We were in the final years of the long drawn out American Revolutionary War. General Washington was afraid the British and their Native American allies would soon open a third front to the west of the American colonies. To prevent this he asked his long-time friend retired Colonel William Crawford who had only retired from active military service the year before to head a group of 500 volunteers into the Ohio Country.
Crawford was familiar with the Ohio Country. He had accompanied the younger George Washington many years before down the Ohio River on a survey expedition. Many years later he helped build Fort Laurens in northeast Ohio.
Crawford’s Expedition into the Ohio Country was to suppress a suspected stronghold of Wyandots along the Sandusky River using a surprise attack that he hoped would catch them off-guard. Unfortunately, British spies hand informed the British of the large expedition marching west from Fort Pitt and Native Americans from around Detroit moved south to reinforce the Wyandots. To complicate this expedition, many of the volunteers making up Crawford’s expedition had taken part in a massacre of Christian Delaware that had returned to their Moravian village where the militia captured them thinking they were part of a raiding party that had killed a young girl of a pioneer family. Although the massacre included killing all of the Delaware, one young man escaped the carnage by slipping out of the cabin and into the woods during the night. He would later identified some of the men involved in the massacre.
As Crawford’s expedition approached the Sandusky Plains on June 4 they encounter a combined force of Shawnee, Delaware and Wyandot. At the end of the first day of the engagement, the Americans seemed to have control of the field. The next morning a British force of Rangers reinforced the Native Americans. This tipped the scales in favor of the British and their Native American allies. Crawford sensing the balance had shifted, decided to withdraw his force south. A sudden attack by the Native Americans forced Crawford’s men into an unorganized retreat.
During the confusion of the retreat, Crawford’s horse collapsed and he was captured along with a few other men. After several days of extreme torture, Colonel Crawford was burned at the stake.
Crawford County was later named for the executed soldier.