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.

Hand
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.” Continue reading “General Edward Hand: The Squaw Campaign”