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Indian Fighters
by [?]

In the long war with the Indians, the great battles were nearly all fought within the region that afterwards became our state, and the smaller battles went on there pretty constantly. The first force on the scale of an army sent against the Ohio tribes was that of Colonel Bouquet in 1766; but, as we have seen, the chief object of this was to treat for the return of their white captives. In 1774 Lord Dunmore marched with three thousand Virginians to destroy the Indian towns on the Scioto in Pickaway County. He cannot be said to have led his men, who believed in neither his courage nor his good faith, and who thought that he was more anxious to treat with the savages for the advantage of England in the Revolutionary War, which he knew was coming, than to attack their capital. This was that Old Chillicothe, which has been so often mentioned before, and here Dunmore made peace with the Indians, instead of punishing them, as the backwoodsmen expected. The feeling among them was so bitter that one of them fired through Dunmore’s tent where he sat with two chiefs, hoping to kill all three. He missed, but he easily escaped among his comrades, who looked upon Dunmore as an enemy of their country and a traitor to their cause.

Their spirit, both lawless and fearless, was the spirit of that race of Indian Fighters, as they were called, which grew up on the border in the war ending with Wayne’s victory. It led them into countless acts of daring and into many acts of cruelty, and the story of their adventures is too bloody to be fully told. But unless something of it is told we cannot have a true notion of what the life of our backwoodsmen was. We have seen what they could do when they were at their worst in the Gnadenhutten massacre; but we cannot understand them unless we realize that they not only held all life cheap, but held the life of an Indian no dearer than that of a wolf.

Belmont County was the scene of two exploits of Lewis Wetzel, perhaps the most famous of these Indian fighters. One day he went home with a young man whom he met while hunting, and they found the cabin burnt and the whole family murdered except a girl who had lived with them, and whom the young man was in love with. They started on the trail of the Indians who had done the cruel deed, and came up with them after nightfall sleeping round their camp-fire. The girl was awake, crying and lamenting, and Wetzel had great ado to keep her lover from firing at once upon the Indians. But he made him wait for daylight, so that they could be sure of their aim; and then at the first light of dawn, they each chose his mark and fired. Each killed his Indian, but two others escaped into the woods, while the lover rushed, knife in hand, to free the girl. Wetzel made after the Indians, firing into the air to draw them out of their concealment. Then he turned, loading as he ran, and wheeled about and shot the Indian nearest him. He fled again, dodging from tree to tree till his gun was reloaded, when he shot the last Indian left. He took their scalps, and got home with the girl and her lover unhurt.

In 1782, together with one of Crawford’s men, he fell in with a party of forty Indians about two miles from St. Clairsville. Both sides fired; Wetzel killed one of the Indians, but his friend was wounded and promptly scalped, while four of the Indians followed Wetzel. He turned, shot the foremost, and ran on, loading his rifle. The next was so close upon him that when Wetzel turned again, the Indian caught the muzzle of his gun. After a fearful struggle Wetzel got it against the Indian’s breast, pulled the trigger, and killed him. The remaining two followed him a mile farther, and then Wetzel shot one of them as he was crossing a piece of open ground. The last left of the Indians stopped with a yell, and Wetzel heard him say as he turned back, “No catch that man; gun always loaded.”