General Edward Hand: The Squaw Campaign

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Eric Sterner. 

In February 1778, Brigadier General Edward Hand, commanding Continental forces at Fort Pitt on the American frontier, launched what may be one of the oddest campaigns of the American Revolution, more famous for its fecklessness than any benefit to the American war effort. Born in Ireland, Hand arrived in the colonies with the 18th Royal Irish Regiment as a surgeon’s mate.  He eventually left service in 1774 and set up a medical practice in Philadelphia.  The siege of Boston found him among the besiegers as Lieutenant Colonel of a Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion.  He fought under Washington on Long Island, at White Plains, and then Princeton, after which Washington successfully pursued the rank of Brigadier for him before sending him to Pittsburgh.[1]   Hand arrived in June, 1777, finding just two companies of the 13th Virginia.[2]   As was often the case on the frontier, Fort Pitt was under-garrisoned and Continental officers would have to scrounge constantly for troops, largely relying on local militia forces to defend the frontier.


General Edward Hand (courtesy of Ohio History Central)

Hand hoped to conduct a campaign to the west, driving toward British power at Detroit, but was unable to raise sufficient forces that fall.  Instead, he settled for a trip down the Ohio to ensure local garrisons were in proper order.[3]  Around Christmas, Hand received information that the British had established a small magazine on the Cuyahoga River, likely somewhere close to where it empties into Lake Erie in the current city limits of Cleveland.[4]  As December gave way to January and February, Hand resolved to do something about it.  At the beginning of the month, he wrote Colonel William Crawford, formerly of the 13th Virginia, currently of the Pennsylvania militia and a well-respected local leader, entreating the colonel to undertake an expedition:
“As I am credibly informed that the English have lodged a quantity of arms, ammunition, provision, and clothing at a small indian Town, about one hundred miles from Fort Pitt to support the savages in their excursions against the inhabitants of this and the adjacent counties, I ardently wish to collect as many brave, active lads as are willing to turn out, to destroy this magazine.  Every man must be provided with a horse, and every article necessary to equip them for the expedition, except ammunition, which, with some arms, I can furnish.”

While Hand hoped that a sense of service to country would motivate the “brave, active lads” Crawford was able to recruit, he had no illusions about the state of the frontier.  He went on to inform Crawford that the latter could assure participants that any plunder they were able to secure would be sold at public auction for the sole benefit of the raiders.[5]  Hand’s goal was simple: to effect surprise by a rapid march on the Cuyahoga in the middle of winter, when most campaigning halted due to weather.

Almost five hundred militia responded to the mobilization call in what would be the first significant American expedition across the Ohio, a sizeable force for frontier warfare.[6]   Most were from Westmoreland County, around Pittsburgh.[7]  Because Virginia and Pennsylvania disputed control of the area at the time, some may have considered themselves Virginians, but, by and large, Hand’s campaign would be an advance of the Pennsylvania militia, not a Continental affair.[8]  (At the time, many Virginia militiamen were mobilizing for an advance down the Ohio River into Kentucky with George Rogers Clark, which Virginia Governor Patrick Henry was already asking Hand to support from his stores at Fort Pitt.)  Hand’s force included Colonel Crawford, Major Brenton, Captain John Stephenson, Captain Scott, and William Brady as a “pilot,” as some eighteenth century frontiersmen called their scouts.[9]  Early on, Brenton lost his horse and convinced Simon Girty to join his search efforts.  Girty, one of the more controversial figures on the frontier and destined to become infamous as a turncoat helping the British raid American settlements, agreed and joined the expedition, but he and Brenton did not catch up with it until near the end.[10]

Hand set out to the north and headed up the Beaver River, which eventually joins the Mahoning.  That river flows across the current Pennsylvania-Ohio border and eventually comes close to the Cuyahoga.  (They do not cross; the Cuyahoga flows northward toward Lake Erie, so a portage from one river to the other is necessary for Erie-bound travelers.)  An early thaw, melting snow, and constant rains impeded the expedition’s campaign from the start.  Creeks and rivers flooded, while marsh-land grew swampy.  Just forty miles up the Beaver River, Hand concluded they would not reach the mouth of the Cuyahoga before supplies gave out and he resolved to abandon the campaign.

Before turning around, however, Hand sent out reconnaissance parties, which came across a small settlement at the confluence of the Neshaneck and Shenango Rivers (in present day New Castle, PA) occupied by 50-60 Indians and reported the news back to Hand.  The brigadier concluded, based on thin evidence, that they were warriors moving into the area to start attacks on frontier settlers.[11]  (The frontier had been rife with rumors of an impending attack for months.)  He sent his men forward to surround the town about mid-day.  But, the militia, which did a poor job of that, began firing.  The settlement turned out to be occupied by a small group of Indians who called themselves Lenape, but accepted the European name Delaware because European settlers could not properly pronounce Lenape.[12]  The settlement’s population included one male Indian, known as “Pipe” among the Americans, and several women, including his family.  In the chaos that followed, and which the officers were unwilling or unable to control, Pipe saw his mother, wife, and children off through a gap in the militia lines.  As they fled, he fired at the Pennsylvanians, hitting Captain Scott in the arm before being shot as he reloaded and then tomahawked.[13]  Pipe’s brother, Konieschquanoheel, nicknamed Hopocan, was a leader of the Delaware Wolf Clan, and known as Captain Pipe among the Americans.[14]  This gave Pipe some stature.  Pipe’s short stand gave his family a head start away from the militia.  Their reprieve was brief.

An experienced militiaman named Thomas Ravenscroft ran up on one old woman (Pipe’s wife or mother) and caught her, but one of her fingers had been shot off.  A Lieutenant John Hamilton caught another old woman (Pipe’s mother or wife), who had been shot in the leg, when a different militiaman ran up and tomahawked her before a third shot her.  (Ravenscroft and Hamilton both had prior service in the 13th Virginia.)[15]  As the shooting died down, Major Brenton and Simon Girty rejoined the expedition.  After the event, Hand could only report, “to my great Mortification [we] found only one Man with some Women & Children.  the men were so Impetuous that I could not prevent their Killing the Man & one of the Women.  Another Woman was taken & with difficulty Saved.  the rem[ainder] escaped.”[16]  In short, the campaign’s first encounter with Indians was a failure.  Worse, the Delaware were a pro-peace, neutral tribe, stuck between the Americans at Fort Pitt and the British at Detroit with their Indian allies on the Sandusky River in western Ohio.  But, within the tribe, there were factions, some of which favored war with the Americans.  Hopocan/Captain Pipe led one such pro-war faction.  Sadly for the Americans, Pipe himself was a friend to the Americans, according to the Congressional Indian Agent for the Western Department, George Morgan.[17]  His death would have ensured that Hopocan’s pro-war voice was the dominant one within his faction.

The militia’s prisoner, presumably related to brothers Pipe and Captain Pipe, told the Americans that a group of Munsey men were making salt roughly ten miles away, up the Mahoning River.[18]  The place was known as the Salt Licks and a small party from Hand’s force set off later that afternoon.  Girty accompanied this force.  Arriving in the evening, they encountered no warriors, but found a group of women and children, from which they took one female prisoner.  Away from camp, they found a small boy out shooting birds and killed him.[19]  Several claimed the “honor” and looked to Girty to settle their dispute.  He decided Zachariah Connell had fired the fatal shot.  Connell who founded a town named after himself, Connellsville, on the Youghiogheny River, married into Colonel Crawford’s family, was a captain in the county militia, and a county justice—in other words, an important local man.[20]  Back at the first village, and old Dutchman took the scalp of the dead woman and put it in his wallet.  He lost it on the return trip, proclaiming “O, I loss my prosock and my sculp,” which became something of a running joke among the militia afterward.[21]

With that, Hand’s expedition returned to Fort Pitt, having taken two women prisoner and killed one man, one woman, and one boy, all from a neutral tribe.  Thus was born the dismissive name, “The Squaw Campaign.”  From the American perspective it was an extraordinarily disappointing effort given the size of the force Hand and his militia allies had raised and the likely damage it did to American-Delaware relations.  In fact, it may have accelerated the internal split of the Delaware tribe between pro-war and pro-peace factions.  By December 1778, Hopocan had joined the Wyandot, but sent a message to the Delaware, likely expecting it to be forwarded to the Americans, in which he declared, “…you make mention in your Speech to me of the loss of my Relations, who were killed last Spring at the Salt Licks.  I now inform you that I never thought of it, until your mentioning of it, put me in mind of it.  I now acquaint that my heart is good and that I never meant to quit the hold of the friendship subsisting Between us.  If you are desirous of Speaking of the Loss of my friends, who were killed at the Salt Licks, there is a great many of my Relations at Cooshackung; your speaking to them will answer the same End as Speaking to me.”[22]

The Squaw Campaign only gets an occasional mention in histories of the revolution, even those that focus on the frontier.  But, Hopocan eventually had his revenge.  He played a critical role in defeating the Crawford expedition in 1782, in which Crawford again led the Pennsylvania militia westward, this time toward the Wyandot towns on the Sandusky River.  Crawford was defeated, captured, and tortured to death.  Simon Girty, already accused by some of having too much sympathy for the British and the anti-American Native American tribes, abandoned the Americans shortly after The Squaw Campaign, fleeing Pittsburgh and joining the British at Detroit.  From there, he planned and led several raids across the Ohio.  For his part, Brigadier Hand materially supported George Rogers Clark’s campaign down the Ohio and then was reassigned to Albany before 1778 ended.   From there he played a role in Sullivan’s campaigns against the Iroquois Confederation and eventually became Washington’s Adjutant General, suggesting that Washington retained confidence in the Irishman.

Eric Sterner is a national security and aerospace consultant in the Washington, DC area. He held senior staff positions for the Committees on Armed Services and Science in the House of Representatives and served in the Department of Defense and as NASA’s Associate Deputy Administrator for Policy and Planning. He earned a Bachelor’s at American University and two Master’s Degrees from George Washington University. He has written for a variety of publications, ranging from academic journals to the trade and popular media. His idea of a good time is traipsing through historical sites with his family. His work has also appeared in the Journal of the American Revolution. 


[1]           Mark M. Boatner, III, “Hand, Edward,” Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, (Mechanicsville, PA: Stackpole Books, 1994), p. 484.

[2]           Edgar Hassler, Old Westmoreland: A History of Western Pennsylvania During the Revolution, (Pittsburgh: J.R. Weldin & Co., 1900), chapter VI, Available from at  Accessed 2-12-18.  A September return of the garrison at Fort Pitt revealed just 149 rank and file available for service and Hand began “impressing” any Continental troops in the area he could find, including deserters and several men from the 8th Pennsylvania on a recruiting mission.  See, “Edward Hand to George Washington, September 15, 1777,” Founders Online.  Available at  Accessed February 16, 2018.  The attempt did not go over well with Washington.   On paper, Hand had more troops available up and down the frontier, but such numbers often included those on detached duty, sick call, and deserters.  David Bushnell, “The Virginia Frontier in History—1778,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XXIII, No. 4, October, 1915, p. 338.

[3]           “Edward Hand to George Washington, November 9th, 1777,” Founders Online.  Available at  Accessed February 16, 2018.

[4]           “Edward Hand to William Crawford, December 28, 1777,” in Ruben Gold Thwaites and Louise Phelps Kellogg, eds., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, Draper Series, Vol. III, (Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1912), p. 193.

[5]           Edward Hand to William Crawford, February 5, 1778, in C.W. Butterfield, The Washington-Crawford Letters, Being the Correspondence Between George Washington and William Crawford, From 1767 to 1781, (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1877), pp. 66-67, note 2.

[6]           Ruben Gold Thwaites, ed., Alexander Scott Withers, Chronicles of Border Warfare, (Glendale, CA: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1895), p. 210, note 1.  The original work by Withers appeared in 1831.  Withers was a local historian who primarily collected oral histories from descendants of frontier families, some of which had already been printed locally.  His work suffers from all the weaknesses attendant in his methodology.  Another historian fascinated with the period, Lyman Draper, saved Withers’ work for future generations, annotated it in places, and collected supplemental material, much of which was later published by the Wisconsin Historical Society.  Thwaites came along late in the 19th century and further annotated the material recorded by Withers and collected by Draper.  The reference here is to the first printing of the Thwaites edition.   Because Thwaites was so prolific, this source will be cited as Withers, Chronicles of Border Warfare.  See also, Consul Willshire Butterfield, History of the Girtys, (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1890), pp. 48-49.  George Rogers Clark’s more successful foray into the “Illinois Country” would come a few months later with a considerably smaller force.

[7]           “Edward Hand to Jasper Ewing, March 7th, 1778,” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 215.

[8]           “Edward Hand to David Shepherd, March 7th, 1778,” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 221.

[9]           “Recollections of Samuel Murphy,” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, pp. 216-217.

[10]         Ibid., p. 217.

[11]         “Edward Hand to Jasper Ewing, March 7th, 1778” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 215; “Recollections of Samuel Murphy,” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 217.

[12]         “Frequently Asked Questions About the Lenape or Delaware Tribe,” Official Web Site of the Delaware Tribe of Indians.  Available at:  Accessed February 21, 2018.  “Lenape” means “The People,” and is often read to include members of the Munsey Tribe.

[13]         “Recollections of Samuel Murphy,” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 218.

[14]         “Recollections of Samuel Murphy,” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 218.

[15]         Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, pp. 218-219, notes 84 and 85.

[16]         “Edward Hand to Jasper Ewing, March 7th, 1778” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 215

[17]            “George Morgan to the Board of War, July 17th, 1778,” in Louis Phelps Kellogg, ed., Frontier Advance on the Upper Ohio, 1778-1779, Draper Series, Volume IV, (Madison, WI: The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1916), pp. 112-113.

[18]         “Edward Hand to Jasper Ewing, March 7th, 1778” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 215.  The Salt Licks were likely located in the current confines of Niles, OH.  Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 178, Note 45.

[19]         “Recollections of Samuel Murphy,” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 219.

[20]         “Recollections of Samuel Murphy,” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 220, and note 87.

[21]         “Recollections of Samuel Murphy,” in Thwaites, ed., Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, p. 220.  It’s quite possible that the “Dutchman” was German, as many Anglo settler simply referred to Germans as Dutchmen.

[22]            “Information Received by Capt John Killbuck from Capt Pipe and the Wiandot Half King,” in Kellogg, ed., Frontier Advance on the Upper Ohio, 1778-1779, p. 187.  Killbuck was a pro-peace Delaware.  “Cooshackung” was the primary Delaware town, near present-day Coshocton, OH.  It is possible that Hopocan was entirely sincere in his comments about his family.  He also may have been disingenuous or sarcastic, as he was known for being politically manipulative.  Feigning a commitment to peace would help preserve some influence among the Delaware.

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