Henry Harman

“Hero of an Earlier Time”

Heinrich Adam Harman and his wife Louisa Katrina immigrated to America from Germany with their first born son, Adam, in 1726, along with numerous other Moravian settlers who wanted to escape religious persecution.  Along the way, on the Isle of Man, their second son, Henry, was born.  The family made their way to the New River area of Virginia and according to a report by surveyors Patton and Buchanan they were the first permanent white settlers in the territory.  In 1752 at the age of twenty six, Henry was appointed constable of the New River Area, a captain of “Troops of Horse” and an overseer of the road.  He and his family led the way into the wilderness and their attitudes towards their way of life are exemplified by the final words spoken by his mother, Louisa Katrina, as she died on March 18, 1749:  “My earthly travels are over.  I fought a good fight.  All men must die, and I must leave.  Good night all my loved ones”. Henry Harman owned land in Tazewell and other counties in southwest Virginia as early as 1754.  In 1756, he was commissioned Captain of the King’s Militia, a title which stuck with him for the rest of his life.  In 1758 he married Anna (Nancy) Williams and they raised nine children in the wilderness.  Henry Harman was described by a contemporary as “very tall, of massive frame and very strongly built”. In 1787 Captain Henry Harman, being the senior officer, took command of an expedition to rescue some captives that the Shawnee had taken in a raid at Burke’s Garden.  The Indians were overtaken and Henry planned to attack their camp before dawn.  While preparing to charge the Indian camp, he discovered one of his staff, Captain Maxwell wearing a white hunting shirt and told him to take it off because it would be too good a target for the Indians in the dark and the surprise attack would be jeopardized.  The order was not obeyed by Maxwell, perhaps because he had no other garment to put on.  Maxwell was indeed killed during the first fire; some of the prisoners were killed and scalped, but two Negroes and Mrs. Ingles survived.  The area where this encounter took place has since been known as Maxwell’s Gap. The Shawnee frequently raided into western Virginia, crossing the Ohio River, coming up the Kanawha, New River and Little River valleys and across the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Their purpose was not only to kill the men and plunder their homes, but to capture women and children to adopt into their families or to exchange prisoners for ransom back to their families or during the Revolutionary War, to the British.  In 1760 a large band of Shawnee invaded the area.  Most settlers retreated to their blockhouses and forts, but some lingered at the risk of life and property.  The Indians succeeded in capturing a Dutch (German) woman, some horses, pots and other items, and escaped in the direction of Little River.  Captain Henry Harman and his militia was soon on their trail.  When the Indians reached a point on Little River in present day Montgomery County, Virginia, where the ground was thickly covered with sedge grass, they stopped to rest and cook a meal.  Knowing that most of his militia was raw and undisciplined, Harman placed Thomas Looney and David Lusk, both tried and true soldiers, in charge of the rear to rally and bring them into action as the occasion required.  Henry, acting as a vedette, crept forward alone, hoping to surprise the Indians and rescue the prisoners alive.  He discovered them behind a large log, eating their meal and laughing and talking with great glee.  Pausing not a moment to see where his own men were, or to give a thought to the great danger incurred, he took aim at a tall Indian’s back as he stooped to sop his bread and then rose.  Harman fired and saw the Indian’s back double backward, as a man bends his arm.  In an instant the savages sprang behind trees and returned fire.  When he left Looney and Lusk, they had told him if the militia faltered, at the first fire of his gun, “They would be at his back”.  Feeling a hand on his back, he whirled and Looney and Lusk smiled in his face.  The shots from the Indian’s rifles cut splinters from the tree they were using for cover, sending splinters into their hair and flesh, which weren’t picked out until after their return to the fort.  At this critical moment, the militia, several hundred yards away, fired their guns and loudly cheered and hurrahed, which so frightened the Indians that they all fled into the sedge grass. Captain Harman leaped over the log and asked the woman in English, how many Indians there were and received no answer; he asked her in German and she answered thirty.  He told her to throw herself flat on the ground or the Indians would throw back their tomahawks and kill her.  Seeing Thomas Looney watching an Indian approaching a path through the grass, he said “Now Thomas, shoot just like you were shooting an old buck”.  At the fire of Looney’s gun, down went the Indian.  The militia came stalking in cautiously and were fired upon from the grass.  Two of them fell to the ground:  one of whom was killed; the other, known as Little Jack (surname forgotten) had the presence of mind to fall to the ground when the other man was hit and thus he escaped unhurt.  The battle continued furiously on both sides, until the Indians, finding seven or eight of their numbers slain, finally gave way on all sides and escaped through the grass, leaving the victorious whites in possession of the field, the rescued prisoner and all the stolen property.  Captain Harman returned to the first Indian he had shot and found him sitting with his gun across his lap.  Suddenly, moving the muzzle toward his breast, the Indian exclaimed “Wash! Ta!” and fired.  He had failed to load enough powder and the ball hung up in the fouled barrel.  Harman leaped upon him and dispatched him with his tomahawk.  On another occasion, being on horseback and a number of miles from the fort, Henry Harman was waylaid by some Indians and his large bay mare was shot down under him.  The mare fell on one of his legs and held him fast to the ground.  Seeing the savages rushing upon him with uplifted tomahawks, and being a man of gigantic strength, he drew up the other foot, placed his heel against the mares back and by herculean efforts pushed the huge beast off his leg.  Harman leaped to his feet, rifle in hand, and pointing it at their breasts, made them take to the trees for cover.  Not giving them time to reload their empty guns, he ran for his life.  When they started in pursuit, he again drew his loaded rifle and made them take to the trees, and again ran for his life.  He continued to repeat this tactic and gained a little distance from his assailants each time.  When he had gained considerable distance he continued to race without stopping—thinking to outrun them.  But while the others lagged behind, there was one fleet warrior, whose speed he could not surpass, who still pressed closely after him.  Long and hot was the chase until at length, being so far ahead of the others that he felt sure of being able to dispatch the untiring savage before the others came up, he once more turned and showed him the muzzle of his rifle; at which, the Indian fearing to encounter Henry alone with an empty gun, turned and gave up the chase.  The balance of this narrative about the exploits of Henry Harman is reproduced, word for word using the spelling, punctuation and terminology exactly as handwritten by William Neel Harman, grandson of Henry Harman, allowing the true emotions of the participants to be expressed to the reader.       

The Battle of Warfield and the Capture of Jane Wily 

            OF all the heroic feats or hand-to-hand death—grapple encounters with the Indians in the border warfare of this or any country—none surpass the superb achievement of Capt. Henry Harman and his sons at The Battle of Warfield on Tug River named in honor of that event.  It occurred on the 12th of Nov, 1788.  Capt. Harman with his sons George & Mathias (18 years old) and George Draper proceeded with thirty packhorses to Tug River to hunt bears and pack home the meat, and finding a suitable point struck camp—staked out their horses and leaving George (Draper) to prepare their supplies the others went hunting.  Shortly afterwards George discovered what he took to be the signs of Indians and by a signal recalled his comrads from the hunt.  His father examined the signs including a pair of leggings which he smelled and by the smell which he well knew and possessions and their bag recognized the sign to be of Indians—and from appearances supposed to be about 10 in number. A council or consultation was at once held, what was best to be done.  There were two ways back to the settlements—one a near & direct route up the river—the other a circuitous mountain route by which it would require several days to reach the settlements.  It was known that the men of Bluestone & Abbs Valley were all out hunting—the hunting season having arrived & the women and children left defensless at their homes—and certain prey for the blood thirsty savages.  Seeing the Indian trail led directly up the river Draper & the two younger Harmans strongly advocated the mountain route, but the old man whose word was law, with an emphatic gesture declared, “I will warn Bluestone this night at the risk of my life”.  Noble—superb, heroic deed!  But for this, the Black Wolf, with his band of Shawnee warriors, now directly in the way up the river route—in no wise appeased by the many massacres & butcheries he had already made in the 11 years preceeding—would have made a perfectly complete holocaust of the women & children of the Bluestone settlements.  The line of march was soon taken directly up the river.  Draper rode next to Capt. Harman in front and George & Mathias brought up the rear driving the packhorses.  At the shake of every bush Draper would exclaim “there they are”.  Having twice forded the river and directly after ascending the bank from the second crossing the old dog & they discovered the Indians behind the trunk of a fallen tree—at which Capt. Harman exclaimed “there you lie you sad murdering dogs”.  They were armed with rifles tomahawks war-clubs, bows and brass-headed arrows.  In an instant they rose & fired upon the whites but without effect.  But with their terrific war-hoops with which they made the woods resound they now rushed on Capt. Harman with drawn tomahawks expecting in an instant to take his scalp.  Draper having at the first fire wheeled his horse and unceremoniously fled.  George seeing Drapers flight past him turned his eyes towards his father now half surrounded by his savage assailants and by pointing his loaded gun at them kept them from surrounding him. ________ heard him call over his shoulder—“good lord, my sons, don’t leave me”—George relates that from that moment he knew no fear—rushed to his fathers side and in his eagerness to slay the foremost assailant who proved to be the veritable “wolf” his newly dickerd gun used a little too quick but striking & wounding the savage in the knee.  The fathers gun—now with deadly aim sent a ball through an Indians heart who fell & expired.  The father had taken the precaution to forbid Mathias to shoot & thus kept a loaded gun ready to prevent being tomahawked by the savages—trying to load his gun with his left hand (the Harmans all carried their shot pouches on their left side).  George was struck by an arrow which pierced entirely through the double of his arm and with the other hand he jerked out ________ point foremost from behind next to the shoulder & doing so dropped his ramrod.  From this wound the blood spouted freely—being a lame man from white swelling—a stout athletic savage seeing him limp and his blood flowing freely deemed him an easy prey.  Throwing down his unloaded gun and advancing on George with up lifted tomahawk, but George by a sudden blow with his gun barrel knocked the top of his head & repeatedly threw the Indian to the ground but the Indian being clad in a tight calico hunting shirt, George found it impossible to hold him long enough to reach his butchers knife which in the scuffle still slipped around his back beyond his grasp.  In this life & death struggle so long protracted—George at length—upon throwing his slippery antagonist got his hand upon his knife and plunged it deep in the Indians side.  While continuing to do so over again another Indian took in the situation and advanced on George with a war club which he drew steadily over Georges head to make a sure lick—at that moment there was a sharp crack of a rifle.  The fathers eye had caught the situation and sent a ball through that Indian.  War-club flew high in the air and the Indian with a horsed yell escaping fell prostrate on the ground.  It was the fathers rifle.  Mathias who had now obstained ________ to ________ surprised to not shoot but have his loaded gun ever ready, about this time obtained leave and taking good aim killed another Indian.  George now beheld Wolf trying to drag off the wounded Indian towards a thicket of laurel on the bank of the river.  He drew his rifle, which he had now loaded and made present but the cunning Wolf bounding first to the one side and then the other gained the thicket.  While that was going on an Indian Chief calling himself Cherokee (so stated in the sworn narrative of Mrs. Willy) singled out & approached Capt. Harman (whom he called Skigusti—great warrior) for single combat—approaching up close to him, he drew a deadly arrow, and Harman drew his rifle which he had reloaded.  Both shot or aimed to shoot at the same moment of time.  The cock of the gun lock caught half-cock and it failed to fire.  The arrow pierced the double of Capt. Harmans arm cutting a large blood vessel from which as soon as he jerked out the barbed arrow ________ foremost the blood sprouted.  Harman again cocked and drew his gun speedily.  The savage drawing another arrow advanced till the arrow and the muzzle of the gun passed each other.  The gun again missed fire and the arrow struck a rib of Capt. Harman not the heart which glanced around and was finally cutout behind his shoulder.  Thinking he had now killed him the Indian jumped behind a sapling as Harman drew his gun for the third time and continued to spring rapidly back & fourth behind the sapling till Harmans gun fired shooting him through the arm near the body—as learned from Mrs. Wily.  Soon afterwards Capt. Harman sunk down & fainted from loss of blood.  George returning to his side got water & threw in his face & he revived and said ________ whipped, give me my pipe and while he took a smoke George seeing something glitter in the moon light now shining—found it was the bright tomahawk of the Indian he had killed and scalped.  The Indian which scalp is preserved in the family to this day.  The Indians Wolf & Cherokee beholding 4 of their numbers slain and made an escape for life.  Wolf shot 1 horse the result made it a cripple for life.  The other horse wounded ________ of which died that night.  The raiders went dragging & supporting their wounded comrade down the warpath where Draper was hid in a tree-top from which escaping after they had passed.  He took his ________ by the circuitous mountains south to the settlements where the Harmans had already arrived and finding a concourse of people assembled and beginning to tell them that the Harmans were all killed.  It is said hearing it George drew his hunting knife and made at Draper and he had to get away from there.  The brass & barbed arrow point being cut out behind Capt. Harmans left shoulder he speedily recovered and lived at his home where we reside now, lived till the fall of the year 1821  with his youngest son (Elias) (the writers father at which date bloody flux breaking out in the family he with other members (of) the family died with flux) about one year from the date of the battle to wit with a band of Indians in the fall of 1789—this same Wolf & Cherokee made another raid into the Bluestone settlements and captured Miss Jane (or Jean) Wily and an infant child of hers—she being then ________ of another and carried them down the lower fork of Sandy (River).  On the route she became the mother of another child.  Whether her husband was killed—tradition does not say—no one has noticed or made any record of this event as far as this writer is informed.  The property ________the Harman homestead.  The Indians carried her to the Harman battleground—Warfield—gathered up the bones of the Indians that died including the one that died the night after the battle, placed them in a hollow log & mourned over them.  Pointing out the exact spot where he fought with Captain Harman.  Cherokee said “right there I killed Skigusti”, (reckless whether they might kill her Mrs. Wily replied no you didn’t for he is now alive & well).  He replied you lie, you virginny bitch for when I shot him he called upon his God”.  They took (her) further down the river and took her and her children into a cave—and tied her feet to stakes driven into the ground then they went out for days to hunt.  One day they came in hurriedly and said there were some younackys (meaning white men) seized up her two children & knocked their brains out upon the rocks and ran out—leaving her staked to the ground.  She now scuffled till she got one hand loose and with it untied the other, and finding herself loose she ran for life toward the river—reaching the bank she hollowed and a man named Adam Harman came to the other bank and hurriedly made a raft of logs, came across and rescued her—just as (they) got to the opposite bank they looked back and saw one of the Indians on the bank they had left.  She returned to the settlements and went before a Justice of the (Peace) and made oath to the truth of the above narrative.  Henry Harman continued to live at the “old Harman house—Holly Brook” in Burkes Garden.  After the death of his wife Anna, he continued to live there with his eldest son Elias. (the writers father)  (William Neel Harman) he died in the fall of the year 1827 when together with four other members of his sons family he died being a hundred and one years of age.

NOTE:  Henry Harman’s grave stone in the Holly Brook Cemetery in Bland County Virginia shows his birth date as 1726 and death as 1822.

  
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