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Cornstalk, a Shawnee leader who lived in what is today southeastern Ohio, commanded Indian forces at the Battle of Point Pleasant. He may have been born in Pennsylvania about 1720, although nothing is known of his earliest years. He took part in the French and Indian War, and is known to have led raiders who in 1759 killed 10 members of a Virginia family. In 1763, during Pontiac’s War, Cornstalk raided the Greenbrier settlements in present West Virginia.

Like these episodes, the Battle of Point Pleasant, which took place in October 1774 during Dunmore’s War, reflected the strenuous resistance of Indians along the trans-Allegheny frontier to English encroachments upon their territory. Western tribes residing north and west of the Ohio River would form military confederations under different leaders at different times from the 1760s through the conclusion of the War of 1812. Cornstalk was one such leader. His and his people’s efforts fit into this continuum of Indian opposition.

Cornstalk’s tribesmen and other Indian allies lost at Point Pleasant, and Cornstalk helped to negotiate the Treaty of Camp Charlotte at the peace conference that followed the battle. His sister, the Shawnee leader Nonhelema, also known as the Grenadier Squaw, was also present at the negotiations. The fragile peace was soon shattered by the onset of the American Revolution. Great Britain invited the Shawnee to join them as allies against the American rebels. Cornstalk journeyed back to Point Pleasant in 1777, evidently troubled by the likelihood of a military struggle that he believed the Shawnee would lose, to warn settlers of the resumption of hostilities. Suspicious of their old enemy, local authorities detained him as a hostage at Fort Randolph. Cornstalk, his son Elinipsico, and the sub-chief Red Hawk, were murdered in captivity on November 10, 1777, by enraged settlers who blamed them for the recent killing of two other settlers. Cornstalk is said to have been the father of Aracoma, who settled with her European-American renegade husband, Boling Baker, at present Logan during the Revolutionary War period.

Written by Richard P. Lizza


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