By Bill Federer
Daniel Boone leading settlers through the Cumberland Gap
During the French and Indian War, 20-year-old Daniel Boone and his cousin, future General Daniel Morgan, served as wagon drivers for the British in the Battle of Monongahela, July 9, 1755. Also in that battle, 23-year-old George Washington served as a Colonel under British General Edward Braddock. Out of 1,400 British troops, 900 were killed.
In 1765, at age 30, Daniel Boone explored Florida. Boone once exclaimed: “I can’t say I was ever lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.”
Daniel Boone’s Quaker family had pioneered North Carolina’s Yadkin River Valley. In 1767, Boone began exploring Kentucky. In 1769, he traveled through the Cumberland Gap in the mountains and spent two years hunting and trapping in eastern Kentucky with his friend, John Stewart. Indians captured and separated them, Unfortunately, Boone later found John Stewart’s body shot dead.
In 1773, Daniel Boone and Captain William Russell were ordered by Virginia’s Governor, Lord Dunmore, to settle an area called Castle Woods. Boone’s 17-year-old son, James Boone, and Captain Russell’s 17-year-old son, Henry Russell, were bringing supplies to Castle Woods when they were ambushed by Indians and brutally massacred.
Lord Dunmore wrote: “In the past year, 1773, the Indians killed … a very promising young man … in one of the back countries. … Captain William Russell … was the first that discovered the dismal spectacle of the dead body of his son, mangled in horrible manner.”
Captain William Russell left Daniel Boone in charge of Moore’s Fort in lower Castle Woods from 1773-1775. When the Revolution began, Lord Dunmore fled and Patrick Henry was elected the first American Governor of Virginia.
A fort was named Fort Patrick Henry, from which Daniel Boone set off from in 1775 to survey Kentucky for the Pennsylvania Company. Boone erected a fort on the Kentucky River, which he named Boonesboro.
On July 14, 1776, Boone’s daughter Jemima and her teenage friends, Fanny and Betsy Callaway, decided to leave the confines of Boonesboro and were captured by Shawnee Indians. Boone and his men caught up with them two days later, ambushed the Indians while they were stopped for a meal, and rescued the girls. James Fenimore Cooper drew from this incident in writing his classic book, “The Last of the Mohicans” (1826).
On April 24, 1777, Shawnee Indians were recruited by the British Governor of Canada to attack Boonesboro. Led by Chief Blackfish, the attack was repelled, though Daniel Boone was shot in the leg. As Shawnees destroyed cattle and crops, food supplies running low and settlers needed salt to preserve meat. In January 1778, having recovered from his wound, Boone led a party to get salt from Licking River. They were captured by Chief Blackfish’s warriors who took some to Chilicothe, and others to near Detroit. Boone and his men were made to run the gauntlet, as the Indian custom was to adopt prisoners into their tribe to replace fallen warriors. Daniel Boone was given the Shawnee name Sheltowee, meaning “Big Turtle.”
On June 16, 1778, Boone learned that Chief Blackfish planned to attack Boonesboro, so he escaped and raced 160 miles in five days, on horseback then on foot, to warn the settlement. Beginning Sept. 7, 1778, Boone successfully repelled the ten-day siege by Chief Blackfish’s warriors.
In the autumn of 1779, Boone led another party of immigrants to Boonesboro, among whom, according to tradition, was the family of Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather. Daniel Boone joined General George Rogers Clark’s invasion of Ohio, fighting the Battle of Piqua on Aug. 7, 1780.
In October, 1780, Daniel Boone was hunting with his brother, Edward, when Shawnee Indians attacked. They cut off Edward’s head and took it back as a trophy.
Boone was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Fayette County militia, November 1780. In April 1781, Boone was elected as to Virginia’s General Assembly, and as he traveled to Richmond to take his seat, British dragoons under Colonel Banastre Tarleton captured him near Charlottesville. The British released Boone on parole, and not long after Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in October 1781.
Boone returned to Kentucky, and though Cornwallis had surrendered, some British continued to fight. In one of the last battles of the Revolution, the Battle of Blue Licks, Aug. 19, 1782, Daniel Boone was among those fighting hand-to-hand against 50 British Loyalists and 300 Indians. Daniel Boone’s son Israel was shot in the neck and killed.
In November 1782, Daniel Boone was a part of the last major campaign of the war with Clark’s expedition into Ohio. In 1782, Boone was elected sheriff of Fayette County. He bought land in Kentucky but lost it due to poorly prepared titles. Boone left Kentucky in 1799 and bought land in the Spanish Territory of Missouri, west of the Mississippi River. When Spain transferred this land to France, and France sold it to the United States as the Louisiana Purchase, 1803, Boone lost his title to this land too. A special act of Congress gave him back his land just six years before his death.
When the War of 1812 started, Daniel Boone volunteered for duty but was turned down due to his age of 78.
Boone was known to have a habit of taking the Bible with him on hunting expeditions, often reading it to others around the campfire. Daniel Boone and his wife Rebecca had all of their ten children baptized.
Prior to Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, there was no standard spelling of words in America. This is seen in Daniel Boone’s letter Oct. 17, 1816, to Sarah (Day) Boone, wife of his older brother Samuel, who lived with their daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Leonard Bradley, in Missouri (Reuben Gold Thwaites, Daniel Boone, NY: O. Appleton, 1902): “Dear Sister, I wright to you to Latt you know I have not forgot you and to inform you of my own situation Sence the Death of your Sister Rabacah I Live with (Mr.) Flanders Calaway But am at present at my sun Nathans and in tolerable halth you can gass at my feilings by your own as we are So Near one age I Need Not write you of our Satuation as Samuel Bradley or James Grimes Can inform you of Every Surcomstance Relating to our family and how we live in this World and what Chance we shall have in the next we know Not for my part I am as ignerant as a Child all the Relegan (Religion) I have to Love and fear God beleve in Jeses Christ, Do all the good to my Nighbours and my Self that I can and Do as Little Harm as I can help and trust on God’s marcy for the Rest and I Beleve god never made a man of my prinsepal to be Lost and I flatter myself Dear Sister that you are well on your way in Cristianaty gave my Love to all your Children and all my frends, fearwell my Dear Sister, Daniel Boone.”
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Daniel Boone died Sept. 26, 1820. He was buried in the Old Bryan Farm graveyard, but his remains were moved to Kentucky’s Frankfort Cemetery, though some claim the wrong bones were moved. Hazel Atterbury Spraker wrote in “The Boone Family” (1982, page 578): “Daniel was buried near the body of his wife, in a cemetery established in 1803 by David Bryan, upon the bank of a small stream called Teuque Creek about one and one-half miles southeast of the present site of the town of Marthasville in Warren County, Missouri, it being at that time the only Protestant cemetery North of the Missouri River.”
In “The Works of Theodore Roosevelt,” Vol. IX – The Winning of the West – An account of the exploration and settlement of our country from the Alleghanies to the Pacific (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, National Edition, 1926, p. 43), Theodore Roosevelt wrote: “Boone … occupied quite a prominent position, and served as a Representative in the Virginia legislature, while his fame as a hunter and explorer was now spread abroad in the United States, and even Europe. To travelers and newcomers generally, he was always pointed out as the first discoverer of Kentucky; and, being modest, self-contained, and self-reliant, he always impressed them favorably. …”
Theodore Roosevelt continued: “Boone’s creed in matters of morality and religion was as simple and straightforward as his own character. Late in life he wrote to one of his kinsfolk (sister-in-law, Sarah Boone, October 17, 1816): ‘The religion I have is to love and fear God, believe in Jesus Christ, do all the good to my neighbor, and myself that I can, do as little harm as I can help, and trust on God’s mercy for the rest.’ The old pioneer always kept the respect of red men and white, of friend and foe, for he acted according to his belief.”
NBC did a television series on Daniel Boone, starring Fess Parker, for six seasons, 1964-1970.
Related to Daniel Boone are:
- actor Richard Boone of the CBS television series “Have Gun – Will Travel,” 1957-1963
- Randy Boone of the NBC television series “The Virginian” 1963-1966
- Grammy Award-winning singer Debby Boone
- Pat Boone, who appeared in more than a dozen Hollywood films, including “The Cross and the Switchblade,” 1970, sold over 45 million records, had 38 Top 40 hits, and holds the Billboard record of 220 consecutive weeks on the charts with one or more songs per week
In the straightforward spirit of Daniel Boone, Pat Boone wrote “The President Without a Country” (June 6, 2009, WND.com) in response to President Obama’s comment “We’re no longer a Christian nation”: “You surely can’t be referring to the United States of America, can you? America is emphatically a Christian nation, and has been from its inception! Seventy percent of her citizens identify themselves as Christian. The Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were framed, written and ratified by Christians. It’s because this was, and is, a nation built on and guided by Judeo-Christian biblical principles that you, sir, have had the inestimable privilege of being elected her president.”
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