LORD DUNMORE'S WAR: No Other Motive Than the True Interest of This Country


Dunmore’s War, named for the last royal governor of Virginia, John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, was the last Indian conflict of America’s colonial era. Set mostly in the mountains, valleys and farmlands of the Ohio country from April to November 1774, the conflict started when Indian war parties initiated a war of vengeance with a campaign of small-scale attacks and raids against homes and settlements on Virginia’s frontier. By July 12, after the passive defensive measures on the part of local militia proved inadequate in stemming the violence, Governor Dunmore planned an offensive response with the combined forces of the affected counties to take the war to the Shawnee and Mingo towns. About 2,500 militia soldiers, not counting those who remained behind to guard the settlements, marched against approximately 1,000, mostly Shawnee, Indian warriors. The course of the campaign resulted in only one, but decisive, large-scale engagement in October. By November the Indian leaders sued for peace and accepted the surprisingly lenient terms that Lord Dunmore proposed in order to spare their towns from destruction.

Relying almost exclusively on primary sources, the narrative places the 1774 conflict in the context of pre-Revolutionary War Virginia. It is in the main a campaign history that examines the military operations of Lord Dunmore’s War, but takes into account diplomatic efforts and political factors. It reviews the motives and actions of each participating polity as pursuing its own interests, albeit with a focus on Virginia. It will show that Virginia called on its colonial militia to fight a defensive war that achieved the strategic objective of safeguarding its borders and protecting the lives and property of its citizens from invasion. Furthermore, the narrative demonstrates the colonial Virginia militia as a more competent military organization than is often portrayed.