V. Historical Perspectives
5.1 The Munsee Delawares of Chemung/Wilawana in the Revolutionary War Era
(by James Folts, New York State Archives)
An often overlooked Native American group on New York's frontier was the Munsee Delaware. However, the Munsee Delawares played a major role in events associated with the Sullivan-Clinton campaign, in particular the Battles of Chemung and Newtown. The relationship between the Munsee Delaware and the Haudenosaunee Nations in the Southern Tier of New York is the subject of much debate. However, it is generally agreed that the Munsee Delaware were resident in villages within the Chemung Valley before and during the Revolutionary War. Of equal importance to understanding the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign is the importance of the villages of Chemung as focal points for strategic occupation and planning. This section will explore the history of the Munsee Delaware in the region and their role in the Battle of Chemung.
In the early 1770s Chemung was one of numerous multi-ethnic Native American towns and hamlets within the home territory of the Six Nations in the upper Susquehanna-Chemung region of south-central New York and northern Pennsylvania. The non-Iroquoian inhabitants had been allotted town sites and hunting grounds by the Onondaga Grand Council.
The Munsee Delawares were the predominant Native American group in the lower Chemung Valley, though they were also present in the upper Susquehanna Valley. The Munsees had lost their homelands in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania over the course of many decades. Probably around 1700 they started moving into the Susquehanna region, where most of them came under the protection of the Cayugas and Senecas.
The Munsees and almost all the other Indians in the upper Susquehanna-Chemung region were hostile toward the United States during the Revolutionary War. They followed the lead of the pro-British element within the Six Nations. Warriors from the Susquehanna and Chemung towns joined the Senecas, Cayugas, and Onondagas in raiding the frontier settlements of the Middle States. As General George Washington planned military operations against the hostile members of the Six Nations and their allies in late 1778 and early 1779, he targeted not only towns in the Finger Lakes region and the Genesee Valley, but also towns in the upper Susquehanna and Chemung River Valleys. The Susquehanna-Chemung communities were important because of their strategic location, food resources, and significant population.
The upper Susquehanna and Chemung Valleys facilitated communication in all directions, including south from Tioga Point. These valleys provided easy routes for travelers. Washington learned in early 1779 that "Navigation is gentle" on the upper Susquehanna (GWP: Charles Stewart to Robert H. Harrison, Nov. 5, 1778). On the Chemung River, boats could go as far as the Town of Chemung, and canoes to the headwaters of its tributaries, the Canisteo and Tioga Rivers. The Indian paths along the main rivers were generally level and suitable for pack horses (Flick 1929a: 197, 209).4 Easy communication facilitated the American army's invasion of Indian country in 1779. Tioga Point was the southern entrance to the homeland of the Six Nations. The principal towns of the Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Tuscaroras lay just [text deleted] away, and the multi-ethnic towns of the upper Susquehanna-Chemung region were much closer.
A listing of the Indian towns of the upper Susquehanna-Chemung region on the eve of the Revolutionary War comes from Charles Stewart. As a deputy surveyor general for Pennsylvania he surveyed the Susquehanna River between Wyoming (now Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) and Oquaga (now Windsor, N.Y.) in 1773. He became commissary general of issues in the Continental Army in 1777 (SCP 3:ix, xiv-xv, 83; ACAB 5:683). In the winter of 1779 Stewart provided intelligence about the Indian towns above Tioga Point at the time he made surveys in the region (see Table 4, below).
Table 4. List of larger Indian towns on the Upper Susquehanna and Chemung Rivers, ca. 1774.
|Sheshequenink [Sheshequin]||~ 20|
Stewart added that "there is a number of other little Towns between Wioming and Ononoughquago." 5 He mentioned that "every Eight or ten Miles there are large old Indian Fields full of Grass at all times no danger of pack Horses wanting food" (GWP: Stewart to Harrison, Nov. 5, 1778). This was useful logistical information, and the old fields were evidence of a long history of native settlements in the upper Susquehanna-Chemung Valleys.
The ethnic diversity of the Susquehanna-Chemung region in the eighteenth century is remarkable (Hauptman 1980). In 1765 George Croghan, agent of Sir William Johnson, the British superintendent of Indian affairs in northeastern North America, compiled a long "List of the different Nations and Tribes of Indians . . . with the number of their fighting Men." Excerpts from that list provide information on the identity and numbers of the Six Nations and their dependents in the upper Susquehanna watershed (Hutchins 1788/1904: 135).
Table 5. "A List of the different Nations and Tribes of Indians in the Northern District of North America, with the number of their fighting Men, &c. &c." (1765; excerpt)
|Names||Number of each||x|
Croghan's list indicates that the "villages up the north branch of Susquehannah" (i.e. the Chemung)6 included Munsees, Delawares, and Saponies (the latter a Siouan-speaking group that had moved north from the Piedmont region of Virginia).
The list of peoples can be expanded. In 1777 Comfort Kinyon and his wife Ella made a deposition about their Loyalist neighbors on the upper Susquehanna near the Pennsylvania-New York boundary. The Kinyons said that Indians residing along the Chemung River, "the Delewares the Shawnees & the Mingoes," had invited the Loyalists to settle among them (Kinyon 1777:443). "Mingoes" was a generic term for Six Nations Indians (in this case, Cayugas and Senecas), especially those who lived at a distance from the main towns (see HBP 6:679-80). In early 1779 Charles Stewart informed Washington that the "Cayuga Branch" of the Susquehanna (i.e. the Chemung River) was inhabited by "Delawares, Munseys, Nantekokes, Tuscaroras and Oneidas with some Shawenese" (Flick 1929a: 197). The Oneidas and Tuscaroras probably came to the Chemung Valley after October 1778, when their towns on the upper Susquehanna were burned by Pennsylvania Continental troops. Later tradition helps fill out the ethnic roster. In 1828 Judge Thomas Maxwell of Elmira, N.Y., interviewed Red Jacket and other Senecas with the help of interpreter Jasper Parrish. Maxwell learned that "immediately preceding the settlement of this valley (the Chemung) by the whites, it was occupied by the Sapoonies, Delawares and Munsies, with straggling parties of Senecas, Cayugas and Tuscaroras; it being, as they stated, common hunting ground" (Schoolcraft 1851-57: 5:668-69).
These lists – Croghan (1765), Kinyon (PCC Item 58, 443), Stewart (CSP 1779), and Maxwell (Schoolcraft 1851-57: 5:668-69) – are generally validated by other documentary sources, though each list has apparent omissions and simplifications. The population/warrior counts are problematic, though the relative values seem plausible.7 One general conclusion seems warranted: the non-Iroquoian population in the upper Susquehanna-Chemung region substantially augmented the core population of the Six Nations. Croghan's figures distinguish between Iroquoian and non-Iroquoian peoples, and they indicate that the non-Iroquoian settlements along the Chemung River alone contained a number of fighting men exceeding that of each of the Six Nations, except the Senecas, who still resided in their homelands.8 The Six Nations' century-long policy of locating dependent peoples in the Susquehanna drainage basin enhanced their military capacity and defensive posture. However, the buffer zone separating their homelands and expanding white settlements had contracted dramatically with the Fort Stanwix treaty line of 1768. Loss of hunting grounds and uncertainty about the exact location of the boundary caused some inhabitants of the upper Susquehanna-Chemung region to move west during the early 1770s.
5.1.2 Native American Towns in the Susquehanna and Chemung Valleys in the 1770s
In the 1770s Chemung was the largest and newest town on the "Tioga" or "Cayuga Branch" of the Susquehanna River, but in many ways it resembled the other Indian communities in the region. All the communities were established in the early to mid-eighteenth century; all were ethnically diverse; all were located within the homeland of one of the Five Nations by permission of the Onondaga Grand Council.
The ethnic composition of native towns occasionally changed with the influx of refugees who fled expanding white settlements and the wars of the mid-eighteenth century. Most towns in the upper Susquehanna region displayed semi- or fully dispersed settlement patterns; houses could be scattered over as much as a mile or more (Jordan 2008: 167, 198-224; Elliott 1977). Certain towns in the upper Susquehanna Valley, for example Oquaga and Choconut, seem to have been more concentrated than those in the Chemung Valley.
The Native American presence in the Susquehanna region in the early eighteenth century was a coalescence of two population movements. First, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas dispersed southward from new towns established after the French invasions and the peace of 1701. The migration of the Onondagas and Oneidas and perhaps the other nations may have resulted from slow population growth starting in the late seventeenth century, after decades of precipitous declines from wars and epidemics (Jones 2010; Jordan 2008: 54-57). Second, people of many other nations arrived in the Susquehanna region from all compass directions except north. In some cases a group moved farther upriver after a few years to make room for newcomers.
Many Native Americans of various nations moved to the Chemung Valley after the Susquehanna Valley below Tioga Point was evacuated in the spring of 1756, with the outbreak of the French and Indian War. Particularly prominent in this wartime migration were Unami-speaking Delawares, who had not previously resided above Shamokin, Pennsylvania. The Susquehanna and Chemung Valleys thus comprised one multi-ethnic cultural and political zone during the eighteenth century. Interconnections between the communities were numerous. 9
5.1.3 The Place Names "Chemung" and "Wilawana"
"Chemung" is the anglicized version of an Unami Delaware place name. Deriving from Munsee Delaware is "Wilawana," now the name of an unincorporated hamlet in Bradford County, Pa., on the south side of the Chemung River (the hamlet of Chemung is on the north side, nearly opposite Wilawana). The place name in both Unami and Munsee means "place of the horn" or "big horn," as several eighteenth century sources state (MA 131:5, Feb. 25, 1769, 133:2 May 3, 1770; PCR 9:689-91; Lukens 1899: 232; P. Wallace 1958: 370). Variant spellings are numerous:
Chaamonaqué, Chamong, Chemong, Chemoung, Chemunk, Chomong, Chymung, Schammungk, Schamung, Schemanga, Schommunk, Schummunk, Shamang, Shammunk, Shamong, Shamunk, Shemongo, Shemung, Shimong, Shommunk, Shummoak, Shummonk, Shummounk, Shumonk, Shumoonk, Skeemonk [Southern Unami]
Uschummo, Uschommung [Northern Unami]10
Walawannunck, Walawanuck, Welawanung, Welawanunk, Wethouooungque, Wilawane, Wilawanünk [Munsee]11
The Moravian missionary David Zeisberger, who visited the town several times and was familiar with both the Unami and Munsee languages, stated that the two place names, Chemung and Wilawana, referred to the same town (MA 229:2:23).12
The variants of and documentary references to "Chemung" (Unami) far outnumber those for "Wilawana" (Munsee). However several observers declared that Chemung/Wilawana was a Munsee town. In 1768 Zeisberger called Wilawane a "town of the Monsey Indians" (Town von Monsy Indianern) (1912: 10; MA 227:15:2).13 In early 1779 Gen. George Washington obtained intelligence that "Chemung" was "Inhabited by Munseys" (Flick 1929a: 196). Yet some evidence indicates that it was multi-ethnic town. Another of Washington's informants said that "Chemung is a large Town inhabited by Indians of different tribes" (Flick 1929a: 205-206). Charles Stewart wrote that "Chemung is inhabited by different tribes and Tories." He also stated that both Munsees and "Delawares" lived on the "Cayuga Branch" (Chemung River). That statement suggests that Chemung included some Unami Delawares, as well as Munsee Delawares (Flick 1929a: 196-97).14 The term "Delawares" could refer to either Unami or Munsee speakers, or to both. Thus a Loyalist familiar with Chemung stated that the town's inhabitants were "Chiefly Delawares" (McGinnis 1974-75: 14). In early 1779 Gen. Philip Schuyler mentioned the "Delawares & Mingoes" at Chemung and vicinity (PCC item 166, 139). These generic references to "Delawares" must remain ambiguous.
The dual place name "Chemung/Wilawana" commemorates a specific event – Indians' discovery of the horn of a mastodon (or much less likely, a mammoth), presumably sometime in the early eighteenth century. A tradition of that event was related by Daniel McDowell, who served as a captain and scout during the Revolutionary War and was captured by raiding Indians in 1782. He was taken up the Chemung Valley, and there he "saw pieces of a very large horn, which the Indians said their fathers [emphasis added] had found in this river, and therefore gave it the name of Chemung, which signifies Big-horn."15 Indians informed Thomas Maxwell of Elmira in the early nineteenth century that the horn had been found at or near the present-day hamlet of Chemung. In late 1787 or early 1788 white settlers found another large horn in a sand bank in the Chemung River at the "Upper Narrows," [text deleted] McDowell, who had settled near the site of Chemung in 1786, thought the second horn might have come from the same animal (Wilkinson 1840/1992: 99-100; Maxwell 1842, 1863:16-17; Schoolcraft 1851-1857: 5:669; Child 1868: 86; Hartnagel and Bishop 1921: 18-20; Cafferty 1943: 23-24).
In 1798 the Munsees of "Monsy Town" (now Muncey Town) on the Thames River in Upper Canada (now Ontario) informed the traveling Moravian missionaries, John Heckewelder and John Mortimer, about several place names in the upper Susquehanna region. They said that "Scha-mùng, Delaware, signifies 'horn.' The Indian tradition is, that on the destruction of a large nest of rattle-snakes near this river, one extraordinary one was found with a horn" (P. Wallace 1958: 367, 370). The Munsees of the Thames had formerly resided at the town of Chemung, as will be explained later. Their memory of rattlesnakes was accurate. Snakes were abundant in the Chemung Valley in the eighteenth century (Hays 1954: 68, 72; Grumet, ed. 1999: 54) and even today are found on rocky hillsides. The reference to a giant horned snake alludes to a myth shared by native peoples throughout most of North America: a powerful horned serpent which dwells underneath the water and struggles with thunder beings in the sky (Harrington 1921: 29, 193; Newcomb 1956: 74-75; Bierhorst 1995: 47, 63-64, 73-74; Kraft 2001: 316-17; Wonderley 2004: 113-33, 224, 228; Lankford 2007).
5.1.4 Locations and Descriptions of Chemung/Wilawana
[text deleted] called "Old Chemung" in 1779, is the presumed site of the town of Chemung
prior to 1764. Documentary references to the place span the period ca. 1753-1763.
Spellings are "Schemanga," "Shummunk," "Chaamonaqué" (French), and "Wethouooungque"
(i.e. Wilawana, Munsee Delaware). The small number of references indicates that the
town called Chemung was not large or prominent. An old Indian trader (unidentified)
informed Gen. Edward Hand in 1779 that he had resided at Chemung for three years,
departing ca. 1756 after the outbreak of the war. From there he had traded in skins
and furs as far as the Allegheny/Ohio River (GWP: Hand to Washington, March 29, 1779).
Some Nanticokes settled at or near Chemung about 1755 (Heckewelder 1819/1876: 90-91).
A French document of 1757 and a Pennsylvania document of 1760 refer to Chemung but
say nothing about it (NYCD 10:589; PA ser. 1, 3:708). Isaac Hollister, a young man
taken prisoner when Delawares attacked the Wyoming Valley in October 1763, was taken
to "a town called by them Wethouooungque" (Hollister 1767/1977). When Sir William
Johnson sent Mohawks up the Chemung River to destroy hostile towns in early 1764,
Chemung was not mentioned in the dispatches, but it may have been one of the several
small villages that were destroyed (WJP 11:131-32).
"Old Chemung" seems to have had no houses in 1779.16 [text deleted]
[text deleted] town of Chemung for twelve and a half years before and during the Revolutionary War, until its destruction on Aug. 13, 1779. This town was constructed in the spring of 1767. Rev. David Zeisberger, a German-speaking Moravian missionary, came there on Oct. 1, 1767, and wrote in his travel journal that "Wilawane" (i.e. Chemung) "is a (completely) new town of the Monsey Indians who moved hither last spring from Cayuga Lake" (Dieses ist ein ganz neues Town von Monsy Indianern, die leztes Früh-Jahr vom Cajuger-Lake hieher gezogen sind) (Zeisberger 1912: 10; MA 227:15:2). The head of Cayuga Lake had been the temporary refuge of many of the Munsees after their main town of Assinisink, at what is now Corning, N.Y., was destroyed by Sir William Johnson's Mohawk raiders in 1764 (WJP 4:633, 11:657; Beauchamp 1916: 220-21, 235; MA 227:12 Apr. 30, 1766, 227:13 Oct. 30, 1766). The Moravian missionary at Friedenshütten (near Wyalusing), a few miles below Tioga Point, noted in his diary several times during 1768 that visitors had come "from Chemung, the new town above Tioga" (von Shammungk dem neuen Town obig Tiaogu) (MA 131:5, Apr. 24, 29, June 24, 27, 1768).
The Revolutionary War era town [text deleted] The town displayed the dispersed settlement pattern of many native communities in the late colonial era (Jordan 2008). Officers' journals have varying house counts for Chemung, ranging from "near 100," "great and small," to "about 17." Maj. Gen. John Sullivan's reports say there were 30-40 houses. The mean is 39, the median is 30 (Cook 1887: passim; Flick 1929b: 128; JSP 3:97, 100). The variations probably result from the scattered distribution of the houses in "Upper" and "Lower" Chemung. A number of officers' journals remarked on the "beautiful" situation of the town and the fertile, level ground. They noted "large fields of corn, beans, squashes, potatoes and pumpkins in abundance" (Cook 1887: 6, 151; Flick 1929b: 128; JSP 3:97, 100).
The dawn attack on Aug. 13, 1779, with fixed bayonets and loaded muskets, confronted an empty town. Two or three Indians were seen running off as the troops arrived. Other inhabitants of Chemung had left several hours before, driving their cattle before them. Sullivan reported that many of the houses were "very large, and tolerably well finished." Several officers described the houses as built of rough or hewn logs, sided and roofed with bark, without floors or chimneys. The interiors were "very dirty & smookey." Sullivan observed that "From the Quantity of Furniture (i.e. furnishings), which lay in confused Heaps in their Houses, I have reason to believe they carried but little away." One officer noted "striped Linning (i.e. linen, possibly mattress ticking), deer Skins, Bear Skins, Kettles, plates, Knives, Ladles, and a number of articles of Varyous kinds, which the Soldiours soon maid themselves masters of." But another officer observed that "there was very little left in the houses except baskets, buckets, & skins" (Cook 1887: 6, 70, 87, 139, 151, 229, 261; JSP 3:97, 100; Flick 1929b: 128). Brig. Gen. William Maxwell's troops torched the town; one officer called the destruction of people's homes a "glorious bonfire." The nearby cornfields were burned, [text deleted]
Sullivan's troops did remark on some unusual buildings and artifacts that denoted the ethnic and cultural identity of Chemung's residents. Maj. James Norris's journal mentions "two larger houses which from some extraordinary rude Decorations, we took to be public Buildings." In what he called a "chapel" "was found indeed an Idol, which might well enough be Worshipd without a breach of the 2d Commandt. on account of its (un)likeness to anything either in heaven or Earth" (Exod. 20:4-5). Sullivan identified the two buildings as "a Chapel and Council House" (Cook 1887: 171-72, 229, 270; JSP 3:97).17
One object associated with the "chapel" was taken as a souvenir and was acquired by Pierre Du Simitiere for his short-lived "American Museum" in Philadelphia. The catalog of that collection contains the following description:
1779. a vizor or mask of wood representing a ghastly human face, the color of an Indian with a mouth painted red the eyes of yellow copper with a round hole in the middle to peep thro' the forehead covered with a piece of bear skin by way of a cap, found with several more to the number of about 40 in an Indian town called Chemung . . . These visors are commonly called manitoe faces and serve for the Indian conjurors or Pawaws, in their dances and other ceremonies there is also a long horse tail that belonged to it with a coat of bear skins but this was destroyed by the soldiery. N.B. All these masks were different from each other (Potts 1889: 365-66; Fenton 1987: 81-82).
Both Munsee and Unami Delawares conducted ceremonies in a "big house" (Grumet, ed. 2001; Speck and Moses 1945). The presence of a big house is documented at other Munsee Delaware towns in the Susquehanna-Chemung region.18 One of the two public buildings at Chemung was presumably a big house. The "idol" inside the "chapel" at Chemung was presumably the image or mask (msíingw) (O'Meara 1996: 529) of a spirit being that was carved into the center post (tree trunk) in Delaware meeting houses. The grotesque wooden mask attached to a bearskin suit was the uniform of a shaman who participated in a society of healers known as the "Masks." Members had masks that were similar to the Iroquois "false faces." A parallel society of "Witches" practiced conjuring for bad purposes. (Zeisberger 1912: 57-58, 66 (healing rituals); Harrington 1908: 414-17, 1913: 217; 1921: 129-30; see Fenton and Smith 2002).19
5.1.5 Chemung/Wilawana during Peacetime, 1767-1775
The journals of Sullivan's officers in 1779 provide a glimpse of Chemung/Wilawana at the moment of its destruction. During a decade of peace before the war, the people of Chemung followed seasonal routines of growing corn, beans, and squash; hunting deer and bear; and conducting rituals. They performed the daily tasks of caring for the young and the old. They sold skins and furs to white traders for cloth and personal ornaments; metal tools and utensils; firearms, powder, and ball; and many other items. Some residents of Chemung went as far as Wyoming and Nazareth, Pa., to trade.20 More often traders visited Chemung and other towns in the upper Susquehanna region. John Anderson, called the "honest Quaker trader," was the best known (Heckewelder 1819/1876: 241, 243).
The people of Chemung were both attracted to and disturbed by the Moravian missions at Wyalusing and Sheshequin. Papoonhan, the Munsee chief of Wyalusing, and many of his people had become Christians. They were joined by other Moravian converts–mostly Mahicans–who had previously lived at missions in Dutchess County, N.Y., and near Bethlehem, Pa. (Schutt 1999). Munsee chiefs at Chemung and Sheshequin (Chiefs Echgohund and Newallike) resisted the Moravian missionaries and tried to exert some control over the mission Indians, but even their own families were split.
Echgohund and his wife, a Shawnee woman known as "Esther," often visited their two sons and a daughter who lived at the Friedenshütten mission near Wyalusing.21 The missionary thought the visitors showed interest in the Christian Gospel (MA 131:4 March 29, Apr. 20, 1767, 131:5 Apr. 18, 25, 30, 1768, 131:8 May 1771; 133:1, March 12, 1769). But Echgohund and his wife remained at Chemung when their children moved with the Christian Indians to the Beaver River west of Fort Pitt in June 1772.
The people of Chemung were increasingly dependent on traders and were losing people to the missions. Failure of the corn crop of 1768 resulted in famine at Chemung and elsewhere through the summer of 1769, increasing the feeling of insecurity (WJP 12:717; MA 131:6 March-July 1769 passim). The Munsees sought to assert their autonomy and improve their economy by meeting with Pennsylvania officials. In January 1770 Echgohund, his wife and children, and a few others met with the governor to complain of their poverty and petition for relief (PCR 9:648; MA 131:7 Feb. 20, 23, 1770). Echgohund led a larger delegation ("several Munsey Indians") to Philadelphia in September and stayed three months. Their spokesman, the Munsee chief Mightaman, renewed their friendship and requested "a Store Keeper and a Gun Smith to live among us at our Town, the big Horn, by whom we may be supplied with Blankets and other Cloaths, and that we may conveniently get our Guns mended and repaired." Gov. John Penn referred the visitors to Sir William Johnson and promised to find someone to open a post at Chemung (that did not happen). Johnson considered the affair of little importance; he remarked "these people are of too little consequence in the Confederacy" to bear an official message from the Six Nations (PCR 9:689-97; WJP 7:1069-70; MA 131:7 Sept. 15, 16, Dec. 4, 1770).
Meanwhile, the leading Unami Delaware chiefs in the Ohio country repeatedly invited the Indians in the Susquehanna region to move west to the Cuyahoga or Muskingum Valleys (MA 135:3:1, June 13, 14, and 16, 1769). In the summer of 1769 some western Shawnees and Delawares came with wampum belts "to Invite the Moheckons, Munseys, & Nanticokes to go & Live at Scioto," where there were lands "which the Six Nations can not Sell to the English." By late that year over fifty families of "Delawares" and Shawnees from the Susquehanna region had relocated somewhere in the Ohio country. The Six Nations tried to stop the exodus but were losing their influence over the people of Chemung.
In the spring of 1771 Netawatwees (Newcomer), the principal chief of the Ohio Delawares, again invited the Susquehanna Indians to come to his land of peace and plenty (MA 131:8, Apr. 15, 24, 27, 29, 30, May 3, 1771; Loskiel 1794/1838: 3:62-63; P. Wallace 1961/1991: 179).22 This time the Christian Indians agreed to go, the Moravian synod approved, and the Cayuga chief was informed, to his chagrin (MA 131:8 Oct. 10, 1771, 133:3, Dec. 29, 1771, 137:2, Oct. 15, 1771; Loskiel 1794/1838: 3:64). The Onondaga council tried to prevent this loss of over 200 Indians from the upper Susquehanna but did not prevail. The Christian Indians of Wyalusing and Sheshequin left their homes on the Susquehanna on June 11, 1772 (Loskiel 1794/1838: 3:77-87; Mahr, ed. 1953).
Surveys of the Indian boundary line caused friction between colonial officials and the Indians remaining on the upper Susquehanna. The Fort Stanwix treaty specified that the line was to run from Owego eastward to the Delaware River. New York officials had understood that this section of the treaty line would also be the political boundary with Pennsylvania. The Penn family now preferred as the political boundary the 42nd parallel, located about eight miles south of the treaty line between Owego and the Delaware. In 1774 the governors of New York and Pennsylvania commissioned surveyors to locate and mark the 42nd parallel where it crossed the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers.23 And in 1774-75 the parallel Indian cession line was surveyed from Owego eastward to the Delaware River (RBC 7, 18-19, 57-59; NYCD 8:149-50; Schwarz 1978: 175-78; see Cappon, ed. 1976: 4 for an accurate map of the treaty line surveyed in 1774).
The Indians realized that the treaty line as surveyed passed to the north of four of their towns on the Susquehanna (the Munsee-Cayuga town of Choconut, a Tuscarora town, and two hamlets). The inaccurate map used at the Fort Stanwix conference had indicated that the line would run well to the south of those towns. Chiefs from "the two Tribes at Chenango the Chughnuts, Owegy, and Tiaogos" (i.e. Chemung Valley Indians) met with Colonel Guy Johnson, Sir William's nephew, in March 1775 to condole him on the death of his uncle the previous summer. The chiefs complained about the surveys and the seeming violation of the Fort Stanwix treaty line. Johnson admitted that the map used at the conference was inaccurate. He promised that the British government would make appropriate satisfaction (NYCD 8:560-62; WJP 6:351). That promise was never kept, because of the war that broke out between Britain and thirteen of its American colonies in April 1775.
5.1.6 Chemung/Wilawana during Wartime, 1775-1779
Hoping to remain neutral in the conflict, in 1775 and 1776 the Six Nations had several conferences and other contacts with Patriot and British officials. The Six Nations announced their policy of neutrality in conferences at Oswego and Albany in mid-1775, and again at Niagara, Pittsburgh, and German Flats in mid-1776. However, many individual chiefs and warriors disdained neutrality. They worried about the advance of white settlements and listened to the promises and warnings of British officers like Col. Guy Johnson and Maj. John Butler. British and American officials soon welcomed Indians as military allies. The Oneidas and most Tuscaroras, influenced by their Congregational missionary Rev. Samuel Kirkland, sided with the American revolutionaries.
The Chemung Delawares seem not to have accompanied the upper Susquehanna Indians to the various conferences between the Six Nations and the American revolutionaries. Maj. John Butler and other officers conferred secretly with the Six Nations and their allies at Niagara in August-September 1776. Most of the Senecas, many Cayugas, some Onondagas, and Susquehanna Delawares, Nanticokes, and Conoys (towns not specified) declared their friendship for the Crown (Wallace 1970: 131-32; Stevens 1984: 773-81; Graymont 1972: 106). The Wyoming Valley settlers learned that nearby Indians (apparently those on the Chemung) had gone to the meeting at Niagara, not to the conference at German Flats. "Good intelligence" about John Butler's recruiting efforts was reported to be available on the "Shemung Branch" (Chemung River) (ZBP: Nathan Kingsley to Zebulon Butler, Sept. 9, 1776; SCP 7:22; Harvey 1909-1930: 2:879-80; Stevens 1984: 773-81).
The Munsee Delawares on the Chemung may have declared their support for the British at the Niagara conference of late summer 1776. As a Munsee chief from Cattaraugus reminded John Butler during a conference at Niagara in 1791, "At the beginning of the late War between the King our Father and the Americans, we were desired by you and by our Uncles the Five Nations, to take up the Hatchet, and assist his people; We listened with attention, and with one voice agreed to the request" (IIDHD reel 41: July 12, 1791).24
The towns along the Susquehanna and Chemung also heeded the entreaties of the pro-British Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. Recently returned from England with Guy Johnson, Brant traveled in December 1776 from New York City to Oquaga and other towns on the path to Niagara. Everywhere "he was well received, called meetings and acquaint(ed) them with his adventures" (NYCD 8:687-88; WJP 11:161; Bryant 1896: 25-26; Kelsay 1984: 98-102, 185-86, 188-94; Graymont 1972: 108-110; Stevens 1874: 843-49, 960). The results were soon clear. In May 1777 Wyoming Valley officials learned that the Susquehanna Indians considered recent meetings as a chance to spy on the Connecticut settlers, and as a ploy to keep them "quiet and easy" while war plans progressed (Harvey 1909-1930: 2:919-20, 922-23). In June some "Delawares" delivered two suspects to British officers at Niagara: a mulatto from Wyoming who had been "disturbing their village (Chemung), and discovering everything he could learn to the rebels," and a German immigrant known to be a Patriot militiaman (GCP ser. Q, 13:320-23 John Butler and R.B. Lemoult to Guy Carleton, June 16, 1777).
The Chemung Indians made allies of their white neighbors to the south, the "Pennamites," some of whom moved up into the Chemung Valley. In the early 1770s the Pennsylvania government had outflanked the Connecticut settlement in the Wyoming Valley by granting lands along the upper Susquehanna. By 1775 several dozen Dutch, German, and English families had settled at or near Wyalusing. The Pennsylvania and Connecticut claimants quarreled constantly and waged two wars with each other (Ousterhout: 1995; St. John de Crèvecoeur 1995: 187). The Wyoming settlers were Patriots and suspected the Pennamites of Loyalist sympathies. Pennamites were harrassed and in spring 1777 several were arrested and briefly imprisoned (SCP 7:1; Patterson 1804: 15; Stefon 1998: 144-45).
Hating the Yankees, many Pennamites sided with the crown. In the spring of 1777 most of the men in the Wyalusing area went to Niagara and formed a company of rangers under command of Maj. John Butler. The green-coated Butler's Rangers were formally organized in the fall (Cruikshank 2010: 34-40; Harvey 1909-1930: 2:943-44; Stevens 1984: 524, 1064-65, 1366-72, 1473-76, 2043; Palmer 1984; Ousterhout 1995: 355-60). Like their Indian neighbors, the upper Susquehanna Pennamites sided with the crown because they thought it was the safer course.
In late winter 1777 the Delawares, Shawnees, and Mingoes in the Chemung Valley invited "Sundry Dutch (from Deutsch, German) People" around Wyalusing to move among them.25 The Pennamites agreed to take all they had and go up to the Chemung Valley and live among the Indians who had promised to "Guard them to & on those Lands . . ." (PCC item 58, 443).
The Chemung Indians' remarkable invitation to the Pennamites was more than simple neighborliness.26 The Chemung Valley Indians probably wished to recruit friendly whites to keep out less friendly people like the Connecticut Yankees, and also to have allies in event of war. Some Pennamite families settled along the Chemung River, and more came in early 1778.27 This invitation also indicates that the inter-ethnic boundary was permeable, and that the Chemung Indians deliberately associated with nearby white settlers for strategic and economic advantage. This tactic is observable at other places and times within the dynamic frontier region. Most importantly, this strategy helps explain the multi- or inter-ethnic nature of the military force that opposed the Continental Army's advance at Newtown.
In early spring 1778 in a meeting at Niagara the pro-British Six Nations and the "Delawares living upon the Susquehanna" (presumably including the Chemung Indians) again declared that Oriskany would be avenged (FHP 21,756:39: Butler to Haldimand, Sept. 17, 1778 [sic]). Their target was the Connecticut settlement in the Wyoming Valley. As John Butler later recalled, the pretense for the attack was an invitation to Six Nations chiefs from Col. Nathan Denison and Judge John Jenkins, Sr., to attend another conference. The commandant at Niagara directed Butler and his rangers to go with the Indians to protect Indian spokesmen and to obtain release of those already jailed (FHP 21,875:191: "Narrative of Lt. Col. Butler's Services"). Diplomacy was not the real purpose. Objections of a few neutralist chiefs were quashed, and a large strike force was assembled at Chemung by early June. It included over 400 Indian warriors (mostly Senecas and "Delawares," also 40 Cayugas and a few others) and about 100 Loyalist rangers (Graymont 1972: 167-68; N.Y. Journal [Poughkeepsie], July 20, 1778; McGinnis 1974-1975: 14; GWP: Deane to Schuyler, July 4, 1778).
Perfunctory demands and taunts were exchanged on the morning of July 3 (New York Journal [Poughkeepsie, N.Y.], July 20, 1778; FHP 21,875:191: "Narrative of Lt. Col. Butler's Services"; McGinnis 1974-1975: 15-16; Cartwright 1876: 30; Harvey 1909-1930: 2:1003-1004). The battle in late afternoon, a classic ambush, was a resounding tactical victory for the native warriors and their Loyalist allies. Nearly 300 militiamen died, many during a wholesale retreat. Indian and British casualties were few (Cruikshank 2010: 46-50; Harvey 1909-1930: 2:981-1086; Graymont 1972: 167-71; Stevens 1984: 1722-36; Williamson and Fossler: 1995: 57-63; Mintz 1999: 54-63; McGinnis 1974-1975: 15-17; Abler, ed. 1989: 135-37; Norton 1970: 274-76). Col. Denison accepted surrender terms on July 4. "Queen Esther" led the column of Indians into the Forty Fort. She sardonically declared that she had fulfilled his demand at the February meeting that she bring more Indians (Franklin 1828; Miner 1845: 232-33, app. 54). The Indian prisoners in Forty Fort (unnamed in any document) were to be released (FHP 21,760:33-34; Graymont 1972: 171). Disregarding the surrender agreement, the Indians now plundered the valley, and the remaining inhabitants fled. Warriors from Chemung transported much of the booty to their home town (Hayden 1901b: 140).
A general frontier war followed the battle of Wyoming. Chemung was a rendezvous for Indian and Loyalist forces traveling to and from Niagara, in the big raids on Cobleskill and Cherry Valley in 1778 and Minisink in 1779 (GCP 3:504-505, 711-12, 4:293, 5:163-64). Data on raids is incomplete, but Senecas and "Delawares" were reported to be "very active" during the winter of 1778-79. The Delawares lost a chief in a skirmish in the Wyoming Valley (FHP 21,756:43 Butler to Haldimand, March 8, 1779, 21,765:91 same to same, Apr. 2, 1779). Many captives were brought through Chemung. Ezekiel Brown, a scout, was captured on the West Branch in May 1778 by "Delaware" and Cayuga Indians. At Chemung he was forced to run the gauntlet and badly injured by a tomahawk before reaching safety at the council house (Draper MSS. 2-F-116). Jasper Parrish was taken on the Delaware by Capt. Mounsh, a Munsee, and likewise forced to run for his life at Chemung (Parrish 1903: 527-29). John Hilborn, a Quaker, was seized by "Delawares" near Stroudsburg, Pa., in June 1779. He escaped running the gauntlet at Chemung because of his swollen bare feet; a kindly Mohawk ran for him (Blackman 1873: 92-94). Luke Swetland likewise escaped mistreatment at Chemung, though a comrade of his was beaten (Swetland 1875: 5-6, 15).
The Chemung Valley furnished badly-needed food for Loyalist and Indian war parties. The great corn fields planted by Indians and Loyalists were burned or chopped down by Sullivan's army. Cattle flourished on the grassy flats, but demand outstripped supply. John Butler was constantly buying cattle, but the Indians charged high prices (£12 a head) and insisted on cash. By the summer of 1779 Butler complained that "at Shimong where Cattle were by far the most plenty there is not a Creature to be got" (FHP 21,760:135, 145 Butler to Bolton, May 19, June 24, 1779, 21,765:115 Butler to Haldimand, July 21, 1779). War parties and their prisoners were often hungry as a result. Maj. John Wood, captured at the battle of Minisink, suffered from hunger while being held at Chemung, and was "obliged to eat hides that was S—" (Twichell 1912: 73).
By late 1778 the revolutionary government considered Chemung a prime military target. After the attack on Wyoming, Gen. George Washington ordered Lt.-Col. Thomas Hartley and the Eleventh Pennsylvania regiment to hold and defend the middle Susquehanna (PA ser. 1, 6:674, 692-4, 729-30, 7:323-24). Hartley decided to attack Chemung. In late September about 250 Continentals and militiamen marched from the West Branch. They skirmished with the enemy and captured some prisoners, and learned that Capt. Walter Butler and several hundred men had left Tioga Point for Chemung. Hartley thought his force was too small to confront the enemy in the "defiles" (narrow valleys) of the lower Chemung Valley. Even then Sayenqueraghta was hastily summoning Seneca warriors to confront Hartley's force, after a Delaware messenger had warned that the Americans were coming to destroy the "Delaware nation of Susquehanna." The Seneca, Blacksnake, recalled that the chiefs agreed that "we Should have to Do all we cant (sic) for them if possible to Save them" (Abler, ed. 1989: 102-103, 137-38).
Hartley's troops burned Sheshequin, Queen Esther's "palace" [text deleted], and Tory houses at Tioga, then started back down the river. On September 29, near Wyalusing, about 200 Indians attacked the American force, who repulsed them after being nearly surrounded. Hartley's men suffered 14 casualties, the Indians considerably more (PCC item 78, 11:329, 341-45 (Hartley's reports); HP 21,765:40 John Johnston to John Butler, Sept. 30, 1778, 21,756:66 Bolton to Haldimand, Oct. 12, 1778; Abler, ed. 1989: 102-103, 137-39; Graymont 1972: 180-81; Craft 1901). On October 1, Hartley sent a message "To the Chiefs and principal Indians of Chemung & the Towns in its Neighbourhood" (PCC item 78, 11:353-54). He conceded that many of their young men had fought well in the recent engagement. But he warned that their country would be made desolate by "fire and sword," if the warriors were not restrained. He protested the "inhuman Murders" committed "by the Young Men of your Country, upon Helpless Mothers and Infants" in bloody raids on West Branch settlements the previous summer (see Sipe 1931: 538-44). He urged the chiefs to prevent such atrocities, and also "that (if possible) more Barbarous Practice of killing and burning Prisoners." This must refer to alleged events after the battle of July 3.28 Hartley obviously suspected that the Chemung Indians were responsible, probably on information from Col. Nathan Denison and other Wyoming militiamen, survivors of the battle and members of Hartley's force.
The United States government debated how to eliminate the threat to the frontiers. Early in 1778 Schuyler urged an attack on the Senecas and Cayugas, and on June 11 the Board of War authorized expeditions against the Seneca towns and Detroit. That vague plan was shelved by the end of the year (Flick 1929b: 61-62, 67; Graymont 1972: 167; Mintz 1999: 52-54, 64-65). In late 1778 and early 1779 American leaders were concerned about a threat from Chemung, because Hartley had learned from a prisoner that the enemy was fortifying the place. On October 13 Congress ordered Washington to prevent the British from "occupying a post at Chemung" and to repel attacks on the frontiers. Schuyler and Gen. Edward Hand initially proposed a January expedition against Chemung, then changed their minds. Both the Congress and Washington agreed, especially because bad weather would make transport of cannon impossible (JCC 12:1005-1006 Oct. 13, 12:1084 Oct. 31; PCC item 152, 6:423; GWP: letters of Washington, George Clinton, James Clinton Edward Hand, Henry Laurens, Philip Schuyler, and Philip Van Cortlandt, Oct. 17, 1778 to Jan. 1, 1779). However, Washington was now making bigger plans.
The scheme for the expedition into the Seneca and Cayuga country developed gradually, as Washington considered advice from senior officers. In August 1778 Gen. John Armstrong of the Pennsylvania militia called for 3000 men to destroy the towns of the Senecas and the "inferior tribes" (PA ser. 1, 6:680-81). In November Washington asked Gov. Clinton about the feasibility of marching troops up the Susquehanna through the Indian country to Niagara (GWP: Washington to Clinton, Nov. 5, 1778). Gen. Philip Schuyler proposed in letters of February 4 and March 1, 1779, a complex movement of several thousand troops advancing west from the Mohawk Valley using routes by land or water or both. A small body of five hundred men would attack Chemung "to keep the Delawares and Mingoes in that quarter in alarm." Schuyler argued that a route for the main army by way of the Susquehanna and Tioga (Chemung) Rivers would pose many difficulties, particularly in transporting supplies. Washington largely rejected Schuyler's proposal (PCC item 166, 139 extract from Schuyler's letter, Feb. 4, 1779, 149-53 Washington to Schuyler, March 21, 1779). Instead, he decided on a three-pronged invasion, closely resembling advice of Gen. Nathanael Greene.29 The main force would advance along the Susquehanna and Chemung Rivers, safely distant from British-controlled Lake Ontario. Smaller forces would march west from the Mohawk Valley and up the Allegheny River from Fort Pitt (NGP 3:252-53, 324-26, 346-50; GWP: Schuyler to Washington, Apr. 3, 1779; Mintz 1999: 78-83; Fischer 1997: 43-45).
Washington badly needed intelligence about the Chemung River, known as the "Cayuga" or "Tioga" branch of the Susquehanna. No published map of the region provided adequate data. In mid-February 1779 Washington asked Hand, Schuyler, and others to obtain intelligence about routes into the Seneca country, by sending spies up to the Chemung and interrogating released prisoners (GWP: Washington to Hand, Feb. 7, 28, March 16, to Schuyler, Feb. 26, to William Patterson, March 1, and to William Maxwell, March 7, 1779). Washington prepared a questionnaire concerning distances up the Susquehanna and Chemung Rivers, the rivers' capacity to carry boats and canoes, the condition of the paths, the topography of the country, and the Indian towns. The answers from General Hand and other officers confirmed that an army could invade the Indian country from the south (PCC item 166, 302-323, repr. Flick 1929a: 195-210).
In March 1779, by Washington's order, a Pennsylvania soldier named Gershom Hicks was sent up to Chemung as a spy. Hicks had been held captive by Delawares in the Ohio country during the 1750s and later was an Indian trader. He spoke Delaware fluently. Dressed and painted like an Indian, Hicks took the "common road" to Chemung. There he met about 25 Loyalists and 30 warriors of the "Mingo, Munsey, & Tuskaroro Tribes." They treated him roughly at first, kindly at the end. On his return Hicks provided Washington a reassuring report: Chemung was not the formidable depot it was rumored to be. The stockade was vacant; the barrels were empty of their salt pork and flour; the warriors were subsisting on deer meat, corn meal, and maple sugar; and the inhabitants of Chemung were considering moving to the Seneca country (GWP: Washington to Zebulon Butler, March 1, William Patterson to Washington, March 28, Apr. 3, 1779; HBP 5:381-82; Bakeless 1959: 296-98). In sum, the town of Chemung was frequented by war parties, in which many of its men took part. The people were short of food and apprehensive about an American attack. Their worst fears were soon realized.
5.1.7 Refugees from Chemung/Wilawana, 1779-1783
Indian scouts kept close watch on Sullivan's army as it advanced up the Susquehanna (FHP: Butler to Haldimand, July 21, 1779; Flick 1929a: 271). When the news reached Chemung, it caused "the wildest excitement, and on the part of some of the warriors, exhibitions of violent rage," as a white captive remembered (Mathews 1886: 92). When the army approached, the people of Chemung fled to the Genesee River. There the "Delawares" and some of the Senecas were determined to resist the enemy and built a breastwork. Butler and Brant argued that the Indians must find safety at Niagara, and so it was decided (Flick 1929a: 293, 295-96, 1929b: 145-47; Norton 1970: 277-78). With their towns in ashes, the Cayugas and some "Delawares" considered making peace with the Americans (FHP 21,760:239: Bolton to Haldimand, Oct. 21, 1779). But the frontier war continued until the autumn of 1782, and "Delawares," sometimes identified as being from Chemung or Choconut, often participated (FHP 21,761:148-49, 21,766:15, 21,767:97, 135, 175, 226, 21,769:65, 116, 118; MIA 1231:275-77). Raids occurred even during the terrible winter of 1779-80 and reached their height during the next two summers (Graymont 1972: 223-58).
Conditions at Niagara during the winter of 1779-80 were terrible, and hundreds of Indians died from famine and disease (Calloway 1995: 137-40). The refugee Munsees from Chemung lost their veteran chief Echgohund ("Occoagan"), who was killed in a dispute with another Indian about March 1, 1780. Col. Guy Johnson paid him tribute by conducting the condolence ceremony, first with the chiefs of the Senecas and "Delawares," then with the women. In Echgohund's place was appointed a chief named Loachkes (MIA 12:187, 199). In the spring of 1781 "Delawares" of "Shamung" under their new chief, many Senecas, and people of several other nations moved from their squalid camps at Niagara to Buffalo Creek. There they planted corn and built houses (FHP 21,767:181). Other Senecas returned to the Genesee Valley.
In a conference at Niagara in July 1783, Sir John Johnson announced to the Crown's loyal Indian allies the shocking news of the Treaty of Paris, by which the British had ceded all the lands south of the Great Lakes to the United States (FHP 21,763(4):184; IIDHD reel 37: July 23-24, 1783; Graymont 1972: 259-60). The Delawares and other displaced allies of the Six Nations now had to decide where to go. The Munsees from the upper Allegheny River had lost their homes to Broadhead's expedition in the summer of 1779 (Cook 1887: 308; JSP 3:147-48; Edson 1879). The Senecas appealed to them to settle at Cattaraugus Creek, near Lake Erie. The Allegheny Munsees accepted the invitation and called on "such of their Nation as lived at Shimong (Chemung) & thereabouts" to move there too, because hunting was good (MIA 12:61-62, 200-205; HP 21,779:83-85).
Some of them did so, but by June 1781 some "Delawares and Shemongs" had already moved to the Grand River, [text deleted] (FHP 21,762-71 Powell to Haldimand, June 13, 1781). In the spring of 1783 several "Delawares" left Buffalo Creek for the Grand River after hearing rumors of the peace negotiations between Britain and the United States. British officers at Niagara tried to prevent more from leaving (Kjellberg 1985: 13). In 1784 the Mississaga (Chippewa) Indians met with the Six Nations and Delaware Indians and sold them lands for a reservation (Brymner, comp. 1891: 143). Governor Haldimand formally granted a reservation along the Grand River later in 1784 (Graymont 1972: 299; Kelsay 1984: 363). Many Six Nations Indians and their allies, Delawares, Nanticokes, and Tuteloes, moved there from western New York in 1785 (Johnston, ed. 1964: xl).
Most of the refugees from Chemung soon found a new home on the upper Thames River, west of the Grand River. They seem to have migrated there in early 1785, when there was a sudden drop in the "Delaware" population on the Grand River (Kjellberg 1985: 14, 16). "Muncey Town" under its chief Lohachkes (Zeisberger 1963: 127) was a traditionalist Munsee community, in contrast to the relocated Moravian town of Fairfield 30 miles down the Thames River. The two Indian towns, Traditionalist and Christian, continued to have the same familial connections and inter-cultural tensions as their predecessor communities on the upper Susquehanna–Chemung and Wyalusing (Zeisberger 1963 and Sabathy-Judd, ed. 1999, passim; Weslager 1972: 320). A Moravian missionary visiting Muncey Town in 1810 found Traditionalist ceremonies fervently observed (MA 163:7:2).
The War of 1812 threatened the native communities in Upper Canada as American armies invaded the province from both Niagara and Detroit. They were ultimately repelled by British, Canadian, and native forces (Benn 1998). The old chief of Muncey Town, Lohachkes, met his death fighting the Americans during the British-Indian attack on Fort Meigs, near present-day Toledo, in May 1813 (Sabathy-Judd, ed. 1999: 497-98). A cultural shift occurred in the 1820s, when Methodist preachers, one of them the Mississauga Peter Jones, converted some of the people of Muncey Town. Anglican ministers had more success and established a congregation. By the 1850s Traditionalist ceremonies were said to have been discontinued (Kjellberg 1985: 58-60). Though the native language and most traditional customs have been lost, Muncey Town, Ontario–the successor to Chemung–continues today as a reserve for one of Canada's many "First Nations."
5.1.8 Relationship between Haudenosaunee and Delaware in the Susquehanna Valley
The Chemung Valley was a strategic locale during the American Revolutionary War, and the town of Chemung played significant diplomatic and military roles. Confronted by European-American expansionism, including military threats and attacks, the people of Chemung defended their homes. That elemental motive requires no explanation. The historical issue that requires discussion is the relationship between the Hauenosaunee and the Delawares in the Susquehanna region–including the people of Chemung. The association was sorely tested during the wars of the mid-eighteenth century, but it endured because it was mutually beneficial. While the Onondaga council exercised general authority over dependent peoples, the Cayugas were mainly responsible for overseeing the non-Iroquoian native peoples on the Susquehanna and its branches, as far upriver as Choconut on the east and Chemung on the west. In 1748 the governor of New York remarked that the "Cajucka Nation claims property in the Lands & authority over the Indians seated on the waters of Sasaquehanna" (PCR 5:287).30 As noted earlier, some Cayugas and one of their chiefs resided at the "Delaware" (actually Esopus) town of Choconut. [text deleted] However, the Senecas increasingly dominated political affairs in the region because they were the largest of the Six Nations and were "keepers of the western door" of the confederacy. Thus Seneca and Cayuga chiefs were dual spokesmen for the Munsees at the peace treaty of Easton in 1758. The Senecas received Munsee refugees after their towns were destroyed by order of Sir William Johnson in 1764 and 1779.
The Munsees, apparently the majority of the residents of Chemung in 1779, had resided in the Chemung-Susquehanna region for several decades, by permission and under protection of the Six Nations. Chemung was only the latest and not the largest of several Munsee Delaware towns located at various places in the southern borderland of the Haudenosaunee. This was the region of the upper Delaware, upper Susquehanna (including the West Branch), Chemung, and Allegheny Rivers (Folts 2005). In the mid-eighteenth century Unami-speaking Delawares who migrated from the lower Delaware Valley had towns at Shamokin, at the forks of the North and West Branches, and at Wyoming (Merrell 1998; Becker 1988: 56-57). Some Delawares also resided along the Susquehanna below Wyoming and on the West Branch. Many Unami Delawares moved farther west, to the lower Allegheny-Ohio region, starting in the 1720s (McConnell 1992; Hunter 1954). Those remaining on the Susquehanna evacuated to the Chemung-Canisteo Valley in the war-torn spring of 1756 (PCR 7:283-84). Most if not all of this group of Unami Delawares went to the Ohio in 1761-1762 (Hays 1954: 65; D. Kent 1974: 264).
The Delawares had a complex relationship with the Five, later Six Nations and with their immediate overseers, the Cayugas and Senecas. No one term adequately describes it. They were "nephews," the term implying a close, positive yet junior status. But the Delawares were also subordinate to the Five Nations, to whom they occasionally rendered tribute in the form of wampum.31 They were figuratively "women" who must defer to their "uncles" who conducted diplomacy and military operations. The appellation of "women" was fundamentally honorific but occasionally derogatory (Weslager 1944, 1947; A. Wallace 1947; Miller 1974). The ritual expressions of the relationship are mostly lost.32 However, the historical origins and characteristics of the relationship between the League and the greater Delaware people (the Unami- and Munsee-speaking Delawares and the Mahicans) can be partially understood from the admittedly incomplete evidence.
In the mid-eighteenth century Six Nations chiefs informed both British and French officials that they had "conquered" and subordinated the Delawares sometime in the past (NYCD 7:119; Pouchot 1781/2004: 118-19; Bougainville 1964: 90, 105).33 The Delawares denied it. Their tradition, as related to sympathetic Moravian missionaries, was that after a protracted but inconclusive conflict they voluntarily associated with the Five Nations, who deluded them into accepting the inferior status of "women" (Heckewelder 1819/1876: 54-66; Zeisberger 1912: 34-36, 142-43; see also Weslager 1978: 125-26). Both traditions appear to have simplified and skewed an intricate and obscure historical reality. The Mahicans and the Mohawks fought a war during the later 1620s, in which the Mohawks prevailed. For some decades thereafter the Mohawks and Mahicans were joined in an uneasy alliance, with Mahicans occasionally augmenting Mohawk war parties (Gehring and Starna 1992; Starna and Brandão 2004; Dunn 1994: 91-104). Several Dutch documents of the 1640s and 1650s state that the Mahicans and other "River Indians" of the Hudson Valley paid annual tribute in wampum to the "Maquas" in meetings at Fort Orange (now Albany) (Jameson, ed. 1909: 172, 217, 225-26, 274; Gehring, ed. 1990).
During the 1660s the Mohawks went to war with the Algonquian communities of northern New England (Calloway 1990: 67-75), whose allies and friends were the Mahicans and the Delaware bands of the lower Hudson and Delaware regions (DP 1:200, 243, 264, 305-306, 320-21; NYCD 13:361, 389; Hanna 1908: 1:90; Weslager 1972: 133). Starting 1664 New York officials tried to stop the war between the Mohawks and the "River Indians" because it disrupted the fur trade. Peace conferences at Albany in 1664, 1666, and 1669 achieved only partial, temporary truces (Christoph and Christoph, eds. 1982: 1:47-50, 215, 304; Leder, ed. 1956: 33-35; NYCD 9:787, 13:427-28). In August 1669 the easternmost Mohawk town was attacked, and subsequently the opposing warriors fought a fierce battle near the lower Mohawk River and another battle on an island in the Hudson River (Snow, Gehring, and Starna, eds. 1996: 169-75; Day 1984: 44). The Mahicans and Mohawks reached a tentative peace agreement at Albany in October 1670 (Paltsits, ed. 1910: 57, 60), and in November 1671 a "firm peace" was negotiated (Paltsits, ed. 1910: 116-17; Van Laer 1932: 449; Colden 1727/1958: 19; Frazier 1992: 6-7). In 1816 John Norton, an adopted Mohawk and associate of Joseph Brant, recorded the traditions of these engagements and stated that afterward the Mahicans "sued for Peace. The Mohawks, in granting it, put on them the garb of females, and gave them the implements of agriculture and those for pounding corn, stiling them their Niece, and imposing on them a tribute of wampum. This humiliation is improperly applied to all the Delaware race; but it is only true, so far as it respects those who inhabited the banks of the Hudson River" (Norton 1970: 83).
The Munsees who returned to the Chemung Valley in the Spring of 1767 and built the Town of Chemung/Wilawanna (see section 5.1.5). They remained "nephews" of the Six Nations. This term designated the peculiar status of a people associated with the League but not incorporated into it (Morgan 1851/1962: 92-93, 341-42). While the Tuteloes and Nanticokes had been adopted by the Six Nations as "younger brothers" in 1753, the "Delawares" were considered "Children of all these Nations." (NYCD 6:988, 8:811). After war broke out in 1755, the Six Nations proposed to incorporate the Munsees, Delawares, and Shawnees in the Susquehanna region (IIDHD reel 18: Jan. 12, 1756). But "the Delaware and Munsys Indians" remained "in alliance with but not a part of the Six Nations" through the Revolutionary War (IIDHD reel 33: Jan.-Feb. 1777; Abler ed., 1989: 103). Their status was affirmed in 1780, when refugee Munsees at Cattaraugus conferred with Seneca and Cayuga chiefs and with Col. Guy Johnson about where they should settle. A Cayuga chief "spoke to the Delawares on the belt they had bound themselves by to the 6 Nat(ion)s. & by another bound them to settle at a fixed place," referring to old but not forgotten agreements. Johnson referred to "all the Treatys which they enter'd into to live & Act as the 6 Nat(ion)s" (GJP box 1, folder 30, Feb. 25, 1780).34
Chemung/Wilawana was much more than a military target in 1779. Its inhabitants were not anonymous "Indians" seemingly without a history–as books of military and local history imply. Chemung/Wilawana was the current home of a community of Munsee Delawares who had lived in the Susquehanna region since the early eighteenth century. They were just one of many peoples who sheltered under the "Great Tree of Peace" of the League of the Six Nations. The Munsee Delawares had been forced to surrender their homeland in the valleys of the Hudson and Delaware Rivers. They had endured great injustices and hardships, and they avenged those wrongs in three wars with the European-American powers during the mid-eighteenth century. The Munsee Delawares accepted but sometimes resented their nephew-uncle relationship with the Six Nations. Remaining loyal and retaining their honor, they paid a terrible price in August 1779.
Figure 5. This page/map was intentionally deleted per the requirements of the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 470hh) and its implementing regulations (49 FR 1027, Jan. 6, 1984).
Figure 6. This page/map was intentionally deleted per the requirements of the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 470hh) and its implementing regulations (49 FR 1027, Jan. 6, 1984).
5.2 The Historical Context of Chemung
(By Robert W. Venables, Ph.D.)
5.2.1 The Two Towns of Chemung
During the American Revolution, Chemung – also spelled "Shimong" and other variations -- was a single reference to two Indian communities: Old Chemung and New Chemung. The term "Chemung" was used by both British and Patriot writers. The cartographer with the Sullivan campaign, Lieutenant Benjamin Lodge, labeled "New Chemung" simply as "Chemung" on his "Map No. 4" (Map No. 4 is enclosed in Cook 1887). Unfortunately, Lodge's Map No. 4 begins just to the west of "Old Chemung" and neither this map nor any other of Lodge's maps includes the area of "Old Chemung."
"Old Chemung" and "New Chemung" were located on the Chemung River within the territory of the Haudenosaunee, also known as "The Iroquois Confederacy" or "The Six Nations" (Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras). Chemung was a base of Crown-allied forces for their operations against Patriots living on the frontiers of Pennsylvania and New York. The permanent inhabitants of Chemung included some Haudenosaunee, but the population was primarily made up of Delawares and perhaps some other inhabitants from Indian nations such as the Tutelos. The New York-Pennsylvania border included Delawares and the members of several other Indian nations because at various times during the 1700s they had left their original homelands that were being overrun by colonial expansion and they had taken refuge within the territory of the Haudenosaunee. Other residents at Chemung included a few "rangers" attached to the British Indian Department. There were also a few rangers in the British unit known as "Butler's Rangers." The British Indian Department's "rangers" were distinct from Butler's Rangers (Smy 2004: 1-2 and 59). Loyalist families were also in Chemung because they were fleeing Patriot-occupied territories; in 1778, the Patriot Colonel Thomas Hartley of the Continental Army noted that "Niagara and Chemung are the asylums of those Tories who can not get to New York [City]" (Williams 2005:162).
It is possible that the Patriots also referred to "Old Chemung" and "New Chemung" as the "lower" and "upper" towns, [text deleted]
Lower end- General Sullivan described how part of the army moved "towards the lower
end of the Town."
Lieutenant Obadiah Gore described how the army's first encounter with Crown pickets occurred at "the lower end of Chemon Flats." Logically, these pickets would have been stationed in Old Chemung, because it was closest to Sullivan's approach, and it also was a perfect place to stand watch over the approach through the Narrows to New Chemung:
Marched all night, and at day break reached the lower end of Chemon Flats, where the enemy's advance picket were posted (Flick 1929c:181).
Upper field- The Reverend William Rogers, Chaplain for the Third Brigade under Brigadier General Edward Hand, remained at the Patriot base at Tioga (now Athens, Pennsylvania) during the attack on Chemung (Cook 1887: 261). But after the battle Rogers interviewed the officers and garnered some detailed descriptions that make his journal very valuable. Rogers describes one cornfield as being "an upper field."
As General Poor's brigade were destroying an upper field they were fired upon by the Indians. He had one man killed and two or three more wounded (Cook 1887:262).
5.2.2 The "Shimongs"
By 1779, the Indian population at Chemung was distinct enough as a population to be labeled by the British as "Shimongs" (Smy 1994 II:2). While this may only signify their location, it is also possible that Shimongs were regarded as a population distinct from "the Delawares," because in the same British list there is also a separate listing for "Delawares." Perhaps these "Shimongs" were made up of Delawares, Haudenosaunee, and members of other nations who had also taken refuge on Haudenosaunee lands -- for example, in 1753 the Tutelos established a new community at the southern end of Cayuga Lake and, that same year, the Nanticokes settled at Otsiningo (Sullivan et al., eds., 1921/1965, XII, 242; Beauchamp 1907, 28 and 231; Cook 1887, fn. at 77-78).
5.2.3 The Importance of Chemung during the American Revolution
Because the towns of New Chemung and Old Chemung served as a base for those Crown-allied forces that attacked Patriot settlements along the frontier, Old and New Chemung were regarded by both the Patriot and the Crown strategists as crucial locations, albeit the Patriot view of Chemung was negative. At Chemung, most of the concentration of Crown forces was in New Chemung rather than at Old Chemung.
The significance of the base at Chemung was summarized by the Reverend William Rogers (who, as noted above, did not accompany the attack on Chemung but whose interviews of those who did provided the details in his journal):
From the quantity of corn and potatoes stored there Chemung was judged to be designated for a magazine to supply their future wants (Cook 1887:262).
5.2.4 Crown Forces at Chemung before August 13, 1779
Warriors who used Chemung as their base went south to the Pennsylvania frontier Patriot settlements in July 1779. Captain John McDonell of the Loyalist Rangers met them at a rendezvous. McDonell's letter and report to his Ranger commander, Colonel John Butler on July 24, 1779, noted how.
I was met here by Samuel Harris's party of twenty warriors. They went off from Shimong two days before my arrival and have taken two prisoners and three scalps, a little below Fort Wallace.
That the enemy mean to attack the Indian Country from Wyoming remains no longer a doubt (Smy 1994 II:72).
5.2.5 Brief Description of the Battle of Chemung
On the morning of August 13, 1779, General John Sullivan's Patriot army attacked Chemung. Because it was a major base used by Crown forces, Sullivan was afraid forces from Chemung would attack a Patriot army under General James Clinton that was coming southwesterly from Otsego Lake along the Susquehanna River and was intended to link up with Sullivan's army. Sullivan's assault on Chemung was his first major offensive act in a campaign that was intended to destroy the food supplies and the towns of the Haudenosaunee.
Sullivan hoped to take Chemung by surprise, but because both sides had sent out scouts for weeks, Sullivan was overly optimistic. His attack fell upon two empty towns that the Crown forces had evacuated as the Patriots made their not-so-secret night approach. But when some Patriot forces went in pursuit of the retreating Indians, a small party of Delaware warriors ambushed their Patriot pursuers, killing six before quickly fleeing in the face of overwhelming odds. One Delaware was killed (Smy 1994 II). The attackers only numbered between twenty and at most fifty Delaware Indians and were under a Haudenosaunee leader Captain Rowland [Roland] Montour of the Indian Department rangers (the Indian Department rangers were not part of Butler's Rangers). The Patriots counterattacked with a bayonet charge, as noted by Lieutenant Samuel Shute, 2nd New Jersey Regiment, First Brigade under Brigadier General William Maxwell:
Gen'l Hand [and some of his troops] ... was fired upon by a party of Indians about 40 in number who had secreted themselves on a hill and killed six and wounded nine. Hand returned the fire and charged them with the bayonet (Cook 1887:270).
Then, while the Patriot forces burned both Old and New Chemung and destroyed some of the nearby cornfields, Crown forces returned and killed one more Patriot. But the Crown forces could no longer use Chemung as a supply base from which to attack Clinton's army coming down from Lake Otsego. Sullivan returned to his base at Tioga [text deleted]
On August 22, Clinton's army joined Sullivan at Tioga. On August 28, the united armies under Sullivan reoccupied Chemung. The next day, August 29, the combined armies under the overall command of General Sullivan, marched west to Newtown where the Patriots were victorious over the Crown forces that had rallied there.
August 13: A Day Constantly in Flux
Both Patriot troop movements and those of the Crown forces will probably be found in the archeological record on all sides of both New Chemung and Old Chemung. This is because, on August 13, armed conflict occurred sporadically throughout the day and at several separate locations: initially at the "ambuscade" west of Chemung and then in the cornfields – probably in the cornfields of both "New Chemung" and "Old Chemung."
The constant state of flux means that there was no "face off" of opposing forces at Chemung and thus no set-piece series of military maneuvers. Unlike the Battle of Newtown on August 29, the Patriots' August 13 assault on Chemung did not involve a clash of two opposing forces that began the battle facing each other and then maneuvered to gain an advantage. Instead, a constant state of flux marks both the movements of Crown forces and the Patriot assault on Chemung. The Crown forces were busy evacuating civilians, cattle, supplies, and furnishings prior to, and even during, the initial stages of Sullivan's attack. The Patriot movements consisted of very complicated maneuvers that had been ordered by General Sullivan. In these movements, specific units were assigned by Sullivan to surround and then attack Chemung. The major resistance by Crown forces involved an ambuscade west of Chemung and then, later in the day, irregular sniping by Indian warriors who shot at the Patriot soldiers who were burning cornfields.
The complexity of the Patriot assault on Chemung also raises concerns regarding how archeologists can best locate the areas (plural) of the Patriot assault. The complexity is magnified by the fact that Sullivan's guide was initially confused and "could not find the town" (Colonel Adam Hubley in Cook 1887:151).
AUGUST 1779: THE SEQUENCE OF DATES AND TIMES
August 12, Thursday:
By 8 P.M., Sullivan's army was moving from their base at Tioga, in Pennsylvania, towards Chemung, [text deleted]
August 13, Friday:
- By 6:30 A.M., the first units of Sullivan's army were in both Old Chemung and New Chemung, both of which have been abandoned
- Around 7:30 A.M., [text deleted] Crown-allied Indians ambush Sullivan's advance probe
- The morning is spent burning the buildings and cornfields of New Chemung and Old Chemung
- Around 1 P.M., the army began marching back to Tioga, their base in Pennsylvania.
- Evening: Sullivan's army is back at Tioga
August 22, Sunday:
General James Clinton's Fourth Brigade (New York troops and militia), moving down from Otsego Lake (Cooperstown), joined Sullivan's main force at Tioga
August 28, Saturday:
Sullivan's army re-enters Old Chemung and New Chemung.
August 29, Sunday:
Sullivan's army departs New Chemung and wins the Battle of Newtown
The "Battle" of Chemung; Or, What's in a name? Should Chemung be labeled as a Battle, a Skirmish, an Attack, or an Ambuscade?
I have chosen to use the term "battle" to describe the clash at Chemung for the reasons that are explained below. Here is the "evidence" regarding choices:
- "Battle" and "Skirmish" were both used by Alexander C. Flick (1929c:127 and 131).
- "Skirmish" was the term used by Colonel John Butler in referring to the clash- John Butler to Lieutenant Colonel Mason Bolton, August 26, 1779 (Flick 1929c: 131).
- "Attack" was the term used by General John Sullivan in referring to the event. (John Sullivan to George Washington, August 15, 1779, Flick (1929c:127).
- "Ambuscade" was used by the Patriot surgeon Dr. Ebenezer Elmer, in his journal for August 12-13 (Cook 1887:85). "Ambuscade" was also used by Patriot Lieutenant Obadiah Gore (Flick 1929c:181).
Comparative history and the use of a single standard: The "Battle" of Lexington and the "Battle" of Chemung
This report uses "battle" because there is a compelling argument for the word "battle." On April 19, 1775, the "Battle of Lexington" was a brave Patriot show of force in the face of an attacking enemy not unlike the resistance put up by Crown-allied Indians at Chemung. The Patriots defending Lexington numbered no more than seventy milita, and perhaps as few as thirty-eight. The Crown-allied Indians defending Chemung numbered about thirty but perhaps as many as fifty. At Lexington, the Patriot defenders lost eight killed, while the British Redcoats had only one wounded and none killed. At Chemung, the defenders lost one killed, while the Patriot attackers lost six killed immediately, with one killed later in the day.
If Chemung was only a "skirmish," but Lexington was a "battle," the different usage raises the issue of a double standard. If a brave stand at Lexington is a "battle," why isn't Chemung a "battle?" (After Lexington but on that same day --April 19, 1775 -- the separate "Battle of Concord" occurred, and the British suffered great losses at Concord and during their retreat to Boston.) (Boatner 623-625)
5.2.6 The Delawares
By the 1750s, the Delawares were divided between pro-British, pro-French, and neutral factions. There were Delawares at Tioga in Pennsylvania by 1757 whom the French called "Loups of Chaamonaque or Theoga" (Beauchamp 1907: 42). The Delawares at Chemung were refugees from Pennsylvania who had moved into the Chemung Valley gradually, but especially after 1760. In 1760, the capture of the French city and trade depot of Montreal marked a last phase of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), after which English trade goods and military strength would dominate the Northeast; and then, after 1764, anti-English Delawares who had taken refuge in the Chemung River Valley during Pontiac's War (1763-1766) were defeated by pro-British Haudenosaunee, bringing relative stability to the valley.
The Montour Family and the Historical Context of Violence in the Chemung River Valley
As noted above, Captain Rowland (Roland) Montour led the Delawares in their ambush of the Patriots at Chemung. The Montours were an important family on the Haudenosaunee frontier. Rowland Montour's father was probably Andrew Montour. Ironically, the rout of the anti-British Delawares in 1764 had been carried out by an expedition led by Captain Andrew Montour (Sullivan et al., 1921/1965, IV, 392-394 and 405-406).
Andrew Montour's expedition is important because it demonstrates how warfare and burned-out towns were a part of the Chemung Valley's history in 1764, more than a decade before the Sullivan invasion in 1779. Along with William Hare and John Johnston, Andrew wrote to Sir William Johnson on April 7, 1764, and reported their successful attacks which they launched from "Onok Quago" (Onoquaga, also known as Oquaga):
At Onok Quago We Was at A Great deal of Trouble to Set them [the warriors] upon the March ... there Was no End unto Delays [.] We Sot of [set off] With a Small party to Cheningo [Chenango in the Chemung River Valley] When All together We Made a Body of one hundred and forty Warriors We Immeadtly Proceeded Against Kanestio [an anti-English Seneca town which had given refuge to the anti-English Delawares] (Sullivan 1925-1965: IV,393).
After the successful expedition against the anti-English Delawares and Senecas was completed, a colleague of Sir William Johnson wrote an account at least partially based on Andrew Montour's report, and sent it to Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette. This account demonstrates not only how frontier warfare was devastating, but that its publication clearly indicates that such tactical victories were applauded by English colonists of all political persuasions -- except perhaps for pacifists such as the Quakers. Thus the account in Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette serves as a reminder that Sullivan's tactics in destroying towns were not unique, nor were the tactics employed by Crown-allied Indians in their attacks on settlements both before and after Sullivan.
Capt. Montour, after passing several creeks and rivers, which were very high and difficult at this season, arrived with his party, consisting of 140 Indians, with some rangers, the beginning of this month, at the Cayuga [Chemung] Branch of the Susquehanna River, which the enemy [some Delawares and Shawnees] had abandoned with the utmost precipitation: That they had destroyed two large towns of well-built square loghouses with chimmies [sic], and a large quantity of Indian corn, and other provisions; several new saddles, kettles, some arms, axes, &. ... After this, Montour proceeded to the large town of Kinestio, containing sixty good houses, which were likewise burnt; and there, as well as the other towns, killed a number of cattle, which could not be brought off; and sent parties in pursuit of the enemy [Delawares and Shawnees], who have fled to the Southward, whilst with the few remaining [with him], he destroyed four other villages of the enemy, on the branches of the Susquehanna (Sullivan et al., 1921/1965:IV, 405-406. cf. IV, 392-394).
The background of Rowland Montour also demonstrates the cultural and ethnic complexity of frontier life – a complexity that could be seen on virtually all European-Indian frontiers. Andrew Montour's mother was known as Madame Montour, a French Canadian woman born about 1684 of both French and Huron heritage. When she was about ten, she was captured during a Haudenosaunee raid on Canada. J.N.B. Hewitt, a scholar and a Tuscarora member of the Haudenosaunee, stated in 1907 that she was adopted, "probably by the Seneca, for at maturity she married a Seneca named Roland Montour, by whom she had 4, if not 5, children, namely Andrew, Henry, Robert, Lewis, and Margaret" (Hewitt in Hodge 1969, I, 937; and Wallace 1968, 175). That said, Madame Montour married an Oneida after the death of her Seneca husband, and it is possible that Andrew was their child. To further complicate an understanding of this lineage, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James Thomas Flexner states that Andrew's father was a Delaware (Flexner 1979, 263). Added to this is the fact that Andrew referred to himself, and was also often known by others, as "Henry." (Sullivan 1925-1965, IV, 394). But no matter who was the father of Andrew, if Andrew was the son of either Madame Montour's first husband, a Seneca, or her second husband, an Oneida, Andrew and Rowland would have been regarded as Haudenosaunee because of the matrilineal descent from Madame Montour, who had ("probably") been adopted by the Senecas. But perhaps what is most significant is that Andrew and Rowland are typical of the multi-ethnic peoples who bridged the cultural and ethnic frontiers of European colonists and Indians.
How a Raid by the Mohawk War Leader Joseph Brant Provides Background to Sullivan's Attack on Chemung
Chemung was a major base for the Crown-allied Indians, the Loyalist Rangers, and the 8th Regiment of British Regulars. While most Crown attacks from Chemung struck at the northern Pennsylvania frontier, Chemung was also a base for raids to the east. The importance of Chemung is illustrated by the fact that Chemung was used by the famous Mohawk war leader Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea). The following example of one of Brant's expeditions is an example of Chemung's importance. This expedition took place in July 1779, less than a month before Sullivan struck Chemung.
This example demonstrates:
• the ferocity of frontier warfare;
• the constant food shortages facing the Crown-allied Indians; and
• why the Patriots were convinced that the conquest of Chemung and all other towns within Haudenosaunee territory was a military imperative.
The Mohawk war leader Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) left Chemung to attack Minisink near the New York-New Jersey border in one of the most famous Haudenosaunee raids of the war. Brant's forces left Chemung and traveled to Oquaga before moving eastward to Minisink. Brant hoped that the raid would cause the Patriots to alter their plans to invade the Haudenosaunee homelands, and that he would also be able to collect cattle for the always under-supplied Haudenosaunee and other Indians such as the Delawares who were also allies of the Crown. He and his warriors conducted successful raids beginning on July 19, and on July 22, won an overwhelming victory against militia that attempted to ambush Brant and his forces. Despite the victories, Brant was unable to bring off enough cattle. Leaving Minisink, Brant and his men went to Oquaga ("Oghwage"). Here, on July 29, 1779, he wrote to Colonel Mason Bolton, the commander of Fort Niagara. Brant noted that perhaps even as he was writing, Sullivan's Patriot army might already be at Chemung, the base Brant had left just a few weeks earlier.
I... was a great deal disappointed that I cou'd not get into that place at the time I wished to do, a little before day[break]; instead of which I did not arrive 'till noon, when all the Cattle was in the Woods so we cou'd get but a few of them. We have burnt all the Settlement called Minisink, one Fort excepted, round which we lay before, about an hour, & had one man Killed & one wounded. We destroyed several small stockaded Forts, and took four Scalps & three Prisoners; but did not in the least injure Women or Children.... [Then] the Rebels had fair play at us. [text deleted] however, the Rebels soon retreated and I pursued them, until they stopt upon a Rocky Hill, round which we were employed and very busy, near four hours before we cou'd drive them out. We have taken 40 odd scalps, and one Prisoner, a Captain. I suppose the Enemy have lost near half of their men & most of their Officers: they all belonged to the Militia & were about 150 in number....
I find the Enemy certainly intends an expedition into the Indian Country, & have built strong Forts – by the last accounts they were at Wyoming. Perhaps by this time they may be at Shimong, where I have sent my Party to remain 'till I join them; I am now set[t]ing off with 8 men to the Mohawk River, in order to discover the Enemy's motions [i.e. Clinton's army].
(Flick 1929c:108-109; Boatner 1974:708; Kelsay 1984:249)
5.2.7 Landscape of Chemung
Descriptions of the Towns of Chemung
In the documents, "Chemung" is usually a shorthand in both Crown and Patriot documents that refers to "New Chemung," but caution in reading the documents is required because "Chemung" was also an umbrella term used in both Crown and Patriot documents to identify two Indian settlements known as "Old Chemung" and "New Chemung."
New Chemung was described by General John S. Clark in 1879 as "an Indian town of fifty or sixty houses, occupied in 1779, [text deleted]
Thomas Grant, a member of the Surveyor's Party, mentions almost one hundred houses at Chemung, at least twice the number mentioned by other Patriots when those Patriots were describing just "New Chemung." Grant may have combined the number of houses in Old and New Chemung, but that is speculation.
August 13th. This Morning about 6 o'clock a. m. we Entered Chemung Town, which the Enemy has Just left with Precipitation ... [and] Consisted of neer 100 Houses, Great and small (Cook 1887:139).
Lieutenant William Barton, in General William Maxwell's First New Jersey Brigade, described Chemung:
The country from Tioga to Shamong the most level land I have seen marching. On the bottom bordering on the creek, large medows several miles in length, rich, fertile, and easy to be cultivated. Its timbers on the low lands, nut and oak; on the highlands chiefly pine; soil very indifferent.
Shamong [is] an Indian town lying on the north of the creek, consisting of about thirty huts covered with bark. The Indians who inhabit it raise large fields of corn, beans, squashes, potatoes and pumpkins in abundamce [sic], which they subsist on in the winter season, with what deer and bears they kill, with other beasts of the wood. Our troops after destroying their huts and fields of corn (which we suppose to contain about a thousand bushels) returned unmolested to Tioga (Cook 1887:6).
Colonel Adam Hubley, 11th Pennsylvania Regiment, Hand's brigade, August 12-14, 1779, also described Chemung:
The situation of this village was beautiful; it contained fifty or sixty houses, built of logs and frames, [text deleted], and on a most fertile, beautiful, and extensive plain, the lands chiefly calculated for meadows, and the soil rich (Cook 1887: 151).
General John Sullivan, in his August 15, 1779 letter to General George Washington, described the town of New Chemung that included a building Sullivan labeled as a "chappel." According to Sullivan, Chemung
was most beautifully situated, contained a chappel [sic] with between thirty and fourty [sic] other houses, many of them very large, and tolerably well-finished. There were fields of corn, the most extensive that I ever saw with great quantities of potatoes pumpkins, squashes, and in short every other thing which any farmer could produce (Flick 1929c: 128).
Captain James Norris, 3rd New Hampshire Regiment, Poor's brigade, recorded in his journal that there was an "Idol" in the chapel at New Chemung:
[August 12/13] According to the accounts of those who pretend to be acquainted with Indian Citys, this seems to have been a pretty Capital place — It consisted of about 40 Houses built chiefly with split and hewn Timber, covered with bark and some other rough materials, without Chimnies, or floors, there were two larger houses which from some extraordinary rude Decorations, we took to be public Buildings; there was little Furniture left in the Houses, except Bearskins, some painted feathers, & Knicknacks — in what we supposed to be a Chapple was found indeed an Idol, which might well enough be Worshipd without a breach of the 2d Commandt. on account of its likeness to anything either in heaven or Earth (Cook 1887: 229).
In contrast to Sullivan and Norris, the Reverend William Rogers made no reference to a chapel and described the main building in New Chemung as a council house. But it also must be recalled, as noted earlier, that Rogers based his conclusions on interviews he made because he did not accompany the army to Chemung:
Its situation was beautiful, being on the banks of the Tioga branch. The houses in general were good, some built of logs, others of hewed slabs, in numbers, upwards of thirty with a council house (Cook 1887: 261).
Lieutenant Colonel Henry Dearborn, the commander of the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment, Poor's Brigade, noted two large buildings that he labeled as public houses:
[August 13th] at day brake we ariv'd at the Town but found it deserted only two or three Indians were seen running from the town The Town consisted of about 30 houses situate [sic] on the bank of the Tiogea Their houses ware biult [sic] with split and hew'd timber cover'd with bark There were 2 large buildings which ware said to be Publick houses There was very little left in the houses except baskets buckets & skins the houses had no chimney or flooers & ware very dirty & smookey" (Cook 1887: 70).
"The folks were all gone from home" is how Lieutenant Obadiah Gore quaintly described an abandoned Chemung:
August 13th. Marched all night, and at day break reached the lower end of Chemon Flats [lower end meaning Old Chemung?], where the enemy's advance picket were posted; they evacuated it without discharging a gun, and alarmed the town, that when we surrounded it, the folks were all gone from home (Flick 1929c: 181).
[text deleted] [text deleted]
Sullivan's army returns to Tioga
Sometime after 1 P.M., August 13, Sullivan's army began its withdrawal from Chemung and its return to Tioga [text deleted]. The Reverend William Rogers, the chaplain of the Third Brigade under Brigadier General Edward Hand, described how the army finished burning the cornfields and marched away, [text deleted]
After the Patriots withdrew from Chemung, the Delawares, the other Crown-allied Indians, and the Loyalist forces reoccupied it. Ironically, the prominent Mohawk war leader Joseph Brant arrived at Chemung late in the day of August 13 -- just as the Patriots were withdrawing after burning the town and corn. Six days later, on August 19, Joseph Brant was still at Chemung and he wrote a description of the battle to Colonel Mason Bolton at Fort Niagara:
A Post, of their Army, was at the lower end of Shimong Town [lower end -- perhaps Old Chemung], the same day I arrived there. [text deleted] their loss was only one Indian killed; but the Enemy lost several men, besides many wounded.—this put a stop to their advancing, however they destroyed some Corn, The Indians returned & gave another Fire during the time they were employed, upon which they returned to Tioga after burning some Houses & destroying a few fields of Corne—We suppose, as near as we can judge, they are at least 2000 men at the Camp at Tioga (Flick 1929c: 130).
On August 26, 1779, the Loyalist Ranger Colonel John Butler was at Chucknut, [text deleted]. Butler wrote to Colonel Mason Bolton at Niagara and described the Battle of Chemung. Butler also noted that the enemy was not militia as Bolton believed they might be, but Continentals.
I was favoured with yours of the 15th inst. Yesterday and have also received the amunition [sic] you sent [from Niagara] by the Horses –
The Indians have driven off several of their Horses and taken two or three Scalps, but I have not yet been able to get a Prisoner, tho' there are Scouts constantly at their Camp. You certainly must be misinformed in regard of these People, for form the accounts of every Prisoner that has been taken, they are some of the best of the Continental Troops commanded by the most active of the Rebel Generals, and not a Regiment of Militia among the whole (Flick 1929c:131).
The Indian Cornfields
Most of the cornfields were on the south side of the Chemung River opposite New Chemung. There probably were cornfields near "Old Chemung" as well. The Patriots destroyed some of these cornfields on August 13 before returning to their base at Tioga [text deleted] but the Patriots saved some of the cornfields because they intended to return to Chemung in their greater invasion of "Indian Country." Then, on August 29, as the Patriots marched west towards Newtown on August 29, they destroyed the remaining cornfields.
But there is no indication in the documents which cornfields were originally spared.
Lieutenant Erkuries Beatty, of the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment, Hand's Brigade, noted that about forty acres [text deleted] were destroyed and that during the burning of the fields one Patriot was killed by Indians and Loyalists:
Lieutenant John Jenkins, one of Sullivan's guides, noted that about fifteen acres of corn were destroyed, [text deleted]:
Other crops were destroyed as well. Thomas Grant, a member of the "Surveyor's Party," wrote in his journal for August 14, 1779, that
orders was Given to Genl Maxwell and Genl Poor to send Partis [parties] from their Reispective [sic] Brigades to cut down the Corn [text deleted] which they did to the amount of 15 or 20 acres, amongst which was Cucombers, Water Millions [sic], pumpkins, Squashes and Beans, during the time they ware destroying the corn, they ware fird on by two Indians, who kild one & wounded two [text deleted]
Dr. Ebenezer Elmer, the Surgeon in the Second New Jersey Regiment, believed that a total of two hundred acres of various crops were destroyed:
one Regt & three others were sent [text deleted] to destroy some corn; while they were doing this all hands carelessly at work, they were fired on across the river. The men in confusion, all they do was to, get off — Finding it impossible to catch them after destroying all we could, we marched off for Tioga — On this side was a large patch of corn wc. we left Standing till we should go up again. The whole of their corn, beans & potatoes I judge was near 200 acres [text deleted]
The motivations of the combatants on both sides can be divided into two categories:
1) Strategic, long-term motivations; and
2) Tactical motivations, especially "morale," that inspired the immediate actions of individuals.
Strategic, long-term motivations
Land was one of the major strategic motivations for both the Haudenosaunee and the Patriots. The Haudenosaunee wanted to protect their remaining lands while the Patriots wanted to obtain additional lands. This tension was not unique to the Haudenosaunee frontier, because this tension existed throughout both the northern and southern colonies. In 1768, a treaty line had been drawn by Northern Indian Superintendent Sir William Johnson and the Haudenosaunee at the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768. Similar limitations were placed on the southern colonists by Southern Indian Superintendent John Stuart's negotiations with the Cherokees in 1767, 1768, and 1770. In 1768, John Stuart also negotiated with the Creeks along the South Carolina-Georgia borders (Alden 1966:220-221, 269-277 and 294-295; Adams 1943:60-61). These lines granted significant land cessions to the white colonists. But the strategy of the Haudenosaunee, the Cherokees, and the Creeks was to cede lands on their respective borders that were often the territories of smaller Indian nations they had conquered decades and even a century earlier. For example, at the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix, the Haudenosaunee ceded lands that the Haudenosaunee claimed because of their conquest of the Delawares and the Shawnees. Thus most of the lands that the Haudenosaunee ceded at the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix lay primarily beyond their core homeland and south of the Ohio River – southwestern Pennsylvania, most of West Virginia, and most of Kentucky (Cappon 1976: 14-15; Venables 2004: 251-252).
Despite the treaty lines, all drawn under the authorization of King George III, the colonists still wanted more land. In contrast, the Haudenosaunee, the Cherokees, the Creeks, and the other Indian nations along the colonial frontier expected the treaty lines to halt white expansion. In 1774, land-hungry colonists began "Lord Dunmore's War," a war appropriately named for the Crown's Virginia governor, John Murray, Earl of Dunmore (hence, Lord Dunmore). It engulfed western Pennsylvania, western Virginia, and the eastern Ohio River Valley including parts of Kentucky. Lord Dunmore encouraged this frontier war because he was allied with land speculators. Lord Dunmore's War rolled over into the frontier wars of the American Revolution that had begun a year later in 1775. Lord Dunmore's War was fought primarily against the Shawnees and Delawares along the Pennsylvania-Virginia-Ohio frontier (Calloway 1995:24-25). But the war also spilled west of the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix line into the western territory of the Seneca Nation of the Haudenosaunee, and thus the western sections of Haudenosaunee territory were involved in war even before the Revolution.
When the Revolution began, Patriot promises at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) in 1775 and 1776 to end frontier warfare were not enforced (Downes 1940:179-198). In addition, British negotiators with the Haudenosaunee used the Patriots' greed for land as a negotiating point -- even though it had been a Royal governor, Lord Dunmore, who had begun the war on the western frontier of the Haudenosaunee, and even though both Loyalists and Patriots were fighting Indians because both frontier Loyalists and frontier Patriots wanted more land. The British asked the Haudenosaunee to adhere to more than a century of the economic, political and military alliance, first with the Dutch and then with the English Crown, that became known as the "Covenant Chain" (Leder 1979:47; and Boyd 1938:50-53). The logic of the British negotiators was that only the King could resolve the issue of colonial land hunger.
At Fort Niagara on January 22, 1776, a delegation of Haudenosaunee chiefs and warriors met in council with the fort's commander, Colonel John Caldwell, and with Colonel John Butler of the Indian Department. Butler's notes indicate that he was the speaker who delivered an address on behalf of the Crown and Colonel Caldwell. In this speech, Butler tied the Patriots' desire for Haudenosaunee lands with the frontier violence of Lord Dunmore's War, including a frank admission that King George III placed the blame on his own Royal Governor, Dunmore, and that the King intended to bring justice to the Shawnees:
Consider whether it is not your Lands they aim at, as they cant get them by a fare purchess, as the King and you have Fixed a Line [1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix] which they Cannot Cross by fear [fair] means, Consider whether this was not the Reason of the Virginians Quarreling with the Shawanees [Shawnees], to take it by Conquest as they have all the rest of their province, if you adhear to those people [ally with the Patriots] and they shall deceive you & Cross the Line, can you expect the King will Interfere and prvent tem from taking it as he did your Lands on the Ohio, by ordering the Governor [Dunmore] Immediately to Stop, and told them he would Sevearly punish them if they Offred [offered] to disturbe our peace, The King was exceedingly offended with the Virginians and his own Gov.r for Quarrelling with the Shawanees and is resolved to see Justice done them before he will pardon the Rebels (Butler Indian Records, Reel 1, 9-10. cf. 1 and 2).
In the midst of this fluctuating frontier, the Delawares were also withdrawing in the face of the expanding white frontier population. The Delawares' primary options were either to move into western Pennsylvania and the Ohio River Valley or to take refuge with the Haudenosaunee. The strategy of the Haudenosaunee was to welcome refugee people such as the Delawares and the Tutelos (from Virginia). These refugee communities would strengthen the Haudenosaunee and help them hold onto what the Haudenosaunee recognized as an ever-shrinking territory. Delawares who moved into Haudenosaunee territory accepted this strategy. In exchange for their refuge, the Haudenosaunee would control the Delawares' external affairs, including warfare. However, the Haudenosaunee would allow the Delawares and other refugee people to maintain their own religion, their own language, their own customs, and their own leaders. The Delaware leaders governed locally and acted as delegates to represent the Delawares at council meetings at Onondaga, the capital of the Haudenosaunee (near present-day Syracuse). At these "grand council meetings," the Delaware delegates might on occasion be permitted to speak directly to the Haudenosaunee council. But both at Onondaga and at other council meetings held at locations such as Johnson Hall in the Mohawk Valley, the custom was that the concerns of the Delawares would be presented to the council by one of the founding nations of the Confederacy (Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas) (Sullivan et al., eds.,1921/1965, XII, 241-242). Although Chemung was geographically within the territorial range of the Cayuga Nation, by the beginning of the American Revolution (1775) the land that included Chemung was the responsibility of the entire Confederacy and its founding nations. Those Delawares who wanted to maintain complete independence went into western Pennsylvania and the Ohio River Valley.
At the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775, the immediate problem facing the people of Chemung was the fact that white expansion was pressing in on them [text deleted]. Tension mounted in the years leading up to the Revolution despite a boundary line drawn in 1768 by the British Crown and the Haudenosaunee in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (Rome, New York). The 1768 line was intended to set the western boundary of New York and to permanently separate the colonists from the Haudenosaunee. But the 1768 line became the new front in a struggle between the Indians and the white colonists who were pushing into northern Pennsylvania just south of Chemung. The vastly outnumbered Delawares, Haudenosaunee, and other Indian people were tired of conceding land to frontiersmen who were never content with the lands they already had. During the Revolution, these tensions boiled over into horrific frontier warfare carried out by both sides. Then, in 1779, Chemung would be overwhelmed by a Patriot army under General John Sullivan. Sullivan's soldiers were determined to win a Revolutionary War in which the Indians of Chemung were the enemy: allies of the Crown who had raided and burned Patriot and farms, settlements, and forts in Pennsylvania, in the Mohawk Valley of New York, and all along New York's other frontier settlements such as Cherry Valley (Cruikshank 2010:40, 44-50; Venables 2005:179-197; 2009:131-157).
The Patriot Passion for More Land
Although the Patriots professed peace when they addressed the Haudenosaunee and other Indians, they did not hide their goal of seizing more Indian lands when addressing whites. In fact, the Patriots' Declaration of Independence in 1776 includes a passage that clearly implies the Patriots intend to break the treaties made by the Crown, including the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix with the Haudenosaunee. The Declaration clearly states that a major reason the Patriots were rebelling against George III was that the King was adhering to the treaty lines drawn with the Haudenosaunee, the Cherokees, and the Creeks between 1767 and 1770 and that the King was therefore refusing to meet the Patriots' desire for more Indian land. The Declaration proposed many justifications for declaring independence from King George III, justifications which the Declaration defines as "facts" -- "To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world." In that list of facts, the seventh on the list is [bold added]:
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands (Commager 1973:101).
"New Appropriations of Lands" is, of course, a gentler, kinder way of saying that the colonists should be allowed to force the Haudenosaunee and other Indians, including southern Indians such as the Cherokees and Creeks, to cede more land than they already had.
This, then, made "land" a major strategic motivation for both the Patriots who marched to Chemung and for the Haudenosaunee and Delawares who defended this southern gateway to the Haudenosaunee homelands.
While the soldiers under General Sullivan were determined to win a war, they also knew that their invasion of the Haudenosaunee homelands would justify the seizure of even more land. Thus one of the army chaplains, the Reverend William Rogers, observed on August 11, as the army prepared to move northwards towards Chemung [bold added]:
August 11. Getting to the mouth of the Tioga [Chemung], we found it in width one hundred and forty-two yards, and the water much deeper than had been imagined. Verdant plains in our rear, the flowing Susquehannah on our right. Ourselves in the Tioga or Cayuga stream, with a fine neck of land in our front and mountains surrounding the whole, afforded pleasant reflections though separated from friends and in an enemy's country. Surely a soil like this is worth contending for (Cook 1887:260).
However, Dr. Jabez Campfield, a surgeon in Sullivan's army, was a reluctant conqueror. On August 11, 1779, the same day that Reverend Rogers made his observation, Dr. Campfield wrote:
I very heartily wish these rusticks may be reduced to reason, by the aproach of this army, without their suffering the extreems of war; there is something so cruel, in destroying the habitations of any people, (however mean they may be, being their all) that I might say the prospect hurts my feelings (Cook 1887:54).
One of the most thorough explanations of the Patriots' intense interest in land was noted by Major Jeremiah Fogg, in Brigadier General Enoch Poor's New Hampshire Regiment. After the battles of Chemung and of Newtown, as the army marched through Haudenosaunee country, they were guided by Oneida scouts under the Oneida Thaosagwat. In the following passage from Fogg's journal for September 7, Fogg envisions inevitable white settlement over the area; raises the question of what "the God of nature" intends; raises the choice for the Haudenosaunee of adapting white civilization or being exterminated; and finally notes, with indignation, that friendship with Indians ends as soon as they are threatened.
The land between the Seneca and Cayuga lakes appears good, level and well timbered; affording a sufficiency for twenty elegant townships, which in process of time will doubtless add to the importance of America. The communication of the Seneca with Cayuga is passable with boats and is about twenty miles.
Whether the God of nature ever designed that so noble a part of his creation should remain uncultivated, in consequence of an unprincipled and brutal part of it, is one of those arcana, yet hidden from human intelligence. However, had I any influence in the councils of America, I should not think it an affront to the Divine will, to lay some effectual plan, either to civilize, or totally extirpate the race. Counting their friendship, is not only a disagreeable task, but impracticable; and if obtained it is of no longer duration than while we are in prosperity and the impending rod threatens their destruction. To starve them is equally impracticable for they feed on air and drink the morning dew (Cook 1887:97-98).
Perhaps the most astonishing environment Sullivan's army encountered was in Pennsylvania, in an area ravaged by the attacks and counterattacks of both Patriots and Crown allies. Sergeant Thomas Roberts served in Colonel Oliver Spencer's Fifth New Jersey regiment. Prior to the war, he had been a shoemaker in Middletown Point, Monmouth County, New Jersey. In Pennsylvania, as the army reached the junction of the Susquehanna River with Tunkhannock Creek and then marched to the Susquehanna's junction with Black Walnut Creek, Roberts' journal reveals an environment that amazed him:
Divert and Delay: Haudenosaunee Strategic Motivations in Protecting Their Lands
To defend the core of Haudenosaunee homelands, the Haudenosaunee coordinated their efforts with British and Loyalist forces in their efforts to
1. Divert Patriot military resources away from an invasion by attacking widespread points along the frontier in the hopes that the Patriot resources gathering under General Sullivan would be scattered to respond to the widespread attacks. One such attack was discussed earlier in this report: Joseph Brant's raid on Minisink from July 19 through July 22.
2. Delay General Sullivan with raids along the route of his army's approach, especially to sap Patriot morale.
Examples of these raids that were intended to delay Sullivan and discourage his men also reveal the nature of frontier combat. Ranger Captain John McDonell wrote to Major John Butler, commander of Butler's Rangers, on July 24, describing just such a raid, in this case, a raid launched from Chemung (a portion of the following quote was used earlier in this report, but the entire letter is valuable for its details):
24 July 1779
I was met here by Samuel Harris's party of twenty warriors. They went off from Shimong two days before my arrival and have taken two prisoners and three scalps, a little below Fort Wallace.
That the enemy mean to attack the Indian Country from Wyoming remains no longer a doubt. All the accounts I have been able to gather relative to their strength from prisoners taken at different places and periods seem to corroborate. I have reason to apprehend from the information I have just received that they are about this time in motion.
The prisoners say that Generals Sullivan and Maxwell were arrived with the last division of the troops, a long train of artillery and a brigade of provision boats. This division said to contain 5,000 men composed of Continental or standing forces. They have 1,000 pack horses and 170 boats. The whole is said to consist of 8,000 men, though I cannot allow them above the half, nor do I believe they have that.
I sent off a scout from Shishiquin to Wyoming to watch the motions of the rebels till our return. Should they discover them on their route, a runner is to strike across the woods to me, the rest to return and spread the alarm, in which case I shall, after doing them all the injury I can in this quarter, send off a sufficient guard with the cattle I'll be able to collect towards the mountains to the Nanticoke Town and hang upon the rear of the enemy and harass them as much as possible on their march with a few of the most active of the Rangers and about 100 of the Indians.
You may depend upon it I shall be very cautious to do anything that may have a tendency to dishearten the Indians. I know too well their capricious humours.
I shall collect all the cattle of every kind I can as I am sensible that provisions will be an object of the utmost consequence when all the Indians are embodied (Smy 1994 II:72-73).
As late as August 5 (the Battle of Chemung occurred on August 13), Captain John McDonell and his Indian allies were using Tioga, the future base of Sullivan's army, to raid the Pennsylvania frontier. They struck both Continental Troops and militia [text deleted]. At Tioga on August 5, 1779, McDonell reported his success in a letter to Major John Butler. The letter is also valuable because it reveals the ferocity of frontier warfare and the continual need of Crown-allied forces for food and supplies – a shortage which added to the difficulties facing Crown-allied forces who were outnumbered at least four to one by the approaching Patriot army.
5 August 1779
I have the pleasure to inform you of the success of the Indians and the detachment I had the honour to command against the West Branch [of the Susquehanna River].
After a very tedious, fatiguing march over mountains and through woods almost impenetrable, we came in upon the settlement the 27th in the evening, continued our march all night and invested a small place called Fort Freeland early in the morning, the then frontier post occupied upon the river. At ten o'clock the fort surrendered by capitulation, a copy of the terms I have sent herewith.
The garrison consisted of one Sergeant and 12 Privates of the Continental Troops and 20 of the Militia, commanded by one of the Commissioners of the County. They had two men killed before the place surrendered. John Montour [the brother of Rowland Montour] received a wound in the small of the back while scalping a man under the pickets of the fort, but is in a fair way to do well.
About two hours after we got possession of the place, we were attacked by a party of rebels that came up to reinforce the fort of 70 or 80 men, having heard our fire. We had no intimation of their approach till they were close upon us, the scouts of Indians that were sent out having fell in with some horses which they pursued, neglecting the charge they were trusted with.
The Indians, upon the first appearance of the rebels, retired a little but soon recovered from their surprise and came in upon their left flank with great fury, while the detachment of the 8th Regiment and Rangers attacked them in front, and put them immediately to the rout with the loss of three Captains (two of which belonged to the Continental Troops) and between thirty and forty men killed. Few of them would have escaped had they not been favoured with a very close copse where they concealed themselves. We had only one Indian killed and one wounded upon this occasion.
I did everything in my power to prevail upon the Indians to pursue their success, but they were so glutted with plunder, prisoners and scalps that my utmost efforts could not persuade them from retreating to Fort Wallace that night. Next day I returned with about 100 Indians and Rangers. We burned and destroyed five forts and about 30 miles of a close settled country. They had abandoned their forts the evening before and fled with great precipitation, leaving behind a large quantity of goods and most of their cattle.
The prisoners corroborate the accounts I gave you in my letter of the 21st Ultimo and I have no further news.
The Commissioner, who is a very intelligent man, asserts for certain that the armies from Wyoming and Cherry Valley are destined for Niagara. They were to set off from Wyoming the 26th Ultimo. A General Clinton commands the army at Cherry Valley.
Out of the 116 cattle we drove past Wallace's fort, we have only 62 remaining. Some we lost, the greatest part were stolen from us by the Indians. The Tuscaroras have a separate drove containing, I believe, 40 or 50.
For further particulars, I must refer you to Lieutenant Thompson whom I beg leave to recommend to you as a very active, spirited officer.
PS: Please to send me word as soon as possible what I am to do with the prisoners and cattle (Smy 1994 II:77-78).
An example of a raid meant to sting and discourage Sullivan's men occurred on August 15, just two days after the Battle of Chemung, after Sullivan's army had returned to their base at Tioga. Lieutenant Thomas Blake of the 1st New Hampshire Regiment, Poor's Brigade, noted
Aug. 15. — [At Tioga] A party of Indians came down to the south side of the river, opposite the encampment, and fired upon some men that were tending cattle, killed one and wounding another (Cook 1887: 39).
In response to this raid, Sullivan gave the following orders, including prohibiting his soldiers from firing their guns unnecessarily and also prohibiting them from giving "the Indian whoop."
Head Quarters Teaoga 16th August....
The Commander-in-chief takes occasion from yesterdays [sic] event to impress upon the minds of the soldiers the necessity of what he has so often urged to wit: the utmost care and caution to avoid giving the lurking adversary an opportunity of triumphing at their imprudence. The General again repeats, that we have nothing to fear from our enemy, but their taking petty advantages which our want of caution produces. Altho' the Savages be despicable in action, yet our yielding repeated opportunities for taking little advantages, may render them formidable in idea, to prevent which the troops are positively forbidden, on any pretense to go without the lines of the encampment. A captain and fifty men are to posted on the west side of the Cayuga [Chemung River], to guard the horses & cattle & secure the camp. Gen. Maxwell will order a sergeant and twelve as a guard at the spring opposite his encampment.
As the soldiers imitating the Indian whoop, & their frequent firing, tho' contrary to repeated orders, evidently prevented timely notice being taken yesterday of the Savages, they are forbidden to make those noises in the future; & every officer is called upon to apprehend such as are guilty of firing muskets & have them punished agreeably to former orders. In future the discharge of a single gun must be looked upon as an alarm, of which the officers of the day are to take immediate notice & repair to the place in order to learn the occasion. If they find it proceeded from our own troops, they are to order instant punishment to be inflicted upon the offender (Barber in Murray 1975:69-70).
Diversion was perhaps the most important strategy in the Sullivan Campaign. As conceived by George Washington and General John Sullivan, three additional forces provided significant diversions that kept the Crown forces off-balance:
1. The assault on Onondaga in April by Colonel Goose Van Schaick (Williams 2005:195-197 and 206-209).
2. The assembling of an army in the Mohawk Valley and Otsego Lake by General James Clinton, an army which eventually linked with Sullivan but which kept Crown scouts guessing as to what this army's intentions were (Williams 2005:214-215 and 227).
3. The assault by Colonel Daniel Brodhead northward from Fort Pitt which resulted in a division of the Seneca warriors into two segments: one to defend Seneca territory from Brodhead and the other to face Sullivan (Williams 2005:217-218 and 227-228).
Caution: The Other Patriot Strategic Motivation
Caution was a major motivator for General John Sullivan and the Patriot army. General Edward Braddock's ambush and defeat in 1755 to the French and Indians as they marched towards the French stockade known as Fort Duquesne (later the site of Fort Pitt and Pittsburgh) must have been on the minds of the combantants. George Washington commanded the Virginia militia in this battle, and his courage under fire enabled the British forces to organize a retreat following the initial chaos of the ambush (Flexner 1965: I, 126-131). It is probable that Washington ultimately put up with Sullivan's extreme caution because of the experience of Braddock's defeat.
For both the Patriots and the Crown-allied forces, morale was the key to their will to fight and their tactics.
The basis of some morale was based on vengeance. Both Patriot and Crown forces were affected by the sights of burned out ruins of Patriot and Indian settlements in Pennsylvania and southern New York, for the frontier war had raged here at least since 1777. While Crown attacks on Patriot settlements such as Cherry Valley in November 1778 have major places in American history, the context of that particular raid was that in October 1778 Patriot forces destroyed Unadilla and other Indian towns. At Unadilla, three Patriots raped and killed a chief's young wife. In contrast, no rapes of white women occurred during Crown attacks – including Cherry Valley. That said, the sequence of raid and counter-raid clearly escalated in 1778.
The Patriots, the Haudenosaunee, the Delawares, the Loyalists, and the British were caught up in a frontier war that often resulted in horrific violence carried out by both sides. This was especially true following the brutal Battle of Oriskany, which took place on August 6, 1777, at the western end of the Mohawk Valley. Both sides subsequently perceived the other as an implacable enemy. Inevitably, non-combatants on the eastern frontier of the Haudenosaunee – the New York frontier – increasingly became victims to the war's ferocity. The Patriots claimed that the pro-British Haudenosaunee and Delawares had begun the killing of non-combatants, and that Patriot actions were retaliations. But the situation was more complicated. It is impossible to determine who began the atrocities, especially because white colonists were murdering Delawares, Shawnees, and Haudenosaunee on the Pennsylvania-Ohio frontier in Lord Dunmore's War a year before the Revolution began. As happens in most if not all wars, the combatants on both sides became convinced that their actions were rational responses to events and that "the other side" had been the first to commit atrocities.
In 1933, the historian Howard Swiggett wrote War Out of Niagara, a book jointly published the New York State Historical Association and Columbia University Press (and republished in 1963). Swiggett unabashedly summarized the tragedy of partisan warfare such as that along the New York-Pennsylvania frontier, beginning with a harsh critique of white attitudes in colonial wars, and then moving on to include the indigenous defenders as well [bold added]:
It certainly may be stated that frontiersmen in all wars and countries sanction conduct against colored races which they religiously condemn and ruthlessly take revenge for when employed against themselves. Furthermore, the destruction of property on a frontier, when it represents all that men possess, is so fearful a thing that it unbridles them for the most terrible and unrelated revenge. On whichever side a man may be, if he has seen his wealth destroyed, his home burned, his wife ill or dead from exposure, he will strike back with an almost studious cruelty even at the most innocent of his enemy's connections. Unadilla [October] was worse than Andrustown [July], Cherry Valley [November] than Unadilla, the Sullivan Expedition than Cherry Valley, and so up the stupid sequence of retaliation (Swiggett 1963:144).
The English historian, John Buchan, in the "Preface" he wrote for War Out of Niagara, candidly noted how difficult it can be for any nation's citizens to understand the perception of those who lost a major war against their nation, and how civil wars are even more difficult to frame historically:
In a civil war the loser is in a worse case, for the cause he opposed has become the cherished loyalty of a nation, and opposition to it is felt to carry a moral as well as an intellectual stigma" (Swiggett 1963: vii).
The Crown-allied Indians, already motivated to defend their lands, may have also observed how Sullivan's men looted Indian graves at Tioga. Captain James Norris of the Third New Hampshire Regiment, General Enoch Poor's brigade, unabashedly recorded how some soldiers looted Indian graves at Tioga. If the Crown-allied scouts observed these actions, such actions would have certainly added to the warriors' motivations:
It appears by the Number of hides lying on the ground that the Indians have lately had an Encampment at this place By the place of burial seen here, one would be led to think this was once an Indian Town, but there are no Vestiges of Hutts or Wiggwoms — Whether through principle of Avarice or Curiosity, our Soldiers dug up several of their graves and found a good many laughable relicts, as a pipe, Tomahawk & Beads &c. (Cook 1887: 229).
As they marched toward Tioga and Chemung, the Patriot soldiers were aware of the Patriot devastation on Crown allies, white and Indian alike, carried out by their fellow soldiers the previous year. Dr. Ebenezer Elmer, the surgeon in the Second New Jersey Regiment under Colonel Israel Shreve, First New Jersey Brigade under Brigadier General William Maxwell, had both the destruction carried out by Patriots and that carried out by Crown allies in his mind just two days before the Battle of Chemung. As the Patriots approached Tioga (now Athens, Pennsylvania), Dr. Elmer wrote [emphasis added]
Dr. Elmer vividly summarized the vista:
The horrors of a wilderness with the beauties of a fertile nature are blended in our prospects at this place (Cook 1887:85).
Surreal contrasts also existed on this frontier. Captain James Norris of the Third New Hampshire Regiment, Poor's Brigade, recorded that there was still a dense forest around the ruins of Queen Esther's, but he also observed that fruit trees were still surrounding Queen Esther's "palace" that had been destroyed by Patriots the previous year.
[August] 11 After advancing [text deleted] through a rich bottom covered with strong and stately Timber which shut out the Sun, & shed a cool agreeable twilight; we unexpectedly were introduced into a Plain as large as that of Sheshekonunck, call'd Queen Easter's [sic] Plantation — it was on this plain near the bank of the Susquehanna that Easter Queen of the Seneca Tribe, dwelt in Retirement and Sullen majesty, detached from all the Subjects of her Nation — The ruins of her Palace are still to be seen; surrounded with fruit Trees of various kinds (Cook 1887:229).
No wonder, then, that in 1779 the memories of previous years were enough to stimulate the will to fight among both Patriots and allies of the Crown as both maneuvered across the frontier. Sullivan's men were painfully aware of burned-out communities destroyed by Crown-allied Indians as they moved through Pennsylvania towards Tioga, and this motivated the Continental troops as well as the militia. The Delawares and Haudenosaunee were equally aware of the destruction of Indian towns around Unadilla in 1778 (Swiggett 1963:144).
Sullivan used the accumulated vision of destruction to motivate his troops in the spirited orders he gave on August 12, immediately before the army set off for Chemung. Of course Sullivan pointedly omitted the destruction wrought by Patriot troops the previous year. "Savage barbarity" is always the fault of the "other" side [emphasis added].
Commanding officers of Regiments and Corps are to have a thorough examination of the arms and ammunition in their respective commands and see that they be in perfect readiness for action; the Army to hold themselves in readiness to move at the shortest notice. As they will soon be called upon to march against an enemy whose savage barbarity to our fellow citizens have rendered them proper objects of our resentment, the General assure them it is impossible to be opposed with equal numbers, nor can he think even if their numbers were equal they would withstand the bravery and discipline of the troops he has the honor to command. It ought nevertheless to be remembered, that they are a secret, desultory and rapid enemy, seizing every advantage, availing themselves of every defeat [defect?] on our part. Though they can never withstand the shock of brave and resolute troops, yet should we be so inattentive to our own safety as to give way before them, they become the most dangerous and destructive enemy that can possibly be conceived of. They follow the unhappy fugitives with all the cruel and unrelenting hate of prevailing cowards, and are not satiated with slaughter until they have totally destroyed their opponents. It therefore becomes every officer and soldier to resolve never to fly before such an enemy, but determine either to conquor [sic] or perish which will ensure success. The General does not mention these things under the least apprehension of either the officers or soldiers failing in any part of their duty, but that every one may go into action with the same spirit and determination. Should this happily be the case, nothing but an uncommon frown of Providence can prevent us from obtaining that success which will ensure peace and security to our frontiers and afford lasting honor to all concerned (Barber in Murray 1975: 65-66).
The morale of Sullivan's army was also kept high by officers who upheld their superior responsibilities as officers but who did not hold themselves aloof from the common soldiers. This motivation and determination of Sullivan's army is reflected in the actions of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Barber, the aide de camp of General Sullivan, in saving the life of one of the Continental soldiers who almost drowned on the march to Tioga, two days before the Battle of Chemung. This was recorded in the journal of Captain James Norris, Third New Hampshire Regiment, Poor's Brigade:
[August] 11 The Army recd orders to march to Tioga, [text deleted] the troop forded the river where the Stream was rapid and pretty deep, notwithstanding the men all came safe over, except one who was carried down the Current a considerable distance, and saved by Lieut Col Barber Adjt Genl at the hazzard of his own Life (Cook 1887:229).
At Tioga on the next day, August 12 -- just before marching towards Chemung -- Sullivan was determined to keep the morale of his army high by formally censuring Captain Van Angler, the commissary for General Hand's Brigade. Van Angler had beaten a common soldier and had been found guilty at a court martial five days before on August 7 (Barber in Murray 1975:62). But Sullivan also released the offending officer from his five days of "arrest" – undoubtedly because Sullivan needed the commissary of General Hand's Brigade that was going to be in the van during the attack on Chemung.
At a general Court Martial whereof Colo. Shreve was president, held at Wyalusing on the 7th instant Captain Van Angler Commissary of Gen. Hand's Brigade, was tried for unjustifiably and cruelly beating and abusing Sergeant Ashley of the German Battalion, found guilty of the charge and sentenced to be severely reprimanded in General Orders, the Commander in Chief approves the sentence of the court and cannot help but observing that from the whole tenor of the evidence recorded in court, it appears Captain Van Angler was guilty not only of an abuse of power, but manifested a malevolence of temper scarcely to be equaled. Though the General will never countenance soldiers in disrespectful behavior to officers, and will entertain a poor opinion of an officer who suffers himself to be insulted without immediately chastising the soldier who may attempt it, yet he can never suffer officers to beat and abuse their soldiers wantonly. Blows should never be given except where they are necessary to the preservation of order or discipline, and then unaccompanied with those marks of cruelty and malevolence which were apparent in the whole of Mr. Van Anglers conduct [against] a non-commissioned officer whom he made he object of his inhumanity and had it been a private soldier his conduct would admit of not the least justification. Captain Van Angler is released from his arrest and cautioned against similar conduct in the future (Barber in Murray 1975:64-65)
It is also possible that one of Sullivan's motivations, beyond morale, was to emphasize to his Continental professional soldiers the difference between service in the Patriot army with more egalitarian ideals, in part springing from the militia tradition, and the harshness of the British army, in which British officers had far more latitude in the physical punishment of their soldiers.
Patriot Camp Followers - or Slaves?
A vague reference to the undependability of camp followers – or were they also slaves? – is in the journal of a chaplain with the army, Reverend William Rogers. There seems to have been some distrust within the army of the "domestics," a term which in the colonial era could mean free servants or slaves (OED, I, 786 and II, 2558). Sullivan denied Rogers' request to accompany the army in its assault on Chemung. Sullivan provided Rogers with an excuse: that Rogers was needed to look after the "domestics." Rogers noted:
To have been of the party myself was my fervent desire, but I could not petition for it to be granted, after being requested by General Hand to stay and take charge of our family baggage and stores, which, among such domestics [Slaves? Camp followers?] as we are blessed with, was the necessary duty of some one [there seems to be some distrust in the army of the "domestics"](Cook 1887:261).
Morale and Alcohol: Whiskey for the Patriots, Rum for the Crown Forces
Immediately before Sullivan ordered his army to march to Chemung, he first distributed a gill -- two ounces (OED, I, 1142) -- of whiskey per man. In his orders, this whiskey ration precedes the sentence making sure the army's ammunition was ready for battle:
All troops to draw a gill of whiskey and keep it until further orders. They are to cook what provisions they have on hand immediately. They are also to draw those guns which are loaded & to have them in perfect order [.] The officers to see that their cartridge boxes are filled with amunition [sic], the army to march at a moments warning. When they are called upon to march they will parade with their provision on hand but without blankets or any other baggage (Barber in Murray 1975:66).
As for the Crown forces, the papers of John Butler, commander of Butler's Rangers, make it clear that rum was distributed to both Indians and Loyalists, and that instead of a "gill of whiskey" the ration was a "a gill of rum" (Smy 1994 II:80; cf. 41, 53, and 104).
Whiskey and the Patriots' night march to Chemung
Sullivan's army left Tioga on August 12 between 8 and 9 PM after each man had been given two ounces of whiskey. These men then marched through the night. This may or may not account for the slowness of the march through the dark, and may have affected the soldiers' combat abilities the next day. Thomas Grant, a member of the surveyor's party, noted that the day was "very warm," and then in the evening, the Patriots marched:
AUGUST 12th. Fair weather but very warm. Last Eavening a small scout was sent to Chimung to reconiter The Enimy. They Returned this afternoon with Infirmation that the Enemy was in Possession of that place. In Consequence of which Genl Sullivan ordered the trupes surved with a gill of Liquor pr man, at about, eight o'clock this Evening The Trupers Mooved of [off] in a very Silent manner. Genl Hand's Light Infintry In front as usual, all except the Gard That was left for the safety of the Camp. We Marched all this Night past through very Difficult Narrow Defiles (Cook 1887:139).
Two issues involving morale faced General Sullivan after the Battle of Chemung:
1) Many soldiers, during the rugged march to and from Chemung, had worn out their uniforms; and
2) Both officers and men had to confront why they had been ambushed.
Because the Patriots lost so much of their clothing -- especially "shirts and frocks" as will be seen in the quote below – archeologists may find an abundance of buttons and other objects associated with clothing – although it is also possible that the Delawares, upon returning to Chemung after the battle, picked up reusable buttons and other items.
Regarding clothing, General Sullivan gave the following orders the day after the battle:
Head Quarters Teaoga 14th August 1779
The commander in chief having with great difficulty provided shirts and frocks for those soldiers who are naked, officers commanding Regiments and corps are requested to make returns of such as have no shirts or coats, also of such as have but one shirt that they may be supplied. It is expected that the commanding officers will be particularly attentive to see that no fraud be permitted in these returns as it would be unjust & dishonorable in the last degree for officers to claim in our present circumstances of supplies more clothing than is absolutely necessary (Barber in Murray 1975:66-67).
Why Had the Patriots Been Ambushed at Chemung? Did Whiskey Affect Patriot Actions During the Battle?
Once back at Tioga, General Sullivan also issued orders that the morale of his troops had become so high that they had become reckless and this led them into an ambush. Furthermore, Sullivan's orders reveal that some officers were so overconfident, or perhaps simply negligent, and as a result, their men moved far ahead of them. There is also a hint that perhaps some Patriots were killed by shots fired by their own fellow soldiers – what is today called "friendly fire." Is it possible that whiskey clouded the men's minds during the assault?
Head Quarters Teaoga 14th August 1779....
Though the General cannot help expressing the highest approbation of the resolute conduct of the officers & soldiers in yesterdays excursion yet he must remind the troops of the necessity of using those precautions which he has repeatedly urged. Though the enemy we have to contend with have not the resolution to withstand the onset of such determined troops; yet they are fruitful in stratagem, secret in their designs, and capable of seizing every advantage which the situation of the ground or our own inattention and want of caution may give them. The proceedings of yesterday must prove to every thinking person the propriety of former orders and the necessity of these.
The officers of Regiments are positively ordered not to be absent from their respective command, whenever their Regiments are ordered to a place where there is a possibility of an attack from the enemy, and the soldiers are cautioned against wantonly throwing away their fire when they have no object to level it at. How exceedingly pleasant it must be to four or five cowardly lurking savages to see on fire from them to produce a wanton discharge of the muskets in a number of Regiments without any kind of aim, meaning or order, and leveled at no object but endangering those offices who are endeavoring to restore them to order, and spreading carnage among themselves[.] [This could mean "friendly fire"] Painful as it is, the General must say that much of the mischief done yesterday to our troops, was done by ourselves, by an unguarded and unjustifiable conduct by troops [high spirits had overcome Continental training] too [sic] whom every part of their conduct proved that they had sufficient bravery to engage and conquer ten times their number of their dastardly foes. As it is the business of the officers to direct the fire of their troops, it is positively ordered, that the officers in future, draw up their troops in case of an attack and point out the object against which their fire is to be directed, & the soldiers are positively forbidden to fire without having first received those directions from their officers (Barber in Murray 1975:67-68).
The Impact of Graft Carried Out by British Indian Superintendent Guy Johnson
This section on motivations ends with the problem of graft and corruption, in this case carried out by the Superintendent of the Indian Department Guy Johnson and two merchants at Fort Niagara throughout the Sullivan campaign from 1779 through 1781. Graft was undoubtedly one reason why the Haudenosaunee were under-supplied throughout the Sullivan Campaign. For example, on May 24, 1779 – after Onondaga had been attacked by Van Schaick and as the allies of the Crown prepared for what became Sullivan's expedition, John Butler at Canadasago wrote to Lieutenant Colonl Mason Bolton at Fort Niagara regarding poor gunpowder.
Four casks of powder that was sent was entirely spoiled and could not be made use of. I would be glad if you would order the powder you send me to be inspected, as the expense of getting it to this place is considerable and this is only thrown away on bad powder, besides the disappointment it is (Smy 1994 II:46).
Guy Johnson's graft was not discovered until after the Sullivan campaign had devastated the Haudenosaunee homelands. While Sullivan's army already had overwhelming numbers compared to the defending Crown forces, graft may explain at least a part of Sullivan's success at Chemung, Newtown, and the entire Sullivan campaign, during which the Haudenosaunee and their Loyalist allies continually complained of a lack of supplies. While the following story of corruption is intriguing to follow, it also demonstrates how fraud can often take on absurdly obvious turns, and yet no one seems to notice it until the fraud has gone on far too long.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Chemung and in the subsequent disaster of the rest of the Sullivan campaign that destroyed at least forty Haudenosaunee towns, the Haudenosaunee were understandably bitter. But most of those Haudenosaunee who had sided with the Crown were determined to continue their commitment. In part, this was due to necessity: with their towns destroyed, at least five thousand Haudenosaunee took refuge around or near Fort Niagara where they were able to draw enough supplies to sustain them through an unusually harsh winter. There were also internal tensions within the Haudenosaunee and other Crown-allied Indians, tensions reported by Joseph Brant's sister, Mary (Molly) Brant, the widow of Sir William Johnson. On October 5, 1779, she wrote to her good friend Daniel Claus who was stationed in Montreal and served as a subordinate in the Indian Department and government of Governor Frederick Haldimand, noting that the Indian Superintendent Guy Johnson, stationed at Fort Niagara, had angered the Crown's Indian allies:
The Indians are a good dale [deal] dissatisfied [sic] on Acct. of the Colos hasty temper which I hope he will soon drop. Otherwise it may be Disadvntageous....
Those from Canada are much Dissatisified on account of his taking more notice of those that are suspected [of leaning towards the Patriots] than them that are known to be Loyal (Claus Papers, Reel I, Volume 2, 135-136).
Guy Johnson's favoritism to Haudenosaunee who needed to be kept allied to the Crown through special treatment may be seen as a necessary tactic. But his ill-tempered nature was perhaps caused by a circumstance unknown to Mary Brant, the rest of the Haudenosaunee, and indeed the Loyalists and British officers and men. If Mary Brant had known what subsequent investigations revealed, she and the other Haudenosaunee would also have realized that there was a major reason there were never enough supplies reaching the Haudenosaunee during their defense of their homeland against Sullivan's army.
A constant lack of supplies occurred despite the fact that the British government was sending what it regarded as sufficient funds. In fact, Mary Brant's complaint regarding Guy Johnson's bad temper may have been Guy Johnson's psychological reaction to another, far greater problem in his character. Since the Spring of 1779, and thus all during the Sullivan campaign, Guy Johnson, in his role as Indian Superintendent, had collaborated with two merchants at Fort Niagara, George Forsyth and William Taylor, to embezzle funds from the Indian Department by padding expense accounts. For example, Guy Johnson tampered with the payroll accounts of the Indian Department's "Foresters" (Indian Department rangers) who worked within Indian communities and alongside Indian warriors. A "Sergeant Secord" (his first name is unknown -- there were several Sergeant Secords in the Loyalist ranks) signed the roll that he had received £7 16 s., but Guy and the two merchants added a "4" so that it read £47 16s., and collected that amount from the government. Worse, an investigation carried out after the Sullivan campaign also discovered that in some cases Guy Johnson had requisitioned and received funds for his own staff and for Indian Department Foresters but that Guy had never paid them. His graft knew no bounds, and Guy's risk-taking often became absurd – except that at first no one noticed. For example, Guy reported that he had distributed 170 pounds of butter to the Indians every month. Yet John Butler and other experienced Loyalists testified later that the Indians "do not thank you for Butter," (Maclean to Governor Haldimand May 1, 1783 from Haldimand Papers np: B.103: 170), because butter was alien to their tastes because they were lactose intolerant. Guy also reported four times the quantity of tea and sugar that he actually distributed. Even mundane items like raisins, chocolate, almonds, and prunes were listed in lavish quantities as presents to Indian women, but the women had actually received very little of these. Guy also reported through his merchants that he had distributed 465 gallons of rum every month to the Indians. When John Butler learned of this, he was amazed, for even though he was in favor of freely distributing rum to the Indians, he only disbursed approximately 98 gallons per month to white Loyalists and Indians combined! In 1783, after a thorough investigation by Governor Haldimand that had lasted two years, Guy and the two merchants were found guilty by a review board in Quebec. Guy went to London in disgrace and died there in 1788. On March 14, 1782, as soon as definite evidence had been found against Guy, the ministry in London appointed Sir John Johnson as "Superintendent General and Inspector General" of the Six Nations, their confederates, and all other Indians north of Ohio. John Butler was made Assistant Superintendent (Haldimand B.103, 170; B.104, 268-271, 303-304, 334; B.102, 159 and 248; B116, 2; and B83, 210; and Claus Papers, C-1478, III, 141-143, 267, 269 and 271).
At Chemung, the successful ambush carried out by the Delawares under Rowland Montour was followed that same day by sniping on Sullivan's soldiers as they burned the cornfields of Chemung. As noted above, the ambuscade and the sniping led Sullivan to take an even firmer hold on his army once the army had returned to Tioga [text deleted]. Especially important were Sullivan's orders to have all officers with their men at all times, because at Chemung some Patriot soldiers had forged ahead and into ambush either because they were impetuous or because their officers allowed them to advance because of the officers' overconfidence or negligence.
After Chemung, Sullivan -- already a cautious commander -- was now even more cautious. This in turn may have led to the set-piece Patriot tactics at the Battle of Newtown. These tactics included a complicated maneuver on the Patriots' right flank that was delayed by a swamp and which also led to the units engaging in battle while spread out. This had almost disastrous results for Colonel George Reid's 2nd New Hampshire Regiment in General Enoch Poor's Brigade. As described by Sergeant Moses Fellows in the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment in General Poor's Brigade:
as Genl Poor was on the right of the Line and at such a Distance as Rendered it Impossible for Colo. Derbon [Dearborn] to obtain Seasonable Orders Whether to go to the asistance [sic] of Colo. Reed [Reid] or not, but he moved With out [an order], found a body of the Enemy turning Colo. Reed['s] Right which upon Receiving a full fire from our Regt Left the field of action with Precepiation [sic; precipitation?], Which Proved a very Seasonably relief to Colo. Reed, who had at the very moment that Colo. Derbon Commanded the fire on those that were turning His Right, Being Reduced Extremely of Retreating or Charging Bayonets upon Double his numbers that had formed a Semicircle Round Him, He put the Latter in Practice, the Enemy finding themselves So Severely Handled Quit the field of action and made the Best of their way off about 5 o'clock, our troops that were in action Discovered Greatest Bravery and Good order (Cook 1887:88).
Ironically, the successful ambush at Chemung by the Delawares led two leaders of the Crown forces, John Butler and the Mohawk Joseph Brant, to advocate a continuation of quick strikes and ambushes. Their advice was to be overruled by their Delaware Indian allies and then by their Seneca allies, all of whom may have been overconfident due to the successful ambush at Chemung:
Finding that with our numbers, which did not exceed 600 men, we could not engage the Enemy with a probability of success, & aware of the bad consequences of a Defeat, I endeavoured to persuade the Indians to retreat to a more advantageous situation, and at the same time have strong Parties out along the Heights to harass the Enemy upon their March & keep them in perpetual alarms. In this I was strongly seconded by Joseph Brant who saw the propriety of it, and laboured to make the Indians also sensible of it, but to no purposefor the Delawares had pointed out a place where they said the enemy ought to be opposed, & the Senecas & others in consequence of this were obstinately determined to meet them in a body, & I of course was obliged to comply (Flick 1929c: 136).
Above all, the Battle of Chemung demonstrated that the Sullivan expedition's success was not a foregone conclusion even though his army outnumbered the Crown's forces. Already off to a late start, Sullivan might have been stopped if John Butler and Joseph Brant had had their way: constant ambushes using the tactics of hit and run might have preserved the homelands of the Haudenosaunee, and within those homelands the Delawares may have found security from the land-hungry Patriots.
Instead, after the war ended in 1783, the Delawares who fought at Chemung either moved to Canada with the Crown's Haudenosaunee allies, or took refuge in Ohio. Either way, these Delawares and their descendants were forced to fight for their lands once again. In the 1790s, the Delawares and other Indians in what is now Ohio and Indiana initially fought successful battles with invading Americans but they were eventually defeated in 1794, and eventually their descendants ended up in faraway Oklahoma, where they live today (Wright 1951:145-155; and Sword 1985:287-311).
The Delawares who fled to Canada along with their Haudenosaunee allies fared far better. But first these Delawares and their children also had to fight the United States again, during the War of 1812. In addition, some Delawares defeated in 1794 eventually made their way into Canada, especially in the early days of the War of 1812. In the actions fought by the Delawares in Canada during the War of l812, they won victories while fighting alongside former allies: the Haudenosaunee who had allied with the Crown and former Loyalist allies including John Butler. These refugee populations were crucial in assisting the British army in turning back the United States invasion of their new Canadian homelands during the War of 1812 (Benn 1998:19, 52, 88-89, 103, 125, 143-144, 196).
During the War of 1812, the most successful tactic used by the Delawares and their Haudenosaunee allies was ambush. Ironically, the lessons learned by the Delawares at Chemung finally stopped major expeditions of American expansion and in the process insured the independence of Canada.
5.3 The Indian Expedition of 1779 and Haudenosaunee Responses
(By Richard W. Hill, Sr., Tuscarora)
A major component of the Chemung Battlefield Project is the participation of Native American consultants to provide a more inclusive perspective on context, operations, and aftermath of the battles associated with the Clinton-Sullivan campaign. Decisions by Nations and their individual members to participate had dire consequences for the Confederacy. We do know that written records exist, and that oral histories related to the battle may have survived in the memories of elders.
The role of the Native American consultants was to provide an inventory of known primary records that may record events before, during, and after the battle, and to interview elders who may remember pertinent oral histories. The final project report for the Battle of Newtown contained sections by several Haudenosaunee consultants (PAF 2010) offering their individual contributions to this project. For Chemung, we sought participation from the Delaware Nation but without success. However, Richard W. Hill, Sr., renowned historian and artist, provided an extensive and detailed contribution to this project. His sections follow.
5.3.2 Oral History and Correspondence
There are not a lot of documents from the Haudenosaunee side. We have some eyewitness accounts: Mary Jemison's reflections, Gov. Blacksnake's accounts, and current oral history. Most of what we draw from is the words and images left by the Americans or British. These will be used to illustrate this discussion.
Some historians have written that the Grand Council fire was extinguished during the Revolutionary War. Anthropologist William Fenton states that it represented the "effective end of the Iroquois League." Rev. Kirkland wrote that "extinguishing of the fire" was a ruse in order to have it move to Fort Niagara, where 5,000 Haudenosaunee refugees were seeking shelter in the winter of 1799-80.
Our oral history tells a different story. However, it has been reported that a proper Condolence Ceremony was held at Onondaga in April 1778, and this signaled that the Council Fire was still glowing.
The Onondaga Nation tells us of the stories of brutality and rape that took place earlier when Van Schiak raided Onondaga and how the neutral Onondagas were attacked for some mysterious reason. However, in the Onondaga view, this is what created a lot of resentment against the Americans. Blacksnake's account verifies these events. The historical records, while hidden in previous commemorations of the events, have now made it clear that the rapes of Onondaga women did occur as their stories had told them.
Tom Porter, Akwesasne Mohawk, once told a story of the Americans bayoneting Haudenosaunee children and smashing their bodies against the ground. We know that some Haudenosaunee scouts stayed behind to watch the Americans. It is from their accounts that such stories arise.
Joseph Brant, Mohawk, has been painted by Haudenosaunee oral history as the ultimate bad guy in our history. It was Brant's words and actions that divided the people over their loyalties to the Crown. Even to the point where some stories suggest that his Christian education and his relationship to Sir William Johnson blinded his loyalties to the Confederacy. In many ways, Brant becomes the object story whereby the Haudenosaunee remind their people of what happens when we put personal feelings and ambitions above the collective good.
He wears the silver gorget (a piece of armour for the throat) presented to him by George III. Brant was in England with Guy Johnson from March 29 to April 4, 1776 during which he posed for this portrait that now hangs in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Brant was 33 years old.
The attack on the corn and the destruction of the sacred crop has had the most enduring impact on Haudenosaunee oral history. People are still puzzled about what kind of people would do such a thing. Stories are told about the brutality against corn in 1779 that creates an image of a giant serpent that destroys everything in its path. It has an insatiable appetite. The image was renewed when land speculators began gobbling up Haudenosaunee land. I don't know if the image on the colonial flag of the serpent, with the motto, "Don't Tread on Me," affected Haudenosaunee oral history, but the Haudenosaunee would never trust the Americans again, despite the redemption of Washington.
Other stories are told about how the Haudenosaunee were not defeated or broken as the history books portray. Instead, they simply walked back to their old homesteads and made new ones. In fact, they used the power of the corn seed to rebuild their villages. They were able to plant in the spring of 1780 and began to rebuild their lives. This resilience is often cited as a strength of the culture.
Finally, the oral history also tells of how the wampum belts survived these attacks. The belts were considered so primary, that those fleeing the destruction made sure that the belts were safely carried away. There are stories of wampum belts being secretly buried, to be recovered after the war. We know that Sir John Johnson buried the treaty portfolios near Johnson Hall and were recovered in daring raids. There are stories that some belts were lost, never recovered from such burial. In February 1789, a group of Onondagas, who had been living among the Oneidas since their settlement was destroyed in 1799, arrived at the Fort Niagara carrying the main wampum belts of the Confederacy.
They were led by a man named Cakadorie, son of the late Chief Bunt. He gave Sir John Johnson seven wampum belts that had been received from the Americans, including the original Covenant Chain, "a large white Belt of sixteen rows, with two Rows of black wampum running through it, so as to divide it into three equal parts, the middle of which represents a Road, and on each side are seven large Squares." Cakadorie also handed over a large belt that had been cut into pieces in anger over the destruction of their village (Graymount 1972:229).
One can almost visualize a wampum keeper from Onondaga, who must have slung that bag of wampum over his shoulder, and carried it by foot to Buffalo Creek, where it rested until there was a decision to divide the fire once again, and carry half of the wampum to Grand River. That must have been a heavy bag. There would have been about thirty or more wampum belts, some six feet long.
The Clan Mothers made a major decision to separate their sons, agreeing that some people should go to Grand River, and others remain at Buffalo Creek. It was decided that the wampum belts would be divided into two bundles, with each group taking a bag full of wampum belts with them. Some belts were considered so essential to maintaining Haudenosaunee identity and belief that they were actually cut into two sections, each group taking one of the sections with them. What is telling about these stories is that there was a conscious decision to kindle the fire at Grand River and Buffalo Creek. While feelings may have still been intense due to the war, the Haudenosaunee came to one mind on how best to survive the war. Again, this shows a form of resilience that created the opportunity for the Confederacy to continue. The fact that we are still here is often cited as evidence that no matter how terrible the war was, our culture, identity and beliefs were even stronger.
From August 31-September 1, 1815 a Haudenosaunee Council was held at Niagara to reunite the people from Grand River with the Haudenosaunee from the "American side," which included the Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga from Buffalo Creek, and the Seneca from Tonawanda (Tehaniwandi) and Allegheny.
Grand River Mohawk Chief Tekarihoga spoke:
'We the several Nations residing at the Grand River, salute you from the other side - We are the same people with you - We are relation & of the same colour, notwithstanding our having been opposed to each other in the Field during the late contest between our Great Father the king of England & the Americans, Our friend who has uncovered the Council Fire has removed all obstructions our minds are set at ease. The River which separates us has been opened that we may have a free passage at all times. The roads are cleared of all briars and rubbish that we may again renew the friendly intercourse which formerly existed between us' C (MPHSC 1890: 263).
Peter Jemison, Allegany Seneca, shares his views:
"Yes, (the war) was about taxation without representation and about religious freedom, but really the war was fought over our lands because of the quality of the land where we resided. What is the result of the war is the taking gradually over time of our land. ... This is the legacy.
"You are not going to find that story taught as a part of American history. All of this stuff is a Europeanized history which neglects the total story, which is this land was not unoccupied. It was occupied by millions and millions of Indian people -- original people."
Keith Jamieson, Mohawk curator on Brant:
And in fact in the end Brant becomes a very controversial figure primarily because of his land dealings. His intent? I don't think anybody questions his intent, which was to secure our future. He was acting, I believe, seriously, I believe he was acting in the best interest of the people, I think his methods were poor and I think they were a bit self serving at times. But Brant is really, he's a British hero. He's not, he's not a First Nations' hero, he's not a Six Nations' hero. He is still very much considered a controversial figure.
Keith Jamieson is enrolled as a Mohawk at the Six Nations of the Grand River. He lectures internationally and is also a curator and is an advisor for various exhibits on First Nations. He is a published author and has done many media publications. He explains the controversy behind Joseph Brant.
John Mohawk, Seneca historian writes of Washington's Redemption in the eyes of the Seneca:
In 1792 George Washington turned to the Six Nations for help in persuading the Western Confederacy to make peace and to sell some lands. Seneca War Chief Cornplanter and forty eight Seneca chiefs arrived at Philadelphia to hear the Americans ask that the Seneca intervene in negotiations on their behalf. Cornplanter and some of his associates agreed to urge for a peaceful settlement. For their trouble, the Senecas received goods, some domestic animals and a promise of annual payments.
Mohawk War Chief Joseph Brant also went to Philadelphia to meet President George Washington
and was offered peace and promises that the United States would not take lands which
were not freely and fairly sold by the Indians. Washington then proposed that a treaty
must be entered into and Brant was asked to assist in arranging such a treaty. Brant,
who had reason to worry about his reputation among the Indians of the Western Confederacy
and the British governors of Canada, declined the offer and returned instead to his
home on the Grand River.
John Mohawk on Cornplanter:
During the American Revolution, Cornplanter was chosen at a gathering of warriors (along with the respected Seneca war chief Old Smoke) to lead the Iroquois warriors in support of the British. Cornplanter had at first vigorously opposed Iroquois participation in the war on either side and had admonished his warriors against fighting, stating, according to Governor Blacksnake, "war is war Death is the Death a fight is a hard business." Governor Blacksnake also stated that at the end of this speech Joseph Brant, the war chief of the Mohawk Valley Mohawks, who had earlier traveled to England to cement his ties to the Crown, accused Cornplanter of cowardice. Cornplanter eventually led fighters against the Americans throughout the course of the war. . .
In a speech delivered to President Washington at Philadelphia, Cornplanter stated: "When our chiefs returned from the treaty at Fort Stanwix, and laid before our council what had been done there, our nation was surprised to hear how great a country you had compelled them to give up to you, without your paying to us any thing for it.... We asked each other, what have we done to deserve such severe chastisement?"
Views of Cornplanter (expressed to Washington, 1790)
"When your army entered the country of the Six Nations we called you the Town Destroyer; and to this day, when that name is heard, our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling close to the necks of their mothers. Our councilors and warriors are men, and cannot be afraid; but their hearts are grieved with the fears of our women and children, and the desire that it may be buried so deep as to be heard no more."
This is the only known portrait of Cornplanter, described by John C. Mohawk, Seneca, and State University of New York at Buffalo.
Views of Aaron Hill, Mohawk chief, Fort Stanwix, Oct. 22, 1784
"Our minds are deep and persevering, and our wish to make peace is great. We are neither haughty, nor proud, nor is it our disposition ever of our selves, to commence hostilities. Our adherence to our Covenant with the King drew us into the late war, which is a great proof to the Commissioners of our strict observance to our ancient Covenant with the white people, and you will find the same attachment to the Covenant now to be made, as that which signalled our conduct during the late war."
Views of Tan Wr Nyrs (Blacksnake, also known as Chainbreaker)
Some time after his ninetieth year he dictated his memoirs to Benjamin Williams, a considerably younger Seneca who was able to write in English. Some historians question the authenticity of his memories. Blacksnake participated in multiple battles, skirmishes, treaty negotiations, diplomatic delegations, and councils.
Blacksnake declared that the British told the Indians they would pay for American scalps. Mary Jemison, an Indian captive, agreed with Blacksnake on this matter. This commercialization of scalping prompted actions that fueled animosity toward the Haudenosaunee.
A rare quarter plate daguerreotype of Seneca Chief Governor Blacksnake by artist F.C. Flint of Syracuse, New York.
Tan Wr Nyrs recalled the reason for the defense of New Town in his personal recollection
of the war made in 1845-46:
"We finally found we could not avoid it, that we must stand and fight, or surrender. . . after meeting in council and encouraging each other, early in the morning, all were ready to go to the chosen ground, where we calculated to make contact with the three thousand men. . . We then held a general council of the Six Nations to calculate what course we would pursue. The resolution was to go to Fort Niagara in order to find out the plans of the War Department. It was unanimously agreed in this council that I, Chainbreaker, and Uncle Cornplanter, and the other chief commanders of the armies of the Six Nations, and the warriors would all go to Fort Niagara. This was in the fall of the year 1779.
Blacksnake retained until his very old age a pass given to him by General Henry Dearborn, the Secretary of War. It was in the following words:
To all persons to whom these presents shall come greeting: It is required of all persons, civil and military, and all others, the good people of these United States, to permit "The Nephew", an Indian chief, with his associates, to proceed from the city of Washington to their places of residence freely and without molestation, and to aid and assist them on their way as friends of the said United States. Given at the War Office, at the city of Washington, this fourteenth day of February, 1803. H. Dearborn
Views of Ogh-ne-wi-ge-was (Farmer's Brother), delivered speech to the New York Legislature (1802):
"You will recollect the late contest between you and your father, the great king of England. This contest threw the inhabitants of this whole island into a great tumult and commotion, like a raging whirlwind, which tears up the trees, and tosses to and fro the leaves, so that no one knows whence they come, or where they will fall. . . At length the Great Spirit spoke to the whirlwind, and it was still. A clear and uninterrupted sky appeared. The path of peace was opened, and the chain of friendship was once more made bright."
Views of Dehhewamus (Two Voices) Mary Jemison
Dickewamis, or, Dehhewamus (Two Voices) – Turtle clan name of the Seneca Nation given
to Mary Jemison. She settled in a town (Genishu) along the Genesee River, near present-day
Geneseo. She married a Seneca man named Shenanjee and had seven children. She resettled
at Gardeau Flats, near present-day Castile, NY. She lived in a log cabin until 1831.
Mary Jemison witnessed many important Councils, recalling the meeting at German Flats where Haudenosaunee pledged neutrality to the Americans. She also recalls that in 1775, as well as the British Council at Oswego in 1776, they then agreed to fight the rebels. We do not know which Haudenosaunee were present at each occasion.
During the Revolution, Mary Jemison says her house was temporary headquarters for Col. Butler and Joseph Brant.
She played a key role in negotiating the Treaty of Big Tree in 1797 and by the terms of that agreement ended up with a sizeable estate on the Gardeau Flats near the present Letchworth State Park where she lived out her days.
She states that the men sent women and children into the woods for protection, while scouts kept an eye on Sullivan troop movements. At Little Beard's Town, Jemison said that the Senecas planned an ambush and captured two Oneida scouts. One of the Oneida prisoners had a brother on the side of the British who addressed his captive brother, according to Jemison:
"Brother, you have merited death! The hatchet or the war club shall finish your career! When I begged of you to follow me in the fortunes of war, you was deaf to my cries - you spurned my entreaties!
"Brother! You have merited death and shall have your desserts! When the rebels raised their hatchets to fight their good master, you sharpened your knife, you brightened your rifle and led on our foes to the fields of our father! -You have merited death and shall die by our hands! When those rebels had drove us from the fields of our fathers to seek out new homes, it was you who could dare to step forth as their pilot, and conduct them even to the doors of our wigwams, to butcher our children and put us to death! No crime can be greater! -but though you have merited death and shall die on this spot, my hands shall not be stained in the blood of a brother! Who will strike?"
Little Beard quickly struck the prisoner with his tomahawk. The other Oneida captive was then released, according to Jemison.
Realizing the overwhelming American forces, Jemison reported the Nundawaono agreed to flee in order to save their families, towards Buffalo Creek, leaving scouts to watch the army. After her village was destroyed, the crops burned, orchards cut, and animals killed, they returned to find no sustenance available. Jemison then left for Gardeau Flats, where she was hired by two runaway Black slaves to husk their corn. From them she earned about 25 bushels of shelled corn, which would last her and her three children all winter. That winter was so cold that "multitudes" of wild game were found dead in the spring, she said.
Jemison saw native values as being those of strict honesty, relationships that were based upon kindness, tenderness, and peace. In contrast to these beliefs, she witnessed cruelty toward enemies. She described one scene where an American officer was captured after he led an expedition against the Haudenosaunee. He was tied to a tree and tomahawks were thrown into the tree, directly over his head. Men brandished their scalping knives in front of him and shouted loudly at him. They then proceeded to mutilate his body before he was killed and beheaded.
Views of Ho-way-no-ah (Cannot be Persuaded) Solomon O'Bail, grandson of Cornplanter
A special Grand Council was convened at Glen Iris at present-day Letchworth State Park. Attending were descendants of Joseph Brant, Red Jacket, Cornplanter, Ely Parker and Mary Jemison. It was said to be the last council to be held in the Genesee Valley. It was also a reconciliation of sorts between the Mohawks and the others. The Mohawks at the council were the grandson and granddaughter of Joseph Brant - Col. Simcoe Kerr (Te-ka-re-ho-ge-a) and Kate Kerr Osborne (Ke-je-jen-ha-nik). Col. Kerr was the principal chief of the Mohawks at Grand River.
O'Bail stated that the Mohawks sided with the English during the Revolutionary War and "followed the flag of that people to the Grand River, in Canada, where they have ever since sat under its folds." In the War of 1812, the Mohawks from Grand River sided with the English and fought against the Senecas who sided with the Americans.
"For seventy-five years their place has been vacant at our council-fires. They left us when we were strong, a nation of warriors, and they left us in anger," said O'Bail. However, he stated that the "long-estranged brothers, the Mohawks" were back. He said that the enmity between them will be buried, and he then shook the hand of Col. Kerr. (David Gray, 1872)
There are some letters by Brant from this era, but nothing that talks about the engagements at Chemung and Newtown. A few letters by Joseph Brant exist that could be used, but these are of less visual or storyline value except they show that he continued to be a major player in the peace building after the war.
Joseph Brant to Israel Chapin, US Indian Agent, 1795
The letter reads, in part:
"I have not as yet heard the particulars of the Treaty, therefore know not whether the transactions may be salutary or no. Your exertions Sir I verily believe ever have been owing to your wish to see the Indians done justice and Peace established on just and solid terms such as would be beneficial to both Whites & Indians. This desirable object I hope may yet be established and that without further bloodshed."
"Col. Pickering's speech to the Five Nations relative to Wm. Johnson I could say much in answer to it but for the present think there is no necessity for so doing"
"As to the comparison the French doing what the Indians do...the Indian Warriors are always ready to turn out to defend their just rights--but Indian Warriors would not be ready to turn out, to butcher their King, Queen, Nobles and others in the inhumane shocking manner the French have done. Indians are not entirely destitute of humanity, but from appearances it has fled from France. I must therefore say the French have not acted as Indians do."
"As to the affairs of the White Nations, they are in my opinion like a lottery, which
will be uppermost cannot be known untill drawn. The most powerful no doubt will be
successful. Our situation will be the same as we still will have whites to deal with,
whose aims are generally the same..."
Joseph Brant to Col. Pickering 1794
Brant expressed his concerns regarding the Canandaigua treaty negotiations. Brant wrote about Haudenosaunee claims to the Western New York lands:
"Although the whole Five Nations have an equal right one with the other, the country having been obtained by their joint exertions in war with a powerful nation formerly living southward of Buffalo Creek called Eries, and another nation then living at Tioga Point, so that by our successes all the country between that and the Mississippi became joint property of the five nations." (Brant 1931)
Pickering to Brant, 1794
November 20, 1794 - Col. Pickering in a letter to Capt. Brant stated:
"The great object of this [Canandaigua] treaty (like almost all other Indian treaties) was to remove complaints respecting lands. The particular tract in question I supposed especially concerned the Senecas; but it was natural that an object so important to one, should interest the whole. . . . I have also relinquished the United States' claim to the strip of land four miles wide, including the carrying path from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, along the Niagara strait, except that part of it which, in a treaty held thirty years ago with Sir William Johnson, the Seneca nation ceded to the king of Great Britain, to whose right herein I considered the United States as succeeding."
(He states that the western boundary of this ceded land is the Niagara River, but does not mention anything of the islands in the river.)
Views of Adam Crysler
The following is a record kept by Adam Crysler regarding his military activities. It helps to explain the sequence of events leading up to, and after, the Indian Expedition, from a British point of view. When Adam Crysler appeared before the Loyalist Commissioners at Montreal in 1787, he produced "a sort of Journal of his Services from March 1777, under the Commands of Colonels Butler and Johnston." This information was later printed in the Loyalist Narratives From Upper Canada published by the Champlain Society in Toronto, Canada, by James J. Talman, PhD. in 1946.
• I thought it was my duty to get as many men and Indians for Government as laid in my power, which will be seen as follows and my proceedings: In March 1777 I had to maintain all the Indians, that were at Schoharie, which was twenty-five until the 10th of August. In the meantime I recruited all the men for the Government that laid in my power, which amounted to seventy (70). In the month of June I received a letter from Captain Brant who desired me to remain in Schoharie in readiness until he came to see me.
• In May 1778, I received Col. Butler's orders to come to Canatasago [Canadesaga]. I bought with me nineteen men, all members of Col. Butler's Rangers. At this time I was made Lieutenant. From there I went to Wyoming, New York, where we killed about 460 of the enemy. From there we went to Aughguagy and in the month of September, I went with a party of Rangers and Indians to Mr. Junecliff's and returned again to Aughguagy. I was under the command of Captain Caldwell, and we went to German Flats and destroyed the entire settlement.
• We then returned to meet Captain Butler near Shemung. Under Butler's command we went to Cherry Valley and destroyed that settlement.
• We returned to Niagara in December 1779. In the spring we again went to Canatasago with Capt. Butler. In July I went to the west branch of the Suskahannah [Susquehanna] under the command of Captain McDonald with the Rangers and the Indians. We took thirty (30) prisoners and forty (40) were killed, while we destroyed the whole settlement. Again we returned to Canatasago and Col. Butler for further orders.
Again we went to Shemung, where we faced a whole army of Rebels and were forced to retreat at Oyenyanye, where we attacked them again. Then we retreated to Niagara. In October 1799, Colonel Johnston arrived in Niagara. I was ordered to accompany Captain Brant with eighty (80) Indians to Three Rivers, by land. Here we met Sir John Johnson and sent a party to Oswego. Our scouts arrived back with word that no one was there.
• On the 25th of May 1790 I received instructions from Captain Johnston to proceed to Indian Country and collect all the Indians that laid in my power. I was to join Captain McDonald with a party of Rangers to go to Schoharie. We proceeded as far as Oneida. We had a consultation with the Oneida people. Then we went as far as Canassarago. I ended up with seven (7) Indians and proceed to Turlough. In Turlough I took none (9) prisoners and returned to Niagara.
• On the 7th of June 1781, I received Colonel Johnston's instructions to proceed with a party of Auguagas, etc. When I got to Schoharie I had a scrimmage with the Rebels and took five (5) scalps, two prisoners, eighteen horses, and burned some houses and barns. We lost one (1) Indian and had one (1) wounded before returning to Niagara.
• On the 28th of September, I received instructions from Colonel Johnston to proceed with a party of Aughguaga, consisting of twenty-eight (28) men, to Schoharie.
On the 13th of November, we arrived in Schoharie and killed one man near the Fort and drove off fifty (50) head of cattle and burnt two houses and a number of horses in our retreat. The Rebels turned out with a party of thirty (30) men in pursuit of us. They followed [text deleted] from the Fort and began to fire upon us. We returned the fire and killed one of their men. They retreated. I went on with the cattle. The next morning, the Rebels turned out for a second attack with 150 men and overtook us about twenty-three (23) miles from the Fort. Here we fought another skirmish and killed four of their men. Some were wounded and they retreated. We lost all the cattle. I then consulted with the Indians and they decided not to pursue the Rebels since we were all safe and they were too strong for us. We arrived back at Niagara on the 11th of December.36
Views of Rufus Grider
Rufus Alexander Grider Albums, 1886-1900 (VC22932) in the New York State Library, contain paintings of interest. The ninth volume contains text and illustrations devoted to the road built by General John Sullivan's army between the Mohawk River and Otsego Lake in 1779 during the expedition that destroyed the settlements and crops of the Iroquois Indians in central and western New York.
A painting of a wampum belt by Grider in the Newberry Library of Chicago has the following caption attached:
"The Confederacy of the 5 Nations was recorded by a Symbol, a great BELT of WAMPUM, of which the above represents the one half; in 1775 they disagreed, the greater portion decided to side with the British, a portion of the Seneca & Oneidas decided to aid the settlers. That divided the Confederacy, they had always before acted in unison, the Belt was cut in the middle, each party took one half, that part showing the emblem of agreement was cut out as shown above, the beads were removed. The Canadian Indians own one portion _ the Reservation Indians of N.Y. the other half. The above and other belts are now 1894 deposited for safe keeping in the Vault of Canajoharie National bank for safe keeping. Signed: R. A. Grider, 1894
This wampum belt (Figure 15, below) is now at the National Museum of the American Indian. (#19/8605) It is a white belt, 10 rows wide, with two diagonal purple groupings, each of six small diamonds – two to a row – in between a single brace or rafter. One section has all the beads cut out, of three rows wide.
5.3.3 The Impact of the Indian Expedition of 1779
The war changed relationships between the colonial settlers and the Haudenosaunee in profound ways. Certainly tensions existed between colonial and Haudenosaunee neighbors prior to the war, however, people did co-exist. Mohawk relations were different from Seneca relations due to the closeness with which the Mohawks engaged the colonists. However, the Mohawks paid the largest price because they were virtually removed from their homelands and the people dispersed to Quebec, Ontario, and Ohio. Never again would the clan village system of governance be experienced in the same way.
The Haudenosaunee, once vital allies to the colonies, now became despised enemies. Public opinion swung away from the Haudenosaunee in large part because of real and imaginary atrocities during the war. The anti-Indian rhetoric grew stronger in the hallowed halls of Albany and Philadelphia, as well as around the dinner tables and in the newspapers of the era. The Noble Savage lost his nobility.
Land speculators, including Franklin and Washington, sought ways to take advantage of the Haudenosaunee and a new land rush took place that would eventually dispossess the Haudenosaunee of the majority of their land. In this regard the war cost the Haudenosaunee their territorial integrity and their political jurisdiction over a vast amount of land. As a result, the Haudenosaunee in New York became pitifully dependant upon American handouts.
The war had a major impact on British-Haudenosaunee relations. The followers of Brant had a very different experience than the rest of the Haudenosaunee due to the fact that they fought alongside their Loyalists neighbors, and the war strengthened this bond.
In retrospect we have learned that Haldimand made a tactical error. He did not believe the reports of the impending Indian Expedition, thinking that the American objective was Detroit, not Niagara. He did not mobilize a defense for his Haudenosaunee allies.
After the war, Britain pretty much abandoned the Haudenosaunee and then gave away their land to the Americans. In fact, Haldimand labored to keep the terms of the treaty of Paris from Haudenosaunee ears because he knew it would cause an uproar. However, this betrayal did not seem to weaken the Covenant Chain ties to the Crown for the Grand River people - they were very forgiving. Unfortunately that trust would be broken once again. This caused the Haudenosaunee in New York (Buffalo Creek) to question their blind loyalty to such a deceiving ally. There was increasing tension between Grand River and Buffalo Creek governments over this matter right up to the War of 1812.
For Brant and the couple of thousand Haudenosaunee who relocated to Canada, they at least had the financial and political support of their allies. They were treated with respect generally for remaining loyal to the King, and rewarded for their service. Brant was instrumental in fostering a new economic model for the Haudenosaunee at Grand River, by having his Loyalist friends move onto the Grand River tract and demonstrate the utility of the family farm. In many cases, the Loyalists married Haudenosaunee women, thereby becoming relatives of the people at Grand River or Tyendinaga. These family ties changed the relationship between the Haudenosaunee and the former American colonists.
Colonial Governments/Haudenosaunee Council Relations
The war also changed the relationship between the colonial governments and the Haudenosaunee councils. There were now two separate Covenant Chains – one that led to the Crown in England, and another that led to the President in Philadelphia. The renewal of the Covenant Chains after the war placed the Haudenosaunee decidedly between the superpowers. Unlike the past, the Haudenosaunee no longer had the military might, or the inclination they once had to play both sides against the middle.
The question remains: How seriously did the United States take this Covenant Chain? We may never know. Washington realized that he had to make amends with the Haudenosaunee. The new Nation could ill afford another frontier war. Washington cultivated friendship with the Haudenosaunee, and even tried to sway the "Monster Brant" to the American cause. He offered bribes to get Brant to represent American interests after the war. It is clear that he saw Red Jacket, Cornplanter and Brant, all former enemies, as critical players in his long-term peace plans.
I will leave it to others to define how much the US Congress and future presidents believed in the same principles as Washington.
Assessing the Objective of the Indian Expedition
While the Indian Expedition had already had a devastating impact on the Haudenosaunee by September 1779, George Washington sent a reminder to General Sullivan of his ultimate intention:
I would mention two points which I may not have sufficiently expressed in my general instructions, or if I have, which I wish to repeat. The one is, the necessity of pushing the Indians to the greatest practicable distance, from their own settlements, and our frontiers; to the throwing them wholly on the British enemy. The other is, the making the destruction of their settlements so final and complete, as to put it out of their power to derive the smallest succour from them, in case they should even attempt to return this season."
In his report of the Expedition Sullivan writes:
"The number of towns destroyed by this army amounted to 40 besides scattering houses. The quantity of corn destroyed, at a moderate computation, must amount to 160,000 bushels, with a vast quantity of vegetables of every kind. Every creek and river has been traced, and the whole country explored in search of Indian settlements, and I am well persuaded that, except one town situated near the Allegana, about 50 miles from Chinesee there is not a single town left in the country of the Five nations."
In a Haudenosaunee assessment, Brant becomes the main culprit for bringing the destruction of the western Confederacy lands. Brant is the loose cannon who defies the Grand Council, and drags warriors into the fray. He breaks the official neutrality. He also became an officer in the British military which raised questions of his loyalty. Fair or not, the criticism of Brant has turned into a Haudenosaunee object lesson. If Brant had stood with the peace chiefs and not launched his vengeful campaign against American citizens, the Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca might have been spared the Indian Expedition. To this day, Brant has become the symbol of divided loyalties, and an example of when the ship tries to steer the canoe (as in the Two Row Wampum) thereby setting off generations of consequences.
The Haudenosaunee make a distinction between the act of individuals and the acts of nations. In 1763 the Seneca Nation turned over the individual culprits of the Devil's Hole victory to the British for punishment. They did not want the nation to suffer for what individuals had done. By treaty, the Senecas agreed that murder, theft and rape of whites would be crimes in which they relinquished authority to the British. By the same token, the British had to assure the Haudenosaunee that crimes against them would be fairly dealt with and justice would be served. This system of justice fell apart as a result of the war.
Washington instructed Sullivan to force the Haudenosaunee to make peace, but also wanted the individual culprits prosecuted. He wrote:
"After you have very thoroughly completed the destruction of their settlements; if the Indians should show a disposition for peace, I would have you to encourage it, on condition that they will give some decisive evidence of their sincerity by delivering up some of the principal instigators of their past hostility into our hands. Butler, Brandt, the most mischievous of the Tories that have joined them, or any other they may have in their power that we are interested to get into ours. They may possibly be engaged, by address, secrecy and stratagem, to surprise the garrison of Niagara and the shipping on the lakes and put them into our possession. This may be demanded as a condition of our friendship and would be a most important point gained. If they can render a service of this kind you may stipulate to assist them in their distress with supplies of provisions and other articles of which they will stand in need, having regard to the expectations you give them to our real abilities to perform. I have no power, at present, to authorize you to conclude a treaty of peace with them but you may agree upon the terms of one, letting them know that it must be finally ratified by Congress and giving them every proper assurance that it will. . . When we have effectually chastized them we may then listen to peace and endeavour to draw further advantages from their fears. But even in this case great caution will be necessary to guard against the snares which their treachery may hold out. They must be explicit in their promises give substantial pledges for their performance and execute their engagements with decision and dispatch. Hostages are the only kind of security to be depended on.
The Americans employed this tactic at the end of the war and insisted on the Haudenosaunee delivering chiefs as hostages until the terms of the treaty were in force.
The Whirlwind at Ganödase:' (New Settlement Village)
The encounter at Ganödase:' (New Settlement Village), better known as Newtown, in 1779 between the American army under General John Sullivan and the Haudenosaunee under Joseph Brant and John Butler was both surprising and disappointing.
Sullivan had used an interesting psychology at the beginning of his campaign. He took some officers and troopers to Wyoming to view the scene of what was called a massacre. As his men looked at the bones of American colonists still protruding from the ground, he spoke of the savagery of the enemy they were about to face. They needed to avenge the killings that took place here by any means necessary. Sullivan sought to inspire his men to victory, as he knew the course of action would be difficult and troop morale was low.
"We saw more or less of bones scattered over the ground for near two miles, & several Sculls brought in at different times, that had been Scalped and inhumanely mangled with the Hatchet. . . Our guide shewed us where 73 Bodies had been buried in one hole . . . [The area] exhibit a melancholy picture of savage rage and Desolution" wrote Major James Norris. "These unhappy people . . . were attacked by a merciless band of savages, led by a more savage Tory, the Unnatural monster Butler; their Houses were plundered and burnt, their cattle and effects conveyed away after they had capitulated; and the poor helpless Women children obliged to Sculk in the Mountains and perish or travel down to the inhabitations, hungry, naked & unsupported. In a word Language is to weak to paint, & Humanity unable to bear the history of their Sufferings."
(Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779 with Records of Centennial Celebrations, Frederick Cook, Auburn, NY 1887, pg 225)
The unfortunate consequences of this psychological tactic were acts of atrocious revenge upon prisoners. The scalping of Chief Dehguswaygahent and his fellow warriors and the stripping of their skin were the acts of such avengers. Morale soared as the victorious army entered and plundered Newtown.
Tan Wr Nyrs (Chainbreaker) also known as Governor Blacksnake, recalled the reason
for the defense of New Town in his personal recollection of the war made in 1845-46:
"We finally found we could not avoid it, that we must stand and fight, or surrender. . . after meeting in council and encouraging each other, early in the morning, all were ready to go to the chosen ground, where we calculated to make contact with the three thousand men."
Apparently Brant and his British counterpart Butler did not want to make such a stand, preferring their successful tactic of hit and run, harassing the Americans, rather than meet them head on. However, some Seneca warriors saw it differently. They wanted a battle. Others, disappointed by the lack of British support, wanted to make tracks and live to fight another day. The women wanted them to retreat, make peace and save the families from further stress.
The September 14, 1779 journal entry of Lieut. Rudolphus Van Hovenburgh, 4th New York Regiment verifies this:
"A women who was prisoner among them came to us who informed us that the Squaws did not like to leave their place and persuaded the warrior to make peace with us but Butler would not hear to that and order'd them to go to Niagara."
(Hovenburgh, Rudolphus van. "Journal of Lieut. Rudolphus van Hovenburgh." In Frederick Cook, editor, Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan Against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779 with Records of Centennial Celebrations [Albany: Knapp, Peck & Thomson, 1887], pp. 275-284.)
Governor Blacksnake stated that the Senecas had accidentally discovered the American force in the spring of 1779 and they returned to their villages in order to organize a defense. The number of American soldiers was intimidating.
We then held a general council of the Six Nations to calculate what course we would pursue. The resolution was to go to Fort Niagara in order to find out the plans of the War Department. It was unanimously agreed in this council that I, Chainbreaker, and Uncle Cornplanter, and the other chief commanders of the armies of the Six Nations, and the warriors would all go to Fort Niagara. This was in the fall of the year 1779.
British Officer John Butler described the Seneca sentiment in 1799:
I am now on my march to Niagara, and all the Indians with their Families are moving in, as their Villages & Corn are Destroyed, and they have nothing left to support themselves upon. The Indians say, that after they have moved their Families to a Place of Safety, they will then go and take Revenge of the Enemy.
By the time the Senecas wanted to make a last stand, the people were divided. Governor Blacksnake later reported that by the time 2,500 Haudenosaunee warriors had assembled to fight the Americans, they had already turned back and the Campaign had ended.
The Haudenosaunee survived what Farmer's Brother called, "the great whirlwind." Haudenosaunee involvement in the war, serving on both sides, had created a legacy of confusion and dissention among our communities. Farmer's Brother once described the entire matter as a whirlwind that struck the entire continent:
You will recollect the late contest between you and your father, the great king of England. This contest threw the inhabitants of this whole island into a great tumult and commotion, like a raging whirlwind, which tears up the trees, and tosses to and fro the leaves, so that no one knows whence they come, or where they will fall.
The whirlwind took the form of the Indian Expedition organized by the US Congress and General George Washington intent on scattering the Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga Nations, and using a scorched earth method in attempt to starve Haudenosaunee civilians. The wind destroyed over one millions bushels of corn, untold acres of crops and countless food trees. Hundreds of homes were set fire. Unarmed men, women and children were killed.
From 1780 to 1782, the Americans found out the price of their success. Brant, Cornplanter and Butler retaliated by destroying over 1000 colonial homesteads and over 600,000 bushels of grain. The Oneida and Tuscarora also paid dearly for this support of the Americans as their settlements were also destroyed. By 1782 a second expedition against the Haudenosaunee was being planned. However the war ended and the Americans and British agreed to end the devastating raids. In 1784 a clear boundary was demarcated between the US and the Haudenosaunee.
The Legacy of Ganödase:'
Seneca leader, Farmer's Brother, explained what happened after the "whirlwind":
"At length the Great Spirit spoke to the whirlwind, and it was still. A clear and uninterrupted sky appeared. The path of peace was opened, and the chain of friendship was once more made bright."
The war ended with as much confusion as it had been fought. Not only had the Confederacy become divided, the Haudenosaunee did not know who they could trust. The British told them they had won the war while they received news to the contrary. Few could believe that the British could be defeated.
After the Treaty of Paris, another reality hit home for the Haudenosaunee. The British had abandoned all of their pledges to protect Haudenosaunee land interests and relinquished all Haudenosaunee land to the Americans, without the consent of the Confederacy. This left the Haudenosaunee on their own and despite federal promises to the contrary, New York and land speculators move quickly to dispossess the Onondaga, Cayuga and Oneida of their lands, and eventually moved on to acquire most of the Seneca lands. It is ironic that at the end of the Expedition, Oneidas led the Americans in a great victory dance, turning their back on their Haudenosaunee relatives. It is even more ironic that the Oneidas, loyal to the American cause, lost the most land, dwindled down to only 32 acres. The "victors" became victims of their allies.
Redemption of George Washington
General George Washington dispatched the following orders to General Broadhead and General John Sullivan: "The Immediate objects (of the expedition) are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent their planting more." He continued, "lay waste all settlements around, that the country may not be merely overrun but destroyed."
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area. Initially, this strategy referred to the practice of burning crops to deny the enemy food sources. Such tactics have since been banned by the Geneva Convention of 1977.
The intent of the Indian Expedition was to starve the Haudenosaunee and push the care and feeding of the homeless upon the British, whose supply lines were already overtaxed. "The Indians," said General Sullivan in discussing his objective stated "shall see that there is malice enough in our hearts to destroy everything that contributes to their support."
"The red men were driven from their beautiful country, their habitations left in ruins, their fields laid waste, their orchards uprooted, and their altars and the tombs of their fathers overthrown. The Indians, men, women and children, are flying before him [Sullivan] to Niagara, distant more than one hundred miles, in the utmost consternation, distress, and confusion, with the Butlers, Brant, and the others at their head," General George Washington wrote in September 1779.
The Senecas, Cayugas and Onondagas of New York got punished for what those who had left and went to Grand River had done during the war. Despite the harsh treatment of Treaty Commissions toward the Haudenosaunee at Fort Stanwix in 1784, George Washington and Timothy Pickering made amends, restored land and land rights protection and generally made peace work. This is remarkable when you consider that Washington wanted Sullivan to exterminate the Haudenosaunee.
The Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 restores the peace and friendship and provides a mechanism to resolve disputes peacefully. The Chain between the Senecas and the US became strong. Washington was no longer the feared Town Destroyer and instead became viewed as the only white man that the Haudenosaunee would see on their Sky Road journey.
Schoolcraft noted that in a recitation of the Gaiwiio in 1846, Washington had become such a monumental figure in Haudenosaunee eyes:
"Though there are some evangelical believers among the Indians, the greater portion of them cherish the religion of their fathers. This, as they say, has been somewhat changed by the new revelation, which the Great Spirit made to one of their prophets about 47 years ago, and which, as they also believe, was approved by Washington. The profound regard and veneration which the Indian has ever retained toward the name and memory of Washington is most interesting evidence of his universally appreciated worth; and the fact that the red men regard him not merely as one of the best, but as the very best man that ever has existed, or that will ever exist, is beautifully illustrated in a single credence which they maintain even to this day, namely, that Washington is the only white man that has ever entered heaven, and is the only one who will enter there, till the end of the world."
(Schoolcraft, "Sketches Of An Indian Council," in Agent in census of Iroquois for State of New York, 1845)
No doubt things changed as a result of the Indian Expedition. Yet, unlike New York State claims, the Haudenosaunee were not conquered and their lands were not acquired by the simple act of burning houses. Haudenosaunee who fled to the woods during and after the war simply returned to their burned out villages and remade their world anew. The Haudenosaunee did not sign any articles of capitulation. In fact, three subsequent peace treaties were signed, concluding with the Treaty of Canandaigua in 1794. They reaffirmed the peace through the Silver Covenant Chain and the Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga, along with the Mohawk, Oneida and Tuscarora Nations still kindle their fires in their ancient homelands.
The war changed the Haudenosaunee internally. The blood spilled by the Haudenosaunee left a stain on the ground that still reverberates. The council fire became split and it was difficult to come to one mind on any one matter. The various council fires at Onondaga, Buffalo Creek and Ohsweken had their own loyalties and relations. Within each nation, the people were divided into various political or religious factions. The creation of the reservation system in the 1790s altered Haudenosaunee patterns of existence and connection to the land.
The councils were still split at the start of the war of 1812 but eventually came back to restore the sense of Haudenosaunee-ness on both sides of the Canada-US border. In this regard, both sides returned to their older traditions and began to heal the wounds of war. The communities began to rebuild and remove the ravages of alcohol.
The Indian Expedition was successful as an act of dispossession. This act partially dislodged the Seneca, but it had one other effect that was more powerful. Arthur Parker wrote, "Sullivan's expedition revealed the Genesee Country to the white man and displayed it as a paradise of fertility and productiveness. It opened up a vast domain of highly desirable land, and Sullivan's men never forgot it. When the war was over they clamored to return that they might build homes and rear mills and towns."
Within two generations after the war, the Haudenosaunee faced another menace – land dispossession and removals. Things began to happen so fast, and the loss of connective land made travel to and from the various nations difficult.
The Haudenosaunee at Grand River, Akwesasne, Kahnasatake, Kahnawake, and Kinte (Tyendinaga) held a different Chain. They viewed their obligation to the king as more important than to the Confederacy. They did not make a treaty after the war like those in New York. However they did receive the Haldimand Proclamation to provide for land for that which they lost due to their alliance with the King. The Crown also helped to build their communities along the Grand River and many became Christians like their "father" the King.
One of the subsequent legacies of the war was the enlargement of racial stereotypes and negative images of Indians. Both sides had mixed feelings about employing Indians until it became a practical necessity. Some Brits were appalled that the Crown would employ what they called Savages who had no idea of civilized warfare. Most Americans felt the same way. There is only one mention of Indians in the Declaration of Independence:
"He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."
Actual incidents during the war were blown out of proportion and the Haudenosaunee were made to appear to be blood-thirsty and totally ruthless.
Sullivan drew upon these images when he took his officers to Wyoming where the bones of those who were killed previously could still be seen. This is not to say that brutally did not exist. It is not a question of who scalped who first. The Americans realized there was great propaganda value in depicting the Indian allies of the British as savages. It spread fear, hatred and loathing among the American soldiers and public. Many of those feelings still remain.
Francis Hopkinson (1737 – 1791), American author of political satires in the form of poems and pamphlets, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He wrote of British General Burgoyne's decision to employ Indians in the war:
"I will let loose the dogs of Hell,
Ten thousand Indians, who shall yell
And foam and tear, and grin and roar,
And drench their moccasins in gore . . ."
The power of the stereotyping is not to be underestimated. It has lasted and grown over the subsequent generations. The anticipated violence around land rights, gaming and taxation are the current flashpoints where these old animosities play out for a new generation.
Haudenosaunee Perspectives toward the Event
It is difficult to imagine what the loss of 160,000 bushels of corn meant to the Haudenosaunee. One bushel can hold 37 quarts of dried corn. This is enough to feed a family of four for three weeks. Corn is a sacred food; its wasteful loss was even more devastating. To witness a war against corn changed the way that the Haudenosaunee viewed whites – from allies to enemies.
The Revolutionary War also brought death to civilians. The Indian Expedition was against women, children and elders. There was not much actual fighting between soldiers and warriors. This created a fear that was described by Farmer's Brother when he later visited with Washington. The Village Destroyers attacked the sanctity and domain of the women to make them homeless and helpless.
However, Sullivan underestimated the resolve of the women, the strength of tradition and the power of the corn seed. It was not long after the soldiers left that the women returned to their fields to plant. Certainly the winter of 1779-80 was harsh and took its toll, but the Haudenosaunee had survived other scorched earth campaigns of the French. They rebuilt their longhouses and taught their children to never trust white men again.
"Let us who are born on the same great Continent love one another; our interest is the same and we ought to be one people always ready to assist and serve each other," spoke the American Commissioners to Sachems of the Six Nations in 1778. It is difficult to understand how those sentiments gave way within one year to General Washington's order to exterminate the Haudenosaunee. What changed?
The Haudenosaunee Chiefs declared their official neutrality. It was broken by individuals, not nations or the League. The Americans lost sight of that and saw all Haudenosaunee as the enemy. In their campaign against women and corn, the Haudenosaunee learned a hard lesson. The previous centuries of peace-building vanished in the smoke of burning longhouses.
The Confederacy was unable to silence the war cries of people such as Joseph Brant. In declaring that each man should follow his heart, the Confederacy Council did not uphold their own standards. The heart of their warriors was not to the Great Peace.
The historical and oral records tell the same story to a degree. The nations tried to remain neutral. England and American increased pressure to take sides. The war leaders took advantage of the lack of consensus and raised their tomahawks against each other.
However, there are differences in the understanding of what took place. It is true that some individuals stated that the Grand Council fire at Onondaga was extinguished. Most of these voices wanted an excuse to fight and made it appear that the Confederacy finally lost its power. The reality is that when the Council of Chiefs could not agree, and the internal voices of dissent began to rise in anger, the Council Fire was to be covered over until cooler minds prevailed.
The historic record has many references to a Council Fire being covered over or extinguished when the Council was concluded. This would depend upon how accurately the interpreters translated what was actually said. "Covering the fire" was a metaphor for suspending the discussions. In reality, the fire was covered every day because the Council was not allowed to meet after sunset. It was thought that "voices in the dark bushes" could disrupt the unity of the Council. Fire light, sun light and the "wampum" fire were also metaphors for clear thinking when the council was held in the open, under full light of discovery.
The Confederacy Council realized that they could no longer constrain the warriors. No matter what decision they might make, the hearts and minds of their people were split.
In 1862 the Haudenosaunee Chiefs from both sides of the Niagara River gathered together at the Cattaraugus Seneca reservation to share what they still knew of the sacred wampum belts. Each side brought some of their wampum, which had been divided after the Revolutionary War, and recounted the messages they contained.
One Speaker explained that "after the expedition" against four Indian Nations, the fire brands from the council fire was put into conch shell and taken by four chiefs who then went across the river and had a great council of gandayeth. The oral history of the Haudenosaunee tells of the clan mothers making the decision that the people should separate, allowing those who have loyalties to the Crown settle at Grand River, and those who remain to settle at Buffalo Creek.
The Confederacy wampum belts that had been removed from Onondaga during 1779 were divided into two sets, one to be taken to Grand River, the other returned to the Council at Onondaga. Some belts were actually cut into two, and half given to each fire.
A Speaker noted that there was a Longhouse in Canada and that the large wampum put a fire there, to be watched for four months. This meant that the wampum "fire" compromised of six long strings tied together at one end, represented the confederated nations in council. The speaker noted that the great white root would grow from that "fire" and we "should put our hands over there," meaning that all Haudenosaunee should take comfort that this fire still glows.
Another speaker stated that "The fire is the same. Smoke is the same. Here and Canada. Eight years a Council was held or called at all the nations, and four years ago another was held of all four nations." He also said that four nations [most likely the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Oneida] was all the number in force of the law in Canada.
This is the point that most historians miss. The Grand River is a not a separate council fire, it is an extension of the main fire. Setting up the council at Grand River was like an experiment, to see if we could be governed by the same principles, even though we had different Covenant Chains. The delegates from Canada said that their minds are the same concerning the law.
Impact of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, 1779
The Confederacy was unable to silence the war cries of people such as Joseph Brant. The loyalties created by the Covenant Chain with the King of England became stronger that the loyalties to the Great Binding Law of the Haudenosaunee. The historical and oral records tell the same story to a degree. The nations tried to remain neutral. England and American increased pressure to take sides. The war leaders took advantage of the lack of consensus and raised their tomahawks against each other.
The Confederacy Council realized that they could no longer constrain the warriors. No matter what decision they might make, the hearts and minds of their people were split. According to our council records the Chiefs stated that each man was to follow his own heart. And that is what actually happened. Warriors took sides and were willing to spill blood in defense of what they felt was right.
The Sullivan-Clinton campaign deeply impacted on the Confederacy:
1) The Revolutionary War, once considered a fight between father and son, had now become personal to most of the Haudenosaunee. The Confederacy could not maintain their official neutrality; they let people decide for themselves.
2) The majority of the Haudenosaunee were forced to seek sanctuary among the British. 5,036 Haudenosaunee had reached Fort Niagara by Sept 21. Many died or became ill.
3) Senecas resettled in Western New York at Buffalo Creek, as well as some returning to their former lands. Many Cayugas also returned to their aboriginal territory.
4) Tuscarora Nation settled near Fort Niagara that eventually became their present location.
5) Seneca lands, previously uncharted, were envied and seen as ripe for expansion. The soldiers were given grants of Seneca land.
6) The unity of the Confederacy was weakened. Brant and many of his followers remained pro-British which led to renewed strife during the war of 1812.
7) Grand Council removed to Buffalo Creek for several years, and then was re-established at Onondaga. A second fire was kindled at Grand River. Both fires remain today.
5.3.4 A Final Note
In 1929 a melodramatic pageant was created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. The pageant was held at the Newtown Battlefield on September 28, 1929. The souvenir program concludes with his passage:
"Across the broad expanse of the empire State come throngs of settlers to claim the wonderful country, teeming with untold wealth and resources, made possible of habitation by the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. . . To the strains of "Onward Christian Soldier" they come – on and on – they pass, on and still on, without abating, the throngs of happy, eager, God-hewn pioneers secure at last in assured prosperity and peace still roll on – and our story ends."
With a tangled web of land rights, jurisdictional uncertainties and federal treaties as the supreme law of the land, the story has not come to an end – it continues today.
2 "Six Nations" was the contemporary English-language term for the league of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras, the latter admitted as the sixth nation in the early eighteenth century. The term "Six Nations" has native-language equivalents, though members of those nations usually referred to themselves in their own languages as "people of the longhouse" [HNAI 15:319-20]. An anglicized version of the term is "Haudenosaunee" [traceable to Morgan 1851/1962: 51].
4 The 1500 men who attempted a surprise attack on Chemung on the night of Aug. 12,
1779, found a "very good Indian foot path" most of the way, but were slowed down by
"one or two bad defiles, the rocky narrows along the river [Wright 1943: Pt. 2, 46].
5 The French émigré and author J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, who traveled down the Susquehanna just before the war, provided a similar list in his essay "Susquehannah" (1778): "Tiogo [Tioga,] Shaamond [Chemung,] Ockwago [Owego,] Shenango [Chenango,] Anaquaga [Oquaga] &ca" [St. John de Crèvecoeur 1995: 188].
6 Croghan's identification of the "north branch" with the Chemung and the "east branch" with the Susquehanna above Tioga Point is idiosyncratic. Usually the entire Susquehanna from its junction with the West Branch at Northumberland, Pa., to its head is denominated the "North Branch."
7 Scholars usually assume a ratio of 4:1, total population to warrior count [Jones
2010: 394[text deleted]
8 Croghan's list also mentions Six Nations émigrés in the St. Lawrence Valley: the "Oswegatches" (mostly Onondagas) at modern Ogdensburg, N.Y., and the Connesedagoes" and "Coghnawagoes" (Mohawks) near Montreal.
9 A few scholars have studied the post-contact native settlements in the upper Susquehanna
region. Laurence M. Hauptman  has noted indicators of social stress in the multi-ethnic
refugee communities. Dolores Elliott  has studied the dispersed multi-ethnic
town of Chenango. Colin G. Calloway has described Oquaga in the Revolutionary War
period . Most recent studies of eighteenth century Moravian Indian missions
focus on communities in the Hudson and Lehigh Valleys, with passing attention to the
missions at Wyalusing and Sheshequin on the upper Susquehanna [Merritt 2000, 2003;
Wheeler 2008]. The exception is Amy C. Schutt's study  of the multi-ethnic mission
at Wyalusing. Peter C. Mancall  has studied the Native and Euro-American economy
of the upper Susquehanna of Pa. and N.Y. in the eighteenth century, largely disregarding
the Chemung Valley.
10 "Names of the type <Schommunk> are Unami šɘmunk 'at the (place of the) horn', the locative form of šɘmu 'horn'. (š = English sh.) Variants like <Uschummo> probably spell the Northern Unami form of this, which would be wšəmu, spelled by [David] Zeisberger <wschummo> (Zeisberger 1887:96). The only thing odd about the spelling variants is the use of <ch> to spell š" [Ives Goddard, pers. comm., Feb. 3, 1999]. The form Uschummo appears in diary entries by the Moravian missionary Johannes Roth, who was stationed at Sheshequin 1769-72 and was fluent in Unami [MA 133:1-4; Mahr 1953: 129].
11 The name <Wilawanünk> is Munsee wi:lá:wanənk, the locative of wi:lá:wan 'horn', which Zeisberger gives as <Wiláwane> (loc. cit.)" [Ives Goddard, pers. comm., Feb. 3, 1999].
12 A letter of Zeisberger's, May 20, 1768, says that "In Wilawane on the Tioga, which also is called Schummunk, we encountered opposition ..." (In Wiláwane, welches auch Schummunk heist an der Tiaogu, krigten wir Anfechtung ...") [MA 229:2:23].
13On May 12-13, 1768, Zeisberger met with twenty of the principal people of "Wilawane," who he wrote were Munsees [Zeisberger 1912: 43-44; MA 135:1, May 12, 13, 1768; MA 2291:1].
14Since the eighteenth century "Delawares" has been the standard English term for the native people, both Unami and Munsee speakers, who called themselves Lenápe (in Munsee, lënapèw; in southern Unami, lënape). The term means "ordinary," "real," or "common" "man," by extension "people" [Goddard in HNAI 15:72-73, 213-16, 225, 235-36]. Authoritative accounts of the Delaware Indians published in the 1970s and 1980s tended to subsume the Munsees into the Delawares who originally lived in southern New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania [Weslager 1972; Goddard in HNAI 15:213-39; Kraft 1986]. Recent scholarship has emphasized the distinct identity and history of the Munsees, who originally lived in the lower Hudson and upper Delaware regions and on western Long Island [Grumet 2009].
15McDowell said his captors nicknamed him "Keto," meaning "man of iron," for his determined character. That word resembles the Munsee Delaware word for an iron kettle, and the captors therefore seem to have been Munsees. The Munsee word for "iron kettle" is wehkáathoos or wigáthos, while the corresponding Unami word is sisinghos [O'Meara 1996: 339; Zeisberger 1887: 106]. The Seneca terms for "iron" and "iron kettle" do not resemble "keto" [Chafe 1967: 55 (no. 642), 73 (no. 1296)]. The raid in which McDowell was captured occurred in the Minisink region of the middle Delaware Valley, part of the Munsee homeland.
16An editor's note to the published journal of Lieut. John L. Hardenbergh, Aug. 11, 1779, states that "Old Chemung" was "an Indian town partially abandoned in 1779 . . . A few houses burned Aug. 13th, 1779" [Cook 1887: 125]. The source of this information is not stated.
17The reminiscences of Ezekiel Brown, a soldier captured by "Delaware and Cayuga Indians"in early 1778, mention a "counsel house" at Chemung [Draper MSS., 2-F-116].
18Assinisink, 1760, "meeting house" [Hays 1954: 74; Grumet, ed. 1999: 58]; Lackawanna, 1755, "great Hutt" [MA 217:12B:4, Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 1755]; Tioga, 1743, "town-house" [Bartram 1751/1966: 30-31].
19Mark R. Harrington obtained information about Munsee Delaware beliefs and rituals from traditionalists at Muncey Town and the Grand River Reserve in the early twentieth century. Additional data was compiled by Frank G. Speck and Jesse Moses  and Herbert C. Kraft [2001: 505, 523, 542, 555, 557-60].
20 The day book of the Indian store at Nazareth, Pa., ca. 1769-73, has a few entries for customers from Chemung ("Shummounk," "Shummoak or Welawanunk," and "Shummonk Welawanunk," "Walawannunck"). The volume is in the Moravian Historical Society.
21 The sons, Tackenos and Pomachgutte, were later baptized at a Moravian mission in the Ohio country [MA 137:36 June 20, 1771, Sept. 3, Oct. 2, 1772]. Esther's Shawnee mother resided with or near her daughter [MA 131:5 July 4,1768]. Many authors have asserted that Esther was a member of the Montour family, but historians David C. Craft and William A. Hunter rightly declared the evidence for that relationship to be "very unsatisfactory" and "doubtful" [Craft 1878: 27-28; P. Wallace 1961/1991: 174; see Hanna 1911: 1:205-206].
22 In fact the Ohio region was not peaceful. Friction between new white settlers and the resident Indians was chronic and erupted into a local war between the Shawnees and Virginia in 1774 [McConnell 1992: 255-79].
23 The full Pennsylvania-New York boundary was surveyed in 1786.
24 The Munsees at Cattaraugus, who had formerly lived on the upper Allegheny, received some of "our Brothers from Shimong" after Sullivan's invasion [GJP: Journal of Lt. William Johnston, Cattaraugus, Feb. 25, 1780; MIA 12:202-203, March 13, 1780]. In the early twentieth century a Delaware traditionalist on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario related that in deciding for war the Delawares had followed the lead of the Cayugas, their longtime friends and protectors [Moses, "Story of the Delaware Tribe"].
25 The invitees were Henry Simmons, Nicholas Phillips, Henry Windecker, Jacob Anguish, Charles Anker, and Abraham Wintermoot, all German or Dutch men who became Loyalists.
26 At this very time John Butler was urging Six Nations chiefs to strike the many white squatters who had breached the Fort Stanwix treaty line elsewhere, along the Allegheny River and the Susquehanna West Branch [Stevens 1984: 854, 941-46].
27 The Indians on the upper Susquehanna barred the Pennamites from settling there [Harvey 1909-1930: 2:919-22].
28 Several sources indicate that Indians tortured and burned some captives after the battle of Wyoming. James Green deposed a few days later that "the night after the battle he saw the fires and heard the noise of a Grand Cantacoy amongst the Indians, who he, said Green judges[,] were burning their prisoners alive" [Johnson, ed. 1882: 342-44]. Two other men years later recalled seeing, from across the river, Indians torturing and burning captured soldiers. Others walked the battleground the next day and saw half-burned human remains [Draper MSS. 4-F-36, 37; "Petition of the Sufferers of Wyoming," 14, 17-18; Hayden 1895: 47, 52; Franklin: 1828]. Contemporary sources corroborate these accounts [Cook 1887: 251; St. John de Crèvecoeur 1995: 198]. Historians are divided about the veracity of the stories of the killing of prisoners after the battle of Wyoming. Some accept them [Williamson and Fossler 1995: 59; Mintz 1999: 60-62; Taylor 2006:93], while others do not [Wallace 1970: 137-38; Graymont 1972: 172, 174; Abler, ed. 1989: 101; Knouff 2004: 168-69]. In an interview in 1850 the Seneca chief Chainbreaker, who fought in the battle, remarked ambiguously that he had no "recollection of the burning of prisoners in the night [after the battle]" but that "this burning of prisoners often happened, and may have been so on this occasion" [Draper MSS. 16-F-28-29].
29 Col. Charles Stewart, Commissary General of Issues, had proposed a similar three-pronged attack on the Susquehanna Indian towns, one force penetrating north from the West Branch to the Tioga Branch above Chemung, and others marching from Schoharie and Wyoming [GWP: Stewart to Robert H. Harrison, Nov. 5, 1778].
30 Oneidas resided at Oquaga on the upper Susquehanna and seem to have shared responsibility with the Cayugas for the Susquehanna region. That may have resulted from their leading role in defeating the Susquehannocks in the 1670s [Shannon 2000: 167] and from their association as the two brother nations of the opposite moiety of the Five Nations (the Senecas, Onondagas, and Mohawks being the three brother nations of the other moiety) [Fenton 1998: 10, 27-28, 483, 507]. At the Easton conference in 1758 a Cayuga chief spoke for the "younger" nations, including the Oneidas, Tuscaroras, and non-Iroquoian "confederates" [PCR 8:181-82]. The Oneida chief Shikellamy, who married a Cayuga, protected the Six Nations' interests in the Susquehanna region for 20 years before his death in 1748 [Merrell 1996]. His son John Shikellamy succeeded to that position [Penn MSS., Ind. Affairs: Albany conference proceedings, July 6, 1754].
31 The few documentary references to payments of wampum tribute by Minisink Indians (1694) and "Delaware" Indians (1701, 1709, 1712) indicate that the payments were often late, sometimes years overdue [NYCD 4:98-99; Hunter 1978: 23; Weslager 1944: 383, 1972: 181]. In the 1750s a remnant group of Munsees in Orange County, N.Y., was paying tribute to the Six Nations [Smith 1757/1972: 1:149], as were the Indians of the Moravian mission at Gnadenhütten, Pa. [MA 118:1, June 23, 26, 1754].
32 Moravian missionary David Zeisberger described, apparently from a report by Joseph Brant, how Six Nations delegates made the Delawares "men" once more in a ceremony held in 1795 on the Maumee River (Sabathy-Judd, ed. 1999: 82-83; Zeisberger 1885: 2:409-410).
33 An emphatic statement of the Six Nations' position was given by Canasatego's address
to the Delawares at Philadelphia in 1742: "We conquered you; we made women of you;
you know you are women, and can no more sell
land than women; nor is it fit you should have the power of selling lands, since you would abuse it" [PCR 4:578; Weslager 1972: 190].
34 The Delawares on the Six Nations Reserve in Canada were eventually incorporated into the League, as "braces of the Extended House," at an uncertain date [Hale 1883: 59, 88; Speck and Moses 1945: 11; Shimony 1961: 21; Fenton 1998: 10, 27-28].