by Gary Spina
If you are an old-timer like me, you may remember our boyhood friend Logan, a Mingo chief, who issued a famous speech predicated on misinformation – admittedly a speech of dubious authenticity, but one which enjoyed the imprimatur of none less than Thomas Jefferson himself.
Logan’s Indian name was Tachnechdorus, but he took the name Logan after John Logan, a man he deeply respected. John Logan was a Quaker Indian Agent, and later governor of Pennsylvania. In 1774, as Lord Dunmore’s War raged between the white man and the red man, Logan remained at peace, for he had no grievance against the white settlers who had come to live on the land and hunt the game.
But other Indians had killed many white men and burned many settlements along the Ohio Valley. Dr. Connolly, the commandant at Fort Pitt, sent Colonel Michael Cresap and some volunteers to engage a band of marauding Indian near what is now Wheeling, West Virginia.
About forty miles north of Wheeling, in the area of Yellow Creek, another man named Daniel Greathouse was leading a group of 21 frontiersmen. Yellow Creek was a small tributary of the Ohio River, where Joshua Baker owned an inn and tavern. Baker was making plans to flee the area with his family when an Indian woman informed him that a group of Mingo Indians were coming by canoe to murder him and his entire family. Baker knew he could not escape in time, so he sent out a rider to Daniel Greathouse to ask for help.
Greathouse and his men reached Baker’s inn on April 30, 1774, and were concealed in Baker’s back room when the Indians entered presumably to peacefully drink Baker’s rum. Among the Indians were Logan’s brother and two women and a child. It wasn’t long before the Indians became drunk and threatening, and when Logan’s brother took Joshua Baker’s coat and hat the tavern owner shot and killed him. Greathouse and his men rushed out from the back room and killed the remaining Indians, except for the child.
Outside the inn, Greathouse and his men saw two canoes of Indians paddling toward them. The Indians’ faces were painted black, and they were armed for war. The white men fired on the canoes killing most of the occupants before the Indians turned back. In a heady display of arrogance and defiance, Greathouse took the scalps of the dead Indians and wore them on his belt. Although Chief Logan was not at Yellow Creek, his mother, sister, brother, and entire family were killed there. Logan mistakenly blamed Colonel Cresap for the deaths and in a blind rage, went on a murderous killing spree attacking settlers and burning farms and villages from the Allegheny to the Cumberland Gap.
Lord Dunmore’s War of 1774 culminated in the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774 – a battle initiated by a Shawnee Chief named Cornstalk who led 2,000 Shawnee and Mingo warriors in an attack on the camp of Colonel Andrew Lewis and a Virginia militia of less than half their number. The battle lasted for hours and came down to hand-to-hand fighting before the Indians retreated into the night – a not so subtle lesson in living by the tomahawk and dying by powder and ball.
Later, as tempers cooled and the blood-lust on both sides was spent, a peace council was called, but Logan refused to participate. Instead, he sent a message, a speech schoolboys throughout the years have had to memorize and recite in recitation contests – even as we did later with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
When I was a boy growing up in the early 1950s, there was a painting of Chief Logan hung on a dark wall in the dark hall of our public school. The Indian stared out at us from the canvas, noble and regal looking, but half-naked nonetheless. Beneath the image was the famous speech he reportedly made at the end of the bloody hostilities.
The words of that speech still lay heavy on my heart, all these years later — for although I am of that generation unsullied by political correctness and therefore not indoctrinated in the liberal culture of accepting and embracing all lifestyles, deviant or otherwise, I can still feel the deep desolation of an ignorant savage who at worst gave as good as he got.
I can still recite the speech from memory, mostly — though now I know Logan was as lost as any man who ever tried to understand his existence on this earth. I can almost see Logan even now sitting across a campfire as he speaks to me, the autumn night cold beyond the ring of firelight, the crisp stars sparkling above the dark treetops that sway in the night wind. Across the crackling fire, across the long years, across the dark night, I hear Logan speak:
I appeal to any white man to say if he ever entered Logan’s cabin hungry and he gave him not meat; if he ever came cold and naked and he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites that my countrymen pointed as I passed and said, “Logan is a friend of the white man.” I had even thought to have lived with you but for the injuries of one man. Colonel Cresap, the last spring in cold blood and unprovoked, murdered the relatives of Logan, not even sparing his wives and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature.
This called on me for revenge. I have sought it. I have killed many. I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country I rejoice in the beams of peace; but do not harbor a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan. Not one.