Battle of Point Pleasant

Battle of Point Pleasant

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Point Pleasant
partof=Dunmore's War

caption=Monument to the battle in Point Pleasant
date=October 10, 1774
place=Present-day Point Pleasant, West Virginia
result=Virginia victory
combatant1=Shawnee, Mingo
combatant2=Virginia militia
commander1=Cornstalk, Pukeshinwa †, Blue Jacket
commander2=Andrew Lewis, Charles Lewis †
casualties1=33 killed
casualties2=75 killed, 150 wounded

The Battle of Point Pleasant, sometimes known as the Battle of Kanawha, was the only major battle of Dunmore's War. It was fought on October 10, 1774, primarily between Virginia militia and American Indians from the Shawnee and Mingo tribes. Along the Ohio River near modern Point Pleasant, West Virginia, American Indians under the Shawnee Chief Cornstalk attacked Virginia militia under Andrew Lewis, hoping to halt Lewis's advance into the Ohio Country. After a long and furious battle, Cornstalk retreated. After the battle, the Virginians, along with a second force led by Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, marched into the Ohio Country and compelled Cornstalk to agree to a treaty, ending the war.


Colonel Andrew Lewis, in command of about 1,100 men, was part of a planned two-pronged Virginian invasion of the Ohio Country. He anticipated linking up with another force commanded by Lord Dunmore, who was marching west from Fort Pitt, then known as Fort Dunmore. Dunmore's plan was to march into the Ohio Country and force the Indians to accept Ohio River boundary which had been negotiated with the Iroquois in the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix.

Shawnees had not been consulted in that treaty, however, and many did not want to surrender their lands south of the Ohio River without a fight. Officials of the British Indian Department, led by Sir William Johnson until his death in July 1774, worked to diplomatically isolate the Shawnees from other American Indians. As a result, when the war began, Shawnees had few allies other than a few Mingos.

Cornstalk, the Shawnee leader, moved to intercept Lewis's army, hoping to prevent the Virginians from linking up. Estimates of the size of Cornstalk's force have varied over the years, but scholars now suspect Cornstalk was greatly outnumbered, having around 300-500 warriors. Future notable Shawnee leader Blue Jacket probably took part in the battle.


Cornstalk's forces attacked Lewis's camp where the Kanawha River flows into the Ohio River, hoping to trap him along a bluff. The battle lasted for hours and was extremely intense; the fighting eventually became hand-to-hand. Cornstalk's voice was reportedly heard over the din of the battle, repeatedly urging his warriors to "be strong." Lewis sent several companies along the Kanawha and up a nearby creek in order to attack the Indians from the rear, reducing the intensity of the Shawnee offensive. At nightfall, the Shawnees silently withdrew back across the Ohio. The Virginians had held their ground, and so won the day.


The Virginians suffered about 75 killed and 150 wounded. The Shawnee are supposed to have had 33 killed. The Indians threw many of their dead companion's bodies into the river to prevent them from being mutilated. (Scalping was routinely practiced by both sides for proof of claim for bounty reasons in this era. [Governor Morris directs E. Salter, April tenth, 1756: "When you get to Fort Lyttleton you will take upon oath what proofs you can of the certainty of Indian Isaacs having taken the scalp of Captain Jacobs, that he may be entitled to the reward."-- CLARENCE M. BUSCH. STATE PRINTER OF PENNSYLVANIA. 1896.] ) Among the dead was Pucksinwah, the father of Tecumseh.

The outcome of the Battle of Point Pleasant forced Cornstalk to make peace with Dunmore at the Treaty of Camp Charlotte, ceding Shawnee land claims south of the Ohio (modern Kentucky) to Virginia.

Legacy and historical controversies

Before the Virginians had all returned home from Dunmore's War, the American Revolutionary War had begun at Lexington and Concord in April 1775. Before long, Lord Dunmore was leading the British war effort in Virginia against many of the men who had fought under him in Dunmore's War. Dunmore even sought to enlist American Indian allies—the very people he had defeated in 1774. As a result, over the years a legend arose that Dunmore had actually been collaborating with the Shawnees all along. According to this story, Dunmore deliberately isolated the militia under Andrew Lewis and directed the Shawnees to attack them, hoping to eliminate potentially troublesome American rebels. There is no evidence to support this conspiracy theory, but it was popular in the 19th century.

On February 21, 1908, the United States Senate passed Bill Number 160 to erect a monument commemorating the Battle of Point Pleasant. Contrary to common myth, the bill doesn't mention the Battle as being the first battle of the American Revolution. Additionally the bill was never enacted, failing in the House of Representatives. The battle is honored as the first battle of the Revolution during "Battle Days", an annual festival celebrated in modern Point Pleasant.


*Downes, Randolph C. "Council Fires on the Upper Ohio: A Narrative of Indian Affairs in the Upper Ohio Valley until 1795". Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1940. ISBN 0-8229-5201-7 (1989 reprint).
*Lewis, Virgil A. "History of the Battle of Point Pleasant". Charleston, West Virginia: Tribune, 1909. Reprinted Maryland: Willow Bend, 2000. ISBN 1-888265-59-0.
*Randall, E. O. "The Dunmore War". Columbus, Ohio: Heer, 1902.
*Smith, Thomas H., ed. "Ohio in the American Revolution: A Conference to Commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Ft. Gower Resolves." Columbus: Ohio Historical Society, 1976.
*Sugden, John. "Blue Jacket: Warrior of the Shawnees". Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8032-4288-3.
*Thwaites, Reuben Gold and Louise Phelps Kellogg, eds. "Documentary History of Dunmore's War, 1774." Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1905. Reprinted Baltimore: Clearfield, 2002. ISBN 0-8063-5180-2.
*Senate Bill (s.160), 21 February, 1908, entitled "A Bill to aid in the erection of a monument or memorial at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, to commemorate the battle of the Revolution fought at that point between the colonial troops and Indians October Tenth, Seventeen Hundred and Seventy-four."

ee also

*Tu-Endie-Wei State Park

External links

* [ Point Pleasant Monument State Park web site]
*, 1997 article about the historical debate over whether the Battle of Point Pleasant should be considered a battle of the American Revolutionary War.
* [ "The Battle Song of the Great Kanawha"] , online exhibit from the Blue Ridge Institute about a ballad which recounted the battle.
* [ Point Pleasant Tourism Information]

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