(Redwood Falls, Minn.) 1873-1940.
The encampment was in a forest rich with red oak, maple, hickory and buckeye with an understory of dogwood, winterberry, spicebush and arrowwood. Smoke from campfires filled the air. They were in a large clearing, and because it was June and warm, the Lenape braves were bare chested with buckskin leggings and moccasins, their heads saved but for a scalp lock decorated with a roach headdress that was often dyed a bright red color. The roach headdress was attached to the scalp-lock and stood straight up from the head like a crest, some had feathers added. Their faces and chests were stripped with red ochre. The women wore wraparound skirts, tunics and cloaks.
Forming a circle at the edges of the clearing were their wigwams, built with wooden frames that were covered with woven mats, sheets of birchbark and animal skins. Ropes, made from tough fibers of Indian hemp, were wrapped around the wigwam to hold the birch bark in place.
They were celebrating. Children were running about. They were kicking about a human head, the severed head of former Lt. John McKinley, my 4th Great Grandfather, one of five American soldiers tomahawked to death.1
They had chosen his head to hack off. Other children were slapping the surviving prisoners with the scalps of their fallen comrades. Squaws and boys wielded tomahawks hacking at the captives sitting on the ground bound with rope. One of the prisoners was Col. Crawford, the leader of this expedition to stop the Indian attacks on American settlers. His head was painted black. Beside him was the company’s surgeon, Dr. Knight.
The expedition was made up of volunteers from western Pennsylvania and Virginia (now West Virginia and Ohio) where the War of Independence between the American colonists and the British continued despite Cornwallis surrender at Yorktown. The British recruited Native Americans to fight the colonists on the western frontier. George Washington approved the expedition, but the Continental Congress provided no money, supplies or soldiers for it.
English soldiers from Detroit, allies of the Lenape, and the deciding force in the battle, stood about watching. While not approving of torturing their enemy, they let their allies carry out the torture as the Lenape were enraged and avenging a Pennsylvania militia's massacre of 96 peaceful and Christian Lenape men, women and children living at a Moravian mission during the American Revolution.
A contemporaneous account of the execution is given Dr. Knight, who escaped before his own execution:
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.
Presently after I was treated in the same manner. They then tied a rope to the foot of a post about fifteen feet high, bound the Col's hands behind his back and fastened the rope to the ligature between his wrists. The rope was long enough for him to sit down or walk round the post once or twice and return the same way. The Col. then called to Girty [a white man living with the Lenape tribe] and asked if they intended to burn him? -Girty answered, yes. The Col. said he would take it all patiently. Upon this Captain Pipe, a Delaware chief made a speech to the Indians, viz.: about thirty or forty men, sixty or seventy squaws and boys.
When the speech was finished they, all yelled a hideous and hearty assent to what had been said. The Indian men then took up their guns and shot powder into the Colonel's body, from his feet up far up as his neck. I think not less than seventy loads were discharged upon his naked body. They then crowded about him, and to the best of my observation, cut off his ears; when the throng had dispersed a little I saw. the blood running from both sides of his head in consequence thereof£.
The fire was about six or seven yards from the post to which the Colonel was tied; it was made of small hickory poles, burnt quite through in the middle, each end of the poles remaining about six feet in length. Three or four Indians by turns would take up, individually, one of these burning pieces of wood and apply it to his naked body, already burnt black with the powder. These tormentors presented themselves on every side of him with the burning faggots and poles. 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 upon.
In the midst of these extreme tortures, he called to Simon Girty and begged of him to shoot him; but Girty making no answer he called.to him again. Girty then, by way of derision, told the Colonel he had no gun, at the same time turning about to an Indian who was behind him, laughed heartily, and by all his gestures seemed delighted at the horrid scene.2
The deaths of John McKinley and the 40 others from his expedition, as well as the uncounted Native Americans killed here, was a tragedy on many levels.
The settlers at the time remember it with the ballad, Crawford’s Defeat by the Indians
Come all ye good people wherever you be,
Pray draw near a while, and listen to me,
A story I’ll tell you which happen’d of late,
Concerning brave CRAWFORD's most cruel defeat.3
(for complete lyrics, click on image)
The year 1782 was known as the Bloody Year. Far western Pennsylvania and Virginia, known as the Ohio country and as West Augusta, the land that the British and Indians had successfully defended had been signed away by Great Britain to the United States in Paris on September 3, 1783. The British had not consulted the Indians in the peace process, and the Indians were nowhere mentioned in the treaty's terms. For the Indians, the struggle with American settlers would continue, although this time without the assistance of their British allies and without John McKinley.
McKinley is believed to be a part of the McKinley clan diaspora that resulted from their defeat at the Battle of Culloden in Scotland; he was six years old when that battle took place. It is disputed as to whether he was born in Scotland or Ireland. He married his wife in Ireland when he was twenty-three years old. He was only 42 years old when he was killed during the Crawford expedition.
His wife, Mary Conley, was the youngest daughter of Sir William Conley of Castletown, County Kildare and Anne, daughter of Thomas Wentworth, third Earl of Stratford. She was born in 1742 in Ireland, in the city of Cork, a city with one of the largest navigable natural harbors in the world. Founded as a monastic settlement in the 6th century, it was expanded at some point between 915 and 922 when Norseman settlers founded a trading port. The city was once fully walled, and some wall sections and gates remain today. For much of the Middle Ages, Cork city was an outpost of Old English culture in the midst of a predominantly hostile Gaelic countryside. Neighboring Gaelic and Hiberno-Norman lords extorted “Black Rent" from the citizens to keep them from attacking the city. In 1763 John McKinley and heiress Mary Conley (or Connelly) eloped, in a ceremony conducted by Parson Paul Parish in that city.
They made the treacherous Atlantic crossing to America sometime before May 1765, crammed into a small wooden ship, rolling and rocking at the mercy of the sea, the voyagers - men, women and children - endured hardships unimaginable today. Misery was the most common description of a journey that typically lasted seven weeks. One voyager offers his description of the experience:
When the ships have for the last time weighed their anchors . . . the real misery begins with the long voyage. For from there the ships, unless they have good wind, must often sail 8, 9, 10 to 12 weeks before they reach Philadelphia. But even with the best wind the voyage lasts 7 weeks.
But during the voyage there is on board these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, horror, vomiting, many kinds of sea-sickness, fever, dysentery, headache, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth rot, and the like, all of which come from old and sharply salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water, so that many die miserably.
Add to this want of provisions, hunger, thirst, frost, heat, dampness, anxiety, want, afflictions and lamentations, together with other trouble, as . . . the lice abound so frightfully, especially on sick people, that they can be scraped off the body. The misery reaches the climax when a gale rages for 2 or 3 nights and days, so that everyone believes that the ship will go to the bottom with all human beings on board. In such a visitation the people cry and pray most piteously.
That most of the people get sick is not surprising, because, in addition to all other trials and hardships, warm food is served only three times a week, the rations being very poor and very little. Such meals can hardly be eaten, on account of being so unclean. The water which is served out of the ships is often very black, thick and full of worms, so that one cannot drink it without loathing, even with the greatest thirst. Toward the end we were compelled to eat the ship’s biscuit which had been spoiled long ago; though in a whole biscuit there was scarcely a piece the size of a dollar that had not been full of red worms and spiders' nests. . . .
No one can have an idea of the sufferings which women in confinement have to bear with their innocent children on board these ships. Few of this class escape with their lives; many a mother is cast into the water with her child as soon as she is dead. One day, just as we had a heavy gale, a woman in our ship, who was to give birth and could not give birth under the circumstances, was pushed through a loophole (porthole) in the ship and dropped into the sea, because she was far in the rear of the ship and could not be brought forward.
Children from one to seven years rarely survive the voyage; and many a time parents are compelled to see their children miserably suffer and die from hunger, thirst, and sickness, and then to see them cast into the water. I witnessed such misery in no less than thirty-two children in our ship, all of whom were thrown into the sea. The parents grieve all the more since their children find no resting place in the earth, but are devoured by the monsters of the sea. It is a notable fact that children who have not yet had the measles or smallpox generally get them on board the ship, and mostly die of them.
At length, when, after a long and tedious voyage, the ships come in sight of land, so that the promontories can be seen, which the people were so eager and anxious to see, all creep from below on deck to see the land from afar, and they weep for joy, and pray and sing, thanking and praising God. The sight of the land makes the people on board the ship, especially the sick and the half dead, alive again, so that their hearts leap within them; they shout and rejoice, and are content to bear their misery in patience, in the hope that they may soon reach the land in safety. . .But alas. . .
When the ships have landed at Philadelphia after their long voyage, no one is permitted to leave them except those who pay for their passage or can give good security; the others, who cannot pay, must remain on board the ships till they are purchased and are released from the ships by their purchasers. The sick always fare the worst, for the healthy are naturally preferred and purchased first; and so the sick and wretched must often remain on board in front of the city for two or three weeks, and frequently die, whereas many a one, if he could pay his debt and were permitted to leave the ship immediately, might recover and remain alive.
The sale of human beings in the market on board the ship is carried on thus: Every day Englishmen, Dutchmen, and High German people come from the city of Philadelphia and other places, in part from a great distance, say twenty, thirty, or forty hours away, and go on board the newly-arrived ship that has brought and offers for sale passengers from Europe, and select among the healthy persons such as they deem suitable for their business, and bargain with them how long they will serve for their passage money, which most of them are still in debt for, When they have come to an agreement, it happens that adult persons bind themselves in writing to serve three, four, five, or six years for the amount due by them, according to their age and strength. But very young people, from ten to fifteen years, must serve till they are twenty-one years old.
Many parents must sell and trade away their children like so many head of cattle, for if their children take the debt upon them- selves, the parents can leave the ship free and unrestrained; but as the parents often do not know where and to what people their children are going, it often happens that such parents and children, after leaving the ship, do not see each other again for many years, perhaps no more in all their lives.
It often happens that whole families, husband, wife, and children, are separated by being sold to different purchasers, especially when they have not paid any part of their passage money.
When a husband or wife has died at sea, when the ship has made more than half of her trip, the survivor must pay or serve not only for himself or herself, but also for the deceased. When both parents have died over halfway at sea, their children, especially when they are young and have nothing to pawn or to pay, must stand for their own and their parents' passage, and serve till they are twenty-one years old. When one has served his or her term, he or she is entitled to a new suit of clothes at parting; and if it has been so stipulated, a man gets in addition a horse, a woman, a cow.4
John and Mary McKinley and their two children arrived in Baltimore in 1779 and settled in the area. In 1770 the British government signed a treaty with the Cherokees allowing settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains in the Ohio country. Within two years John McKinley has decided to settle there; west, over the Allegheny Mountains via the Braddock Road.
The Braddock Road was a military road built in 1755 using the trails of the Native Americans in what was then British America. It was the first road to cross the barrier of the successive ridgelines of the Allegheny Mountains. It was constructed by troops of Virginia militia and British regulars, part of an expedition to take the Ohio country from the French at the beginning of the French and Indian War, the North American portion of the Seven Years’ War. George Washington was an aid-de-camp to General Braddock who led the expedition. It gave Washington his first field military experience along with other American military officers. The road was used in an unsuccessful attempt to assault the French-held Fort Duquesne (later Fort Pitt) in one of the most disastrous defeats for the British in the 18th century.
Later, the Ohio Company of Virginia, a land speculation company organized for the settlement of Virginians in far western Virginia and to trade with the Native Americans obtained a land grant from Britain and a treaty with Indians. They improved the Braddock Road between Fort Cumberland, which was the limit of navigation on the upper Potomac River, and
Fort Pitt, at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers creating the Ohio River, an important trading and military point where the city of Pittsburgh now stands. Later, it became the National Road, the first major improved highway in the United States built by the federal government. In 2002, the full road, including extensions east to Baltimore and west to St. Louis, was designated the Historic National Road, an All-American Road.
Moving by wagon, making camp at night, sleeping in or under the wagon, they crossed the Allegheny Mountains. About two weeks and over 200 miles later they reached the Ohio county. They had at least six children; the forth or fifth was Frances, my 3rd Great-Grandmother, born in 1773 at the “Mouth of Wheeling Creek,” i.e., the confluence of Wheeling Creek and the Ohio River, later to become the City of Wheeling, West Virginia.
Most western Virginians then depended on subsistence farming for their livelihood. Families relied upon their fields and forests for products commonly used in their foods, shelter, and clothing. Early industries, including grain milling and textile manufacturing, were often farm-related. McKinley undoubtedly saw himself the yeoman idealized by Thomas Jefferson. One of his grandsons was named Thomas Jefferson McKinley.
The Scotch-Irish, who had begun early to settle the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, were drawn into rebellion as war spread to the frontier. In March of 1777 John McKinley joined the 12th Regiment of Virginia as a private. One month later, his abilities recognized, he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of the 13th Regiment of Virginia, a unit organized at Fort Pitt to consist of nine companies of troops from the far-western Virginia counties.
His first engagement was in the Battle of Brandywine; where more troops fought than any other battle of the American Revolution. It was also the longest single-day battle of the war, with continuous fighting for 11 hours. But it was a defeat for George Washington’s forces and a win for the British led by General William Howe. The British general reported that the Americans, “had about 300 men killed, 600 wounded, and near 400 made prisoners.” The defeat exposed Philadelphia, then the largest city and busiest port in the former colonies. It fell to the British without resistance, the fledgling government fled west to York, denying the British of their prize.
Although Howe had defeated the American army, his lack of cavalry prevented its destruction. Washington had committed a serious error in leaving his right flank wide open and nearly brought about his army's annihilation had it not been for three divisions which fought for time. Evening was approaching and, despite the early start Lt. General Cornwallis had made in the flanking maneuver, most of the American army was able to escape. In his report to the Continental Congress detailing the battle, Washington stated: “despite the day's misfortune, I am pleased to announce that most of my men are in good spirits and still have the courage to fight the enemy another day ”.
Following the defeat at Brandywine, and the British capture of Philadelphia, George Washington attempted to gain the initiative. He received that opportunity a week later when General Howe divided his army. Howe encamped at Germantown, Pennsylvania, seven miles northeast of Philadelphia, with 9,000 men, while other troops garrisoned the city and moved against American forts obstructing the Delaware River.
On the evening of 3 October 1777, Washington maneuvered his army into a position to attack the Hessian and British encampments here. On 4 October the Americans attacked. With victory seemingly in sight, however, the American attack unraveled. After a grinding five-hour battle, British reinforcements came from Philadelphia. Howe pursued Washington for nearly eight miles before halting. Washington's casualties numbered 152 killed, 521 wounded, including John McKinley, and approximately 400 captured. Howe's losses included 70 killed and 451 wounded. Still, the British were greatly surprised that an opponent whom they believed was beaten could launch such a fierce attack. Americans failed to defeat the enemy and suffered heavy casualties during the fighting, but they were encouraged by the belief that their strategy and efforts had been sound.
Army muster rolls show McKinley furloughed for the four months following his wound at Germantown. The muster roll shows him at Valley Forge March and April of 1778. His records with the 13th Regiment stop here. Because of the likelihood of there being more than one John McKinley, further review of his military records becomes problematic
There is no account of how he experienced the war, but one was left by another soldier is telling:
Almost everyone has heard of the soldiers of the Revolution being tracked by the blood of their feet on the frozen ground. This is literally true, and the thousandth part of their sufferings has not, nor ever will be told. That the country was young and poor, at that time, I am willing to allow, but young people are generally modest, especially females. Now, I think the country (although of the feminine gender, for we say “she ” and “her ” of it) showed but little modesty at the time alluded to, for she appeared to think her soldiers had no private parts. For on our march from the Valley Forge, through the Jerseys, and at the boasted Battle of Monmouth, a fourth part of the troops had not a scrap of anything but their ragged shirt flaps to cover their nakedness and were obliged to remain so long after. I had picked up a few articles of light clothing during the past winter, while among the Pennsylvanian farmers, or I should have been in the same predicament. “Rub and go ” was always the Revolutionary soldier’s motto.
As to provision of victuals, I have said a great deal already, but ten times as much might be said and not get to the end of the chapter. When we engaged in the service we were promised the following articles for a ration: one pound of good and wholesome fresh or salt beef, or three quarters of a pound of good salt pork, a pound of good flour, soft or hard bread, a quart of salt to every hundred pounds of fresh beef, a quart of vinegar to a hundred rations, a gill [a quarter of a pint] of rum, brandy, or whiskey per day, some little soap and candles, I have forgot how much, for I had so little of these two articles that I never knew the quantity. And as to the article of vinegar, I do not recollect of ever having any except a spoonful at the famous rice and vinegar Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania, in the year 1777. But we never received what was allowed us. Oftentimes have I gone one, two, three, and even four days without a morsel, unless the fields or forests might chance to afford enough to prevent absolute starvation. Often, when I have picked the last grain from the bones of my scanty morsel, have I eat the very bones, as much of them as possibly could be eaten, and then have had to perform some hard and fatiguing duty, when my stomach has been as craving as it was before I had eaten anything at all.
If we had got our full allowance regularly, what was it? A bare pound of fresh beef and a bare pound of bread or flour. The beef, when it had gone through all its divisions and subdivisions, would not be much over three quarters of a pound, and that nearly or quite half bones. The beef that we got in the army was, generally, not many degrees above carrion; it was much like the old Negro's rabbit, it had not much fat upon it and very little lean. When we drew flour, which was much of the time we were in the field or on marches, it was of small value, being eaten half-cooked, besides a deal of it being unavoidably wasted in the cookery.
The poor soldiers had hardships enough to endure without having to starve; the least that could be done was to give them something to eat. “The laborer is worthy of his mea ”t at least, and he ought to have it for his interest, if nothing more. How many times have I had to lie down like a dumb animal in the field, and bear “the pelting of the pitiless storm,” cruel enough in warm weather, but how much more so in the heart of winter. Could I have had the benefit of a little fire, it would have been deemed a luxury. But, when snow or rain would fall so heavy that it was impossible to keep a spark of fire alive, to have to weather out a long, wet, cold, tedious night in the depth of winter, with scarcely clothes enough to keep one from freezing instantly, how discouraging it must be, I leave to my reader to judge.
It is fatiguing, almost beyond belief, to those that never experienced it, to be obliged to march twenty-four or forty-eight hours (as very many times I have had to) and often more, night and day without rest or sleep, wishing and hoping that some wood or village I could see ahead might prove a short resting place, when, alas, I came to it, almost tired off my legs, it proved no resting place for me. How often have I envied the very swine their happiness, when I have heard them quarreling in their warm dry sties, when I was wet to the skin and wished in vain for that indulgence. And even in dry warm weather, I have often been so beat out with long and tedious marching that I have fallen asleep and not been sensible of it till I have jostled against someone in the same situation; and when permitted to stop and have the superlative happiness to roll myself in my blanket and drop down on the ground in the bushes, briars, thorns, or thistles, and get an hour or two's sleep, O! how exhilarating...5
John McKinley resigned after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.
Presumably, he retired to the mouth of the Wheeling River. His ill-fated expedition with Col. Crawford was eight months away.
He received from the Commonwealth of Virginia the original grant of land on which the City of Wheeling, West Virginia now stands; the patent for this property have been given him in recognition of his service as a patriot soldier of the Continental Army in Continental Army.
His wife Mary died in 1793 in Ohio County, West Augusta, Virginia; now Wheeler, West Virginia. At the time of the writing of West Virginia and Its People,
1901, John’s Great Grandson, Johnson Camden McKinley was president and general manage of number of coal companies in Wheeler, West Virginia.6
Notes & Links
John Slover, Indian Atrocities: Narrative of the Perils and Sufferings of Dr. Knight and John Slover, Among the Indians,
U.P. James, 1867
“Crawford's Defeat by the Indians.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Jan. 2018 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crawford's_Defeat_by_the_Indians.
Mittelberger, Gottleb, Gottleb Mittelberger's Journey to Pennsylvania in the Year 1750 and Return to Germany in the year 1754
(published by the German Society of Pennsylvania, 1898)
Joseph Plumb Martin, A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier
Thomas Condit Miller, Hu Maxwell, West Virginia and It’s People
Vol. 3, Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1913