Although the main British army under Lord Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown in October of 1781, virtually ending war in the east, fighting on the western frontier continued.
Aided by the British garrison at Fort Detroit, Wyandot Indians north of the Ohio River redoubled their efforts to drive the American settlers out of western Virginia (now Kentucky and West Virginia).
British Captain William Caldwell, about 50 British Loyalists along with some 300 Indians crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky with the intention of destroying the settlement of Bryan Station.
The settlers of Bryan Station discovered them and took shelter within their stockade.
On August 15, 1782, Caldwell’s force destroyed the settlers crops and killed all of their livestock, but withdrew after two days when their scouts learned that Kentucky militiamen were on the way to save Bryan Station.
The Kentucky militia arrived at Bryan Station on August 18th.
The force included about 47 men from Fayette County and another 135 men from Lincoln County.
The highest ranking militiaman was Colonel John Todd of Fayette County.
Assisting Todd were two lieutenant colonels, Stephen Trigg of Lincoln County, and the famous Daniel Boone of Fayette County.
Then on the morning of August 19, 1782, at a hill next to the Licking River in what is now Robertson County, Kentucky (but was then in Kentucky County, Virginia), Todd’s force of about
182 Kentucky militiamen reached a salt lick known as the Lower Blue Licks.
A few Wyandot Indian scouts were seen watching them from across the river.
Behind the scouts were British Captain William Caldwell, about 50 British Loyalists along with some 300 Indians.
Kentucky Colonel Todd called a council and asked Daniel Boone, the most experienced woodsman, what he thought.
Boone said he had been growing increasingly suspicious because of the obvious trail the Indians left. He felt the Indians were trying to lead them into an ambush.
Major Hugh McGary, eager to prove he was no coward, argued for an immediate attack.
When no one listened, McGary mounted his horse and rode across the ford.
He yelled out, “Them that ain’t cowards, follow me.”
Todd’s men immediately followed McGary, as did the officers, who hoped to restore order.
Boone was said to have remarked, “We are all slaughtered men,” and crossed the river as well.
Most of the militia dismounted and formed a battle line several rows deep.
They advanced up the hill, Todd and McGary in the center, Trigg on the right, Boone on the left.
As Boone had suspected, Caldwell’s force was waiting on the other side, concealed in ravines. When the Kentuckians reached the summit, the Loyalists opened fire at close range with devastating accuracy.
After only five minutes, the center and right of the Kentucky line fell back.
Only Boone’s men on the left managed to push forward.
Todd and Trigg, easy targets on horseback, were shot dead.
The Kentuckians began to flee down the hill, fighting hand-to-hand against Indians who had flanked them.
McGary rode up to Boone’s company and told him everyone was retreating and that Boone was now surrounded.
Daniel Boone ordered his men to retreat.
Boone grabbed a riderless horse and ordered his 23-year-old son, Israel Boone, to mount it.
Daniel Boone then turned to look for a horse for himself.
Israel Boone suddenly fell to the ground, shot through the neck.
Daniel Boone realized his son was dead, mounted the horse and joined in the retreat.
It was the worst defeat for the Kentuckians during the frontier war.
In response, senior Kentucky militia officer George Rogers Clark, launched a retaliatory raid across the Ohio River in November of 1782. Clark’s force consisted of more than 1,000 men, including Benjamin Logan and Daniel Boone.
The Kentuckians destroyed five unoccupied Shawnee villages on the Great Miami River in the last major offensive of the American Revolution.
No battles took place, since the Shawnees refused to fight and fell back from their villages on the Mad River.
Four years later, the Indian villages on the Mad River would be destroyed by Benjamin Logan at the outset of the Northwest Indian War.
Hugh McGary confronted the Shawnee chief Moluntha and asked if he had been at Blue Licks.
In fact, the Shawnees had not taken part.
Unfortunately, Moluntha misunderstood McGary’s question and nodded his head in agreement. McGary killed him with a tomahawk.
Colonel Logan immediately relieved McGary of his command and ordered him court-martialed for killing a prisoner.
Today, the Blue Licks battle site is commemorated at Blue Licks Battlefield State Park, on U.S. Route 68 between Paris and Maysville, just outside the town of Blue Licks Springs.
The site includes a granite obelisk, burial grounds, and a museum.
Now WE know em