John Filson's "Adventures Of Colonel Daniel Boon" 


By John Filson - 1784

(Part Four of Six)

Editor's Note: We continue our series this month from the pages of John Filson's "The Discovery, Settlement, And Present State Of Kentucke," originally published at Wilmington, Delaware, in October 1784. "The Adventures Of Colonel Daniel Boon" appeared a short time later as an appendix to this popular volume, which assured Boone's immortality as a model American frontiersman. Filson conveys Boone's experiences in the Kentucky wilderness, as told by Boone himself, through the entries in his daily journal. We hope you enjoy this series.


On the 16th, before sunrise, I departed in the most secret manner and arrived at Boonesborough on the 20th, after a journey of 160 miles; during which I had but one meal.

I found our fortress in a bad state of defense, but we proceeded immediately to repair our flanks, strengthen our gates and posterns, and form double bastions, which we completed in ten days. In this time we daily expected the arrival of the Indian army; and at length, one of my fellow prisoners, escaping from them, arrived informing us that the enemy had an account of my departure and postponed their expedition three weeks. The Indians had spies out viewing our movements and were greatly alarmed with our increase in number and fortifications.

The Grand Councils of the nations were held frequently and with more deliberation than usual. They evidently saw the approaching hour when the Long Knife would dispossess them of their desirable habitations; and anxiously concerned for futurity, determined utterly to extirpate the whites out of Kentucke. We were not intimidated by their movements, but frequently gave them proofs of our courage.

About the first of August, I made an incursion into the Indian country with a party of 19 men, in order to surprise a small town up Sciotha, called Paint Creek Town. We advanced within four miles thereof, where we met a party of 30 Indians on their march against Boonesborough, intending to join the others from Chillicothe. A smart fight ensued betwixt us for some time. At length the Indians gave way and fled. We had no loss on our side.

The enemy had one killed and two wounded. We took from them three horses and all their baggage; and being informed by two of our number who went to their town that the Indians had entirely evacuated it, we proceeded no further and returned with all possible expedition to assist our garrison against the other party. We passed by them on the sixth day, and on the seventh, we arrived safe at Boonesborough.

On the eighth, the Indian army arrived, being 444 in number, commanded by Capt. Duquesne, 11 other Frenchmen and some of their own chiefs, and marched up within view of our fort with British and French colors flying; and having sent a summons to me in his Britannic Majesty's name to surrender the fort, I requested two days consideration, which was granted.

It was now a critical period with us. We were a small number in the garrison; a powerful army before our walls, whose appearance proclaimed inevitable death, fearfully painted, and marking their footsteps with desolation. Death was preferable to captivity; and if taken by storm, we must inevitably be devoted to destruction. In this situation we concluded to maintain our garrison, if possible.
We immediately proceeded to collect what we could of our horses and other cattle and bring them through the posterns into the fort; and in the evening of the ninth, I returned answer that we were determined to defend our fort while a man was living. Now, said I to their commander, who stood attentively hearing my sentiments. We laugh at all your formidable preparations. But thank you for giving us notice and time to provide for our defense. Your efforts will not prevail, for our gates shall forever deny you admittance.

Whether this answer affected their courage or not, I cannot tell; but contrary to our expectations, they formed a scheme to deceive us, declaring it was their orders from Governor Hamilton to take us captives and not to destroy us; but if nine of us would come out and treaty with them they would immediately withdraw their forces from our walls and return home peaceably. This sounded grateful in our ears, and we agreed to the proposal.

We held the treaty within 60 yards of the garrison, on purpose, to divert them from a breach of honor, as we could not avoid suspicions of the Indians. In this situation the articles were formally agreed to and signed; and the Indians told us it was customary with them, on such occasions, for two Indians to shake hands with every white man in the treaty as an evidence of entire friendship. We agreed to this also, but were soon convinced their policy was to take us prisoners.

They immediately grappled us; but although surrounded by hundreds of Indians, we extricated ourselves from them and escaped all safe into the garrison, except one who was wounded through a heavy fire from their army. They immediately attacked us on every side, and a constant heavy fire ensued between us, day and night, for the space of nine days.

In this time the enemy began to undermine our fort, which was situated 60 yards from the Kentucke River. They began at the watermark and proceeded in the bank some distance, which we understood by their making the water muddy with the clay; and we immediately proceeded to disappoint their design by cutting a trench across their subterranean passage. The enemy, discovering our countermine, by the clay we threw out of the fort, desisted from that stratagem; and experience, now fully convincing them that neither their power nor policy could effect their purpose, on the 20th day of August they raised the siege and departed.

During this dreadful siege, which threatened death in every form, we had two men killed and four wounded, besides a number of cattle. We killed of the enemy, 37, and wounded a great number. After they were gone, we picked up 125 pounds weight of bullets, besides what stuck in the logs of our fort; which certainly is a great proof of their industry. Soon after this, I went into the settlement, and nothing worthy of a place in this account passed in my affairs for some time.

During my absence from Kentucke, Col. Bowman carried on an expedition against the Shawanese at Old Chillicothe with 160 men in July 1779. Here they arrived undiscovered, and a battle ensued, which lasted until ten o'clock, a.m. Col. Bowman, finding he could not succeed at this time, retreated about 30 miles. The Indians, in the meantime, collecting all their forces, pursued and overtook him when a smart fight continued near two hours, not to the advantage of Col. Bowman's party.

Col. Harrod proposed to mount a number of horses and furiously to rush upon the Indians, who at this time fought with remarkable fury. This desperate step had a happy effect, broke their line of battle, and the Indians fled on all sides. In these two battles we had nine killed and one wounded; the enemy's loss uncertain, only two scalps being taken.

On the 22nd day of June 1780, a large party of Indians and Canadians, about 600 in number commanded by Col. Bird, attacked Ruddell's and Martin's stations at the forks of Licking River with six pieces of artillery. They carried this expedition so secretly that the unwary inhabitants did not discover them, until they fired upon the forts; and not being prepared to oppose them, were obliged to surrender themselves miserable captives to barbarous Indians. Immediately after, they tomahawked one man and two women and loaded all the others with heavy baggage, forcing them along toward their towns, able or unable to march. Such as were weak and faint by the way, they tomahawked. The tender women and helpless children fell victims to their cruelty. This and the savage treatment they received afterwards is shocking to humanity and too barbarous to relate.
The hostile disposition of the Indians and their allies caused General Clark, the commandant at the Falls of the Ohio, immediately to begin an expedition with his own regiment and the armed force of the country against Pecaway, the principal town of the Shawanese on a branch of Great Miami; which he finished with great success, took 17 scalps, and burnt the town to ashes with the loss of 17 men. 


(Series continues next month)