ARP192 The Wyoming Valley Massacre
Thank you for joining the american revolution today. Episode one ninety two the wyoming valley massacre after the british evacuated philadelphia. They consolidated their forces around new york city by early july. Seventeen seventy eight. General clinton's army was still settling into new york. Following the battle of monmouth in northern new jersey. General washington moved his continentals into camps in northern new jersey where they could challenge any movements by the british out of new york city. Although the british regulars were taking up defensive positions that did not mean. Americans were safe from attack. British agents had been trying to encourage indian tribes in canada and upstate new york and along the western frontiers to support the kings efforts to suppress the rebellion. The british warren tribal leaders that unchecked the colonists would take more of their tribal land they also gave some tribes hope of reclaiming lands that had been taken from them especially to tribes. Who helped the king during this rebellion. Back in episodes one fifty one and fifty two. I talked about the mostly native american force. That was assembled. under general. Barry saint leger to assist burgoyne army by capturing ford stan wicks in western new york. That army plan to meet up with the main british army at albany the patriot militia. Stop this advance at oriskany. Then general benedict. Arnold forced the british and their native allies at fort. Stan wicks to flee back to canada that however was only one setback in a larger effort to use local tribes. British agents remained active all along the frontier trying to encourage warriors to join in a continuing campaign against the rebels. One such agent was colonel. John butler who would go on to form butler's rangers butler had been born in connecticut but moved to upstate. New york as a boy is father. Who held a commission. As captain in the british army settled the family in the mohawk valley as a teenager butler had interacted with native tribes. Getting involved in the for trade. He learned to speak several native languages and often found work as an interpreter. In seventeen fifty five. He received a commission as a captain in the newly created indian department of the british government during the french and indian war. Bilour had served as an officer under indian agent. Sir william johnson commanding a native american force of mostly iroquois warriors following the war butlers venture in for trading and farming had put him at the head of a wealthy and powerful family in the region. By the seventeen seventy s butler had become a prosperous landowner with over twenty six thousand acres the second largest landowner in the area next only to sir william johnson bilour had become a pillar of the community. He served as a judge as representative to the colonial legislature. And lieutenant colonel. In the tryon county militia. After william johnson's deaf and after johnson successor guy johnson traveled to london for an extended. Time butler became acting superintendent of the iroquois six nations when the revolution began butler spoke up as a leading loyalist. He soon had to flee to canada to avoid capture by patriots. Although his wife and several of his children were captured his family would remain in custody for nearly five years until they reunited in seventeen eighty one as part of a prisoner exchange a going from respected community leader to war refugee only made butler eager to bring the fight back to new york and put down the rebellion. When the war began british policy was to keep native tribes neutral or to use them primarily as scouts butler was an early advocate of using loyal tribes. Like the koi as warriors in battle by seventeen seventy. Six butler was organizing loyalists and natives to assist with resistance to the continental army's invasion of canada. In seventeen seventy seven. He helped to organize the warriors. Who marched with general st leger to capture fort stan wicks and he was involved in the battle of risk any and the subsequent retreat following the army's withdrawal to canada butler traveled to quebec. Their general guy carleton commissioned him to maintain a permanent regiment of loyalist butler organiz both refugees from new york as well as native warriors and the regiment tone as polars rangers following the capture of coins. Army butler's rangers went into winter camp around niagara with plans to go on the offensive. The following spring the entry of france into the war and london's decision to evacuate philadelphia and go on the defensive did nothing to deter butler from launching an offensive with his native forces in the spring. Seventeen seventy eight bay. Look south for possible targets to strike. The wyoming valley is a large area in what is today northeastern pennsylvania around modern day. Scranton at the time control of this area was still a matter of dispute between pennsylvania and connecticut. During the colonial era royal charters often gave vague or contradictory information on borders of various colonies as a result. Colonists often had to fight to assert their legal claims to land connecticut claim that it was entitled to all of what is today northern pennsylvania and even parts of what is today northern ohio indiana and illinois at the same time pennsylvania had claimed all of that same land as well as most of what is today western new york king charles. The second had granted this land to connecticut back when the dutch still controlled new netherlands. What later became new york. The grant seemed to be an attempt to challenge dutch control of the area after the british took new york. This grant mattered much less to those in london. Since these lands were all now british colony's near the end of his reign. Charles the second granted much of the same territory to william penn. Since at the time the area was controlled by the susquehanna indians. No colonists were really moving there anyway. Although the iroquois lived further north in new york they asserted control over the natives. Who were living in the wyoming valley. Those tribes living in the area were not members of the six nations but they did speak iroquois in asserting its claims to the land connecticut. Deal with the erc. Oy for control of the wyoming valley and the right to settle there. They signed the agreement just before the french and indian war began with the outbreak of that war. Connecticut did not really try to settle that area near the end of the war. The local delaware under td using resisted encroachment by settlers. I discussed those events way back in episode eighteen. T do you. Sing was attempting to broker a deal with pennsylvania to keep the valley for the local tribes after td using was killed probably by fellow indians who opposed his attempts to start a war is son massacred a small outpost of about forty connecticut settlers in the valley the attackers tortured and then murdered ten of the men to send a message that settlers were not welcome there. The attack had its intended effect as connecticut did not send any more settlers in the years following the war later. The iroquois reneged on the deal with connecticut and sold the land once again to pennsylvania colonists from pennsylvania known as mites again to settle the wyoming valley the seventeen sixties mostly in relatively isolated farms along the susquehanna river alarmed by this development connecticut yankees once again. Form their own colonization plan. Establishing the town of wilkes-barre in seventeen sixty seven this kicked off. What is known as the first peta. My yankee war in seventeen sixty nine. Pennsylvania militia tried to force the connecticut settlers to leave both sides established forts had guns and tried to force their will on the other. But it wasn't really a full-scale war. Only three people were killed over the course of two years. The violence however once again largely deterred further immigration from connecticut. In seventeen seventy one king george. The third confirmed connecticut's claim to the land. Things remained relatively calm for a few years. Then in seventeen. Seventy three with the support of the king's privy council ruling connecticut's sent another group of colonists who founded the town of westmoreland once again kinda mites resisted what they saw as an incursion on land that they owned in seventeen seventy five. The fighting flared up again in what became known as the second peta. My yankee war. On christmas day. Seventeen seventy five. A of might force of about six hundred militia attacked a connecticut fort at what became known as the battle of rampart. Rocks the yankee defenders managed to hold off the assault and keep their position. This inspired the connecticut legislature to establish moorland county which soon grew to a population of over three thousand connecticut. Transplants when the revolution began most of the connecticut yankees joined with the patriots while the penalites largely backed the loyalists aware of this division. Colonel butler attempted to recruit panama lewis to attack the connecticut outposts in the wyoming valley when local loyalists combined with butler's rangers who were new york loyalists and with the seneca and delaware warriors. They created a pretty imposing force for the region. Connecticut militia in the wyoming valley had four forts with only a few hundred militia to garrison them in times of emergency. These were wilkes barra. Forty winter moot and jenkins none of these forts were of substantial size to fight off large. These were more stock. Aids designed to provide some protection against smaller attacks that were common in the ongoing fighting between the yankees and panama. It's the patriots in the area. Were already at lower strength. Many of the connecticut militia in the area had volunteered with the continental army and were off fighting in new jersey. those who remained behind or often younger or older men who could not endure the longer military campaigns this reduce militia would quickly find itself. Well outnumbered on june twenty eighth the same day as the battle of monmouth and advance team from butler's column attacked a grist mill capturing later killing three locals a few days later butler's force of over six hundred men arrived supported by another four hundred or so local penn might loyalists butler's first action in the area was to demand the surrender of fort winter. Move the garrison had to surrender their arms and supplies but were then permitted to leave on the promise that they would not take up arms for the remainder of the war. The small garrison surrendered the fort and departed following. That butler sent a message to nearby fort. Forty two men the surrender of that garrison as well in case you're wondering for forty was named for the forty settlers from connecticut who had built at us earlier at ford forty colonel zebulon butler no relation to the british commander jon butler commanded a militia force of three hundred fifty two four hundred patriots. Zabulov was also a veteran of the french and indian war. He had come to the wyoming valley in seventeen sixty nine from connecticut. He had fought the penalites in earlier. Disputes capturing fort wyoming in seventeen seventy one and leading the successful defense at rampart rocks in seventeen. Seventy five at this time. Zevulun butler was actually a continental colonel from the second connecticut regiment. He happened to be home on leave and was attempting to recruit more volunteers for the continental army when the war came to his home in the wyoming valley given his rank and experience. Tabula took command of the efforts to defend against the invasion at a council of war. The more senior officers wanted to wait for more reinforcements. Others however wanted to attack right away as i said most of the men of prime fight the age were already away in the continental army. The militia was made up of men who were older too young to serve on those campaigns. The older men wanted to wait for more reinforcements. They expected the arrival of at least a hundred more neighboring militia shortly and had also sent riders to philadelphia to get continental support. They also had good intelligence. About how large a force. They actually faced the experience butler agreed with this group and cautioned restraint others however strongly advocated for an immediate attack against the invaders particularly among the younger soldiers. They called butler a coward and said that they would march without him. If he's not wanna fight in the end. Those calling for an immediate attack prevailed on july third. A force of nearly four hundred yankee militia marched toward for winter mood at the time it seemed plan was to get near the four but then form a defensive line to determine just how large a force they would actually be facing as they approached the fort a few men announce they were marching into a trap and fell out of the column a back of the fort. The british force received word of this advancing enemy column the british commander at the fort or it burned but then formed his men outside of the fort mostly in the woods to prevent the enemy from counting their numbers. He sent his indian warriors to hide in the forest near fort. The american militia saul the fort on fire and took it as an indication that the british were abandoning the fort and retreating. So they quicken their pace to catch up with the british. They hope to find a retreating column that they could hit in the rear that however was not what they found as they approached the burning fort. The attackers indicated that they were aware that the enemy was still in the area and called them to show themselves on the field. The undisputed yankee militia began firing from about two hundred yards out as they advanced on the british line. They were both too far away for their muskets to hit anything by some accounts the yankees fired at least three valleys advanced with almost no effect when they got to within about one hundred yards. The rangers rose up and fired back. The seneca warriors rose up from their position on the right flank fired and then with loudwar roofs charged the militia. The americans panicked at the surprise of the charging indians field. Commanders attempted to keep the lines formed and facebook the rangers and the indians the militia. At least by some accounts tried to hold their lines but were quickly overrun. They turned and fled the field in disorder. The entire engagement had lasted only thirty to forty five minutes. Only a small portion of the nearly four hundred american forces escaped the field that day about sixty men were able to outrun the attack by the rangers and the indians the rest were either killed or captured and we don't know exactly how many died on the field because those who were captured did not remain prisoners very long as with many battles between loyalists and patriots or between settlers and indians combatants showed little respect for the enemies. Life or for any generally accepted rules of warfare many years after the battle a story and wrote down accounts based on oral history. He recounted what happened next quote. Men were transformed into demons and while indian marksman skillfully wounded the flying yankees in the thighbone. Thus disabling them yet saving them for future tories. Both tories and indians clubbed and scout them as they tried to conceal themselves nearby or in the water. Many of the yankees fled to a nearby swap or dove into the susquehanna river seeking to hide themselves from their pursuers but the tories and indians followed after them killing them without mercy. When account is of a militiaman named had a pencil who hit in the willows. After being wounded by an indian arrow his brother john pencil who was fighting with the loyalists found his wounded brother. Henry cried were his brother to spare him. John replied quote mighty will but you are a damned rebel raised his musket and shot his brother dead. The writer commented quote. Even the indians were struck with horror at this deed others reported lansing men in the river allowing their corpses to float away. Even the soldiers who were not killed immediately on the field did not fare any better over the course of the night. The loyalists and indians tortured and murdered their prisoners. One account describes militia captain bid lack. His captors threw him into a campfire that night then held him down with pitchforks as the screaming. Struggling man burned to death. Another account reports of an indian queen named esther who forced eighteen prisoners to kneel around iraq she chanted and danced s. She bashed brains of each victim. One at a time any nbc. British reported only five prisoners surviving that night. The british commander reported that his men took two hundred and twenty seven scalps. many more. Were missing who were also likely killed. British casualties amounted to two loyalists. And one indian killed at another eight indians wounded following the massacre the local surrendered fort forty and two other small forts the rangers disarm the garrisons and permitted them. Parole the british commander said little about the massacre of prisoners in his reports but did stress that noncombatant women and children were treated with utmost dignity by this. He meant that they were allowed to live but really not much else. Over the next few days the loyalist forces destroyed over one thousand houses and barns in the area forcing all the patriot inhabitants to flee with almost nothing they confiscated their property. Including thousands of cattle sheep horses and harvested grain. What they could not carry away. They destroyed the effort had the intended effect. It forced virtually all surviving connecticut settlers or others. Who back the patriot. Cause to abandon the wyoming valley the massacre became a rallying cry for the patriots. It would eventually lead to retribution. But that would happen. The following year and will be the topic of future episodes. The seneca tribe later strongly denied accusations of these atrocities. Whether true or not the stories of the atrocities had the effect of spreading fear and a desire for revenge among the patriots. Next week we're going to return to philadelphia. A silas deane attempts to clear his name before congress. Hey thanks for joining the american revolution. Podcast after show my thanks to train. Aunts george davis lewis white and robert hunter for support of this podcast at the alexander. Hamilton club level on patriotic also. Thanks to lisa ham for support. At the robert morris circle level on patriot. Thanks also to chip brenner. and steve. Berger for their continuing support on patriot. I also appreciate one time contributions via paypal from bruce. Recant everyone who can chip in even a few dollars helps keep this podcast freely available for everyone else who cannot. I also wanted to remind everyone again. That i have a weekly newsletter which provides more reading materials that are relevant to each week's episode. You can sign up on my website at. Www dot am rev. Podcast dot com in my newsletter. I also include a list of live online events related to the american revolution that are happening each week. Many of these are free events by great speakers one of the groups putting on these events is a group called history camp. Which i've mentioned before a couple years ago. I was trying to bring history camp to philadelphia. It's daylong long event of great speakers on a wide variety of history topics we were all set to have our first event in may twenty twenty when the pandemic cancelled everything all history camps were cancelled for twenty twenty and it looks like all of twenty twenty one is going to be a bust as well. The good news is that the folks who run history camp are adapting. They hold weekly virtual events every thursday evening which are free to attend. I'm also pleased to announce that they will be holding a virtual history camp america in july. This will be a day long event with multiple speakers just like the in person events that we hope to return soon but this of course will be a virtual event and i hope anyone who's interested will consider attending the american revolution. Podcast has partnered with history camp to help make this event. A success and i will provide more details as they become available so this week. I covered some of the fighting between loyalists and patriots. That took place away. From the main army's this case it was an ongoing between connecticut and pennsylvania that had been going on for well over a century over which colony controlled the wyoming valley. This was just the sort of dispute that loyalists to the conclusion that the colonies needed a king. Without a king to decide such porter disputes. They would inevitably devolve into war and mass slaughter even if everyone did not always lake judgments in london. Those judgments at least provided a conclusive and peaceful resolution to such disputes. Others of course would argue that when the privy council in london declared something that didn't always really settle the issue and fighting continued anyway but even these ongoing disputes were likely to be more muted than an all out war when the revolutionary war began. British officials tried to use these enter colonial disputes to sow division between the now states. It is probably the main reason why local panama sites in this area became loyalists. Their enemies from connecticut were patriots and they were not going to serve on the same side as their enemies. Now i have to admit i struggled to keep the two sides straight in this story because my family has lived in pennsylvania for three hundred years. And i've always thought of the pennsylvanians as supporting the patriot. Cause i well. I knew paramedics were loyalists. I kept wanting to think of them somehow in the back of my head as the good guys and the connecticut invaders as the enemy well at the same time conflicting with my bias to think of the patriots as the good guys against the loyalists. Of course try to present the facts neutrally but we all have our inherent biases in our heads. And i suppose my pro pennsylvania bias is just a holdover from when such things mattered typically in such disputes. Those who sided with the loyalists often lost their claims to those who sided with the patriots. In this case however the continental congress eventually backed pennsylvania's claims to the territory in seventeen eighty seven. There was actually a third yankee. Penna my war. That broke out in seventeen eighty four. After the revolutionary war had ended. That one did not fully resolve the dispute either. Pennsylvania attempted to resolve the fighting by recognizing some of the private land claims by connecticut settlers in seventeen eighty seven however. The disputes remained a matter of contention for many years. Following final resolution. Really wouldn't happen until seventeen ninety nine when the federal government conclusively published that the area did belong to pennsylvania and ordered reimbursement for private land claims held under connecticut claims or allowing the connecticut settlers to continue living there as pennsylvanians. There is not a good deal of reading material on this dispute. However if you want to read more my book recommendation. This week is a biography. It's called zebulon butler. Hero of the revolutionary frontier by linda. A fosler and james r williamson sabio on butler of course was the leader of the connecticut. Defenders in the events described in this episode. He was also involved in the ongoing disputes for many years. Both before and after the events. I covered today. His biography covers these events in more detail. The book came out in nineteen ninety-five. But it's pretty hard to find already. It's also less than two hundred pages and more than a third of those pages are taken up by notes and index so. It's not a huge amount of content. But it is very well researched and gives the best window. I can find into the longstanding fighting between pennsylvania and connecticut settlers in the wyoming valley. So if he can find a copy zevulon butler is worth a read. My online recommendation is an e book available on archive dot. Org called the massacre of wyoming. The acts of congress for the defence of the wyoming valley pennsylvania. Seventeen seventy six to seventeen seventy eight with petitions of the sufferers by the massacre of july third. Seventeen seventy eight for congressional aide as you can probably guess by that lengthy title. This relatively short work contains original petitions of victims and other legislative proposals regarding the massacre of these gives some good firsthand descriptions of events even if written many years later and with a bias toward receiving government assistance. The booklet was assembled from various sources for the wyoming historical and geological society in eighteen ninety five. It's an interesting resource based on the testimony of those who were there for this relatively obscure event as always you can search for the document on archive dot org or just use the direct link that have included at the bottom of the blog entry for this episode to blog dot amriyev podcast dot com for more details. Well that's offer this week. I hope you will join me again next week. For another american revolution podcast.