1 minute read

Daniel Boone Court-Martial: 1778

Neither Patriot Nor Loyalist

As a backwoodsman, and a founder and citizen of the Kentucky Boonesborough settlement, Daniel Boone was not much concerned with politics. Like many other Westerners, he was no strong supporter of the Whigs or the American Revolution. He was no Loyalist either, but his wife's family, the Bryans, were. Boone himself was proud of the captain's commission he had received from Lord Dunmore, Virginia's royal governor, in 1774. His willingness to act sometimes with the Whigs while keeping a royal commission was the cause of some controversy, and it may have been partly responsible for what happened to him in 1778.

In 1774, Lord Dunmore's War against the Indians began on the Virginia frontier. For the next 20 years the Ohio River Valley, the "Dark and Bloody Ground," was a place of constant violence as white settlers challenged and fought the Shawnee, Wyandot, and other tribes for control of Indian lands. Boone was one of the ablest fighters, but sometimes he seemed to condemn white settlers' actions, describing them as a "war of intrusion" against the tribes designed to "dispossess them of their desirable habitations." Then the Revolutionary War moved west, and the British forces headquartered in Detroit began to supply and support Indian raids along the frontier. During this time Boone would act in ways that caused people to question his loyalty not only to the revolutionary cause, but to the white campaign.

In early 1777, Indians began to make attacks on Boonesborough. By the end of the year, supplies, especially salt stores, were running low. Boone agreed to head an expedition to the Blue Lakes, a salt-rich area several miles from the settlement, to replenish supplies, and in February of 1778, a group of about 30 men set out for the salt lick. Meanwhile an Indian offensive was underway. Winter campaigns were rare, but British governor Henry Hamilton of Detroit had recently dispatched more than a dozen war parties to demoralize white settlers. The Shawnee were especially militant at this point over the western whites' recent unjustified murder of three of their chiefs, whom the whites had taken captive at Fort Randolph.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1637 to 1832Daniel Boone Court-Martial: 1778 - Neither Patriot Nor Loyalist, Boone "adopted" By The Shawnee, Boone's Return Met With Suspicion