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To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 28 September 1779

From Major General John Sullivan

[Chemung, N.Y., 28 Sept. 1779]

Copy of a letter from Major General Sullivan to General Washington dated Chemung 28th Sepr 1779.

In mine of the 30th ultimo, I had the honor of informing your Excellency of the victory obtained over the enemy on the 29th of August, I now do myself the honor to inform you of the progress of this army, and the most material occurrences, which have since taken place. The time taken up in destroying the corn in the neighbourhood of New-Town (employing the army near two days) and there appearing a probability, that the destruction of all the crops might take a much greater length of time, than was at first apprehended, and being likewise convinced by an accurate calculation, that it would not be possible, to effect the destruction of the Indian Country, with the provision on hand, which was all I had in store; and indeed all that I had pack-horses to transport from Tioga. In this situation I could think of but one expedient, to answer the end designed by the expedition; which was, to prevail (if possible) on the soldiers, to content themselves with half a pound of flour, and the same quantity of fresh beef per day, rather than leave the important business unfinished. I therefore drew up an address to the soldiers, a copy of which I have the honor to inclose you,1 which being read, was answered by three cheers from the whole army. Not one dissenting voice was heard from either officer or soldier. I had then on hand by the best calculation I could make 22 lb. of flour and sixteen pounds of beef pr man. The former liable to many deductions—from rains—crossing rivers—and defiles &c. the latter much more so, from the almost unavoidable loss of cattle, when suffered to range the woods at night for their support. I was however encouraged in the belief, that I should be inabled, to effect the destruction and total ruin of the Indian territories by this truely noble and virtuous resolution of the army for which I know not, whether the public stand most indebted to the persuasive arguments, which the offi[c]ers began to use, or to the virtuous disposition of the Soldiers, whose immediate and cheerful compliance with the requisition, anticipated all their wishes, and rendered persuasion unnecessary.

I sent back all my heavy artillery on the night of the 30th, retaining only four brass three pounders, and a small Howitzer—Loaded the necessary amunition on horseback, and marched early on the 31st for ⟨illegible⟩ Cathrine’s Town: On our way we destroyed a small settlement of eight houses, and a Town called Konnawaughhally of about 20 houses, situated on a peninsula at the conflux of the Cayuga and Tioga branches—we also destroyed several fields of corn. From this Col. Dayton was detached with his regiment, and the Rifle corps up the Tioga, about six miles, and destroyed several large fields of corn. The army ressumed their march, and incamped within 13½ Miles of Catharine’s town, where we arrived the next day, although, we had a road to open for our artillery, and had to pass through a swamp of nine miles in extent, and almost impervious. We arrived near Cathrine’s Town in the night, and moved on with hopes to surprise it, but found it foresaken. The next morning an old woman of the Cayuga nation was found in the woods, who informed that the night after the battle of New-Town the enemy had fled all night, and arrived there in great confusion early the next day. That she heard the warriors tell their women, that they were conquered, and must fly—that they had a great many killed and vast numbers wounded. She likewise heard the lamentations of many, for the loss of their connexions. In addition to this, she assured us, that some other warriors had met Butler at this place and desired him to return and fight again. But to this request they could obtain no satisfactory answer: for as they observed Butlers mouth was closed. The warriors who had been in the action were equally averse to the proposal, and would think of nothing but flight, and the removal of their families. That they kept runners on every mountain, to observe the motions of our army who reported (early in the day on which we arrived) that our advance was very rapid, upon which all those who had not been before sent off, fled with precipitation, leaving her without any possible means of escape. She said that Brandt had taken most of the wounded up the Tioga branch in Canoes. I was from many circumstances, fully convinced of the truth, and sincerity of her declaration and the more so, as we had on the day we left New-Town, discovered a great number of bloody packs, arms and accoutrements, thrown away in the road, and in the woods on each side of it. besides which we discovered a number of recent graves—Those circumstances when added to that of so many warriors being left dead on the field (a circumstance not common with Indians) were sufficient to corroborate this womans declaration, and to prove what I before conjectured, namely, that the loss of the enemy was much greater, than was at first apprehended. I have never been able to ascertain, with any degree of certainty, what number of the enemy were opposed to us at New-Town, but from the best accounts I have been able to collect, and from the opinion of General Poor and others, who had the best opportunity of viewing their numbers, as well as from the extent of their lines, I suppose their numbers to have been near 1500—tho’ the two persons whom I believe totally ignorant of the numbers at any post except their own, as well as of the enemy’s disposition, estimate them only at 800, while they allow that 5 companies of Rangers, all the warriors of Seneca, and six other nations were collected at this place.2 In order to determine their numbers with as much accuracy as was in my power, I examined their breast-work and find the extent of it more than half a mile; several bastions ran out in its front to flank it in every part; a small block house formerly occupied as a dwelling house, was also manned in front of the line. The breast work appeared to have been fully manned, tho’ I suppose only with one rank—Some part of the work being low, they were obliged to dig holes in the ground to cover themselves in part. This circumstance enabled me to judge the distance between their men in the works. A very thin scattering line, designed only as I suppose, for communicating signals, was continued from those works, to that part of the mountain which General Poor ascended, where they had a very large body—which was designed I imagine to fall on our flank. The distance from their breast work to this place was at least one mile and a half—from thence to the hill in rear of our right, was another scattering line, of about one mile, and on the hill a breast work with a strong party, destined, it is supposed, to fall on our rear. But general Clinton being ordered so far to the right, occasioned his flank to pass over this mountain, which obliged them, to abandon this post—From those circumstances, as well as from the opinion of others, I cannot conceive their numbers to have been less, than what I have before mentioned. The army spent one day at Catherine’s in destroying the corn, and fruit trees. We burnt the Town which consisted of about 30 houses, and the next day encamped near a small scattering settlement of about 8 houses; and in two days after reached Kandahee, which we also found deserted—Here one of the inhabitants of Wyoming, who was captured last year by the enemy, escaped from them, and joined us. He informed that the enemy had left the Town in the greatest confusion, three days before our arrival. He said he conversed with some of the tories, on their return from the action at Newto[w]n who assured him they had great numbers killed and wounded, and there was no safety but in flight. He heard Butler tell them, they must try to make a stand at Konadasagea—but they declared they would not throw away their lives in a vain attempt to oppose such an army. He also heard many of the Indian women lamenting the loss of their connexions, and added that Brandt had taken most of the wounded in water-craft (up the Tioga) which had been provided to answer that purpose in case of necessity. It was his opinion the King of Konadasagea was killed as he saw him go down, but not return; and gave a description of his person and dress, which exactly corresponded with one found on the field of action. This Town of Konadahee consisted of 20 houses, very neatly built and finished, which we reduced to ashes; and the army spent near a day in destroying the corn and fruit trees, of which there was great abundance; many of the trees appeared to be of great age. The next day we crossed the outlet of the Seneca Lake, and moved in three divisions, through the wood to encircle Konadasagea, but found it likewise abandoned. A white child of about three years old (doubtless the offspring of some unhappy captive) was found here, and carried on with the Army—A detachment of 400 Men was sent down the West side of Seneca lake to destroy Gothseunqueau and the plantations in that quarter.3 at the same time, a number of Volunteers under Colonel Harper went ten Miles towards Cayuga Lake and destroyed Schoyese, and the residue of the Army was employed in destroying the Corn at Kanasedagea, of which, there was a large quantity.4 This town consisted of 50 Houses and was very pleasantly situated, in it we found a great number of fruit trees, which were destroyed with the town. The Army then moved on, and in two days, arrived at Kanandaique, and were joined on the Road by the detachment sent on the West side of Seneca lake, it having been almost two days employed in destroying the Crops and settlements there—At Kanandaique we found 23 very elegant Houses, mostly framed, and in general very large. We also found very extensive feilds of Corn, which having destroyed we marched to Honyaye, a small town of ten Houses which we also destroyed (leaving a strong Garrison, our heavy stores and one feild peice) and proceeded to Chenessee,5 which the prisoners informed me was the grand Capital of the Indian Country: That Indians of all nations had been planting there this Spring, and that all the Rangers and some British had been employed in assisting them, that they might raise supplies sufficient to support them while destroying our frontiers. That they had themselves worked three Weeks for the Indians in planting. This determined me at all events to reach that settlement, tho’ the State of my provisions (much reduced by unavoidable accidents) almost forbad the attempt. My flour had been much reduced by the failure of pack Horses; passing Creeks and defiles, and 27 of the Cattle had been unavoidably lost. We however marched on for the Chenessee Town, and the second day reached a town of 25 Houses called Kanegsaus—Here we found some large Corn feilds which a part of the army destroyed, while another part was employed in building a Bridge over an unfordable Creek between that and Chenessee.6 I had the preceding evening ordered out an Officer with three or four Riflemen, one of our Guides and an Oneida Cheif,7 to reconnoitre the Chenessee town, that we might if possible surprise it. Lieut. Boyd of the Rifle Corps8 was the officer intrusted who took with him twenty three Men, who turned out as Volunteers from the Corps and a few from Colo. Butlers Regt making in the whole 26, a much larger number than I had thoughts of sending, and by no means so likely to answer the purpose as that which was at first directed. The guides, who were by no means acquainted with the Country, mistook the Road in the night, and at day break fell in with a Castle six Miles higher up the River than Chenessee, inhabited by a tribe called Squattchakaws—here they saw a few Indians and killed and scalped two—the rest fled—Two runners were immediately dispatched to me with the account and informed that the party was on its return. When the Bridge was almost compleated, some of them came in and informed that Lieut. Boyd and most of his party were surrounded by the enemy—that the Indians had been discovering themselves before him for some miles—that his Men had killed two and were eagerly pursuing the rest, but soon found themselves almost surrounded by 3 or 400 Indians and Rangers—Those of Mr Boyds Men who were sent to secure his flanks fortunately made their escape, but he with fourteen of his Men and the Oneida Cheif being in the Centre, were compleatly incircled. All the light troops of the Army, and the flanking divisions were immediately detached to their releif, but arrived too late. The enemy had destroyed the party and escaped. It appeared that our Men had taken to a small Grove of trees, the ground around it being clear on every side for several Rods, and there fought till Mr Boyd was shot thro’ the Body, and every man killed but one, who with his wounded Commander were made prisoners.9 The firing was so close, before this brave party was destroyed, that the powder of the enemy’s Musquetts was driven into their flesh. In this conflict, the enemy must have suffered greatly, as they had no cover and our Men were possessed of a very advantagious one. This advantage of Ground—the obstinate bravery of the party—with some other circumstances induce me to beleive their loss must have been very considerable. They were so long employed in taking away and secreting their dead, that the advancing of General Hands party obliged them to leave one of them along side of the Rifle Men—and at least a Waggon load of packs—Blankets—Hats and provisions, which they had thrown off to enable them to act with more agility in the feild, most of them appeared to appertain to the Rangers. Another Reason which induces me to suppose they suffered much was the unparalled tortures which they inflicted upon the brave unfortunate Boyd, whose Body, with that of his unfortunate companion we found at Chenessee. It appeared that they had whipped them in the most cruel manner, pulled out the Nails of Mr Boyd, cut off his nose, plucked out one of his Eyes—cut out his tongue, stabbed him with spears in sundry places, and inflicted other tortures which decency will not permit me to mention—then cut off his head and left his Body on the Ground with that of his unfortunate Companion who appears to have experienced the same savage Barbarity. The party which Mr Boyd seems to have fallen in with, was commanded by Colonel Butler, and had been posted in an advantagious peice of Ground in order to fire upon our Army when advancing, but found their design frustrated by the appearance of this party in their Rear. The Army moved in that day to the Castle last mentioned and which consist⟨ed⟩ of 25 Houses, and had very extensive feilds of Corn, which being destroyed we moved on the next day to the Chenessee Town crossing in our Route a deep Creek and the little Seneca River10 and in marching six Miles we reached the Castle, which consisted of 128 Houses mostly very large and elegant. The town is beautifully situated—almost incircled with a clear flat, which extends for a number of Miles, on which were the most extensive feilds of Corn, and every kind of Vegetable, that can be conceived. The whole Army was immediately engaged in destroying the Crops—The Corn was gathered and burnt in Houses and in Kilns, that the Enemy might not reap the least advantage from it, which method we have pursued in every other place—Here a Woman came to us who had been captured at Wyoming. She informed us that the Enemy had evacuated the town two days before—that Butler at the same time went off with 300 or 400 Indians and Rangers, as he said, to get a shot at our Army. This was undoubtedly the party which cut off Lt Boyd. She mentioned that they kept Runners constantly out, and, when our Army was in motion, the intelligence was communicated by a Yell, immediately on which, the greatest terror and confusion apparently took place among them. She said that the Women were constantly begging the Warriors to sue for peace, and, that one of the Indians had attempted to shoot Colo. Johnson, for the falsehoods, by which he had deceived and ruined them—that she overheard Butler telling Johnston that it was impossible, to keep the Indians together, after the Battle of Newtown—that he thought they must soon be in a miserable situation, as all their Crops would be destroyed, and that Canada could not supply them with provisions at Niagara—that he would endeavour to collect the Warriors to assist in the defence of that Fort, which, he was of opinion, the Army would lay seige to, and the Women and Children he would send into Canada—After having destroyed this town beyond which I was informed there was no settlement, and destroyed all their Houses and Crops in that quarter—the Army having been advancing seventeen days with the supply of provisions before mentioned, and that much reduced on the march by accident—and the Cayuga Country being as yet unpenetrated, I thought it necessary to return as soon as possible in order to effect the destruction of the settlements in that quarter. The Army therefore began its march for Kanadasago the 18th day from its leaving Newtown. At Canadasago I was met by a sachem from Oneida and three Warriors, one of whom I had sent from Catharine’s with a letter, a Copy of which I have the honor to enclose Your Excellency.11 They delivered me a Message from the Warriors of that Nation, respecting the Cayugas—Copies of that and my Answer I likewise inclose12—From this place I detached Colo. Smith with a party down the west side of Seneca Lake to dest[r]oy the Corn which had been cut down, and to destroy any thing further, which might be discovered there—I then detached Col. Gansevoort with 100 Men to albany to forward the baggage of the York regiments to the main army, & to take with him such Soldiers as were at that place—I directed him to destroy the lower mohawk Castle in his route, and capture the Inhabitants, consisting only of Six or seven families who are constantly employed in giving intelligence to the enemy, and in supporting their scouting parties, when making incursions on our frontiers.13 When the Mohawks joined the Enemy, those few families were undoubtedly left, to answer those purposes; and to keep possession of their Lands. The upper Castle now inhabited by Orescoes, our Friends, he was directed not [to] disturb. With him, I sent Mr Dean, who bore my answer to the Oneidas. I then detached Col. Butler with 600 men to destroy the Cayuga Country, and with him, sent all the Indian Warriors, who said, if they could find the Cayugas, they would endeavour to persuade them to deliver themselves up as prisoners. The chief of them called Pigathlawance being a near relation to the Sachem. I then crossed the Seneca river, & detached Col. Dearborne to the West side of the Cayuga Lake, to destroy all the settlements which might be found there and to intercept the Cayugas if they attempted to escape Colonel Butler, the residue of the army passing on between the Lakes towards Catherines. Col. Dearborne burnt in his route six Towns including one which had been before partly destroyed by a small party—destroying at the same time large quantity’s of Corn—He took an Indian lad and 3 Women prisoners—one of the Women being very antient and the lad a cripple, He left them and brought on the other two, and joined the army on the evening of the 26th Col. Cortland was then detached with 500 Men up the Tioga branch to seek for settlements in that quarter and in the space of two days destroyed several fields of corn & burnt several houses—Col. Butler joined the army on the 28th whereby a compleat junction was formed at Canaughwallahalley on the 29th day after our leaving New Town, here we were met by a plenty of Provisions from Tioga which I had previously directed to be sent on—Col. Butler destroyed in the Cayuga Country five principal Towns and a number of scattering Towns, the whole making about 100 in number exceedingly large & well built—He also destroyed 200 Acres of excellent corn with a number of orchards one of which had in it 1500 fruit Trees—another Indian settlement was discovered near new Town (by a party) consisting of 39 new houses which was also destroyed. The number of Towns destroyed by this army amounts to 40 besides scattering houses—the quantity of Corn destroyed at a moderate computation must amount to 160,000 Bushls with a vast quantity of vegetables of every kind—Every creek & river has been traced and the whole Country explored in search of Indian settlements, & I am persuaded except one Town situated near the allegany about 57 Miles from Chenessee—there is not a single Town left in the Country of the five nations—It is with pleasure I inform your Excellency that this army has not suffered the loss of 40 men in action or otherwise since my taking the command, tho’ perhaps few Troops have experienced a more fatigueing Campaign—Besides the difficulties which naturally attend marching through an Enemy’s Country abounding in Woods, Creeks, rivers mountains, Morasses and defiles, we found no small inconvenience from the want of proper Guides, and the maps of the Country are so exceedingly erroneous that they serve not to enlighten but to perplex. We had not a single person who was sufficiently acquainted with the Country to conduct a party out of the Indian path by day or scarcely in it by night though they were the best I could possibly procure—Their ignora[n]ce doubtless arose from the Indians ever having taken the best measures in their power to prevent their Countrys being explored—We had much labor in clearing out roads for the artillery notwithstanding which, the army moved from 12 to 16 miles every day, when not detained by rains, or employed in destroying settlements—I feel my self much indebted to the Officers of every rank for their unparalled exertions, and to the Soldiers for the unshaken firmness, with which they endured the toils and difficulties attending the expedition. Though I had it not in command, I should have ventured to have paid Niagara a visit, had I been supplied with fifteen days provision, in addition to what I had, which I am persuaded from the bravery & ardor of our Troops, would have fallen into our hands. I forgot to mention that The Oneida Sachem requested me to grant them liberty to hunt in the Country of the five nations, as they would never think of setling again in a country, once subdued, and where, their settlements must ever be in our power. I in answer informed him, that I had no authority to grant such a licence, that I could not at present see reason to object to it, but advised them to make application to Congress, who I believed would in consideration of their friendly conduct grant them every advantage of this kind that would not interfere with our settlement of the Country, which I believed would soon take place. The oneidas say, that as no Indians were discovered by Col. Butler at Cayuga, they are of opinion they are gone to their Castle,14 and, that their chiefs will persuade them, to come in and surrender themselves on the terms I have proposed—The army began its march from Connawallahalley yesterday, arrived here last evening—will be at Tioga this night; after giving them time to refresh, I shall move with all possible expedition to join the main army leaving a Garrison at Wyoming. Your Excellency will please to excuse the length of this letter, as, I thought best, to give you a particular account of the progress of this army, since its leaving Newtown—I flatter myself, that the orders with which your Excellency was pleased to honor me, are fully executed, & I hope, that the manner of carrying them into execution, will meet with the approbation of your Excellency and that of Congress15—I trust, that the steps I have taken with respect to the Oneidas, Cayugas & mohawks will prove satisfactory. The promise made to the Soldiers in my address at New Town, I hope will be deemed reasonable, & flatter myself Congress will order its due performance16—I have the honor to be with the most lively sentiments of esteem & respect Dr General Yr Excellency’s Obet hum. Servt

Jno. Sullivan

P.s. Since I left Tioga I have been honored with your Excellency’s favors of the 15th and 24th of August also those of the 3d & 15th insts. which I should have acknowledged the receipt of had not my ill state of health which has continued through the campaign and the constant fatigue and the difficulty of forwarding Expresses prevented—that of the 15th inst. reached me the 26th—I am happy to find that your wishes therein expressed were anticipated as there is not at this time even the appearance of an Indian on this side the Chenessee and I believe there is not one on this side Niaga, nor is there any kind of sustenance left for them in this Country.


Copy, in the writing of James McHenry, Tench Tilghman, and Richard Kidder Meade, enclosed in GW to Samuel Huntington, 9 Oct., DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.

1The undated copy of Sullivan’s address to his army reads: “The Commander in Chief informs the troops that he used every effort to procure proper supplies for the army and to obtain a sufficient number of horses to transport them, but owing to the inattention of those, whose business it was to make the necessary provisions, he failed of obtaining such an ample supply as he wished; and greatly fears, the supplies on hand, will not without the greatest prudence enable him to compleat the business of the expedition. He therefore requests the several Brigadiers and officers commanding corps, to take the minds of the troops under the respective commands, whether they will (while in this country which abounds in corn and every kind of vegetable) be content to draw half a pound of flour and half a pound of meat and half allowance of salt per day. And he desires the troops to give their opinion upon the proposal, with freedom and as soon as possible. Should they generally fall in with the proposal, he promises, that they shall be paid for that part of the rations which is held back at the full value in money. He flatters himself that troops who have discoverd so much bravery and firmness, will freely consent to a measure so assentially necessary to accomplish the important purposes of this expedition and to enable them to add to those laurels they have already gained. The enemy have subsisted a number of days on corn, without either salt, bread⟨,⟩ meat or flour and the General cannot persuade himself that troops, who so far surpass them in valour and true bravery will suffer themselves to be outdone in that fortitude and perseverance which not only distinguishes but dignifies the soldier. He dose not mean to continue this, through the campaign, but wishes it only to be adopted in those places, where vegetables may supply the place of part of the common rations of meat and flour and he thinks with a plenty of vegetables, half a common ration of meat and flour, will be much better, than the whole without any. The troops will please to consider the matter and give thier opinion as soon as possible” (DNA: PCC, item 152).

2Writing from Catherine’s Town, N.Y., on 31 Aug., Maj. John Butler, the British commander at the Battle of Newtown, reported to Lt. Col. Mason Bolton, commandant at Niagara, N.Y., that the number of British, Loyalists, and Indians in his force at Newtown, N.Y., “did not exceed 600 men.” After describing his retreat from Newtown, Butler commented, regarding Sullivan’s army, “They move with the greatest caution and regularity and are more formidable than you seem to apprehend.” Unless he was speedily reinforced, Butler argued, the consequences of the Battle of Newtown and the continued advance of Sullivan’s army would be “of the most serious nature” and the Indian families whose villages and crops were being destroyed would be “flocking into Niagara to be supported and you know the quantity of provisions that this will consume.” In a postscript dated 2 Sept. “12 miles from Shechquago [Catherine’s Town],” Butler informed Bolton, “The rebels are advancing very rapidly and are now at Shechquago and above one-half of my men are sick and unfit for service” (Davies, Documents of the American Revolution, description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends 17:197–99).

3Sullivan is referring to the Seneca village of Kashong, N.Y., located about ten miles south of the outlet of Seneca Lake.

4John Harper (1734–1811), of Tryon County, N.Y., commanded a volunteer corps of militia attached to Brig. Gen. James Clinton’s brigade. In July 1777, he was named captain of a company of rangers raised in Tryon county for the protection of the frontier. In March 1780, he was appointed colonel of a regiment of Tryon County militia. He also served as lieutenant colonel commandant of a regiment of state levies on active service from May to November 1780.

The Seneca village of Skoiyase, N.Y., was located on the southern branch of the Seneca River about midway between the outlets of Seneca and Cayuga Lakes at the site of present-day Waterloo in Seneca County, New York.

5Sullivan is referring to Geneseo (Chenussio), New York.

6The creek probably was Canaseraga Creek, which rises near Dansville, N.Y., and flows generally northwest until it flows into the Genesee River near present-day Mount Morris, New York.

7The Oneida war chief was Lt. Han Yost Thahoswagwat (d. 1779), who, with several other Oneida warriors, had joined the expedition at Tioga, Pa., shortly before the troops had begun their march north. Han Yost Thahoswagwat had distinguished himself in the fighting around Fort Schuyler in August 1777 and had probably participated in the Saratoga campaign. In June 1779, he had received a lieutenant’s commission—one of only twelve commissions Congress had authorized the Commissioners of Indian Affairs in the Northern Department to issue to “faithful Chiefs” of the Oneida and Tuscarora (see John Jay to GW, 7 April, and n.2 to that document; see also JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 14:733). Han Yost Thahoswagwat was killed in the ambush of the scouting party.

8Thomas Boyd (d. 1779) was the lieutenant of the rifle corps formerly commanded by Col. Daniel Morgan. At this time, the corps was a unit of two companies commanded by Maj. James Parr.

9The other soldier was Sergeant Michael Parker (d. 1779), described as a “rifleman” and probably from Parr’s Corps or the Independent Rifle Company commanded by Capt. Anthony Selin.

10Sullivan is referring to the Genesee River.

11The undated copy of a letter from Sullivan to “The Warriors of the Oneida Nation” reads: “The Enemies of the United States and of your nation have often threatned to destroy you, and you have called upon us for assistance. You have said that our Arm was long and strong, and therefore called upon us for that protection which we ever wish to afford to our Brethren Friends & Allies; and you have promissed to join us in our operations. The grand American Congress have thought proper to send a powerful Army into this Count[r]y, for the purpose of totally destroying the Enemies to your peace, and have thought proper to intrust me with the Command of the Army, and the execution of their orders. It is with no small degree of surprise that I find only four of your Warriors have joind me, tho I have far advanced into the Enemies Country, and those totally unacquainted with every part of the Country through which I have yet passed. I would not wish to suspect your declarations of friendship to the American States, nor am I under the least necessity to aske your aid as Warriors, but as your immediately joining of my force is the best evidence you can give of the sincerity of your profession, I shall expect shortly to be joined by those of your People who are friendly to the American Cause, and particularly by such who have a perfect knowledge of the Country through which I am to pass. Unless this is complyed with I shall be compelled to think that the Chief of your Warriors (if not really unfriendly to us) are very inattentive to their own Interest and safety, as well as indifferent with respect to the interest of the United States. Should you by joining with me, giving me the necessary information and affording me every assistance in your power give evidence of that attachment to the American Cause, which I ever have, and now do believe you to possess, the Army which I have the honor to command will be able totally to exterpate our common Enemy, and leave you in a perfect state of tranquility; enable you to enjoy your possessions and carry on with the Americans a commerce which will tend to the mutual advantage of both. The Bearer of this Letter Oneigat will inform you particularly of my progress this far” (DNA:PCC, item 152).

12The undated copy of a letter adressed to the “Chief Warriors of the Western Army” reads: “Some time ago you sent me to Oneida with a message to the Warriors, of that Tribe, and directed me, to give them an account of the Battle you had with Butlers party near New Town. Brothers I have faithfully executed your orders, as will appear from what took place, on my arrival at Oneida A Councel was immediately call’d and your written Speech publickly deliverd The Warriors expresed great joy, both, on account of your success and the opportunity now given them, to testify thier friendship to the American Cause. Seventy of the Oneida Warriors set out with me, to join your Army agreeable to your desire, Thirty more were to have followed the next day near Onandaga, We met our Brother Kanauagha on his return from your Army which, He said, He left at Kanasadaga, This Brother informd us, that you said, they were too late, they should have met you at Konadasaga that you had Men enough, and did not want them unless some good Guides. The Party then returnd though with reluctance. Our Chief Warriors then deliverd the following speech, to which, I beg your attention. Brothers We have been inform’d by our Brothers of Kanawagha, that you was dispos’d to shew clemency to the Cayugas and had des[i]red him to direct them to repair to Oneida should he meet with any of that Tribe on his way from your Army. We are glad you manifest such a disposition, and are willing, to make peace with them. We will assist you, and the rather, as we know there is a party of the Cayuga Tribe who have ever wished, to be at peace with their American Brethren. We will endeavour to find them, as we are confidant they are not fled with the Enemy but suppose them, to be some whe[re] conceald in the Country—we therefore request that you would not for the present destroy their Corn Feilds. as we cannot furnish them with provisions, should we be able to find them, and bring them to our Town. having already so many of the Onandagas to support. Tega Herommwanie who is at the head of the party is disposd for Peace, and has deliverd up four prisoners on General Schuylers proposal for an Exchange. three more who are sick, He will give up as soon as they recover their Health. He had declared he never would set his Face towards Neagara, but on the approach of the American Army betake himself to the Woods where they might send him if he did not make his way down to the Oneidas. Brothers, this is all we have to say.”

The undated copy of Sullivan’s letter to the warriors of the Oneida Nation reads: “I have heard your speech and attended to the message you have delivered from our Brethren the Warriors of Oneida Nation, and I not only am, but the americans at large are fully sensible of the friendship and attachment of our Oneida Brethren; Their regular and uniform conduct from the commencement of the War, has fully evinced it, and had a single doubt remained in my mind of their sincerity, your appearance and the movement of your Warriors to join me (until turned back by a mistaken report) must have removed it. I cannot help expressing the high sense I have of the zeal and Soldierly conduct of our Brother Blue Blek who bore my message to the Oneidas, and who on several occasions has proved himself the faithful friend and the brave Warrior, nor, can I forbear expressing in a particular manner, the grateful sense I entertain, of the Zeal You our Brother Warriors have discovered, in joining this Army. The request made by the Oneida Warriors, in favour of the Cayugas, for the preservation of their Crops, is not only new, but very surprising, and the more so, as it is said to be in behalf of the friendly Cayugas—I can venture to assert in behalf of the United States, that there is not a single instance, in which the Cayuga nation have manifested a friendship for the americans. Early in the controversy, between great Britain and these States, the Americans requested the Six Nations, not to intermeddle in the dispute in which they all at that time apparently acquiesced—thus while they lulled the Americans to sleep, by those peaceful professions, they all (except the Oneidas with whom I include the friendly Tuscaroras and Onondagas who have joined them) were making preparations to fall upon our frontiers, rendered defenceless, by the fallacious promises of those unpardonable miscreants. I am sorry to say that the Cayugas were far from being inactive in this deception, or in the horrid cruelties, which afterwards followed. The resentment of the grand American Congress, being at length roused by the treacherous and barbarous conduct, they raised a powerful army, and honored me with the command, They likewise entrusted the great Warrior The American Chief, to direct me, totally to extirpate all the unfriendly nations, of the Indians—to subdue their Country, destroy their Crops, and drive them, to seek habitations, where they would be less troublesome to us, and our Allies—While the great preparations were making for this expedition, Our Friends & Allies the Oneidas followed that regular and friendly conduct, which has distinguished them, from the commencement of the War. But the Cayugas on the contrary, were furnishing their pretended friend Butler, with all the Warrior’s they could possibly spare, and, while there remained even a possibility of Butler and his associates proving successfull, they not only neglected to make overtures of peace to us, but gave them every assistance in their power. When they found our Army had proved victorious, that the Enemy were flying like timid Women before it, and, that we were spreading desolation even to the extremity of the Country, then, and not before, did those Cayugas begin, to profess their friendship for us, and perhaps, solicit the interest of the Oneidas to save their Country—If their friendship was sincere why did they not like the Oneidas declare it in season and act accordingly? Brothers, be not deceived! They were in great hopes that the forces of Britain with their assistance and that of the other unfriendly nations, would be able to defeat the American Army; and had this event taken place, you may be assured, that the professions of friendship, which they now make, would not then have been expressed, and that their language would have been that of insult and derision. I cannot therefore, pay any regard to their pretentions of neutrality, for, had they not been unfriendly as a nation they would have discouraged and prevented their Warriors, from joining our Enemy’s, nor can I admit the excuse from those who now solicit for peace and say, they have not been personally engaged against us—your own reason must suggest the contrary. Should a part of the American’s Arm themselves, and attack the Oneidas, the honor, the faith & the dignity of America would compel us, to declare them our Enemy’s and treat them accordingly, for it would be a poor excuse for us to alledge, that they acted without our approbation, while we declined declaring them our Enemy’s, chastising them as such, and banishing them [from] our society, This as well as every other evidence of a pacific disposition, they have neglected to give, I must therefore, consider them as Enemies to the United States and chastise them accordingly—And should our Oneida Brethren co[u]ntenance or conceal them, I shall deem [it] a departure from that line of conduct, which they have hitherto, and will I hope in future continue to observe—Brothers, I am sorry to inform you, that the message said to be delivered by our Conawaga Brother is without foundation, for I never spoke to him on the subject, Your safety as our allies and that of our frontiers require that we should expel from this Country all your and our Enemy’s. And I am bound to perform the business. I can only advise, that those Cayugas who would wish to [be] thought friendly, may come in with their families, and submit themselves to the directions of Congress, This will save the effusion of blood, prevent your being distressed for their support, and perhaps be the means of their being incorporated with your Nation; and in future be considered with you as our Brethren, Friends and Allies, But should they neglect this advice, they may be assured, that the great Congress will take effectual measures, to prevent them as they surely will the other unfriendly Nations, from reoccupying any part of the Country, which this army has conquered. Brothers, this is all that I as a Warrior can say to you as Warriors of the Oneida Nation—Should there be any national request from our Oneida Brethren, it will be best for their chiefs to make it to the grand American Congress, who will doubtless do every thing they can consistently to contribute to their safety and convenience” (both DNA:PCC, item 152).

13The Mohawk settlement at Fort Hunter, N.Y. (also known as Tiononderoga), about 20 miles west of Schenectady on the Mohawk River, was often called the “Lower Castle.” For the trouble that later resulted from these orders, see Peter Gansevoort to GW, 8 Oct.; GW to Philip Schuyler, 12 Oct.; and GW to Gansevoort, 25 Oct. (NN: Gansevoort-Lancing Collection).

14Sullivan is probably referring to Old Oneida, sometimes referred to as the “Old Oneida Castle,” located about ten miles southeast of the eastern side of Oneida Lake.

15For GW’s expedition orders to Sullivan, see GW to Sullivan, 31 May (first letter).

16Sullivan made a similar request in his 30 Sept. letter to Congress (see Hammond, Sullivan Papers, description begins Otis G. Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army. 3 vols. Concord, 1930-39. In Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vols. 13–15. description ends 3:123–137); Congress read his letter on 5 Oct. and referred it to the Board of War but seems to have taken no further action (see JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 15:1146 and 15:1161).

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