War and Warfare

Kentucky and the Ohio Valley were the scene of conflict for thousands of years. In Kentucky, rivalry for the abundant hunting grounds created a largely uninhabited neutral zone with Native Nations living both north and south of the territory that would become Kentucky. Euro-American influence impacted the region as a result of the Beaver Wars of the mid-17th to mid-18th centuries. Nations supported by the British or their continental rivals the French engaged in warfare with the goal of controlling the lucrative fur trade.

Direct confrontation between Native Nations and Euro-Americans began in the region by the mid-18th century and continued to the early 19th century. The wars between Great Britain and France for continental domination pitted their armies and their Native allies against one another. Great Britain emerged the victor, but White encroachment resulted in periodic warfare until after the War of 1812.

During the American Revolution, the British encouraged and helped supply their Native allies such as the Shawnee, Miami, and Wyandot to raid Kentucky settlements. Kentuckians invaded the Northwest Territory and attacked Native villages in return. This conflict helped give rise to the fame of frontier figures such as Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, and George Rogers Clark. The Treaty of Greenville in 1795 resulted in a prolonged period of relative peace but as White settlement increased and Indigenous Peoples were dispossessed tensions rose. Shawnee leader Tecumseh’s effort to form a confederacy of Native Nations on the eve of the War of 1812 to resist White encroachment ultimately failed. His death in the Battle of the Thames in October 1813 and British defeat in the Northwest Territory in the war ended Native American hopes of retaining their homeland and the eventual removal of most regional Nations west of the Mississippi.