- Simon Girty
Simon Girty (1741 –
February 18, 1818) was an American colonial of Scots-Irishancestry who served as a liaison between the British and their Native American alliesduring the American Revolution. He was portrayed as a villain in many early history texts of the United States.
Born in Pennsylvania, Girty and his brothers were taken prisoners when still children by the Senecas and adopted by them. It would be 7 years before Girty returned to his family, during which time he had come to prefer the Native American way of life. During the
American Revolution, he first sided with the Colonial Revolutionaries, but later served with the Loyalists and thus was viewed by American frontiersmenas a renegade and a turncoat.
Girty was present during the torture and execution of
Continental ArmyColonel William Crawford by Native American leader Captain Pipe. Two witnesses of this torture and execution survived and were later interviewed regarding these events. One of the witnesses suggested that Girty was a pitiless instigator. The other witness claimed that Girty pled with the Native Americans on Crawford's behalf until threatened with death himself. The former account was popularized and served to vilify Girty during and after his lifetime.
Girty is also credited with saving the lives of many American prisoners of the natives, often by buying their freedom at his own expense.
After the end of the war, Simon Girty settled in
Canada. He retired to his farm near Fort Malden(present-day Amherstburg, Ontario) prior to the outbreak of the War of 1812. Girty's son was killed in that conflict, reportedly while trying to rescue a wounded British officer from the battlefield. Despite popular myths to the contrary, Simon Girty had no part in that war, except as a refugee when the British retreated from Fort Malden. Nor was he killed with Tecumsehat the Battle of the Thames, as was widely reported. Over sixty years old, he was increasingly infirm with arthritis and had failing eyesight. Girty returned to his farm after the war, and died completely blind in 1818 in Canada.
* Simon Girty along with his brothers, are vilified with hints of compassion for white men in Zane Grey's frontier trilogy series Betty Zane, The Spirit of the Border and the Last Trail.
* Simon Girty served as one of the
jurymembers in Stephen Vincent Benet's The Devil and Daniel Webster. In that story he is described as "the renegade, who saw white men burned at the stake and whooped with the Indians to see them burn" - thus borrowing from his popular image for the story's dramatic purposes, as all members of that jury, called by Satan, are supposed to be the worst villains of American history.
* Hugh Henry Brackenridge took and edited the detailed recollections of one of the survivors of Crawford's execution, which were published under the title "Dr. Knight's Narrative", and had a considerable impact on the reputation of Simon Girty as a renegade. The most detailed research into this publication to date clearly calls into question the motives of Brackenridge in his published account. See the article by Parker B. Brown entitled "The Historical Accuracy of the Captivity Narrative of Doctor John Knight", which appeared on pages 53-67 of "The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine", vol. 70, no. 1 (January 1987). (ref. Allan W. Eckert, "That Dark and Bloody River").
playwright Ed Buttswrote a play entitled The Fame of Simon Girty.
*"Simon Girty, the outlaw. An historical romance", Jones, U. J. (Uriah James), Philadelphia: G. B. Zeiber, 1846 (fiction)
* "Girty." Historical fiction in prose and poetry, by Richard Taylor. [http://www.Windpub.com/books/girty.htm Wind Publications]
*Barr, Daniel. [http://etext.virginia.edu/journals/EH/EH40/barr40.html "'A Monster So Brutal': Simon Girty and the Degenerative Myth of the American Frontier, 1783-1900."] "Essays in History" 40, ed. Ed Lengel. University of Virginia, 1998.
*Boyd, Thomas. "Simon Girty: The White Savage". New York: 1928.
*Butterfield, Consul Willshire. "History of the Girtys". Cincinnati: Clarke, 1890.
*Calloway, Collin. "Simon Girty: Interpreter and Intermediary". In "Being and Becoming Indian: Biographical Studies of North American Frontiers", edited by James A. Clifton, 38–58. Chicago: Dorsey, 1989.
*Ferling, John. "Simon Girty". "American National Biography". Ed. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
*Leighton, Douglas. [http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2420 "Simon Girty"] . Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, 1983. Retrieved on
August 13, 2008.
*Eckert, Allan W. "That Dark And Bloody River". 'Bantam: 1995.
*Hoffman, Phillip W. "Simon Girty Turncoat Hero" Americanhistoryimprints.com [http://www.americanhistoryimprints.com "Simon Girty Turncoat Hero"]
* [http://www.inquiry.net/traditional/beard/pioneers/chap04.htm A short biography of Girty] by
Dan Beardfrom "Boy Pioneers" (1909), a handbook written for boys who were members of the Sons of Daniel Boone. Girty, is as "a cruel, unprincipled man, a traitor to his country, a renegade and leader among our Indian foes, a coarse, low type of a Benedict Arnold—the most hated man on the border."
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