CRAYCRAFT, CRACRAFTS & CRAYCROFT’S IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR
A total of nine Cc (short for Craycraft) participated in the American Revolution. This is a very brief summary of each one in no particular order. I will begin with the most famous one, Charles B. Cracraft of Washington County, Pennsylvania. He was one of the early pioneers of the Ten Mile Creek area having settled there by 1772[i]. When he moved there this area was not part of the colonies. It was Indian Territory. The first settlers built a blockhouse, a mini fort, to live in while they cleared the land for farms. Several families lived together. They needed this fort to protect them from Indian raids. Most Indians were friendly but sometimes a wild bunch would come to steal things and people would get hurt. Charles would help his neighbors guard against these raids. Pennsylvania had a local militia called the rangers. Their job was to protect the frontier by patrolling the area or sometimes go into Indian Territory to recover captives. They served for three months each year and had to be ready at a minute’s notice. In 1777 Charles was a Captain in the Pennsylvania rangers.[ii] When the Revolutionary war began the British convinced the Indians to make a war against the colonists. General George Roger Clark (Lewis & Clark fame) led a campaign against the Indians. Charles Cracraft was part of his volunteer army. The commander of western Pennsylvania unit was Col. Archibald Lochry. Col. Lochry stayed in Pennsylvania to recruit men and had orders to immediately follow Clark and meet him at the mouth of the Miami River.[iii] Gen. Clark continued downstream and left Major Cracraft and Quartermaster Wallace with a squad of 5 men to wait with a dispatch to give to Lochry. Col. Lochry met Cracraft and his men and they all continued downstream. About 400 miles south of Pittsburgh, Lochry’s force camped. Lochry did not have much ammunition or provisions. There was a lot of discontent among the men. Maj. Cracraft and his men left in a single canoe to catch up to Gen. Clark and inform him on Lochry’s position.[iv] Meanwhile a party of Indians saw this canoe and reported to the main Indian party. The Indians took positions on both sides of the river and waited for Maj. Cracraft and his men. They found themselves surrounded by Indians. They were easily captured without a shot being fired.[v]
Charles’ account is as follows. When they were going down the river, Charles saw a small group of Indians. He felt sure there was a larger number further down. They expected to be attacked when 2 or 3 Indians began running down the bank. At the bend of the river, they saw a large number of Indians who began firing at once. The distance between them was too far for the balls to injure anyone. Several canoes came at them Charles pulled off his hat and waved it in the air. The Indians stopped firing and they were towed to shore. Charles had a written order from Gen. Clark to remain 2 days for Lochry’s men and if he did not arrive to take the boat down river to Clark. Gen. Clark intended to wait for them down river. Charles was afraid the Indians would see the order so while getting out of the boat he took it out of his pocket and rolled it in a small compass and dropped it in the water. He stepped on it and pushed it into the sand under his feet.[vi] This day was August 21, 1781. When they went ashore Joseph Brant, a Mohawk Chief, in full British uniform, met them. Brant interrogated Charles as to what force was coming down the river. Charles replied, Anone.@ Brant asked in good English for his papers. Charles gave him his commission number, T-SV1P207, which was signed by Gen. Clark by the authority of the Virginia government. Brant looked at his papers and replied, “You are a Virginia Officer, the first I have had the pleasure to see.” Brant then yelled at him with his sword raised and told him he had a mind to split him down. Charles said, “I am your prisoner, you can do what you please.” Brant said, “I know that, damn you!” Charles was stripped of his clothes and tied. Soon Simon Girty gave him a shirt, pants and a hat.[vii] George Girty, a known Indian sympathizer, and Brice Reagan, a deserter from the 13th Virginia Regiment questioned Cracraft and Wallace. The men did not talk until they were threatened with death. They then told them of Lochry’s force coming behind them. Charles was coerced to cooperate with the Indians. He was to lure Lochry’s men to shore. If he did not cooperate, they told him of excruciating tortures he would endure and that the Indians would kill all the men. Wallace and Cracraft were tied to trees and under a close watch through the night.[viii] While at the mouth of the Miami River, Lochry’s men shot and killed a buffalo. Since they had not rested or eaten very much since the campaign began, Lochry promised them, after an early start, that they would come ashore to cook and eat the buffalo. The next morning, they went 4 to 5 miles and came to a good place to stop. This place was only a few dozen yards near the proposed ambush. As they came ashore the Indians emerged. They shouted for the soldiers to surrender or be killed. Some soldiers tried to get away but gunfire erupted. More than 30 of a force of 107 were killed and others were wounded and taken prisoner.[ix] While Charles was tied, he could hear but not see the slaughter. Thomas Stokely, a neighbor from Washington County, Pennsylvania, was wounded. Charles, a self-taught surgeon, extracted a ball from Stokely’s neck. Years later, Stokely showed William, Charles’son, the scar and told him the story. Soon after the slaughter one of Lochry’s men sat on a log near where Charles was tied. He was in much pain. An Indian came up and looked at the poor fellow, went to Charles, took his hat and put it on his head. Then the Indian walked to the injured man, returned the hat back to Charles, whirled about with his tomahawk, smashed his head, scalped him, gave a war whoop and walked away.[x] The prisoners were made to sit down and their wrists were bound behind them. The Indians collected the guns and supplies. Some Indians scalped the dead. Capt. Robert Orr and Col. Lochry were directed to sit on a log. A short time later a Shawnee warrior walked up and killed Lochry with a single tomahawk blow and scalped him.[xi]
The Indians sent the prisoners north to Detroit. Some others went after Clark at the falls of the Ohio River. In the meantime, Gen. Clark was waiting down river for Maj. Cracraft and Col. Lochry. Gen. Clark was unaware of what happened and of the great number of Indians in the ambush. The defeat was mourned by Americans everywhere but especially those in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Gen. Clark was criticized heavily. This was his last hope of a successful campaign against Detroit. The people of Pennsylvania believed Clark should have prevented Lochry’s defeat. Many people believe that the disagreement over the boundaries of the two commonwealths prevented men to volunteer to help Gen. Clark, a Virginian.[xii] This capture was the greatest misfortune that had yet befallen the colonists. It is known as Lochry’s Defeat. An island in the Ohio River near the place of Col. Lochry’s death is now known as Lochry’s Island. A few days later, Charles and his fellow prisoners marched under various parties of Indians to Detroit. They suffered a lot not having anything decent to eat. Near the Maumee River the Indian who was in charge of him and several other prisoners stopped for the day. This Indian crossed the river to where some Indians lived. He bartered his calico shirt for some corn and squash. He gave them to the prisoners and lay down to sleep. The captives cooked it. Charles went to the Indian (John) and told him to get up and eat. The Indian refused saying in English, “You have not enough to eat yourselves.” It was with great difficulty that Charles got him to eat what he sold his shirt to obtain. They went on to Detroit where Charles was sold to the British. The following spring Charles went to Fort Niagara. When he came ashore, John, the Indian who brought him to Detroit met him. The Indian seemed very happy to see him.[xiii] While a prisoner in Detroit, a British Major De Poyster would come to visit with Charles. De Poyster seemed very nice but complained about the unhappy state of the Colony. He told Charles there might be pardons yet for the Rebels and even an opening in the British Army. Wanting to stop these talks Charles quoted Job, “that naked he came and naked would return rather than turn his back on his country.” He never received an invitation from De Poyster after that.[xiv] As a prisoner Charles was treated kindly. He became acquainted with a Mr. McComb. He furnished him with things to read to pass the time. He was allowed to move about up to 3 miles from the limits of Detroit. In October of 1782 he was exchanged according to the rules of war.[xv] After hearing of Lochry’s Defeat in August 1871 and Charles not returning, his family believed him to be dead. When he returned there was much rejoicing. This Charles is the son of Joseph Cracraft and Nancy Stanton. *most of the preceding was taken from Charles biography written by Dianne Craycraft Hume. SAMUEL, JOSEPH AND CHARLES
These three gentlemen are from the same family. Samuel is the brother of the Charles who was the Pennsylvania ranger. Joseph and Charles are Samuel’s sons. They lived in what is now West Virginia; then it was the wilderness of Virginia. Samuel had a farm and also made sugar from maple trees. In 1778 Samuel provided food and shelter for 12 men in the Continental Army for two days. He later applied to the U.S. Government to be reimbursed for his support. This is the only record of Samuel’s participation in the war. However, in 1780, Samuel produced a certificate for 400 acres on the waters of the Yohogania River to include his settlement of 1775. The government of Virginia enticed men to join the militia by issuing these certificates to those whom served. He may have received the 400 acres by doing some service for the government of Virginia. In the spring of 1781, a regiment from the Virginia militia came to their home to recruit men to fight in the war. Samuel had a big family to take care of so, his son, Joseph, signed on to go in his place. Joseph served for six months and then came home. At the tender age of 14, Joseph’s little brother, Charles joined the Rangers under Major McPherson. When Charles first entered the service, he brought with him all he needed to survive, a horse, musket, rifle, knife and some food. He marched from Romney to Winchester, Virginia. From there he marched to Richmond. When he got there, he captured a British spy. His regiment took this spy to the main army stationed about 15 miles north of Richmond. He was one of two hundred men sent back to guard the rear near a big spring at the end of a lane in Richmond. They were there only a few hours when they were assailed by the British light horse. They ran away and Cornwallis immediately entered and took possession of the city. Charles and his troops retreated across the river to keep out of the way of the British. They waited there until General Wayne and Gen. La Fayette came.[xvi] General La Fayette came with Gen. Anthony Wayne and Charles Cracraft’s group joined their army. Gen. Wayne’s army settled at a place called Bottom’s Bridge between Richmond and Williamsburg. Gen. La Fayette was a few miles from them. They expected a battle at Bottoms Bridge. Craycraft was assigned there when they had a skirmish with the British light horse. They took twelve of the British light-horse, which was part of the front guard of Tarleton’s light horse. Craycraft was assigned to McPherson’s Rangers. They brought the twelve captives to the American Army of Wayne and La Fayette. Together with Gen. Muhlenburg at their head they pursued after the British army until they got to Yorktown. The British army fortified themselves there.[xvii] Marquis de Lafayette was a French soldier who fought in the American independence. He was appointed the rank of major general when he agreed to serve without pay. He joined the staff of George Washington. They became very good friends. In 1781 La Fayette led a small American force in Virginia that evaded and then battled a larger British Army under General Charles Cornwallis. La Fayette and his army helped Gen. George Washington by forcing Cornwallis to surrender at Yorktown. This defeat was very important to the American triumph.
Charles was discharged after being at Yorktown for a short while. It was while Charles was waiting for his discharge papers that Gen. Wayne received his nickname “Mad Anthony.” Gen. Wayne led a bayonet charge to rescue Gen. La Fayette. Gen. Wayne’s recklessness in this action, together with his energy and valor earned him the nickname. Charles heard about this bayonet battle as he was packing to return home. Soon after being home Col. Wilson of the Monongalia Valley Virginia Militia came by and appointed Charles a spy for a period of 3 years. His job was to secure the trade, peace and safety and defend the western frontier of the commonwealth. His patrol was between Wilson’s fort, Parson’s fort and Mameer’s fort on the waters of the Monongalia River. Charles remembered two times that he had contact with Indians. One time he noticed four or five Indians coming near a pioneer home. He shot and killed one; he and the others made an escape. Another time he was riding up when a band of Indians were attacking the house of James Goff near Parson’s fort. They were not able to break open the doors and so the Indians hid in the trees to attack again before daylight. During the night when all was quiet Charles slipped to the house. He woke the women and three children and told them to open the door and come with him to the fort. He guided them safely to the fort. Charles never received any compensation for the three years he served as a spy.[xviii] Charles went on and served in the Pennsylvania militia and received a commission as a Captain; he also received one from the Virginia militia for the same rank. His last record of military service was 1802 in Virginia. Included in items listed when he was discharged was a canteen, a rifle, musket, powder horn with balls and a tomahawk.[xix] Charles lived in Ohio County, West Virginia before moving to Greenup County, Kentucky. THOMAS F. CRAYCRAFT Thomas Craycraft is the younger brother of Charles B. and Samuel. Thomas lived a very interesting life. Like the rest of his family, he was a pioneer of the frontier. Little is known about Thomas’s service in the war of Independence. The public Service Claims in Hampshire Co. Va. show that he is recognized as a patriot. No other revolutionary service has been found for him although it is thought he received pay for delivering supplies to the Army.[xx] Thomas is also listed in the DAR Patriot index #40232. The Maryland Colonial Revolutionary Church Records lists Thomas Craycroft of Charles County, Maryland, and Clement of William and Mary Lower Hundred. Also, in Maryland Clement Craycroft was in Capt. Yates Co. 12th Battalion, Thomas in Capt. Thomas Marshall’s Company, 26th Battalion and Nicholas Craycraft in Capt. Sinnett’s Company 26th Battalion.[xxi] (I have not researched these men yet.) In 1777 the General Assembly of Maryland passed a law requiring all white males to take an Oath of Allegiance. Ignatius Craycroft signed in name in St. Mary’s County. John Sly Cracraft and Bladen Craycroft signed an oath of fidelity in Prince George’s County, Md. The oath is as follows:
“I do swear, that I do not hold myself bound to yield any allegiance or obedience to the King of Great Britain, his heirs or successors, and that I will be true and faithful to the State of Maryland, and will, to the utmost of my power, support, maintain, and defend the freedom and independence thereof, and the Government as now established, against all open enemies, and secret and traitorous conspiracies, and will use my utmost endeavors to disclose and make know to the Governor, or some one of the Judges or Justices thereof, all treason’s and traitorous conspiracies, attempts, or combinations, against this State or the Government thereof, which may come to my knowledge. So, help me God.”[xxii]
George Craycraft is listed as a private in Alexander’s Regiment of the North Carolina Militia.[xxiii] No other information about this man has been found.
[i] Bell, Raymond and George Chapman. AThe Atkinson family of Washington Co. Pennsylvania@. Manucript. [ii] Dorman, John Frederick, compiler. AVirginia Revolutionary Applications.@ Washington D.C. 1961 [iii] English, William Hayden. AConquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio, 1788-1793: Life of Gen. George Roger Clark.@ The Bowen Merrill Co. 1896. [iv] Eckert, Allan W. AThat Dark and Bloody River: Chronicles of the Ohio River Valley.@ Banton Books, 1995. [v] Ibid. [vi] Cracraft, William to Lyman Draper, 1853. ADraper Manuscripts@ Wisconsin Historical Society. [vii] Ibid. [viii] Echert, Allan W. AThat Dark and Bloody River. [ix] Ibid. [x] Cracraft, William to Lyman Draper. [xi] Eckert, Allan, W. [xii] English, William Hayden. [xiii] Cracraft, William to Lyman Draper. [xiv] Ibid. [xv] Haldimand Papers, British Library MS. Department, London UK, Folio 256. [xvi] Craycraft, Charles W. Pension Papers. Microfilm M-804, roll 689, National Archives, Washington, DC. 1976. [xvii] Ibid. [xviii] Ibid. [xix] Ibid. [xx] Pyles, James. Genealogist. [xxi] Clements, S. Eugene and F. Edward Wright. AMaryland Militia in the Revolutionary War.@ [xxii] O’Rouke, Timothy, compiler. Southern Maryland Catholic Families. 1981. [xxiii] Clark, Walter, editor. State Records of North Carolina. Vol. XX, 1780-1780. Goldsboro: Nash Brothers, Book and Job Printers, 1898.