Anti-Indian Radicalisation in the Early American West, 1774-1795

"Fish Stew" by Bryant White, White Historic Art (

Setting aside the question of whether or not the American Revolution was as radical as Gordon Wood famously argued that it was, at least two fundamental changes occurred west of the Appalachian Mountains in the last quarter of the eighteenth century that had little to do with the political revolution in the east.[1] Stephen Aron, in his study of the Kentucky frontier, touched upon one such revolutionary shift which, from the perspective of its participants, was significantly more radical in nature than those events concerning the thirteen colonies. The transformation of the Shawnee and Cherokee from long term enemies into staunch allies was, as Aron correctly highlighted, a seismic shift that turned relations in Indian country upon their head.[2] It completely changed the aboriginal map of the American interior, transforming Kentucky, once a buffer zone between those antagonistic tribes, into a symbol of cooperation and mutual support. It became the centre of a new relationship which was built around a common identity that was defined in opposition to the European Americans who were increasingly encroaching upon their lands.[3] That was not, however, the limit of the fundamental changes which were occurring in the Trans-Appalachian country.

By resisting European American settlement as effectively and as determinedly as they did, the Shawnee, Cherokee, and their numerous allies set off a conceptual revolution among their enemies. Faced with one of the bloodiest and most prolonged frontier wars in North American history, European Americans in the Trans-Appalachian country discarded the nuance of past world views in order to adopt a hard, racialised construct of the region’s Indian population. Prior to the 1770s, a meaningful middle ground, as Richard White paradigmatically put it, existed between European Americans and Native Americans.[4] The war for the Trans-Appalachian country, however, destroyed that theoretical space; middle ground became battle ground. Anti-Indian prejudices had certainly existed before the 1770s but events during and after that decade turned what had been a divisive and inconsistent philosophy into a widely held, deeply pejorative belief which appeared, to those cultures which developed in the west, to be a self-evident truth. Before the 1770s, there were cultures which accommodated Indian haters; after that period, however, there was, in the west, a culture which promoted and even demanded Indian hatred. To put that another way, and to borrow a theoretical framing device from Ira Berlin, there were cultures with Indian hatred and there were Indian hating cultures.[5] Whatever can be said about the American Revolution, the changes occurring between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River in the late eighteenth century were radical indeed.

The shift in world views that was occurring in the west was rooted in a crisis brought about by a clash of evolving ideas and a rapidly changing set of external circumstances. In the backcountry, European American views of the Indians had suffered during the Seven Years War, becoming increasingly negative as a result of that conflict.[6] From 1774 until 1795, however, European American inhabitants of the Trans-Appalachian country were confronted by two decades of almost unbroken, deeply violent, and intensely bitter conflict – their pre-existing negative bias, exposed to those conditions, was transformed into a negative certainty. Historians who have examined the re-framing of the Indians into a racial group have failed to settle upon a consensus as to when that event occurred, identifying eras as divergent as the late seventeenth and late eighteenth centuries as the moment of that transformation. Of these it is Patrick Griffin’s argument, that the period of the American Revolution marked the greatest change, which bears the most weight.[7] Griffin identified that era as a type of theoretical “frontier” – following the Frederick Jackson Turner model – in American history, a watershed; but it was more than a national shift in anti-Indian consciousness.[8]

It was a turning point mired in the specific experience of the region in which it occurred.   It was a conceptual revolution which marked a philosophical splintering of western and eastern world views that would not be reconciled until western anti-Indian views found national acceptance in the context of the Indian wars of the mid-late nineteenth century. In 1832 and 1833, Black Hawk, the leader of this period’s epilogistic war, would be celebrated as an ennobled sensation in the east; in the west, he would be antithetically burned in effigy.[9] The ideological break which was reflected in that contrast was rooted in the Trans-Appalachian country’s anti-Indian revolution.   Twenty years of psychological warfare, sieges, and wilderness domination failed to drive European Americans out of that country, but it did succeed in fundamentally souring western perspectives of the Indians and, as a result, drew a conceptual line down the spine of the Appalachians.[10] Unlike in the east, where writers such as James Fenimore Cooper could comfortably romanticise and ennoble the Indians, European Americans in the west experienced almost an entire generation of warfare and, as a result, came to self-identify as victims of the Indians; and it was through that lens that they constructed their particular understanding of the peoples against whom they were fighting.[11]

Since the first regular settlement was founded in Kentucky in 1775, warfare with a spectrum of tribes, including the Shawnee, Cherokee, Mingo, Miami, Wyandot, and Delaware had been a constant and defining feature of the region. By 1783 approximately seven percent of Kentucky’s population had been killed in combat with Native Americans; to put that number into perspective, the thirteen rebelling colonies had lost just one percent of their population during the Revolutionary War.[12] Such a high casualty rate hints at the broad impact violence had upon the region and, in particular, the ordeal faced by those who survived. Bodies – and there were many – were routinely mutilated; women and men had watched as their spouses were brought down by tomahawk and musket ball; and entire communities were besieged and assaulted, enduring, as a collective, military actions designed to drive them back east; and for those not directly involved, a vibrant and long lived oral culture ensured that they were exposed to many of the macabre details. Therein lay the root of the western revolution in anti-Indian thought. Bodies, real and imagined, the latter just as potent as the former, piled up on the frontier and, as a result, world views shifted in order to accommodate that reality. When Simon Kenton narrowly escaped being burned alive, he reflected the potential of past violence to change future expectations and aspirations: “I felt determined to avenge myself of the wrongs that had been inflicted on me. I joined myself to the garrison and went with almost every expedition that was sent out [against the Indians]… whenever there was a party going out, I was ready to go with them.”[13] Through prolonged exposure to one of the bloodiest frontier wars in US history, anti-Indian thought and action was thoroughly normalised; moderation gave way to radicalisation.

Violence during this period was more than an incidental detail. It was a process, an experience, the importance of which was captured in the surviving record of the region’s fundamental oral culture. Through recorded oral testimony, that which gave a voice to those typically denied a detailed or meaningful presence in the historic record, memories of horror and revulsion were captured and revealed to be common, a key part of the Trans-Appalachian experience.[14] When the recorded oral collection of Presbyterian minister John Shane is analysed, it demonstrates an almost overwhelming obsession with the memory of the war. In spite of Shane’s attempt to record a tradition which would have served as the basis for a history of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky and Southern Ohio, he found that virtually all of those with whom he spoke dwelt disproportionately upon the conflict with the Indians.[15] The unguided nature of the accounts which Shane recorded gave his subjects freedom, but almost all roads seemed to lead back to the Indians and their means of making war. In the resultant collection, which comprised more than three hundred separate interviews, seventy-five percent of all the individuals mentioned were actively engaged in, or victims of, the war.[16] When Shane spoke with an early settler named John Wilson, for instance, he gained no insight into the evolution of the church, but obtained instead a potent glimpse into the human cost of the fighting. Recalling the day when the body of one of his fellows, recently killed by the Indians, was returned to his wife, Wilson reported to Shane that the newly widowed woman had “examine[d] all the wounds of her husband … very carefully, fondly, at first without a tear [and] the[n] suddenly gave way to her grief.”[17] In another account, Shane was vicariously exposed to Sally Wilcox’s terror on the day she had witnessed the pursuit of her husband by a band of Indian raiders: “Run, Daniel, Run!”’ she had “hallooed to him as hard as she could.”[18] In another such account, Shane was again exposed by proxy to the emotional turmoil caused by spouses who disappeared. When John Hayden apparently vanished, Shane was told that his wife “looked like she would go distracted” from worry.[19]

In another of Shane’s recollections, typical in its candour and its subject matter, his interviewee, William Niblick, described the day he, as a child, had witnessed the recovery of John Wymore’s body – sans scalp – from the wilderness. “[I was] hanging on to my mother’s apron and heard the women crying … I saw them bring Wymore in [on] a sheet that was all bloody; he [had been left by the Indians] hanging on a pole.”[20] When George Fearis spoke about the early settlement of the country, memories of horror and distress were not far away. One of the incidents he described concerned the day he and a friend “saw the hog at something.” Investigating the odd sight, Fearis’s companion discovered that the pig had in fact been feasting upon the remains of one of his recently de-scalped children. According to Fearis, the child’s father “gathered what of it he could, and took it along and buried it.”[21] Such incidents made deep impressions. When Shane interviewed Mr. Spence, a comparative latecomer to the Kentucky country who arrived in the 1790s, his short account of his brother’s death contained several telling details. Though the incident was, in the broader context of the war, fairly unremarkable – his brother stepped out of his house and was shot – to Spence it was worthy of deep and long lasting investigation and reflection. Because of the tracks discovered near his brother’s home, Spence had deduced that three Indians had been involved in his death, one of whom had “stood off at a distance and held a horse;” according to Spence, such an animal had been stolen “from a young man about 2 miles in,” suggesting that his brother’s death was one part in a longer chain of events. The actual death had been, according to Spence’s investigation, a sudden and close range affair: “He was not more than 10 steps from the Indians when they shot him.” To underline the episode’s personal importance, he then added that “I have measured it many a time.”[22] The recorded oral testimony of the region reflected the visceral nature of the war, the ways in which it intersected with daily life and routine, and the depth of the memories it helped to forge as well as causative links between experiences of violence and later actions and attitudes.

When, in 1777, Hugh McGary had found the Indian who had killed his stepson, he was moved not only to take the life of the perpetrator but to carry out a morbid form of post-mortem retribution. Rather than scalping the Indian, or committing some other act of hasty mutilation, McGary had instead set about the lengthy and gory task of butchering, slicing, dicing, and ultimately feeding the body to the dogs at the township in which he lived.[23] When John Wymore was killed, the men of his settlement had set out in pursuit of his killer; they had found an Indian, upon whom they presumed guilt, severed his head, and “cut up” the remains “for the dogs.”[24] In 1782 a band of European Americans, from a settlement which had recently survived an Indian attack, discovered two Indian bodies in the nearby wilderness. With the first body sunk to the bottom of a pond, and thus inaccessible, they instead turned upon the second, a young man around “17 or 18” years of age they discovered in a thicket, wrapped carefully in a blanket. The body, which they brought back to their settlement, elicited sympathy from many of the town’s women who commented upon its “fine [and] tender hands and feet.” Many of them then “begged that he might be buried” but, unmoved, the men of the township laid the corpse out in a public space where it “made a greater smell than a hundred horses” as it was graphically consumed by the town’s livestock. As one of the settlement’s inhabitants would later recall, “I saw my sow in his belly more than a dozen times.”[25] Sympathy was not alien on the increasingly violent frontier, but it was overpowered by those who were determined to extract revenge, symbolic or otherwise, from their enemy.

The experience of war changed people. In 1783, for example, the Davis family of Fisher’s Station was attacked by an Indian raiding party who killed the family patriarch and kidnapped the four children present. Mrs. Davis, who had “gone out in the night to bring in some clothes” was, by virtue of her location, saved from either death or captivity but, from her vantage point, witnessed the death of her husband. Davis was, at that moment, caught by indecision, pressured between her desire to go to her family and her fear that a similar fate to her husband’s awaited her. According to one of her acquaintances, “There she stood in agony, saying ‘I must go in,’ and then her heart would fail her, and she would turn back, and then go again.” The pressure and distress of that moment was not soon in passing: “After this tragedy her countenance put on a change, and she got all her sleep alone in the daytime. She would be up and walk the room all night.”[26] Peter Silver has argued that the Indians of this period were perceived to have acted in a “terroristic” manner, fostering a sense of fear that preceded and, in some cases, negated the need for their actual presence.[27] Certainly, they were effective at spreading anxiety, and not always through the direct use of violence. On one occasion they “came along and stole all of John Smith’s bed clothes” and, on another, “threw a couple of frogs” into an unattended pan of boiling sugar, subtle acts of psychological warfare that told their intended victims they were, at all times, in danger.[28] Fear was a weapon that the Indians wielded expertly; when Tom Berry’s family received word that an Indian raiding party might be in the vicinity, they reportedly “began to cry as if the Indians were at the door.”[29] In spite of the panic they instilled, however, the Indians were unable to shift, through threat or terror, those who had come to claim their country. By deliberately using non-direct violence, or psychological tactics, the Indians had theoretically reduced the need to use direct (physical) violence but their imaginary sword was double edged. It did inspire some European Americans to abandon the west, but the allure of apparently free land was strong and many of their victims stayed regardless, responding to threat, fear, and suffering through other means.[30]

By the 1780s, anti-Indian sentiment in the west was, generally, serving to unite rather than divide communities. In 1764 the march of the Paxton Boys, a vigilante group determined to avenge themselves on the local – peaceful – Indian community, had highlighted how divisive anti-Indian radicalism could be, even in the aftermath of the Seven Years War. In spite of their willingness to tar all Indians with the same proverbial brush, they encountered a not insignificant amount of resistance from many of their peers.[31] That was not the case in 1780 when, in the wake of a successful incursion by a multi-tribal Indian force, between eight hundred and one thousand Kentuckians, approximately eighty percent of the adult male population of the country, gathered to march upon the northern tribes. Even those who had remained behind had done so with an air of martial responsibility, to “protect the settlements,” whilst those unable to take part directly in the operation – women and children – also played a role as they “scraped up corn … and made bread” and prepared other necessary provisions.[32] Prior to 1780, the community of early Kentucky had been united in defence, enduring numerous sieges and assaults during the country’s first half-decade of European American settlement but, by the turn of the next decade, their unity was such that they were now willing to proactively seek, though not necessarily accomplish, a reckoning.[33] Following five years of continuous raids and assaults, retribution, the death of Indians, was, by 1780, seen as their “only hope.”[34] In 1782, following a second successful mass strike by the northern tribes, one thousand Kentuckians again gathered to make war upon the Indians whilst, in 1786, following another four years of conflict and violent intercourse, another comparable campaign was launched.[35] On that latter expedition Hugh McGary, the same who had diced up the body of his step-son’s killer and fed the remains to his dogs, murdered an elderly Shawnee chief who had surrendered peacefully to the invaders, burying a tomahawk in his head as he cried “d—n you, I’ll show you Blue Licks play.”[36] The “Blue Licks” in question was the site of a disastrous defeat the Kentuckians had suffered four years earlier. As there was no credible reason for McGary to suspect that the elderly man before him had had anything to do with the defeat at the Blue Licks (he had not), it seems that McGary’s desire to extract revenge by killing practically any Indian had diminished not at all over the course of almost half a decade.[37]

Faced with military defeats, ongoing assaults, and the mutilated remains of those they held dear, European Americans responded to the war by dehumanising and homogenising their enemy. In 1782, when colonel William Crawford was executed in retaliation for the Gnadenhutten massacre – in which over ninety pacifist Indians were systematically butchered at a Moravian mission town – Hugh Henry Brackenridge quickly arranged for the publication of two captivity narratives which described, in lurid detail, the failed expedition that had led to Crawford’s death.[38] One of those accounts, by Dr. John Knight, provided a particularly grim and macabre description of Crawford’s torture and eventual execution, dwelling upon the colonel’s slow roasting as a means to “induce our government to take some effectual steps to chastise and suppress” the Indians.[39] In that publication the massacre of over ninety pacifist Indians at the Moravian mission town of Gnadenhutten, the necessary context of that episode, was ignored. Instead, the pamphlet used the language of atrocity to create an image of victimisation, emphasising the brutality of the Indians whilst painting a deeply misleading portrayal of European American innocence. In Knight’s narrative, the wilderness came alive with hidden, unseen threats which snatched the unsuspecting away: “The old man lagged behind … While we were preparing to reprimand him for making a noise, I heard an Indian halloo … After this we did not hear the man call again, neither did he ever come up to us anymore.”[40] It is the scene of Crawford’s execution, however, where the greatest care was made to assassinate the collective character of the Indians: “When we went to the fire the Col. was stripped naked, ordered to sit down by the fire and then they beat him with sticks and their fists … The Indian men then took up their guns and shot powder into the Colonel’s body, from his feet as far up as his neck … Three or four Indians by turns would take up, individually, [a] burning piece of wood and apply it to his naked body, already burnt black with powder … Some of the squaws took broad boards, upon which they would carry a quantity of burning coals and hot embers and throw on him, so that in a short time he had nothing but coals of fire and hot ashes to walk on.”[41]

Such sensational language was certainly evocative, simultaneously capturing and informing the shape of the west’s emerging hatred of the Indians.[42] Brackenridge was identifying the Indians as a broad group who could be collectively characterised by violence and brutality, in effect articulating a framework of cruelty as a framework of understanding. By virtue of omission, Brackenridge’s publication implied the opposite was true of European Americans. In contrast, Thomas Jefferson, in his Notes on the State of Virginia, articulated an interpretation of the Indians that was wholly incompatible with Brackenridge’s, assigning to them the same potential for good and evil as his own ethnic peers.[43] Such an interpretation was diametrically opposed to Brackenridge’s and, as a result, Jefferson drew a theoretical line not only between the pair, but between himself and the denizens of the west. Jefferson recognised plurality in the Indians, not just tribally, but on a fundamental and individual level; Brackenridge, on the other hand, ignored nuance in favour broad stereotypes supported by a particular and prejudiced interpretation of the evidence available. Writing in 1792 in an open letter which was printed prominently in the Kentucky Gazette he stated, rather bluntly, that “men who are unacquainted with the savages are like young women who have read romances, and have an improper idea of the Indian character in one case as the female mind has of real life in the other.”[44] In other words, the experience of the west had taught European Americans living in that country to think about the Indians in a way that was alien to those who were separated from them by distance and, as Brackenridge characterised it, the naivety of circumstance.

After the fighting had come to an end in the mid-1790s, the prejudices of war continued to inform the attitudes of peace. One month after the climactic battle which crippled the northern Indian war effort, European Americans in Cincinnati started a race riot, demonstrating in the process that even friendly, allied tribes were perceived through a lens that had been shaped by conflict.[45] It mattered little that the Choctaws, whom they targeted, were known allies of the American cause.[46]   Nor did it matter that they had served as scouts for General Anthony Wayne, and thus helped to bring about the final victory that had ended the war. What mattered to those who started the riot was the ethnicity of their prey and, most importantly, the characteristics they associated with it. When one of the rioters asked the local proprietor who had allowed the Choctaw to drink in his establishment, “is this the kind of Company you keep,” he was not asking a question; he was making a statement.[47] The Cincinnati rioters were expressing a sentiment, a blanket and pejorative bigotry that had become common and, though not universal, was now widely accepted throughout much of the west, particularly south of the Ohio River where the fighting had gone on longest. When, in 1811, Indiana Gov. William Henry Harrison required an army to attack the pan-Indian movement that was coalescing around two Shawnee brothers at Prophetstown he was able to rely upon the support of Kentuckians whose staunch anti-Indian world view, alongside their willingness to kill Indians, had remained firmly intact.[48] During the subsequent War of 1812, Kentuckians and other westerners once again found ample opportunity to fight their old enemies whilst the actual fighting, and the losses they suffered, served to replenish the anti-Indian cultural coffers of the region.[49] When Black Hawk led an armed resistance in northern Illinois in 1832 it should perhaps come as no surprise that, in response to the five hundred warriors he was able to mobilise, Illinois raised a volunteer army nine thousand strong. When Black Hawk, recognising the futility of his position, had attempted to surrender to the militia on May 14, the party he dispatched bearing the white flag was fired upon and forced to retreat.[50] As one Illinoisan put it, his fellows acted with a “cowardly vindictiveness.”[51] Illinois’ largest donor of immigrants was Kentucky.[52]

War is not necessarily a radicalising force, it does not have to erode moderation or push it to the fringe. In the Trans-Appalachian country, however, the war with the Indians did just that. Because of their determination to preserve their territorial integrity, and their willingness to leverage direct and indirect violence to further their cause, the Indians exposed a generation of frontier settlers to one of the most intense and long-lasting backcountry wars in North American history. That situation created a type of cultural momentum in the region that transformed the breadth and depth of anti-Indian sentiment in the west, attaching it not just to abstract ideas of savagery but a specific narrative of self-realised victimisation and the selective identification of wartime atrocities. That narrative was rooted in the region where it came into being; it was fundamentally western and, because of that, it helped to draw a theoretical line along the Appalachian Mountains which served to separate, on that key issue, east from west, backcountry from front country. In the west the American Revolution occurred after its own fashion, but so too did another concurrent – parallel but separate – layer of social revolution. The transformed way in which western Americans conceptualised the Indians was not a complete break with what had gone before (neither was the American Revolution) but it was a radical shift that marked not only a vast increase of the breadth of anti-Indian sentiment but an ideological divergence from the east. Where warfare with the Indians was an abstract notion, it was a distant affair that could be romanticised and forgiven. In the west, where memories were fresh and experience broad, Indian hatred was widely accepted, a celebrated part of the region’s culture well into the nineteenth century.


[1] For a very brief overview of the interpretive dissonance concerning the revolution see Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Random House, 1993); Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution: Enlarged Edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992); Gary B. Nash, The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America (New York: Penguin Books, 2005); John Ferling, A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); Staughton Lynd and David Waldstreicher, “Reflections on Economic Interpretation, Slavery, the People Put of Doors, and Top Down versus Bottom Up,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 68 (2011): 649-656; Michael A. McDonnell, “Men Out of Time: Confronting History and Myth,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 68 (2011): 644-648; and Alfred F. Young, Liberty Tree: Ordinary People and the American Revolution (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 215-261.

[2] Stephen Aron, How the West was Lost: The Transformation of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1999), 37-38.

[3] For Kentucky as buffer between the Shawnee and Cherokee see James Mooney, “The Old Cherokee Country [Map]” and “The Cherokee and their Neighbours [Map]” in James Mooney, Myths of the Cherokee: Extract from the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology (Government Printing Office: Washington, 1902), 15, 23.

[4] For theoretical spaces of interaction and cooperation between European and Native Americans see Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Michael N. McConnell, A Country Between: The Upper Ohio Valley and its Peoples, 1724-1774 (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1992); and James H. Merrell, Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier (New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 1999).

[5] Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America (Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 1998), 8-14.

[6] See Matthew C. Ward, Breaking the Backcountry: The Seven Years War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1767 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003), 3-4; and Stephen Brumwell, White Devil: A True Story of War, Savagery, and Vengeance in Colonial America (Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2004); for a broader discussion of the Seven Years War as a key turning point in American history see Lawrence Henry Gipson, “The American Revolution as Aftermath of the Great War for the Empire, 1754-1763,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 65 (1950): 86-104.

[7] See Alder T. Vaughan, The Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial Experience (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 13-33; Jill Lepore, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity (New York: Vintage Books, 1999), 173-225; John Grenier, First Way of War: American War Making on the Frontier (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 11-12; Jane T. Merritt, At the Cross Roads: Indians and Empires, 1700-1763 (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 285-295; and Patrick Griffin, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and the Revolutionary Frontier (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007), 12-14.

[8] Griffin, American Leviathan, 15.

[9] Kerry A. Trask, Black Hawk: The Battle for the American Heart (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007), 301-302.

[10] Griffin identifies the era of the American Revolution as a turning point but that period is too restrictive. The total duration of the war during this period, which extended long past the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, must be accounted in any analysis of this period. The continuation of the war for the Trans-Appalachian country beyond 1782 allowed the region to be exposed to the violence of wilderness warfare for another thirteen years, a period which, even considered in isolation, eclipsed the exposure of the Seven Years War in terms of its capacity to spread the experience of warfare and underline any sense of self-identified victimisation. Griffin, American Leviathan, 15.

[11] For an example romanticised literary Indians in the east see James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 (New York: W.A. Townshead & Company, 1859).

[12] John Mack Faragher, Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992), 144.

[13] Jonathan Alder and Larry L. Nelson, ed., A History of Jonathan Alder: His Captivity and Life with the Indians (Arkon: University of Arkon Press, 2002), 174-175.

[14] For a discussion on the critical opportunities and limits of the Shane collection see Elizabeth A. Perkins, Border Life: Experience and Memory in the Revolutionary Ohio Valley (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 7-39.

[15] For Shane’s oral record as the basis of an attempt to write a history of Presbyterianism in Kentucky and southern Ohio see Perkins, Border Life, 9 and Unknown Author, “Early Indiana Presbyterianism excerpt [excerpt – pages removed from original source],” John D. Shane Papers 63M289, University of Kentucky Archives.

[16] A survey of Shane’s interviews was turned into a database of 11,179 individual European American settlers. Not included were individuals who fell out with the date (1774-1795) or geographic (Kentucky, western Virginia, and southern Ohio) ranges of this survey. Of the 11,179 records created, 6,148 (fifty-five percent) were classified as being directly involved in combat through participation in a confrontation with the Indians, suffering an attack, experiencing a siege, or being reported as dead, etc. A further 2,236 (twenty percent) were described as joining an anti-Indian militia parties but were not recorded as engaging the Indians directly. Database compiled from John D. Shane ‘Interviews’ located in the Draper Manuscripts 11CC, 12CC, 13CC, 16CC, 17CC.

[17] John D. Shane, “Interview with Captain John Wilson,” Draper Manuscripts 17CC6-25.

[18] John D. Shane, “Interview with an Unnamed Subject,” Draper Manuscripts 11CC177.

[19] John D. Shane, “Interview with a Unnamed Person in Cincinnati,” Draper Manuscripts 11CC279-283.

[20] John D. Shane, “Interview with William Niblick,” Draper Manuscripts 11CC84-85.

[21] John D. Shane, “Interview with George Fearis,” Draper Manuscripts 13CC238-244.

[22] John D. Shane, “Interview with —— Spence,” Draper Manuscripts 13CC198-199.

[23] John D. Shane, “Interview with Jacob Stevens,” Draper Manuscripts 12CC135.

[24] John D. Shane, “Interview with —– Wymore,” Draper Manuscripts 11CC128-132.

[25] John D. Shane, “Interview with Mrs. Arnold,” Draper Manuscripts 11CC241-245.

[26] John D. Shane, “Interview with Sarah Graham,” Draper Manuscripts 12CC45-53.

[27] Peter Silver, Our Savage Neighbours: How Indian War Transformed Early America (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2008), 41-42.

[28] John D. Shane, “Interview with Benjamin Stites,” Draper Manuscripts 13CC56-57. For a broader discussion on the role played by psychological warfare in this conflict see Darren R. Reid, “Soldiers of Settlement: Violence and Psychological Warfare on the Kentucky Frontier, 1775-1783,” Eras, Vol. 10 (2008):

[29] John D. Shane, “Interview with Nathaniel Hart,” Draper Manuscripts 17CC209-213.

[30] For fear as a reason to leave the west see “Journal of William Calk, 1775,” Calk Family Collection 2005M14, Box 7, Folder 96, Kentucky Historical Society; and John D. Shane, “Interview with Benjamin Allen,” Draper Manuscripts 11CC67-69.

[31] For examples of works dealing with the Paxton Boys see Kevin Kenny, Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn’s Holy Experiment (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); James Kirby Martin, “The Return of the Paxton Boys and the Historical State of the Pennsylvania Frontier,” Pennsylvania History, Vol. 38 (1971): 117-133; and Brooke Hindle, “The March of the Paxton Boys,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 3 (1946): 462-486.

[32] John D. Shane, “Interview with Ephriam Sandusky,” Draper Manuscripts 11CC141-145; and John Bradford, “Notes on Kentucky,” in Thomas D. Clark, ed., The Voice of the Frontier: John Bradford’s Notes on Kentucky (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1993), 37. See also William Hayden English, Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio, 1778-1783 and Life of General George Rogers Clark (Indianapolis: The Bowell-Merrill Company, 1896), 2:697-733; and Lowell Hayes Harrison, George Rogers Clark and the War in the West (1976; reprint, Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2001), 69-76.

[33] The principle exception to the rule of defensive collection action in Kentucky prior to 1780 was George R. Clark’s march against the British in Illinois, but the fear of Indian raids served to limit participation in that campaign rather than encourage it. European American settlers were unwilling to march north when, so doing, they would leave their homes vulnerable to further raids. For Clark’s march on Illinois see “Letter from George R. Clark to Colonel George Mason, November 19th, 1779,” Microfilm B/C 593m, Filson Historical Society, 1-6; and John D. Shane, “Interview with Josiah Collins,” Draper Manuscripts 12CC68.

[34] Bradford, “Notes on Kentucky,” 37.

[35] John D. Shane, “Interview with Isaac Clinkenbeard,” Draper Manuscripts 11CC3; and Larry L. Nelson, A Man of Distinction Among Them: Alexander McKee and the Ohio Country Frontier, 1754-1799 (Kent: Kent State University Press, 1999), 127.

[36] John D. Shane, “Interview with Isaac Clinkenbeard,” Draper Manuscripts 11CC3.

[37] For a broader discussion on McGary’s actions see Faragher, Daniel Boone, 254.

[38] For Gnadenhutten see Harper, “Looking the Other Way: The Gnadenhutten Massacre and the Contextual Interpretation of Violence,” 621-643; and Leonard Sadosky, “Rethinking the Gnadenhutten Massacre: The Contest for Power in the Public World of the Revolutionary Pennsylvania Frontier” in David Curtis Skaggs and Larry L. Nelson, eds., The Sixty Years War for the Great Lakes, 1754-1814 (East Lansing: University of Michigan Press, 2001); for the Brackenridge’s publication see R.W.G Vail, Voice of the Old Frontier (1949, reprint; New York: Octagon Books, 1970), 44.

[39] “A Letter from Hugh Henry Brackenrige to ‘The Public,’ August 3rd, 1782,” in Hugh Henry Brackenrige, ed., Indian Atrocities: Narratives of the Perils and Sufferings of Dr. Knight and John Slover, Among the Indians, During the Revolutionary War, with Short Memoirs of Colonel Crawford and John Slover (Cincinnati: U. P. James, 1867), 5-6.

[40] John Knight, “The Narrative of Dr. Knight,” in Brackenrige, Indian Atrocities, 16.

[41] Knight, “The Narrative of Dr. Knight,” 23.

[42] That being said, there is evidence which suggests the later popularity of those narratives in locations deeply affected by the violence, though it seems unlikely that pamphlet was the specific cause of further anti-Indian sentiment. Rather, if the document played a role it was likely that it provided confirmation bias, seemingly demonstrating the truth of assumptions and ideas already widely held by the community. For the popularity of Knight’s account see Daniel Trabue, “The Narrative of Daniel Trabue: Memorandum Made by me D Trabue in the Year 1827 of a Jurnal of Events from Memory and Tradition,” in Chester Raymond Young, ed., Westward into Kentucky: The Narrative of Daniel Trabue (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1981, Reprinted 2004), 142-143; and John D. Shane, “Interview with Captain Marcus Richardson,” Draper Manuscripts 12CC126-127.

[43] Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia: A New Edition, Prepared by the Author (Richmond: J.W Randolph, 1853), 63-69.

[44] “Farther and Concluding Thought on the Indian War by H. H. Brackenrige of Pittsburgh,” Kentucky Gazette (Bradford), May 19, 1792.

[45] “Letter from Secretary Sargent to Captain Pierce, September 8th, 1794” and “Secretary Sargent to Judge McMillan, September 8th, 1794,” in William Henry Smith, ed., The St. Clair Papers: The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair, Soldier of the Revolutionary War; President of the Congress; and Governor of the Northwest Territory with his Correspondence and Other Papers, Volume II (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke and Company, 1882), 327-328.

[46] Kentucky Gazette (Bradford), April 27, 1793.

[47] “Testimony of N.R. Hopkins, September 18th, 1794,” Arthur St. Clair Papers, Roll 4, Folder 7 MIC 96 Series 10, Ohio Historical Society.

[48] Robert M. Owen, Mr. Jefferson’s Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy (Normal: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 214-215.

[49] Elias Darnall, A Journal, Containing an Accurate and Interesting Account of the Hardships, Sufferings, Battles, Defeat, and Captivity, of those Heroic Kentucky Volunteers and Regulars, Commanded by General Winchester, in the Years 1812-1813. Also, Two Narratives by Men that were Wounded in the Battles on the River Raisin, and Taken Captive by the Indians (Paris: Joel R. Lyle, 1813).

[50] Patrick J. Jung, The Black Hawk War of 1832 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 87-89; and James E. Davis, Frontier Illinois (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indian University Press, 1998), 193-198.

[51] Elijah Kilbourn, “Kilbourn’s Narrative: A Reminiscence of Black Hawk.” in Black Hawk, Antoine LeClair (Translator) and J.B. Patterson, ed., Autobiography of Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak or Black Hawk, Embracing the Traditions of his Nations, Various Wars in which he has been Engaged, and his Account of the Cause and General History of the Black Hawk War of 1832, his Surrender and Travel through the United States. Dictated by Himself. Also Life, Death and Burial of the Old Chief, together with A History of the Black Hawk War and Also Life, Death and Burial of the Old Chief, Together with a History of the Black Hawk War, by J. B. Patterson, Oquawka, 1882 (Rock Island: J.B. Patterson, 1882), 162-164.

[52] Davis, Frontier Illinois, 122-123. For a broader commentary on the dispersal of Kentucky’s frontier population throughout the region see Aron, American Confluence, 112-113.

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  • This is an excellent article – except for the charming mistake in footnote 2. It should read: “How the West Was Lost: The Transformation of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay.”

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