Revolutionary War: Bryan’s Station, Kentucky

Though the surrender of Lord Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown ended the Revolutionary War in 1781, attacks on frontier outposts continued from Native American tribes led by British commander William Caldwell and Captain Alexander McKee. Sixty  Canadians and 300 Native Americans made up the force.

Another leader of the warrior forces was Simon Girty. He and his brothers, while teenagers, had been captured by the Seneca. Though his goal was to attack Bryan’s Station, Girty arranged a prior attack on Hoy’s Station as a decoy.

Before dawn on August 16, 1782, Caldwell’s forces surrounded a stockade settlement called Bryan’s Station, located on the Elkhorn River. Militiamen (known to tribes as ‘Long Knives’) inside the stockade saw them hiding in the woods and set couriers for reinforcements.

Families inside the stockade needed water, so the Long Knives devised a plan involving the women. The women listened to the plan, prayed together, and then gathered water pails. Chatting together, the ladies left the fort in groups of 2 or 3. They strolled to the river to fill their buckets as if nothing was wrong.

It worked.

Caldwell and Girty, thinking to attack Bryan’s Station after men left to aid those at Hoy Station, left the women alone.

When the militiamen didn’t leave, Girty ordered an attack, which was bravely fought off. Women loaded rifles for the shooters during the attack.

The 44 Long Knives inside Bryan’s Station were reinforced within a few hours with 16 men who entered the stockade under musket fire.

Girty shouted for them to surrender and live or die later. Remembering an earlier battle where settlers were killed as soon as they surrendered, the Long Knives chose to fight.

Girty ordered the crops around the stockade destroyed. Warriors killed livestock and burned outbuildings before leaving.

They’d soon meet again at the Battle of Blue Licks.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Graves, James. “Battle of Blue Licks,” HistoryNet, 2018/02/25

“Blue Licks Battlefield History,” Kentucky State Parks, 2018/02/25

“Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park Historic Pocket Brochure Text,” Kentucky State Parks, 2018/02/25!userfiles/aParkBrochures/pocket-brochures/BlueLickspktbrochtext.pdf.



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