In West Virginia, the year 2013 marked the 150th anniversary of the state’s creation in 1863. But 2013 also marked the 250th anniversary of an event of no less importance and perhaps with even greater impact on the future course of history in the region that one hundred years later became “The Mountain State”. In 1763, Shawnee Warrior Cornstalk conducted a military campaign that was arguably one of the most successful campaigns of the War for the Middle Ground, a.k.a. Pontiac’s War. Cornstalk burst onto the scene of recorded history in that year when his army attacked a very successful raid on the western Virginia Euro-American settlements in the Trans-Allegheny region. Cornstalk’s 1763 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.
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 eleven years later, an effective peace-maker 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.
Throughout the year 2013, the living history educators of Trails, Inc. commemorated this history-changing event in West Virginia’s past. Several events were held at state and national facilities near the campaign corridor, with funding from the WV Humanities Council, WV Parks, the National Park Service via its private partner Eastern National, Monongahela National Forest, Pricketts Fort Memorial Foundation, the WV Conservation Agency via its affiliate Mountain RC&D, and Trails Inc. Nearly 1,000 people learned of the cultural differences that led 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, were explored through lecture, living history demonstration, and hands-on activities. Trails Inc. educators interpreted Cornstalk’s Raid in an audience-interactive, multi-faceted manner, with an unbiased treatment of all sides in the conflict.
You may view a video of a powerpoint presentation made at the WV Archives Library regarding Cornstalk, Shawnee history, the successful campaign, and the heritage of American Indian guerilla warfare expressed in partisan tactics used during the Civil War at the following youtube address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4moYc4LYr_4
In the aftermath of the series of events, Dianne and Doug had the opportunity to make a presentation to state park program specialists from all over the southeastern U.S. at the Southeastern State Park Program Seminar held in December 2013 at Cumberland Falls State Park in KY. The major theme of this year’s SSPPS was how to develop quality interpretive programs on very limited budgets. In our presentation we emphasized how cooperation between several funders and top-notch interpreters can bring high quality interpretive programs to state parks, even as park budgets get slashed. Of the more than $13,000 events budget, WV Parks provided 23% of the funding and received 79% of the interpretive effort.
Douglas McClure Wood