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Lore of the Laughery

Friendship, Indiana      August 27 & 28, 2005

Lochry’s Defeat

Script for the Re-Enactment © 2005, By Kathy Cummings

Archibald Lochry looked out over the River. The Ohio River. It had brought him from his home in Pennsylvania. They were nearing a creek about ten miles below The Great Miami River.

The plans were all unraveling. The year was 1781. It was August and it was hot.

His men were restless. The horses were too. He went over the options in his mind one more time. The men were doing heavy labor poling the boats down the Ohio. They needed to eat. There was already talk of desertion being whispered about. 

He was the county lieutenant for Westmoreland County in Pennsylvania and held the rank of Colonel. He had volunteered to come down the Ohio. His home in Westmoreland County Pennsylvania had been harassed by Indian attacks for the last several years. He was not happy about leaving his wife and daughters. But it seemed the best way. His men although, militia were mostly dressed in hunting frocks. They had left their uniforms at home. Clothing was scarce on the frontier. As were lead and powder.

Colonel George Rogers Clark had told him of his plans. To go down the Ohio River, and advance through the Illinois Country and attack the British at Detroit. For it was the British that were arming the Indians and causing these sporadic raids on the frontier. For the men of Westmoreland County leaving home and joining with Clark seemed the solution. Clark had planned on recruiting over 500 men in Virginia and Pennsylvania and adding about 500 more once they reached Kentucky.

They were to have met up with Clark several days ago. But when they got to the appointed meeting place at Wheeling €“ Clark was gone. He had left only 13 hours before Lochry and his men arrived. Lochry dispatched Richard Wallace in a canoe to catch up with Clark. He carried the following message:

“I arrived at this post this moment, and there is neither boats, provisions or Ammunition. If you send back these articles mentioned and with directions I will overtake you. I will follow. We are upwards of 100 strong including Light horse.”

It took two days for the reply to arrive from Clark who had reached Middle Island. Clark had also sent back 15 days rations and a keg of rum. Clark would leave several large boats including a horse boat for Lochry at the lower point of the third Island below Middle Island.

Lochry’s men set out in several small boats. The cavalry had to pick their way carefully along the banks. The mosquitoes and the heat were oppressive.

Along the way they came upon 16 deserters from Clark’s forces. Lochry’s men wanted to kill them on the spot. Lochry decided to take them back to Clark. Lochry ordered his men to share their rations with the prisoners. Men also were set to guarding the extra sixteen men.

Below Middle Island Clark had left Major Samuel Cracraft and six men and the waiting boats. Lochry wanted to pen a note to Clark but Cracraft would not wait. He and the six men set off immediately in a canoe to rejoin Clark.

Lochry dispatched Sam Shannon and seven of his men in a small boat the next morning to take his message to Clark. Although the horse boat kept the men off the banks and away from the briars and rough terrain the horse boat was heavy and caught often on sand bars and had to be poled off. It was strenuous work even for these Pennsylvania frontiersmen. And there were the ever present mosquitoes. Lochry sent two more men out to hunt. They did not return.

Clark had raised fewer men than expected He had only 400 men at Fort Pitt. And his men were restless too. They had been deserting. Having second thoughts and deserting to go back home. By the time he reached Wheeling, Clark had less than 300 men. Clark reasoned that starting on, getting the men into the boats and moving further down river was his best plan. Men would desert less the farther from home they were. For a deserter would have to travel alone through the Ohio Indian territory. They would travel slowly and Lochry and his men could catch up.

Sam Shannon and his men went ashore to cook just below the Scioto River. They heard gunfire. Hiding in the woods they saw about 90 Indians. The Indians had captured Cracraft and his men. Brant already knew of Lochry’s force. Shannon and his men were soon captured too. Brant was seen hastily writing a letter to Alexander McKee and Capt. Thompson encouraging them to hurry from their position at Chillicothe. While Clark and Lochry were separated they could more easily be defeated.

 ”The troubles with Clark leaving early are many. The supplies were to have been evenly divided. Now we had been traveling for days trying to catch up with Clark. He has most of the food. And most of the powder and lead. And grain for the horses. The men are grumbling- they see buffalo along the shore line. A hungry man is a restless man. But if we put in to shore it might mean certain Indian attack.”

 ”And the horses are another problem. They need to eat. Arriving at the Falls with starved and dying horses will defeat our purpose.”

“Tell the men we will go ashore. But we will hold our fire. The horse boat will be unloaded first. There will be no hunting until we have checked out the area and grazed the horses. If there are Indians as close as I think then gunfire will surely alert them to our whereabouts. I repeat no gunfire.”

Archibald Lochry had assessed the situation well. For there were Indians, many Indians. And more were gathering. The Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant had come from Niagara. He was to meet up with Simon Girty. George Girty was there. And on their way from the Ohio Country was an even larger force.

They had heard of George Rogers Clark’s plans of attack. Their network of scouts and spies was great. Little happened on the frontier without word reaching Detroit. Most of Brant’s communications were written for he had been raised and educated as a white man.

But he too had trouble controlling his men. They had watched George Rogers Clark and his men go down river. But his men had refused to attack Clark. Clark’s reputation was mighty by 1781. He also had a swivel gun mounted on his lead boat.

Then word had come from his scouts that another smaller force was following behind Clark. A smaller force was an easier target. This was Archibald Lochry and the men of Westmoreland County. There were about 100 Men on board. The Indians needed to only follow along the shoreline and wait.

Brandt: “We must be patient. Soon they will come close to the shoreline. Then all of the men, the horses and the guns will be ours. I do not want them killed. We will march the prisoners to Detroit.”

 Lochry and men begin to walk out from the woods: OK Men, we’ll go ashore here. No firing

 GUNSHOT: One shot from the woods.

 ANOTHER VOICE: ”There Colonel. Now we can eat. I shot that buffalo.”

 Immediately other shots ring out as Indians surround Lochry and Men, Brandt is not present. Some men are tomahawked others are beaten.

 The Indians demand to know who their leader is. The men look to Lochry. Lochry is seated on a log to await Brant’s arrival. The Indians are discussing killing the prisoners and taking their scalps. Lochry (in despair was resting his head in his hands) when an Indian sneaks up behind him and tomahawks him. He slumps slowly over and the Indian takes his scalp.

BRANDT ENTERS: “Who killed this man? I want them alive” “Prepare the prisoners.” Indians line up prisoners, Take guns, horns, etc. Brant turns his anger over the dead Lochry towards George Girty and slashes him with his sword.

Bill Campbell a tall sandy haired young man is the only one in uniform. His brother had survived Indian capture. He determines to be co-operative. He rips the buttons off his uniform and eagerly waves them in front of the Indians hoping to improve his situation. Instead they take his gesture as some kind of trick and kill him.

Sgt William Allison tells Brant that it is his horse Brant has chosen. He tries to compliment Brant on choosing the best horse. Brant kills Allison with his sword.

All of Lochry’s men were killed or captured. Isaac Anderson kept a journal of his days. From this and the letters of Joseph Brant and other accounts we know what happened to most all of Lochry’s men. Those that weren’t killed were marched to Detroit. Many escaped and returned to their homes in to Pennsylvania. Many of these men later settled in Indiana and Kentucky. For despite the capture they had seen the rich lands along the Ohio. And when Indian attacks declined in this area they came back to put their claim on this land. Valentine Lawrence and George Mason actually came back to settle at the same area in which they had been captured. The Creek where the men had landed was named for Archibald Lochry. Over the years the name became Laughery Creek.

Clark’s plan of attacking Detroit was not to be. When he returned to his base at The Falls of the Ohio he found the militia of Kentucky did not agree with him. They voted against an attack on Detroit. They had crops to harvest and families to protect.

The news of Lochry.s death and capture had reached the settlers by that time. They knew that the killing would have appeased the Indians for a while. And they were right. Brant’s force of over 300 men began to break up. They too were ready to head North across the Ohio. Fall was nearing and winter would soon be upon them.

A few scattered bands of Indians still roamed the area. Brant, the Girty’s and a party of 50 Miami Indians spread out and attacked smaller station in Kentucky. One of these was Squire Boone’s Painted Stone Station. Two weeks after the attack on Lochry as the settlers of Painted Stone were moving toward a more populated Station they were attacked by this same force.

 

  Sources:

The Best Men of Westmoreland by Chris McHenry
Joseph Brant 1743-1807 Man of Two Worlds by Isabel Thompson Kelsay

Virginia’s Western War 1775-1786 By Richard Taylor and Neal O. Hammon 

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