Did Governor Dunmore try to sabotage the Virginia militia during Dunmore's War, or was he in earnest?

Nov 2018
The Old Dominion
I've seen two different arguments here and both seem to have their good points. In fact, it seems somewhat probable to me that Dunmore may have had ulterior motives, whatever exactly they may have been, and was simply very good at keeping up a certain political "face" towards his subjects. But I want to hear what anyone else familiar with the subject has to say.

Virgil Lewis, who wrote about the Battle at Point Pleasant, includes arguments at the end of his book in favor of Dunmore being in earnest about his intentions to drive the Indians off of the Virginian frontier, with no ulterior motives. Lewis cited speeches given by some of the soldiers returning from the Point Pleasant campaign, but he was either ignorant of the cases which contradicted him, or willfully ignored them, because not all soldiers were happy with Dunmore and some were quite pissed about the whole thing.

Andrew Lewis apparently was hell bent on marching on the Shawnee towns at Pickaway Plains and destroying them, as was the original plan, but Dunmore personally intercepted Lewis and his men and commanded them to stop short. Apparently nothing else would do but that Dunmore had to go to Lewis in person to get him to stop, and there is some indication that there was a great amount of tension around this whole affair.

Also I find it interesting that Dunmore not only personally kept some of the hostages after this war, while waiting for the final peace negotiations (which he delayed indefinitely until he was forced from office), but that some of these hostages reportedly even acted as Dunmore's personal bodyguard while he was fleeing from colonists. Things that make you go "hmmmmm."

So what is the opinion here?

Was Dunmore, in anticipation of the coming American Revolution, trying to weaken the Virginia militia with a badly-managed war, that ended up turning out okay anyway, despite not destroying the Shawnee villages in Ohio? Or was he in earnest, and simply sparing the Shawnee further destruction out of good faith?


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
The battle was a victory of sorts. The British help there ground but took higher casualties against a smaller force. The remaining tribes were forced to recognize what is now West Virginia was British territory. I don't have any reason to think Lord Dunmore anticipated the events that followed. No one expected the strength of the rebellion. It is ironic that he became allied with the Indians.
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Forum Staff
Aug 2016
British resistance to American westward settlement was one of the aggrivating factors bringing on the Revolutionary War. Is there any support for a theory that Dunmore went along with the war against the Indians as a way to appease American aggitation? He saw no need for all out prosecution of the war, only enough war to satisfy the Americans.

There's also an argument that the Indians drew first blood (by attacking Daniel Boone's party in 1773) and therefore deserved a limited retaliation. Once that retaliation had been achieved Dunmore had to rein in the Americans. There was also some fault on the American side since they had begun to settle on land that had been promised to the Indians. Dunmore seems to be trying to play the role of honest broker sheding an equal amount of blood on both sides and then trying to restore peace. The real conflict is between the Americans and the Indians. The British were just trying to keep the peace.