John Hardin
Birth nameJohn Hardin
Nickname(s)The Indian Killer
BornOctober 1, 1753
Prince William County, Virginia
DiedMay 1792
Turtle Creek, Ohio
Allegiance Kingdom of Great Britain
 United States
Unit8th Pennsylvania Regiment
Battles/wars1st Battle at Saratoga
Harmar Campaign
Spouse(s)Jane Daviess
ChildrenDaviess Hardin
Lydia Ann Hardin
Mark Hardin
Mary Hardin
Rosanna Hardin
Sarah Hardin
Martin D. Hardin
Other workJudge of Washington County, Virginia

John Hardin (October 1, 1753 – May 2, 1792) was a soldier, farmer, rancher, noted marksman, and hunter. He was wounded fighting in Lord Dunmore's War. He also served as a Continental Army officer in the American Revolutionary War and as a Kentucky Company Virginia militia commander in the Northwest Indian War. Colonel Hardin was killed by Shawnee Indians in an ambush while acting as a peace emissary to their people.

Early life

John Hardin was born in Prince William County, Virginia, in an area that is now Fauquier County. John Hardin was the second son and sixth child of Martin Hardin (1716–1778) and Lydia (Waters) Hardin (1721-1800). His father was an owner of an ordinary (roadhouse/bar), as well as a member of the Virginia militia. When John was 12, his family moved to Pennsylvania, where he eventually joined the military. John Hardin was married to Jane Daviess, and together they had seven children; Kentucky senator Martin D. Hardin was their youngest child.

Military life

Lord Dunmore's War

Due to his reputation as a marksman, Hardin was asked in 1774 to join Captain Zack Moran's company as an ensign. As they fought Native Americans during Lord Dunmore's War, Hardin's exploits gained him a reputation on the frontier as the "Indian Killer." In one battle, Hardin was wounded in the groin by a musket ball which remained in him for the rest of his life.

Revolutionary War

During the Revolutionary War, John Hardin was a second lieutenant in the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment. He was one of a select number of riflemen chosen to serve in a Regiment detachment known as the Provisional Rifle Corps (or "Morgan's Rifles"). During this time, he fought at Saratoga serving directly under Colonel Daniel Morgan.

Later life

In 1786, after the war, John Hardin and his family settled on a large parcel of land in Washington County, Virginia (now Washington County, Kentucky), where they farmed and raised livestock. They also joined the Methodist church in that area. Hardin had some success as a rancher, continually adding acreage to his original tract. He also continued to serve as a militiaman until the end of his life.

Later militia service

As a militia captain in 1786, John Hardin led a successful attack on a Piankeshaw village near present-day Vincennes, Indiana. This village belonged to a friendly tribe that had been allies with the colonial Americans.[1] In August 1789, he led another militia expedition to Terre Haute, where he attacked a Shawnee party of twenty-two men, women, and children.[2] Three women, one child, and an infant were killed in the attack.[2] Hardin paraded through Vincennes, but Major Jean François Hamtramck lamented that the uneasy peace he had brokered with the Wabash nations would soon end due to the "provocation" of this "Kentucky affair."[2] Hardin returned to Kentucky with twelve scalps.[3]

Hardin was promoted to colonel and repeatedly engaged Indians during the Northwest Indian War in the Ohio Territory. In 1790, he led a detachment of the Kentucky County militia in the disastrous Battle of Heller's Corner (also known as "Hardin's Defeat"). This defeat began a long succession of American losses to a Miami chief named Little Turtle. In 1791, Hardin led a force of sixty mounted militiamen, destroying a large Kickapoo village near the mouth of the Big Pine Creek. This was part of General Charles Scott's campaign to conquer Ouiatenon.[4]


In April 1792, President George Washington sent word to Hardin asking him to negotiate peace with the Shawnee. Soon after, in the area that is now Shelby County, Ohio, John Hardin met with a party of the Shawnee, who offered to escort him to their village. But while Hardin and his men slept, the Shawnee murdered them. Hardin's interpreter and guide, John Flinn, was left alive because he had lived among the Indians for fourteen years after being captured by them as a boy. Flinn later settled in Miami County, Ohio.


Namesake places



  1. ^ Allison, pg 56
  2. ^ a b c Sword, p. 77
  3. ^ Allison, pg 67
  4. ^ Allison, 77
  5. ^ Sutton's "History of Shelby County Ohio".p.270
  6. ^ [1] U.S. Congressional Biography; Hardin; Martin
  7. ^ [2] U.S. Congressional Biography; Hardin, John J.
  8. ^ [3] U.S. Congressional Biography; Hardin, Benjamin