Friday, March 7, 2008

The Crawford Expedition

During the Revolutionary War, William Crawford (1732-1782) was commissioned colonel of the 7th Virginia and served with the distinction at the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown. In late 1777, he took command of the continental troops and militia in western Pennsylvania. After the War, Crawford retired from the military, but his reputation as an Indian fighter soon made him the commander of an ill-fated expedition against the Delaware Indians of Sandusky, Ohio in the spring of 1782. Unfamiliar with the terrain and unable to replenish his troops, Crawford’s army of experienced frontiersman was defeated. Angered by the massacre of neutral and unarmed Indians in the Muskingham Valley by Pennsylvania militia, Indian warriors stripped off Crawford’s clothes, tied his arms around a thick wooden post, and tortured him. Dr. John Knight, a military surgeon who traveled with the Sandusky expedition, witnessed the atrocity:
    "Seventy shots of powder were fired at his body. Indians then cut off his ears, prodded him with burning sticks, and tossed hot embers at him. Colonel Crawford continued in the extremities of pain for an hour and three quarters or two hours longer, as near as I can judge, when at last, being almost totally exhausted, he laid down on his belly; they then scalped him and repeatedly threw the scalp in my face, telling me, 'That was your great captain.' An old squaw got a board, took a parcel of coals and ashes and laid them on his back and head, after he had been scalped. Colonel Crawford then raised himself upon his feet and began to walk around the post; they next put a burning stick to him as usual, but he seemed more insensible of pain than before."
After learning of Crawford’s brutal fate on June 11, 1782, the Pennsylvania Packet reported that the state militia was “greatly enraged and determined to have ample satisfaction."

(Source: Beyond Philadelphia: The American Revolution in the Pennsylvania Hinterland, by Gregory T. Knouff, John B. Frantz ed., William Pencak ed., Park, Pa: Penn State Press, 1998)