Vengeance, Loyalists, Patriots, French, British, Indians, Frontier, Ohio Country, Massacres, Washington and Westward Expansion

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 24th, 2012

Politics 101

The American Colonists kept moving into the Interior of the Country into Indian Lands

History has shown civil wars to be the bloodiest of wars.  For when people you know and grew up with kill your friends and family, well, things get a little ugly.  They escalate.  And there are a lot of opportunities for revenge when people in towns and villages join different sides in the war.   When friends and family fall in combat people retaliate by attacking the families left behind.  Those who didn’t take up arms.  The women and children.  They destroy their crops.  Burn their homes.  Force them to flee for their lives.  Then these acts are met with new acts of vengeance.  They don’t force family members to flee.  They kill them.  Then these acts are met with new acts of vengeance.  Instead of killing they rape, torture and mutilate their bodies.

When the American Revolutionary War broke out it tore families and towns apart.  People remaining loyal to the Crown became Loyalists.  Those rebelling became Patriots.  It was not uncommon to find Loyalist and Patriot in the same family.  And they hated each other.  That hatred grew as the people they knew and loved suffered the horrors of war.  Hardening them into merciless killers.  The people you were fighting were not soldiers.  They were fighting the lowest of traitors.  So there was no need for honor.   The people they were killing were no better than feral animals threatening their peaceful lives.  They deserved to die.  And worse.  This was civil war.  This was part of the American Revolutionary War.  And it got worse.

During the French and Indian War (aka the Seven Years’ War) the French allied with the various Indian tribes against their long-time foe.  The British.  The Indians fought on the French side because it was the lesser of two evils.  The French were sticking to the rivers and had small colonies.  The British had larger colonies.  And they kept moving into the interior of the country.  Which the Indians wanted to stop.  And in trying they made the war on the frontier a bloody one.  And very cruel.  The word used in official correspondence of the time used to describe them was savages.  For the unspeakable cruelties they did to white men, women and children.  They did not fight European style with bands and grand formations on the field of battle.  They made people suffer and live in fear.  The way they have always fought.

The British, the Loyalists and their Indian Allies advanced out of the Frontier into the River Valleys

Well, there was another war on the continent.  This one between the British and the American colonists.  Both sides tried to get the Indians to fight on their side.  Some were friendly with the Americans.  Some remained neutral.  But a lot fought with the British because they saw them as the lesser of two evils.  The American colonists were expanding further into the interior of the country.  In violation of their British treaties that were to keep the Americans out of the Ohio country.  Something the British agreed to without consulting their American colonists.  Who had every intention of moving further west.  So once again the Indians made the war on the frontier a bloody one.  And very cruel. 

Not all the British were on board with this.  Edmund Burke denounced this policy.  As did William Pitt, Earl of Chatham.  Who said in the House of Lords, “What! to attribute the sacred sanction of God and nature to the massacres of the Indian scalping knife?  To the cannibal savage, torturing, murdering roasting and eating…Such horrible notions shock every precept of religion, divine or natural, and every generous feeling of humanity.”  Even the Americans had their reservations about using the Indians.  George Washington wrote to the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, “Gentlemen: You will perceive, by the inclosed Copy of a Resolve of Congress, that I am impowered to employ a body of four hundred Indians, if they can be procured upon proper terms.  Divesting them of the Savage customs exercised in their Wars against each other…”  Both sides were worried about using the unpredictable and uncontrollable Indians.  And for good reason.

The British had forts at Niagara, Detroit and Michilimackinac (on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula).  From these strongholds they controlled the Great Lakes and the frontier.  They, the Loyalists and their Indian allies advanced out of the frontier into the river valleys.  The Allegheny, the Susquehanna, the Mohawk, the Schoharie, the Monongahela.  Into the Ohio country.  And the frontier of New York.  Leaving a path of devastation in their wake.  Smoldering homes.  Ravished farms.  And a lot of dead.  The Loyalists and their Indian allies killing and torturing fleeing soldiers.  Prisoners.  Civilians.  And taking scalps.  There was a growing list of these massacres.  Wyoming.  Cherry Valley.  German Flats.  Blue Licks.  In the end these massacres did not help the British.  They just made the war more savage.  And turned anyone on the frontier who were neutral or leaning Loyalists into Patriots thirsting for vengeance.

George Washington was no Better than King George and Parliament in Restraining American Expansionist Ambition

The Americans couldn’t control their Indian allies any better than the British could.  They, too, were embarrassed by these savage acts that went counter to the rules of war and Christian teachings they were trying to adhere to.  But their embarrassments were short lived as the Americans had fewer Indian allies.  And, therefore, fewer atrocities.  For it was the Americans that were trying to expand into Indian hunting grounds.  And it was the British trying to restrain that expansion.  So more of them fought on the British side.  And thus the British had more of this blood on their hands.  Which only served to hurt their cause.

The opening and closing of the American Declaration of Independence are familiar to many people.  The stuff in the middle is not as well known.  Which is a laundry list of “repeated injuries and usurpations” committed by King George against the American people.  Including, “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”  This British Indian policy was one of the items that pushed the Americans past reconciliation with the British.  And into open rebellion.

Fast forward to the Washington administration of the new United States of America.  Washington saw America’s relations with the Indians as a matter of foreign policy.  He spent more time trying to negotiate with them then he did with the Europeans.  For America’s future was in the west.  He wanted American expansion.  That would coexist with sovereign Indian lands.  Hoping in time that these lands would become future states within the new and growing union.  And the Indians would assimilate into the American way of farming and manufacturing.  Giving up their hunting and gathering ways that require such great tracts of land.  But, alas, that was not to be.  For he was no better than King George and Parliament in restraining American expansionist ambition.  The individual states ignored the new federal treaties with the Indians and negotiated their own treaties.  Or simply moved onto their land. 

Rather ironic, really.  Washington fought with the British against the French and Indians to secure American westward expansion.  He fought in the American Revolutionary War against the British to secure American westward expansion.  And the first major failure as president of the United States was over American westward expansion.  The subsequent treatment of the Indians would become what he feared.  A policy of confiscation that he worried “would stain the character of the nation.”  Which it has.  For the conflicts on the frontier were as violent and vicious as they ever were.  Forcing the Americans to send in troops to once again subdue these hostilities.  And to protect the Americans living on or near the frontier.  Which put the Americans and the Indians on the path Washington so wanted to avoid.  War.  Instead of conciliation.  And assimilation. 

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Blog Home