Siege of Boonesborough

On the Wilderness Road that his axmen made
The settlers flocked to the first stockade;
The deerskin shirts and the coonskin caps
Filed through the glens and the mountaingaps;
And hearts were high in the fateful spring
When the land said “Nay!” to the stubborn king.
While the men of the East of farm and town
Strove with the troops of the British Crown,
Daniel Boone from a surge of hate
Guarded a nation’s westward gate.
Down in the fort in a wave of flame
The Shawnee horde and the Mingo came,
And the stout logs shook in a storm of lead;
But Boone stood firm and the savage fled.

Arthur Cuiterman

Part of the history of the American Revolution that often receives scant attention in most general histories is the Revolution on the frontier.  There, small forces of American patriots engaged in a fierce struggle with the British and their Tory and Indian auxiliaries which determined if the newly born United States would have room to expand in the West, or be limited to the area east of the Appalachians.

One important engagement in this struggle for the future of America was the siege of Boonesborough in 1778.

In 1775 Daniel Boone blazed the Wilderness Trail from Chiswell, Virginia, through the Cumberland Gap and into central Kentucky.  He built Fort Boone in the central part of what would become the state of Kentucky along the Kentucky River.  American settlers began to arrive in what the Cherokee and the Shawnee referred to as The Dark and Bloody Ground.

With the onset of the Revolution, the British at Fort Detroit, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Hamiliton, the Patriots called him “Hair Buyer Hamilton”, began to arm the Indian tribes and encourage them, along with Tory renegades, to attack American settlers in Kentucky.

The Indians initiated a guerilla war campaign against the settlers in Kentucky of ambush and massacre.  Daniel Boone was captured by the Shawnee in February of 1778 while he was on a hunting expedition for meat to feed the settlers at Boonesborough.  Black Fish, the Shawnee chief who captured Boone, intended to go on to capture Boonesborough.  Always quick-witted, Daniel Boone convinced Blackfish that the American settlers were starving, and that in the middle of winter the women and children captives would never survive the long trek back to Shawnee territory.  Boone promised that he would arrange the surrender of the settlement in the Spring.  Brought to the Shawnee village of Chillicothe, Boone was made an adopted Shawnee and given the name Big Turtle.

To all appearances Boone was happy with his lot, but he was merely biding his time.  On June 16, 1778 he escaped from the Shawnees and began an epic race to Boonesborough to warn the settlers of the impending Shawnee onslaught, covering an astounding 160 miles through wilderness in five days.

The siege of Boonesborough began on September 7, 1778, the Shawnee with 444 braves and 10 French Canadians confronting 135 settlers, only about 40 of whom were armed riflemen.  Black Fish parlayed with Boone, promising good treatment to the settlers if they would surrender.  The settlers were not inclined to trust the promises of Black Fish, and negotiations broke down.

The siege lasted until September 17, 1778 with assaults by the Shawnee on the fort, an unsuccessful attempt by the Shawnee to build a mine under the fort, Squire Boone, Daniel’s inventor brother, building a homemade wooden cannon that fired two shots before it cracked, and ongoing attempts by the Shawnee to burn down the fort.  After losing 37 killed, Black Fish had enough, and the Shawnee lifted the siege and retreated.  Throughout the siege Boone had given heroic leadership, although as a Captain he was not the highest ranking officer.  For his pains, he was courtmartialed on the grounds that he was secretly pro-Shawnee and pro-British!  Acquitted, he was promoted to Major.  An embittered Boone left Boonesborough, the settlement he had saved, for further adventures elsewhere.

Published in: on September 23, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Siege of Boonesborough  
Tags: ,
%d bloggers like this: