On The Trail of - Colonel CHARLES COCKE
 

THE BATTLE OF POINT PLEASANT

 

According to his Pension Application, Charles Cocke served as a private at the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774, in the company commanded by Captain William Herbert:

. . . previous to this revolutionary war, he was on an expedition against the north western Indians in a company commanded by Capt William Herbert in a Regiment commanded by Col then Major Christy [Christian]. Col. Christy [Christian] with his command was sent to Point Pleasant, and the mouth of Kanawha when Col. Lewis defeated the indians at that place. This service was performed in 1774 as well as the declarant now recollects and he was engaged about six months on upwards. Commencing early in May, and ending the latter part of November following. [Charles Cocke Revolutionary War Pension Application, p. 3]

The Battle of Point Pleasant was the most significant battle in what has been referred to as "Lord Dunmore's War". Like most conflicts of the time, this war was undoubtedly precipitated by continued white incursions into land reserved to the Indians. A few atrocities on both sides (including the slaughter of Chief Logan's family by Jacob Greathouse) soon caused the conflict to escalate into a full-fledged war. Prior to the Battle, the Shawnees had been attacking settlements in Kentucky, and western Pennsylvania and Virginia. In southwest Virginia, there was concern that the Shawnees would unite with the Cherokees to the south. In the months before the Battle, the Shawnee had attacked settlements in southwest Virginia, including Fort Blackmore, in what is now Scott County, Virginia. As a result, the militia in southwest Virginia were mobilized.

This Battle involved approximately 1,000 Virginia Militiamen commanded by Colonel Andrew Lewis and about 1,000 Shawnee warriors and their allies commanded by Chief Cornstalk. (The exact number of combatants is apparently unknown: estimates vary from 800 to 1,200 on both sides.) The Militiamen had just arrived at Point Pleasant after a long and arduous march. The Shawnee, who were aware that reinforcements might be arriving shortly, decided to attack at once. They crossed the Ohio River under cover of darkness and attacked at first light. The battle was bravely fought on both sides. At the end of the day, the Shawnee became concerned that they were about to be attacked by reinforcements from behind and left the field of battle. Although both sides suffered many casualties, the Shawnee decided to sue for peace.

The Battle could easily have been a disaster for the Militiamen. The Shawnees had a fierce reputation, having defeated the British on several occasions during the French and Indian War. If it had not been for a couple of Militiamen who decided to go hunting, the attack might not have been detected in time. Early in the Battle, the Shawnees succeeded in wounding many of the commanding officers. The following account gives some flavor for what the battle was like:

Throughout the day, the Indians fought with rare craft and stubborn bravery--loudly cursing the white men, cleverly picking off their leaders, and derisively inquiring in regard to the absence of the fifes; "Where are your whistles now?" Slowly retreating, they sought to draw the whites into an ambuscade and at a favorable moment to "drive the Long Knives like bullocks into the river." No marked success was achieved on either side until near sunset, when a flank movement directed by young Isaac Shelby alarmed the Indians, who mistook this party for the expected reinforcement under Christian, and retired across the Ohio. In the morning the whites were amazed to discover that the Indians, who the preceding day so splendidly heeded the echoing call of Cornstalk, "Be strong! Be strong!", had quit the battle-field and left the victory with the whites. [Archibald Henderson, "The Conquest of the Old Southwest" (1920), p. 148]

Although the Battle appeared to have resulted in a draw, the Indians sued for peace. In the ensuing Treaty, the Shawnee were restricted to lands north of the Ohio River. Although the Shawnee later resumed the conflict in Kentucky, the Battle of Point Pleasant effectively ended the threat of Shawnee attack on southwest Virginia.

 

THE COMBATANTS

 
A Shawnee Warrior

In other battles against the Shawnee, the British and the Americans sent regular army units into the wilderness - with disastrous results. At Point Pleasant, both the Shawnee warriors and the Militia were familiar with the backwoods. The battle was not a set piece contest with the two sides lined up in neat lines and mowing each other down.  Instead, the battle became a contest between skilled marksmen - using concealment and cover. The militia paid the highest price, with many officers killed or wounded.


A Backwoods Hunter
 
THE BATTLEFIELD

An aerial photograph of the battlefield area ca 2000


A map of the battlefield area included in the Draper Manuscripts

CAUTION: The aerial map to the left is incorrect.  The battle was fought entirely to the left of the square, along the banks of the Ohio River.  This terrain was relatively flat, so men fought from behind whatever cover was available.  I will try to correct the map and to provide more detail about the battle.

The was one of the largest battle ever fought between the settlers and the Indians.  In those days, getting 1,000 men together took a lot of effort.  Getting those two armies together was often a matter of luck.  It was a battle discussed around campfires for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drawing to the left is a map from the Draper Manuscripts, author unknown.  This map covers a slightly larger area than the aerial photograph.  This indicates some changes to the battlefield area.  In the drawing, Crooked Creek empties south into the Kanawha.  In the aerial photo, the Creek turns west and empties into the Ohio north of the 1 mile circle.

 
CHIEF LOGAN'S SPEECH
 

One of the events that had precipitated the conflict was the slaughter of Chief Logan's family, including his father, his brother and a pregnant sister, by an unscrupulous trapper named Jacob Greathouse. Chief Logan had been always been a friend of the settlers. Greathouse had welcomed Logan's family into his camp, feted them with food and drink and then slaughtered them. Not surprisingly, Chief Logan was outraged and sought vengeance against the whites.

Although invited to attend the peace conference, Chief Logan did not attend. Instead he had his speech written down and read aloud at the conference. The speech recited his history of friendship with the settlers, and then mentioned the consequence of the slaughter of his family:

There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This called on me for revenge. I have sought it. I have killed many. I have fully glutted my vengeance.

For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace; but do not harbor the thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life.

Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one.

This speech did not fail to make an impression on those who heard it.

 
CAPTAIN WILLIAM HERBERT'S COMPANY
 

The men of the Upper New River Valley participated in this conflict under their militia captain, William Herbert. Herbert lived in present day Wythe County near Austinville, where he was involved in mining activities until he died in 1776. Herbert’s militia district included the territory of present Carroll and Grayson Counties. The role of Herbert’s company is fairly well documented in the Draper Manuscript Collection.

The first reference to Herbert’s company was a Letter from Colonel William Christian to Colonel William Preston proposing the construction of a fort at the mouth of the New River (Kanawha). This June 22, 1774 letter notes that the construction could be accomplished in a week by Captains Herbert, Crockett, Trigg and Robertson’s companies. A circa July 3, 1774 note from Preston to Christian regarding reported murders of traders by Cherokees, and the fearing that the Cherokee would form an alliance with the Shawnee and drive the settlers out of the Holston River Valley. Captain Herbert and Madison should draft 50 men from each of their companies to join with the men already conscripted for the defense of the Clinch and Holston. Whether or not the draft was issued is not known.

On August 9, 1774 Major Arthur Campbell appealed to Colonel William Preston for further assistance, noting that the Indians had attacked and done some damage on Sinking Creek (in Washington County) and that the inhabitants were being gathered into stockades. Campbell wanted Preston to send 40 men each from Captain Herbert’s and the late Captain Doak’s Companies. An August 10, 1774 dispatch from Campbell to Preston altered his previous day’s request, suggesting that Doak’s men travel under the command of Captain Crockett or Captain William Campbell, as:

...not a Man of that Company I am informed will go under Capt. Herbert. I know you would willingly remove every reasonable objection to forward the Expedition. I dont know as they mens objection is very reasonable against Herbert but it may be proper to gratify them. I wish Capt. Herbert may give way on this occasion as perhaps five Capts. may do as well with 2 or 3 extraordinary subalterns as the first appointment, or you can be a judge at the place of rendezvous who may be properist to appoint for the sixth.

Herbert finally did in fact, lead his own men as well as some of the others, but according to other realities and not Campbell’s wishes. Colonel Preston responded to Major Campbell on August 13, 1774:

I can’t think of applying to Capt. Herbert to drop the Expedition a Second Time, when he gave it up so genteely at first, & now he has gone so far in the Business. When the men Assemble at Mr. Thomsons I hope it will be so contrived as to give Sattisfaction to all.

On August 25, 1774, William Preston reported to Campbell that preparations were well underway, and but that only 30 men would be drafted from Herberts and Doak’s Companies. Difficulties in communication and transportation had already led to a 16 day delay, and no doubt Campbell was becoming increasingly anxious about the situation of the Holston and Clinch settlements. The situation had changed, and an expedition to the Ohio was more critical in Preston’s view than a march to the Holston. Herbert’s men would march with the force going down the New River. By September 3, 1774, the Colonial Command had reached the head of Rich Creek, at which time Jacob Starn and Thomas Robinson were reported as deserters, and they were to be advertised as such. On September 7, 1774 Captain Herbert’s Company’s strength was given as 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, 3 serjants and 38 rank and file fit for duty at Camp Union, and 2 others were absent sick at Rick Creek. It is possible that the two deserters were in fact sick.

On September 9, 1774, Major Campbell lamented that he had not received any reinforcement from Doak’s or Herbert’s Companies, but that the forts at Glade Hollow, Elk Garden and Maiden Springs then had complete military complements. Campbell expressed the opinion that he would never receive any reinforcement from Herbert or Doak. By, September 17, however, Campbell had received 12 men from Doak’s company, but still no one had arrived from Herbert’s. Colonel Preston explained to Captain Daniel Smith on October 9, 1774:

I would to God it was in my Power to give them [the Holston and Clinch settlements] such Assistance as their Dangerous Circumstances Demand. The scarcity of Men as well as Ammunition is very Alarming. I have sent 24 men out of Capt. Herberts & 22 out of Capt. Doacks Companies to Major Campbell; I have also ordered out Capt. Wilson with about 30 Pittsylvanians. I am also in hopes that Mr. William Doack and one Dougherty will take out upwards of 20 men in a very little time.

On October 13, 1774 Campbell again complained about Herbert’s Company, noting:

Mic. Dougherty was here Yesterday and complains about some Men that is stationed at Herberts who when he drafted them went there for an Excuse [to the site of a Mr. Roberts who was killed by Indians in his own neighborhood]. It seems Mic. is in the right certainly there is no need yet for Men at that place. his party is only Seven and himself which I have sent to Reedy Creek to assist as Guards in carrying out Flour to Clinch.

In the meantime, Captain Herbert and 40 of his men were in the wilderness that became West Virginia. On September 8, 1774, James Newell, an ensign in Herbert’s company noted that a Grass Guard had been established to guard the cattle and count the same every night. Herbert’s company remained at Camp Union until September 23, 1774, when they were ordered to march from Camp.

The Battle of Point Pleasant, on October 10, 1774, resulted in complete route of the Shawnee, however, the cost to the Colonial forces was substantial. Muster returns for Herbert’s Company indicate that 20 of the company were wounded. With the Shawnees on the run, Colonel Lewis took the main body of his command across the Ohio and pursued them. Captains Herbert, Dickenson, Lockridge and Slaughter were left at Point Pleasant to guard and fortify that point. While Herbert was left behind, James Newell led part of Herbert’s company across the Ohio, to include 1 officer, 2 sergeants and 26 privates for a total of 29, or approximately 10% of those crossing the Ohio (totaling 261 men).

By October 25, 1774 the remainder of Herbert’s company had caught up with Newell, by then back at Point Pleasant. Newell reported at that time Herbert’s company consisted of 1 Captain, 2 Lieutenants, 2 Ensigns, 6 Sergeants, and 110 privates, and of this number 10 were sick, 20 wounded, 9 were waiting on the sick and wounded, 6 were on detached service leaving 65 men fit for duty. The six men who were detached were with Captain Shelby’s Company on the Ohio.

On October 28, 1774 Herbert’s troops were still camped at Point Pleasant and were under the command of Colonel William Fleming. Strength figures given for that date indicate that 1 fifer was now among with the command (the drummer was from Captain Lockridge’s Company) 12 men were now absent sick and 5 were on service as spies and coopers, for a total command strength of 109 men, only 63 of which were fit for duty.

Absence for such a long period resulted, necessarily in the neglect of crops on the Upper New River Valley, but through hunting and gathering skills famine was avoided during the following winter. Though which Upper New River Men actually participated in the Battle of Point Pleasant is a matter of speculation, there is no doubt that nearly all militia men were involved in the Indian fighting of 1774 to some degree. The presumed list of 107 participants from Herbert’s Company follows:

Abbott, Joseph
Atkins, William
Austin, William
Babber, James, Sr.
Babber, James, Jr.
Barder, John
Barran, John
Barren, Joseph, Sr.
Barren, Joseph, Jr.
Bedsaul, Elisha
Bedsaul, John
Bell, William
Benton, Eliamus
Binkley, Peter
Blevins, Daniel
Blevins, James
Blevins, William
Boggs, James
Brawley, John
Cock, Charles
Collier, Aaron
Collins, David
Collins, Elisha
Collins, John, Jr.
Collins, John
Collins, Lewis
Cooper, Aaron
Cox, David
Cox, John
Crouch, John
Dalton, William
Daverox, Charles
Deforest, Cornelius
Ewing, George
Ewing, James
Ewing, Samuel, Sr.
Flannary, Silas
Forbush, George
Foster, Thomas
Gleaves, William
Goad, Abraham
Green, Barkley
Hash, John
Hash, William

Henson, William
Herbert, William
Hobbs, Thomas
Huston, Robert
Jennings, William
Jones, Stephen
Jones, William
Keith, George
Landreth, William
Lee, Clement
Long, Henry
Maughan, James
McDaniel, James
McKee, Alexander
Montgomery, John
Murray, Morgan
Murray, Thomas
Newell, James
Newell, Samuel
Osborn, Enoch
Osborn, Ephraim
Osborn, Jonathan
Osborn, Robert
Osborn, Stephen
Pemberton, George
Pierce, Jeremiah
Pierce, William
Probut, William
Pup, Valentine
Ray, John
Reeves, George
Riddell, William
Roark, Timothy
Roberts, Neal
Roberts, William
Rodgers, Benjamin, Jr.
Rodgers, Doswell
Rodgers, John
Rurks, John
Rutherford, John, Jr.
Rutherford, Joseph
Rutherford, William
Sanston, Edward
Sayers, David
Scott, William
Sexton, Charles
Smith, Moses
Stotts, Andrew
Thomas, William
Thompson, James
Tuttle, James
Vaughn, Thomas
Wallen, James
Wallen, Joseph
Wallen, Thomas
Wallin, James
Ward, James
Ward, Nathan
Ward, Wells
Ward, Zachariah
Wilshire, Nathaniel
Woods, Michael
Young, Ezekiel

Reprinted from the New River Webpage
 
PAY RECORDS
 

The following men were listed in the pay records of Captain Herbert [my comments in square brackets].  The pay was in pounds (), shillings (s) and pence (p) where 1 = 20s and 1s = 16p.  The daily rate was 10s for captain, 2s 6p (2.5s) for sergeant and 1s 6p (or 1.5s) for private:

[p. 266]

William Herbert, Capt. 112 days pay
John [Jehu?] Stephens [Sargeant] 51
James Newell [Sargeant] 53
James McDonald [Sargeant] 95
William Ward [Sargeant] 104
Alexander McKee [Private] 104
Benjamin Turman 83
Benjamin Bailey 104
John Rogers 104
Benjamin Rogers 104
John Burnett [Brummett?] 104
Edmund Jennings 104
Joseph Abbot 104
Morris Price 104
Henry Louther [Souther?] 83
Isaac Lewis 104
Michael Woods 104
Francis Day 104
Samuel Newell 104
Abraham Hosier 104
Terrence? McConnell 104
James Downey 104
Hugh Gullion 62
Samuel Henley 104
Jacob Baugh 104
Adam Cannon [Calren?] 104
Michael Walter 104
Thomas Ball 83
Elias Bailey 104
Barnabas Gullion 104
Patrick St. Lawrence 104
Bazaleel Maywell 104
George Carr 104
Conrode Shapley 104
William Rutherford 104

[p. 267]

Richard Meek 104
Thomas Meek 104
John Downing 104
Archibald Rutherford 104
Duncan Gullion 104
Peter Hendrick 104
John Reah [Ray] 104
Walter Henson 104
Charles Cox 94
John Woods 40
John Baxter 39
Jason Price 39
William Barron 39
John Barron 11
James Woods 51

Source: Library of Virginia
 
CASUALTIES OF THE CAMPAIGN
 

The author has been unable to locate a list of the casualties among Captain William Herbert's Company. However, not all people were injured during the battle. For example, Samuel Newell was shot in the knee when a deer ran through the ranks and one of the other men had the poor judgment to take a shot at it. He died a year later. According to his Pension Application [R-4620] Jacob Harman was wounded by the accidental discharge of his gun.

 
WAS CHARLES COCKE AT THE BATTLE?
 

The Pension application does not state whether Charles Cocke was at the Battle. Captain Herbert did not arrive in time for the battle, since he had made a trip to round up reinforcements.  However, about 40 of his men - including James Newell - were at the Battle.  The records for the day after the Battle indicate that 20 were wounded.  Finally, the Pension Application does state that Charles served from May through November, which indicates that he was not one of the late arrivals.  The pay records indicate that Charles Cox served for 94 days.