MIHistory – April 4: Daniel Boone in Detroit

On this day in 1778, notable American pioneer and explorer Daniel Boone was brought to Detroit by the Shawnee Indians as a prisoner of war during the American Revolutionary War.

Daniel Boone

At the time the war broke out, Boone was living in Boonesborough, a town he’d founded in Kentucky west of the Appalachian Mountains. Relations between the white settlers and the Shawnee who lived in the area were tense, with frequent skirmishes breaking out between the two. When the American Revolution began, the Shawnee weren’t sympathetic to the settlers’ cause. Many of them, led by Chief Blackfish, sided with the British. However, a few — led by Chief Cornstalk —tried to remain neutral. When some settlers killed Cornstalk, Blackfish set out to avenge him. On Feb. 7, 1778, Blackfish came across Boone and about 30 of his men, who were away from their settlement to gather salt and food. Boone quickly determined that he and his men would lose a fight against the Shawnee, he ordered his men to surrender as prisoners of war.

Boone and his party were taken to the Shawnee village of Chillicothe, where they were made to run the gauntlet. Boone was then adopted into Blackfish’s family (the tribe had a custom of adopting some prisoners of war to replace their own fighters who had been killed). He was given the name “Sheltowee,” which means Big Turtle. The Shawnee then brought Boone and his men to British Lt. Gov. Henry Hamilton in Detroit. Some of Boone’s men, who resented Boone’s decision to surrender, heard Boone talking with Hamilton and believed he’d taken a loyalty oath to the British.

In June 1778, when Boone learned the British and Shawnee were about to attack Boonesborough again, he fled and raced home. However, another man who had been captured along with Boone got there before him, and told the settlers that he believed Boone had turned traitor against the American cause. Boone was later brought up on charges of treason because some settlers believed Boone didn’t put up enough resistance against the Shawnee and the British. Though he was found not guilty, Daniel Boone was humiliated by the experience and rarely spoke of it.





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