Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Murder of Chief Cornstalk

This past weekend I traveled about 45 minutes north to the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia to watch a re-enactment of the siege of Fort Randolph and the murder of Chief Cornstalk. The re-enactment was conducted in two parts 1. The murder of Chief Cornstalk and 2. The siege of the fort by a combined Shawnee/Mingo force. Pictured to the left is the fort commander, actually the first of two (2) commanders as the siege took place under a different captain. I spent some time talking to the fellow and he makes powder horns for a living.

Here is a shot of the Chief walking to meet the commander and a shot of the crowd. Beautiful day and a really nice turn-out, probably about 300 people. The tickets were $3.00/person so the historical society probably made over $1,000 with ticket sales and food.

This is a shot of a cooking area where they were making corn cakes for a donation. Basically cornbread in a patty. They even had chickens running around.

Here is a photo from the inside of the fort with militia guarding the parapet. There were probably 50 or so Militiamen, 20 women and children and about 20 Native Americans conducting the re-enactment.

I guess I should touch on the history. Chief Cornstalk was leader of the Shawnee during the time of Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore. Dunmore had worked out a deal with the Shawnee gaining possession of land up to the Ohio River. As always however, colonist always want to expand and expand they did until Cornstalk, who had tried peacefully to resolve the dispute declared war on the Virginians. This conflict would be known as Lord Dunmore's War. The largest battle being Cornstalk attacking the right wing of the Virginia militia at the "pleasant point" where the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers meet.
Chief Cornstalk lead between 800-1,000 woodland Indians against the Virginians. The battle lasted all day and took a heavy toll on the Virginians but in the end the natives withdrew. A settlement was worked out and the war ended. Needles to say, Cornstalk was not a popular character with the average settler. Later after the AWI, the native Americans were again ready to make war over the land near the Ohio. Chief Cornstalk, who had always advocated peace and only attacked when no option was left, travelled to Fort Randolph to warn the commander there that he could control the natives no longer.

The captain decided he would be better off holding Cornstalk captive as a deterrent. However, several militiamen decided it was time to get revenge and one evening decided to murder Cornstalk and his sons inside the fort. The picture to the left is a Murial painted on the Town of Point Pleasant's flood wall. Click on all pictures to enlarge. The town has done a really nice job converting the old flood wall into a river park with Murial's of the history of Point Pleasant all the way along it.

After the murder a force of approximately 300 Native Americans lay siege to the Fort. The re-enactment was very interesting in the fact that during the battle the crowd was split into two (2) groups half stayed in the fort to watch the militia fight and half went outside to watch the native approach. After which, the groups switched so you could watch both sides of the battle. It was actually the Chief's daughter known as the Grenadier Squaw, because of her ability to fight which convinced the natives to stop the Battle.

Native Americans attacking. I meant to photoshop out the houses. The replica fort is in a park outside of town, the actual Fort Randolph set on the point were the Battle of Point Pleasant had happened earlier. There may have been few Indians but they did a really good job, whooping and even running up to catch a child farming before the fight began.

This guy was exceptional, spoke Shawnee, was the leader of the natives and even had his nose pierced. I found out from the commander re-enactor that this man travelled all over re-enacting various woodland Indians.

After the battle we headed over to a pub and had a nosh, then visited the flood wall and river park. Pictured to the left is the man himself, Lord Dunmore. If you click on the picture look at the lower left you can really tell where the sympathy of the artist lay. Actually, I was surprised that the performance was so anti-colonial and pro-Shawnee. Usually the Europeans are portrayed as heroic but this was a nice change.

A couple of more images from the flood wall of the Battle of Point Pleasant plenty of imagery for wargaming.

This image shows the colonial encampment along the point. Some historians argue that the Battle of Point Pleasant was the first battle of the AWI as Lord Dunmore was secretly in league with the Shawnee wanting to get rid of some rebellious type colonist. However, this is highly unlikely in my opinion.

Finally we made our way over to the park at the point which is the actual former location of Fort Randolph and the Battle. The sign here is bit biased toward the first battle of the AWI argument. I am just showing this to tick off anyone from Lexington. The park is very nice on the banks of both rivers and the remains of Chief Cornstalk are buried there.

A photo of the obelisk memorial at the park. This was a very enjoyable day and I would highly recommend that if you are ever in the vicinity of Point Pleasant, WV on the third weekend in May stop by and enjoy the town. On a side note Point Pleasant is also the home of the mysterious Mothman who legend says destroyed the bridge out of town in the 1960's. A trip would not be complete to without a Mothman sighting and my wife just happened to accidentally snap a shot of him.

Note the shiny eyes and vapid expression. Truly a horrible beast.


A J said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. It's a real treat to see such history kept alive. My wife and I went over to St. Charles, MO this last weekend to see the Lewis and Clark celebration. You had much better weather!

Archduke Piccolo said...

Very informative presentation. Thank you.

David said...

Thanks very much - very interesting and well-illustrated. :-)



Bluebear Jeff said...

An excellent and interesting account, sir. Very educational too.

-- Jeff

CWT said...

Thanks for the photos and info - always welcome!

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