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John Murray, Lord Dunmore was a royal governor of Virginia in the years before the American Revolution. He was born in Scotland in 1732. He came from a noble family and was descended from royalty. In 1761, at the young age of twenty-nine
years, he was elected to the House of Commons in the English Parliament. He served for the remainder of the 1760s. In 1770, the Earl of Hillsborough selected him to be the royal governor of New York. Such an appointment was viewed as a great honor and would allow the recipient to garner wealth in England's New World colonies. Dunmore accepted the appointment and arrived in New York in October 1770.
In late 1771, Dunmore was promoted to governor of Virginia, England's largest and wealthiest colony in North America. He became an instant celebrity and well-respected leader of the colony. The Virginia elites, including George Washington, welcomed him and viewed him as a capable politician. The Virginians' view of Dunmore would change in 1773. In that year, the governor disbanded the Virginia legislature, the House of Burgesses, for supporting persons opposed to the
Mother Country. He dissolved the legislature again in 1774. Opposition arose to the governor as he limited Virginians' ability to govern themselves.
Hoping to regain the support he once enjoyed, Dunmore sought to help the colonists against Native American threats in the Ohio Country. Beginning in 1774, Mingo
Indians and Shawnee Indians rose up against white settlers -- mainly from Virginia -- who hoped to settle in the area. Dunmore also feared that Pennsylvania coveted land claimed by Virginia. To prevent Pennsylvania's expansion into modern-day West Virginia, southeastern Ohio, and Kentucky, Dunmore wished to place Virginia militiamen in these regions. He also hoped to open these lands to white settlement.
In August 1774, Pennsylvania and Virginia militias decided to end the Native American threat. Pennsylvania soldiers entered the Ohio Country and quickly destroyed seven Mingo villages, which the
Indians had abandoned as the soldiers approached. At the same time, Lord Dunmore sent one thousand men to the Kanawha River in modern-day West Virginia to build a fort and attack the Shawnees. Cornstalk, a Shawnee leader, sent nearly one thousand warriors to drive Dunmore's army from the region. The forces met on October 10, 1774, at what became known as the Battle of Point Pleasant. After several hours of intense fighting, the English drove Cornstalk's followers north of the Ohio River. Dunmore, with a large force of his own, quickly followed the Shawnees across the river into the Ohio Country. Upon nearing the Shawnee villages on the Pickaway Plains near what is now Circleville, Ohio, Dunmore stopped. From his encampment named Camp Charlotte, Dunmore requested that the Shawnees come to him and discuss a peace treaty. The Shawnees agreed, but while negotiations were under way, Colonel Andrew Lewis and a detachment of Virginia militia that Dunmore had left behind at Point Pleasant crossed the Ohio River and destroyed several Shawnee villages. Fearing that Dunmore intended to destroy them, the Shawnees agreed to terms before more blood was shed. This military campaign came to be known as Lord Dunmore's War.
As a result of this war, some Shawnee
Indians agreed to the terms of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768) and promised to give up some of their lands east and south of the Ohio River. This was the first time that some of the natives who actually lived in the Ohio Country agreed to relinquish some of their land. In addition, these Shawnees also promised to return their white captives and to no longer attack English colonists traveling down the Ohio River.
Dunmore returned to Virginia a hero, but he quickly alienated the colonists once again by removing all of the gunpowder in the Williamsburg arsenal to a British warship. Dunmore feared that the colonists intended to use the gunpowder to overthrow royal authority in the New World. By July 1776, patriots had forced Dunmore to flee from Virginia. He spent the remainder of the American Revolution in England, where he again served in Parliament. From 1787 to 1796, he served as the royal governor of the Bahamas. He then retired to England and died in 1809.
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