Tortured to death toward the end of the Revolutionary War, Col. William Crawford's memory has only recently been desecrated. A marble statue of the pioneer soldier guarding the entrance of the Ohio Crawford County Courthouse was decapitated Thursday night.
Suspects remain unidentified and the vandals, at large. But there are virtue signaling bounties on the heads of historical monuments today and there are only so many motives for attacking inanimate objects. Regardless, whoever beheaded Crawford didn't know him.
A pioneer soldier during the French and Indian War, Crawford served under George Washington. He received an ensign's commission at the future president's recommendation and spent the remainder of the conflict scouting, patrolling, and defending against the French-aligned Indians. No doubt, this was nasty business.
While glittering armies in Europe met outside cities for set battles, frontier fights were brutal skirmishes settled as often with muskets and arrows as with knives and tomahawks. Victory on both sides was defined by scalps. But while there's no doubt Crawford fought as brutally as his enemies, there's no evidence that he killed women or children.
That fact went under-appreciated by the Delaware Tribe in 1782 and doubtless by the social justice vandal who scalped his statue in the middle of the night.
Two hundred and thirty-five years ago, toward the end of the Revolution, Crawford led a 400-man mounted unit into Ohio in retaliation against British sponsored attacks against colonial pioneers. During an engagement with a combined Delaware-British force, the Americans were whipped, their little army was broken, and Crawford was captured.
Getting captured on the frontier was bad. Getting caught on the frontier by an Indian tribe that wrongly holds you responsible for the Moravian massacre, a slaughter of almost a hundred innocent Christian Indians, was even worse. An army surgeon, Dr. John Knight, recorded the colonel's subsequent death.
Crawford was stripped naked. His ears were cut off. Then he was bound to a stake, covered in gunpowder, and summarily set on fire. "At this point of his sufferings," the surgeon wrote, "[Crawford] besought the Almighty to have mercy on his soul, spoke very low, and bore his torments with the most manly fortitude." It took him "an hour and three quarters" to burn to death.
A couple things are worth remembering. First, Crawford was a loyal soldier fighting a declared enemy during a time of war. According to historical accounts, he died with the kind of dignity that makes one deserving of a statue. Second, the colonel had nothing to do with the Moravian massacre, an American holocaust worthy of solemn remembrance.
Crawford's now decapitated statue is just an hour's drive to a monument in Gnadenhutten, Ohio commemorating the slaughter and recorded in the National Register of Historical Places.
One wonders if the marble head hunter knew the history behind either or was simply whipped into such an ahistorical fervor that they wouldn't care. Giving way to passion rather than reason, that vandal brought back some of the savagery of the frontier. For destroying history, they deserve punishment.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.