The Battle of the Trough, March or April 1756, was a skirmish of the early French and Indian War (1754–63) fought between Native Americans and British settlers in the valley of the South Branch Potomac River in what is now northern Hardy County, West Virginia.
After the defeat of General Edward Braddock at the Battle of
the Monongahela, white settlers of the Allegheny Mountains were largely unprotected
from attack from Shawnee and Delaware Indians. In October two forts were raised
in the North Branch Valley on Patterson Creek to help protect the white
settlers of the area. Colonel George Washington ordered Captain Thomas Waggener
to leave Fort Cumberland with his company and proceed up the South Branch. His
orders directed him to construct two forts in the area above the rugged gorge
known locally as The Trough and to station detachments accordingly
to best protect the settlers on the upper South Branch.
That spring of 1756, after being defeated by Capt. Jeremiah
Smith at the head of the Capon River two Indians from the defeated remnant
force near the present day Cabins, West Virginia when encountered two white women.
One of these they killed (tomahawked and scalped) outright and the other they
took prisoner. The party then proceeded to the vicinity of Fort Pleasant at
present day Old Fields and the lowermost of Waggener's two forts were the woman
held prisoner escaped, or by some accounts was let go to draw the white men out
of the fort.
The woman alerted the men about what had happened to her and
where the Indians were camping. She stated
that she did not encounter any other Indians within the area. The battle that occurred
is best told by James Parsons who was a young participant in the battle:
“[The Indians]…divided into small squads and appointed a
time and place of combining their force at a large spring at the lower end of
the valley, a few miles below Fort Pleasant…. According to arrangement, a part
of them made their appearance before that fort early in the morning and fired a
few shots at the fort, and then marched off down the valley in full view....
Encouraged by the small number that made their appearance, spies were
immediately sent out to ascertain if any other signs or trails could be
discovered. They soon returned and reported that there was no other signs or trails,
and that there could be plenty of men spared from the fort to follow and avenge
the depredations recently committed by them. Immediate preparations were
accordingly made for hot pursuit….
That morning, 16 or 18 well-armed and mounted white men moved
out from the fort, and from Buttermilk Fort (Waggener's upper fort some five
miles upstream), intending to attack the Indians. These men were said to be
seasoned and tough Indian fighters. They soon dismounted and divided into two
parties for a “pincer” approach and moved north behind the Indians into the
rugged gorge known as “The Trough” for its steep and impassable slopes. Owing
to a noisy dog, however, they soon completely lost the element of surprise.”
Losing the element of surprise and surprised to be
outnumbered by 60 to 70 Indian warriors under the command of Shawnee chief
Killbuck the 16 to 18 white men from the fort were forced to retreat back to
Fort Pleasant. Seven of the white men
were dead and four were wounded and only four Shawnee warriors were killed and
several wounded. The Indians also
confiscated all of the horses that the white men had brought to avenge the
white woman. British Captain Waggener
had failed to help the settlers even only being a mile and a half away. To add insult, some settlers called Captain
Waggener a coward and were rounded up and whipped.