The largest battle of the French and Indian War in Virginia occurred in Hampshire County on April 18, 1756. It was fought on the west bank of the Cacapon River, about two miles northeast of the intersection of U.S. 50 and County Route 15 in present Capon Bridge, West Virginia.
A dispatch from Lt. William Stark to George Washington on April 18 reveals how the battle unfolded. Three men left Fort Edwards at Capon Bridge late in the day, searching for horses, and encountered a party of Indians near the fort. Two of the men managed to escape and alerted the fort’s garrison to the presence of the enemy. Shortly afterward, Capt. John Mercer left the fort with a detachment of 40 to 50 soldiers from the Virginia Regiment to search for the Indians.
Captain Mercer’s detachment had just topped a hill about one and a half miles northeast of the fort when they were ambushed by Indians. The soldiers immediately returned fire, and a battle ensued that lasted about 30 minutes. Finding themselves nearly surrounded after another group of Indians joined the engagement, the soldiers retreated to the fort. Captain Mercer, Ens. Thomas Carter, and 15 soldiers were left dead on the battlefield.
The Pennsylvania Gazette on October 21, 1756, presented a report of the battle as provided by John Long, an escaped Indian captive. Long was in camp with his captors at Bear Camp in Pennsylvania when a second war party appeared. The second party was composed of 150 warriors headed for the Cacapon River area. Later, Long was in Fort Duquesne, the French stronghold at present Pittsburgh, when the war party returned with about 17 scalps. Long overheard the Indians say that eight warriors had been lost during the battle and that one had died from his wounds on the trip home. Shingas, a Delaware war chief, was treated at the fort for a wound sustained during the battle and spent time there recuperating. The Indians claimed that they had engaged 200 soldiers during the battle and had killed several officers. Captain Mercer had seven or eight officers’ commissions in his pocket when he was killed, which the Indians presented to the French as proof that they had killed several English officers.
This Article was written by Greg Adamson
Last Revised on July 30, 2012
The Papers of George Washington. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1984.
McBride, W. Stephen & Kim Arbogast McBride. Frontier Forts in West Virginia. Charleston: West Virginia Division of Culture & History, 2003.
Kercheval, Samuel. A History of the Valley of Virginia. Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc,, 1833, reprinted 2001.
Cite This Article
Adamson, Greg "Battle of Fort Edwards." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 30 July 2012. Web. 26 February 2017.