1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Point Pleasant

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16946441911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 21 — Point Pleasant

POINT PLEASANT, a town and the county-seat of Mason county, West Virginia, U.S.A., on the Ohio river, at the mouth of the Kanawha river, and about midway between Pittsburg and Cincinnati. Pop. (1900) 1934; (1910) 2045. It is served directly by the Baltimore & Ohio and the Kanawha & Michigan (controlled by the Hocking Valley) railways, and by the Hocking Valley railway on the opposite side of the Ohio river. The Kanawha river is navigable (by the use of locks and dams) for 90 m. above the town, and Point Pleasant is a re-shipping point for Kanawha coal. Coal and salt are mined in the vicinity, but the surrounding country is principally agricultural. The battle of Point Pleasant, the only important engagement in “Lord Dunmore's War,” was fought here on the 10th of October 1774 between about 1100 Virginia militiamen, under General Andrew Lewis (c. 1720–1781),[1] and about 1000 Shawnees and their allies, under their chief, Cornstalk (c. 1720–1777).[2] Lewis had been ordered to meet Lord Dunmore here with a body of militiamen (recruited from Botetourt, West Augusta and Fincastle counties), but when he reached the mouth of the Kanawha, after marching 160 m. from Fort Union (now Lewisburg, W. Va.), Dunmore's force, which was to have gone over the Braddock trail to Fort Pitt, and thence down the Ohio river, had not arrived. Early on the morning of the 10th the Indians suddenly attacked, and the battle continued fiercely throughout the day. At night the Indians crossed the Ohio river, leaving behind many of their dead. The whites lost about 144 in killed and wounded, Colonel Charles Lewis (1733–1774), a brother of the commanding officer, being among the former. In December Lord Dunmore concluded a treaty with the Indians, by which they surrendered their claim to lands south of the Ohio and agreed not to molest whites travelling to the western country. The battle, which overawed the Indians, and the treaty, which was not seriously broken for three years, made possible the rapid settlement of the western country, especially of Kentucky, during the early years of the War of Independence.[3] Four years before the battle the Virginia House of Burgesses had awarded to General Lewis, for his earlier services in the French and Indian War, 9876 acres of land, including the present site of Point Pleasant; the survey of this grant was made by George Washington. After the battle General Lewis sent a detachment to build a fort (called Fort Blair) here; in 1776 Fort Randolph (abandoned in 1779) was erected on the same site, and in 1785 (from which year the permanent settlement of the town may be dated) a third fort was built here. Daniel Boone lived here from 1788 until about 1799. In 1794 the village of Point Pleasant was platted; it was incorporated as a town in 1833. A granite monument (86 ft. high) commemorating the battle was unveiled on the 10th of October 1909.

See J. T. McAllister’s article, “The Battle of Point Pleasant,” in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (1901–1902), vol x., and Virgil A. Lewis, History of the Battle of Point Pleasant (Charleston, W. Va., 1909).

  1. General Lewis was born in Donegal, Ireland; served with Washington at Fort Necessity and at Braddock's defeat; was commissioner from Virginia to conclude the treaty with the Six Nations at Fort Stanwix (1768); was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses for several years; served as a brigadier-general in the War of Independence; and in 1776 forced Lord Dunmore to retire from Gwynn's Island, in Chesapeake Bay, where he had taken refuge.
  2. Cornstalk and his son were killed within the fort at Point Pleasant in November 1777 by Virginian soldiers (contrary to the protests of their commanding officers), who thus avenged the death of a comrade. He was at the time warning the garrison of his inability to hold the Shawnees to the terms of the treaty of 1774. There is a granite monument (erected in 1899) over his grave in the yard of the court-house.
  3. Various American writers have asserted that Lord Dunmore incited the Indians to attack the frontier in order to divert the colonists from their opposition to Great Britain, and that he purposely refrained from effecting a junction with Lewis, so that Lewis might be defeated and Virginia thus be greatly crippled on the eve of the threatened war with the mother country; and the battle itself has accordingly frequently been referred to as the first battle of the War of Independence. The assertions with regard to Lord Dunmore, however, rest on circumstantial evidence alone, and have never been conclusively proved.