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 The Pioneer Times   August 2003

The Battle of Blue Licks

By Jim Cummings

There have been stories told about The Battle of Blue Licks throughout the land. It has been told around flickering campfires hundreds of times each year. There have been lectures and books and stories written about one of Kentucky’s largest defeats and largest tragedies. And sadly for all that the battle only lasted about 15 minutes.

The Battle of Blue Licks breaks down into four parts.

The First Part deals with Simon Girty. He convinced the Indians and the British to attack in Kentucky rather that Wheeling, WV. Bryan’s Station near Lexington became part of the master plan and the first phase of the attack.

The second part is the story leading up to the attack, which is as fascinating as the attack itself. It deals with the mind set of the pioneers, militia and settlers in the station.

Some historians and military minds have often stated that the Battle of Blue Licks did not have to happen. That the settlers and militia could have just walked away, leaving the Indians and British to head north back toward the Ohio River.

Simon Girty knew his enemy well. He had fought side by side with them before he turned against the Americans and joined the British for the British were aligned with the native people that had raised him and his brothers.

And The Blue Licks were part of his battle plan because he knew the Kentuckians would come after them with every man they could muster. He also knew this would cause conflict and turmoil among the Kentucky ranks. And although he knew victory could be his, he didn’t know just how easy that victory would be.

The third part is the actual battle which only lasted 15 minutes. Out of approximately 180 men over 70 Kentuckians fell at Blue Licks. Among the dead was Daniel Boone’s son, Israel. He had fought side by side with his father before taking a musket ball to the chest. Daniel Boone lived for 38 more years in Kentucky and Missouri but never really got over Israel’s death. It was said that he could never talk about Blue Licks or his beloved son without tearing up.

The Battle of Blue Licks took it’s toll on the tough and rugged frontiersman. Daniel Boone carried on but historians say that his letters to family and friends show that some of the spirit left him after that.

 The fourth part of The Battle of Blue Licks is the aftermath. What happened on August 19, 1782 was tragic. The Kentuckians not only got defeated and lost 70 men but it was about the men they lost. Many of the dead were the first frontiersman to enter Kentucky. They had come across the Gap with Boone, or down the Ohio from Ft. Pitt or with James Harrod to establish the first stations in Kentucky. And that is the true tragedy of Blue Licks.

Thomas D. Clark
Book Signing

by Jim Cummings


After celebrating his 100th birthday in July, Dr. Thomas D. Clark still finds time to attend historical events. The re-enactment of the Battle of Blue Licks was this past weekend and Dr. Clark was signing books in the history center.

The Battle of Blue Licks was considered the last battle of the Revolutionary War. Over 70 Kentuckians were ambushed here and killed by British regulars and a mixed band of about 200 Indians.

Dr. Clark, who himself has authored over 34 books and numerous articles and papers about Kentucky was signing copies of his newly released biography and many of his other notable works. 

Numerous re-enactors and other well wishers waited in line for a chance to meet Dr. Clark and have one of his books signed. Dr. Clark spent over two hours signing and talking to his fans. He graciously chatted with each one and stopped for pictures with many.

Those of us in attendance felt very lucky to have the opportunity to meet and greet this very special person. Dr. Clark is credited with contributing much accuracy to the history of Kentucky and the United States.

While taking pictures of Dr. Clark I had the opportunity to listen to some of these conversations. Believe me when I say that this man is still young in spirit, has the heart of a lion and the stamina of a Kentucky thoroughbred.

When one person wished him a happy belated 100th birthday he grinned as he always does and said “I just realized the other day that I have now made it to 1 month over 100.”

When another well wisher asked him how he finds so much to write about he said “Well I participated through over one third of it.”

When I asked him what part the living history re-enactors bring to the history scene, he told me, “they portray what historians write about. They work with what we teach.”

Dr. Thomas D. Clark is Mr. Kentucky!

Rifle Winner Receives Prize

President of The Painted Stone Settlers, Harold Raleigh presents the Kentucky Longrifle to winner Tony Littrel, as gunmaker and club member Bobby Phillips looks on. Mr. Littrel’s name was drawn at the September re-enactment of The Painted Stone Settlers. The accouterments which were part of the package were made and donated by Raleigh.

Littrel said it was a fine looking rifle and he would display and shoot it with pride.

The drawing concluded a year long fund raising event by The Painted Stone Settlers.

Let’s Give Rising Sun A Big Huzzah!

by Jim Cummings

Rising Sun, Indiana hosted The Lewis and Clark Tent of Many Voices on September 27 and 28th. And to kick off this Corps of Discovery Event an encampment of re-enactors set up on the banks of the Ohio.

The Ohio County Historical Society hosted the event which included a street festival with over 30 booths with music, vendors and foods of all kinds.

But the main attraction was the Lewis and Clark Tent of Many Voices a traveling exhibit of their journey. The displays start from the beginning and covers the entire 4000 mile journey that opened the west for our country.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit this huge display tent you need to take the whole family and get involved. It is an educational find for the children and they all seemed to love it. The talking displays were among their favorites.

Jay Kell with re-enactors (l to r) Harold Raleigh, Kell, Kevin Raleigh, Rick Geary and Rick Apsley.

Also a crowd favorite was the “living history”encampment spearheaded by Indiana native, Jay Kell aka George Girty. Earlier this year Kell spoke at The Historical Society on Lochry’s Defeat a 1781 event that took place in Ohio County near where an encampment in June and the one in September were set up. Kell hopes to have a re-enactment of Lochry’s Defeat on the site in the spring of 2004.

Kell called on his re-enactment friends and over thirty showed up in period dress for the occasion. Among those attending were the Butler’s Rangers with their 3lb. brass cannon. The Butler’s Rangers are a group within The Painted Stone Settlers of Shelby County, Kentucky. They are a group who will go to a re-enactment at the drop of a Cannonball.

On Saturday the Butler’s Rangers fired their cannon about 10 to 12 times. And each firing drew a bigger crow. When the Captain of the Rangers, Harold Raleigh gave the order to fire, the crowd cheered. But it did not stop there. The roar of the cannon reverberated along the river and the echo made it sound like there were three or four cannon shots fired. Every one had a great time and Lewis and Clark would have loved it!

Simon Girty

The Girty Brothers

By Jim Cummings

When most re-enactors and some historians hear the names of George, Simon or James Girty they sometimes hiss, boo, spit on the ground, fire their guns in the air, sharpen their long knives and tomahawks or drink a pint of grog.

But talk to a British Re-Enactor or a British Patriot and they will honor such patriots to the crown.

Link to Re-Enactor of the Week
- Jay Kell aka George Girty

Jay Kell (George Girty and Rick Apsley (James Girty)

Let’s focus on the three most famous or infamous of the brothers - Simon, James and George. The Girtys spent the first part of their lives with an abusive, drunken father whose chief concern was his next pint of whiskey. And when the settlement they brothers were living in was attacked they were taken prisoner. George was taken by one tribe and Simon and James by another. Different tribes but all were Eastern Woodland Indians.

Each of the Girty Brothers were adopted into their respective tribes and they assimilated into their adoptive families. Their new families treated them with respect and taught them the native ways. The brothers had a better life than with their birth parents.

The Girtys fought alongside the Colonists during the French and Indian War. In the following years George leaned toward the colonial’s side in the coming Revolution. But as George saw first hand the treatment the Americans were giving the native tribes his feelings began to change. The American thirst for more and more land began to alienate him

It was at this point that George turned back to the native ways. And it was at this point that the three brothers Simon, James and George were labeled renegades and traitors. But they did not consider themselves renegades or traders. To themselves and to each other the Girtys were British Patriots loyal to the King and loyal to their native ways.

Lewis & Clark


We recently visited the Lewis & Clark Exhibit at The Kentucky State Fair. In case you missed it - here are a few photos.

Photos by Jim Cummings

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