IN.gov - Skip Navigation

Note: This message is displayed if (1) your browser is not standards-compliant or (2) you have you disabled CSS. Read our Policies for more information.

Indiana Historical Bureau

George Rogers Clark > Henry Hamilton's Journal > A Prisoner of War, March 8 to June 16, 1779 A Prisoner of War, March 8 to June 16, 1779

8tn. The Oak Boat in which we had brought a Brass six with ammunition &c. was allotted to us, we had rowed her with 14 Oars, but they concluded such stout fellows as we, could row her against the current of the Ohio with 7-- so at length on the 8th March we took leave of our poor fellow Soldiers who had tears in their eyes some of the wounded got to the water side to bid us farewell, and Colonel Clarke who generosity should not pass unnoticed when he had seen our Pork and flour embarked, and we were ready to push off asked us aloud if we wanted anything-- We fell down the stream and encamped three leagues below white River, the current very swift--

9th. continued our route & encamped at l'hyvernement de Bonepart, at this place the little attention of our guard was such as to give some among us an idea of seizing their arms in the night and getting down to the Natchez, but we were checked by thinking what would be the fate of those we left behind--

10th. As we approached the Ohio we conceived that river to be amazingly raised as the waters of the Ouabache were backed for at least three miles before we reached the mouth-- At half past three in the afternoon we got into the Ohio, & rowed up the stream 9 miles-- By the driftwood lodged in the trees we perceived the waters had been 12 feet higher than at present, tho' now 18 feet above the steep banks of Ohio--There was no sight of land, and as far as the sight could extend a violent current swept thro' the wood, so night coming on we made our boat fast to a tree, and lay as well as we could contrive which was not very conveniently as it rained most part of the night, and our Tarpaulin was rather scanty-- our bodies were miserably cramped being so crowded, & one of our party in a blankett tyed in form of a harmmaque one end to a bough of a tree, the other to the boats mast--

11, 12, 13th. rowed up against stream & encamped, tho ill at our ease everything being wet and the ground little better than a swamp

14th we set off and not having got terre firma we lay again in our boat a little above green river-- ( 258)

15th. fair wind, got about 30 miles against stream & encamped

16th The current exceeding strong, we worked hard & could make but 9 miles all day--encamped--

17th Our work had made us so keen, & the weather being still very cold it will not appear surprizing that this day our provision was entirely expended-- Our Guardians sent out some hunters to procure us Buffaloe, in which they succeeded--

18, 19, 20th. nothing remarkable happend-- we were a good deal impeded by the large rafts of driftwood, brought down by this extraordinary flood which was occasiond by a general thaw of the Snow in the upper country accompanyed with a heavy rain-- We are told that the banks of the Ohio are subject to inundations from its conflux with the Mississipi to the distance of 300 miles upwards, so that the settling of tnat country is not likely to take place in many centuries--

21st. Rain-- 22d. no. ex-- (259 ) 23d Snow, lay by-- 24th. passed the Islands--

25th. contrary wind we could advance but 7 miles-- 26th. nothing extra--

27th. I landed with Major Hay and Mr. Bellefeuille on the east side of the river to get a view of the ravages occasioned by a Whirlwind or Hurricane-- We had some difficuty in scrambling to the top of the cliff, great craggs and large trees tumbled together in confusion obliging us sometimes to creep and sometirnes to climb-- when we got to the top we saw the progress of this vein of wind which was in a straight line across the River, and thro the wood which was mowed down at about 20 or 25 feet from the ground, the vista open'd being as regular as if laid down by a line--

28th. rain--

29th. Captain Harrod the officer commanding the fort and settlement at the falls came down in a boat of 18 oars, shortly after which we encamped a little above salt River-- (260)

30th. We proceeded with our new guide to the falls-- the River at the falls may be about 800 yards across and divided in the middle by an Island on which there had been a fort, which was at that time deserted from the uncommon rise of the waters, which the people here told us had been above 40 feet higher than the usual level--

We were put into a log house, and received the compliments of the people on our arrival, expressed by discharging their pieces almost all day long, this joy of theirs at our capture made us recollect what C.C. (261) had told us, that we should run the risq. of our lives in passing the Frontier--

31st. We procured some bread for our ensuing march, for the baking of which I was obliged to give the lady baker my quilt-- as to provision, our hunters were to find it on the route if they could--

Two horses were all that we could get to hire so we prepared to set off the next day, not in the best humor imaginable--

The people here had not got intelligence of our having taken Fort Sackville, till the day before we were brought Prisoners to the falls, so well had the Indian parties scoured the country--

April 1st. We set off from the falls about 11 a m. without a single days provision furnished by our captors, two horses were with difficulty procured for hire, so that we were obliged to carry our packs, which indeed were not very heavy, A Bearskin and blankett being the common burthen, I the Chief, had a small portmanteau and a box of folio size (that is this folio) in which I carried a few papers-- Those of any moment (thinking I might be searched unexpectedly) I had kept copies of, and carried in an inner pockett of my waistcoat-- we got some bread baked & purchased a small quantity of Indian corn of the settlers at the falls--

set off about 11 o'Clock a m. marched 10 miles--

2d. 12 miles-- 3d. 15 miles rain-- a hilly road-- 4th. hilly road rain 20 miles.

5th. Had a very fatiguing march, our guides lost themselves and misled us. One of our hunters killed a she bear about 3 years old, very fat, which was a great resource as we had not a morse1 of flesh among us all at setting out-- This Creature must have just quitted her winter habitation for tho so fat, she had nothing in her Stomach, or intestines-- We got 30 miles this day--

6th. We fell into the path of the Shawanese warriors, which they use to go against the Cherakees-- The country pleasant, the verdure very luxuriant, passed some log houses which appeard to have been lately deserted, the enclosures being in good repair-- A great relief to us was the frequency of plentyfull springs of fine water breaking thro a limestone-- Two horses were sent from Harrodsburgh to assist in carrying the baggage-- We reached that place about dusk having marched 25 miles-- It is called a fort and consists of about 20 houses, forming an irregular square with a very copious spring within its enclosure-- (262)

At the time of our arrival, they were in hourly apprehsion of attacks from the Savages, and no doubt these poor inhabitants are worthy of pity--

Their cattle were brought into the fort every night Horses as well as Cows-- They dared not go for firewood or to plow without their arms, yet in spight of this state of constant alarm a considerable quantity of land had been cleared, and as their numbers are increasing fast, they will soon set the Savages at defiance, being good marksmen and well practiced in the Woods-- A Water mill had been built on a branch of Salt river which runs by the fort, but the frequent inroads of the Indians had renderd it useless, and they subsisted by the use of 2 handmills--

On my taking a survey of this place, I recollected perfectly the plan, of it given me by a Savage who had been there with a party and had been on the point of being taken by a well laid plan of the Officer at this post who knowing where the Savages were, sent out two or three men with Scythes as if to mow, who drew the attention of the Savages, while a Party sent by a circuit into their rear thro the woods, unexpectedly fired on them killed some on the Spot & put the rest to shifting for themselves--

Our diet here was indian corn and milk for breakfast & supper, Indian bread and Bears flesh for dinner, yet we were healthy & strong

We were delayed here much against our will thinking we held our lives by a very precarious tenure, for the people on our first coming looked upon us as little better than savages, which was very excusable considering how we had been represented, and besides that they had sufferd very severely from the inroads of those people-- One Man in particular had last year lost his son, and had had four score of his horses & mares carryed off, yet this man was reconciled upon hearing a true state of facts, and Colonel Bowman acted as a person above prejudice, by rendering us every service in his power--

11th. William Moyres, Colonel Clarke's messenger with letters to the Govr. of Virginia, was killed on the road from the falls to this place the letters and prisoners as we supposed carried off to Detroit-- (263)

17th. Colol. Bowman having sent to Logan's fort for horses, they arrivd this day. He was so obliging as to let me have one of his own-- (264)

19th. We set out for Logan's fort 20 miles distant, where we arrived at 7 p m. tis an oblong square formed by the houses making a double street, at the angles were stockaded bastions-- the situation is romantic, among wooded hills, a stream of fine water passes at the foot of these hills which turns a small grist mill-- They had been frequently alarmed & harrassed by the Indians, Captain Logan the person commanding here had had his arm broken by a buckshot in a skirmish with them, & was not yet recoverd-- the people here were not exceedingly well disposed to us, & we were accosted by the females especially in pretty coarse terms-- but the Captain and his wife, who had a brother carryed off by the Indians were very civil and hospitable-- (265)

20th. We marched to Whitley's fort 7 miles distant where we made a halt and where a small ox was purchased for our subsistence, which with 3 bags of Indian corn, one of Indian meal and some dryed meat was to serve 50 of us for 14 days, in which time we expected to reach some habitations-- (266)

This little post is often visited and much infested by the Savages--

21st. Set forward on an Indian path, & forded Craggs creek forty times-- (267) the difficulty of marching thro' such a country as this is not readily imagined by a European-- The Canes grow very close together to the heighth of 25 feet and from the thickness of a quill to that of ones wrist, as they are very strong and supple the rider must be constantly on the watch to guard his face from them as they fly back with great force, the leaves and the young shoots are a fodder horses are exceedingly fond of and are eternally turning to the right & left to take a bite-- The soil where they grow is rich and deep, so you plod thro in a narrow track like a Cowpath, while ehe musketoes are not idle-- the steep ascents & descents with rugged stony ways varied with Swamps and clayey grounds completely jaded horses and riders-- we began to cross the blue Mountains this day--

22d. Very bad swampy road or way rather-- at 10 am. passed a small river called rock Castle branch which falls into Cumberland river-- (268) The scene is very beautiful! the trees being in high beauty, the water bright, the weather clear, so that tho in no pleasant circumstances otherways I could not but enjoy this romantic prospect of which I took a hasty sketch while our poor fatigued packhorses were towed thro' the rapid stream by their wearyed hungry leaders-- we encamped about 7 p.m. when we were joined by a Colonel Callaway (269) who took upon him the charge of the prisoners and their escort hitherto commanded by Captn' Harrod-- The Colol. made new arrangements, new dispositions, talked of Grand division manoevres, and made a great display of military abilities, posting a number of sentries, & fatiguing our poor Devils of frontiers [men] who would willingly have trusted their prisoners in this desert, not one of whom could have made use of his liberty, without Guides, provision and shoes being found them-- It rained all night, which did not set our disciplinarian in a favorable light--

23d. St. Georges-- We were very hearty in our wishes for the honor and success of the Patrons countrymen, and tho the water was very good, did not exceed the bounds of moderation in our potations--

The road was exceedingly difficult, lying over very steep hills which from last nights rain were so slippery, our wretched cattle had much ado to scramble up and slide down--

24th. forded stinking creek, and some others-- at 4 p.m. passed the great War path of the Shawanese, (270) which at this place crosses a remarkable Buffaloe salt lick-- several of the trees here bear the marks of the exploits of the Savages, who have certain figures and Characters by which thq can express their numbers, their route, what prisoners they have made, how many killed &ca---- they commonly raise the bark & with their Tomahawks & knives carve first and then with vermillion color their design--

25 Forded Cumberland or Shawanese river, which is about 200 yards over--

26th. passed Cumberland Mountain, enterd Powel's valley-- (271) Provision being expended we killed a Cow from a herd probably left here by some Sellers, who were probably intercepted on their March, & killed by the Indian----

27th. Came to a very pretty halting place called the Spring cave, otherways rocky bridge a curious romantic work of Nature--

A very copious Stream of fine water breaks out of the Ground in a beauty full valley well cloathed with clover, skirted with rising grounds ornamented with variety of timber trees, evergreens & Shrubs-- at about 150 yards from its source it passes under a rocky ledge which serves for a bridge being about 60 feet wide at top and coverd with trees-- The road passes over the natural Bridge, which is hollowed into several arched cavities, some of a considerable dimension. This pretty stream and cheerfull scene would have engaged me a considerable time but I had no allowance and just took two slight sketches on Cards--

In the Evening we arrived fatigued & wet thro', and encamped near Chrisman Creek-- it pourd rain so hard that we could scarce make a fire-- I went to see the cave from which the Creek (as 'tis improperly called) issues, it is arched over naturally and the coving is really very smooth and even, a tall man may stand upright in it and walk about 70 yards, a breach in the top letting in light sufficient, I thought it singular enough to take a view of it-- (272)

28th. Our horses straggled to a great distance among tbe canes, and tho they were hoppled, and had Bells, we could not collect them before 12 o'Clock-- crossed Powell's Mountain-- (273) halted at Scots improvement--

29th. Crossed the north bran.ch of Clinch river, forded stock creek 6 times, forded Clinch river with great difficulty, some of the men were near being drownd, it fell sleet and hail with an exceeding sharp wind-- a very small canoe took over some of us, after making a fire & getting well warmed we proceeded on our march thro' cane brakes, the ways crooked steep & miry-- I felt the gout flying about me and as it would have been dreadfull to have him fix while in such a country, I dismounted & walked the whole day in Moccassins which dissipated the humor and enabled me to keep up--

30th. Forded Moccassin and leather creeks several times also the north branch of Holston river, (274) which being very rapid, I did not chose to trust my horse and rather than attempt it had a raft made & was ferryed over by two who could swim the raft being only large enough for one--

May 1st. Pass Mocassin gap, a pass thro' the Mountains, which afford some very bold and magnificent viewss-- a little fort called Andross, built in 1753 but now in ruins is situated on the left hand as you come out of the Mountain near which we fell into a Waggon road, & shortly after were accosted by Mr: Maddison, A Gentleman of a liberal way of thinking, who received us with genuine hospitality and gave us such a wellcome as we could not have expected from one whose life and property were in continual danger from the Indians who had made inroads much farther into the country than his habitation--

The sight of a pretty cultivated farm, well cropped, with a large garden orchard, & convenient buildings, set off by the lofty & rugged Mountains we had just passed, formed a pleasing contrast to our late situation-- the cheerfull conversation of a very agreeable old man, with a plentyfull meal, (what we had long been strangers to) rest after our fatigues, and a very clean bed to conclude were real luxuries, to people who had not lain in sheets for 7 months--

2d-- Our kind host accompanyed us to General Lewis's, where Major Hay and I were accommodated with beds-- we had stoppd at Major McBeans--

3d. We lay at a Major Bletsoe's farm, where we were told the country people had designed to assemble & knock us on the head-- (275) Tho we considered this as only meant to prevent our having any conversation with them, we thought it adviseable to stay within-- we breakfasted at Colonel Shelby's plantation, where we were very frankly entertained-- The Farm in extraordinary good order and condition, we were shown a black Stallion one of the first creatures of his sort I ever saw-- at night we slept at a Captain Thompsons, where riches could not keep penury out of doors. we did not get our dinner till eleven at night, and this made us see economy in no faverable light--

4th. Arrived at Washington court house--

5th. & 6th. Halted at Colonel Arthur Campbell's where we repaired ourselves with sleep-- Our Host was very civil to us, but from the difficulty of procuring Provisions in this part of the Country, some of the prisoners who were pressed with hunger and fatigue broke out into very injurious language, and even threatned to be revenged at a future day for the little attention payd to their necessities-- // some time after my arrival in Virginia, I received a letter from C.C in which he lamented my having engaged in the Indian war, & mentioned his father having been in my grandfathers family as Steward, and having saved my father from drowning in the Boyne at the age of 13 years//--

7th Set out from Colonel Campbells where Mr: Dejean stayed, and lay at the plantation of Mr: Sayer--

8th. Passed Rail's fort, where the poor people saw us with some horror, as being of kindred manners with the Savages-- A remarkable sized Stallion-- forded Peeks creek and some others, and in the Evening crossed over in a ferry the new river or great Canhawa, and were kindly and hospitably received at the house of Colonel Ingles-- here we rested for an entire day-- a beautyfull Girl his daughter sat at the head of the table, and did the honors with such an easy and graceful! simplicity as quite charmed us-- the Scenery about this house was romantic to a degree the river very beautyfull, the hills well wooded, the low grounds well improved & well stocked, I thought his tecum toto consumerer &ca-- Mrs: Ingles had in her early years been carryed off with another young Woman by the Savages, and tho carryed away into the Shawanes country had made her escape with her female friend, & wonderful to relate tho exposed to unspeakable hardships, & having nothing to subsist on but wild fruits, found her way back in safety, from a distance (if I remember right) of 200 miles-- however terror and distress had left so deep an impression on her mind that she appeard absorbed in a deep melancholy, and left the management of household concerns, & the reception of Strangers to her lovely daughter.

10th. We entered into Botetourt County

11th. Crossed the Roanoak seven times.

12th. reached Mr: Howard's, where notwithstanding the wretched estate of the Country the Mistress of the family in the absence of her husband showed all the dispositions imaginable to make her house agreeable to us--

13th. forded great Otter Creek-- crossed otter creek six times, and Otter river once-- The Peeks of Otter make their appearance in various points of view, and terminated many of our prospects very agreably-- (276) A Gruff Landlord--

14th. Arrived at Bedford in the County of the same name-- a tolerably well built but now nearly a deserted Village, the situation well chosen and healthy-- We halted here the 15th but could scarcely keep our selves warm within doors, so ranged about to keep ourselves warm-- to get a plentyfull meal was now a rarity, and what we were not to expect-- Heard a coarse German girl play on an instrument of one string, which she managed tolerably--

16th We arrived at Lynche's ferry on the head of James's river, and set forward the day following on a raft composed of two canoes lashed together, and lay at the plantation of a Colonel Bosville on the North side of the river in Amherst County-- 18rh 19th proceeded--

20th Made a halt about breakfast time, to get some water that of the river being very hot and distastefull, to our great surprize found Brigadier General Hamilton and Major Kirkman of the convention army who received us with all imaginable cordiality and politeness-- In the Evening reached the plantation of a rich old Chuff a Colonel Lewis, who demanded or rather exacted fourscore dollars for our scant supper-- While I was walking in the garden I saw three Officers in British uniforms ride by, and saluted them tho' little imagining I could know or be known, but Captain Freeman aid de Camp to General Riedesel knew me thro' the disguise of a slouched hat & very shabby cloathing------ After some conversation he took his leave promising to see us in the morning before our departure-- he was so good, and very obligingly took charge of a letter for Genl. Haldimand, and one for Major General Philips, enclosing a copy of the capitulation, and giving him an account of our situation--

21st reached Goochland Court house-- a brutal Landlord, exchanged for a civil one--

22d The Officers were orderd to Beaver Dam, the men remained-- We had been left without any guard excepting Lieutenant Rogers from the time of our getting into Washington County-- At the house of Mr: Thos. Pleasants we were hospitable entertained, with all the humanity, candor and simplicity of a sensible Quaker free from the ostentation of sanctity but possessed of a liberal and generous spirit-- Tho a number of his family were crowded under one roof, there appeard as much neatness in their persons and as much good humor in their manner as if they had been perfectly at ease in their circumstances, and not subjected to the odious tyranny of their new Masters, who obliged them (at that time) to pay treble taxes-- We expected to have remained at the house allotted for us about one mile from Mr: Pleasants, and as the time of our exchange was uncertain we had some thoughts of employing ourselves in the Garden, but on the

26th A Captah Upshaw, a curious Original, arrived with an order for our removal to Chesterfield, and on the 28th having taken a reluctant leave of our kind and sensible Quaker, we set out for Richmond--

As I have a great propensity to strike out of the common road, and dont always take the necessary precautions for getting into it again, I this day followed my inclination and having the Surgeon with me we got into a bye road which we followed, and not getting sight of people or dwellings for a long time, added 13 miles to our days march, & did not reach Richmond till one o'Clock the next Mornhg-- The out Sentries would not suffer us to go into town, nor would they call to the guard so we lay on the ground till the relief came--

31st Having passed our time disagreably at Richmond from the prepossession of people against us, and the curiosity to see how such a set of Infernals carryed themselves who had each been more bloodthirsty than Herod the Tetrarch, we were marched to Chesterfield, where we were kept under a jealous guard--

June 15th An Officer arrived who had a written order signed by Govr. Jefferson for William La Mothe Captain of the Volunteers of Detroit, and myself to be taken in irons and layd in Goal [sic] at Williamsburgh-- The Officer acquitted himself of this commission with reluctance and behaved very civilly--

Howeva we were mounted with some difficulty being handcuffd, and I found a days journey of only 30 Miles tired my patience and wearyed my body exceedingly not having as yet repaired the uncommon fatigues of a March Route of 1200 miles from Fort Sackville, most part of the time but half fed, iill cloathed, menaced and reviled, but as Sancho says, This was spice cake and gilt gingerbread to what was to come-- We lay I cannot say rested at James City Court house that night, we had stopped at a Village on the way to have the rivetts of my handcuffs taken out, and newly set, for riding had so swelled my wrists that the rings chafed the skin too much and my conductor kindly attended to my remonstrance--

The next day it raind, the road was bad, and my legs were sore with several boils produced by heated blood at this hot season-- I was permitted to walk-- at Chickahomoney ferry met the Quarter Master of the 46th Regiment--

16th About Sunset reached Williamsburgh, wet jaded dispirited, forming ideas of what sort of Judicial examination I was to undergo-- By the time we reached the Palace (as it is called) the Governor's residence our escort of curious persons had become very numerous-- The Officer went in to give account of his mission, and we remained on Horseback before the door expecting the civilities naturally to be looked for from a Man the first in place h the Province-- In half an hour not finding our expectations answerd, I flung myself from my horse fatigued and mortifyet to be left a spectacle to a gazing crowd-- We were however soon relieved from the painfull state of uncertainty by the appearance of the Officer, who conducted us to the Common prison, distant a small mile, our attendants increasing every step-- At the Jail we were received by the Jailer, a character, however beneath other peoples notice, which soon called our attention, and which I shall touch upon elsewhere.

The opening and shutting doors and barrier, unbolting some Cells, and giving directions in an authorotative voice perhaps were designed to appall us poor Devils, and bring us to a due sense of our situation-- my reflections were by no means tranquill, but curiosity with a large share of indignation rose to the surface in turns-- We traversed a small court 20 feet square, walled to the heighth of 30 feet-- A Cell Door was opend when the first object that presented itself to my sight by a dim twilight, was Mr: Dejean-- which of the parties was most surprized was doubtfull, but which was most affected appeared to be the Justice, who burst hto tears and exclamations on seeing us in such a garb and condition--This poor man had as delicate a sense of danger as either Sancho or Partridge, and now Gibbetts and wheels presented themselves to his fancy in all their horrors--

The Jailer put us in, and having no further occasion for us went his way-- now had we had a hot supper to sit down to, some good wine, liberty of speech and comfortable beds to lye down on, and our handcuffs taken off, it would have been a considerable alleviation--

But I had better proceed to tell what we had, and it will spare the time of particularizing the many things we had not-- We had for our domicile a place not ten feet square by actual measurement, the only light admitted was thro' the grating of the door which opend into the Court above mentioned, the light and air are nearly excluded for the bars of this grating were from three to four inches thick-- (277) In one corner of this snug mansion was formed a kind of Throne which had been of use to such miscreants as us for 60 years past, and in catain points of wind renderd the air truly Mephytic-- opposite the door and nearly adjoining the throne was a little Skuttle 5 or 6 inches wide, thro which our Victual was thrust to us-- It is not necessary to describe the furniture, as such folk as were destined to be residants here had no occasion for superfluities-- The Jaylor had not been long gone when I heard the noise of a flint and steel a match was lighted, and by its light I espyed certain other persons who were utter strangers to me, these worthy gentlemen when a candle was lighted offerd me their services assuring me they were very sorry to see persons of our station so hardly used-- I must describe these persons as we shortly became acquainted--one was Mr: Collins who had been a Drummer in the British Service, but having deserted, no doubt for very prudential reasons, and finding the provincial pay insufficient for the support of a man of pleasure, had fallen upon a method of seeing that matter right by counterfeiting the current money of the State-- the second was Mr: Speers who had been a Victualier in the borough of Southwark, he had had his reasons for coming to America, and had an equal right with Mr. Collins to imitating the manner of the engravers employed by the Commonwealth for making what they called limber dollars-- Mr. Speers, he played on the fiddle, and perhaps to his enlivening strains I owe that I am able to write these Memoirs-- A Sailor who did not like staying on board was a third-- they wae all very fond of Mirth and Rum, the latter greatly promoting the former so that in a short time three of six that we were, betook themselves to dancing, but Mr. Steers [sic] was not firm enough to play and dance long so he sat on the throne, playing to the other Gentlemen, who may with propriety be said to have danced reels-- These good people however had the charity to offer us some rum which we were not so unwise as to refuse, so laying down in our wet cloaths on the boards we passed the night as well as we could