A Journal of Lord Dunmore’s War, 1774

On 10 September 1774, Lord Dunmore (1730-1809) arrived at a strategic American colonial garrison town that bore his name—Fort Dunmore, formerly Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne—now Pittsburgh, where the Ohio River forms at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers. He was a Scottish peer, John Murray, Fourth Earl of Dunmore, who would be the last British royal governor of colonial Virginia, 1771-75. Soon Lord Dunmore was forced to flee to the safety of British-occupied New York, while Patrick Henry (1736-99), the great American patriot and orator, became the first governor of the state of Virginia. But on that day in 1774, Lord Dunmore was at the peak of his power, leading a brutal military campaign against the trans-Appalachian Shawnee and Mingo Indian nations. New archival evidence about Lord Dunmore’s War has just become available in the Princeton University Library: “Journal of the Expedition down the Ohio under the Command of his Excellency John Dunmore Lieutenant and Governor General of his Majesty’s Colony and Dominion of Virginia, 1774.” The anonymous 28-page manuscript narrative, covering events between 10 September and 18 November, is written in a formal scribal hand, with what would appear to be authorial corrections, as well as two final cancelled pages, possibly prepared from an earlier version of the narrative kept in the field. The journal has a distinguished provenance. It was once owned by the Marquis de Chastellux (1734-88), a major general of French expeditionary forces under the Comte de Rochambeau (1725-1807) during the American Revolution, and also the author of the two-volume Voyages de M. le Marquis de Chastellux dans l’Amérique septentrionale, dans les années 1780, 1781 et 1782 (1788).

The manuscript journal begins with Lord Dunmore’s orders and a proclamation relating to the recent murder to “two friendly Delaware Indians killed near this Fort,” described as an act of “horrid barbarity.” Properly called the Lenape, the Delaware Indians were an Algonquin-speaking indigenous people, who that had lived in what in now New Jersey and adjacent areas for many thousands of years, until British colonial settlement and military incursions, especially in the second half of the 18th century, drove them from their ancestral lands and into the Ohio River Valley. Aside from this initial incident at the fort, Lord Dunmore’s interactions with native peoples were mostly brutal and bloody. The journal treats the large numbers of Indian casualties, including non-combatants living in villages, as signal accomplishments. Combat with Shawnees in mid-October made Dunmore redouble his efforts to “pursue the necessary Steps to chastise a Stubborn and Perfidious People.” The journal provides a detailed record of Lord Dunmore’s communications with Chief Cornstalk of the Shawnees. After an exchange of prisoners, including “one Sally Kelly, who had been taken from the great Kanhawa,” the conference resumed with Dunmore’s two-page address to the Shawnee. On 29 October, a peace treaty was finally concluded with lengthy addresses by “Nimoi a Shawanese Chief, with two Hostages, several white and some negroe Prisoners.”

Acquisition of the journal was made possible by a fund endowed by Margaret P. Nuttle (1913-2009), who was a direct descendant of Patrick Henry and the mother of Philip E. Nuttle, Jr. (Princeton Class of 1963). Mrs. Nuttle’s generosity established the Barksdale-Dabney-Henry Fund to support the work of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections on early American history, especially during the time of her famous ancestor. This fund enabled the Princeton University Library to mount a very successful exhibition, “A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox” (2013), curated by Anna Chen, then Assistant Curator of Manuscripts, with the assistance of Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts. The fund has also enabled the Manuscripts Division to create a Princeton University Library Collection of Patrick Henry Materials (C1165), which grows steadily by the acquisition of autograph letters and signed documents of Patrick Henry as a Virginia attorney, landowner, and governor. Other manuscript acquisitions through the fund include a Suite de journal des campagnes 1780, 1781, 1782, dans l’Amérique septentrionale (1782), from the family of the counts of Forbach de Deux-Ponts, who led the Royal Deux-Ponts Regiments in Rochambeau’s army and distinguished themselves at the Battle of Yorktown; and the letter book (1767-76) of the Loyalist merchant Daniel Silsby and the account book of an American privateer “Junius Brutus” (1780-81).

For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, dcskemer@princeton.edu

C0938, no. 752