SOUTH CHARLESTON — In West Virginia, 2013 will be marked by numerous historical commemorative events highlighting the year 1863. That’s the year the American Civil War brought about great changes to our nation, not the least of which was the federal recognition and creation of West Virginia as the 35th state.
Subsumed in the 150th birth year celebration is another anniversary of no less importance and perhaps with even greater impact on the future of the region that would become “The Mountain State,” the 250th anniversary of Shawnee warrior Cornstalk’s raid on the western Virginia Euro-American settlements in the Trans-Allegheny region. Cornstalk burst onto the scene of recorded history in 1763 when, against the British colony of Virginia, he conducted a military campaign that was arguably one of the most successful campaigns of Pontiac’s War. Cornstalk’s campaign took place through the Kanawha/New River valley to colonial settlements in the Greenbrier country, upper New River valley, Roanoke River, and Jackson’s River.
The living history educators of Trails, Inc. will commemorate this history-changing event throughout 2013 at various sites. The series is staged at three state parks and other areas: Kanawha State Forest, May 4; Tu-Endie-Wei State Park, June 1; Lake Sherwood Recreation Area (Monongahela National Forest), June 19; Sandstone Visitor Center (National Park Service) July 6; and Hawks Nest State Park, Sept. 7.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn of the cultural differences leading to conflict between the Shawnees and Trans-Allegheny Virginians in 1763. Cultural life-ways, such as warrior camps, Virginia settler forts, prisoner treatment, food gathering/growing, gender roles, children’s activities, and language, will be explored through lecture, living history demonstration, and hands-on activities. The opportunity to interpret Cornstalk’s Raid in an audience-interactive, multi-faceted manner, with an unbiased treatment of all sides in the conflict, will never be better.
“The Roots of the Un-Civil War” series is the cooperative effort of the West Virginia Humanities Council, The New River Gorge National River, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia State Parks, and Trails, Inc. The complete schedule and activities at each state park date is posted online at www.wvstateparks.com, Event Calendar tab, Summer Programs.
About Cornstalk’s Campaign
There is little question that Cornstalk’s leadership of the Shawnee led to the most successful campaign of all American Indian operations in western Virginia. In terms of the number of enemy settlements abandoned, the number of captives taken, and the number of enemy killed, no other field commanders’ campaigns in the region came close to Cornstalk’s success in 1763.
This campaign honed Cornstalk’s skills at war and alliance-building. His experiences in 1763 made him a formidable foe during Dunmore’s War 11 years later, an effective peacemaker after that war, as well as an astute ally of the American cause during the beginning years of the American Revolution. His 1763 military campaign changed the attitudes of succeeding generations of western Virginians towards their American Indian neighbors.
His murder in 1777, while he was on a peace mission to Fort Randolph, was a revenge slaying committed by family members of western Virginians killed in 1763 by Cornstalk’s warriors.
Activities will be in an 18th century warrior camp outdoor setting. Living history interpreters will highlight Shawnee women’s and men’s social roles. Interpreters will demonstrate warrior/hunter skills, including communication signs and symbols, trail food preparation, tracking prowess, and long-distance travel techniques. May 4 and June 1 events include a special focus on Nonhelema, Cornstalk’s sister, and her historical role as peacemaker after the 1763 campaign.
One interpreter will lead a medicinal, edible, useful plant fiber walk to highlight Shawnee knowledge of native plant uses. Since numerous captives were taken on the campaign, prisoner treatment will be demonstrated as well. The campaign circuit was between 300 and 500 miles long, so long-distance travel considerations will be demonstrated and discussed. Interpreters (one dressed and accoutered as a partisan fighter and another dressed and accoutered as a mid-19th century Virginian farmer) will highlight the cultural inheritance of Civil War-era war tactics, agricultural practices, etc., from Shawnee to western Virginian.
Fort Randolph Terrace will host a PowerPoint presentation on 18th century Shawnee culture and history. Interpreters will lead a walk along the adjacent floodwall to explain the Shawnee-Virginian history highlighted on the beautiful frescoes. On this same day, the Eastern Woodland Indian Gathering (EWIG) at nearby Fort Randolph is occurring. The reconstructed fort will be the scene of EWI skills demonstrations open to the public all day. The two events are complementary.
Living history interpreters will highlight Shawnee women’s and men’s social roles. Some interpreters will focus on regional agricultural and wild gathering cultural practices inherited from the 18th century Shawnee, as well as lead a medicinal, edible, useful plant fiber walk to highlight Shawnee knowledge of native plant uses. Prisoner treatment will be demonstrated as well. Interpreters (one dressed and accoutered as a partisan fighter and another dressed and accoutered as a mid-19th century Virginian farmer) will highlight the cultural inheritance of Civil War era war tactics, agricultural practices, etc. from Shawnee to western Virginian.