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Liveblogging the American Revolution: September 7, 1778: Siege of Boonesborough

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Wikipedia: Siege of Boonesborough:

In 1777, British officials opened a new front in the war with the American colonists by recruiting and arming Native American war parties to raid the Kentucky settlements. Henry Hamilton, the British Lieutenant Governor of Canada at Fort Detroit, found willing allies in leaders such as Chief Blackfish of the Shawnees, who hoped to drive the Americans out of Kentucky and reclaim their hunting grounds. As the raids intensified, Americans who strayed from fortified settlements like Boonesborough were likely to be killed or captured. American Indians brought 129 scalps and 77 prisoners to Hamilton in 1777.

Unable to dislodge the Kentuckians from their fortified settlements, the Indians destroyed crops and killed cattle, hoping that food shortages would compel the Kentucky settlers to leave. With the food supply at Boonesborough running low, the settlers needed salt to preserve what meat they had. In January 1778, Daniel Boone led a party of thirty men to the salt springs on the Licking River. On February 7, 1778, when Boone was out hunting meat for the expedition, he was surprised and captured by warriors led by Blackfish. Because Boone's party was greatly outnumbered, he convinced his men to surrender rather than put up a fight.

Blackfish wanted to continue to Boonesborough and capture it since it was now poorly defended, but Boone convinced him that the women and children were not hardy enough to survive a winter trek as prisoners. Instead, Boone promised that Boonesborough would surrender willingly to the Shawnees the following spring. Boone was improvising, saying anything to keep the Shawnees from attacking Boonesborough. He did not have an opportunity to tell his men what he was doing, however, and many of them concluded that he had switched his loyalty to the British.

Boone and his men were taken as prisoners to Blackfish's town of Chillicothe. Per Shawnee custom, some of the prisoners were adopted into the tribe to replace fallen warriors. The remainder were taken to Detroit, where Indians received a bounty from Governor Hamilton for each prisoner (or scalp) taken. Boone was adopted into a Shawnee family at Chillicothe, perhaps into the family of Chief Blackfish himself. He was given the name Sheltowee, meaning "Big Turtle". Like most of the other adoptees, Boone was watched closely, but he eventually escaped. On June 16, 1778, when he learned that Blackfish was preparing to return to Boonesborough with a large force, Boone eluded his captors and raced home, covering the 160 miles (260 km) to Boonesborough in five days.

Upon his return, some of the men expressed doubts about Boone's loyalty, since after surrendering the salt making party he had apparently lived quite happily among the Shawnees for months. Boone responded by leading a preemptive raid against the Shawnee village of Paint Lick Town on the other side of the Ohio River. This accomplished little, and the raiding party hurried back to Boonesborough when they discovered that Blackfish had marched south.

On September 7, 1778, Blackfish's force arrived outside Boonesborough. Boone counted 444 Native Americans and 12 white men. The former were mostly Shawnees, with a number of Cherokees, Wyandots, Miamis, Delawares, and Mingos. The latter were French-Canadian militiamen from Detroit, former French subjects now fighting on behalf of the British Crown. Although this was the largest force yet sent against the Kentucky settlements, taking a fortified position like Boonesborough would still be difficult without artillery to reduce the stronghold.

Blackfish called Boone out of the fort for a parley and reminded Boone of his promise to surrender the settlement. Blackfish presented letters from Governor Hamilton which proclaimed that the settlers would be well treated and taken to Detroit if they surrendered. If they did not surrender, there were no guarantees.

Boone told Blackfish that he would present the offer to the others. He could not make this decision himself, Boone said, since during his captivity other officers had assumed command.

Back in the fort, Boone outlined the situation. The consensus was to fight rather than surrender. The decision was made to prolong the negotiations with Blackfish as long as possible, since reinforcements from Virginia were expected. Boone and Major William Bailey Smith went outside again and told Blackfish that they feared that the trip to Detroit would be too hard on the women and children. Blackfish pointed out that he had brought 40 horses to transport those unable to walk. Boone asked for another day to consult with the others. Leaders from the two sides smoked a ceremonial pipe together to mark the peace agreement, and then broke off negotiations for the day.