Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes historian Daniel T. Davis.
The conflict ignited at Lexington and Concord finally reached beyond the Allegheny Mountains as the British stepped up their raids on American settlements in Kentucky. With so many troops dedicated to the colonies, Henry Hamilton, the Lieutenant Governor at Detroit, relied on Native tribes allied with the Crown to carry on the war effort. In March, Shawnees began to harass Harrodsburg, Logan’s Station and Boonesborough. Founded as part of the Col. Richard Henderson’s proprietary colony of Transylvania along the banks of the Kentucky River, Boonesborough derived its name from one of the most famous long hunters of the day and resident, Daniel Boone.
The residents had not experienced a major attack since a small group of Shawnees and Cherokees had abducted Boone’s daughter, Jemima and Fanny and Betsy Callaway in July 1776. Boone led a successful pursuit that rescued the girls. The episode would eventually be immortalized in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans.
On the morning of April 24, two men went out of Boonesborough to round up and drive in the fort’s horses. About seventy yards from the wooden walls, some Shawnees opened fire, striking one of the settlers, Daniel Goodman. Watching from the gate, a Virginian named Simon Kenton, shot a warrior who had run up scalp Goodman. Boone and about ten other men then rushed out to assist. It was a mistake. Around 40 Shawnees had been lying in wait just out of sight in a nearby hollow. Moving from their position, the warriors placed themselves between Boone and the fort. Realizing their predicament, Boone yelled “Boys, we are gone! Lets sell our lives as dear as we can.”
Boone’s party sent a volley toward the warriors and then made a dash for the fort. A Shawnee returned fire, bringing Boone down with a bullet in his left ankle. Another warrior closed in on Boone and was killed by a shot from Kenton’s rifle. Undeterred, a second Shawnee attempted to tomahawk Boone, only to be clubbed down by Kenton. Kenton then lifted Boone over his shoulders and ran for the gate where they reached the safety of the stockade.
The bullet that struck Boone had flattened upon impact with the bone and was soon extracted. During the procedure, Boone turned to the 21-year-old Kenton. “Well Simon, you have behaved like a man today; indeed, you are a fine fellow.”
Indian raids remained a constant threat throughout the course of the Revolution, even after the British surrender at Yorktown in October 1781. Boone and Kenton continued to fight together and developed a mutual respect. The following August, Kenton accompanied Boone on a raid to Paint Creek Town on the Scioto River. In the fall of 1786, the two men went on an expedition led by Col. Benjamin Logan against Shawnee villages north of the Ohio River. During one engagement, Kenton dispatched a Cherokee named Big Jim who had killed Boone’s oldest son, James thirteen years earlier in Virginia. Later in life, after Boone left Kentucky for Missouri, he was visited by Simon Kenton. Upon seeing his old friend, Boone burst into tears. The two frontiersmen spent some two weeks together recounting adventures in their younger days.