Here at the confluence of the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, the bloody, day-long Battle of Point Pleasant was fought. On October 10, 1774, Colonel Andrew Lewis' 1,100 Virginia militiamen decisively defeated a like number of Indians lead by the Shawnee Chieftain Cornstalk. Considered a landmark in frontier history, some believed the battle to be the first of the American Revolution. This action broke the power of the ancient Americans in the Ohio Valley and quelled a general Indian war on the frontier. Significantly, it also prevented an alliance between the British and Indians, one which could very possibly have caused the Revolution to have a different outcome, altering the entire history of the U.S. In addition, the ensuing peace with the Indians enabled western Virginians to return across the Allegheny Mountains to aid Revolutionary forces.
When Lord Dunmore (John Murray) was appointed governor of Virginia in 1771, he was ordered to discourage settlement of the lands beyond the mountains to the west. This action was motivated in part by the British government's desire to pacify the Indians by preventing encroachment on their hunting grounds and partly to preserve a profitable fur trade with the Ohio Valley tribes.
The westward migration proved difficult to halt, however, as more and more restless settlers poured over the Alleghenies. The continued invasion aroused the native population. Their anger turned into bloody warfare early in 1774 when a group of settlers murdered the entire family of Logan, a friendly Mingo chief, opposite the mouth of Yellow Creek in Hancock County. Logan was so enraged that he led his tribe on the warpath and took 30 white scalps and prisoners in revenge.
Unfortunate clashes between the encroaching pioneers and Indians continued with increasing frequency and savagery. Both whites and red men were guilty of unthinkable atrocities including murder, kidnapping, and infanticide.
Lord Dunmore ordered the organization of the border militia. Colonel Andrew Lewis, a veteran of the French and Indian Wars, was appointed commander of the Virginia Troops. By carrying the fight to the Indians, Dunmore, a Tory, hoped to divert Virginians from the trouble brewing with England.
In September 1774, Dunmore signed peace treaties with the Delaware and Six Nations of the Iroquois at Pittsburgh. He then started down the Ohio River to give battle to the fierce Shawnee. Under Cornstalk, the Shawnee tribe had allied itself with Logan's Mingo to turn the frontier "red with Long Knives' blood." Meanwhile Lewis' army had marched from Fort Union (Lewisburg) to the point of the confluence of the Great Kanawha and Ohio Rivers. He then established camp to await Dunmore's arrival from the north.
This pincer movement was thwarted when Cornstalk abandoned his Ohio River villages north of Point Pleasant before Dunmore's forces arrived. He then attacked Lewis while the white forces were still divided, and they engaged in a bloody battle characterized by the succession of individual hand-to-hand combats. Fought on the point of land known by the Wyandotte Indian phrase "tu-endie-wie," or "the point between two waters," the battle raged all day. At times Cornstalk and his braves held the upper hand, but eventually the firepower of the backwoodsmen proved superior on the then heavily forested battlefield. At the end, 230 Indians were killed or wounded and more than 50 Virginians had lost their lives, including Colonel Charles Lewis, brother of the commanding officer.