Thousands of us drive past it every day. A pivotal battle of the Revolutionary War was fought here in our community, in Bethel Twp. to be exact, right along Ohio 4, yet so many of us have no idea what it was all about.
Fought on Aug. 8, 1780, the Battle of Peckuwe (pronounced “Pick-a -way”) was, as the historical markers say, “the largest Revolutionary War battle fought west of the Alleghenies.”
It seems a bit odd to us today that a battle fought in our neighborhood could have had such a profound effect on the world. After all, some of us think the entire revolution was fought along the East Coast. But in a world much different from today, the British needed to secure this region for a swift victory.
This battle kept the British from opening an additional front that might have had disastrous results for the small continental Army.
According to author John F. Winkler, explaining background details like this are some of the reasons he wrote this book.
This Friday evening, Nov. 9, Winkler will be speaking about his new book, “Peckuwe 1780 — The Revolutionary War on the Ohio Frontier” and signing copies at the Davidson Interpretive Center, 5638 Lower Valley Pike. The event runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Admission is free but reservations are required. Call 937-882-6000.
Winkler’s story has all the elements that make for exciting history. There is a bigger than life hero in Col. George Rogers Clark, who leads more than 1,000 men into the unmapped wilderness to find a way to stop the brutal British-led Indian raids on their homes in Kentucky.
According to the author, Col. Clark was an imposing red-haired figure, tall and powerfully built with a commanding personality. When he entered a room, all eyes would turn to him and follow his directions.
The Native Americans were led by Primary Chief Blackhoof, an experienced and tenacious warrior leading a coalition of warriors from five different tribes. Their numbers were small, between 300 to 400, but they were determined to slow down the American assault until their families could escape through the cliffs, then hurry to Shawnee villages to the north.
The battle was chaotic. A third of the Kentuckians led by Simon Kenton and Ben Logan got lost along the cliffs. At the height of the battle a prisoner escaped and was shot by the wrong side. And no one had food.
“People seldom talk about that everybody in the battle worried about where their next meal is coming from,” Winkler said.
Supply logistics played an important part in campaigns in this untracked region. And, as Winkler explained, Clark was better than most at dealing with this.
“It is difficult to understand what people back then worried about. I just have the greatest admiration for the people on both sides,” he said.
Using historical surveys, and accounts by combatants and early residents of the area, Winkler has been able to more closely identify locations on the battlefield. He said that a map of the battle created more than 25 years ago was a good guide to his research.
This is Winkler’s sixth book about significant frontier battles in the west. The first is about the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. “Peckuwe 1780” is second chronologically. After that comes “Fallen Timbers 1794,” “Wabash 1791,” “Tippecanoe 1811.” The last book in his battlefield series is about the Battle of the Thames in 1813.
Illustrations are by British artist/illustrator Peter Dennis. Maps and photographs are also included. Osprey is the publisher.
Winkler visited the battlefield, interviewed local experts, and walked the trails around the Davidson center many times during his research.
According to Donna Lewis, program coordinator at the Clark County Park District, it was fascinating to see his research come together and have him point out specific locations in the battle.
“I’ve been waiting for this book,” she said.
Lewis is making efforts to have enough books for the signing and expects reservations for the event will fill up early. If all the seats are taken at the presentation Friday evening, Lewis said that signed books can still be arranged by contacting the center at 937-882-6000.