George Washington’s Land Interest in British West Florida, 1773-1774

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian George Kotlik.

After the French & Indian War, the British Crown sought to regulate colonial westward settlement and expansion. This was done for a variety of reasons. First, British ministers believed that westward expansion would require administration over newly acquired territory.[1] British leaders also feared that unrestricted colonial expansion could lead to ungovernable colonies who would, over time, seek to split with Great Britain.[2] Most importantly, Britain had acquired Florida and almost all of the territory under New France east of the Mississippi River at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War. British ministers sought to redirect western settlement towards Canada and the Florida’s.[3] Regulation of western land settlement also protected Indian lands from white encroachments. This measure sought to prevent further Indian wars.[4] The impositions placed on westward settlement infuriated colonial land speculators who sought to gain much wealth in acquiring western lands. After the Great War for Empire, George Washington and other veteran officers of that conflict were awarded land in exchange for their services to the Crown.[5] Many eyed lands in the Ohio Country, but after the October 7 Proclamation of 1763, most acreage in that vast wilderness lay out of reach. The account of Washington’s interest in North America’s western lands is popular and well-known. However, lesser known is the former British officer’s interest in West Florida land.[6]

Continue reading “George Washington’s Land Interest in British West Florida, 1773-1774”

The Crawford Campaign, 1782: Captivity, Torture, and Execution

IMG_2443
One of the few historical markers denoting the campaign.  The other side of the security fence at the left is home to the county landfill.  Tymochtee Creek is to the right.  (Author Photo)

(part five of five)

For those men separated from the retreating main body in the pell-mell retreat, Crawford’s expedition had become a nightmare, beginning with the panic on the night of June 5.  James Paul remembered being shaken awake with word that the men were leaving and attempting to retrieve his horse in the dark before finding it had already slipped its bridle and wandered away.

“I groped about in the dark and discovered two other horses tied to the same sapling and my horse standing at their tails.  This revived my drooping spirits.  On finding my horse standing quiet, I bridled him and mounted, and about the same time a number of other horses were mounted by their owners, and all put out from the camp ground together, amounting in all to nine in number, and we made as much haste to get away as we could, considering the darkness of the road, and no roads but open woods to ride through, and no one to guide us.”  Paul and his fellows realized Colonel Williamson, now leading the main body, was retreating on a longer route home, “leaving us nine and many other stragglers behind to take care of themselves as best they could, and to steer their own course homeward, and, as it turned out afterward, but few of these stragglers ever got home.”[1]

Paul and his group eventually became mired in a swamp and had to abandon their horses, making their way on foot, pursed by Native American warriors who forced them to scatter.  After sleeping in hollow logs and under rocks, going without food other than a blackbird and occasional handful of berries, Paul eventually made his way back across the Ohio alone near Wheeling, arriving at a small fort where settlers had taken refuge against renewed Indian raids.[2]

Continue reading “The Crawford Campaign, 1782: Captivity, Torture, and Execution”

The Crawford Campaign, 1782: Battle on the Sandusky

(part three of five)

IMG_2422
The Battle Monument.  “Battle Island” is likely on a slight rise through the pines.  (Author Photo)

The expedition continued through thick forest until June 4, when it finally came upon a Wyandot town on the upper Sandusky after noon.    It was abandoned to the surprise of Crawford’s guides.[i]  (The Wyandot shifted from “Upper Sandusky,” which became known as “old town” and was above the modern town of Upper Sandusky to a new town of “Upper Sandusky,” which became known as Half-King’s town and was below the modern town of Upper Sandusky.)  At this point, several men expressed their desire to return to the Ohio, complaining they were down to five days provisions.[ii]  Crawford sent a reconnaissance party of about 40 men under Major Rose to the north, where the woods opened up into a gentle plain.  Dr. Knight recalled, “there are a great many extensive plains in that country; The woods in general grow very thin, and free from brush and underwood; so that light horsemen may advance a considerable distance before an army without being much exposed to the enemy.”[iii]  Indeed, northwestern Ohio was a gently rolling plain flattened by glaciers over a million years ago and covered in 1782 with knee- to waist-high grass, interrupted by an occasional grove of trees.  The terrain rolls with small, gentle gulleys and hills rising in quick succession.  The combination limited one’s ability to see great distances.  It was perfect for the mounted force Crawford led, theoretically capable of moving quickly.  But, the slow pace of the advance, the difficulty of terrain, poor availability of forage in the woods, and quality of the horses had worn the mounts out.[iv]

Continue reading “The Crawford Campaign, 1782: Battle on the Sandusky”

The Crawford Campaign, 1782: American Strategy in Ohio, 1781-1782

General William Irvine
General William Irvine (Wikimedia Commons)

(part one of five)

War on the American frontier was generally brutal, but few incidents inflamed American passions in the country’s early history as much as the torture and execution of Colonel William Crawford in June 1782 in Northwestern Ohio.  Crawford’s death marked the emotional climax of another patriot attempt to neutralize British power at Detroit, generally exercised through Native American proxies who had their own reasons for fighting the Americans, and halt the raids against American settlers on the frontier.  The Huron and Wyandot who lived about the Sandusky River, and the Shawnee to their South on the Scioto and Miami Rivers, both occasionally aided by various clans of the Delaware and Mingo tribes, were particularly troublesome in the Ohio River valley.  Colonel Crawford’s campaign, which resulted in his death, was meant to punish the tribes for past raids to forestall future raids.

Continue reading “The Crawford Campaign, 1782: American Strategy in Ohio, 1781-1782”