The Fifth Battalion, Cumberland County Militia, commanded by Colonel Arthur Buchanan, was drawn from the area known as the Kishocoquillas Valley around present day Lewistown, Pennsylvania. While the Kishocoquillas Valley was not directly threatened for the most part, it was within practical marching distance of areas that were, and the Fifth Battalion, Cumberland County Militia was often utilized in this fashion.
Some of the duties of the Fifth Battalion, Cumberland County Militia included garrisoning the county’s most important western fort, Fort Standing Stone, at Huntingdon, PA, and protecting farmers working in their fields from Indian war parties.
One of the most notable actions of the Battalion came in the spring of 1778 when two classes, the 7th and the 8th, marched west under the command of Colonel Buchanan to put down a Loyalist uprising in Bedford County. While in service, they assisted in the protection of a lead mining operation under the command of General Daniel Roberdeau and helped build a fort in Sinking Valley, Pennsylvania for the protection of the mines.
Roberdeau began the expedition to the mines at Carlisle, assembling workmen and supplies necessary for his mining project, and with the help of John Carothers, Cumberland County Lieutenant of Militia (an administrative position not to be confused with the military rank), he enlisted two companies of militia to provide military protection for the project. Writing to President Thomas Wharton of the Supreme Executive Council Roberdeau reported on April 17, 1778:
“I find the state is guarding against the incursions of savages. This confirmed me in the preconceived intention of erecting a stockade
fort in the neighborhood of the mine I am about to work. Mr. Carothers, convinced of the necessity of the work, condescendingly offered on company of the militia which he would expect to consist of 40 men, under my command, to co-operate in so salutory a business.”
Roberdeau also refered to one additional company which could be diverted from an assignment at Standing Stone unless Council objected. These companies were the 7th and 8th classes of the Fifth Battalion. John Carothers stated in a letter to President Wharton dated April 24, 1778:
“I have been obliged to send up to Sinking Valley and Bald Eagle the marching classes of the Fifth Battalion, which will amount to near 70 privates.”
The men responded slowly due to the lack of arms. Roberdeau wrote to John Carothers on April 23:
“Want of arms prevents those who would turn out. I shall furnish (24 muskets) brought from Carlisle as soon as they come forward…your aid is greatly wanted to stimulate the militia and furnish arms, ammunition, pack horses, and everything necessary in your line of duty.”
On April 27, Carothers sent another 100 muskets up the Juniata River to arm the militia.
The 7th and 8th Classes remained in the area of Sinking Valley until mid June when the threat of the Loyalist attack faded. At least one officer described as “an e
xperienced man in the way of Indian Wars”, Major Alexander McIllhatton remained in the area several months longer as a volunteer to perform ranger duties.
While in the area the militia battalion served as guards for convoys of supplies to Fort Roberdeau, assisted in the construction of the fort, hunted down and escorted Loyalists to jail, and escorted shipments of lead to the east.