Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Bazle Castle, Part 2: Indian Spy

On June 7 of 1832 Congress passed legislation to expand the eligibility of veterans for Revolutionary War pensions. Men who had served at least two years received full pay for life; if a veteran had served at least 6 months but less than two years, he was eligible for a lesser amount. It was not necessary to prove financial need or disability, as previous acts had required, and at the death of the veteran widows and children could collect monies due from the time of the last payment to the date of death.

On 2 February 1834 Bazle Castle, 73 years old, appeared in Lawrence County, Kentucky, before Justice of the Peace John Stafford to make a statement of his Revolutionary War service "in order to obtain the benefit of the act of Congress passed June 7, 1832." He said that he "entered the service of the United States" in Fincastle County, Virginia, in April 1779 "under Colo. Preston, Capt. Lewis, and Lieut. Robinson...as an indian spy for one year." He was discharged in April 1780 after one year of service. He entered the service again for six months in February of 1781 as a volunteer in the Virginia militia and was discharged in July 1781.

The original handwritten statement appears on Ancestry.com, and I have relied on it and on a transcription of part of the statement which was made by C. Leon Harris for the Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters project. This project was initiated by the Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution (SCAR) organization and involves volunteers transcribing pension applications for every veteran who fought in the Southern Campaign or lived in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia during the Revolution. You can read about the Southern Campaigns at http://www.southerncampaign.org and see the pension applications at http://revwarapps.org. So far, 21,526 pension applications or bounty land claims have been transcribed by SCAR.

The first part of the statement, recorded by the Justice of the Peace and transcribed by Mr. Harris, reads: "he was a drafted man -- he was in no battle or battles during this years service. indian Spies was not so organized as to engage in battles. there was some small engagements but none denominated battles -- the cuntry through which he marched was the head of holstein river [sic: Holston River], on Blue Stone [sic: Bluestone River] that empties in to new river [in present Summers County WV]" Comments in brackets are those of Mr. Harris.


Rivers of Southwestern Virginia


At that point in the transcription of Bazle Castle's statement Mr. Harris reported that "one or more pages may be missing," and they were. The handwritten record on Ancestry.com contained two pages that were missing from the transcription. They were the most significant ones for me, as they detailed the whys and hows of Bazle's service as an Indian spy and included the reference to his father's participation in the Battle of Kings Mountain.


Bazle Castle's pension statement, page 3

The expertise and experience of the SCAR volunteers no doubt makes their job a little easier, but transcribing is hard work, and thus their effort is greatly appreciated by me. Here is my humble attempt to transcribe the two missing pages:

...that he [k]new any regular officers in the Continental Service, he is certain that he never served under a Continental officer or with a Continental regiment or a company -- he however believes that Col. Montgomery..Col. C(?)mel who he has seen, but never served under either, were regular officers -- when he entered for the above period (one year). He marched in the first instanse [sic] to the head of blue stone under his officers above stated. The Indians had committed several murders in that neighborhood, and some on Walker's Creek and had taken away one Jenny Wiley and taken them down Big Sandy River. She afterward escaped from them. The way the service was performed was this way. Two of the spies would take a certain range and spie(?) and a place was appointed to meet at night. The first four months of the above service was rendered by him on Blue Stone in September at which time the Indians were always the most troublesome. The whole company had to march a great distance down Clinch River to the fort called Blackamore's Fort. He arrived here late in September 1779 and scouted out from the fort until December (in the month?). He staid(?) pretty much in the fort (?) and in Feby. about the first thereof his company had to march back to blue stone. He arrived on the head of the river in March 1780, and from there went to Fort Chisel Hill [Fort Chiswell?] and was disbanded(?) and issued a discharge from service for our year April 1780 -- Fort Chisel Hill up in Montgomery Co.-- the later part of this year his father Jacob Castle went with the Virginia Volunteers to South Carolina, and was under Campbell at the Battle of Kings Mountain, in consequence of which he had to stay at home until his return in the winter of 1780 in the month of Feby. 1781

An article entitled "The Clinch Scouts" by Emory Hamilton can be accessed by Googling "Clinch Scouts," and is well worth reading. I would like to quote some of Mr. Hamilton's article, as it gives a good picture of the hardships under which Bazle Castle worked as he performed Revolutionary War service. First, Mr. Hamilton says that "Indian spy" is another name for what were known as the Clinch Scouts. He writes, "When the settlements along the Clinch and Powell Rivers in Southwest Virginia were the extreme western frontier, these scouts patrolled 150 miles of rugged mountainous wilderness. They ranged from the headwaters of the Clinch and Bluestone Rivers to Cumberland Gap in Lee County."

A series of forts and the services of the Clinch Scouts helped protect the pioneers of southwest Virginia from attacks by Shawnee Indians from the north and Cherokee Indians from the south. "Scouts or spies were divided out into groups of twos and fours -- usually in pairs. Each pair was allotted a certain section of the frontier where the war paths of the Indians were watched for approaching Indians, and other signs looked for. The scouts were not an attack force, but exactly what they were called 'spies.' When the spies saw approaching Indians, or signs where they had been, they hid away to warn the settlers so they could prepare for defense."

Hamilton explains that April through September were the months that the Indians were most active and most dangerous. The forests were easily traveled then and hid the approach of the warriors. The settlers were so busy producing food and supplies for the winter that they were often caught unawares by the Indian attacks. "Had not these scouts performed their duties, it is hard to imagine what dreadful massacres would have been perpetrated against the frontiers..."

Hamilton's article confirms what Bazle said in his statement: that the pair of spies would often separate during the day and meet again at night at a pre-arranged place. "I can think of no group on the frontier who underwent more privation and hardship than the Clinch scouts. They carried their supplies on their backs, slept on the ground, and foraged for their food and could build no fires. Unless Indians or Indian signs were spotted they lived in the wilderness for weeks at a time before returning to the forts for supplies."

So, did Bazle receive a pension for his service as an Indian spy? Well, yes and no. The Pension Roll of 1835 for Lawrence County, Kentucky, reports that Bazle Castle was approved for an annual pension of $50 which commenced February 28, 1834, and that he had received $150 total. Then a citizen of Floyd County named D.K. Harris wrote to the U.S. Secretary of War to protest the pensions of "Baswell Castle, Edward Darton, Thomas and James Howard."


Pension Roll of 1835, Lawrence County KY


His main objection seems to be that the men named were not old enough to have performed service in the Revolutionary War. "...I will be able to show and can prove the age of a grate maney that were scarly born at the time the servises is said to be rendered. I asure you sir thare is no man in the goverment would like the soldiers of the revolution more amply rewarded than myself But when I see others under the pretence committing the worst of frauds on our government I feel it my duty as a citisan to asert my Government in detecting improper conduct..." A motivation for this citizenship may be found in the last paragraph of the letter: "...if my servises is found to be of advantage to the department I shall expect to be remunerated for them at the discretion of the department..."

Apparently, Harris's letter was also accompanied by corroborating statements from two other citizens, but it appears, according to the transcription, that they only referred to the two Howards in their statements. In any case, a letter dated August 6, 1835, and transcribed by C. Leon Harris from the pension file of another Kentucky pensioner, Joseph Davis, makes this statement: "The pensions of Joseph Davis, Bazle Castle, Edward Darten, Thomas Howard and James Howard have been stopped." From the existing documents it appears that the pension of Bazle Castle was stopped upon the statement of just one man, D.K. Harris. For the record, Bazle was 20 years old at the time of his service, and according to Emory Hamilton, much younger boys saw service as Clinch scouts.

Ironically, in 1842 D.K. (David K.) Harris sent a retraction of his previous claims to the War Department. He said that he lived about twenty or twenty-five miles from Darton, Castle, and Davis, and while "in the nabourhood on the hunt of sume work cattle," he visited the Dartons and found "him sitting in his chair a cripple not able to get about without help and his wife stone bline." He started a conversation about the Revolutionary War with Mrs. Darton and "she spoke sensibly of the servises of hir husband and of Castle & Davis shee thoughroly convinced me that the suspetion that was against them was rong and sir I do much regrett that it was in and through me that they ware cut out of thare rights..."

In 1839 a letter was written asking why the pension had been stopped, and in 1844 Bazle, aged 93, applied for a restoration of his pension. On December 29, 1851, John Castle of Johnson County, Kentucky, the only living child of Bazle Castle, applied for his father's pension from the date of suspension until his father's death on October 8, 1846. It appears that these appeals went unanswered and that the only money that Bazle ever received in pension for his Revolutionary War service was $150.

Statement of monies paid to Bazle Castle

The other question, of course, concerns Bazle's efforts against the native tribes while his father Jacob appears to have been sympathetic to them. It's impossible to know what conversations father and son may have had on the topic. In any case, according to Bazle's testimony, his father did participate in the Battle of Kings Mountain against Loyalist forces. I hope to write a post soon about that momentous victory of the Revolutionary War, made possible in part by the Overmountain Men of southwestern Virginia.


Ancestry.com. U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Hamilton, Emory. "The Clinch Scouts." Lee County Virginia Genealogical Research Site. The VA GenWeb Project. 30 Jan. 2017. http://vagenweb.org/lee/ClinchScoutsMA.html.

Revolutionary War Pension Application for Bazle Castle S15369. Transcribed by C. Leon Harris. Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters. http://revwarapps.org/






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