Crawford’s Defeat

A continuation of the McQueen and Brown involvement in Indian wars.

After the massacre at Gnadenhutten the thirst for blood on both sides was high. All of this conflict was occurring towards the end of the revolutionary war largely because the American’s wanted to put a lid on any Indians helping out the enemy or causing trouble on the western frontier. So an expedition was organized, to be led by Crawford, to destroy any enemy Indian towns along the Sandusky River in Ohio Country.

The expedition was a disaster from the start, partly because the Indians and British knew they were coming, and were quite prepared for the coming battles, and partly because of the poorly trained miliamen, bad leadership and poor planning on the part of those in Crawford’s organization.

Crawford Route (Image from Wikipedia page).
Significant battles (Image from Wikipedia page).

The McQueen brothers and George Brown were all part of this campaign. George was married to Elizabeth McQueen (their sister; and my 5xgreat grandparents). George had his own company of which he was a captain, brother-in-laws James and Benjamin McQueen were part of this company.

Between May 20th and 24th of 1782 the frontiersmen all met at Mingo Bottom and on the 25th the expedition left and begin their 150 mile trek to the enemy, the enemy that watched their every move. It wasn’t until June 6th that anything of importance happened. They had run across the deserted villages along the Sandusky where they expected to find villages full of people to exterminate. The miliamen upon seeing this, became very impatient to return to their homes as there was nothing of interest to continue pursuing. It was decided by the officers in charge to march one more day and if they didn’t find anything, to abandon their course and return home.

No sooner had they made this decision than a scout showed up to inform them of an advancing party of Indians about 3 miles away. The army eagerly moved to meet the enemy and proceeded to attack. The melee went on all day with heavy fire on both sides. But the Indians didn’t outright attack during the day, although they appeared to be increasing in numbers at an alarming rate, becoming so noticeable that the American officers decided they would have to begin a night retreat in an effort to save the army. The Indians who were aware of their plans, attacked at sundown. The frontiersmen (comprising about 1/3 of the army) retreated into different directions in small groups hoping that the Indians would follow the main body of the army. But they didn’t.

George Brown’s company was one of those that split off. Another McQueen brother, Thomas, who was with a different company, also left. The Indians had no intention of letting the enemy go so easily and spent several days pursuing and killing any straggling parties they found.

George was shot in the arm or thigh (depending on which telling you read) and the bone broke, he managed to escape on horse, but had to hide quite often before he could make it home. He had spent time trying to find others in his company before he was shot and gave up to head home. Two weeks later he showed up at his door much to the joy of his wife Elizabeth. His brother-in-law Thomas McQueen was not so lucky, he was caught when a fellow traveler decided it was a good idea to shoot a raccoon for dinner and the shots were heard.

“My brother Tom was taken in Crawford’s campaign…and [they] made Tom run the gauntlet. There was not a sound place in [his] head when he got through. But a squaw gave, I forget how many buckskins for him. The 3 had been separated from the rest of the army. Got way down on the Ohio, and being nearly starved, the lieutenant would shoot at a raccoon in the tree, & the indians heard them and took them. The British had him in irons a great while for saying something about Simon Girty…”2, 3

Thomas did eventually make it home, although in later years he was nearly blind due to the trauma to his head during the gauntlet.

So this particular campaign on the part of the Americans to annihilate the Indians was a bust. And, because of the Gnadenhütten massacre, the Ohio Indians had resolved to kill all American prisoners who fell into their hands. The number of Americans executed is unknown. Crawford’s execution was especially gruesome and I don’t have the stomach to tell it, you can read all about it at the wiki site.

The burning of Crawford.

2. “Metes and Bounds I: Dugal McQueen and Some Descendants”, by Donna Hechler. Wyandotte, OK, The Gregath Publishing Company: 1999.
3. The story of Simon Girty

It was a massacre…

Depiction of the Gnadenhutten Massacre.

While we celebrate our thanksgiving and feel all proud and smug about being American’s, well maybe not so much these days, most folks try to forget that the country we live in today came at a very great cost to those who had settled here long before the first European arrived.

I can claim many ancestors on my mother’s side of the family, and a few on my father’s, who were what we considers ‘frontiers folk.’ They hacked, literally and figuratively, their way across this country building new lives for themselves many times over in the wilderness that once was. Along the way they also hacked down a few of the first settlers who were in their way.

One of those frontier families were the McQueens, who in the course of their years as settlers had developed a keen and decisive hatred for the indigenous people who were living on the land they wanted. This hatred no doubt was fueled by all the killing that occurred on both sides of the fence – as one wanted to keep the land that was theirs to begin with, and the other wanted to take it from them, rightly or wrongly, the large majority of frontier folk didn’t much care.

In March of 1782, a group of Pennsylvania militiamen under the command of Captain David Williamson attacked the Moravian Church mission at Gnadenhutten consisting of Christian Indians. Because of ‘evidence’ that was most likely planted by the Shawnee, they believed that they were  revenging for the deaths and kidnappings of several white settlers that had occurred in the area earlier. However, the Delaware had only recently arrived back at their village to forage for food and had had nothing whatsoever to do with the earlier killings and kidnappings.

Accusing the Delaware of the attack on the Pennsylvania settlements, the soldiers rounded them up and placed the men and women in separate buildings in the abandoned village overnight. There was a council of war held by the militiamen, with a few voicing their distress at the idea of murdering all the prisoners as punishment, but their voices were not heard as the majority vote was to execute their captives the following morning. One of the men who was not keen on the idea was my ancestor George Brown, a brother-in-law to Thomas McQueen (an ancestral uncle) who was all for the decision to put them to death. George, a minster at the time, had more compassion and did not feel that death to all the Delaware prisoners was a proper punishment for their supposed crime.

Informed of their impending deaths, the accused spent the night praying and singing hymns. The next morning the soldiers dragged the prisoners in pairs by the ropes around their necks to a slaughter house where they were knocked down with a cooper’s mallet and then scalped and murdered  all 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children. There were only two survivors left to tell the story.

Folks who didn’t live in the frontier were appalled and horrified at the massacre, those living on the frontier mostly felt the Indians got what they deserved, and there was even talk of mounting another invasion against the Indians. The result of this massacre was more Indian reprisals and raids, fueling more hatred of the ‘red-skinned’ enemies. Eventually all this activity led to Crawford’s campaign. (Both George Brown and all the McQueen boys were involved in the Crawford campaign, in fact George had his own company. More on this in another installment.)

This is not the first occurrence of ancestors of mine murdering Indians, although it is probably close to the last. Of course the Indians got their licks in, as I have surprising number of ancestors who died under the blade, arrow or bullet of ‘the enemy’ too. I harbor no resentment. Even though it was never officially declared, the European invaders were always at war in one way or another with the people who were on this continent first, and sadly we won. Too bad we couldn’t have shown our better quality.


Metes and Bounds I: Dugal McQueen and Some Descendants, by Donna Hechler. Wyandotte, OK, The Gregath Publishing Company: 1999.