyasuta, now reconciled to the Iroquois nation, represented the nation in working out details of the peace treaty. He succeeded in negotiating the release of all prisoners from the Dunmore war, and affirmed the Indian promise of neutrality. Speaking for both the Iroquois and the Mingo, he vowed, “We will not suffer either the English or the Americans to march an army through our country.”

Not every Iroquois chief agreed with the neutrality position. Many young warriors wanted to take the British side should war break out between the white men. Guyasuta spent 1776 shuttling back and forth between the Indians and the white men at Forts Pitt and Niagara, trying to reassure the British army and maintain the neutral Indian position.  But 1776 was a fateful year, and fateful events generally require men and women to choose sides.

American Revolution and Indian Civil War

By 1777, neutrality had broken down. The Iroquois relied on British trade goods and believed that they would be more likely to lose their land if the Americans won. Also, in 1777 the British looked like a sure bet to win the war. Eventually even the champions of neutrality, Guyasuta and Cornplanter, sided with the British.

A Presbyterian minister named Samuel Kairland had lived among the Oneida and Tuscarora Indians for eight years and convinced them to take the American side. He assured them that the Americans would honor their land claims. These conflicting loyalties would soon lead to disaster for the Indians.

The Americans had occupied Fort Stanwix, forming an impediment to British General John Burgoyne’s goal of controlling the area between the St. Lawrence River and New York City. In August of 1777, Burgoyne sent a force under Lieutenant Colonel General Barry St. Leger to recapture the fort. St. Leger sent about 500 Seneca and Mohawk among his force to lay siege.

But their Oneida allies had warned the Americans of the coming attack, and they were prepared. A small army of Oneidas and Americans ambushed the besieging Mohawk and Seneca. A vicious hand-to-hand battle followed. One Seneca veteran later said, “The blood shed made a stream running down the sloping ground.”

The battle resulted in an official Iroquois civil war. Guyasuta and Cornplanter sent the bloody hatchet to the Oneida, and their allies attacked an Ottawa village. The Oneida attacked a Mohawk village in retaliation. Burgoyne’s campaign to gain control of the Mohawk valley had failed. But it had ignited a civil war that would fatally weaken the Iroquois nation.

Next time: Guyasuta’s life in the new American nations

Sources

Crytzer, Brady J. Guyasuta and the Fall of Indian America. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, LCC, 2013.

https://military-history.fandom.com/wiki/Siege_of_Fort_Stanwix


« Previous Entries

Copyright 2014 Kathryn Bashaar | Design by | Adapted from PureType