Ohio tourism logo
Support our advertisers

Colonel William CrawfordWilliam Crawford

Colonel William Crawford was born in Berkeley County Virginia in 1732. In 1749, he met George Washington, a young surveyor, who taught him the trade and then hired him to do some surveying in western Pennsylvania. Like Washington, Crawford wanted to join the military and explore the frontier. That opportunity arrived during the French and Indian War, when he joined the British army. Impressed with the back country of western Pennsylvania, Crawford in 1765 made his home along the Youghiogheny River. Over the next decade, he served as Justice of the Peace in Cumberland, Bedford, and Westmoreland Counties, and distinguished himself as a formidable Indian fighter, most notably in Lord Dunmore's War against the Shawnee of the Ohio Valley in 1774.

During the War for Independence, Crawford was commissioned colonel of the 7th Virginia and served with distinction at the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown. In late 1777, he took command of the continental troops and militia in western Pennsylvania. He was with George Washington when he made the famous Delaware River crossing in 1777. In 1778 he helped build Fort Laurens along the Tuscarawas River. When the fort was abandoned a year later, Crawford appealed to Congress for more funds for the Western campaign in 1781. When Congress denied this request, Crawford retired from military service.

At 50 years of age, Crawford was elected to lead a group of voluntary militia into Ohio. This expedition was plagued with problems almost from the start. For some reason Crawford seemed incapable of making firm decisions and there was some dissention among his group. By the spring of 1782, Crawford's force made contact with Delaware and Wyandot Indians around what is today Upper Sandusky.

The volunteers were in search of Native American's who had captured a group of Moravian missionaries from Gnadenhutten and Schoenbrunn Villages the previous fall and were suspected of being held somewhere along the Sandusky River. Unfamiliar with the terrain and unable to replenish his troops, Crawford's militia of experienced frontiersman were quickly defeated in their first major skirmish and Crawford was among those soldiers taken captive.

Shortly after his capture it was learned that some of Crawford's men had been part of the Gnadenhutten Massacre in eastern Ohio earlier that year in which 96 Native Americans (including women and children) were massacred. During that massacre the unarmed men were taken into into one lodge building and the women and children to another. They were then tomahawked to death. Afterwards the entire village was burned to the ground with no survivors. The reason given for this brutality was that the Native Americans at this village, which was actually a group of Christian Indians under the guidance of Moravian missionaries, had been responsible for the murder of some settlers in western Pennsylvania.

As a result of this event, Colonel William Crawford faced a horrific death. According to one eyewitness account:

He was tied to a post and "seventy shots of powder were fired at his body. Indians then cut off his ears, prodded him with burning sticks, and tossed hot embers at him. [He] continued in the extremities of pain for an hour and three quarters or two hours longer... when at last, being almost totally exhausted, he laid down on his belly; they then scalped him. An old squaw got a board, took a parcel of coals and ashes and laid them on his back and head, after he had been scalped. Colonel Crawford then raised himself upon his feet and began to walk around the post; they next put a burning stick to him as usual, but he seemed more insensible of pain than before." Crawford finally died from his wounds, but not before begging those around him to end his misery with a bullet.

Battle of Sandusky

On June 4th Colonel Crawford's troops (which included 480) began the battle of Sandusky against a combined force of Shawnee, Delaware, and Wyandot. At dark, on the first day of the battle, things appeared to be going well for the Americans. Fighting began again the next morning and continued through the day. As the day developed, plans were drawn up for a general attack on the enemy positions at nightfall. However, even as these plans were being developed, reinforcements were seen.

Joining the Native Americans was a British unit from Detroit, Butler's Rangers. Sensing that their position had suddenly become vulnerable, it was decided a retreat would be the better course of action. Crawford began assembling his troops for the retreat but before all preparations were complete for an orderly movement, the enemy opened fire and the front lines of Crawford's men broke down and they began retreating in disorder. Wounded soldiers were left behind in the confusion. As the army retreated, Crawford tried to locate his son, John, but in the confusion couldn't find him. Crawford's horse collapsed he was then forced to move eastward on foot where some trees offered better cover.

Olentangy Battle MonumentSeveral days later, on June 7, Crawford and one of his aides, Dr. Knight, were captured in an ambush. Both men were beaten with fists, stones, sticks and clubs, Dr. Knight survived the captivity and later escaped his captors. But prior to his escape he was an eyewitness to the torturous murder of Col. Crawford on June 11, 1782.



Crawford Memorials and Markers

There are several memorials in the area that honor Colonel Crawford and his men.

Olentangy Battle Marker

Olentangy Battle Monument

After the rout of the American forces on June 5, the American's were driven further south. A second battle ensued the next day as the Native Americans followed. During this conflict the American force was divided and once again forced to retreat

On the banks of the Olentangy River, at the bend where the stream turns southwest, is the legendary site of Seccaium. This 17th century village was located on the portage to the Sandusky River, and was recognized by the Indians as a neutral ground for tribal councils where claims to hunting territories could be peacefully settled and goods could be traded. In the early 20th century, the site was an amusement park on the interurban electric railway.

Crawford MemorialToday there is a marker that designates the areas as the Olentangy Battle site. This marker is located along SR 19 between Bucyrus and Galion.

Crawford's Capture Site

In 1927 a stone wall was erected near the site where Colonel Crawford was captured on June 7, 1782. This memorial is located just east of Leesville and north of Galion.

Crawford's MemorialCrawford's Grave Memorial

Although there is no record where Colonel Crawford was buried, a monument was erected in a small cemetery just east of the small town Crawford. The monument was erected in 1994 by the Wyandot Country Patriotic Citizens.