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The Torture Of Colonel Crawford
by [?]

The slaughter of the Christian Indians at Gnadenhutten took place in March, 1782, and in May ol the same year, four hundred and fifty horsemen from the American border met at Mingo Bottom, where the murderers had rendezvoused, and set out from that point to massacre the Moravian converts who had taken refuge among the Wyandots on the Sandusky. They expected, of course, to fight the warlike Indians, but they openly avowed their purpose of killing all Indians, Christian or heathen, and women and children, as well as warriors. We must therefore call them murderers, but we must remember that they had been hardened against mercy by the atrocities of the savages, and we must make allowance for men who had seen their wives and little ones tomahawked and scalped or carried off into captivity, their homes burnt, and their fields wasted. The life of the frontier at a time when all life was so much ruder than now was as fierce, if not as cruel, among the white men as among the red men.

The murderers at Mingo Bottom voted whether Colonel David Williamson or Colonel William Crawford should lead them, and their choice fell upon Crawford. He seems to have been a man of kinder heart than his fellows, and he unwillingly took command of the turbulent and disorderly band, which promptly set out on its march through the wilderness towards the Sandusky country. They had hoped to surprise the Indians, but spies had watched their movements from the first, and when they reached the Moravian villages on the Sandusky River, they found them deserted. They decided then to go on toward Upper Sandusky, and if they could not reach that town in a day’s march, to beat a quick retreat. The next day they started, but at two o’clock in the afternoon they were attacked by large numbers of Indians hidden in the tall grass of the prairies, and they fought a running battle till nightfall. Then both sides kindled large fires along their lines, and fell back from them to prevent a surprise.

In the morning the Americans began their retreat, and the Indians renewed their attack with great fury in the afternoon, on all sides except the northeast, where the invaders were hemmed in by swamps. There seems to have been no cause for their retreat, except the danger of an overwhelming onset by the savages, which must have been foreseen from the start. But the army, as it was called, was wholly without discipline; during the night not even a sentry had been posted; and now their fear became a panic, their retreat became a rout. They made their way as best they could through the marshes, where the horses stuck fast, and had to be abandoned, and the men themselves sometimes sank to their necks in the soft ooze. Instead of keeping together, as Crawford advised but had no power to compel, the force broke up into small parties, which the Indians destroyed or captured. Many perished in the swamps; some were followed as far as the Ohio River. The only one of the small parties which escaped was that of forty men under Colonel Williamson, the leader of the Gnadenhiitten massacre, who enjoyed the happier fortune denied to Colonel Crawford.

This ill-fated officer was tormented after the retreat began by his fear for the safety of his son, his son-in-law, and his nephews, and he left his place at the head of the main body and let the army file past him while he called and searched for the missing men. He did not try to overtake it till it was too late to spur his wearied horse forward. He fell in with Dr. John Knight, who accompanied the expedition as surgeon, and who now generously remained with Crawford. They pushed on together with two others through the woods, guided by the north star, but on the second day after the army had left them behind, a party of Indians fell upon them and made them prisoners.