The Revolutionary War Battle of Newtown was the most crucial engagement of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. The battle and campaign transformed the landscape and fractured a Native American Confederacy in what would later become the upstate regions of New York State. The Newtown Battlefield Archeological Project is a collaborative endeavor involving the Public Archaeology Facility (PAF) at Binghamton University, researchers from Cornell University, and Native American historians. The project's multi-year goal is to develop a preservation plan to protect the integrity and overall landscape of the Newtown Battlefield, which is listed as a National Historic Landmark. The American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) has funded previous research on this battlefield (Public Archaeology Facility 2010). This earlier research focused on using historical research to develop a revised understanding of the battlefield's boundaries and related features. The application of military terrain analysis supplemented the historical research by providing an enhanced view of the battlefield's landscape. The initial documentary and field study of the battlefield produced an identification of battle related features and an initial assessment of their integrity (Public Archaeology Facility 2010).
The ABPP has also funded this current study involving a more intensive archeological field testing of portions of the battlefield and related landscape features. This report presents the findings of this archeological testing of the battlefield's main features to better determine their integrity and relation to the battle. The archeological testing identified battle related activities across the battlefield's landscape. The material evidence of the battle is ephemeral, as most battlefields are, but the recovered artifacts provide confirmation of battlefield features and their location, which can inform further historic and archeological research as well as preservation plans for the battlefield.
1.1 Overview of the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign and the Battle of Newtown
The Sullivan-Clinton campaign was pivotal to the outcome of the American Revolution. Throughout 1778 and 1779, Native American warriors allied with the British raided American settlements throughout the New York and Pennsylvania frontier. The nature of these raids and fighting along the frontier was violent. Villages, settlements, and farms were burned and pillaged. Some residents were left homeless, while others were killed. The Wyoming Massacre, Cherry Valley Massacre, and Colonel Van Schaick's attack on Onondaga villages were some of the most violent episodes of frontier fighting.
The fighting reflected a conflict broader than the context of the American Revolution. Some of the raids were a reaction to illegal white settlements on Native American lands that were in direct violation of the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix. Beyond this transgression, the conflict between the British and the fledgling American nation strained alliances with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy and divided loyalties within and between Confederacy Nations. Haudenosaunee is the name preferred by Native Americans who are part of the six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. Individual, rather than Confederacy-approved, alliances undermined the position of Haudenosaunee neutrality. The Grand Council decided that the Confederacy would still remain neutral, but those individuals who chose to fight would suffer the consequences of their decision on their own. In the end, the consequences of these decisions were suffered by most Haudenosaunee Nations regardless of the decisions made by others.
Raids and retaliatory violence became a critical threat for New York's Governor George Clinton and the settlers on the frontier. It also became an impediment for the Continental Army. Soldiers often left to defend their homes, and raids destroyed crops and supplies that were meant for the Continental Army. General George Washington launched the Sullivan-Clinton campaign as a means to end the frontier fighting. He ordered Major General John Sullivan and Brigadier General James Clinton to conduct a scorched earth campaign against the British allied Native Americans in the summer of 1779 (Flick 1929c: 90-91). The campaign was a three prong attack with Gen. Sullivan marching from the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, Gen. Clinton coming south from Otsego Lake in New York, and Colonel Brodhead marching across the western frontier from Fort Pitt (Williams 2005). Generals Sullivan and Clinton formed the main force in the campaign when they merged at Tioga Point in Pennsylvania, and advanced into Iroquois country burning virtually every village and farm field they encountered.
There was little opposition to the Continentals' campaign. The British commander of Butler's Rangers, Major John Butler, his son Capt. Walter Butler, and Mohawk warrior, Capt. Joseph Brant, constituted the leadership of the opposition to Generals Sullivan and Clinton. Delaware and other Native chiefs demanded that Butler and Brant make a stand against the Continental Army in the area of Newtown (Flick 1929a: 282). On August 29, 1779, these two forces met in a battle. The outcome of the battle was defined by the British forces' failed attempt at an ambush, and the Continental forces' successful use of artillery and flanking maneuvers, which breached the British defenses, forcing a sometimes chaotic retreat.
Although not totally defeated at Newtown, the British and their Native allies retreated across the Iroquois territory keeping just in front of the Continentals on their way to Fort Niagara. Gen. Sullivan continued his march following the retreating British forces and non-combatant Native Americans fleeing from their destroyed villages. The Continentals left a scorched trail around Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, and west to Genesee Castle. The British Rangers and their Native allies managed one other major attack on the Continentals, this being against a scouting party at Gathtsegwarohare (Groveland). The campaign's advance ended as the Continentals ran low on supplies. This scarcity of resources was minimal when compared to the outcomes experienced by the British allied Iroquois. The destruction of their villages and crops left them with nothing, and they became dependent on the British at Fort Niagara over the winter of 1779-1780 (Glatthaar and Martin 2007; Graymont 1972; Williams 2005). Hundreds, possibly thousands, died during one of the most brutal winters on record.
1.2 Overview of Project Goals
The Battle of Newtown occurred in the area of the present day hamlet of Lowman, New York in Chemung County (Figures 1 and 2). Agricultural fields and rural residential properties typify most of the Newtown battlefield's landscape. The western extent of the battlefield is located within the Newtown Battlefield New York State Park (Figure 3). The major source of disturbance to the battlefield is a series of transportation features: the 19th century Chemung Canal, a railroad line, and the Southern Tier Expressway (NY-17, soon to be I-86). [text deleted] The battle's remaining features are related to the terrain, which have retained generally good integrity; any cultural features have been demolished or removed since the battle. In general, historic use of the Chemung Valley landscape in the 232 years since the battle has had little effect on the battlefield's landscape. The agricultural practices that defined the valley's economy have protected this landscape.
The main purpose of this research is to develop a preservation strategy for the Newtown Battlefield. The preservation plan will provide an informational resource to assist local residents, developers, and preservation groups with collaborative initiatives on how best to preserve the history and heritage of the battle while also addressing the community's economic and social needs. To accomplish this, project researchers needed to determine the integrity of the battlefield's defining features. Previous research into the historic record and surface mapping of the battlefield helped in the identification of the defining features related to the battle and in the development of an initial assessment of the effect general threats to the battlefield has had on these features (PAF Newtown Project 2010). However, the study offered a limited view of the battlefield's integrity.
Further research identifying and evaluating the nature of battle related deposits and signs of disturbance below the ground surface required archeological testing. PAF has conducted archeological testing in relation to larger cultural resource projects in the area of the battlefield, but did not specifically address the integrity of features and deposits related to the battlefield. Testing for these projects included mostly shovel test pits (STPs) with some block unit testing that did not significantly overlap defining features related to the battlefield. Therefore, the previous research in the area has offered limited information on the defining features' integrity.
The following sections will elaborate on the historical background of the battle, the environmental context of the battlefield, summarize the battlefield's defining features using KOCOA analysis, and present the research design that guided the field testing conducted as part of this grant. The final sections present an interpretation of the strategies and tactics employed during the battle based on analyses of the recovered battle related artifacts and an assessment of the battlefield's defining features' integrity that will aid the development of a preservation plan for Newtown.
Figure 1. 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 2. 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 3. 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 4. 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 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).
1.3 Newtown KOCOA Defining Features
The main unit of study for this project is the defining feature. A defining feature, natural or cultural, is the basic unit in the KOCOA system of military terrain analysis. Developed by military experts and historians, the KOCOA system is a specialized technique for landscape analysis in which features or landmarks are studied for their potential use in battle. KOCOA is an acronym that stands for:
- Key terrain
- Cover and concealment
- Observation points
- Avenues of approach and retreat.
How a defining feature was used during the battle defines its categorization in the KOCOA system. Although a feature may have been used for multiple functions during the battle by the different sides in the conflict, at least one of these uses must be met for the feature to be termed a defining feature. The importance of a defining feature is based upon its role in determining the success or failure of a military unit in the battle.
Table 1 presents an overview of the defining features identified during the initial project study of the Battle of Newtown (Public Archaeology Facility 2010). Figure 6 shows the location of these features within the Chemung Valley. These features were identified from the historical records reviewed for this study. The list includes the major and influential features related to the battle. The table is divided into five sections: terrain or topographic features; road and transportation networks; structures or villages; fortifications; and miscellaneous. Records for each feature also include descriptions of its location; relevance to the battle; comment; its KOCOA description; and an integrity assessment. These results will form the basis of future archeological verification, and will contribute to a preservation plan for the battlefield.
Table 1. Defining Features of the Newtown Battlefield, August 29, 1779.
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).