During the early 1770s, the Kentucky Shawnees beheld with great concern an influx of European trappers, traders, settlers and speculators encroaching upon their rich hunting grounds. In accordance with various treaties previously signed between American Indian nations and British colonists, the settlers moved into the land south of the Ohio River (today’s Kentucky and West Virginia). The treaties also allowed the Indians the right to hunt there.
In his journal dated Saturday, November 17, 1770, George Washington stated, “The Indians who are very dexterous, even their women, in the management of canoes, have their hunting camps and cabins all along the river for the convenience of transporting their skins by water to market.” Eventually, after a number of successive attacks by Indian war bands upon the settlers, war was declared “to pacify the hostile Indian war bands.”
In 1774, the colonists of both Pennsylvania and Virginia laid claims to Fort Pitt and the Pittsburg area. Eventually, Fort Pitt was seized by the Virginia militia and renamed for their royal governor, the 4th Earl of Dunmore, John Murray.
Dunmore now joined forces with Colonel Andrew Lewis against the Indians who they felt threatened the area’s European settlers. Though the Delaware Indians remained peaceful during this time, the tempers of the Shawnee were inflamed as they sprang into action to defend their homelands. Dunmore sought permission from the Virginia House of Burgesses to declare war on the hostile Indian nations and then amassed a militia force of elite volunteers.
On October 10th, the Battle of Point Pleasant was won by Lord Dunmore against Chief Cornstalk’s Shawnee. All of the Shawnee chiefs now came together at the Treaty of Camp Charlotte and relinquished their hunting grounds in an effort to protect their families.
Following the battle, accusations fell on Lord Dunmore for starting the war to divert the attention of Virginians away from differences they were expressing against the colony’s royal administration. Due to this fact, the Battle of Point Pleasant has been referred to by some historians as the first battle of the American Revolution.