of the Moravian Amerindians
9 March 1782
(In this account, the Amerindians are called
by the White invaders, who are the worst savages)
The British at
Detroit, their auxiliaries, and the hostile Indians at Sandusky, used their influence
conjointly in the fall of 1781 to induce the missionaries and their Indian converts
to leave Tuscarawas and join the enemies of the United States. Failing in this,
a party of British and Indians came down to the valley, captured ZEISBERGER, HECKWELDER,
and the other missionaries, gathered together the converts from Schoenbrunn, Salem,
and Gnadenhütten and drove them to the Sandusky country, leaving their cattle,
hogs, corn, and other winter provisions behind. ZEISBERGER, HECKWELDER, and the
other missionaries, were taken to Detroit to be tried as spies, having been charged
with holding correspondence with the agents of the American colonies, but after
a trial were acquitted and returned to Sandusky
Ignorant of these events, David WILLIAMSON, a colonel of militia in Washington
county, marched, some time afterward, to the Muskingum with a detachment of men,
to compel the missionaries to remove further away from the border; or, in case
of a refusal, to take them prisoners. Upon their arrival in the valley they found
this task anticipated by the enemy. They captured a small party, however, who
had returned from Sandusky to gather corn left standing in the fields; and with
these they returned to the settlements. These, Moravians, were immediately set
at liberty by General Irivine.
Early in the winter the missionaries at Sandusky heard that a party of Virginians,
under Captain Benjamin BIGGS, had gone out from the Ohio to Schonbrunn and murdered
a number of Christian Indians found there gathering corn. Captain BIGGS had been
in 1778 and 1779 one of the defenders of Fort Laurens, and in the fall of 1781
was sent from Wheeling with a party to rout out and kill the Muncey and other
Indian warriors who had, after the missionaries were carried off, taken possession
of Schoenbrunn and the other forsaken settlements in the valley. When BIGGS got
to Schonbrunn he found only some straggling Christian Indians; these he took to
Fort Pitt, and they had liberty to go and come as they pleased.
BIGGS's campaign had drawn no blood in the valley, and this dissatisfied the border
settlers along the Ohio who were continually being raided upon by western Indian
warriors, and their families murdered or carried into captivity. The abandoned
Schonbrunn, Gnadenhütten and Salem, were during the winter, made the resting
places of the warriors going to or returning from the Ohio with scalps and prisoners;
and small pursuing parties of whites from the east, as well as parties of Christian
Indians who had ran back from Sandusky to the warmer Tuscarawas, made the valley
one continual scene of excitement and discordant border warfare until the bloody
scenes of 1782 began to unfold.
A cold winter setting in, and the means of sustenance at Sandusky being very scant,
one hundred or more of the converts had asked and obtained leave to go back to
the towns in the valley for provisions. At the same time warriors were sent to
the Ohio to rob and murder the whites, with intent thereby to exasperate the borderers
who were in the American interest, and incite them to cross the Ohio, and pursue
the raiders to the Tuscarawas towns, where it was expected they would fall in
with the Christian Indians gathering corn and dispatch them. Thus, was the Williamson
expedition planned in reality by the British at Detroit and Sandusky.
On account of the weather during the month of February, 1782, being unusually
fine, the scalping savages were astir at a much earlier season than was their
custom. The party of warriors from Sandusky crossed the Ohio above and below Mingo
town, near what is now Steubenville, committed some murders and took many captives
on Raccoon and Buffalo creeks, Washington county. The incursions of the Indians
later in the spring was anticipated by the settlers along the border, feelings
of alarm and great exasperation became general, and they began organizing the
expedition under Colonel Williamson, which afterward perpetrated the unfortunate
excesses at Gnadenhütten
The early period at which those fatal visitations of the Indians took place, led
to the belief among the settlements that the murderers were either Moravians or
that the warriors had their winter quarters at their towns on the Tuscarawas.
The borderers came to the conclustion that a quick and spirited exertion was necessary
to save their country, and hastened the preparations for marching against the
Indian towns. A party of warriors discovering Williamson's expedition organizing
immediately thereafter attacked the house of Robert Wallace upon Raccoon creek,
in the northern part of Washington county. Wallace,upon his return home in the
evening, finding his wife and children gone, his home broken up, his furniture
destroyed and his cattle shot and lying dead in the yard, immediately alarmed
the neighbors, and a party was raised that night, who started early next morning
in pursuit; but, unfortunately, a snow fell,which prevented their coming up with
the savages and the men were obliged to return.
With their prisoners, consisting of Mrs. Wallace, her little son Robert, two and
a half years old, and another son ten years of age, and an infant daughter, and
what plunder they could carry off, the savages made their way toward the Ohio;
but finding the mother and her infant somewhat troublesome, they were tomahwked
and scalped. The two boys were carried to Sandusky, where the elder died.
About the time of the attack upon Wallace's house, John Carpenter was taken prisoner,
from the waters of Buffalo creek, in the same county, by a party of six Indians-two
of whom called themselves Moravians, and spoke good Dutchand hurried across
the Ohio. His two horses, which they took with him, nearly perished in swimming
the river. The savages, as well as their captive, sufferd severely before reaching
the Muskingum. The two Moravians Indains treated their prisoner with particular
indignity. In the morning, after the first day's journey beyond that stream, Carpenter
was sent out to bring in the horses, which had been turned out in the evening,
after being hobbled. The animals had made a circuit and fallen into the trail
by which they came the preceding day, and were making their way homeward. He immediately
resolved to attempt an escape. This was a very hazardous undertaking, as, awaited
him. However, he made the effort and was successfulcoming in to Pittsburgh
by the way of Forts Laurens and McIntosh.
Near to and on the west side of the Ohio river, the Indians impaled the body of
Mrs. Wallace and her infant child on trees near the trail by which they knew the
settlers' expediton would take on its way to the Indian country. Arriving at Gnadenhütten,
these warriors found the Christian Indians at work in their cornfields, getting
together the grain they soon intended to carry to their starving brethren in the
north-west. They informed them of the murders they had committed. The Christian
Indians becoming alarmed for their own safety, remonstrated with the warriors
for stopping at their town, and warned them off. Before leaving the town, the
warriors bartered, among other things, the dress they had taken from Mrs. Wallace,
to some young and thoughtless Indian girls, for some provisions.
The Christian Indians, upon the departure of their unwelcome guests, called a
council at Salem, for the purpose of deliberating upon the proper course to pursue.
At this meeting, it was agreed to remain and continue gathering the corn, and
if the whites from the settlements came in pursuit of the murderers, to trust
to the fact of their being known as Christian and peaceable Indians, for their
safety. As they had by this time secured the crop of corn, it was agreed to begin
preparation for the return, and the day of starting was fixed. While these poor
creatures were busily engaged in getting ready to carry succor to their famishing
brethren on the Sandusky, feeling perfectly safe, conscious of their innocence
of any cold-blooded acts that were inflaming the settlements east of the Ohio,
the Williamson party was on its march toward their towns.
Col. Williamson's party consisted of about ninety men and were hastily collected
together.They rendezvoused and encamped the first night at Mingo bottom,in what
is now Jefferson county, and the next morning, the 3rd of March, 1782, started
upon their march, passing up Cross creek, Each man furnished with his own arms,
ammunition, and provision, many of them having horses. On the evening the second
day's march they arrived within one mile of the middle Moravian town, and encamped
for the night.
Thus, on the very day previous to the one fixed for the departure of the Christian
Indians, March 7, 1782, and while they were engaged in binding up their packs,
the whole party made its appearance,having been in the forests the night before,
within sight and hearing of Gnadenhütten.
On their way to the town a detachment that was to go in from the north met a young
half-breed, Joseph Shabosh, who was out early in the morning catch a horse. Young
Shabosh was struck down and scalped while begging for his life on the grounds
of his being a Christian and the son of a white man.
From the spot of Shabosh's death the detachemnt went to the river bank, from where
they expected to get a view of the town, and on the way passed Jacob, a brother-in-law
to Shabosh, who was in the standing corn tying up some sacks recently filled.
Although they passed within thirty yards of him he was not discovered. He recognized
some of the whites having seen them in the party that took the Christian Indians
from Schonbrunn the preceding fall to Fort Pitt,whence they were released by the
commandant and returned home, he having been one of those taken. Jacob was about
to hail a man he knew, when the sharp crack of a rifle checked him, and the next
instant he beheld one of his brethren drop in his canoe. This so alarmed Jacob
that he fled out of the field and into the forest and did not stop until several
miles away, where he remained for twenty-four hours.
The Williamson party seeing a number of the Indians in a cornfield, on the opposite
side of the river, sent a detachment of sixteen men, two at a time, in a large
sugar trough, for want of a canoe, over the river, it being very high.They hailed
the Indians as friends and shook hands all round, and then advised them to stop
work, recross to the town, and prepare to return with the whites to Fort Pitt,
declaring that upon reaching there they would be at once supplied with everything
they needed. This being pleasing news to the ears of the Indians they at once
repaired with the whites to the town.
While these transactions were going on at Gnadenhütten John Martin and his
son, Christian Indians, were on the west side of the river, observing from an
eminence, the Indians of the town and the white men walking together and conversing
in a friendly manner. Martin sent his son over to the town while he went to Salem
to apprise the brethren at that place of what was going on. The Salem Indians
sent two of their own men with Martin to Gnadenhütten, where the Williamson
men appointed a party of their own number to go with these Indians back to Salem,
and assist in bringing those at the lower town to Gnadenhütten.
When the main body of the Salem Indians arrived at the river bank, opposite Gnadenhütten,
they discovered blood in the sand and on a canoe that was lying at the edge of
the water. They had already given up their guns, axes and knives, being assured
that the same would all be returned when they arrived at Fort Pitt. Being taken
over to the town they found the inhabitants confined, preparatory to the slaughter
that was to take place.
The whites now ceased calling them friends and Christians, and charged them with
being enemies and warriors. In proof of this averment the whites pointed to the
pewter plates, cups, spoons, tea kettles, pots, basins, and declared it all stolen
property from the settlers. They also seized the Indian horses, and pointed to
the brands thereon as further evidence that all this property had been stolen
from the border familites. Finding all this property in their possession, together
with the bloody dress that was recognized as having belonged to Mrs. Wallace,
they were told to prepare for death, and the execution was fixed for the next
In refutation of the charges, the Indians accounted for the brands on the horses
by offering to produce their own branding irons, which were used for the purpose
of enabling them to identify their own horses. In regard to the other property,
they insisted that the most of it was brought by the missionaries from Pennsylvania
missions, and the balance bought from traders who had from time to time visited
the towns. Finding all efforts to save their lives fruitless, they begged for
a short time to prepare for death.
While they were at their devotions their captors discussed the manner of putting
them to death. Some were in favor of burning them alive, and some of killing first,
then burning the bodies after scalping. The commander, Williamson, became powerless,
in the excited and frenzied condition of his men, to whom had been exhibited the
bloody dress of Mrs. Wallace, which operated on their minds as, history tells
us, the bloody robe of Caesar, when shown to the Romans by Anthony, operated on
their minds. All Williamson could do was to submit the matter to a vote, as proposed
by the most excited of the men. Upon taking a vote, those who were in favor of
saving the Indians and taking them to Fort Pitt were invited to step out to the
front, which was responded to by but eighteen out of about one hundred in all
(some accounts put the number at three hundred), the residue voting to kill, scalp
and burn the captives. It has never been settled whether Williamson voted or not,
the presumption being, from the fact of his being commander, that he did not vote.
Those of the men who voted against death then retired from the scene,at the same
time calling upon the Almighty to witness that they washed their hands of the
crime about to be perpetrated.
victims were then asked if they were ready to die, and the answer being in the
affirmative, the work of death commenced. Heckwelder says that the number killed
exceeded ninety, all of whom, except four, were killed in the mission houses,
they having been tied there (according to Heckwelder's version), and there knocked
in the head with a cooper's mallet. One man, he says, taking up the mallet, began
with an Indian named Abraham, and continued knocking down until he counted fourteen;
he then handed his mallet to one of his fellows, saying, "My arm fails me;
go on in the same way; I think I have done pretty well."
In another house, where mostly women and children were tied, Judith, an aged and
pious widow, was the first victim. After they had finished they retreated a short
distance, but, on returning to view the dead bodies, and finding one of them named
Abel, although scalped and mangled, attempting to raise himself from the floor,
they despatched him, and, having set fire to the house, went off shouting and
cursing. Of the number killed sixty-two were grown persons, one-third of whom
were women,the remainder being children.
Two youths, who were knocked down and shut up in the first house, escaped death.
One named Thomas, was knocked down and scalped, but being only stunned, after
a while recovered, and on looking around, he saw Abel alive, but scalped, with
blood running down his face. The lad quickly laid down as if dead, and had scarcely
laid a minute, when the party came and finished Abel by chopping his head with
a hatchet. Soon after they went away, Thomas crept over the dead bodies to the
door and on getting out, hid himself until dark, when he made his way to the path
leading to Sandusky.
The other lad, who was in the house where the women were, raised a trap-door and
got down into the cellar with another boy, where they lay concealed during the
time the butchery was going on. After dusk, they attempted to get out through
a window opening in the foundation of the house. The first succeeded, but the
second stuck fast and was burned alive, the house being set on fire soon after
the poor little fellow got fast.
The two who escaped, afterwards made their way to Sandusky, having fallen in with
the Schoenbunn Indians in their flight. One of Williamson's party saved a little
boy of eight years old, took him home, and raised him to a man, when he left and
returned to his tribe.
In Zeisberger's version of the massacre, as detailed by his biographer, it is
reported as occurring on the 8th of March. He says that the victims were tied,
some singly, and others two and two, dragged to the appointed house, and then
tomahawked and scalped. When the men and boys were all killed, the women were
brought out, taken to the other house, and dispatched in the same manner. He states
that Christina, a widow, who was well versed in the English language,appealed
to Col. Williamson, as she was being led away, and he replied. I have no power
to help you." She was killed with the others.
The massacre being over, Williamson and his men returned home to the Ohio and
Monongahela, with the scalps and about one hundred horses. In the valley, all
was desolation. Not a warrior was afterward found to be following Williamson to
pick off his men on their way to the Ohio, which they reached on the 10th of March,
two days after the massacre, unmolested.
Within a radius of twenty-five miles around the three burned towns, not a human
being was known to be alive,while but two or three days' march out on the Sandusky
there were, perhaps, a thousand warriors, and they knew of Williamson's expedition
having marched west from the Ohio, but no warriors intercepted him going or coming.
That was part of the British policy matured at Detroit, of having these peaceable
Indians massacred by excited American borderers, in order to bring over to the
British side all the Indain tribes united against the colonists. How completely
it succeeded will be seen.
Simon Girty returned to the Wyandott towns, from which his absence had been short,
but sufficiently long to have enabled him, in disguise, to reach the border settlements,
and among his old acquaintances, start and hurry on the expedition against the
Moravian towns. On the Sandusky, at the present Fremont, Heckwelder and Zeisberger
first heard of the massacre by a convert, who had run from Captives town to apprise
them of the news that had just been brought in by a Wyandot band of warriors,
who had crossed the valley with border scalps and stolen horses. This was evidently
the party who had killed and impaled the child of Mrs. Wallace, sold her bloody
dress at Gnadenhütten to the unsuspecting Indian converts, and then hid in
the vicinity until the massacre previously planned was over, when they fled homeward
to receive their scalp premiums at Detroit.
At the captives huts, where the residue of convert cpatives were who had not gone
down to the death at Gnadenhütten, the news of the slaughter of their relatives
had also come in by Jacob, who had escaped from under the floor of one of the
burning houses, and fled to the Sandusky. This was the kind of double life that
Girty gloried in, first on the border,exciting the whites to kill the christian
Indians and burn their towns in the valley; next at the warrior's towns, inciting
them to revenge the deaths of those Christians and he lost no time in fanning
the flame in their camp fires.
At all their British camps a unanimous determination existed to take a bloody
and two-fold vengeance on the Americans. A vow was made that no white man should
ever have that valley for a home, but that it should remain uncontaminated by
his presence through all time, and that the boundary line of future treaties with
the whites should be the Ohio forever and ever. To carry out their intentions,
large bands of picked warriors started at once to raid afresh on the Pennsylvania,
Virginia and Kentucky borders, and each prisoner was to be taken to the place
of massacre, and there dispatched and fire branded until the two-fold vengeance
had been consummated.
The massacre was a month old, and already the vengeance taking warriors on the
Ohio, and its eastern tributaries in Pennsylvania and Virginia, had sunk their
hatchets into the skulls of many white borderers, who fought for life, and were
killed in their tracks. These deaths were to be counted as no vengeance until
the scalps were carried to the massacre ground, dried, painted red or black on
the inside, with the picture of a bullet or a hatchet in another color,to indicate
how its owner died. In like manner were the scalps of those whites who should
suffer death by fire to be painted, but in lieu of the bullet or hatchet, a bunch
of faggots were to be represented on the skin side, indicative of the fire-death.
After the retreat of Crawford's army, which is recited in these pages, and the
last of its stragglers and escaped prisoners had recrossed the valley of the Tuscarawas,
it was not soon again visited by white men. Until 1785, the savage warriors after
scalps, in fulfillment of the vow of vengeance, were its only human inhabitants.
In that year an escaped prisoner crossed the river at the massacre town and reached
the Fort at Wheeling, but he reported that he saw no human being in the valley.
The bones of the Christian martyrs were scattered around, and the fruit trees
planted by the missionaries were in bloom, but the limbs had been broken down
by the bears, and the place had become the abode only of rattlesnakes and wild
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