Vince Akers

Vince Akers has spent numerous hours over many years researching the Long Run Massacre and Floyd’s Defeat. Mr. Akers joined us on Saturday at noon during our 2011 Re-Enactment weekend to give us an in depth look at the happenings in Shelby County in 1781.

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Presented to

The Painted Stone Settlers

Saturday, September 10, 2011

by Vince Akers

The best account of the Long Run Massacre and Floyd’s Defeat undoubted is Lyman C. Draper’s 1844 interview with Bland W. Ballard who was an active participant in both events. Ballard was just 21 years old in 1781 at the time of the massacre, but he had already seen considerable action against the Indians. He had raided their Ohio towns on Bowman’s 1779 Campaign and on Clark’s 1780 Campaign where he was severely wounded in the hip. That wound troubled him the rest of his long life, but didn’t seem to limit his activities.

September 1781 was a terrifying month for this area! Indians had been massing across the Ohio in anticipation of the return of George Rogers Clark to Kentucky. The Indians knew Clark was recruiting troops for a campaign to finally capture the British post at Detroit to put an end to their inciting the Indians to raid the Kentuckysettlements.

The British sent the celebrated Mohawk, Chief Joseph Brant, from New York to whip up the Western Indians to defeat Clark. Commissioned in the British army, he was known as “Captain” Joseph Brant. But his atrocities had earned him the nickname “Monster Brant” by the Americans.

George Rogers Clark returned down the Ohio River in mid-August 1781 much to the relief of Kentucky, but without enough men for his planned Detroit campaign. Clark’s descent of the Ohio drew Indians like a magnet, but Clark’s mystique was so great that nothing Joseph Brant could do would coax the Indians into attacking him.The pent up fury of the Indians was instead directed at Colonel Archibald Lochry and a hundred men descending the river a few days behind Clark. On August 24th Brant’s Indians totally defeated Lochry on the north shore of the Ohio in present-day Indiana killing 37 men and capturing 64 without a single Indian casualty.

After Lochry’s Defeat, Captain Joseph Brant was joined by 100 British Rangers along with 300 Indians under the direction of CaptainAlexander McKee. On August 28th — a little over two weeks before the Long Run Massacre — this loose force of nearly 500 Indians and British proceeded down the Ohio toward the Falls. The Indians arrived at the mouth of the Kentucky River onSeptember 5th, but they soon lost all enthusiasm for attacking Clark at the Falls after scouts returned with prisoners who informed them that no expedition was to be carried on that season against their villages. The Indians quickly broke off into small parties, some going home, others fanning out to plunder isolated cabins and steal horses.

The British Rangers also returned home. But somehow Brant and McKee were able to keep together an Indian force numbering 200 – sufficient, as McKee reported, “to cross the country and attack some of their small forts, or infest the Roads.” Squire Boone’s Painted Stone Station presented the closest and easiest target. No station could be considered more exposed in 1781 than Painted Stone. It had been built in the spring of 1780 on the north side of Clear Creek, two-and-a-half miles north of present-dayShelbyville.

It was in the middle of a vast unoccupied region. Over 20 miles to the west were its closest neighbors, the six stations clustered on Beargrass Creek east of Louisville in the present-day St. Matthews area. Twenty miles or so in the other direction was Leestown, a deserted landing on the Kentucky River near present day Frankfort. The Kentucky and Ohio Rivers formed a vast triangle of uninhabited territory that stretched north of Painted Stone. Enemy country lay beyond the Ohio which offered the Indians a conveniententry and escape route for their raids.

Painted Stone suffered under continual harassment from small Indian raids throughout 1781. By late summer the obvious and growing concentration of Indians, led the inhabitants reluctantly to decide to abandon their isolated station.

Squire Boone sent a request to the Beargrass stations for a militia guard to aid and escort the evacuation. General Clark ordered out twenty-four light horsemen under Lieutenant Thomas Ravenscraft. Colonel John Floyd ordered out the Jefferson County militia from the Low Dutch Station under Lieutenant James Welsh.

Bland W. Ballard was one of Clark’s regular Virginia troops billeted among the stations on Beargrass Creek. Ballard was at Linn’s Station the eastern-most Beargrass station — along present day Hurstbourne Lane. He was among the troops called out to help evacuate the Painted Stone settlers.

All of the families were ready to leave except Squire Boone’s and the widow Hinton’s. They remained behind only because there were not enough pack-horses to carry all their belongings. The militia agreed to return for them the next day. Squire Boone gave permission for his nine-year old son Isaiah to ride along with the fleeing families on one of the pack-horses.

The evacuation caravan left Painted Stone early in the morning September 13th. The march would be agonizingly slow. Packhorses,loaded down with household goods, were ridden by the women and children. The men led the horses and drove the cattle along the road. There were twenty-one miles to travel that day to reach the safety of Linn’s Station. Boone’s Wagon Road was theescape route. Only the year before had the trees been cut and thetrace widened enough to bring a small wagon into Painted Stone.

Along this dark wooded trail the families fled. The possibility of an Indian attack on the exposed group was well appreciated and planned for in advance. In case of attack, the women and children were to dismount and shelter themselves behind trees while the men defended them. Unfortunately, the families became much scattered along the trail as they proceeded. The packhorses moved one behind the other along the narrow trail making along string. It was impossible to concentrate the families or theirprotective escort at any one spot.

Their feeble force was further weakened by the loss of a large part of the militia escort after they had proceeded only nine miles. Here, at the ford of the first branch of Long Run, Lieutenant James Welsh became violently ill and had to turn off the trail until the sickness passed. Some ten to twenty of the militia guard remained behind with him.

The fleeing families and their remaining escort proceeded on a little more than three miles. It was now just after midday and the scattered group had completed more than half their trek. Those infront were approaching the main ford of Long Run approximately where present-day U.S. 60 now crosses the creek. Suddenly the dreaded Indian attack commenced.

Bland Ballard was near the front with Robert Tyler along with hisfamily and a few other men with their cattle. Tyler was a great-greatgrandfather of President Harry S. Truman. At first fire Tyler at once dismounted. But several others in front ignored the agreement to shelter themselves behind trees and make a fight. They cut loose their pack loads and darted off without making a stand. The remaining men might have handled the Indians had they not been weakened by this loss and the loss of the militia guard in the rear.

The other women and children dismounted as ordered and took shelter. Most of the men acted bravely in their defense. But seeing that the horses were getting very alarmed and realizing that the Indians were too numerous, they concluded that they had betterremount and make a run for Linn’s Station some eight or nine miles further west.

It was only a few minutes after the attack began before the group started their run. As the retreat got underway, Bland Ballard noticed the Hansbury’s old Negro woman hesitating to run. He hollered out for her to hurry along or she would be killed. The old woman then pulled up her petticoats for a good run and bawled out, “Every man for himself and God for us all.” She made it safely to Linn’s Station.

Many others were not as fortunate. With the retreat, the massacre began. The men were able to keep the Indians somewhat in check just long enough to get the retreat moving. Packs were cutand families remounted as they moved along. But many of those killed were shot as the retreat commenced and they ran along exposed to the enemy fire. This soon turned the retreat into a hopeless rout. The large number of women and children made for atruly desperate situation. Confusion and panic reigned as people began being shot down. Men fell protecting the families, but the heaviest casualties fell upon the women and children. There was simply no way to adequately protect them under the circumstances.

As Bland Ballard sadly summed it up more than 60 years later, “Many widows and orphans were made” that day. Ballard was particularly active in cutting off the packs and helping the women and children get back onto the horses. One cowardly young man was caught in the act of driving a woman off herhorse so he could ride it. Ballard cursed him and shouted, “Touchanother woman and I’ll blow a hole through you!”

Most of the men put up a brave resistance. Some engaged insingle-handed combat with Indians who had fired their guns and then rushed on the families with their tomahawks.

Bland Ballard succeeded in getting outside the Indian lines where he used his rifle with some effect. He killed one Indian certainly and thought more as he was able to get off three good shots. Good shots because the Indians were so thick.

The attack continued for a mile and the packs were scattered along the trail most of that distance up to the ford. To some extent this aided the families in making their escape as many of the Indians lingered behind cutting open packs to get at the plunder rather than pursuing their prey. A few were nevertheless persistent in their desire for scalps.

The running families had to cross Long Run as they were still pursued by some of the Indians. The water was knee deep or more, swollen by recent rains.

Young Isaiah Boone, running along on foot, was one of the last to cross Long Run. He stumbled and plunged into the water, soaking himself and his gun. As he scrambled up the other bank he looked across the creek and saw an Indian on the opposite bank. The nine year old instantly drew up his wet gun and pointed it at the Indian.

The Indian dodged behind a small bank. George Yount looked backand asked young Boone what his delay was. “I’m pointing at an Indian that has been trying to kill me.”

“Why don’t you shoot him?” asked Yount.

“My gun is wet and won’t go,” replied Boone.

At that moment the Indian peeped up his head from behind the clay bank and Yount shot him through the neck. The dead Indian rolled into the water. Yount then shouted to Boone, “Now you, boy, throw away your gun and clear yourself!”

Floyds Fork also had to be crossed by the fleeing families a little over two miles west of Long Run. It too was swollen from the recent rains and its waters were quite deep. Benjamin and Aaron Vancleave, ten and twelve-year old brothers, had been running along on foot following the people on horses. When they reached Floyds Fork they each seized hold of a horse’s tail and held on until safely across. Their older brother John had tried to escape on foot with them, but he was a fleshy boy and could not keep up the pace.

Realizing he was falling dangerously behind, he looked for a hiding place. He luckily found a hollow log into which he crawled and hid until the next day when he made his escape.

Bland Ballard hid in the bushes at the ford of Floyds Fork until he saw an Indian on horseback ride into the creek pursuing the fugitives. As the Indian ascended the bank near where he hid, Ballard shot him and caught his horse with which he made his escape to Linn’s.

The militia guard with Lieutenant Welsh were so far behind on the trail that they did not hear the firing of the guns and were unaware that the attack had taken place. They had just renewed their march when a horse was caught running back toward Boone’s Station.

Their worst fears were soon confirmed when cattle came running scared from the same direction. They turned off the trail a few hundred yards and cautiously continued on. Soon they ran into two Indians holding 18-year old Rachel Vancleave and her infant sister Sally prisoners. As the Indians dashed off without their captives, oneaimed a blow at the young woman, but fortunately missed.

Rachel Vancleave was overjoyed at the fortunate rescue. Her sister had begun to cry and fret and the Indians were ready to kill the child when the guard rode up. The militia made a long circuit to avoid Boone’s Wagon Road and the Indians. They got in safely to Linn’s Station that night. Most of the other survivors also straggled into Linn’s station by nightfall.

Bland Ballard told Draper the ambush of the fleeing settlers wasknown as “Boone’s Defeat”. Although Squire Boone was not present, it was obviously a defeat for his station. The more descriptive “Long Run Massacre” seems to be a fairly modern title for the incident. The term “massacre” is fitting for the word conjures up all the instant feelings of dreaded surprise, panic, hopelessness and wanton slaughter which were part and parcel of the unfortunate affair. “Long Run Massacre” is also particularly descriptive since the ford of thecreek has forever after been closely connected with the massacre. It was one of the largest and certainly one of the bloodiest massacres in Kentucky history.

Bland Ballard grossly overstated the Indian numbers, telling Draper he thought there were 300 Indians at Long Run and at Floyd’s Defeat. But British records show that the Indians responsible for the Long Run Massacre were a party of only 50 or so Miamis who had separated two days earlier from the larger group under Joseph Brant and Alexander McKee. Several small parties were constantly breaking away to plunder isolated cabins and steal horses. It was the misfortune of the Painted Stone settlers to cross the path of so large a break-away party.

The main body of Indians had started across county to strike at Squire Boone’s Station. On their way they fell in again with the jubilant Miamis only a few hours after the massacre. The united Indian force now again numbered 200. Brant and McKee decided to delay the intended attack on Painted Stone and, in the words of McKee: “take possession of the Ground they had drove the enemy from and wait their coming to bury their dead.”

The Indians did not have long to wait. As soon as the first survivors of Long Run straggled into Linn’s Station, runners were sent out to spread the shocking news to the other Beargrass stations.

Colonel John Floyd was particularly distressed by the report. Floyd had been commissioned as Jefferson County Lieutenant early in 1781 after George Rogers Clark recommended him to Governor Thomas Jefferson as “the most capable in the County. A Soldier, Gentleman, and a Scholar whom the Inhabitants, from his actions have the greatest confidence in.”

Floyd hurriedly collected what men he could muster at his stationand the nearby Low Dutch and Hogland’s Stations. A shortage of horses was a problem. Earlier that same day, 25 horses had been stolen from the Dutch Station by the marauding Indians.

Somehow Floyd managed to quickly mount a small force and rushed to Linn’s Station, fearful that it might be under attack. His small party arrived at Linn’s after sundown and found it free from attack but in an extreme state of alarm. Floyd was determined to take the offensive. The remainder of the evening was hurriedly spent preparing for an early march the next day.

It was a small party that rode out of Linn’s Station under Colonel John Floyd early Friday morning September 14th 1781. The party numbered only twenty-seven men, all mounted. Ballard was along again, but some of the militia who had been at Long Run the afternoon before were unable, or unwilling, to venture out again. Someone had tried to excuse himself on account of having lost his gun at Long Run. As they rode out now, Colonel John Floyd ravedand swore, “The first man to lose his gun this day will be hung!”

East of Linn’s Station the men were divided into three columns. Colonel Floyd commanded the center column which marched in the road. Captain Peter A’Sturgis commanded the right and Lieutenant Thomas Ravenscraft commanded the left column. In this position they quickly marched east along the wagon road. They were headed for Painted Stone with all possible speed fully expecting to find it under siege. Ballard rode in the right column with A’Sturgis.

The British and the Indians fully intended to set up an ambush, correctly guessing that the Kentuckians would organize a burial and relief party. However, they miscalculated the speed with which Floyd would organize and advance. And thus Floyd came riding through before the Indians were posted to receive him. The fickle Indians were busy that morning collecting and sifting through the plunder of the prior day’s massacre instead of setting their ambush. This alone saved Floyd from the total defeat which almost certainly would have befallen his small party had 200 Indians been lying ready in wait.

Even so, Ballard and the other Kentuckians were unanimous in the conviction that they had fallen into ambush. Certainly it musthave seemed so for the terrain and numbers were grossly in the Indians’ favor. Floyd’s men were riding fast along a stretch of Boone’s Wagon Road between Floyds Fork and Long Run. The road here lay along a dividing ridge. They did not discover the Indians until they received their fire. Floyd’s men forever after assumed theIndians had been lying in wait, had let them ride through, then closedin behind and had them surrounded. Although not so well planned, the effect was similar. The Indians had simply to pull back from the road and the ridge and shoot down as many of the whites aspossible.

The nearly one mile stretch of old U.S. 60 – the Eastwood “cutoff” – follows the ridge and nearly the identical route of Boone’s old wagon road. It was along this stretch of old U.S. 60 at the site of the present-day Eastwood Cemetery that the defeat occurred.

The Indians were on both sides of the ridge, their shot crossing up the hill. Captain Peter A’Sturgis was in front. It was thought the first shot struck him. Although mortally wounded, he plunged his horse through the Indian lines and escaped.

Others also lost their horses or jumped from them to seek a tree behind which they momentarily made a stand. A few Indians were brought down by their fire. But the Indians were on all sides and in much too great numbers. Those of Floyd’s men who survived the first fire quickly charged on horse or on foot through the Indian lines, their only means of escape.

The Indians now resorted to the tomahawk. Some of the Indians could speak English and yelled, “Stop! and you shan’t be hurt!” No one accepted the offer. One man yelled back, “Go to hell!”

Colonel Floyd rode a fine black horse called “Shawnee” into the defeat. The horse had become unmanageable in the early part of the retreat and ran under a low-limbed beech tree throwing Floyd off. Floyd had to run along on foot, hotly pursued by some of the Indians for over a mile to Floyd’s Fork.

Bland Ballard and others were carrying along the wounded Captain A’Sturgis as they approached the ford of Floyd’s Fork. John Hughes, who was already in the stream, looked back, saw the Indians close at hand and called out a warning. Ballard yelled back to him, “Charge the Indians!” Although well in the water and safe, Hughes took up the call joined by the young Samuel Wells, whose father had been killed only minutes before at the defeat. Together Hughes and Wells gallantly rushed at the Indians.

At this moment Colonel Floyd came running along on foot, nearly exhausted and closely pursued. Hughes, still keeping the Indians at bay by dashing in and among them, called out to Wells to give his horse to the Colonel. Floyd too called out, “Sam Wells, I am a gone man.” Wells jumped from his saddle and offered his horse to Floyd.

In grabbing hold of the horse Floyd was forced to let go of his gun and thereby disobey his first orders of the day.

Hughes and Wells, by their conduct, saved Colonel Floyd and gave time for Ballard and his comrades to get Captain A’Sturgis across Floyd’s Fork. The action of Wells was to become legendary.

The two had been personal enemies since Floyd had kicked Wells out of his station not long before the defeat. Thus, saving Floyd’s life was considered doubly noble of Wells.

A tragic end befell two of the captured men very shortly after the defeat. Daniel Whittaker and Nicholas Soap were both claimed by different Indian tribes who were arguing over them. Captain Joseph Brant’s exasperation with his quarrelsome Indians showed why he was nicknamed Monster Brant. To put a stop to the rival claims, he tomahawked the two hapless prisoners on the very spot of the defeat. Brant then finished them off with his sword. In wiping the blood off the blade onto his pants, he cut his leg so badly he was forever after bothered by it.

Out of the twenty-seven men who rode out from Linn’s Station that morning only ten escaped from the defeat. Seventeen were either killed or captured on the spot. Captain A’Sturgis die somewhere between Floyd’s Fork and Linn’s as they retreated.

The day after Floyd’s Defeat, a force 300 men from the Falls and  Beargrass made a long rapid march in the hot weather to rescue the families of Squire Boone and the widow Hinton at Painted Stone.

At the sites of the two defeats, the Falls troops performed the gruesome task of collecting and burying the horribly mutilated bodies now bloating in the September sun. At Floyd’s battle ground bodies were buried in a sink hole with stones and tree limbs placed on top.

Names of the dead were carved on a nearby beech tree.

Floyd’s Defeat was not totally without some benefit. Despite their surprise, Floyd’s men had succeeded in inflicting several casualties on their Indian attackers. Among those killed was the chief of the Hurons, their principal warrior. The Hurons were sodiscouraged by the loss of this chief that they wanted only to return north of the Ohio as soon as possible. With the Hurons, all of the Indians turned homeward. And thus Floyd’s Defeat saved the few inhabitants of Painted Stone from almost certain death or captivity.

The Revolutionary War ended just a little more than a month later with the British surrender at Yorktown October 19th 1781. The Revolution may have been won, but the war was far from over in theWest. Bland Ballard’s experiences after Long Run dramatically show how the Indian war in the West continued on for more than a decade.

Ballard was along again with Clark for his 1782 Ohio Campaign to punish the Indians after Kentucky’s disastrous defeat at the Battle of Blue Licks eleven months after Long Run. And Bland Ballard was again with Clark as a spy on the abortive 1786 expedition up theWabash.

In 1788 Bland W. Ballard had another very personal massacre experience — the “Tick Creek Massacre” — in which he killed six or seven out of fifteen Indians who attacked his family at Tyler’s Station on Tick Creek a few miles east of Shelbyville. His father, Bland Ballard Sr., his step-mother, a brother and two sisters were killed and a young sister tomahawked but recovered. Late in life when asked how many Indians he had killed in one day, he said, referring to theTick Creek Massacre, “I kilt six one morning before breakfast and it was not a good morning!”

In the summer of 1791 Ballard served as a guide on General Wilkinson’s expedition into Indian country. In August 1794 he was a captain at “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s victory at Fallen Timbers which finally brought peace with the Indians to Kentucky.

But Fallen Timbers was not Bland W. Ballard’s last Indian fight. In his 50s he volunteered as a captain in the War of 1812. Acting as a major, he led the advance in the successful first Battle of the River Raisin January 18, 1813. But in the Raisin Defeat a few days later he was severely wounded near his old 1780 wound and taken prisoner.

Three decades later, when Draper interviewed him, the wound was still open and troublesome.

Ballard County in the extreme western part of Kentucky was created in 1842 in honor of Bland W. Ballard, one of the bravest and most daring spirits in the early history of Kentucky.

Despite his wounds and hard fighting, Bland W. Ballard lived to age 93, dying in September 1853 — 72 years after his heroic actions in September 1781 at the Long Run Massacre and Floyd’s Defeat.


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