The Tracy Family History
The French and Indian War
Back to the Donegal Presbytery in
Pennsylvania: It was this presbytery that first approached the Virginia Colonial
governor with this deal: Let us Scots go to the frontier of your colony and save
your English scalps from the Indians. (While doing so, paying quit rents to the
king.) In return, leave us alone. Let us have our own churches, our own militia,
our own everything else. Let us do what we want, and look the other way. Within
reason, considering he was dealing with England’s enemy people and enemy church,
the Virginia governor did just that.
Benjamin Borden Jr., imported many of his settlers from the Donegal Presbytery. Now many were dead, and would continue to bleed and die. Hundreds would be massacred, tortured and scalped, and kidnapped in the Valley of Virginia. Hundreds of families, entire communities, entire congregations would flee. This was the French and Indian War.
The French Catholics never trusted the Presbyterian Irish, and vice-versa. (You will notice that I have used a different term for the Scotch-Irish that I have not mentioned before. The term Scotch-Irish has been in common use for generations. However, at the time, the term Presbyterian Irish, or Irish Presbyterian, was just as commonly used, or even more simply, the Irish.)
Photo by Sherry Williams
This photo and information was provided by the Giles County Historical Society, Pearisburg, Virginia.
"This small fort located along route 219 near Fountain Springs golf course is a reminder from the past. The small fort and fountain once was well-kept is now over grow with brush and debris. The sign located at the other side of the highway reads that Wood’s fort was a defense erected in 1773 by Captain Michael Woods and was of importance during Lord Dunmore’s War. Troops from here were engaged in the Battle of Point Pleasant the next year and later were with George Roger Clark."
This is in reference to other battles and
other wars that if I were to go into my family history would never be finished.
For those of you who wish to know more, there are many books that go into these
other episodes of history, which were also our families' histories.
In the same year of the death of Benjamin Borden, Jr., and their daughter in 1754, the French and Indian War would begin. (One historian gives Benjamin Borden, Jr’s. death in April of 1753.) The French and English had been fighting one another for centuries in Europe. This was just an extension of their bickering, except that it now spilled over into the American colonies.
This was the fourth war between the British and French in the American colonies. These wars were not just between the traditional British and French soldiers but also included the colonial militias and their Indian allies.
The colonists had no choice but to fight for the British as they were under British domain. Also, it was their land and lives at stake. The Indians had a choice and would choose the side they thought would give them the best deal when the war was over.
In reality, the Indians had always been more comfortable with the French than the British and their colonial subjects. The French were not interested in the Indian land. They took just a little plot to build a cabin and raise enough food to eat. The French main concern was mutually beneficial trade. Once the Indians came into contact with the white man they could not exist without their trade. The whites provided the manufactured goods, now so essential to improve the Indian way of life. Example: The white man would provide the Indians with rifles, shot, and gunpowder. The rifles had to be repaired. Whoever heard of an Indian gunsmith? It was a good deal for both.
The settlers, under the British flag, took all the land they could get and subdivided in ad infinitum, a la the Borden Grant.
It was actually three wars in one: In the colonies, it was called the French and Indian War; In Europe, it was the Seven Years' War; In Asia, it was the Third Carnatic War. In Virginia, it was called Braddock’s War.
In the Americas, it was a contest for Empire. Both countries wanted our land and fur. The English gave large land grants farther and farther westward. This encroached on the territories claimed by France. The French retaliated by building a string of frontier forts. As they both encroached on one another's land, the war commenced. The French had one big disadvantage. English settlers vastly outnumbered the French, at one time 20 to1.
Both sides made Indian allies and unleashed them against the enemies’ white settlers. Fighting the Indians was bad enough before the war, but made worse by the fact that the Indians were now supplied, and sometimes led, by one of Europe's most powerful nations. The war would last for nine years.
It was not just a colonist's war against the Indians. Both the British and French sent regular army units to the Americas.
General Braddock was sent to America with two regiments of British regulars. He gathered an army of Colonials (provincials) and joined them with his regulars. Braddock gave all of the Colonial officers equal British rank.
A year into the war, he marches off to take the French fort at Duquesne (Pittsburgh). George Washington and the other colonials try to explain to Braddock that you did not fight the French and Indians as you did in Europe. Braddock, an experienced and capable commander in European method of warfare, dismisses their pleas. He gives the Indians no thought and believes the French will fight like "gentlemen.”
It is 110 miles to the French fort. To the military staff in England, the maps make the march look easy. In truth, it is 110 miles of wilderness, steep rocky terrain, mountains, and creeks. It is a morass.
Braddock begins hacking a road to haul his ponderous army train of supply wagons and huge siege cannons. He stops constantly, leveling every undulation of the land, and at every trickle of water he would build a bridge. (This part of the world had no roads or bridges before Braddock.)
Amazingly, Braddock makes it to within a few miles of the fort. As the Colonials expected, the Indians laid a trap. The British regulars were out of their element; they were never trained for this type of warfare. The soldiers and officers dropped like flies. Braddock would have four horses shot from under him. While mounting the fifth, he was fatally wounded. The battle would last for several hours.
Finally, due to attrition, George Washington takes command. One Indian chief fires at Washington repeatedly, and misses repeatedly. The chief orders his braves to fire at Washington, and they miss. Washington has two horses shot from under him. Four bullets would pass through his coat and miss. The Indians believe Washington to be protected by the "Great Spirit" and change targets.
It is a stunning defeat. The British retreat. Four days later General Braddock dies and is buried in the middle of his mighty road.
There are 300 Virginia militia soldiers who take part in the battle. 90% are killed. Few would return home. These are our people. The Virginia settlements are now open to Indian attacks, which strike sheer terror into the hearts of our people.
A traveling missionary, Hugh McAden, tells us of the fear that our people faced in their daily lives after the disastrous defeat:
Terror.. “struck every heart. A cold shudder possessed every
breast, and a paleness covered almost every face,” there was “universal
confusion.” “Scarcely a man durst sleep in his own house–but all met in
companies with the wives and children, and set about building little
fortifications to defend themselves from barbarians and inhumane enemies, who
they concluded would be let loose upon them at pleasure...”
It has gone down in history as the ”time of outrages.” Every man fortified his dwelling as best he could, the little shacks to the more solid cabins. Now you see why the churches, as soon as possible, were upgraded to solid stone or brick buildings with thick walls and rifle slits for windows. In church, every man carried a bible in one hand and a rifle in the other.
Now you see why the land sold at a “ridiculously cheap price.”
“...we know that the Woodses, Wallaces, McDowells....were there with their wives, their helpless little children and all there worldly possessions, and were in sore peril an distress, such as but few of their descendants have ever known.”
Home of Mrs. Frank M. Randolph
We now go back to Albemarle Co., in Virginia, where our people first settled. Here is the mansion of the Meriwether family. This drawing is of the house built in 1846. There was a previous dwelling, the home of Colonel Nicholas Meriwether. He was one of the four soldiers belonging to the Virginia Regiment who bore the wounded Gen. Braddock from the field of battle. These were our people in this famous battle.
The Meriwether's were the largest landowners in the county.
Meriwether Lewis, of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition was born in Ivy. You remember that little village and cemetery not far from Mountain Plains? (That is the Episcopal graveyard with our unexplained Church of England cousins.)
The British build a chain of forts, about 20, along the frontier. Compared to the castles and mighty fortifications in Europe, these would be considered to be mere outhouses. On the Indian frontier you did the best you could.
Near the end of the year of 1755, Washington is given command of all the Virginia militia. He has an impossible job. The border he must defend is 300-400 miles long. He has 300-400 troops. The Americans have one defense, the mighty barricade of the Allegheny Mountains.
A year after taking command, George Washington makes a tour of the forts and is not impressed. Manic depression is the best description of George Washington’s feelings.
You will remember our people came down the Valley of Virginia and crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east (Albemarle). Then our other people came down the Valley of Virginia and settled between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east, and the Allegheny Mountains to the west (Rockbridge).
The French controlled the land on the other side of the Allegheny Mountains. To move from one side of the mountains to the other with a military force, be it conventional or Indian, you had to cross what military experts today call “choke points.”
This would be a pass, such as Wood’s Gap, already told. Or, it would be a ford. This would be a shallow spot in a river, creek, or stream that a person could wade or ride a horse across. Or, if there was no ford, then you had to carry your own canoes to cross the waters. Then you had to carry the canoes across land from one river or stream to the next. These land crossing were called portages.
Whoever controlled the passes, fords, and portages would control the war. The French controlled the Allegheny passes. To stop the enemy, the Americas built their forts on the mouths of the passes, at the fords, and across the portages. Thus the forts were built on the “choke points,” 12 to 26 miles apart.
What was the nature of these forts? Some were merely fortified log pens; others, more strongly built cabins or stone structures; some were more substantial blockhouses; and the ultimate, stockade forts manned by a company of soldiers.
The manning of the forts was usually the responsibility of the neighborhood men. A fort could be manned by many, or just a few.
The Indians preferred attacking the unsubstantial forts, which were easy pickings for a larger war party. As meager as some of these forts were, they had a chance of holding their own against Indians who did not have cannons.
The America soldiers manning the forts, and on expeditions, maintained their own discipline, which meant none. A man’s first obligation was to his family, to protect them from Indian raids, to see that the crops were harvested, so the family could eat to stay alive to protect themselves from the Indian raids.
The forts are constantly undermanned with soldiers coming and going at will. One-third of the militia was scheduled to be on duty at any given time. “One-thirteenth is out.” (Meaning militarily active)
The men were willing to go on expeditions as long as they were assured the Indians were not near. Thus, the men only enlisted for short terms. This does not provide a reliable army for a war that would last nine years. (The age of enlistment on paper for the militia was 18 to 60. However, when the Indians attacked, age did not matter.)
The size of our fort is a mystery today. Our cousin, Scott Hosier Jr., is great in years and has a life long study of our family history. We are indebted to him for the following information as this is his direct line.
“Where the Kanawa (New River) cuts through the Alleghenies, the Indians had a detour around the impassable portion and William Woods, an uncle of Capt. Andrew Wallace, built a fort at that point to cut off the Indians. Captain Michael Woods, his son, and also double first cousin of Capt. Andrew Wallace, commanded this fort during the Revolution. There are no remains but the site is known and marked.”
From one reliable map, it is indicated that this was not one of George Washington’s chain of official forts. It is listed as “Other forts and Stockades 1754 -1776.”
It is documented that during the Revolutionary War, not too far in the future, date known on 7 Oct 1777, that a hog was purchased for use by Capt. Taylor’s company of militia stationed at Wood’s Fort on Rich Creek.
If we know the size of a militia company then we have a good guess at the size of the fort.
From various sources, F&I War: “3 Ranging Co’s which should have 120 men (40 each) did not have 30.” “A company of fifty men (50) from Lunenburg to come into your county; another company of 40 to be raised by Capt. Smith; with Capt. Lewis’ company, I think will be sufficient for the Protection of your Frontiers;“”...Captain Samuel Overton’s company consisted, he supposed, of forty (40) men, and Captain Obadiah Woodson’s of forty (40) more.” “...December, 1775, also provided that the committee of Augusta county should appoint officers to command a company of fifty (50) men, to be stationed at the mouth of the Little Kanawha.” (Woods Fort?). Revolutionary War: “...to serve till January 1, 1779...making a company of fifty (50) men.” Back to F&I War: “...you may raise forty (40) men, which with the company commanded by captain Preston and a company from Lunenburg of 50 men...” “Co of Rangers to consist of 50 men.” “If he brought (60) Indians [recruited as soldiers] he was to receive a captains commission.” “...to reduce the different Co’s in Augusta to 3 in pay with 60 men each.” “Captain Allen’s company in1756, consisted of sixty-eight (68) men...”
On page 45 of Militia of Montgomery Co, VA, 1777-1790, compiled by Mary B. Kegley, it states “List of Capt. John Taylor’s Company of Militia” with 77 names. It does not specifically give the name of Woods Fort, but the number is of interest in our detective work. "The official size of a company, both Continental and militia, 40 men." In this war official rarely meant actual.
The information that exists today on Woods Fort is so sketchy that I feel we are lucky to know what little there is. In various correspondences with Scott Hosier Jr., he has second thoughts about the size of the fort.
“It is my understanding that Woods Fort was just a cabin, a little better protected than most dwellings, better than any other close by. It is known locally.”
“I am pretty sure that the Woods fort (or stockade) was built later but before the Revolutionary War by William Woods or his son, Michael. It was on Rich Creek and blocked the portage around the gorge of the New River through the Allegheny Mountains between Virginia and West Virginia. Michael was commissioned Captain and was in command of this fort. I am not sure that there ever was a garrison assigned to help him. I expect that it was up to him to secure what assistance he could from his neighbors.”
“...he built it about 1772. It was larger than I first thought, holding 140 refugees at one time...”
From these records I assume that a small or undermanned company consisted of 30 men. The regular size company was 40 to 60 men. In time of pending battle the regular assigned company would be re-enforced by local settlers, I guess. This would be too many men to fight within the confines of a log pen or fortified log cabin. There is no indication from any source that this was a blockhouse. If the fort could hold 140 refugees, plus the garrison, then it was obviously stockade. Scott Hosier would not have pulled the number of 140 out of his head. He had to have historical reference. My conclusion is that Woods fort was a stockade.
From published historical information provided by the Giles County Historical Society: “Wood’s Fort on Rich creek was built in 1773 by Captain Matthew Wood...no white settlement existed between Fort Wood and the mouth of East River In 1779.” I am sure that it was Michael Woods, they simply have a misspelling of the name.
“Michael Woods, the immigrant, (of Blair Park) had seven grandsons named Michael. And the entire family lived on the frontier!” – Scott Hosier Jr.
Michael Woods escapes from the Indians: The premier research source for this sort of information is the famous Draper manuscripts. In the guides to the Draper mss. there can be found several letters written by Capt. Michael Wood(s) from Western Virginia about 1774. It is possible these are copies of the original and might have a sample of his signature.
Also found in the Draper mss. is a more complete account of Michael Woods escaping from the Indians with quotes from Michael and the Indians.
If any of you wish to research this information further then here are the sources: The Draper manuscripts consists of 491 volumes, so you must have the volume and page numbers to find anything. Researching the Draper collection should only be done by an experienced professional who has worked with this source before. (I am totally out of my element in this type of research.) Be careful...do not use the older films of the mss. as many are illegible! Request the later versions.
Here are a listings for the letters Michael Woods wrote which are in the Draper Manuscripts:
Preston and Virginia papers, volume and page number:
3QQ 30 [volume 3 of the QQ series, page 30]
In the Kentucky papers:
12 CC 45-53 Shane interview with Mrs. Sarah Graham in Bath County, KY.
A word of caution: The page numbers can be mixed up or destroyed. There is a chance of obtaining a sample of Michael Woods' handwriting and signature from this interview.
1774 29 May. Rich Creek [a branch of New River not far from Grey Sulphur Springs], VA. Letter from Michael Woods to Col. William Preston...”there is in that Bounds from Rich Creek Mountain to where the County line strikes the river thirty men which is: ...
Andr Woods...[A]dam Woods...Michl Woods... Also is a few men that lives in a String on the ther side of the River that ever will be unconvenient to any other place to Muster at for they would not have above 7 or 8 Miles to a Muster here...” – from Documentary History of Dunmore’s War, 1774. Madison, Wisconsin Historical Society, 1905. P. 397.
There is an old tradition that an Indian was killed near here on Rich Creek near Fort Wood. It seems that the Indian was imitating the gobble of a wild turkey, hoping thereby to lure some hungry inmate out of the fort into the woods and to his death. A settler, detecting a false note in the turkey call, slipped out of the fort and stealthily crawling up on the Indian from the rear shot him dead.
At different places, at different times, at different battles, in different wars and even times of peace between battles and wars, our people start adding military ranks in the front of their names. John Bowyer, the third husband to Magdelene, becomes Colonel John Bowyer. It is Colonel John Woods, and Colonel Michael Woods. According to the custom of the times, the social positions of our people would require that most, if not all, would enter the military with an officers commission. The higher the social positions, the higher the rank.
These military titles, ranks, were held for life.
A foreign traveler to America in the early 1800s noted that everywhere in America it seemed as if every man held a military title. Nowhere was this more pronounced than in Staunton, Virginia. (Just 30 miles north-east of Lexington on the mighty Beverly Grant.)
To understand how terrifying it could be for our people living on the Virginia frontier during the French and Indian War, I would suggest you read the book Follow the River, by James Alexander Thom. A word of warning; it is not for the squeamish.
The book is fiction. However, the author spends at least a year researching each of his novels. Everything he writes is based on reality. The novel is based on the true story of Mary Ingles. At the time, she lived at Drapers Meadows (now Blacksburg, VA, 25 miles in a straight line, SE, from Woods Fort). This is the same area that some of our people lived, and takes place at the same time in history.
Mary Ingles is a happily married twenty-three-year old with two children and pregnant with a third. Her neighborhood is raided by the Indians, with some of the whites being killed and some taken captive. Mary and her children are captured by the Indians and taken an enormous distance of 1000 miles from their home. (This shows how far the Indians would travel when making a raid.)
At the Indian village her two sons are sold into slavery. She leaves her new born with the Indians and makes her escape. She then travels hundreds of miles through the wilderness back to Drapers Meadows.
The Indians during the war captured more than 2,000 white settlers. They would suffer not only capture, but also torture even unto death. The Indians did not kill in a humane manner, by lethal injection.
It is a classic story. The author is a masterful storyteller. The book was a best seller.
When reading the book it is interesting to know that (dime) novels telling the stories of Indian capture, torture, death, and etc.… were quite popular reading for the colonists before, during and after the war. You are just reading an updated colonial dime novel.
Years later, Mary Ingles and her husband would ransom one of their teenage sons from the Indians. The son would marry and have children. Then his family would be raided by the Indians, with some of the family killed and the rest taken captives. I tell you this story to show that our people's problems with the Indians did not last for just two or three years, but for generations.
A footnote to history: Mary Ingles was the first American to be taken hundreds of miles into this unknown country and return. The colonists were very interested in what she could tell of this new country. It is not recorded but almost certain that she was interviewed by George Washington himself.
Now you can see why it was not unusual for some Scots, by Indian capture, to grow up to be Indian braves and even chiefs. I tell you the story again, at least one Indian chief, almost a full-blooded Scott, would lead his braves into battle against the whites.
"Would ye come over here Macdonald."
There are many books on this little known chapter of American history, the French and Indian War.
The Indian raids would continue into the Valley of Virginia as late as 1766. Our people were not free of the Indians even then for some of our cousins were starting to immigrate into the Kentucky and East Tennessee...and it was the "same old broken record."
The French and Indian War would end with the Treaty of Paris signed in 1763. The French lost everything in America: Canada, everything east of the Mississippi River. They did keep the port of New Orleans, which means that in a way they controlled the Mississippi River and all the land that was important to this mighty river and its only seaport. They held onto the land west of the Mississippi, which was unknown territory and existed only on paper in the minds of the French rulers in Paris.
Even this land would go to the Americans in the Louisiana Purchase some years later. Napoleon decided to make a French Colony of Louisiana, abruptly changed his mind and sold cheap.
The Fountain Springs golf course is located two miles east of the village of Peterstown, West Virginia. (Pop.500), on Route 219. The golf course address is 93 Fountain Spring Dr., Peterstown, WV. The best I can tell you is that it lies in a straight line, 80 miles SE of Lexington, VA. Look it up on the map as to the best way to go there.
David Bradley is one of the owners of the course and has been most helpful in contacting the locals to get information on the fort. Here are some of the things he told me: The monument was built in the 1930s, is made of stone and sits on the golf course today, next to the road. It is a square block, 12 feet by 12 feet at the base and 12-feet-high, made of stone. The fountain in the middle of the monument no longer is used due to contaminated ground waters. The brass marker on the other side of the road was stolen years ago.
Do not be confused by the two replicas that stand at the entrance to the golf course.
The locals say that the monument does stand on the original site of the fort. David Bradley has more information on the history of the monument that he is willing to share with any of our cousins who visit.
The golf course lies on the west side of the Appalachian Mountains, that is the French side. Our people were encroaching.
Entrance to Fountain Springs Golf Course, Rt. 219, Peterstown, West Virginia.
(Photo provided by David Bradley, one of the owners.)
There is no history or tradition of any serious encounters between the settlers and the Indians in this immediate community, but on Sept. 23, 1779, a white renegade named Morgan with five Shawnees attacked a party of emigrants on their way to Kentucky traveling the Indian trail on the East River, killing and capturing the whole party with the exception of John Pauley, who, though fatally wounded, escaped and finally made his way back to Fort Wood, dying there from his wounds.”
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