Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Capture and Escape of Peter Lewney (Looney)

This is an article published in the London Chronicle, September 8-10, 1757. It gived details about the experiences of Peter Looney (1724-1760), who was captured in the French and Indian War from Fort Vause, VA, taken to Fort Detroit and escaped from Fort Niagra. Peter was the son of Robert and Elizabeth Looney.

The London Chronicle
Universal Evening Post

Thursday Sept 8 to Saturday Sep. 10, 1757

Foreign Transactions
Philadelphia, July 28.

Since I last came to Town one Peter Lewney, who, for about a Year past has been among the French and Indians at Fort Detroit, and informs us as follows, viz. That he was an Ensign of a Company of Ranges in the back Parts of Virginia, consisting of 70 Men, commanded by Capt. John Smith. That last Summer the Frontier Inhabitants being greatly distressed by the incursions of the Enemy, their whole company went out in different Parties to their Assistance, except the Captain, himself, and nine private Men, whoe were in the Blockhouse, and had with them six Women and five Children.

That on the 25th of June, 1756, they were attacked by a Body of Indians and some French, and defended themselves the best Part of a Day; in which Time he says, they killed 32 Indians and three Frenchmen, lost two of their own People, and another Man and himself were wounded; but were forced to surrender at last, the House they were in being set on Fire.

That they were then carried off, and after travelling some Time, the Indians belonging to Four different Tribes divided the Prisoners, and parted; that before they came to the lower Shawneses Town (where he supposes there were about 300 Indians) the Shawnese made a Sacrifice of one Cole, whom they roasted alive, and tormented for a whole Night before he expired; and this they did in Sight of the French, who seemed unconcerned at their horrid Barbarity, and did not endeavor to restrain them, notwithstanding the moving Intreaties and bitter Complaints of the poor Man; that they also killed and scalped another Man on the Road, he being old and not able to travel.

That he (Lewney) was the only one that was carried to Detroit, where there were about 300 French Families settled, and in what is called the Town, they have about 100 Houses; that they have Plenty of Fish; the Land is rich, on which they raise Wheat and Pease and have very good Crops; and the Indians, of two or three Nations, were numerous.

That while he was at Detroit, and Indian King adopted him for his Brother, on which account he was very well used, and was often with them at their Councils with the French, being dressed and painted as the Indians were, and not known by the French but as an Indian, living in every Respect as they did; and that at one Time in particular, at a Conference, he heard the French Commander order the Indian to go to first Fort Duquesnem then to Fort Cumberland, and afterwards to destroy all the English Inhabitants; that about the Beginning of April last a great Body of Indians set off for Duquesne, in Parties, each Party having some Frenchmen with them.

That about the Middle of June he left Detroit in Company with a small Party of Indians, who were going to Niagra with some Furs, in order to purchase Indian Goods; that from Detroit to Niagra it is about 280 Miles, and that on the Falls of the latter the French have a small Fort, in which they keep 30 Men; and at Niagra there is a Fort of 24 Guns, Six, Nine, and Twelve-pounders, and it is about 300 Men.

That while he was at Niagra, he met with William Philips, of New York, who was taken at Oswego, and they agreed to make their Escape together; that the Night before they left it, 280 French arrived there from Cadaraqui, destined, it was said, for Fort Dusquene, who encamped that Night, and were to set our again the same Day, but he and Philips went off before them; that they travelled about 200 Miles (the Land bad, and mostly drowned) when they came to Oswego, without seeing an Indian; which Place, and Fort Ontario, they found entirely destroyed; that they then came to the Mohawk River, where they were kindly reeieved by the Indians, who gave them Victuals, of which they were in great Want; and that they got to Albany the 12th inst. from whence he proceeded to this City, and is now gone to Virginia, where his Parents live. He was born in this Town and is about 23 Years of Age. Capt. Smith, he said, was given to the French, and sent to Canada in the Spring.

Excerpt from the book Most Distinguished Characters on the American Frontier, Vol II, by Phillip and Madge Looney Crane, Closson Press, Appollo, PA, 2008, pp. 330-332, Transcribed 23 Apr 2011 by Teresa McVeigh