ERW Weekender: Wheeling

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Jon-Erik Gilot. A short bio is attached at the bottom of this post.

Though perhaps more widely known as the birthplace of West Virginia during the Civil War, Wheeling and its environs retains several significant sites associated with the Revolutionary War. The name itself is translated from the Delaware language meaning “place of the skull,” legend having that the severed head of a white settler was placed on a pole by local Native Americans as a warning to others to stay away.

Betty Zane’s Run for Gunpowder during Second Battle of Fort Henry–1782
(image courtesy of Library of Congress)

Wheeling was founded in 1769 by Colonel Ebenezer Zane and his brothers Jonathan and Silas. Five years later in 1774 Fort Henry (originally called Fort Fincastle) was built overlooking the Ohio River to protect the growing numbers of settlers from attack. The fort was twice attacked during the Revolutionary War, first in 1777 and again on September 11 – 13, 1782, when a force of British loyalists (Butler’s Rangers) and Native Americans (under the command of outlaw Simon Girty) attacked the fort’s 47 defenders. The fort was besieged over two days, culminating in Betty Zane’s heroic run for gunpowder in a nearby cabin. The British and natives broke off the battle with the arrival of Virginia militia reinforcements. Fort Henry is acknowledged as one of the final battles of the Revolutionary War.

Continue reading “ERW Weekender: Wheeling”

McColloch’s Leap

“By no means comparable with the feats of a similar character” and “performed an act of daring” and “nay, desperate horsemanship” and “seldom been equaled by man or beast.” All these describe the amazing escape of Major Samuel McColloch in September 1777 during the attack on Fort Henry around where present-day Wheeling, West Virginia.

I first encountered this amazing, daring, and crazy eluding of capture when I took my own, well not as risky, but still a leap, moving to Wheeling to attend university there. Parents were 3,000 miles away in England and I was attempting to juggle basketball, studies, getting re-acclimated to life in the United States, and unknowingly, a left knee that was about to explode. Being a history major, this was one of the first accounts learned in a freshman year seminar class about local history to inspire the incoming students to explore the area outside of campus.

Fort Henry, built in 1774, was originally named Fort Fincastle, one of the titles of Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia. When the colonies revolted, the fortification was renamed in honor of Patrick Henry.

Fort Henry
courtesy of West Virginia History OnView
https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/041457
Continue reading “McColloch’s Leap”

War on the Pennsylvania Frontier: Part 4 of 5: Hanna’s Town

Just north of Greensburg, PA, about twenty five miles from Pittsburgh, is the site of the Westmoreland County Courthouse at Hanna’s Town. The settlement included a few log buildings and was a gathering point for militia throughout the Revolution.

Robert Hanna settled here in 1773 and the first county court for Westmoreland County met here that April. It is thought to be the first courthouse west of the Allegheny Mountains. The village that sprung up straddled the 1758 Forbes Road, built by British troops during the French and Indian War and now a major route for settlers to the region.

Continue reading “War on the Pennsylvania Frontier: Part 4 of 5: Hanna’s Town”