The Siege of Fort Henry

September 11-13, 1782 at Wheeling, West Virginia

Battle Summary

A force of about 300 Wyandot, Shawnee, Seneca, and Delaware Indians laid siege to Fort Henry, an American outpost at what is now Wheeling, West Virginia, accompanied by a force of 50 British Butler's Rangers. The siege is commonly known as “The Last Battle of the Revolutionary War", despite subsequent skirmishes involving the loss of life which took place in New Jersey later in 1782.

Facts about the Siege of Fort Henry

  • Armies - American Forces was commanded by Col. David Shepard and consisted of about 40 Soldiers. British Forces was commanded by Captain Pratt and George Girty and consisted of about 300 Loyalists and Indians.
  • Casualties - American casualties were estimated to be 1 wounded. British casualties were unknown.
  • Outcome - The result of the siege was an American victory. The siege was part of the Western Theater.

Siege Begins

The large force of Native Americans gathered on the Sandusky River under the direction of Simon Girty. Girty had been captured by Natives as a child and grew up in their society, gaining notoriety for his savagery towards settlers. This force met with the Butler’s Rangers and the entire company was put under the direction of Captain Pratt.

As the force arrived at Fort Henry the Zane family, under direction of Colonel David Shephard, was charged with defending the fort. The defending force was made up of 40 men and boys protecting the 60 women and children from the surrounding area who had come to the fort for protection.

Girty and Pratt demanded surrender but Shephard refused, resolving to fight to the death in order to protect the people within his fort. The settlers were prepared to handle this siege because a similar force of Native Americans and British had attacked the fort before and burned all of the homes and buildings to the ground. Between the former siege and this one the wooden model cannon that previously rested on the barracks had been replaced by a real one, in addition the homes of the settlers had been rebuilt, including that of Ebenezer Zane. His home contained a store of surplus ammunition and arms and it had been decided to occupy it in case of another attack.

Being notified of the approach of the enemy by John Lynn, a scout, preparations were speedily made for the expected attack. Those who remained within the Zane house were Andrew Scott, George Green, Elizabeth Zane (Col. Zane's wife), Molly Scott, Miss McCulloch, a sister of Maj. Samuel McCulloch, a slave and his wife, "Daddy Sam" and Kate. From all other homes the occupants had entered the fort. Although Colonel David Shepherd was the superior officer in the county it appears that Col. Silas Zane was again in command.

The first siege attempts were entirely aimed at destruction of the fort and surrounding area. The entire first day was wasted in attempting to batter the fort, and burn down buildings. On the first night Natives attempted to burn down Colonel Zane’s cabin but Daddy Sam saw the Native and killed him just before the house was set on fire.

The cannon was used heavily in defense of this first attempt, being fired 16 times with such effectiveness that the Natives and British attempted to replicate the cannon out of a hollowed out tree wrapped in chains. When they attempted firing their makeshift cannon it exploded, killing and injuring the Natives standing around. As the men defended against attacks the first day, the women in the fort had been pouring lead into bullet molds and dipping them into water.

The second siege on the following day was when the settlers ran into trouble. Their supply of gunpowder was running low and they would not be able to defend the fort much longer if they lost use of the cannon and their rifles. Elizabeth “Betty” Zane remembered the store of powder in her brother's cabin, and volunteered to retrieve it for three reasons.

First, the enemy would be less inclined to shoot a woman, and with only twenty men of fighting age still able they could not spare any of them. Second, she knew exactly where the store was kept in the cabin. Third, she was young and strong enough to carry the store of powder from the cabin back to the fort. What Betty Zane did not tell was that she had gone 40 hours without sleep as she was molding bullets for the men defending Fort Henry.

At about 12:00 PM on the second day of the siege, Betty Zane opened the front gate of Fort Henry and walked the 60 yards to Ebenezer Zane’s cabin. There was a pause in the fighting while the Native and British force stared in awe as she disappeared into the cabin. Betty was not as lucky on her return trip, as she wrapped the powder store in her apron and left the cabin to return to the fort the attackers recognized what she had and opened fire on her.

She ran the 60 yards up the hill to the fort and made it safely inside unharmed. The powder allowed the settlers to defend the fort until help arrived. Then on the next morning the Native and British force left as patriot Captain John Boggs arrived with 70 soldiers to aid Fort Henry.

During the siege, many americans defended the fort from the British and Native American attack on Fort Henry. While not all names of those present were recorded, the following 47 people were involved in the defense of Fort Henry:

Lydia Boggs, Andrew Scott, James Boggs, Molly Scott, Agnus/Shamus Bruce, Robert Scott, Margaret Bruce, Henry Smith, James Caldwell, James Smith, Harry Clark, Thomas Smith, James Clark, Conrad Stroop, Casper French, Copeland Sullivan, George Greer, Rachael Sullivan, Rachael Johnson, Copeland Sullivan(Jr), George Kerr, John Tait, Hamilton Kerr, Samuel Tomlinson, Morton Kerr, Conrad Wheat, John Mcculloch, Betsy Wheat, Alexander McDowell, George Wright, Sarah McDowell, Andrew Zane, Alkenna McIntyre, Ebenezer Zane, Johnathan McIntyre, Elizabeth Mcculloch-Zane, Edward Mills, Elizabeth "Betty" Zane, Thomas Mills, Jonathan Zane, Old Mrs. Mills, Silas Zane, Peter Nisewanger, Old Daddy Sam, George Reikart, Kate(Sam's Wife), Jacob Reikart.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap