Military Wiki
Lord Dunmore's War
DateMay - October 1774
LocationUpper Ohio Valley
39°55′05″N 80°48′17″W / 39.918°N 80.8048°W / 39.918; -80.8048Coordinates: 39°55′05″N 80°48′17″W / 39.918°N 80.8048°W / 39.918; -80.8048
Result British colonial victory
Shawnees, Mingos Colony of Virginia
Commanders and leaders
Lord Dunmore,
Andrew Lewis,
Angus McDonald,
William Crawford

Lord Dunmore's War — or Dunmore's War — was a 1774 conflict between the Colony of Virginia and the Shawnee and Mingo American Indian nations. The Governor of Virginia during the conflict was John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore — Lord Dunmore. He asked the Virginia House of Burgesses to declare a state of war with the hostile Indian nations and order up an elite volunteer militia force for the campaign. The conflict resulted from escalating violence between British colonists, who in accordance with previous treaties were exploring and moving into land south of the Ohio River (modern West Virginia and Kentucky), and American Indians, who held treaty rights to hunt there. As a result of successive attacks by Indian hunting and war bands upon the settlers, war was declared "to pacify the hostile Indian war bands." The war ended soon after Virginia's victory in the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774. As a result of this victory, the Indians lost the right to hunt in the area and agreed to recognize the Ohio River as the boundary between Indian lands and the British colonies. Although the Indian national chieftains signed the treaty, conflict within the Indian nations soon broke out. Some tribesmen felt the treaty sold out their claims and opposed it, and others believed that another war would mean only further losses of territory to the more powerful British colonists. When war broke out between the colonials and the British government in 1776, the war parties of the Indian nations quickly gained power. They mobilized the various Indian nations to attack the colonists during the Revolutionary War.



Settlement and resistance in the Ohio Country

The area south of the Ohio River had long been claimed by the Iroquois Confederacy. Although they were the most powerful Indian nation in the Northern Colonies, other tribes also made claims to the area and often hunted the region. Contention over the Ohio Country was one of the causes of the Seven Years' War between France and Britain, which ended with France ceding notional control over the entire area at the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

When, in accordance with the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768), British officials acquired the land south of the Ohio River from the Iroquois, many other Ohio Indians who had hunted in these lands refused to accede to the treaty and prepared to defend their hunting rights.[1]

At the forefront of this resistance were the Shawnee. They were the most powerful among the anti-Iroquois Indian nations. They soon organized a large confederacy of Shawnee-Ohio Confederated Indians who were opposed to the British and the Iroquois in order to enforce their claims.[2] British and Iroquois officials worked to isolate the Shawnee diplomatically from other Indian nations. When full-blown hostilities broke out within a few years, the Shawnee would find that they faced the Virginia militia with few allies. Following the 1768 treaty, British explorers, surveyors, and settlers began pouring into the region.[3](see Vandalia (colony)[4] This immediately brought them into direct contact with Native Americans. Of the upper Ohio Valley, especially the Allegheny River, George Washington wrote in his journal for Saturday, Nov. 17, 1770, "The Indians who are very dexterous, even their women, in the Management of Canoes, have there Hunting Camps & Cabins all along the River for the convenience of Transporting their Skins by Water to Market." In September 1773, an obscure hunter named Daniel Boone led a group of about 50 emigrants in the first attempt by British colonists to establish a settlement in Kentucky County, Virginia. On October 9, 1773, Boone's oldest son James and a small group of men and boys who were retrieving supplies were attacked by a band of Delawares, Shawnees, and Cherokees. They had decided "to send a message of their opposition to settlement…" [5] James Boone and another boy were captured and tortured to death. The brutality of the killings shocked the erstwhile settlers along the frontier, and Boone's party abandoned their expedition. By December, the incident had been reported in Baltimore and Philadelphia newspapers.

The deaths among Boone's party were among the first events in Lord Dunmore's War. For the next several years, Indian nations opposed to the treaty continued to attack settlers, ritually mutilated and tortured to death the surviving men, and took the women and children into slavery.[6]

Early the next year, a field surveyor named William Preston sent a letter of report to the head engineer of the frontier fort construction, namely George Washington, which indicates his understanding of circumstances just prior to the outbreak of Dunmore's War:

"FINCASTLE May 27. 1774.


Agreeable to my Promise I directed Mr. Floyd an Assistant to Survey your Land on Cole River on his Way to the Ohio, which he did and in a few Days afterwards sent me the Plot by Mr. Thomas Hog. Mr. Spotswood Dandridge who left the Surveyors on the Ohio after Hog Parted with them, wrote me that Mr. Hog and two other Men with him had never since been heard of. I have had no Opportunity of writing to Mr. Floyd Since. Tho' I suppose he will send me the Courses by the first Person that comes up, if so I shall make out the Certificate and send it down. This I directed him to do when we parted to prevent Accidents. But I am really afraid the Indians will hinder them from doing any Business of Vallue this Season as the Company being only 33 and dayly decreasing were under the greatest Apprehension of Danger when Mr. Dandridge parted with them.

It has been long disputed by our Hunters whether Louisa or Cumberland Rivers was the Boundary between us and the Cherokees. I have taken the Liberty to inclose to you a Report made by some Scouts who were out by my Order; and which Sets that matter beyond a Doubt.

It is say'd the Cherrokees claim the Land to the Westward of the Louisa & between Cumberland M [mutilated] and the ohio. If so, and our Government gives it up we loose all the most Valluable part of that Country. The Northern Indians Sold that Land to the English at the Treaty of Lancaster in 1744. by the Treaty of Logs Town in 1752 and by that at Fort Stanwix in 1768. At that Time the Cherrokees laid no Claim to that Land & how the[y] come to do it now I cannot imagine...", Edited by Stanislaus Murray Hamilton (The Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

"Cresap's War"

From the Great Kanawha upstream the Ohio was called the Allegheny, 1755.

Among the settlers was Captain Michael Cresap, the owner of a trading post at Redstone Old Fort (now Brownsville, Pennsylvania) on the Monongahela River. Under authority of the colonial government of Virginia, Cresap had taken control of extensive tracts of land at and below the mouth of Middle Island Creek (now Sistersville, West Virginia.) He went there in the early spring of 1774 with a party of men to settle his holdings. Ebenezer Zane, afterwards a famed “Indian fighter” and guide, was engaged at the same time and in the same way with a small party of men on lands which he had taken up at or near the mouth of Sandy Creek (now Ravenswood, West Virginia). A third and larger group that included George Rogers Clark, who later became a general during the Revolutionary War, had gathered at the mouth of the Little Kanawha River (now Parkersburg, West Virginia.) They were waiting there for the arrival of other Virginians expected to join them before they moved downriver to settle lands in Kentucky. Clark's group began to hear reports that hostile Indian nationals were robbing and occasionally killing traders, surveyors and others traveling down the Ohio. They concluded that hostile nations of the Shawnee-centered Ohio confederacy were bent on all-out war. The group decided to attack the Ohio Indian village called Horsehead Bottom, near the mouth of the Scioto River (now Portsmouth, Ohio) and on the route to their intended destination in Kentucky. Few in the group had experience in warfare. After some discussion, the group selected Cresap, whom they knew was about fifteen miles (24 km) upriver. They knew he was intending to follow them into Kentucky, and he had combat experience. They sent for Cresap, who quickly came to meet with the group. After some discussion, Cresap dissuaded them from attacking the Shawnee. He thought that while the actions of the Shawnee-Ohio confederates were hostile, he did not believe war was inevitable. He argued further that if the group carried out its plans, he did not doubt their initial success, but war would then surely come. They would be blamed for it. He suggested the group return upstream to Zane's small settlement at "Zanesburg" (the future Wheeling) for a few weeks to see what would develop. If the situation calmed, they could resume their journey to Kentucky. The group agreed. When they arrived, however, they found the whole area in an uproar. People were panicked by the stories of the survivors of the Indian attacks. They were upset by what they viewed as Indian savagery. Fearing for the lives of women and children, the British colonists from the frontier flocked to the tiny town for protection. Cresap's group was swelled with volunteers spoiling for a fight. Word of the group’s arrival and plans had now reached Fort Pitt and Capt. John Connolly, the garrison commander, sent a message asking that the volunteers remain in Zanesburg a few days. He had sent messages to the local tribes to determine their intentions.[7][8][9] A flurry of correspondence resulted, first, with the group saying they would wait for further word from Connolly. Before their message reached Fort Pitt, Cresap received a second message from Connolly that said the Shawnee-Ohio tribes had signaled they intended war. Cresap called a council on April 26. After he read Connolly’s letter aloud, the assembly declared war against the Indians. After spotting some Indian canoes on the river the next day, settlers chased them fifteen miles (24 km) downriver to Pipe Creek. There settlers engaged them in battle, with a few casualties on each side. The following day, Clark's party abandoned the original idea of proceeding to Kentucky. Expecting retaliation, they broke camp and moved with Cresap's men to his headquarters at Redstone Old Fort.

The Yellow Creek Massacre

Immediately after the Pipe Creek attack, settlers killed relatives of the Mingo leader Logan. Up until this point, Logan had expressed peaceful intentions toward the settlers. He and his hunting party were camped on the west bank of the Ohio at Yellow Creek, about 30 miles above Zanesburg (near present day Steubenville, Ohio) and across the river from Baker’s Bottom. On April 30 some members of the hunting party (Logan was not among them) crossed the river to the cabin of Joshua Baker, a settler and rum trader. The visiting Mingo included Logan's younger brother, commonly known as John Petty, and two closely related women. The younger woman was pregnant and also had an infant girl with her. The father of both these children was John Gibson, a well-known trader. Once the group was inside Baker's cabin, some 30 frontiersmen, led by Daniel Greathouse, suddenly crowded in and killed all the visitors except the infant. When Logan heard of the massacre, he was led to believe that Cresap, not Greathouse, was the man responsible for attack. However, many people familiar with the incident (including Clark) knew that Greathouse and his men were the ones who had killed the party. Settlers along the frontiers realized that these killings were likely to provoke the remaining Indian nations of the Ohio Country to attack. Settlers remaining on the frontier immediately sought safety, either in blockhouses or by fleeing eastward across the Monongahela River. Many even traveled back across the Allegheny Mountains. Their fear was well founded. Logan and small parties of Shawnee and Mingo soon began striking at frontier settlers in revenge for the murders at Yellow Creek.

On 5 May 1774, the Shawanee delivered the following message:

"Brothers: [directed at Captain Connolly, Mr. McKee, and Mr. Croghan] We have received your Speeches by White Eyes, and as to what Mr. Croghan and Mr. McKee says, we look upon it all to be lies, and perhaps what you say may be lies also, but as it is the first time you have spoke to us we listen to you, and expect that what we may hear from you will be more confined to truth than what we usually hear from the white people. It is you who are frequently passing up and down the Ohio, and making settlements upon it, and as you have informed as that your wise people have met together to consult upon this matter, we desire you to be strong and consider it well. Brethren: We see you speak to us at the head of your warriors, who you have collected together at sundry places upon this river, where we understand they are building forts, and as you have requested us to listen to you, we will do it, but in the same manner that you appear to speak to us. Our people at the Lower Towns have no Chiefs among them, but are all warriors, and are also preparing themselves to be in readiness, that they may be better able to hear what you have to say....You tell us not to take any notice of what your people have done to us; we desire you likewise not to take any notice of what our young men may now be doing, and as no doubt you can command your warriors when you desire them to listen to you, we have reason to expect that ours will take the same advice when we require it, that is, when we have heard from the Governour [sic] of Virginia."—American Archives, Fourth Series, Vol. 1. p. 479.]

Dunmore's expedition

Mobilization and movements

Early in May 1774, Governor Dunmore received word that fighting had begun at Yellow Creek and other points on the Ohio. He requested the legislature to authorize general militia forces and fund a volunteer expedition into the Ohio River valley. According to historians Eric Hinderaker and Peter C. Mancall in At the Edge of Empire (2003):

Dunmore’s motives were complicated. He recognized in the crisis on the Ohio an opportunity to press ahead with his efforts to open new western lands to occupation and settlement. He had consistently pursued this aim for several years, even when he acted in opposition to the Crown’s policy…. Yet he also perceived that the western campaign could be a way to lead a popular initiative that might distract Virginia’s populace from the escalating crisis taking shape in Boston and other northern ports. Instead of supporting the rebels, Dunmore hoped the denizens of Virginia would rally to his side. In his mind, war along the Ohio would help to make him a popular leader in the colony…. Further, Dunmore hoped to use the conflict to secure Virginia’s claim to the area around Pittsburgh. He could then work to remove the threat of Indians who opposed colonial expansion in the Ohio Valley and open central Kentucky…to colonial settlement. This bold initiative left Dunmore vulnerable to criticism from every side. If it failed, he might be removed from office and disgraced for his unauthorized actions. But if it succeeded, he might weather the storm…and emerge a successful leader in a time of dramatic upheaval.[10]

With the new forces, the Governor advanced toward the Ohio where he split his force into two groups: one would move down the Ohio from Fort Pitt, 1,700 men led by him, and another body of 800 troops under Colonel Andrew Lewis would travel from Camp Union (now Lewisburg, West Virginia) with the two forces rendezvousing at the mouth of the Great Kanawha River. Under this general plan, the Governor traveled to Fort Pitt and duly proceeded with his forces down the Ohio. On September 30, he arrived at Fort Fincastle (later Fort Henry), recently built at Zanesburg at his direction. The force under Lewis, now 1,100 strong, proceeded from Camp Union to the headwaters of the Kanawha. From there, he continued downriver to the appointed rendezvous, reaching the river's mouth (October 6) where he established "Camp Pleasant" (soon to be known as Point Pleasant). Not finding Dunmore there, he sent messengers up the Ohio to meet him and tell him of the arrival. On October 9 Dunmore sent a dispatch announcing his plans to proceed to the Shawnee towns on the Scioto. He ordered Lewis to cross the Ohio and meet him at the Shawnee towns.

The Battle of Point Pleasant

On October 10, before Lewis began crossing the Ohio, he and his force were surprised by warriors under Chief Cornstalk. The Battle of Point Pleasant raged nearly all day and descended into hand-to-hand combat. Lewis's army suffered about 215 casualties, of whom 75 were killed, including Lewis's brother, and 140 wounded. His forces defeated the Ohio Confederacy warriors, who retreated across the Ohio, having lost about 40 warriors.[11] Captain George Mathews of the Virginia militia was credited with a flanking maneuver that initiated Cornstalk's retreat.[12]

The Treaty of Camp Charlotte

Dunmore and Lewis advanced from their respective points into Ohio to within eight miles (13 km) of the Shawnee towns at Pickaway Plains (present Pickaway County, Ohio) on the Scioto. Here they erected the temporary Camp Charlotte on Sippo Creek and here they met with Cornstalk to begin peace negotiations. By the terms of the Treaty of Camp Charlotte (19 October 1774), the Shawnee agreed to cease hunting south of the Ohio and to discontinue harassment of travellers on the River. Although Chief Logan said he would cease fighting, he would not attend the formal peace talks. After the Mingo refused to accept the terms, Major William Crawford attacked their village of Seekunk (Salt Lick Town, near present Steubenville, Ohio). His force of 240 men destroyed the village.[13]

These operations, and the submission of the Shawnee at Camp Charlotte, virtually closed the war. Governor Dunmore began his return, proceeding by Redstone and the Great Crossings of the Youghiogheny River to Fort Cumberland, and then to the Virginia capital. The peace did not prevail for long following this treaty, however. In May 1776, as the American Revolution got underway, the Shawnee joined renegade Cherokee chief Dragging Canoe in again declaring war on the Virginia colonists. (See Chickamauga Wars (1776-1794)).


Hinderacker and Mancall summarize the significance of Dunmore's War to the continental concerns of the period as follows:

If Dunmore's War serves as the epilogue to one story, it is the prologue to another: the story of American independence. The events of the preceding decade amounted to nothing short of a revolution in backcountry affairs, and the military campaign led by Lord Dunmore against the Ohio Indians constituted the opening chapter of a new epoch in American affairs. From the perspective of the backcountry, the shots fired on the Ohio late in 1774, not those at Concord six months later, constituted the beginning of the American Revolution. Though the Ohio campaign was led by a royal governor, its muscle was provided by two thousand men who had waited a decade in mounting frustration and anger while the king neglected their needs. This was their declaration of independence.[14]


  1. "I likewise advised them to withdraw the Senecas of Ohio from thence and settle them nearer their natural friends as at present by their Connections with others they bring disgrace & suspicion on their own confederacy, and this I was the readier induced to do, as Kayashota the chief of those on Ohio, a man of universal influence was present & had privately assured me that it was agreeable to him." Sir William Johnson to the Earl of Dartmouth, (Johnson Hall, Nov. 4, 1772) Johnson, Sir William in: Documents, Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (Lon.Docs.: XLIII), vol. VIII, pp. 314-317. 1996, Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology and The Trustees of Indiana University
    "Indian Business at present of most Moment is the Northern and Western Confederacies. The Northern Nations ceded Tracts of Land at the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, inconvenient to the Indians of the Ohio, which exasperated them to a great Degree, but finding themselves too weak alone for the six Nations, they have been, and appear still to be endeavoring to form a general Union of all the Western & Southern Nations, and the Shawnese are supposed to be the Contrivers of the Scheme. The six Nations in Return have strengthened their Alliance with the Canada and other Tribes. The six Nations have by Deputy's sent to Scioto threatened much, but Nothing has been undertaken openly on either Side...It has very often been reported, that the French and Spaniards have excited the Nations against the English, and been the Authors of many Mischiefs, tho' it has not been discovered that the Spanish Government has had any Concern therein. But it is probable the Traders at the Illinois as well British, as Spanish Subjects have been guilty of such iniquitous Practices to keep the trade to themselves...", Gage to Haldimand, New York June 3d 1773, Gage, Thomas in: Library of Congress, British Museum, Additional MS. 21665, f. 141-142. THE OHIO VALLEY-GREAT LAKES ETHNOHISTORY ARCHIVES: THE MIAMI COLLECTION, 1996, Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology and The Trustees of Indiana University
  2. Dowd, Spirited Resistance, 42–43.
  3. Letter to the Earl of Dartmouth, (Johnson Hall, Sept. 22, 1773), Johnson, Sir William in: Docs. Rel. to the Col. Hist. of the State N. Y. (London Docs.: XLIII): VIII, pp. 395-397 and in The Papers of Sir William Johnson, vol. 8, pp. 888-891. 1996, Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology and The Trustees of Indiana University
  4. "The Shawanese on the whole appear at present the most attentive to the Six Nations Councils of any to the Southward, but they are much alarmed at the numbers who go from Virginia &c in pursuit of new settlements leaving large Tracts of Country unsettled behind them, and who I am sorry to find an not be restrained being numerous, & remote from the influence and Seats of Government, and the old claims of Virginia conspiring to encourage them, so long as they confine themselves within the ceded Tract...I gave them of His Majestys Intentions to form a Colony on Ohio, and of the evacuating of Fort Pitt, that they were very thankfull for the whole they had thereof and hoped (page 890) that the person appointed to govern there would prove a wise man and restrain the abuses in Trade & irregularities committed by the Frontier Inhabitants,..." Sir Johnson Letter to the Earl of Dartmouth, (Johnson Hall, Sept. 22, 1773), Johnson, Sir William in: Docs. Rel. to the Col. Hist. of the State N. Y. (London Docs.: XLIII): VIII, pp. 395-397, and in The Papers of Sir William Johnson, vol. 8, pp. 888-891. 1996, Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology and The Trustees of Indiana University
  5. John Mack Faragher, Daniel Boone
  6. Faragher, Daniel Boone, 89–96, quote on 93; Lofaro, American Life, 44–49.
  7. "I hope you will prevail on the Delawares, and the well affected part of the Mingoes, to move off from the Shawanese." Lord Dunmore to Captain John Conolly. Williamsburg, June 20, 1774. From American Archives, 4th series, 1:473.
  8. Manufactured History: Re-Fighting the Battle of Point Pleasant, 1 Volume. 56 (1997), pp. 76-87, (4/30/2009)
  9. Foote Note: Reference to Connolly Journal: John Connolly to George Washington, May 28, 1774 "...I have accq acquainted his Excellency Lord dunmore [mutilated] my Oppinion of matters here, in a concise manner; and oft [mutilated] which I judg'd necessary toward the advantage of this promi [mutilated] Settlement; & in order to evince the propriety of my argument [mutilated] transmitted a Coppy of my Journal Since the beginning of ou [mutilated] with the natives, which I apprehend his Lordship will lay [mutilated] the Honourable House -- --" I am with much Regard... Dr Sir... Your most Obedt. Servt. (signed Joh Connolly) The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799 The Washington Papers.
  10. Hinderaker, Eric and Peter C. Mancall (2003), At the Edge of Empire: The Backcountry in British North America, Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, pg 159.
  11. Roosevelt, Theodore (1889). [1] Chapter XI "The Battle of the Great Kanawha"
  12. Herndon, G. Melvin (1969). George Mathews, Frontier Patriot. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 77, No. 3 (Jul., 1969) pp. 311-312
  13. Butterfield (p. 99) and O'Donnell (p. 710) write that Crawford and his men did not participate in the Battle of Point Pleasant, while Miller (p. 311) writes that Crawford led 500 men into the battle.
  14. Hinderacker and Mancall (2003), Op. cit., pg 160.


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  • Crumrine, Boyd. History of Washington County, Pennsylvania With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1882.
  • Dowd, Gregory Evans. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745–1815. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8018-4609-9.
  • Downes, Randolph C. Council Fires on the Upper Ohio: A Narrative of Indian Affairs in the Upper Ohio Valley until 1795. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1940. ISBN 0-8229-5201-7 (1989 reprint).
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  • Skidmore, Warren and Donna Kaminsky. "Lord Dunmore's Little War of 1774: His Captains and their Men who Opened Up Kentucky & the West to American Settlement". Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., 2002. ISBN 0-7884-2271-5.
  • Smith, Thomas H., ed. Ohio in the American Revolution: A Conference to Commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Ft. Gower Resolves. Columbus: Ohio Historical Society, 1976.
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