McAfees at Point Pleasant
Oct. 10, 1774

(written by )

According to the written history of Dunmore's War, On the 7th day of October 1763, Lord John Murray, Earl of Dunmore and Colonial Governor of Virginia issued a proclamation that any officer or soldier in service of the King during the late war (French & Indian) would be entitled to claims of land in the western country over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Of course this area was still a wilderness and claimed by countless tribes of Indians, who naturally were not inclined to acknowledge the Governor's "Proclamation". Even so it wasn't long before the more adventurous colonist began to move into this area to explore including our McAfee's in 1773.

Early on these little excursions into the west produced few encounters with the Indians, but by 1774 the Indians had realized that the white men were not casual hunters, but had intentions to move into their land. Soon cries of war sounded across the frontier as the red men vowed to drive back the invaders. These cries grew louder as the entire family of Chief Logan were massacred.

Almost immediately, the outermost settlements were attacked, hundreds of settlers were killed. Terror spread all along the western frontier as atrocities occurred almost daily. The colonists looked to the governor for help, and Lord Dunmore obliged by calling the militias into service, and ordered them into the field to put down the Indian hostilities.

Dunmore's War was more of a campaign than war and climaxed with one major battle at Point Pleasant, a small point of land bordered on two sides by the Ohio & Kanawha Rivers.

We as McAfee descendants have always been aware that our ancestors were soldiers of Dunmore's War and according to the writings of Robert B. McAfee, were present at Point Pleasant. But were they actually there? This was a question that I wanted to know for certain, and with little investigation, was surprised to find a great deal of information that pertains to them by name. There are available records that place all five McAfee brothers at the scene of battle, but they did not all serve together and only James was actually engaged there. He served as a private in the company of Capt. Matthew Arbuckle. James and Arbuckle were very good friends and had been associated with one another prior to this enlistment. As early as March 1770 both men appeared before a session of court Botetourt County, Virginia to receive commissions from the Governor as Captains in the Botetourt County militia. However, for this campaign James was serving as a private.

The involvement of Arbuckle's company is detailed in the "History of Point Pleasant" as follows. The Indian advance had been detected and two columns of militia marched out to meet them. "Col. Charles Lewis's Division of 150 men had not marched quite half a mile from camp, when about sunrise, an attack was made on the front of his advance in a most vigorous manner by united tribes of Shawnees, Delewares, Mingoes, Ottawas, and other nations, numbering no less than 800 warriors and perhaps as many as 1100. In this heavy attack, Col. Lewis received a serious wound that soon after caused his death, and a good number of his men fell on the spot, and the rest were forced to give way under heavy fire. In about a second of a minute after the attack on Lewis's division, the second division under Col. William Fleming, also about 150 men came under fire. In a short time Col. Fleming received two balls through his arm and a third through his breast, and after animating the officers and soldiers in a most calm manner, to the pursuit of victory, retired to camp. This loss from the field was sensibly felt by the officers in particular. In short order they two divisions were reinforced from camp by Col. Field, with his company together with the companies of Capt. McDowell, Capt. Matthews, and Capt. Stuart from Augusta County, Capt. Lewis, Capt. Paulson, Capt. Arbuckle, and Capt. McClennahan from Botetourt. The enemy, no longer able to maintain their ground, was forced to give way till they were in line with the troops that Col. Fleming had left engaged. In this precipitate retreat, Col. Field was killed. During this time, which was till after Twelve O'clock, the action continued extremely hot. The close undergrowth, steep banks, and logs greatly favored the Indian retreat and their bravest warriors made the best use of them. After twelve, the action abated a small degree, but continued, except in short intervals, sharp enough until after one o'clock. The enemy had withdrawn to a more advantageous spot of ground, and it appeared to the officers too difficult to dislodge them, that it was thought most advisable to stand. A battle line was formed about one quarter mile in length with a constant fire all along from wing to wing. Scattered shots were exchanged until about half an hour of sunset when the Indians found a safe retreat in low light. It is beyond doubt that their loss in number, far exceeds ours, which is considerable". This account was written by a 24 year old Isaac Shelby, future Revolutionary Hero and first Governor of Kentucky. The original muster roll of Capt. Arbuckle's company can be found in the archives of the Virginia State Library , and clearly shows the name James McAfee.

As for the other brothers, their names also appear on existing muster rolls, and they too are found in the Virginia State Library. George, Robert, and Samuel were all privates in Capt. John Floyd's company of Fincastle County militia. Capt. Floyd's company was part of a detachment under command of Col. William Christian that remained behind the main army at Camp Union, and took up the march a few days afterward. The McAfee's are named directly in a letter written by Capt. Floyd to a fellow officer Col. William Preston " There are three of the McAfees & Samuel Adams joined my company since I came here. There were some Botetourt men not allowed by Col. Lewis to join the Fincastle captains, but Col. Christian says I shall not lose these". The actions of Christian's division are also accounted in the "History of Point Pleasant" as follows; "General Lewis took another precaution against a disastrous defeat. At about three o'clock in the afternoon, he sent messengers up the Great Kanawha River to inform Col. Christian that he was hotly engaged, and to request him to hasten to his assistance. These messengers met that officer already on the march about twelve miles from the scene of battle. His march was quickened, but it was eleven o'clock that night when his troops came upon the battlefield, and the battle had already been fought and won. All was quiet save the groans of the wounded, for only the dead could rest in such a night as that. Col. Christian had his men set up a defense perimeter and brace for renewed action the next day, but soon after daybreak scouts returned with word that the Indians has withdrawn across the Ohio River and no threat existed.

These brothers all appear on a second muster roster, and it also is found in archives at the Virginia State Library. After the battle of the Point, many fine officers were dead or wounded beyond immediate service. Thus the army was in need of reorganizing, Capt. John Floyd was promoted leaving his company without a captain. At this time Robert McAfee assumed command of this company until it returned home. Capt. Robert McAfee's company was on duty for six days (time to march from Point Pleasant back to the settlements). Samuel & George McAfee are found on this roster which also includes Thomas Gaunt a McAfee brother in law.

As for the youngest brother William, I personally found no documentation of his service at Point Pleasant, but am told his name appears on records found other sources that I have not yet located, and the SAR recognizes him as a participant there.