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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


Narrator: In retaliation for Indian raids, Dinwiddie ordered a surprise attack on the Shawnees in the winter of 1756 and put Andrew Lewis in command. A veteran surveyor who had served with Washington, Lewis was strict, dependable and unemotional. “He is reserved and distant,” wrote a relative. “His presence more awful than engaging.”

At Fort Frederick on the New River, Lewis assembled two hundred militiamen including Mary Ingles’ husband, William, and eighty Cherokees, traditional enemies of the Shawnees.

Captain William Preston’s company was typical. Few were native to Virginia. The average age was 24. Only one was six feet in height, none taller. Most had no military experience.

Lewis planned to march from Fort Frederick to the Big Sandy River, follow it to the Ohio and assault Shawnee villages.

On February 18, 1756, the expedition set out. Hoping to move quickly and hunt for game along the way, Lewis carried only a fifteen-day supply of food. Preston’s company didn’t even bring tents.

Almost immediately, heavy rains and the rugged terrain slowed the march. Then the rain turned to snow as food supplies dwindled.

“Wednesday, March third. We marched until sunset, advanced only nine or ten miles, being much retarded by the river and the mountains closed in on both sides. Each man had half a pound of flour, and no meat but what we could kill, and that was very scarce.” Captain William Preston

Narrator: Starving pack horses began to die.

“Friday, the fifth. We marched about nine o’clock this morning, and with great difficukty, proceeded fifteen miles on our journey. The river being very deep almost killed the men, and moreso as they were in utmost extremity for want of provisions. This day, my fourth horse expired, and I was left on foot with a hungry belly, which increased my woe.”

Narrator: Preston suggested eating the pack horses. His men refused and threatened to desert if food wasn’t found soon.

Cherokee scouts reported signs of turkey and buffalo ahead, and Lewis ordered the march to continue.

“Major Lewis would direct as he thought proper. The common soldiers were by him scarcely treated with humanity. We were now in pitiable condition. Our men looking on one another with tears in their eyes, and lamenting that they had ever entered into a soldier’s life.” Thomas Morton.

“The major stepped off some yards distance and desired all that was willing to serve their country and share his fate to go with him. Not above twenty or thirty joined him. It is impossible to express the abject condition we were in both before and after the men deserted us.” William Preston.

Narrator: As order disintegrated, Lewis abandoned the expedition.

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