Governor John Dunmore


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Seal Lord DunmoreDunmore, JOHN MURRAY, EARL OF, royal governor; born in Scotland in 1732; was descended in the feminine line from the house of Stuart. He was made governor of New York in January, 1770, and of Virginia, July, 1771, arriving there early in 1772. When the Virginia Assembly recommended a committee of correspondence (March, 1773), he immediately dissolved it, and in May, 1774, he again dissolved the Assembly because it had passed a resolution making the 1st of June a day of fasting and prayer. This was the same day which had been appointed by the Massachusetts legislature for the same purpose.

In 1775, finding the people of his colony committed to the cause of freedom, he engaged in a conspiracy to bring the Indians in hostile array against the Virginia frontier. He employed Dr. John Connelly, whom he had commissioned in 1774 to lead a movement for sustaining the claims of Virginia to the whole district of Pennsylvania west of the Alleghany Mountains. He was a native of Pennsylvania, and lived at Pittsburg; and it is believed that he suggested to Dunmore the plan of combining the Western Indians against the colonists. He visited General Gage at Boston early in the autumn of 1775, and immediately after his return to Williamsburg he left Dunmore and departed for the Ohio country, with two companions. They were stopped near Hagerstown as suspicious persons, sent back to Frederick, and there an examination of Connelly's papers revealed the whole nefarious plot. He bore Dunmore's commission of colonel, and was directed to raise a regiment in the western country and Canada, the rendezvous to be at Detroit, where hostilities against the white people might be more easily fomented among the Indians. Thence he was to march in the spring, enter Virginia with a motley force, and meet Dunmore at Alexandria, on the Potomac, who would be there with a military and naval force. The arrest of Connelly frustrated the design. He was put in jail and his papers were sent to the Continental Congress. He was kept a prisoner until about the end of the war.

What is known historically as "Dunmore's War " was a campaign against the Ohio Indians undertaken by Lord Dunmore in 1774. The cold-blooded murder of the family of LOGAN, an eminent Mingo chief, and other atrocities, had caused fearful retaliation on the part of the barbarians. While Pennsylvanians and the agents of the Six Nations were making efforts for peace, Governor Dunmore, bent on war, called for volunteers, and 400 of these were gathered on the banks of the Ohio, a little below Wheeling. This force marched against and destroyed (August 7, 1774) a Shawnee town on the Muskingum. They were followed by Dunmore, with 1,500 Virginians, who pressed forward against an Indian village on the Scioto, while Colonel Andrew Lewis, with 1,200 men, encountered a force of Indians at Point Pleasant, at the mouth of the Great Kanawha River (October 10) , where a bloody battle ensued. The Indians were led by Logan, Cornstalk, and other braves. The Virginians were victorious, but lost seventy men killed and wounded. Dunmore was charged with inciting the Indian war and arranging the campaign so as to carry out his political plans. It was charged that he arranged the expedition so as to have the force under Lewis annihilated by the Indians, and thereby weaken the physical strength and break down the spirits of the Virginians, for they were defying royal power. His efforts afterwards to incite a servile insurrection in Virginia for the same purpose show that he was capable of exercising almost any means to accomplish his ends. The Indians in the Ohio country, alarmed at the approach of Dunmore, had hastened to make peace. Logan refused to attend the conference for the purpose, but sent a speech which became famous in history. Dunmore's officers in that expedition, having heard of the movements in New England, and of the Continental Congress, held a meeting at Fort Gower (mouth of the Hockhocking River), and after complimenting the governor and declaring their allegiance to the King, resolved to maintain the rights of the colonists by every means in their power.

Dunmore PalaceThe bold movement in the Virginia convention (March, 1775) excited the official wrath of Governor Dunmore, who stormed in proclamations; and to frighten the Virginians (or probably, with a more mischievous intent), he caused a rumor to be circulated that he intended to excite an insurrection among the slaves. Finally, late in April, he caused marines to come secretly at night from the Fowey, a sloop-of-war in the York River, and carry to her the powder in the old magazine at Williamsburg. The movement was discovered. The minute-men assembled at dawn, and were with difficulty restrained from seizing the governor. The assembled people sent a respectful remonstrance to Dunmore, complaining of the act as specially cruel at that time, when a servile insurrection was apprehended. The governor replied evasively, and the people demanded the return of the powder. When Patrick Henry heard of the act, he gathered a corps of volunteers and marched towards the capital. The frightened governor sent a deputation to meet him. One of them was the receiver-general of the province. They met 16 miles from Williamsburg, where the matter was compromised by the receiver-general paying the full value of the powder. Henry sent the money to the public treasury and returned home.

In November, 1775, Lord Dunmore proceeded in the warship Fowey to Norfolk, where he proclaimed freedom to all slaves who should join the royal standard, which he had unfurled, and take up arms against the "rebels." He declared martial law throughout Virginia, and made Norfolk the rendezvous for a British fleet. He sent marauding parties on the shores of the Elizabeth and James rivers to distress the Whig inhabitants. Being repelled with spirit, he resolved to strike a severe blow that should produce terror. He began to lay waste the country around. The people were aroused and the militia were rapidly gathering for the defense of the inhabitants, when Dunmore, becoming alarmed, constructed batteries at Norfolk, armed the Tories and negroes, and fortified a passage over the Elizabeth River, known as the Great Bridge, a point where he expected the militiamen to march to attack him. Being repulsed in a battle there (December 9, 1775), Dunmore abandoned his entrenchments at Norfolk and repaired to his ships, when, menaced by famine —for the people would not furnish supplies—and annoyed by shots from some of the houses, he cannonaded the town (January 1, 1776) and sent sailors and marines ashore to set it on fire. The greater portion of the compact part of the city was burned while the cannonade was kept up. The part of the city which escaped was presently burned by the Virginians to prevent it from becoming a shelter to the enemy. Thus perished, a prey to civil war, the largest and richest of the rising towns of Virginia. After committing other depredations on the Virginia coast, he landed on Gwyn's Island, in Chesapeake Bay, with 500 men, black and white, east up some entrenchments, and built a stockade fort. Virginia militia, under General Andrew Lewis, attacked and drove him from the island. In this engagement Dunmore was wounded. Burning several of his vessels that were aground, Dunmore sailed away with the remainder, with a large amount of booty, among which were about 1,000 slaves. After more plundering on the coast the vessels were dispersed, some to the West Indies, some to the Bermudas and St. Augustine, and Dunmore himself proceeded to join the naval force at New York, and soon afterwards went to England. In 1786 Dunmore was made governor of Bermuda. He died in Ramsgate, England, in May, 1809.



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