Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

By Boynton Merrill Jr. | Go to book overview
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THE NEWS OF the declaration of war was received with great joy in Kentucky. The citizens in the western counties had been harassed by Indians long enough, they felt, and now they could convert their anger into action. Things had not gone well at first. Hull's surrender of his army to the British in Canada without a fight was a disgrace that cried for revenge, and the killing of a number of families near the Ohio River in the Indiana territory had frightened the settlers there so much that hundreds of them fled south into Kentucky.1

In Livingston County, Moses Shelby, the governor's brother, was given command of a mounted company in the First Regiment of Kentucky Mounted Militia.2 The seventy men of this company from west Kentucky volunteered on September 18 to serve under Gen. Samuel Hopkins north of the Ohio as part of an expedition to destroy Indian villages and winter supplies. This foray of two thousand men was poorly organized and supplied, and turned out to be a fiasco, which was described with disgust by William C. Rodgers in a letter to the editor of the Lexington Reporter.3

From time to time during the previous four years, in fact ever since the Lewises had come to Livingston, militia units had patrolled intermittently along the east bank of the Tennessee River in Livingston and Caldwell counties, where the more isolated settlers had a genuine fear of Indian raids.4 By 1812 hostile Indian activities on the borders of Livingston County had increased alarmingly. In the spring Gen. Jonathan Ramsey, “knowing it to be indispensably necessary for the peace and security of the frontier neighborhood,” called out militia units to guard the citizens and continued the patrols all through that summer in Livingston and Caldwell counties. The cost of this activity was nearly $3,500, which General Ramsey requested from the legislature.5

Again, in the next year, county residents petitioned the governor for protection along the frontier of the Chickasaw hunting grounds.6 Governor Shelby wrote to General Ramsey


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