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Year of the Bloody Sevens

As the American Revolution raged on, the British escalated their efforts against American settlers in the West by enlisting more help from allied Indians. The British hoped Americans would divert troops from the east to protect the western frontier.

In July 1777, fifteen bands of Indians were sent by the British from Detroit to raid the frontier settlements.

George Rogers Clark described those dark days at Harrodsburg in his later Memoir: "No people could be in a more alarming situation. Detached at least two hundred miles from the nearest settlements of the states, surrounded by numerous nations of Indians, each one far superior to ourselves in numbers and under the influence of the British government and pointedly directed to destroy us."

Hamilton Incites the Indians
Hamilton Incites the Indians

It is well-documented that Governor Henry Hamilton sent warring parties to attack the Kentucky settlements. What historians have long debated is whether he encouraged American Indians to scalp their victims. In several documents, Clark referred to Hamilton as the "Hair-buyer General." Hamilton wrote a defense himself, dated 1782, which says in part: "No party was sent out without one or more white persons, who had orders and instructions in writing to attend to the behaviour of the Indians, protect defenceless persons and prevent any insult or barbarity being exercised on the Prisoners."

Historian John D. Barnhart sums up this question: "There will probably always be individuals who believe that Hamilton bought scalps and other individuals who believe that he did not. The truth, however, probably lies in between these contradictory views. He directed Indian warfare knowing what was involved. He paid the Indians for their services and received prisoners and scalps as a measure of the efficiency of their services. He endeavored to persuade the warriors that they should fight in a humane way, but the change which he thought he had brought about was not observable by the Kentuckians. Indian warfare, however, did not cease when Hamilton was captured. It grew even worse."

John D. Barnhart, ed., Henry Hamiton and George Rogers Clark in the American Revolution with the Unpublished Journal of Lieut. Gov. Henry Hamilton (Crawfordsville, Ind.: R. E. Banta, 1951), pp. 35, 36, 219.

A Commemorative History of the George Rogers Clark Bicentennial Exhibit (Indianapolis: Indiana State Museum Society, 1976), p. 21.

Clark Defending the Stockade
Clark Defending the Stockade

Lowell Thomas, The Hero of Vincennes: The Story of George Rogers Clark. Illustrations by F. C. Yohn (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1929), facing p. 46.

George Rogers Clark, in his Memoir, described the dark days in Kentucky in 1777. ". . . During the past severe spring and summer our conduct was very uniform. The defense of our forts, the procuring of provisions, and, when possible, suppressing the Indians (which was frequently done), burying the dead and dressing the wounded, seemed to be all our business."

225th Anniversary Exhibit