Lord Dunmore’s War Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

American colonists on the frontiers of Virginia and Maryland battled Shawnee Indians for control of their land. The Shawnees were defeated and relocated, as European settlers moved into Kentucky.

Summary of Event

Lord Dunmore’s War—named for Virginia’s governor, the fourth earl of Dunmore—was a struggle between the Shawnees Shawnees and Virginians in the spring and summer of 1774. It represents the culmination of events dating back to Pontiac’s Resistance (1763-1766)[Pontiacs Resistance] Pontiac’s Resistance (1763-1766). For both the American Indians and the colonists, the war carried important ramifications. The victor would control what is now Kentucky. In order to understand how the conflict arose, one must understand the unsettled state of British-Indian relations after 1763. [kw]Lord Dunmore’s War (Apr. 27-Oct. 10, 1774) [kw]War, Lord Dunmore’s (Apr. 27-Oct. 10, 1774) [kw]Dunmore’s War, Lord (Apr. 27-Oct. 10, 1774) Lord Dunmore’s War (1774)[Lord Dunmores War] American Indian-American conflicts[American Indian American conflicts] Frontier;American [g]American colonies;Apr. 27-Oct. 10, 1774: Lord Dunmore’s War[2070] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Apr. 27-Oct. 10, 1774: Lord Dunmore’s War[2070] [c]Colonization;Apr. 27-Oct. 10, 1774: Lord Dunmore’s War[2070] [c]Expansion and land acquisition;Apr. 27-Oct. 10, 1774: Lord Dunmore’s War[2070] Dunmore, fourth earl of Cornstalk Logan, James (c. 1725-1780) Connolly, John Cresap, Michael

Following Pontiac’s Resistance, British officials had tried to create an alliance with the natives of the Ohio and Illinois region. Using the French model, Britain’s Indian superintendent for the northern colonies, Sir Johnson, William William Johnson, tried to create a mutually intelligible world that would allow colonists and American Indians to conduct diplomatic and economic activities. Two problems undermined the superintendent’s efforts. The first problem confronting the relationship was the emergence of colonial communities Westward migration (North America) west of the Appalachian Mountains. Colonists had settled the region in direct violation of the Proclamation of 1763 Proclamation of 1763.

Virginia governor John Murray, Lord Dunmore, flees the colony following violent conflicts between Shawnee Indians and the European colonists seeking control of Shawnee land on the Virginia-Maryland frontier.

(Library of Congress)

Although British soldiers often drove them back across the mountains, the settlers often returned. Outside the range of governmental control, these settlers caused tensions with the native communities of the region. The second problem was the British government’s desire to curtail expenditures relating to Indian affairs. The Crown first tried to reduce its commitment by passing some of the costs off on the colonies, but these attempts did not work. As a result, Johnson’s office was unable to meet even the basic necessities for conducting Indian affairs after 1770. Taken together, colonial settlement along the frontier and reduced expenditures meant a worsening of British-Indian relations in the years preceding Lord Dunmore’s War.

The Shawnees’ relationship with the British-Indian relations[British Indian relations] British reached its nadir with the completion of the []Fort Stanwix, Treaty of (1768) Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768. As a result of this treaty, the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy Iroquois ceded much of the territory south and east of the Ohio River to land speculators. Speculation;land The ceded land had belonged to the Shawnees, Lenni Lenapes Lenni Lenapes (Delawares), Cherokees Cherokees, and Mingos Mingos, not the Six Nations. The treaty resulted in a series of confrontations between the Shawnees, who rejected the treaty, and the British. Beginning in 1769, skirmishes between the tribes and the frontier colonists became commonplace. These skirmishes continued not only because of reduced expenditures on American Indian affairs but also because of the withdrawal of British soldiers from the colonial frontier. By 1774, British soldiers were stationed at only Kaskaskia, Detroit, and Michilimackinac. Without British soldiers or Indian agents, the Ohio region became a battleground.

As tensions between the two sides escalated, Sir William Johnson worked to isolate the Shawnees from their allies. By the spring of 1774, he had isolated the Shawnees from their previous confederates, the Hurons Hurons, Miamis Miamis, and Potawatomis Potawatomis. His activities broke the Shawnee league. Colonists appreciated the importance of Johnson’s actions when war broke out in April, 1774. For his part, British commander Gage, Thomas Thomas Gage expressed no surprise when Dunmore’s War began. He had long suspected Virginia’s colonial elites of supporting the frontiersmen in their move west.

The war began on April 27, 1774. On this date, Greathouse, Daniel Daniel Greathouse and his followers lured an Iroquois hunting party into a trap at the mouth of the Yellow Creek. Greathouse and his men killed nine people. Those killed at Yellow Creek Massacre (1774) Yellow Creek were followers of the Mingo war chief James Logan. Logan recruited supporters and retaliated. By July, he and his followers had claimed thirteen scalps, and Logan the Mingo proclaimed himself avenged. Because Virginians were settling on Shawnee lands. Logan focused his reprisals on Virginians in particular rather than colonists (such as Pennsylvanians) in general.

If Logan’s actions had been only an isolated response to a massacre, it is doubtful that war would have erupted. However, Logan’s actions were not unique. Further down the Ohio River, Michael Cresap and his associates—who were trying to develop land for future settlers—received a message from John Connolly, Virginia’s resident administrator for the Monongahela region. Connolly’s message implied that a colonial war with the Indians had begun. Situated hundreds of miles beyond colonial settlements, Cresap and his men acted as if war were a reality. They attacked a canoe carrying Lenni Lenape and Shawnee traders. After scalping the Indians, Cresap and his men sought protection in the community of Wheeling.

Following the Yellow Creek Massacre, and while Cresap and his men were seeking the shelter of Wheeling, Connolly participated in a condolence ceremony for the victims of Greathouse’s attack. Held at Pittsburgh, the ceremony mollified the Indians’ civil leadership. It did not, however, appease the warriors on either side of the cultural divide. Logan continued his attacks against squatters, and Cresap tried to raise a volunteer unit for military service against the natives. Their actions illustrated how young men on both sides of the cultural divide often dictated the actions of their elders.

As late as June, 1774, it was still possible to avert full-scale war. In July, however, Virginia’s militia moved westward. Their aims were to destroy the Shawnees and open Kentucky for Virginian settlement. Virginian major McDonald, Angus Angus McDonald led four hundred Virginians across the Ohio River and destroyed five Shawnee villages, including Wakatomica, in early August. Later that month, Dunmore arrived at Pittsburgh. When Shawnee warriors refused his request to meet with him, Dunmore decided to lead an expedition against the Shawnees located along the Scioto River.

While marching to its new base of operations at Camp Charlotte, a militia detachment burned the Mingo town at the Salt Licks. In order to prevent the Virginians from invading the Scioto region, nine hundred Shawnees and their allies attacked twelve hundred Virginians at their fortifications at the mouth of the Kanawha River on October 10, 1774. This attack—the Point Pleasant, Battle of (1774) Battle of Point Pleasant—resulted in the Shawnees’ defeat.

Before the Battle of Point Pleasant, the traditional leaders of the Shawnees and Lenni Lenapes had sought a negotiated settlement with Governor Dunmore. He refused to deal with the Shawnee representative, Cornstalk. Dunmore did meet with Cornstalk’s Lenni Lenape counterparts, Pipe, Captain Captain Pipe and White Eyes, George George White Eyes, who tried to mediate the problem. Their efforts resulted only in limiting the war, not preventing it. After the Battle of Point Pleasant, however, Cornstalk again tried to negotiate a settlement with Dunmore. The result was the Camp Charlotte Agreement Camp Charlotte Agreement of 1774.

Governor Dunmore dictated the terms of this agreement. He required the Shawnees to accept Virginia’s interpretation of the []Fort Stanwix, Treaty of (1768) Treaty of Fort Stanwix. He also required that the Shawnees and Mingos give him hostages as a promise of future good behavior. He demanded that the natives give up their right to hunt on the south side of the Ohio River. In exchange for their promise, Dunmore promised to prohibit Virginians from intruding on Indian lands north of the Ohio River.

While Dunmore and Cornstalk discussed peace terms, Logan refused to attend the council. He did, however, send a statement to the council through the trader John Gibson. “Logan’s Lament,” as it came to be known after Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas;James Logan Thomas Jefferson included it years later in his Notes on the State of Virginia, justified Logan’s actions in the preceding months with the following words:

Col. Cresap, the last spring, in cold blood, and unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan. . . . There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. . . . Who is there to mourn for Logan?—Not one.

In response to Logan’s speech, Dunmore ordered a detachment of troops to attack the Mingos at Salt Lick Town. The attack resulted in the death of five Indians and the capture of fourteen prisoners.


Following the Virginians’ attack, Lord Dunmore’s War became fused with the American Revolution. [p]American Revolution (1775-1783);and Lord Dunmore’s War[Lord Dunmores War] American patriots believed Dunmore really was not interested in claiming Kentucky for settlement; they concluded that Dunmore’s real intent was the formation of an army for use against them. By 1775, colonists had turned against Governor Dunmore. As a result, the final treaty ending Lord Dunmore’s War, the Pittsburgh, Treaty of (1775) Treaty of Pittsburgh, was delayed until October, 1775. Following Lord Dunmore’s War, Shawnee population centers in the Ohio Valley began to change. Most Shawnees left the Muskingum region and moved southwest toward the Scioto and Mad River areas.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Clark, Jerry E. The Shawnee. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1993. This examination of Shawnee history and culture includes information about Lord Dunmore’s War.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dowd, Gregory Evans. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. Chapter 3, “Revolutionary Alliances,” includes information about Lord Dunmore’s War.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jacob, John J. A Biographical Sketch of the Life of the Late Captain Michael Cresap. Cincinnati, Ohio: J. F. Uhlhorn, 1866. John Jacob worked for Michael Cresap and later married Cresap’s widow. His book challenges the notion that Cresap was responsible for the Yellow Creek Massacre.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McConnell, Michael N. A Country Between: The Upper Ohio Valley and Its Peoples, 1724-1774. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992. Discusses colonial expansion from the eighteenth century Native American perspective. McConnell sees the Treaty of Fort Stanwix as a deciding factor in the coming of Lord Dunmore’s War.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mayer, Brantz. Tah-Gah-Jute, or Logan and Cresap: An Historical Essay. Albany, N.Y.: Munsell, 1867. The most famous study of the Cresap-Logan controversy written in the nineteenth century.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tanner, Helen Hornbeck, ed. Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987. This monograph traces Shawnee history through cartographic evidence. Contains a discussion of Lord Dunmore’s War.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Discusses how both Europeans and American Indians sought accommodation and common meaning. Places Lord Dunmore’s War within this context in his analysis of the event.

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Fox Wars

Walking Purchase

French and Indian War

Cherokee War

Pontiac’s Resistance

Indian Delegation Meets with Congress

Fort Stanwix Treaty

Little Turtle’s War

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