The Death of Benge

Image:Long Boone Cumberland--thin.jpg
Southwest Virginia Project
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From: Source:Coale, 1878

Not a great while before Benge's last predatory incursion, 1794, a man by the name of Hobbs, almost, if not quite, the equal of Cottrell in prowess, bravery, activity and daring, and "some among Ingins" as, the phrase had it, determined to discovered the secret path by which Benge crossed Cumberland mountains and entered and retired from the settlements. He at length ascertained it to be one of two cattle paths crossing the-mountain midway between two gaps some few miles apart, through which the highways into Kentucky lay in those days. He at once organized a squad of mountaineers to meet him at a designated spot the moment it was kno~wn that Indians were in the settlements.

Time wore on, and all was pleasant and prosperous on the Holston. One bright morning in May, 1794, after the sun had risen and the men had gone to the clearings and the women were busy at their wheels and looms, all joyous and jovial amid the fragrance of wild flowers and the music of song-birds, and not dreaming -of coming danger Benge and his painted warriors stealthily approached and surrounded the cabins of Peter Livingston. The writer will here give the narrative of the capture and massacre in the words of Mrs. Osborne, who was the daughter of Peter Livingston, was one of the captives, frequently heard the narrative from the lips of her parents, and is still living within sight of the spot where the outrage occurred:

When the party of Indians were first discovered by Mrs. Elizabeth Livingston, they were within a short distance of the house. Her-attention was attracted by the barking of a dog, and seeing them, and knowing their evil design, she fastened the door to prevent their entrance, and awaited the attack. While they were trying to break open the door, she took down a rifle that was laying in the rack and fired among them, with what effect she never knew. The Indians then went to the kitchen, where they found three children, one white and two colored. They tomahawked these and left them for dead. The white child and one of the colored recovered. They then went to the cabin of old Mrs. Sally Livingston, close by, and tomahawked her. She lived four days. After taking what provisions and household articles they wanted, they fired the house which Mrs. Elizabeth Livingston occupied, when she was forced to come out and surrender. Before doing so however, she gave her infant to her little daughter, who escaped with it to the house of Mr. Russell, the nearest neighbor. This infant became the wife of Solomon Osborne, and furrnishes, as before said, this narrative. The captives with which the Indians started to their towns where Mrs. Elizabeth Livingston, wife of Peter, Mrs. Susan Livingston, wife of Henry, and who had been married only three weeks, two colored men and one colored woman.

The alarm was soon given, and a party of men lead by a man by the name of Head started in pursuit, while Hobbs and his squad, having heard that the Indians had gone towards Holston, made their way to the designated place of niecting at the base of Cumberland mountain. Hobbs and his men having reached their destination several hours in advance of the Indians and the party following up the trail, he divided them into two parties, in order to guard the two paths, one or the other of which he was satisfied the savages would travel, each company to be stationed in line and in ambush within convenient range of the path. Hobbs himself chose to be with those who guarded the path he thought the Indians would be most likely to take, and after disposing of them in line, concealed by the undergrowth, he instructed them not to fire abould the Indians come that way till he had given the signal, each man selecting his victim, so as not to waste the second bullet on the same object. They were not kept long in suspense, after being disposed, before the red-skins were seen silently and cautiously wending their way with their captives up a long spur in single file, Benge in the lead, as was his invariable custom. Hobbs knowing his habit, had himself taken the farthest position, so the Jndians should be opposite his line, Benge would be opposite him. Before Benge had advanced far enought to come within range of Hobb's rifle, one of the men, having become impatient, fired without waiting for the preconcerted signal. As no time was now to be lost, each white man selected his Indian and blazed away. At the crack of the rifles, and seeing that most of his followers had fallen or disappeared, Benge sprang off like a startled buck having captives and all behind. Opposite Hobb's position was an opening in the timber, where the trunk of a large tree had fallen across the path, and he knew that his only chance to bring Benge to a halt as he afterwards expressed it, was to wing him as he passed around the root of the tree into the narrow opening. He had but a moment to reflect, and as Benge at full speed darkened the opening, Hobbs drew a bead and fired, when Benge sprang into the air with a yell, and fell without a struggle or a groan.

That was the last of Benge, the half-breed Shawnee warrior, and the last Indian predatory incursion to the Holston settlements. Mr. Hobbs lived many years, became a pious and useful minister of the Methodist Church and the Legislature, some years after, as a testimonial of its appreciation of his gallantry, voted him a handsome and costly silver-mounted rifle.