Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Per Scriptum E. Wesley - Mackinac Center Intern
Ten months after Lord Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown, the America War for Independence still raged on in full vigor on the frontier. Regimented troops marching in lines was not the method for these frontier skirmishes. The British and Canadians supervised attacks, while Indians provided support. Patriot militia men were 71% English, 14% Scots-Irish, and 15% other nationalities. All were to fight. Raids often turned into deadly skirmishes. It is in this context that one of the last major encounters of the Revolution took place.
In 1782, the British and Indian forces began amassing in Ohio to originally strike Ft. Henry in Wheeling, Virginia. However, because of the rumor that patriot LTC George Rogers Clark was also preparing for attack, the plan was called off. Most of the British and Indians left right then and there. Fifty loyal British and 300 Indians stayed, and decided to launch an attach across the Ohio River into central Kentucky. At the abandoned outpost of Ruddle Station, they planned to strike Bryan's Station. Bryan's Station was defended by 44 patriot militiamen. Two express riders left for Lexington to get reinforcements. Seventeen men came from Lexington on the 16th, and a short skirmish with the Indians ensued that left five militiamen dead. On August 17th, the British (commanded by Capt. William Caldwell) withdrew to Ruddle Station. On the morning of the 18th, 182 militiamen arrived at Bryan's Station (being mostly mounted) under the leadership of Colonel John Todd. Danial Boone and Capt. Patterson of Fayette County were among them. Another large group was also expected to come from St. Asaph's in Lincoln County under Col. Benjamin Logan. When these arrived in mid-morning, the mounted militia began pursuing Caldwell. Caldwell's army evacuated Ruddle Station, and had camped by the Licks River on the evening of August 18th.
As August 19th dawned, Caldwell discovered that Todd's forces were a few miles south of the Lick. Caldwell planted his men on both sides of the ridge; about 3,500 ft. north of the ford across Licking River. A tree-covered route behind the British afforded them the possibility of an easy escape. The location was perfect, and there would be little tree cover across a deadly open field for Todd to cross. The Virginians crossed the ford, and came within 200 yards of the tree line. Daniel Boone and Capt. Patterson's forces took up the left position, while Trigg's Lincoln county troops occupied the middle (commanded by Major McGary and Major Harlin), and Capt. Bulger on the right. The line was 600 years long, and the river behind them blocked any hope of a speedy retreat. All their hopes were set on victory, or else defeat would be total. It was now or never.
At 7:30 Harlin launched a mounted assault, as Boone and Patterson advanced and began driving the enemy line back. Harlin suffered heavy losses, and the Indians flanked Bulger's men. There, Col. Trigg, Col. Todd, and Bulger all fell in battle. Bulger's men retreated. Panic spread through the rest of the line when McGary ordered a retreat. The Indians were now behind Boone. Much like Pickett's charge in the Civil War, Boone tried to break up the Indians with a mounted assault. It was too late, and the retreat even cost more lives. The British had won this battle; leaving 77 Virginians dead and more killed or captured.
Freedom on the frontier would have to wait for another day. In the mounths that followed, more raids continued, and George Rogers Clark led 1,128 men across the Ohio River on November 4th to attack the Ohio Indian Nation. Clark's company was supervised by Col. Benjamin Logan and the now full rank Col. Daniel Boone.
Image from battleofbluelicks.org