Historical Context:

[1]    Because Daniel Boone’s expeditions have been sufficiently detailed in the film Source pages and in Matt Sparks’s Historical Context for With Daniel Boone Thru the Wilderness (1926), I have decided to offer an historical overview of certain Native lands and American colonies from 1754-1783.  I have included information on the European duel for the colonies, the Native American involvement in colonial wars, and a short history of Kentucky.  Readers will find Daniel Boone nestled here in at least a few places, especially in regard to the French and Indian War (1754-63), Lord Dunmore’s War (1774), and the Ohio River Valley theatre of the War for Independence (1775-83).

A Variation of the Formulaic, Prefatory Postmodern Disclaimer

[2]    As a man of European descent raised on late twentieth century American capitalism and American cultural myth, I cannot presume to offer a discourse that is completely faithful to the Native American and colonial people of the mid-eighteenth century.  And certainly this also holds for any one of the many mingling, competing races and nationalities in colonial America.  All I can do is say that I will proceed cautiously, acknowledging the limitations posed by the differences of race, culture, and time.  My task is further complicated by the fact that my gaze upon the cultural contests of mid-eighteenth century colonial America is susceptible to the gaping pitfalls that historicizing opens.  It is best, I think, to try to maintain a relatively pragmatic position on all of these matters, reminding myself that any discourse or critical method is limited by its own terms and does not necessarily allow other discourses to articulate themselves.  And in this regard I think it is beneficial to heed as a cautionary point one of the key assumptions of new historicism:  “every act of unmasking, critique, and opposition uses the tools it condemns and risks falling prey to the practice it exposes” (Veeser xi).  Pragmatism says that we need to remain cautious and conscious of our own biases but still proceed toward realizing the practical consequences of our own views and ideas.  This is what I aim to do.

The European Colonies and Colonists in North America, 1754-1775

[3]    By the early eighteenth century, the colonial competition for the eastern half of North America was basically reduced to a duel between the French and the British.  On behalf of New France, Robert La Salle journeyed down the Mississippi River (1679-82), extending France’s colonial holdings from the St. Lawrence River westward to the Great Lakes and then south to the mouth of the Mississippi.  With the exception of the Spanish possessions in the southern part of Texas and present day New Mexico and Arizona, anything between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains was held by the French.  The British holdings lay from the Atlantic coastline to the Appalachians.  With their colonial interests in conflict, the French and the British simultaneously claimed control of the interstitial areas along the boundary line that generally ran from the panhandle of Florida to Lake Ontario.  Also under British reign were the areas of northern Maine and the eastern most reaches of mainland Canada.

[4]    The competition escalated from small scale skirmishes to a world war between the French and the British.  In 1754 the tensions stirred when British forces led by lieutenant colonel George Washington were ousted from the Forks of Ohio by the French, who renamed their stronghold Fort Dusquesne.  The fleeing British then moved southeast and built Fort Necessity within interstitial territory. But soon French troops advanced on Fort Necessity and again ousted the British who surrendered on July 4, 1754, and then scurried off to Virginia after the French released them.  Thus began the French and Indian War (1754-1763) that sparked a world war.  In the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), the two great European powers duked it out in Europe, on the oceans, and in colonial
holdings in North America, India, and the Philippines.  In the American colonies, the British challenged French control of the Ohio Valley and the Quebec-Montreal areas.  In 1755 the British strategy to take the Ohio Valley was spoiled when General Edward Braddock’s forces failed to capture Fort Duquesne (Daniel Booneand John Finley were among the buckskin militia that had joined Braddock’s British Regulars).  When William Pitt became England’s secretary of state in 1757, he decided to concentrate British forces in North America, pouring money and troops into the war.

[5]    When Britain finally recaptured what the French had recently named Fort Duquesne, the fort was renamed Fort Pitt (later Pittsburgh) and a decisive turn in the war was in the works. Pitt then set his sights on Quebec-Montreal, where the British finally triumphed after three months of land and water efforts.  Led by James Wolfe, the Brits assaulted the French forces under the charge of Louis Montcalm.  The British won the monumental Battle of Quebec and then marched onto Montreal, which they also captured in 1760.  By 1763 the war was decidedly a British victory, with the Treaty of Paris signed in the same year.  As a result, French holdings in North America were severely reduced to very small claims in the Caribbean.   At this point, the British spread all the way to the Mississippi River.  On the other side of the Mississippi were the Spanish who had lost Florida to Britain but then gained what lay west of the mighty river, when their French ally was forced to cede these expansive tracts.   In 1763, the British indeed dominated North America, but in the process of war the thirteen individual colonies had made progress in working out what had previously separated them and hindered intercolonial relations.  Things like religious differences, boundary disputes, economic interests, trade routes, and Old World rifts were to some degree resolved, at least when war threatened the colonies.  This is not to say that the colonies were unified at this point, but to say that the common cause of fighting off the French had certainly improved intercolonial relations.

[6]    What posed a difficulty for the British government after having acquired huge tracts of land from the French was how to maintain control of the expanding empire.  The royal government issued the Proclamation of 1763, a law forbidding colonists to settle beyond the Appalachian Mountains.  Besides some existing scattered towns and settlements, what lay west of the mountains was to remain the land of the American Indians.  Some sources say that the Crown did not intend the Proclamation to halt westward expansion but to postpone it while the British
tried to smooth over rocky relations with the Indians, which among other things had sparked Pontiac’s Rebellion in the same year.  In any case, many colonists were displeased and dismayed with the restrictions.  Having just fought for the British in the French and Indian War, surely some rights should be afforded the colonists.  Even George Washington, an investor in land speculation, voiced his protest against these restrictions.  Owning land was a priority and, many thought, an entitlement, as it guaranteed voting rights and social standing.  To help enforce the Proclamation, King George III left about ten-thousand British troops behind after the war and in conjunction issued The Quartering Act in 1765.

[7]    Still, many settlers and land speculators defied the British and moved beyond the mountains, Daniel Boone being one of them. Having incurred huge debts in the war campaign against the French, the British were in a financial bind (the figure is projected at about 140 million British pounds).  The responsibility of supporting troops and other measures of control in the colonies added to British financial burdens.  To help raise revenue, pay the debts, and build economic control of the colonies, prime minister George Grenville and his parliament levied a handful of restrictions and acts: enforcement of Navigation Laws, The Sugar Act (1764), The Currency Act (1764), The Stamp Act (1765), The Townshend Acts (1767), and impressment laws.  And although the Stamp Act was repealed, a cry for liberty and James Otis's famous protest "No taxation without representation” incited many disconcerted colonists.  Protests, boycotts, and other forms of resistance increased tensions between the colonists and the British, while incidents like the Boston Massacre (1770) and the Boston Tea Party (1773) further fed the incendiary flames.  King George’s next set of oppressive laws was issued in 1774 and renamed the Intolerable Acts by the colonists.  Tensions continued to mount when on April 19, 1775, a “shot heard round the world” echoed from the Old North Bridge over the Concord River outside of Lexington, Massachusetts.  A month later the Second Continental Congress convened and the Continental Army was formed to battle the British for independence.  From this time until General Corwallis surrendered at the Battle of Yorktown (1781), the American Continental Army fought hard to win what it sought, and when in 1783 a second Treaty of Paris was signed, a new nation had been recognized by its former possessor and oppressor.  Among other things, the treaty of 1783 granted the United States control of the land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.  But even before the treaty granted this tract of land to the Americans, Daniel Boone had cut the Wilderness Road eight years earlier and had led settlers into Kentucky, where the white population sharply increased from roughly 100 in 1775 to about20,000 in 1780.

Native Americans in Eastern America:  Wars between 1754-1783

[8]    I must say here that although I dedicate most of the space below to the ways in which the European presence wrought an acculturation of the Natives, we cannot forget that the Europeans also were acculturated through the encounter with Natives.  In the case of America, acculturation is a two-way street.  Daniel Boone himself is a fine example.  After all, his success as a pioneer is correlative to his ability to “think Indian," as the Boone legend of books and film repeatedly tells us.

[9]    Beginning in the early sixteenth century much of the interaction between the Europeans and the Native Americans in North American lands involved the fur trade and commerce in general.  The search for furs, trade routes, and customers continually led the Europeans to explore and penetrate farther into Native lands.  Accordingly, trading posts were centers of commodity exchange as well as cultural exchange.  While the Europeans provided the capital, the manufactured goods, and equipment, Natives served several important functions in the fur trade: they acted as guides, hunters, transporters, and middlemen and prepared hides for trade.

[10]    In short, the Natives were the laborers.  In exchange for their labor, Natives received many different European commodities that seemed to make life a bit easier.  This exchange market and the commodities themselves often replaced and changed the Natives’ traditional ways of living. In many ways, Natives became more and more dependent on European commodities and capitalist business ventures as their roles as producers and consumers initiated them into a world market (Calloway 147-49).  In the 1750s, one Cherokee chief said, “Every necessary of life we must have from the white people,” and in the 1770s a Creek declared, “We have been used so long to wrap up our Children as soon as they are born in Goods procured of the white People that we cannot do without it” (qtd. in Calloway 149).  This increasing dependence on European commodities and the capitalist system produced what capitalism thrives on: debt.  No matter how the Natives paid their creditors, with increased labor (fur production) or by yielding tracts of land, they grew increasing dependent on the Europeans and deeply entrenched in the demands of capitalism.  Along with debt came other results of foreign encroachment, such as disease, alcohol, depleted animal populations, all of which weakened Native autonomy and cultural tradition, increasing their dependence on European commodities and culture. Even in its simplest forms, interaction with the Europeans compromised and negotiated Native ways (Calloway 146-50).

[11]    Yet the relationship between the Europeans and Natives was not as simple as one culture advancing on another, nor as clear as the continual re-demarcation of a frontier line crawling westward, as history textbooks have often depicted it.  Instead, cultural competition was so complex that it defies any single statement about hegemonic domination, and, in fact, even calling it a “competition” imposes the presumption of identifiable sides, or competitors.  It wasn’t that simple.  Summarizing these relations, Colin Calloway writes:

In reality, the lines of conflict and competition were complicated, and colonial America was often a more dangerous place for Indians than for Europeans.  The invasion of America by European powers created a bewildering and volatile situation, involving many players in changing roles.  European settlers competed with Indians for prime lands.  European powers competed for North
American resources and dominance.  Indians resisted European intrusions and pretensions yet often forged alliances with the newcomers.  Europeans competed for Indian trade; Indians competed with other Indians for European trade.  Relations between different tribes sometimes altered dramatically; friends became enemies and vice versa.  (150)
The cultural exchange and negotiation was never so static nor so transparent as to allow contemporary or current historians to define it clearly.  What we do understand, however, is that five major conflicts in which North American Indians and European colonists participated occurred between the years 1754 and 1783:  The French and Indian War (1756-63), The Cherokee War (1759-61), Pontiac’s Rebellion/Uprising/War (1763-64), Lord Dunmore’s War (1774), and the American War for Independence (1775-83).  Here, I will briefly look at the Native involvement in these conflicts.

[12]    Alliances between Natives and colonists shifted from one conflict to the next.  As soon as one makes general statements about alliances between the French and the Algonquian tribes (Abenaki, Ottawa, Shawnee, Delaware, Potawatomi) or between the British and the Mohegan and Mohican tribes, contradictory evidence is detected.  To say that alliances were stable and clearly defined is to distort what recent scholarship has found.  Stated summarily, colonial wars “involved Indian warriors fighting on both sides beside European armies, as well as fighting against European armies invading Indian country” (Calloway 150).

[13]    The French and Indian War turned when alliances between the Natives and the Europeans changed.  Many Iroquois and French conjoined in successful campaigns against the British (e.g. capturing Fort Duquesne in 1755*), but when the French advantage increased, many Iroquois wanted to abandon them and support the British in order to restore the balance between the European powers, but this proved difficult in the face of other British alliances.  This shift eventually helped to turn the entire war in Britain’s favor.  As British allies, the Delaware and Shawnee initially opposed the admission of  the Iroquois into the alliance because allowing this would legitimize how the Iroquois had displaced many of the Ohio valley tribes in the 1680s.  But in 1758, a
conference between the Ohio Indians and the Delaware established that the acceptance of the Iroquois suzerainty was the best way to expel the French and limit British expansion (Salisbury 444).   The reinvigorated Indian-British alliance expelled the French from Fort Duquesne and other French forts on the Ohio and Great Lakes.  By 1760, the French had surrendered all of Canada to the British.  But things did not turn out the way the Natives wanted it.  This alliance between the Indians and the British proved tenuous, at best.  Instead of leaving
former Indian lands to the Natives, the British garrisoned former French forts and continued the campaign to seize more land from the Natives, specifically the Seneca.  By the time the Treaty of Paris had ended the French and Indian War in 1763, another conflict called “Pontiac’s Rebellion” would soon spring (Salisbury 442-45).

[14]    The Cherokee War occurred within the span of the French and Indian War, though it was incited by other circumstances.  Prompted by tensions that had existed for quite some time, The Cherokee War proper was rather short itself.  Between 1721 and 1785, the Cherokees ceded huge chunks of land ten different times.  Today, these tracts are Tennessee, Kentucky, and large parts of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.  When the French and Indian War began, the Cherokees had signed new treaties with the British in regard to land boundaries and encroachment, but the British traders persistently broke the treaties.  As a result, the Cherokees withdrew their support from the British in the French and Indian War.  Having already ceded more than seven million acres of land to the British by 1759, the Cherokees eventually engaged the Brits in war (Calloway 183).  Although not previously allied with the French, the Cherokees welcomed French support, but British naval blockades cut off this support.  Despite the brief period in which they captured a British fort and took English villages, the Cherokees had been stomped by 1761 and as a result, readied themselves to watch their lands whittled away once again (Salisbury 445-46).  One such cession is of particular significance to our Boone history:  in 1775, the same year that Boone settled Boonesborough and defended it, the Cherokees lost much of present-day Kentucky (14,464,000 acres or 22,600 square miles) to the British.  This is the largest single area they had lost between 1721 and 1785 (Calloway 182).

[15] Pontiac’s Rebellion** (1763-65) was not instigated by Pontiac himself, but  by a congress of leaders and tribes who shared the Ottawa chief’s sentiments against the British.  Inspired by the anti-European preachings of Neolin the “Delaware Prophet," Pontiac was instrumental in organizing peoples of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region to launch a cooperative campaign against British forts and occupation of those regions.  The united tribes rallied against the British refusal to relinquish control of lands that the Natives themselves had helped them acquire in the French and Indian War.  Also adding to the so-called rebellion was the British seizure of even more land, notably that of the Senecas in the early 1760s.  It seems as though the allied tribes wished for a French return that would never come.  Indian attacks were overwhelmingly successful but because they did not capture crucial British positions in Detroit, Niagara, and Fort Pitt, Indian aggression diminished.  In fact, it was after an unsuccessful siege against Fort Pitt that the British urged a Delaware delegation to surrender, presenting to the Indians blankets infested with smallpox.  The disease quickly spread to epidemic proportions, wiping out many Natives of upper Ohio.  It is probable that the order to do this was given by a British commander named Jeffrey Amherst, the same man who at that the close of the French and Indian War had choked supply lines to his allied Indians and seized Seneca lands as gifts for his officers.  By 1765, loss seemed inevitable for Pontiac’s forces, and he finally surrendered in 1766 (Salisbury 445-48).

[16]    Named after the governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore’s War (1774) was another conflict between Natives and English settlers.  King George III’s Royal Proclamation of 1763 prohibited settlement on Indian lands west of the Appalachians.  The English feared that if substantial steps were not taken to prevent the wresting of more lands from the Natives, another rebellion like Pontiac’s would ensue.  Late in 1763 in Augusta, John Stuart held a conference attended by English governors, agents of the Crown, and Native leaders.  Here, the conditions and terms were to be firmed up and several cessions were made to the Natives, but the boundaries of these were never formalized.  Despite these efforts, the so-called Proclamation Line was almost immediately transgressed.  Neal Salisbury cites a number of economic and demographic pressures that undermined this British policy:  the influx of Euro-American settlers, speculators, traders, and hunters on Indian lands; the instability or unwillingness of colonial authorities to prevent violence or punish crimes and treaty violations committed by such interlopers; the inability of the Crown to maintain garrisons at many forts, to furnish gifts to its Native allies, and to finance its Indian superintendents due to colonial resistance to royal prerogative and further taxation (449).

[17]    All of these factors were exacerbated when in 1768 Sir William Johnson met with Iroquois representatives at a British fort in New York to negotiate the Treaty of Fort Stanwix.  There, however, Johnson exceeded his own power and persuaded the Iroquois to cede vast hunting lands on the Ohio River that actually didn’t belong to any one of the Six Iroquois Nations.  Instead, the land in question belonged to the Delaware, Shawnee, and Cherokee, none of whom were present at the treaty talks (Calloway 162).  News of the cession passed quickly through the colonies and a mad rush over the Appalachians ensued.  The Ohio Natives were enraged and felt betrayed. As settlers crossed into the Indian hunting ground, Cherokee and Shawnee retaliated.  At the same time, the Shawnee tried to reestablish ties between Great Lakes and Ohio Indians, but Johnson and pro-English Iroquois foiled these efforts.  In 1774, rumors spread that the Shawnee had declared war on Virginia and the killing began.  Diplomatically isolated, the Shawnee chief Cornstalk was not completely committed to the war but waged it in the interest of his people. At Point Pleasant in 1774 the Virginians decisively beat the Shawnee, and as a result the Shawnee agreed to yield their hunting rights in Kentucky.  The new boundary between the British
colonists and the Shawnee was the Ohio River, which forms the northern border of present-day Kentucky (Salisbury 449-50).  This Virginian victory, of course, opened Kentucky to settlement, something that Daniel Boone sought to do in 1775 when he cut the Wilderness Road and established Boonesborough.

[18]    In the Revolutionary War, the various Native tribes were divided between the American colonists and the British.  Initially, many Native peoples were neutral, but eventually economic and diplomatic pressures grew to the point that neutrality could be potentially dangerous.  Generally, most Natives who fought in the war sided with the British, for they perceived the American rebels as more of a threat than the British.  Although Brits had exhibited a hunger for land and were not completely trustworthy, the American rebels were perceived as reckless men starving for land (Calloway 162-63).  Recognizing that the Revolution was, in the simplest terms, a contest for the control of colonized land and frontier land, many American Indians chose to battle the encroaching settlers rather than take arms against the British.  At least, the British had attempted to draw boundaries between territories and ostensibly outlawed incursions into Native lands.

[19]    Enlisting much Native support, the British benefited from the rhetoric that there is good reason to support those who try to contain trouble and deplore those who spread it.  Here, I will briefly list how the Natives sided.   The Six Iroquois Nations were divided: the Mohawks, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas sided with the British, while the Oneidas and Tuscaroras tended toward the colonist cause.  Also joining the secessionists were some northeast tribes who had previously shared ties with the French: the Caughnawagas, Abenakis, Maliseets, and Micimacs.  The Creek confederacy was also divided, with some already embroiled in their own conflict with the Choctaws (Salisbury 450-51).  Partway through the war, the Shawnee and Delaware tribes of the Ohio Valley shifted their alliances from the revolutionaries to the British.  The Delawares had abandoned the rebels in favor of the British after their American alliance took two bad turns: 1. the Americans failed to deliver the supplies and protection they had promised, 2. the Americans murdered the pro-American Delaware chief White Eyes in 1778 (as it turned out, in 1781 the Americans also slaughtered the pacifist Delawares at Gnadenhutten, a Moravian mission).  The Shawnee also abandoned the Americans and joined the British when, under a flag of truce, an American killed the Shawnee chief Cornstalk who, in 1777, had negotiated peace with both sides.  Alongside the British, the Shawnee and Delaware peoples assaulted American forts and forces in the West.  One such case is the ambush on Boone and his men at the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782 (Calloway 163).  As the war progressed, the American forces sought to turn the tables and proceeded with more aggressive campaigns in the Ohio Valley.  Though the Americans razed or burned numerous Indian villages in the valley, Native determination was indefatigable, particularly among the Shawnee, Cherokee, and Iroquois.  At the same time, the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant sided with the British and rallied support throughout Iroquois country.  Brant also led a campaign of frontier raids that effectively cut off supply lines to the American Patriots.

[20]    For the most part, the Natives did not welcome the American victory in 1783.  Their British ally had conceded defeat and was about to abandon the Indians to fend for themselves.  The British could leave and be assured safety, but the Indians couldn’t bear to leave and, for this reason, they were not safe.  Even Brant, a British supporter, deplored British abandonment.  For most Natives, the future was nothing short of ominous: Indians recognized that the new nation constituted a political force in which the landholding and commercial aspirations long held by most British colonists had been elevated to national purpose.  This self-proclaimed, American-based "empire of liberty" represented a more sinister threat to Native existence than any that had originated in Europe during the preceding three centuries (Salisbury 453).  Among other things, Daniel Boone himself represents the “national purpose” to establish an “empire of liberty."

*After Braddock’s defeat at Fort Duquesne in 1755, the frontier from Pennsylvania to North Carolina was vulnerable to persistent Indian attacks and scalping forays.  The British became so desperate that they offered healthy bounties for Indian scalps, $50 for a woman’s and $130 for a man’s (Bailey 83).

**Revisionists have begun to call Pontiac’s Rebellion an “uprising” rather than a “rebellion."

A Very Brief History of Kentucky, 1670s to 1783

[21]    A history of Kentucky and the Ohio Valley cannot be extricated from what is briefly summarized above, nor should a history of the United States overlook what happened in Kentucky before its statehood in 1792.  In fact, most American history textbooks certainly agree that what happened before the Kentucky territory joined the union is more interesting and pivotal than what happened after Kentucky officially became one of the United States (no offense, Kentuckians!).  A long-disputed territory, Kentucky provides a concentrated version in
many ways of an American history that privileges cultural contest.  Invaluable to Natives as a sacred hunting ground embodying the Native way of life and invaluable to American colonists as an idyllic paradise teeming with game, capital resources, and productive expanses of land, Kentucky was a prized territory that all sides and all peoples thought deserving of inexhaustible effort to possess.  For the Shawnee, Cherokee, and Ohio Valley peoples, Kentucky was a foothold they couldn’t afford to lose; if the colonists settled west of the Appalachians, they would surely spread farther and farther.  For the colonists, dispossessing the Indians of Kentucky was a significant step toward moving west and founding an empire large enough to house their capitalist visions.  At the turn of the nineteenth century, Lexington was heralded as the “Philadelphia of the West” and Philadelphia was redefined as the “Lexington of the East” (qtd. in Aron 133).  One writer even predicted that the “seat of [the] general government will probably be removed” to Lexington (qtd. in Aron 133).   To avoid repeating myself, I
will assume what is written above as I further contextualize the Boone history with what is added below.

[22]    Archaeological studies indicate the continual habitation of Kentucky about 10,000 years before the Europeans first arrived.  The first European explorers to go south of the Ohio River were the French, who encountered scattered hamlets there, calling them Chaouanon (Shawnee) towns.  But  before the French first set foot in Kentucky in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, European colonization had already propelled a chain of events that dispossessed the Shawnee of portions of this territory.  The desettlement of Kentucky began about a century before Daniel Boone set foot there, when in the 1670s the Iroquois invaded the Ohio River Valley and pushed the indigens out.  Prompted by economic and demographic factors as well as a need to increase the tribal populations that European epidemic diseases and war had depleted, the Iroquois depredated Shawnee villages and eventually scattered them into Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Pennsylvania.  Repopulation, however, soon followed when in the beginning of the eighteenth century, many Shawnee returned to areas north of the Ohio River, “seeking refuge from white encroachments and defying the Iroquois’ hegemonic pretenses” (Aron 7).  With this repopulation came more European influence, as some repopulators desired to position themselves within the commerce between the French, British, and other Natives.  Also with them came people of European or partial European descent (Aron 7).  A cultural mesh was begun even before the persistent masses of colonial settlers entered Kentucky in the 1770s under the guidance of Daniel Boone.

[23]    It is worth noting here a few misconceptions that Stephen Aron details in regard to the woodland Natives who inhabited the Ohio Valley.  He says that the traditional view of these people has been skewed by rhetoric and cultural discourse that subordinated the Native life to European ways.  For example, the role of women among these peoples was depicted as one of toilsome servility.  On the contrary, scholars have recently found that women did indeed mind the domestic chores but their toil was not oppressively imposed nor were they regarded in slavish terms.  Indian women “safeguarded their subsistence by combining products of forest and farm” (Aron 9), and because large families were not customary in Native life, one or two well-cultivated acres would provide the family with what it needed.  It seems fair to say that, in fact, the backcountry frontier women may have toiled longer and harder to support their large broods than their Indian counterparts.  A related point is the traditional portrait of the Natives as primarily a hunting people.  This image “represented the lowest stage of social
evolution and provided a well-worn rationale for Anglo-American conquest and colonization” (Aron 10).  It is more accurate to note that the Natives of this area were productive agrarians whose cultivation skills provided a larger part of their diet than the flesh they hunted. Also, because the Natives’ spirituality was based in a kinship with the animals, they favored a perpetual abundance of animals.  Flesh hunting, for this reason, was limited to what they needed to complement their diet and what could provide basic necessities such as clothing, implements, and so forth.  The European discourse, however, preferred to think that an agrarian subsistence is a sign of progress, something they didn’t want to see in the Natives (Aron 10). Seemingly insignificant misconceptions like these fueled and justified the cultural superiority that the whites would claim for centuries.  The Indians were much wiser, well-adjusted, civil, and conservative than European hegemony would admit.

[24]    When the French were ejected from the Ohio Valley after the French and Indian War, the Native positions within the trade circles were weakened.  Because only the British remained in the valley, the Natives could not ensure themselves a comfortable degree of independence and autonomy by maintaining a balanced trade.  Jeffrey Amherst, the British military commander, ordered that British-Indian relations would no longer include gifts
meant to steady teetering diplomacy.  Because the French were out of the picture, the British could demand a strictly commercial exchange, not a conciliatory one that sought political alliance (Aron 12).  These high-handed dealings with the Natives and the little compensation that the British offered them helped to fuel what has since been called Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763-65).

[25]    Around the time of the Revolutionary War, the Natives, British, and Americans viewed Kentucky as a prized, contested area.  All employed strategies to gain and maintain control of Kentucky.  In the aftermath of Lord Dunmore’s War, Ohio Valley Natives raided settlements in Kentucky hoping to expel European settlers.  Among these tribes were the Ohio Valley Mingos, Wyandots, Shawnee, and Delawares.  Established by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, the line of demarcation along the Ohio River was not always honored.  As the war progressed, the Shawnee were especially persistent in carrying out Kentucky raids, for settlers had killed peace-seeking Seneca and Shawnee chiefs (Salisbury 450-53).

[25]    By 1777, the Kentucky rebels had established a military organization readied for a slew of Indian attacks.  Under the first Kentucky colonel, John Bowman, were two majors, one of whom was George Rogers Clark, and four captains, Daniel Boone, James Harrod, John Todd, and Benjamin Logan.  In 1777 the Shawnee war chief Blackfish (Mkadday-wah-may-quah) led a series of sieges against Kentucky settlements. Much success followed when settlers abandoned seven stations and fled to the colonies.  Only Boonesborough, Harrodsburg, and Logan’s Station (St. Asaph’s Fort) remained Patriot strongholds.  In February of 1778, Boone and some of his men ventured out to restock their salt supply at the Licking River.  The Shawnee captured Boone and most of the others.  It was during this captivity that Boone feigned conversion to the British side as a political ploy to ensure that he and his men would remain alive.  He was also adopted as a son by Blackfish and given the name Sheltowee, or Big Turtle.  Respecting and trusting Boone, Blackfish refused to deal Sheltowee to British Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton.  In June of the same year, Boone managed to escape and make it back to Boonesborough to prepare his depleted fort for an imminent Shawnee attack.

[26]    In August of 1778, Hamilton sent out an expedition of Natives and French-Canadians to take Boonesborough.  Led by Blackfish, sieges on Boonesborough failed, and the patriotic heroism of Boone was established (Bakeless 141-238).  Beyond this, the Delawares had formed a rather tenuous alliance with the Americans, but then withdrew much of their support when the Americans proposed a campaign to take Detroit.  The Delawares were enraged when the Americans killed the Delaware chief White Eyes in September 1778 and fell short of providing the supplies they had promised the Delawares (Salisbury 452).

[27]    As the war was nearing resolution in the East, the battle in Kentucky continued.  In 1782, a.k.a. the “Year of Blood," British and Indian forces mounted formidable sieges on remaining Kentucky forts and settlements.  Two such sieges at Hoy’s Station and Bryan’s Station were nearly successful.  It was at the latter that history writes about the infamous Simon Girty, once a scout for the British during Lord Dunmore’s War and also a former American revolutionary.  The Brits, Shawnee, and Girty ultimately failed to bring down these forts, although the attacks had weakened American spirits (Bakeless 263-87). In August of 1782, the British and Indians secured a great victory at the Battle of Blue Licks when they ambushed Kentuckian forces, including Boone’s men, and sent survivors retreating for cover.  This victory for the British and Indians was rather sweet, but because the eastern
British efforts had soured, the victory in Kentucky was ineffectual to the greater cause of quelling the American rebellion.  On November 1, 1782, an eleven-hundred man American campaign led by Clark and Boone crossed the Ohio river where they burned six Indian villages and plundered a British trading store, destroying ten thousand bushels of corn.  Because only twenty Indian warriors had been killed, “the Indians certainly did not consider themselves beaten” (Faragher 224).  When news about preliminary peace articles (signed on November 3, 1782) reached the Indians in December, they were stunned and disappointed (Faragher 224-25).  The Treaty of  Paris in 1783 ended the war.  The Native Americans would have to fight alone to secure Kentucky, a battle that history unmistakably declares lost.


Aron, Stephen.  How the West Was Lost:  The Transformation of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins UP, 1996.

Bailey, Thomas A., and David M. Kennedy.  The American Pageant:  A History of  the Republic.  Eighth Edition.  Lexington:  Heath, 1987.

Bakeless, John.  Daniel Boone:  Master of the Wilderness.  New York: Morrow, 1939.

Calloway, Colin G.  First Peoples:  A Documentary Survey of American Indian History.  Boston:  Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999.

Faragher, John Mack.  Daniel Boone:  The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer.  New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992.

Hammond United States History Atlas. Maplewood: Hammond, 1995.

Mason, Lorna C., William Jacobs, and Robert Ludlum.  History of the United States.  Volume One.  Evanston:  Houghton-Mifflin, 1997.

Salisbury, Neal.  “Native People and European Settlers in Eastern North America, 1600-1783.”  The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas.  Volume I, North America.  Eds. Bruce G. Trigger and Wilcomb E.  Washburn.  Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. 399-460.

Veeser, H. Aram, ed.  “Introduction.”  The New Historicism.  New York: Routledge, 1989. ix-xvi.

Further Reading:

Axtell, James.  The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnohistory of  Colonial North America.  New York: Oxford UP, 1981.

---.  The Invasion Within:  The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America. New York: Oxford UP, 1985.

Calloway, Colin F.  The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities.  New York: Cambridge UP, 1995.

Dowd, Gregory Evans.  A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1992.

Hatley, Tom.  The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the  Era of Revolution.  Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1989.

Thornton, Russell.  American Indian Holocaust and Survival:  A Population History since 1492.  Norman: U of  Oklahoma P, 1987.

Usner, Daniel H.  Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783.  Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1992.

Washburn, Wilcomb E., and Bruce G. Trigger. “Native Peoples in Euro-American Historiography.”  The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas.  Volume I, North America.  Eds. Bruce G. Trigger and Wilcomb E. Washburn.  Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. 61-117.

Wright, J. Leitch.  The Only Land They Knew: The Tragic Story of the American Indians in the Old South.  Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1983.

Copyright (c) 2001 by Keat Murray, Graduate student at Lehigh University.

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