Chief Cornstalk was the leader of the Shawnee forces that confronted Col. Andrew Lewis's colonial army at the Battle of Point Pleasant in October 1774. Born in the 1720s, Cornstalk grew up to become a major leader of his tribe and led a number of raids against colonial settlements during the French and Indian War and Pontiac's Rebellion. After the two conflicts, Cornstalk tried to remain at peace with the colonists, but continued hostilities along the Ohio River compelled him to respond by attacking the colonial army at Point Pleasant, where he was defeated. Later in 1777 Cornstalk tried to warn the Americans at Fort Randolph of British attempts to recruit Native Americans to their side. The Americans immediately imprisoned Cornstalk, later killing him on November 10. His remains were buried buried twice before being interred a final time at the Point Pleasant battlefield in 1954.
was born sometime during the 1720s. His native name was Hokolesqua or Keigh-tugh-qua,
which roughly translates to “maize plant” or blade of corn.” Therefore he
became known to the colonists as Cornstalk. He was a member of the Shawnee
tribe, which at the time of his birth lived in Pennsylvania but was later
forced to move to Ohio. Eventually he became chief of the Shawnee tribe and was
well-respected by both other tribes and the colonists. During the French and Indian
War the Shawnees supported the French, and Cornstalk led a series of raids
against British settlements in western Virginia; on one occasion he reportedly
killed ten settlers in 1759. Soon after the end of the war Cornstalk
participated in Pontiac’s Rebellion of 1763. The conflict was bloody but
short-lived, and in 1764 Cornstalk and several other tribal members were taken
prisoner and held hostage at Fort Pitt in order to enforce a peace treaty with
the Shawnees. He escaped a year later according to some reports.
spent the next several years trying to maintain peace with the colonists.
Increased settlement of the Ohio Valley caused tensions to rise however, and hostilities
began to flare up along the Ohio River. In 1774 Lord Dunmore, the colonial
governor of Virginia, assembled two armies to launch an attack on the Shawnee
tribe. Cornstalk reluctantly rallied a force of around 1,000 fighters to
confront the invasion. In October he crossed the Ohio River and attacked a
colonial army of around the same size at Point Pleasant. The Battle of Point
Pleasant was fought on October 10. Cornstalk, believing that colonial
reinforcements had arrived, ordered a retreat. He signed a peace treaty with
Lord Dunmore a few days later, abandoning Shawnee claims to all land east of
the Ohio River.
the American Revolution, the British tried to recruit the Shawnees to fight
against the Americans. Some of the Shawnees sided with the British, but Cornstalk
was doubtful of victory and sought to keep the peace with the colonists. In
1777 he, his son Elinipsico, and a sub-chief named Red Hawk journeyed to Fort
Randolph in Point Pleasant to warn the American forces there that the British
were turning tribal forces against them. The soldiers immediately imprisoned
Cornstalk and the others, holding them as hostages. On November 10, 1777,
Cornstalk and the other prisoners were murdered by the soldiers in retaliation
for the deaths of two white men who were apparently killed by Native Americans.
his death, Cornstalk was buried near Fort Randolph. In 1840, construction
workers building a new road in the area discovered his grave, which was moved
and reburied on the grounds of the Mason County Courthouse. The courthouse was
demolished in 1954 to make way for a larger one. During the process, Cornstalk’s
grave was uncovered again to be moved to Tu-Endie-Wei State Park, the site of
the Battle of Point Pleasant. By this point only three teeth and fifteen bone
fragments remained of his body. They were sealed in an aluminum box and buried
underneath a small, four-ton stone obelisk in the park.