Genealogy Trails



Revolutionary War
Sandusky Expedition
May 25, 1782 – June 12, 1782
Took place in the Ohio Country (present-day state of Ohio)

This was an American Indian/British victory, with soldiers of the Pennsylvania militia sustaining 70 killed, including prisoners subsequently executed.

Born in Orange County, VA in 1732 (now Berkeley County, West Virginia), William Crawford was a surveyor who worked as a western land agent for George Washington. He had fought in the French and Indian War and came out of retirement to lead an expedition against enemy Indian villages along the Sandusky River near the end of the American Revolutionary War.
Col. Crawford was captured and tortured to death by Native Americans on 11 June 1782. The following newspaper story written many years after the fact, describes his death. Background info on the battle follows the newspaper story.

Newspaper Story:

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)
April 9 1823 Page 1

Historical Reminiscence

I believe it is a generally received opinion that Col. Crawford, who commanded, at the Sandusky plains, in the battle with the Indians, in 1782, was slain during the action; but it is known by many that the fate terminated the existence of that gallant officer; for he was doomed to endure the most excruciating tortures, inflicted by the hand of the savage foe.

Col. Wm Crawford

Col. Wm Crawford

The overthrow of this brave little army, who traversed the wilderness, with their ill fated commander in search of their savage enemies, is well known; and their last scene of action has now become familiar to all who are acquainted with this section of the state of Ohio. It lies on the Sandusky plains, about 2 ½ miles north of Upper Sandusky.

The morning after the defeat, Col. Crawford was taken by a scouting party of the Indians, and led in triumph to their encampment, on Tomochte creek, about 3 miles west of Sandusky river, where among a very extensive assemblage of Indians he was prepared for the torture. He was fastened to a tree by a grape vine; the vine being first tied around his neck, and then around the tree, so as to give him an opportunity of walking round a small distance from it; a circle of burning coals was then placed at a proper distance from the tree for him to walk upon; this fiery circle the intrepid commander was compelled to traverse barefooted. This however, did not elicit so much as a groan, or a sigh, which much exasperated his enemies; as it is well known that nothing is so pleasing to them as to see their victim shrink from the torture. After trying in vain for some time to subdue the dauntless spirit of the hero, one of the Indians indignantly seized upon him and tore off his scalp. But still unsubdued he continued to traverse the burning circle with a firm and dignified step looking defiance upon the savage host that surrounded him. At length one of the chiefs in a rage at the unexampled hardiness of the dauntless warrior, seized a large fire brand and placing it upon his skinless head, held it there for a time; when (probably from the heat communicating with the brain) he fell and instantly expired.

Thus perished the gallant Crawford, the early friend and companion of Washington. This story is well authenticated, by the white persons who were suffered to survive that fatal event, and were present at the scene of their commander’s suffering; and also by many of the old Indians who still inhabit the neighborhood. The place where this tragical scene was acted is distinctly pointed out by them, even the tree to which he was fastened is still standing. Such transactions should never be obliterated from the memory of the American people. It would not perhaps be an improper use if a small sum of money should be expended in erecting a monument, in commemoration of the event. – Del. Patron.
[Submitted by Nancy Piper]

Further personal info on Col Crawford:
He was the son of William Crawford and Honora Grimes,[2] who were farmers of Scots-Irish ancestry. After his father's death in 1736, his mother married Richard Stephenson. Crawford had a younger brother, Valentine Crawford, and five half-brothers and one half-sister. His son, John Crawford, his son-in-law William Harrison, and his nephew and namesake William Crawford joined the Sandusky expedition with Col. Crawford. His nephew and son-in-law were also captured and executed.

In 1982, the site of Colonel Crawford's execution was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1994, the Wyandot County Patriotic Citizens erected an 8.5 ft (2.6 m) Berea sandstone monument to commemorate the site. The Ohio Historical Society also has a historical marker nearby. Crawford County, Ohio and Crawford County, Pennsylvania are named for him [as well as *possibly* Crawford Co. Indiana and Crawford Co., Illinois]


Background on the Battle

This is an excerpt from's info on the subject (there's much more detailed info available there):

Sanudsky expedition Map

The Crawford expedition, also known as the Sandusky Expedition and Crawford's Defeat, was a 1782 campaign on the western front of the American Revolutionary War, and one of the final operations of the conflict. Led by Colonel William Crawford, the campaign's goal was to destroy enemy American Indian towns along the Sandusky River in the Ohio Country, with the hope of ending Indian attacks on American settlers. The expedition was one in a long series of raids against enemy settlements which both sides had conducted throughout the war Crawford led about 500 volunteer militiamen, mostly from Pennsylvania, deep into American Indian territory, with the intention of surprising the Indians. The Indians and their British allies from Detroit had already learned of the expedition, however, and gathered a force to oppose the Americans. After a day of indecisive fighting near the Sandusky towns, the Americans found themselves surrounded and attempted to retreat. The retreat turned into a rout, but most of the Americans managed to find their way back to Pennsylvania. About 70 Americans were killed; Indian and British losses were minimal.

During the retreat, Colonel Crawford and an unknown number of his men were captured. The Indians executed many of these captives in retaliation for the Gnadenhutten massacre that occurred earlier in the year, in which about 100 Indian civilians were murdered by Pennsylvanian militiamen. Crawford's execution was particularly brutal: he was tortured for at least two hours before being burned at the stake. His execution was widely publicized in the United States, worsening the already-strained relationship between Indians and white Americans.

Crawford's death was widely publicized in the United States. A ballad about the expedition, "Crawford's Defeat", became popular and was long remembered. In 1783, John Knight's eyewitness account of Crawford's torture was first published. The editor of Knight's narrative, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, deleted all mention of Crawford's trial and the fact that Crawford was executed in retaliation for the Gnadenhütten massacre. By suppressing the Indians' motivation, Brackenridge was able, according to historian Parker Brown, to create "a piece of virulent anti-Indian, anti-British propaganda calculated to arouse public attention and patriotism."

As intended, Knight's narrative increased racial antipathy towards American Indians, and was often republished over the next 80 years, particularly whenever violence between whites and Indians was in the news.



Genealogy Trails
©Genealogy Trails