Revolutionary War: Battle of Blue Licks

Groups of militiamen came to the aid of Bryan’s Station, Kentucky, upon learning of an attack by British and Indian forces. The Revolutionary War had ended the year before, yet fighting in the frontiers continued.

Lt. Col. Stephen Trigg arrived with 130 men and Lt. Col. Daniel Boone brought around 45 men. They knew Colonel Benjamin Logan was bringing 400 men, but Colonel John Todd, went against fellow officer, Major McGary’s advice, and decided not to wait for them.

These troops, known as Long Knives, pursued the British and Indian forces under British commander William Caldwell’s leadership.

When in retreat, Native Americans hid their trails. Yet these tracks were easily followed, alarming Daniel Boone, who warned his fellow officers of a trap. They dismissed his advice.

Two days later on August 19, 1782, militiamen approached Upper Blue Licks and saw 2 warriors on a hilltop over the Licking River. Boone warned that the crest of the hill—which he knew well—was large enough to hide the retreating army. He advised his fellow officers to wait for Logan’s reinforcements.

Colonel Todd agreed.

Major McGary mounted his horse. Yelling, “Them that ain’t cowards, follow me,” he splashed into the Licking River.

The men followed and then formed into 3 columns on the other side of the river. They climbed the hill on foot. When Todd’s men reached the crest, warriors attacked.

McGary galloped over to Boone with news of a retreat. By then, there was hand-to-hand combat beside the river—where the horses waited.

Boone’s column was now under attack. With men falling around him, he ordered his troops into the dense woods to recross the Licking River further downstream. Boone stayed behind to cover them and ordered his son, Israel, to run.

Israel refused. While stopping to shoot at the enemy, he was shot in the neck. Daniel realized his son was dying. He carried him to a cave before mounting a horse and leading his men across the river.

The militiamen lost about 70 men in a battle that lasted minutes. Kentucky lost prominent leaders when Todd and Trigg both died in battle.

Daniel Boone later called Israel’s death his hardest blow.

-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.