John Murray, fourth earl of Dunmore, was the royal governor of Virginia from 1770 to 1776. Of noble birth, he was descended from the Stuart line. In 1761, he was one of sixteen Scottish peers elected to Parliament. Selected to be the governor of New York in 1770, Dunmore arrived there with his family on October 19, 1771.
Dunmore, Lord 1732–1809 Gallery Photos
Dunmore, Lord 1732–1809
Although well received in New York, he was promoted to the post of governor of the Virginia colony as successor to Governor Botetourt, who had died on October 15, 1770. Initially, Dunmore was popular in Virginia. His newborn daughter was named after the colony, leading the province to adopt her as its own.
In her honor, provincial leaders named two new counties Dunmore and Fincastle (the second of his titles). Yet the honeymoon did not last long. In 1773, Dunmore responded to rising patriot sentiment by dissolving the House of Burgesses after that body considered forming a committee of correspondence, an institution already adopted in other colonies.
The following year, when the Burgesses established a day of mourning for the Boston Port Bill, Dunmore again dissolved the body. On numerous occasions while governor, Dunmore showed great interest in frontier affairs involving Native Americans and possessed a genuine concern for the security of frontier settlements. Yet Dunmore (through agents) instigated a frontier crisis with the native peoples, resulting in a military expedition to the Ohio Valley.
The confrontation, possibly conceived to divert Virginia's revolutionary spirit, began early in 1774, when Dr. John Connolly, a representative for Dunmore, occupied Fort Pitt and attacked nearby Native American villages in retaliation for recent raids on frontier settlements in Virginia. While Connolly's actions seem geared toward starting a full-scale war with local tribes, he claimed that he was trying to defuse ongoing antagonism between Virginia and Pennsylvania concerning disputes over the ownership of the region.
Although regional hostility remained constant, a series of violent acts forced open conflict. First, a party led by Captain Michael Cresap killed one Native American and captured another near the junction of Yellow Creek and the Ohio River at Logan's Camp (also known as Baker's Cabin) on April 27, 1774. Three days later, Daniel Greathouse enticed some Native Americans to his house, plied them with alcohol, and then murdered six of them.
While responses varied, most were like that of a half-breed named Logan. Angered by the murder of his brother and sister at Baker's Cabin, Logan, once an extraordinarily faithful translator for the English, took thirteen scalps in attacks on nearby homesteads and traveling merchants. On June 10, Governor Dunmore organized the militia in the tidewater region and sent them to Fort Pitt, where he established a military headquarters.
Little happened in the next month, but in early August, Major Angus McDonald raided Shawnee villages on the Muskingum River. A month later, Dunmore led a force of 2,000 militiamen down the Ohio River, while Colonel Andrew Lewis took a second column of more than 1,000 down the Kanawha River with the expectation that the two groups would reassemble inside Indian Territory. The Ohio tribes particularly the Shawnee, Miami, Wyandots, and Ottawas under the leadership of Chief Cornstalk rallied about 1,000 warriors to attack Lewis before he rejoined Dunmore.
In a major engagement at Point Pleasant, Lewis defeated the Native Americans on October 10, forcing the native alliance to collapse. Shortly afterward, the tribal leaders came to Dunmore suing for peace. Although tension between Dunmore and Virginia briefly eased after his return from Ohio, events outside the colony drove the two entities toward an inevitable confrontation.
Reacting to the closure of Boston and the subjugation of Massachusetts, the Virginia convention put the militia into a posture of defense. Dunmore countered the Assembly's move with a series of blunders that forced a crisis. The first error occurred in the middle of the night on April 20, when Dunmore seized the provincial powder supply at Williamsburg.
Two weeks later, Patrick Henry raised militiamen in Hanover County and marched on the capital. Concerned by the threat of war, Dunmore reimbursed the province 330 pounds for the powder on May 4, defending his action by saying that he was protecting the colony from a rumored slave revolt. Later, Dunmore recanted and declared Henry an outlaw.
With tension reaching a boiling point, Dunmore fled the capital for the safety of a warship patrolling the Chesapeake Bay. From the warship, Dunmore conducted raids and military operations for the remainder of his time in Virginia. In retaliation for the looting and burning of a British sloop, he sent naval forces to destroy Hampton on October 24 25.
On November 7, Dunmore declared martial law in Virginia and offered to free slaves and indentured servants willing to join his military forces in Norfolk. The colonists defeated these forces at Great Bridge on December 9.The loyalists and former slaves were loaded aboard nearby transports and evacuated to Gwynn Island.
On January 1, 1776, Dunmore ordered warships to fire on Norfolk, destroying most of the town. The remainder of Dunmore's forces remained at Gwynn Island until early July, when the colonials forced them to abandon this post as well. Defeated and weak from disease, Dunmore sent his ragtag group of refugees and military forces to Bermuda, while he returned to England by way of New York.
Upon his return to England, the Crown rewarded Dunmore for his services as royal governor of Virginia and his efforts to retain control of the colony by making him governor of the Bahamas. Solomon K.Smith See also: Army, British; Native American-European Conflict; Revolutionary War.
Bibliography Selby, John E.Dunmore. Williamsburg: Virginia Independence Bicentennial Commission, 1977.
Selby, John E.The Revolution in Virginia, 1775 1783. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1988.
Thwaites, Gold, and Louise Phelps Kellog, eds. Documentary History of Dunmore's War. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1905.
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