A neighboring hero named ‘Bland’

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By Tom Watson

This article is courtesy of the History of Kentucky by Lewis Collins and J.A. and U.P. James, published in 1847. It was reprinted by the Henry Clay Press, Lexington, Ky., in 1968.
Because so many Spencer Countians were once Shelby Countians before the division of Shelby in 1824, it seems quite appropriate to offer this biography. Remember, this was published in 1847. Because of its length, The Spencer Magnet is presenting the article in two parts. Make sure to check out next week’s edition for the second half of the story.

CAPTAIN BLAND BALLARD, in honor of whom this county is named, was born near Fredericksburg, Virginia, on the 16th of October, 1761, and is now in his 87th year.  He came to Kentucky in 1779, and joined the regular militia which was kept up for the defence [sic] of the country; and after serving on Bowman’s campaign in 1779, accompanied the expedition led by Gen. Clark against the Pickaway towns in Ohio in 1781, on which occasion he received a severe wound in the hip, from the effects of which he is suffering at this day.  In 1786 he was a spy for General Clark in the expedition to the Wabash, rendered abortive by the mutiny of the soldiers.

In the summer of 1791, he served as a guide under Generals Scott and Wilkinson, and was present under General Wayne at the decisive battle on the 20th of August, 1794.
When not engaged in regular campaign, he served as hunter and spy for General Clark, who was stationed at Louisville, and in this service he continued for two years and a half. During this time he had several rencounters [sic] with the Indians. One of these occurred just below Louisville.
He had been sent in his character of spy to explore the Ohio from the mouth of Salt river to the falls, and from thence up to what is now the town of Westport. On his way down the river, when six or eight miles below the falls, he heard, early one morning, a noise on the Indiana shore. He immediately concealed himself in the bushes, and when the fog had scattered sufficiently to permit him to see, he discovered a canoe filled with three Indians, approaching the Kentucky shore. When they had approached within range, he fired and killed one.
The others jumped overboard, and endeavored to get their canoe into deep water, but before they succeeded, he killed a second, and finally a third.  Upon reporting his morning’s work to General Clark, a detachment was sent down, who found the three dead Indians and buried them.  For this service General Clark gave him a linen shirt, and some other small presents.  This shirt, however, was the only one he had for several years, except those made of leather; of this shirt the pioneer hero was doubtless justly proud.
While on a scout to the Saline Licks on one occasion, Ballard, with one companion, came suddenly upon a large body of Indians, just as they were in the act of encamping.  They immediately charged, firing their guns and raising the yell.  This induced the Indians, as they had anticipated, to disperse for the moment, until the strength of the assailing party could be ascertained.  During this period of alarm, Ballard and his companion mounted two of the best horses they could find, and retreated for two days and nights, until they reached the Ohio, which they crossed upon a raft, making their horses swim.  As they ascended the Kentucky bank, the Indians reached the opposite shore.
At the time of the defeat on Long Run, he was living at Lynn’s station on Beargrass, and came up to assist some families in moving from Squire Boon’s station, near the present town of Shelbyville.  The people of this station had become alarmed on account of the numerous Indian signs in the country, and had determined to move to the stronger stations on the Beargrass.  They proceeded safely until they arrived near Long Run, when they were attacked front and rear by the Indians, who fired their rifles and then rushed on them with their tomahawks.
Some few of the men ran at the first fire, of the others, some succeeded in saving part of their families, or died with them after a brave resistance.
The subject of this sketch, after assisting several of the women on horseback who had been thrown at the first onset, during which he had one or two single handed combats with the Indians, and seeing the party about to be defeated, he succeeded in getting outside of the Indian line, when he used his rifle with some effect, until he saw they were totally defeated.  He then started for the station, pursued by the Indians, and on stopping at Floyd’s Fork, in the bushes, on the bank, he saw an Indian on horseback pursuing the fugitives ride into the creek, and as he ascended the bank near to where Ballard stood, he shot the Indian, caught the horse and made good his escape to the station.  Many were killed, the number not recollected, some taken prisoners, and some escaped to the station.
They afterwards learned from the prisoners taken on this occasion, that the Indians who attacked them were marching to attack the station the whites had deserted, but learning from their spies that they were moving, the Indians turned from the head of Bullskin and marched in the direction of Long Run. The news of this defeat induced Colonel Floyd to raise a party of thirty-seven men, with the intention of chastising the Indians.
Floyd commanded one division and captain Holden the other, Ballard being with the latter. They proceeded with great caution, but did not discover the Indians until they received their fire, which killed or mortally wounded sixteen of their men.  Notwithstanding the loss, the party under Floyd maintained their ground, and fought bravely until overpowered by three times their number, who appealed to the tomahawk.  The retreat, however, was  completed without much further loss.  This occasion has been rendered  memorable by the magnanimous gallantry of young Wells (afterwards the Colonel Wells of Tippecanoe), who saved the life of Floyd, his personal enemy, by the timely offer of his horse at a moment when the Indians were near to Floyd, who was retreating on foot and nearly exhausted.