The Siege of Fort Loudoun, 1765

 

Friday marked the 253rd Anniversary of the Siege of Fort Loudoun, November 16–18, 1765.

This happened at Fort Loudoun, Pennsylvania. A company of frontier militia, known locally as “The Black Boys” for the distinctive way they blackened their faces with soot and grease, laid siege to the local fort, then manned by a detachment of British regulars. These troops, experienced soldiers of the 42nd Royal Scots Regiment of Foot, also known as “the Black Watch,” were pinned down for two full days by the continuous harassment and interdiction fire from the militiamen’s rifles. Despite holding what ought to have been a superior position given the prevailing infantry tactics of the time, the British commander surrendered the fort and retreated back to Fort Pitt. There were no deaths, but neither were the British ever able to employ maneuver to bring their smoothbore muskets or bayonets against the militia.

Relations between the local residents of the region around Fort Loudoun and the British soldiers had been deteriorating for some time, starting with a dispute of trade goods crossing the frontier earlier in the year. After several increasingly violent exchanges, the uprising culminated in the siege. After it was over, the British Army withdrew from the region completely, and never re-garrisoned the fort.

The Black Boys militia were able to achieve success by applying new tactics and new weapons to achieve parity with the superior discipline and conventional tactics of the British regulars. My research leads me to conclude that the 1765 Siege of Fort Loudoun was the first time American militiamen fought with and defeated British regulars, a harbinger of later events during the War of Independence.

There are 12 comments.

  1. The Reticulator Member

    That sounds like it could have come from your thesis.

    But given that you’ve been studying that time and place, how about an event a little further west and a little later in time? I’m asking on the chance that you might know something about it. 

    A county history from further west in Ohio has this from a biographical sketch: 

    “[Anthony Miller] was a native of Hardy County, on Lost River, Va., and was all through the Revolutionary War. He was present at the massacre of Little Wheeling, Va., where but a very few escaped the tomahawk of the savages. He was Lieutenant of the company that followed the Indians to Little Wheeling.”

    As far as I can tell, “Little Wheeling” is not a settlement or village, but a stream in Pennsylvania that flows into the one that flows into the Ohio at Wheeling. But so far I haven’t been able to match up this incident with any other information. I can’t say I’ve exhausted all resources; I had to move on soon after I came across it a few days ago.

    I’m interested in this man’s son and grandson, who were settlers in Wyandot County and had some interesting interactions with the Wyandot and Delaware Indians there.

    I have found some online genealogies for this Miller family, but the compilers of those genealogies have nothing more than what is quoted above.

     

     

    • #1
    • November 16, 2018, at 1:07 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Postmodern Hoplite Member
    Postmodern Hoplite Post author

    Regrets, @thereticulator, I haven’t come across anything relating to the massacre at Little Wheeling, VA. But now that I’ve heard of it, I’ll keep an ear to the rail. Also, I’ll double check a few sources I have specific to the Virginia Militia. Maybe I can find something?

    • #2
    • November 16, 2018, at 9:15 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. The Reticulator Member

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    Regrets, @thereticulator, I haven’t come across anything relating to the massacre at Little Wheeling, VA. But now that I’ve heard of it, I’ll keep an ear to the rail. Also, I’ll double check a few sources I have specific to the Virginia Militia. Maybe I can find something?

    Thanks.

    • #3
    • November 16, 2018, at 9:51 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Thank you, dear Hoplite for more learning and enjoyment!

    • #4
    • November 16, 2018, at 10:07 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. The Reticulator Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    Regrets, @thereticulator, I haven’t come across anything relating to the massacre at Little Wheeling, VA. But now that I’ve heard of it, I’ll keep an ear to the rail. Also, I’ll double check a few sources I have specific to the Virginia Militia. Maybe I can find something?

    Thanks.

    I’m looking at The History of the Upper Ohio Valley (1890) to get an idea of how people in the region might have viewed these events a few generations later. I’m trying to figure out if this “Little Wheeling” episode is one of those talked about there. Not sure yet. 

    Question: Do you happen to know if there any go-to sources for rosters of Revolutionary War era militias? I know where to find rosters of Michigan militia men in the Black Hawk war, for example, or for Ohio militia men in the War of 1812. Record-keeping was a bit sketchy back then, so even the “official” rosters aren’t always complete. But they are pretty good. What about the Revolutionary War era? I know that some relevant information can sometimes be found in the pension applications of old soldiers. But those aren’t so easy to get at, especially for free. 

    • #5
    • November 17, 2018, at 7:28 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. She Thatcher
    She

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Thank you, dear Hoplite for more learning and enjoyment!

    Dittoes on this. Fascinating. @postmodernhoplite, you’ve inspired me to finish a post I’ve been fiddling around with for months. Thanks.

    • #6
    • November 18, 2018, at 5:55 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Concretevol Thatcher

    Thought you meant this siege of Fort Loudon:

    “Fort Loudoun was a British colonial-era fort located in what is now Monroe County, Tennessee, United States. Built in 1756 and 1757 to help garner Cherokee support for the British at the outset of the Seven Years’ War, the fort was one of the first significant British outposts west of the Appalachian Mountains. The fort was designed by John William G. De Brahm, its construction was supervised by Captain Raymond Demeré, and its garrison was commanded by Demeré’s brother, Paul Demeré. It was named for the Earl of Loudoun, the commander of British forces in North America at the time.[4]

    Relations between the garrison of Fort Loudoun and the local Cherokee inhabitants were initially cordial, but soured in 1758 due to hostilities between Cherokee fighters and European settlers in Virginia and South Carolina. After the massacre of several Cherokee chiefs who were being held hostage at Fort Prince George, the Cherokee laid siege to Fort Loudoun in March 1760. The fort’s garrison held out for several months, but diminishing supplies forced its surrender in August 1760. Hostile Cherokees attacked the fort’s garrison as it marched back to South Carolina, killing more than two dozen and taking most of the survivors prisoner.[4]

    • #7
    • November 18, 2018, at 6:15 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Steve C. Member

    Postmodern Hoplite: Despite holding what ought to have been a superior position given the prevailing infantry tactics of the time, the British commander surrendered the fort and retreated back to Fort Pitt.

    The British commander exercised good judgment. He recognized the weakness of his position and acted accordingly. His troops were under harassing fire. His supplies were likely limited. No way to communicate to request support. While he might have prevailed in a stand up fight, I doubt the colonials would have cooperated.

     

    • #8
    • November 18, 2018, at 7:22 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Postmodern Hoplite Member
    Postmodern Hoplite Post author

    Steve C. (View Comment):
    The British commander exercised good judgment. He recognized the weakness of his position and acted accordingly.

    You make a good point here. The best first-hand account we have of the fight is Lieutenant Charles Grant’s initial report upon arriving at Fort Pitt. A relief force actually had arrived to reinforce the Highlanders, but Grant elected to withdraw. He might have retaken the fort with the available troops, but had no clear orders of what he and his soldiers were supposed to achieve in occupying Fort Loudoun in the first place. I think this is one of the key take-aways modern military professionals ought to be studying: if a great power is going to deploy occupying forces, what specific objectives are those forces supposed to accomplish?

    • #9
    • November 18, 2018, at 7:38 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Postmodern Hoplite Member
    Postmodern Hoplite Post author

    Concretevol (View Comment):
    Thought you meant this siege of Fort Loudon…

    When I started my research, I was a bit surprised to learn that there were three Fort Loudouns built during the French and Indian War. Each was named after John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun, British Commander-in-Chief in 1756.

    • #10
    • November 18, 2018, at 7:50 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Steve C. Member

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):
    The British commander exercised good judgment. He recognized the weakness of his position and acted accordingly.

    You make a good point here. The best first-hand account we have of the fight is Lieutenant Charles Grant’s initial report upon arriving at Fort Pitt. A relief force actually had arrived to reinforce the Highlanders, but Grant elected to withdraw. He might have retaken the fort with the available troops, but had no clear orders of what he and his soldiers were supposed to achieve in occupying Fort Loudoun in the first place. I think this is one of the key take-aways modern military professionals ought to be studying: if a great power is going to deploy occupying forces, what specific objectives are those forces supposed to accomplish?

    Strategic corporals need clear direction.

    • #11
    • November 18, 2018, at 8:16 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Steve C. Member

    This is one of my favorite military comedy bits and fits right in

    • #12
    • November 19, 2018, at 6:02 AM PDT
    • 2 likes