The Strange End of Chief Cornstalk!

Jeannette Holland Austin
2 min readApr 11, 2022
Chief Cornstalk

Chief Cornstalk was Shawnee. He was known as a vicious Shawnee warrior who terrorized the settlers in western Virginia during the 18th century.

As thousands of immigrants flooded the port in Philadelphia and hitched oxen to wagons that would deliver them across the wilderness trail to free land in the far west, unfriendly tribes of Indians prepared to greet them with their bows and arrows, hatchet axes, lances, tomahawks, and knives. During the 17th century, the Shawnee occupied Pennsylvania but a century later had spread into Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.

They were hunters on the Great Plains, hunters of buffalo, deer, bear, and wild turkey.

On October 10, 1774, the Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunsmore, called outall of the militia companies in Virginia to battle the Shawnee. The two militia companies in Botetourt County paddled the Mississippi River to the Great Kanawha River where it was joined by the Ohio River. The other Virginia militia companies would not arrive in time. As soon as the militia were on the ground, Chief Cornstalk attacked. The fight lasted all day, with many casualties on each side. Cornstalk conceded with the signing of a Peace Treaty, which he did not honor. The Shawnee continued thieving, marauding, scalping and taking white women as slaves. Two years later, the Shawnee were fitted with rifles from the British army.

In 1777 when an American fort was established at Point Pleasant in West Virginia. It was garrisoned by a small force of men. Colonel Skillern of Botetourt County commanding several companies proceeded to arrive at the fort.

Then something peculiar occurred. Chief Cornstalk, accompanied by Chief Redhawk, appeared at the fort pretending to warn the soldiers that the Shawnee intended to join the British troops against the Virginians. The result was that the commandant detained the chief as hostages.

Then, two young soldiers under the command of Capt. James Hall, went to the Kanawha to hunt. Upon their return, as they approached the river, some Indians who were hiding in the weeds, fired on them. One soldier was killed and scalped, but the other was rescued by some of his comrades. As the bloody body was taken across the river, a cry arose to “kill the Indians in the fort!” So it was that the soldiers, with Captain Hall at the head, rushed in and killed Chief Cornstalk and Chief Redhawk!

Source: Early Adventures on the Western Waters by Kegley.