Our Rich History: ‘The Point,’ where Licking meets the Ohio, played strategic role in Revolutionary War

George Rogers Clark
George Rogers Clark

By Steve Preston
Special to NKyTribune

On August 1, 1780, American general George Rogers Clark and approximately 1,050 armed Kentuckians left their meeting place at the Point, where the Licking River meets the Ohio River at present-day Covington. Their plan was to march on the Shawnee towns on the Mad River, in what is now Springfield, Ohio.

The Point was ideal — big enough to support a large group and accessible both by water and land. Clark’s choice of the location would make it the “jumping-off” point for the largest military engagement west of the Alleghenies up until that time, the Battle of Peckuwe.

The Indians of Ohio and the Kentucky settlers had little in common except for two things, their mutual dislike and their use of Covington’s “The Point.”

This flat triangle of land was a convenient path in and out of Kentucky from Southwest Ohio. While the settlers of Kentucky only began using this trail in the late 18th century, American Indians had been using it from time immemorial.

The Point was on a trail that began in Northern Ohio and branched out across Ohio and present-day Indiana. It led into the fertile hunting grounds of Kentucky. Prior to European settlement in Kentucky, historic tribes such as the Shawnee, Miami, and Iroquois had used the many trails that connected across the Ohio country to travel to Kentucky for their winter hunting.

Some of the bloodiest conflict during the American Revolutionary War arose in 1780. East of the Alleghenies, the American Revolution was in full swing. But aside from Indian raids by roving war parties, no concerted effort had been made to bring the war to Kentucky. All of this changed on June 12, 1780, when 150 British troops and 850 warriors of various Ohio and Great Lakes tribes, led by Captain Henry Bird, crossed from present-Cincinnati, landed at the Point, and began their expedition against Kentucky settlements upstream on the Licking River.

In a rare display of frontier warfare, Bird’s troops brought several cannon with them. Bird’s force headed upstream on the Licking by boat and canoe. Due to shallow water, the hostile force had to continue by land when it reached the forks of the Licking River, near Falmouth. Forty-five miles away was the first of two fortified settlements.

Ruddell’s and Martins Stations were small stockaded communities set up much like Boonesborough or Harrodsburg. Ruddell’s Station was located on the north bank of the Licking River’s South Fork in Harrison County. Nearby, was Martin’s Station, another fortified community. Located in Bourbon County, it was approximately four miles from present-day Paris, Kentucky. Between the two settlements, roughly 300 or so settlers made up the population.

On the 24th of June, an advanced guard of Indians led by a British officer attacked Ruddell’s Station. The settlement was taken by surprise, and a firefight soon erupted. Captain Bird arrived with the remainder of his force around noon and set up his six-pound artillery piece in full site of the fort. Prior to commencing fire, the inhabitants of the station sought terms for surrender. Even as the surrender was still being signed, Indians surged through the open gate and began killing those inside. Those not killed were stripped of their belongings, including the clothes on their back, and made prisoners.

Bird then advanced on the unsuspecting families at Martin’s Station. After achieving much the same results there, Bird and his army found themselves laden with more than 300 prisoners. With limited supplies, it became impractical to continue his invasion of Kentucky. Bird turned his force north and headed back to the Point and the Ohio River.

At the Point, the British and Indians parted ways. As a reward, Bird gave the tribes some 200 prisoners. The British and the remaining 150 prisoners headed back up the Great Miami and to Detroit. The tribes headed back to their villages with their prisoners and plunder. While many of the Indian captives would be ransomed at Detroit, others would be adopted by the Indians, and still others killed at the hands of their captors.

As a result of this invasion by the British, George Rogers Clark retaliated by gathering his forces, including two cannon of his own at the Point. On August 1, 1780, Clark and his forces left the Point and headed north to attack Shawnee villages at Chillicothe and Peckuwe. Clark’s force laid waste to the two Indian towns and returned back to the Point where his force of militia returned to their homes, and his regulars returned to areas such as the Falls of Ohio.

This chapter of the use of the Point and the American Revolution soon came to a close. With the construction of Fort Washington in 1788, to overlook the mouth of the Licking River from the site of present-day Cincinnati, the use of the Point began to diminish as a warpath.

Steve Preston is the Education Director and a Curator of History at Heritage Village Museum.

One thought on “Our Rich History: ‘The Point,’ where Licking meets the Ohio, played strategic role in Revolutionary War

  1. Interested in General Massie’s similar trek down the Licking to the Point in 1872

    And KY’s first?? militia KIA of Revolutionary War.

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