The Battle of Wyoming (also known as the Wyoming Massacre) was an encounter during the American Revolutionary War between American Patriots and Loyalists accompanied by Iroquois raiders that took place in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania on July 3, 1778. More than three hundred Patriots were killed in the battle.
After the battle, settlers claimed that the Iroquois raiders had hunted and killed fleeing Patriots, before using ritual torture against 30-40 who had surrendered, until they died.
In 1777, British General John Burgoyne led a campaign to gain control of the Hudson River in the American Revolutionary War. Burgoyne was weakened by loss of time and men after the Battle of Oriskany and was forced to surrender after the Battles of Saratoga in October. News of his surrender prompted France to enter the war as an American ally. Concerned that the French might attempt to retake parts of New France they had lost in the French and Indian War (something they did not know the Franco-American Treaty of Alliance specifically forbade), the British military adopted a defensive strategy in Quebec. They recruited Loyalists and enlisted Indian allies to conduct a frontier war along the northern and western borders of the Thirteen Colonies.
Colonel John Butler recruited a regiment of Loyalists, while Seneca chiefs Sayenqueraghta and Cornplanter recruited primarily Seneca warriors, and Joseph Brant recruited primarily Mohawks for what became a guerrilla war against the American frontier settlers. By April 1778 the Seneca were raiding settlements along the Allegheny and Susquehanna Rivers, and by early June the three groups met at the Indian village of Tioga, New York. Butler and the Seneca decided to attack the Wyoming Valley, while Brant and the Mohawks (who had already raided Cobleskill in May) targeted settlements further north.
American military leaders, including Washington and Lafayette, also sought to recruit Iroquois, primarily as a diversion to keep the British in Quebec busy. These recruitment attempts, however, met with more limited success. The Oneida and Tuscarora were the only tribes of the Six Nations to become Patriot allies.
The British forces arrived in the valley on June 30, having alerted the settlers to their approach by killing three men working at an unprotected gristmill on June 28. The next day Colonel Butler sent a surrender demand to the militia at Wintermute's (Wintermoot) fort. Terms were arranged that the defenders, after surrendering the fort with all their arms and stores, would be released on the condition that they not again bear arms during the war. On July 3, however, the British saw that the defenders were gathering in great numbers outside of Forty Fort. William Caldwell was engaged in destroying Jenkin's fort, and with the American militia a mile away, Butler organized an ambush. He ordered Fort Wintermute set on fire, and the Patriots, believing it signified a British retreat, advanced rapidly. Butler told the Seneca to lie flat on the ground so as not to be seen. The militia advanced to within a hundred yards of the British rangers and fired three volleys at them. The Seneca rose to their feet, fired one time, and then charged the militia to engage in hand to hand combat.
Accounts indicate the battle lasted about 45 minutes. An order to reform the Patriot line instead turned into a frantic rout as the inexperienced militiamen panicked and began to run. It became a deadly footrace, from which only about sixty Patriots escaped. The victorious Loyalists and Iroquois killed almost all who were captured, and only 5 prisoners were taken alive. Butler reported that 227 scalps were taken by his Native American allies.
The next morning Colonel Nathan Denison agreed to surrender Forty Fort and two other posts, along with what remained of his militia. Butler paroled them on their promise to take no part in further hostilities. Non-combatants were spared and only a few inhabitants were molested after the forts' surrender.
Colonel Butler wrote: "But what gives me the sincerest satisfaction is that I can, with great truth, assure you that in the destruction of the settlement not a single person was hurt except such as were in arms, to these, in truth, the Indians gave no quarter." An American farmer wrote: "Happily these fierce people, satisfied with the death of those who had opposed them in arms, treated the defenseless ones, the woman and children, with a degree of humanity almost hitherto unparalleled". Nevertheless, Colonel Denison and his men did not honor their parole, and within the year they would participate in attacks on Iroquois villages.
According to one source, 60 Patriot bodies were found on the battlefield and another 36 on the line of the retreat. All were buried in a common grave.
Out of 1,000 men available, John Butler reported only two Loyalist Rangers and one Indian killed, and eight Indians wounded. He claimed that his force took 227 scalps, burned 1,000 houses, and drove off 1,000 cattle plus many sheep and hogs. Of the 60 Continentals and 300 militiamen involved, only about 60 escaped the disaster, though Graymont states about 340 killed. The Seneca Indians were angered by the accusations of atrocities they said they had not committed, and at the militia taking arms after being paroled. Later that year, Joseph Brant under the command of Butler further retaliated in the Cherry Valley massacre.
Reports of the massacres of prisoners and atrocities at Wyoming infuriated the American public. Afterward, Colonel Thomas Hartley arrived with Hartley's Additional Continental Regiment to defend the valley to try to harvest the crops. They were joined by a few militia companies, including that of Captain Denison, who violated his parole to join the force. In September, Hartley and Denison ascended the east branch of the Susquehanna with 130 soldiers, destroying Indian villages as far as Tioga and recovering a large amount of plunder taken during the raid. They skirmished with the hostile Indians and withdrew when they learned that Joseph Brant was assembling a large force at Unadilla.
Connecticut Continentals (Patriots), led by Captain Jeremiah Blanchard and Lieutenant Timothy Keyes, held and maintained a fort in Pittston (only several miles away from the battlefield). On July 4, 1778 (one day after the Battle of Wyoming), a group of British soldiers took over the fortress and some of it was destroyed. Two years later, the Continentals stormed the fortification and recaptured it. From then on it was under Patriot control until the end of the war in 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Today a marker stands at the site where the fort once stood.
In summer 1779, the Sullivan Expedition commissioned by General George Washington, methodically destroyed 40 Iroquois villages, and an enormous quantity of stored corn and vegetables throughout upstate New York. The Iroquois never recovered from the damage inflicted by Sullivan's soldiers, and many died of starvation that winter. The tribes allied with the British continued to raid Patriot settlements until the end of the war.
The massacre was depicted by the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell in his 1809 poem "Gertrude of Wyoming". Because of the atrocities involved, Campbell described Joseph Brant as a "monster" in the poem, although it was later determined that Brant was not present. Brant was at Oquaga on the day of the attack.
The battle and massacre is commemorated each year by the Wyoming Commemorative Association, a local non-profit organization, which holds a ceremony on the grounds of the monument dedicated to the battle. The Wyoming Monument is the site of a mass grave containing the bones of many of the victims of the battle and massacre. The commemorative ceremonies began in 1878, to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle and massacre. The principal speaker at the event was President Rutherford B. Hayes.
The annual program has continued each year since then on the grounds. One hundred and seventy-eight names of Patriots killed in the battle are listed on the Wyoming Monument, and the names of about a dozen militia who were killed or died in captivity a day or so prior to the main battle. A possible explanation for the difference between the number of names on the monument (178) and the reported number of scalps taken in the battle (227) is that allegedly numerous civilians (perhaps as many as 200)—instead of surrendering to Colonel Butler—elected to flee and died of exposure in a swamp known as the "Shades of Death" after the battle.
In the battle:
Traditionally on the fourth of July, every year for the past 140 years members of the Wyoming community and Luzerne County Historical Society organized a ceremony reenacting the Battle that originally took place July 3, 1778. Admission is free for everyone. The ceremony has become a family tradition for many people around the Wyoming Valley Independence Day holiday and dutifully commemorates those soldiers who sacrificed their lives over 240 years ago.
Though persuaded to remain, Brantd exercised no authority over the raid (nor the regiment).
Sunday 15th. This day some provision arrived being the first supply after the first attack when we had not a pound for man in garrison, for four or five days, but a trifle of meat. In the afternoon a scout we thought had been taken by them, a serjeant and eight men arrived in safe. By some they took prisoners they let go again; informed they had a number wounded and we saw a number of them fall, so that we have reason to think we killed more of them than they killed of our regiment, though they butchered about 40 women and children that has been found. It came on to storm before the engagement began: first with rain, but for this day past, it has been a thick snow storm.
1. countable noun: A regiment is a large group of soldiers that is commanded by a colonel.
Alonzo Chappel (1828–1887) was an American painter, best known for paintings depicting personalities and events from the American Revolution and early 19th-century American history.
Chappel was born in New York City and died in Middle Island, New York.His 1857 painting Enlisting Foreign Officers is in the collection of the Museum of the American Revolution.Butler Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Butler Township is a township in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 9,221 at the 2010 census.Cherry Valley massacre
The Cherry Valley massacre was an attack by British and Iroquois forces on a fort and the village of Cherry Valley in eastern New York on November 11, 1778, during the American Revolutionary War. It has been described as one of the most horrific frontier massacres of the war. A mixed force of Loyalists, British soldiers, Seneca and Mohawks descended on Cherry Valley, whose defenders, despite warnings, were unprepared for the attack. During the raid, the Seneca in particular targeted non-combatants, and reports state that 30 such individuals were slain, in addition to a number of armed defenders.
The raiders were under the overall command of Walter Butler, who exercised little authority over the Indians on the expedition. Historian Barbara Graymont describes Butler's command of the expedition as "criminally incompetent". The Seneca were angered by accusations that they had committed atrocities at the Battle of Wyoming, and the colonists' recent destruction of their forward bases of operation at Unadilla, Onaquaga, and Tioga. Butler's authority with the Indians was undermined by his poor treatment of Joseph Brant, the leader of the Mohawks. Butler repeatedly maintained, against accusations that he permitted the atrocities to take place, that he was powerless to restrain the Seneca.
During the campaigns of 1778, Brant achieved an undeserved reputation for brutality. He was not present at Wyoming — although many thought he was — and he actively sought to minimize the atrocities that took place at Cherry Valley. Diaries belonging to British soldiers during the campaign state the regiment as being the butchers and given that Butler was the overall commander of the expedition, there is controversy as to who actually ordered or failed to restrain the killings. The massacre contributed to calls for reprisals, leading to the 1779 Sullivan Expedition which drove the Iroquois out of western New York.Denison House (Forty Fort, Pennsylvania)
Denison House, also known as the Colonel Nathan Denison House, is a historic home located at Forty Fort, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. It was built about 1790, and is a 2 1/2-story, frame building with a central chimney in the New England style. A rear addition and full-width front porch were added in the mid-19th century. The house has since been restored to its appearance in the 1790s.It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.Col. Nathan Denison was a Revolutionary Officer and a Luzerne County Judge. The Denison House features a table on which the Articles of Capitulation were signed, surrendering Forty Fort to the British and ending the Battle of Wyoming.The property is owned and maintained by the Luzerne County Historical Society. It is open for guided tours in the summer.Dorrance Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Dorrance Township is a township in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 2,188 at the 2010 census.Forty Fort
Forty Fort was a stronghold built by settlers from Westmoreland County, Connecticut, on the Susquehanna River in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. During the American Revolutionary War, both Connecticut and Pennsylvania claimed this territory, as Connecticut laid claim to a wide swath of land to its west based on its colonial charter. These competing claims were settled by exchanges and agreements with resolution by the national government after the United States gained independence.
This fort became a refuge for displaced settlers during the Battle of Wyoming in 1778. Zebulon Butler's force of Continental and allied Indians was defeated by the far larger force of Loyalists and their Indian allies.Forty Fort, Pennsylvania
Forty Fort is a borough in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 4,214 at the 2010 census. Its neighbors are Wyoming (to the north), Plains Township (to the east), Kingston (to the south), and Swoyersville (to the west). The Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport and the Wyoming Seminary Lower School are both located in the borough.John Butler (pioneer)
John Butler (1728–1796) was a Loyalist who led an irregular militia unit known as Butler's Rangers on the northern frontier in New York during the American Revolutionary War. Born in Connecticut, he moved to New York with his family, where he learned several Iroquoian languages and worked as an interpreter in the fur trade. He was well-equipped to work with Mohawk and other Iroquois Confederacy warriors who became allies of the British during the rebellion.
During the War, Butler led Seneca and Cayuga forces in the Saratoga campaign in New York. He later raised and commanded a regiment of rangers, which included affiliated Mohawk and other Iroquois nations' warriors. They conducted raids in central New York west of Albany, including what became known among the rebels as the Cherry Valley Massacre.
After the war Butler resettled in Upper Canada, where he was given a grant of land by the Crown for his services. Butler continued his leadership in the developing province, helping to found the Anglican Church and Masonic Order, and serving in public office.Kendaia
Kendaia, known as Appletown, was a village of the Seneca and Cayuga Nations of Iroquois located in what is now the Town of Romulus, New York. The name has been variously transcribed into English as Thendara, Candaia, Conday, or Kendae. The site of the village on the east side of Seneca Lake is included in the present-day Sampson State Park.
"Kendaia was occupied either for an extended period of time or multiple times," since a large number of Jesuit artifacts were found dating from the early 1700s.The Seneca war chief Tah-won-ne-ahs, known as Chainbreaker, was born in Kendaia somewhere between 1737 and 1760.During the American Revolution the Sullivan Expedition of 1779 found the village to be the "oldest town we have passed, here being a considerable orchard, trees very old as are the buildings, very pleasantly situated about a quarter of a mile from the lake on a high piece of ground." The village consisted of "twenty or more houses of hewn logs, covered with bark, and some of them were well painted. Here was one apple orchard of sixty trees, besides others; also peach trees and other fruits... About this town, the showy tombs erected over some of their chiefs, were most noticeable, one of which, larger and more conspicuous than the others, is described by one of the journals as a casement or box made of hewn planks, about four feet high and somewhat larger than the body over which it was placed, and which was appropriately dressed. This casement was painted with bright colors, and had openings through which the body could be seen, and was covered with a roof to protect it from the weather." As part of his scorched earth policy Sullivan spent a day burning the houses and destroying the corn and the fruit trees. Sullivan also discovered and freed a captive taken in the Battle of Wyoming, Luke Swetland, who informed him that the village's inhabitants had all fled to the protection of the British at Fort Niagara two days earlier to escape the advance of the Americans.As of 2015, the hamlet of Kendaia in Seneca County is located a few miles where the Seneca village stood.Koonsville, Pennsylvania
Koonsville is a former town that is now a section of Union Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. It is approximately one mile outside Shickshinny along Route 239 and McKendree Road. Its elevation is approximately 616 feet (188 m).It used to known as Arch Bridge, named for the stone bridge crossing Shickshinny Creek. It served as a logging community until the Battle of Wyoming in 1778, when most of the white settlers fled their homes, fearing Iroquois raids. Several white farmers and loggers returned a few years later to rebuild, including Shadrick Austin, who bought 256 acres (1.04 km2) of land and, in 1801, established the Austin Family Inn.
Upon the establishment of the post office in 1850 the area was renamed and incorporated as Koonsville after William Koons, who was the first postmaster. The post office was decommissioned at the beginning of World War II, and Koonsville is now serviced by the Shickshinny post office.In 1850 William Koons moved to the area and occupied the Austin family Inn. Koons was survived by B.D. Koons, who was not only a charter member of Shickshinny but also one of the first officers.There are about five houses in Koonsville, a taxidermist, and a gas station, which is now closed down.Pennamite–Yankee War
The Pennamite–Yankee Wars or Yankee–Pennamite Wars were a series of conflicts consisting of the First Pennamite War (1769–1770), the Second Pennamite War (1774), and the Third Pennamite War (1784), in which the Wyoming Valley along the North Branch of the Susquehanna River was disputed between settlers from Connecticut (Yankees) and Pennsylvania (Pennamites).Pennsylvania in the American Revolution
Pennsylvania was the site of key events and places related to the American Revolution. The state, and especially the city of Philadelphia, played a critical role in the American Revolution.
Founding Father Robert Morris said, "You will consider Philadelphia, from its centrical situation, the extent of its commerce, the number of its artificers, manufactures and other circumstances, to be to the United States what the heart is to the human body in circulating the blood."Plymouth Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Plymouth Township is located in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 1,812 at the 2010 census.Revolutionary War Door
Revolutionary War Door is an artwork by American sculptor Thomas Crawford, located on the United States Capitol House of Representatives wing east front in Washington, D.C., United States. This sculptured door was surveyed in 1993 as part of the Smithsonian's Save Outdoor Sculpture! program.Union Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Union Township is a township in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 2,042 at the 2010 census.West Pittston, Pennsylvania
West Pittston is a borough in the Greater Pittston area of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is located on the Susquehanna River (opposite of Pittston City). In 2016, the population was 4,741.The town once produced mine screens, glass, crackers, and many other goods. West Pittston rose to national attention in September 2011, when catastrophic flooding (caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee) left much of the borough under water.Wyoming Commemorative Association
Wyoming Commemorative Association was founded in 1878 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Wyoming (also known as the Wyoming Valley Massacre). This American Revolutionary War battle was fought on July 3, 1778, near Wilkes-Barre in present-day Exeter, Pennsylvania.Wyoming Valley
The Wyoming Valley is a historic industrialized region of Northeastern Pennsylvania, once famous for fueling the industrial revolution in the United States with its many anthracite coal mines. As a metropolitan area, it is known as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area, after its principal cities, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, and is the 97th-largest metropolitan area in the United States and the 4th largest in Pennsylvania. It makes up its own unique physiographic province, the Anthracite Valley, in the geology of Pennsylvania. Greater Pittston makes up the center of the valley. Scranton is the most populated city in the metropolitan area with a population of 77,114. The city of Scranton has grown in population after the 2015 mid term census while Wilkes-Barre has declined in population. Wilkes-Barre is still the second most populated city in the metropolitan area and Hazleton is third. The airports for this area are Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (Avoca) and the Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport (Forty Fort).
The valley is a crescent-shaped depression, a part of the ridge-and-valley or folded Appalachians. The Susquehanna River occupies the southern part of the valley, which is notable for its deposits of anthracite. These have been extensively mined. Deep mining of anthracite has declined throughout the greater Coal Region, however, due to the greater economics of strip mining. Parts of the local mines had already shut down because some coal beds were on fire and had to be sealed; but the exodus of mining companies came quickly following the legal and political repercussions of the 1959 Knox Mine Disaster—when the roof of the Knox Coal Company's mine under the river collapsed. The Pocono Mountains, a ridgeline away, are often visible from higher elevations to the east and to the southeast of the Wyoming Valley.Zebulon Butler
Zebulon Butler (January 23, 1731 – July 28, 1795) was a soldier and politician from Connecticut who served with the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He represented the Wyoming Valley (now in northeast Pennsylvania) in the Connecticut Assembly. At the time, the territory was claimed both by Connecticut (which claimed a wide swath of land to the west) and by Pennsylvania, and was nominally under the former's jurisdiction.