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Girty: The Outlaw

  by U.J. Jones and Edited by A. Monroe Aurand.

Simon Girty The Outlaw bookU.J. Jones, was born in Union county, Pa., in 1818, were he learned the art of printing, and while an apprentice wrote “Simon Girty, The Outlaw.” The legacy of this first known biography on Girty is a bittersweet one. On the one hand, without this book, much of the information known about Simon Girty might have been lost to history; but with it, you have a romanticized historical narrative written in the style of many of today’s modern day writers. Fortunately for us, a century later, editor A. Monroe Aurand in 1931 reviewed and updated Jones’ original version to amend some of those facts that makes this book both fun, easy to read and historically correct.

Born Simon Girty Jr. in 1741 near present-day Harrisburg, PA, his life would become something of a romantic tragedy. At age 10, his natural father was murdered by the Indians and during his 15th year, his stepfather was burned at the stake before his very eyes. His next decade was spent living among the Senecas of northwestern PA, by whom he was adopted, introducing Girty to the language and culture of the natives.

In 1771, Girty eventually resurfaced near Fort Pitt, where he began to make a name for himself as a capable frontier scout, interpreter and eventual spy for the Americans.

His official military career began as a frontier scout during Lord Dunmore’s War, the 1774 conflict between Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the Shawnee. Two defining episodes would abruptly change the course of Girty’s life, career and reputation. His career first took a turn in March 1778 with his serving as an interpreter for General Edward Hand’s infamous “Squaw Campaign.” On their return march to Fort Pitt, Hand lost control of his troops, resulting in an unprovoked killing of women and children in a nearby Indian village. Girty, disgusted by the savagery of the Americans, soon defected to the British. His ascent into infamy would be forever notarized with his participation in the second event, the graphic account of the 1782 torture and death of American militia Colonel William Crawford at the hands of Delaware Indians. Suddenly, the legend of Girty the Savage took on a life of its own.

Employed in the British Indian Department at Ft Detroit after the Revolutionary War, Girty would continue to help resist American advances into the Ohio country by leading countless Indian excursions against the Americans. When Detroit was ceded to the United States in 1796, Simon Girty fled to Canada, eventually to settle on his farm, where his health slowly declined. He died blind and destitute in 1818.

All students of early American History will enjoy this first explanation of the life of the white savage turned outlaw known simply to us as “Girty”. 192 pp., limited edition hardback, $39.95.
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