The Wyoming Massacre

Near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 1778

http://www.acba.org/ACBA/pdf/TLJ/TLJv14-3-021012.pdf

see page 4 of the link above for a nice article 

but note that the exhibit is now online only

 

 

 

The Paintings:

The paintings that follow depict events in the Wyoming Valley from the autumn of 1777 to early spring of 1780, including the Battle of Wyoming and the Wyoming Massacre, but excluding Sullivan’s march. They are drawn from early writings about life in what is now northeastern Pennsylvania, but was then Westmoreland County, Connecticut. The first painting shows the Tory men in Tunkhannock, now Wyoming County, being rounded up by one of Washington’s Committees of Inspection and marched off to Connecticut prisons. The last one, a year and a half later, shows Hammond and the Bennetts escaping their captors.

Background:

In 1629 King Charles II of England gave Connecticut the land between the 41st and 42nd parallels of latitude and west to the “south sea.” In 1681 he gave the same parallels west of the Delaware River to William Penn. So this land was claimed by both states, by Connecticut, as its western reserve, and by Pennsylvania. To perfect its claim, a state had to have a charter from the king, purchase the land from the Indians, and its citizens had to establish possession. Both states formed land companies. The land companies sold land to people in their respective states who wished to settle on the land. The same land was, therefore, sold to different people. The result was the two Yankee-Pennamite Wars, one before, and one after, the Decree of Trenton in 1782. The Indians first sold the Wyoming Valley to Connecticut, and later, to Pennsylvania. One can surmise that they intended to eventually take it back by force. This opportunity came in the fall of 1777. Ref. 6, pp. 62-71.

Because the Tory men in Tunkhannock had been sent to jail, their property confiscated, and their families left destitute in the street, the British and other Tories were motivated to attack. They met with the Indians at Niagara in the winter of 1777 and made plans to take back the Wyoming Valley. They invaded in late June, 1778. The Battle of Wyoming was July 3, 1778 and the Wyoming Massacre was the same night. A surrender agreement was drafted to be signed the following day. Its terms were honorable, but largely ignored. The Indians plundered and burned houses and farms. The colonists who survived fled, some through the Dismal Swamp, some on the river, and a few on horseback.

The Aftermath:

The American army in the Wyoming Valley was successful when it initiated small raids into Indian territory without waiting to be attacked. General Washington thought a larger attack might be successful as well. After the disastrous battle and massacre, Washington ordered total reconnaissance of the Indian villages and crops. In the late summer of 1779 the American army invaded Iroquois territory, with General Sullivan who commanded Generals Maxwell, Hand, and Poor. They took 3500 men, 2000 pack horses on land, as well as boats on the river. The Indians fled to Niagara as the American army obliterated their homes and crops. The soldiers, by their own estimate, chopped down over 150,000 peach trees and burned over 160,000 bushels of corn. Sullivan’s march was retaliation for the Wyoming (PA) and Cherry Valley (NY) massacres. Col. Adam Hubley, wrote in his journal during the expedition, that the army’s success, in spite of being poorly supplied, would change the politics of that time and that posterity would enjoy its good effects and advantages. Ref. 6, 259-275, Appendix, pp. 81-104

 

1. The Committee of Inspection Rounds Up the Tories in Tunkhannock

According to the Tory, Richard McGinnis, the Wyoming Battle and Massacre were retribution for the Americans having rounded up and sent the Tory men from Tunkhannock, Wyoming Co., PA, to Connecticut prisons, and leaving their families homeless. Ref. 1, p. 1007.

“Several persons who were suspected of Tory sentiments had been arrested and sent to Connecticut by the Committees of Inspection and in the autumn of this year [1777] several scouting parties were sent by the same committee up the river and between thirty and forty Tories were arrested, some of them taken with arms in their hands. A conspiracy among them to bring the Tioga Indians on the settlement was broken up by the arrest of these Tories.” Ref. 2, pp. 50-52.

“The most suspicious....were arrested and sent to Connecticut.” Ref. 3, p. 350.

 

2. Spies Come to the Wyoming Valley

 

“Two Indians, formerly residents of Wyoming [PA], and acquainted with the people, came down with their squaws on a visit, professing warm friendship. Suspicions existed that they were spies, and directions were given that they should be carefully watched. An old companion of one of them, with more than Indian cunning, professing his attachment to the natives, gave his visitor drink after drink of his favorite rum, when, in confidence, and the fullness of his maudlin heart, he avowed that his people were preparing to cut off the settlement, the attack to be made soon, and that they had come down to see and report how things were. The squaws were dismissed, but the two Indians [were] arrested, and confined in Forty Fort. ” Ref. 6, p. 214.

3. An Indian Kills William Crooks

Elisha Harding wrote to the Hon. Charles Miner: “William Crooks and Asa Budd went up the [Susquehanna] river to what was called the Secord place....They stopped at the house to stay all night, Secord [a Tory] having gone to the enemy. Budd went up the river to hunt for [duck] down by firelight, [about] two miles. When near the house he discovered people fording the river below. He put out his light and ran ashore and told Crooks who ran out of the house but forgetting his ammunition turned back and on his return met the Indian at the door who killed him. It was the first blood shed in the settlement. ” Ref. 5, p. 88.

 

4. The Indians Prepare to Attack

“Among the particulars connected with the Wyoming expedition, Mrs. Whittaker (a captive) states that before embarking in their war canoes for that ill-fated place, the Indians streaked their faces with a yellowish red paint, varied with black. When fully ready, they stood up in their canoes and sang war songs. She recollects distinctly to have heard of the ceremony of sacrificing the white dog, and thinks it was performed both before and after the Wyoming battle.” Ref. 7, p. 672.

“A dog was hung up, with a string of wampum round his neck, on a tree, curiously trimmed....It was a custom among the savages before they went to war to offer this as a sacrifice to....the god of war, and praying that he might strengthen them.” Ref. 6, Appendix, p. 98.

5. The Invasion Begins

“The Senecas were the nation principally concerned in the expedition although detachments from the Mohawks, and other tribes, accompanied them. While the enemy were concentrating at their rendezvous, a delegation of Seneca chiefs, daringly presuming on the stolidity of Congress, repaired to Philadelphia, ostensibly to negotiate, really to amuse, put off their guard, and prevent any troops being sent to the threatened frontier....The enemy numbering about four hundred British provincials, consisting of [British] Col. John Butler’s Rangers, a detachment of Sir John Johnson’s Royal Greens, the rest being Tories from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, together with 600 to 700 Indians having descended the Susquehanna from Tioga Point, landed not far below the mouth of Bowman’s Creek, on the west side of the river, in a north direction, about twenty miles from the valley.” Ref. 6, pp. 215-216.

“During May and June, the forces of the expedition were gathered together. Canoes were collected from the villages on the Chemung and on the Susquehanna, as far north as Oghwaga and Unadilla, and finally when sufficient supplies and equipment had been obtained, the force, numbering between 500 and 700 fighting men together with a large number of squaws and hangers-on, embarked in their canoes near Queen Esther’s village on June 27, 1778, and floated down the Susquehanna. Some of the Rangers and Indians may have been mounted and these followed the Indian trail down the river and past Wyalusing....They left their canoes at Three Islands [and] took up a line of march through a ravine which runs through the mountain….First there were the companies of Rangers armed with English

muskets and well dressed in uniforms of green, trimmed with scarlet. These were followed by the savage Senecas, painted for the grim work of war and gaily attired in their blankets of many colors.” Ref. 8, p. 139.

“They left the large boats [at the rendezvous point] and passed with the smaller ones down to the “Three Islands” fifteen miles above the valley.” Ref. 2, p. 52.

“[Queen Esther] wore a necklace of pure white beads, from which was suspended a cross of stone or silver [affording] a fair presumption that....[her early life]....was under Jesuit auspices.” Ref. 7, Part V, p. 671.

 

 

6. John Hadsell Saves Himself

“As the young men came off [Monockasy Island where they had been hoeing corn] one was shot down and another taken prisoner. Strange to tell, the younger son, John, stopped to tie the canoe and hearing the [gun] fire jumped into the river and saved himself under the willows which hung over the river. He finally escaped although the Indians searched for him back and forth in the canoe but did not discover him. He lay [there] until late in the evening and went to the fort.” Ref. 5, p. 89.

“....John Hadsall ran to the river and hid himself in the water near a large log. While there, one of the warriors came to the bank of the river searching for him and ran out on the log to which he was holding, but did not discover the lad who was screened by some brush and reeds.” Ref. 8, p. 140.

“[He*]....lay under the willows, his mouth just above the surface....Knowing he was near, the Indians searched carefully for him. At one time they were so close that he could have touched them.” Ref. 6, p. 217. *Charles Miner writes that the boy was John Harding, but other sources, including The Hardings in America, by Amy DeWitt Harding, are convincing when they identify the boy as John Hadsell (various spellings).

7. The Yankees March Out to Meet the Enemy

“About four in the afternoon the battle began....For half an hour a hot fire had been given and sustained, when the vastly superior numbers of the enemy began to develop its power. The Indians had thrown into the swamp a large force, which now completely outflanked our left....Some had mistaken an order to fall back as one to retreat.....Utter confusion now prevailed on the left. ... [American] Col. Z. Butler threw himself between the fires of opposing ranks, and rode up and down the line in the most reckless exposure.....But it was too late.” Ref. 6, p. 223.

“When the British [Maj. John] Butler observed the Americans were forming in line of battle, he fired Fort Wintermute and ordered Fort Jenkins burned. The heavy black smoke....inspired the Americans with the belief that the British were retreating....With the colors, a homemade flag of stars and stripes, floating at their head, and the drummer boys beating a quick advance, the thin and feeble line moved quickly through the woods…. [Zebulon] Butler, having removed his uniform, and the insignia of his rank, and with only a black handkerchief tied around his head to distinguish him, took a position in the ranks of the Rangers and coolly awaited the conflict.” Ref. 8, pp. 148-149.

 

8. Richard Inman Saves Rufus Bennett

“[American] Col. [Zebulon] Butler was accompanied by a number of men, among them Rufus Bennett, who, becoming exhausted, to assist him in his flight, grasped the tail of Butler’s horse. They were pursued by a band of savages, one of whom was gaining on Bennett, at the tail of Butler’s horse. All this commotion aroused Richard Inman, who, having indulged in too much whiskey, had dropped out of the line on its advance, earlier in the afternoon, and since had been resting himself, in a corner near Swetland’s Hill. Upon the approach of the fugitives, Inman roused himself and taking in the situation, raised his rifle, and with deadly accuracy, brought the foremost Indian down. The other pursuers, daunted by Inman’s marksmanship, turned about in their tracks and Col. Butler and his party made their way unmolested to Forty Fort.” Ref. 8, p. 154.

“[American] Col. Z. Butler called to know if his gun was loaded--the answer was “yes by the life it is.” Col. Butler then said “Shoot that Indian or he will kill Bennett.” In one minute the man sitting by the fence drew up his gun and shot the Indian.” Ref. 5, p. 94.

 

“See” said one of the flying Yankees who was pursued by a powerful Indian and nearly exhausted. Richard Inman drew up his rifle and the Indian dropped dead. That shot was revenged on the family. Late in the fall, Isaac Inman [Richard’s brother] was murdered....Isaac said he was sure he heard wild turkeys. He would take his rifle and try to get one. This was in the afternoon. Not long after [-wards] a gun was heard, but Isaac did not return. A heavy snow fell that night and lay till spring, when his body was found, shot, scalped, and a war club by his side by its marks indicating the tribe that had done the deed.” Ref. 6, pp. 226, 246.

 

9. Windecker Kills Brave Capt. Shoemaker

“Then came a dreadful massacre. Some took to the river.... Amongst these was the brave Capt. Shoemaker. He was being pursued and was called to by a Tory, Henry Windecker, who was indebted to him. Shoemaker had supported Windecker’s family the previous winter by giving them grain when they asked for help, provided they would promise to defend their country which they said they would. Windecker called to Shoemaker and promised him safety if he would come ashore. As Shoemaker took Windecker’s left hand, Windecker tomahawked him in the head with the right.” Ref. 5, pp. 91, 92.

“Shoemaker fell back and floated away.” Ref. 6, p. 225.

“His lifeless body floated down the river past Forty Fort, the next day, where it was recognized and buried.” Ref. 8, p. 153.

 

10. Hammond and Elliot Escape from the Bloody Rock

“Sixteen or eighteen were arranged round one large stone, since known as the bloody rock. Surrounded by a body of Indians, Queen Esther,* a fury in the form of a woman, assumed the office of executioner with death maul, or tomahawk, for she used the one with both hands, or took up the other with one, and passing round the circle with words, as if singing, or counting with a cadence, she would dash out the brains, or sink the tomahawk into the head of a prisoner. A number had fallen. Her rage increased with indulgence....The mangled bodies of fourteen or fifteen were afterwards found round the rock where they had fallen, scalped, and shockingly mangled. Nine more were found in a similar circle some distance above.” Ref. 6, p. 226

[Joseph Elliott] threw off the Indians who held him, and....leaped down the bank, turned off to the right a second, and at a bound cleared a fence, and fled to the river, several of the enemy in full pursuit. He had passed Monockasy Island....when a bullet struck him in the left shoulder inflicting a grievous wound. Being compelled to steady his wounded arm, dangling by his side, with his right hand, he does not know how he swam the portion of the river too deep to ford; but found himself on the bank, and took shelter behind a tree a moment to recover his breath. His wound bled so profusely that his clothes became a burden, they were so saturated; but he at length arrived at the Wilkes-Barre fort, and Dr. Smith afforded his prompt and skillful aid.” Ref 6, Appendix, pp. 53, 54.

“Lebbeus Hammond, Citizen of Kingston, who was in the battle and was taken by the Enemy, was placed in the ring for torture....he thought he could but die...broke loose and ran toward the river and was pursued....Hammond turned toward the pines....and saw in his flight a pine knot, just sufficient for his defense, which he caught and soon placed his back against a pine. [The enemy] stopped as if they had lost sight of him and after a little time....left him. ” Ref. 5, p. 94, 95. Queen Esther wore black and white war paint and a breechcloth. Ref. 9, p. 222.

*Queen Esther Montour may or may not have been the woman. It could have been her sister, Catharine. Ref. 4, pp. 161-2.

 

 

11. Capt. Blanchard, Esquire Whittaker, and Ishmael Bennett Watch the Awful Torture from Afar

 

“On the [Susquehanna] river bank on the Pittston side, Capt. Blanchard, Esquire Whittaker, and Ishmael Bennett, attracted by the fires among trees on the opposite shore, took their station and witnessed the process of torture. Several naked men, in the midst of flames, were driven round a stake. Their groans and screams were most piteous, while the shouts and yells of the savages, who danced round, urging the victims on with their spears, were too horrible to be endured. They were powerless to help or avenge, and withdrew, heartsick from a view of their horrid orgies--glad that they did not know who were the sufferers.” Ref. 6, p. 227.

12. The Indian Camp the Morning after the Massacre

“The day before the battle, Jenkins’ fort capitulated to a detachment under [British] Capt. Caldwell, and young [Elisha] Harding was among the prisoners......The next day [Harding] describes the savages, as smoking, sitting about, and with the most stoical indifference, scraping the blood and brains from the scalps of our people, and straining them over little hoops to dry--a most soul-sickening sight.” Ref. 6, Appendix, p. 39.

“At daybreak, the tired Indians satiated with their indulgence in blood, nodded and smoked round their campfires....some of them could be seen fixing their scalps on little bows made of small sticks, and with their moccasin awl, and a string, were sewing them round the bows and scraping off the flesh and blood and carefully drying them. Mrs. John Jenkins visited the site of the massacre, the next morning, and was escorted over it by the Tory, Philip Wintermute, who said to her, “Look, but don’t seem to see.” She said the dead, lay all around and there were places where half burnt legs and arms showed the cruel torture our people must have suffered.” Ref. 8, pp. 156-158.

 

13. Colonists Knock in the Heads of Whiskey Barrels to Prevent the Indians from Getting It

 

“The terms of capitulation agreed on were honorable, and it is believed that [British] Maj. Butler exerted himself to have them strictly carried out. The Indians, however, as he alleged, could not be controlled. They set fire to the village of Wilkes-Barre, which was consumed and plundered, and burned the property of the settlers, in violation of these terms. He said to Col. Denison “Make a list of the property lost, and I pledge my honor it shall be paid for.” It is just to state that [British] Butler requested to have a quantity of whisky which was in the fort destroyed before he took possession [of it], to prevent the Indians from being made mad with it, and that the barrels, sixteen in number, were rolled into the river and the heads were knocked in after they were afloat.” Ref. 2, p. 53.

 

14. The Capitulation

 

“It was determined that Forty Fort should be surrendered....All the guns and accoutrements of war were collected and piled in a heap in the center of the enclosure. Some of the surviving militia were formed in line and headed by Colonel Denison and Captain Franklin, they marched up the village street of Kingston, a short distance and awaited the enemy. These approached by the Great Road in two columns, four abreast, to the strains of martial music, and preceded by the British standard bearer, who bore the famous colors of the Rangers, a flag eight feet long by five feet four inches in width, buff in color, upon which was borne the red cross of St. George extending to the four edges of the standard, and covering a large part of its surface and in each of the four corners, formed by the cross, having triangular designs in blue. [British] Butler was at the head of the column of Rangers on the left, and Queen Esther at the head of the Indian column on the right; and escorted by Denison and Franklin and the little band of patriots, they marched into the fort through the north gate. The Tories seized the firearms, but were immediately commanded by [British] Butler to lay them down. He then....gave them to his warriors; and the Indians, much pleased, took them into their possession.” Ref. 8, pp. 161, 162.

[Authorities differ as to whether the great Mohawk chief, Joseph Brant, a.k.a. Thayendenegea, “The Terrible” was present. Mrs. Whitaker, a captive, wrote:] “I saw Brant at Fort Niagara often. I became well acquainted with his children and family. I saw him for the first time at the Fort. I do not recollect seeing him at Tioga Point, when the expedition was fitting out for Wyoming, nor when it returned. I think I should have recognized him if I had ever seen him before. I knew the English officers by sight; ...and also saw the Indian in command at Tioga, but it was not the man whom they called Brant at Niagara. [Queen Esther’s] costume was rich and showy with a profusion of glittering ornaments....She wore a necklace of pure white beads....from which was suspended a cross of stone or silver. If there was no other badge of her probable French extraction, the cross alone would afford a fair presumption that some portion of her early....religious impressions had been formed under Jesuit auspices.” Ref. 7, pp. 671, 672. Queen Esther: “You told me to bring more Indians, Col. Den-is-son,” said the old Fury, drawling out his name, “See here, I have brought you all these.” Ref. 6, p. 232.

15. Col. Dension Saves the Township's Money

“The table on which the capitulation was drawn up and signed was still in possession of a daughter of Mr. Bennett, (Mrs. Myers) in 1848. The table is of black walnut, small and of oval form and was a pretty piece of furniture when new. It [was] preserved with much care by the family. The house of Mr. Bennett was near Forty Fort and himself and family, with their most valuable effects, were within the stockade when it surrendered.” Ref. 3, Vol. 1, Chapter XV, p. 359.

“The Indians, to show their entire independence and power, came into the fort and one took the hat from Col. Denison’s head. Another demanded his rifle and frock, a dress much worn by officers as well as soldiers.” Ref. 6, p. 234, Appendix p. 15.

“Thirty or forty straggling Indians and Tories remained to the great annoyance and misery of the inmates of [Forty Fort].” Martha Bennett (Mrs. Myers) said “The Indians were now worse than ever. They came into our house and a stout Indian claimed Col. Denison’s hunting shirt, a very nice one, made of fine-forty linen, with a double cape, fringed around the cape and wrists. The colonel objected, but upon the Indian raising his tomahawk, and Mother begging him to give it up, he consented. While he was unbuttoning the wrist bands, the colonel stepped back and Polly Thornton, who sat by me, received a package of money from his pocket. It was the town money in Continental bills, and it afterward did the needy much good.” Ref. 8, p. 164.

 

16. John Gardner Bids Farewell to His Family

“June 30, 1778, [John Gardner] went with his cousins the Hardings, and others, four miles up the river in Exeter, to work. They were attacked by a band of Indians and Tories, a part of the invading British army under John Butler. The Hardings were killed and John Gardner and others were taken prisoner. During the battle of July 3rd they were held on the river bank near Fort Wintermute, where some days afterwards, his wife and children were allowed to see him and bid him goodbye. When the Indians, who left the valley with [British] Butler and his soldiers, were ready to go, a heavy load was put upon his back, a rope tied around his neck and he was led off like a beast. John Gardner was a lame man, hence had not gone into the Continental Army; but one who saw him led away by his captors, wrote in after years, ‘He was a man of large size and commanding appearance, the noblest and finest-looking man I ever saw.’ When the prisoners held in the valley were allowed to go, Mrs. Gardner [nee Elizabeth Mumford] and her five children [Thankful, 16; Richard, 11; Elizabeth, 8; John, 5; and Benjamin, 6 months] went to Fishkill-on-the-Hudson where her sister lived, then to her old neighborhood in Connecticut, but returned to Exeter in 1789. Before leaving the valley, she, like all other Wyoming prisoners, was deprived of all clothing except a chemise and a petticoat. On her forehead and the foreheads of her children, the Indians put a smudge of black paint to protect them from prowling Indians who might otherwise murder them. With the other Wyoming sufferers, she put in a claim for losses sustained during the battle and the massacre, but the Connecticut legislature failed to honor its promise to pay.” Ref. 10, pp. 67, 68.

“[Mr. Elisha Harding said] that in all his life he never saw a morepiteous scene than that of Mr. Gardner taking leave of his wife and children. After the battle he was allowed to see and bid them farewell. When he was driven off, led by a halter, loaded almost to crushing with plunder--he seemed the object of particular spite, probably arising from the revenge of some personal enemy. “Go, go” was the Indian’s command.” Ref. 6, Appendix p. 39.

 

17. Anthony Turkey Makes the Weeks Family Pack Up

 

“[Mr. Jonathan Weeks] resided upon a large farm, with his sons and sons-in-law, about a mile below the borough of Wilkes-Barre. He had living with him, at the time of the alarm, his three sons, Philip, Jonathan, and Bartholomew; Silas Benedict, a son-in-law; Jabel Beers, an uncle; Josiah Carman, a cousin; and a border named Robert Bates. These seven men from a single household all seized their arms and hurried to the field [of battle]. They all fell with their Captain, whose name was M’Currican [M’Kerachan], a man of letters and teacher of the hamlet school. Two days after the battle a party of twenty Indians visited the house of Mr. Weeks and demanded breakfast. Having obtained their demand, they informed Mr. Weeks that he must quit the valley forthwith. The old man remonstrated ‘All my sons have fallen,’ said he with emotion, ‘and here am I left with fourteen grandchildren, all young and helpless.’ But the dusky conquerors were inexorable: nevertheless, having gorged themselves with blood already, and having moreover satisfied their appetites for the morning, they did not wantonly apply the tomahawk again. The leader of this party was an Indian named Anthony Turkey--a fellow who had been well known to the settlers as one of the former residents of the valley, when both races lived together in friendship. But he proved as thoroughly savage as the wildest of his race, and not withstanding his former acquaintance with Mr. Weeks, he would not allow the bereft old man to remain upon his farm. Still, in driving him away, the Indians so far tempered their decree with mercy as to allow him his oxen and wagon, with which he took the sobbing women and their little ones back to the county of Orange, New York, whence they had emigrated to Wyoming [PA]. But the Indian leader, Turkey, afterward met the fate he deserved.” Ref. 11, pp. 273, 274.

 

18. The Survivors Flee Through the Shades of Death Swamp

 

“The only hope of safety seemed to be in flight. The several passages through the swamp were thronged. Few having been thoughtful enough to take provisions, the greater part were destitute.....Sufferings from fatigue and hunger soon became extreme.....Mrs. Truesdale was taken in labour; daring to delay but a few minutes, she was soon seen with her infant moving onward--a sheet having been fixed on a horse, so as to carry them. ....The wife of Ebenezer Marcy was taken in labour, in the wilderness. Having no mode of conveyance, her sufferings were inexpressibly severe. She was able to drag her fainting steps but about two miles that day. The next [day], being overtaken by a neighbour with a horse, she rode, and in a week’s time, was more than a hundred miles, with her infant, from the place of its birth....Mrs. Rogers, from Plymouth, an aged woman, flying with her family, overcome by fatigue and sorrow, fainted in the wilderness, twenty miles from human habitation. She could take no nourishment, and soon died. They made a grave in the best manner they could, and the next day, nearly exhausted, came to a settlement of Germans, who treated them with exceeding great kindness. Mrs. Courtright relates that she, then a young girl, flying with her father’s family, saw sitting by the road side, a widow, who had learned of the death of her husband. Six children were on the ground near her. The group, the very image of despair, for they were without food. Just at that moment, a man was seen riding rapidly towards them, from the settlements. It was Mr. Hollenback. Foreseeing the probable destitution, he had providently loaded his horse with bread and was hastening back, like an angel of mercy, to their relief. He imparted a morsel to each, and hastened onto the relief of others....the Indians marked the prisoners with black paint on the face, telling them to keep it there, and if they went out, each should carry a white cloth on a stick, so that being known, they should not be hurt..…” Ref. 6, p. 229-231. “While not a woman or child had perished at the Indian’s hands, and none of the men were slain after the surrender; nevertheless all were seemingly possessed with the belief that immediate slaughter or captivity was their lot; and this terror…Night added to the awful situation. Feeble persons stumbled along, in the darkness, through the Great Swamp and lost their way and died. Panthers then infested the “Shades of Death” and their terrible screams augmented the terror.” Ref. 8, pp. 168, 169.

19. The Washburns and Woodrings Escape on a Raft

 

“I [Daniel Washburn] lived in Shawny at the commencement of the battle. I joined the Nanticoke company and was one of the guard. We marched all night to Forty Fort....The next day, after the battle, as we retreated, I ran through the fields and woods with a Mr. Butler and another man whose name I don’t recall. We intended to go down to Shawny Fort. We got there about midnight and to our great surprise the fort was deserted except for my father Jesse Washburn, my brother Caleb, my stepmother with two small children and Mrs. Woodring, wife of William Woodring who was killed in the battle. She had four sons and a daughter with her. We remained till daybreak. When we could see no on else around, the fort being full of provisions and store of goods, bedding, and house furniture, in the morning, we three, Father, Caleb, and myself, carried rails and made a raft. At nine o’clock we had our raft finished. About this time we heard the [sound] of the enemy shooting at Wilkes-Barre Fort and we knew it to be the enemy. We then got aboard of our raft--my father and mother, Caleb, and the two children, and Mrs. Woodring and her five children, taking with us provisions to last us to cross the blue mountains. We then set sail with our rail raft and went on very well till we got to Nanticoke Falls when we saw two boats fast on a rock. They called us to help them loose. There were men, women, and children in these boats. Then we landed our raft on the Shawny side. We went and helped them loose and helped them get safely below the rifts for which they paid us. When we were getting the boats loose we saw a man come out of the woods. He was naked and had not a stitch of clothes about him. He had swum the river at Forty Fort and had come down through the woods. He spoke to us from the other side and told us of his happy escape and then went on again. We sailed on very well till night and put up in a cabin near the mouth of Little Wapwallopen [Creek]. In the morning we pursued our journey along the old Indian path and put up for the night in the woods. On the third day we came to Gnadenhutten [now Weisport] in Northampton [now Carbon] County.” Ref. 5, pp. 82-84.

20. The Leach and St. John Families Try to Escape

 

“The terms of capitulation being known, and regarded as favorable, the lives of the garrison having been spared and the savages thus far seeming satisfied with plunder and burning, hope of life dawned, for a moment, upon those that remained, but almost immediately the cheering ray was extinguished in blood......Two men by the name of Leach and St. John, who were removing with their families, were shot six miles up the Lackawanna. One of them had a child in his arms, which, with strange inconsistency, the Indian took up, and handed to the mother, all covered with the father’s blood. Leaving the women in the wagon unhurt, they took the scalps of the husbands, and departed. Again alarm rose to a frenzy. Col. Denison, with all who had remained at Forty Fort, fled; some down the river and some through the swamp. Except a few who gathered about the fort at Wilkes-Barre, the whole people abandoned the settlement. Every house and barn, not spared by caprice, was burnt. The valley presented a wide scene of conflagration and ruin.” Ref. 6, p. 239. 

“As to the affair of Leach & St. John: They started from a block house near the Parker place, so called, in Pittston, with a cart or wagon, with four oxen, loaded with household furniture and had traveled to near where Mr. John Atherton now lives, when they were met by a Company of Indians. One of the men was sitting on the carriage. They were both killed. One had a small Child in his arms. The Indian gave the Child to its mother and said he ‘no hurt.’ My impression is the cause of their killing them was their Carrying of the goods. They then killed one ox and left them in the yokes. The oxen stood there until a man came along and unyoked them. Their bones lay there until the war was over. They then were Collected & buried under the side of a log and covered with such things as Could be collected not having anything to dig the Earth with.” Ref. 8, Vol. III, p. 98.

21. Eleazer West Finds a Horse and Saves Himself

 

“Eleazer West went into the battle and on the retreat was shot in the heel and [the bullet came] out at the foot. He ran until he could run no further and hid or laid down in some small brush not high enough to cover a man. Another man [who] ran in the same direction near him was killed by an Indian who scalped and stripped him [and ran] holding up the [man’s] jacket between them until he passed him and [so West] was not discovered....West lay until dark then took to the mountains and strove to get to Shawny Garrison but he, being weak and lame, did not reach there until the Indians had possession [of it] and had set it on fire. He continued down the river until he was at Nanticoke Falls, and crossed over [the river] then took the woods [toward] Wilkes-Barre but soon saw smoke arise which told him that the Indians were there. He then shifted his course for Pittston but found that all was destroyed. He, then faint and lame, said he thought he would go to the blockhouse at the Parker place, so called, in Pittston, hoping to meet some kind friend to relieve his wants but found all burnt, destroyed, and deserted. He then returned to the woods which appeared to be his only place of safety and to his great joy soon discovered a horse which he caught. He pealed some bark for a halter, mounted, and got into the old Indian path...to the Stroudsburg road where he arrived safely. His family had mourned him as lost. He afterwards became an eminent preacher well respected by those who knew him.” Ref. 5, p. 93, 94.

 

22. The Squaws Leave with Scalps and Plunder

“With [British] Maj. Butler, a large portion of the Indians withdrew, and their march presented a picture at once melancholy and ludicrous, scalps stretched on small hoops, around the waist for a girdle, having on, some four, some six and even more, dresses of chintz or silk, one over the other, being mounted astride on horses, of course all stolen, and on their heads, three, four, or five bonnets, one within another, worn wrong side before.” Ref. 6, p. 237.

Mrs. Myers: “They took our feather beds and ripping open the ticks, flung out the feathers and crammed in their plunder, consisting mostly of fine clothing and throwing them over their horses, went off. A squaw came riding up, with ribbons, streaming from her head to her horse’s tail. some of the squaws would have on two or three bonnets, generally backside before. One rode off astride of Mother’s side-saddle. That too, wrong and foremost, and Mother’s scarlet cloak hanging before her, being tied at the back of her neck.” Ref. 8, p. 165.

 

23. The Squaws Torture John Gardner to Death

“On the way, a few miles west of Geneva [New York], he became worn out--fell and was given up to the squaws, who put him to death with cruel torture.” Ref. 6, Appendix p. 39.

The prisoner, Daniel Carr, reported later that the squaws stuck turpentine splinters in John Gardner and burned him to death. Ref. 9, p. 455.

“When they reached Kanadesaga, [near Geneva] New York, one hundred miles or more from Wyoming, he could go no farther, so was tortured most inhumanely, then burned to death. A fellow prisoner, who witnessed his torture and death afterward escaped, came back to Wyoming and told the tale.” Ref. 10, pp. 67, 68.

 

24. The Men Collect and Put the Dead Patriots in Carts for Burial

“Ordered, that there be a party, consisting of a Lieutenant, two Sergeants, two Corporals, and twenty-five men to parade tomorrow morning, with arms, as a guard to those who will go to bury the remains of the men who were killed at the late battle, at and near the place called Wintermoot’s Fort. On the twenty-second of October, therefore, the bodies were collected--a large hole dug, in which they were thrown, constant alarm from the enemy preventing a more ceremonious or respectful inhumation.” Ref. 6, p. 241.

“[American] Col. Butler erected Fort Wyoming on the river bank and October 21st [1778], he ordered a force of twenty-five men under command of Lt. John Jenkins to bury the remains of those slain in the battle and massacre of Wyoming. The bodies were gathered upon forks, loaded into carts and conveyed to a common grave near Eighth Street in the present Borough of Wyoming and there interred. The intense summer heat had shriveled up the bodies so that they were inoffensive and none were recognized.” Ref. 8, p. 172.

 

25. A Delaware Indian Kidnaps Frances Slocum 

“[Frances Slocum] was taken on the end of November, when only five years old, from her father’s house near Fort Wilkes-Barre and carried into captivity. No tidings were ever received of her till about sixty years later when she was discovered near Logansport, Indiana and visited by her brothers. She had forgotten her native language, had survived her Indian husband and reared a family of children. She refused to return to her kindred preferring to remain with her family and among the people among whom her life had been passed, and whose habits, religion, etc., she had adopted.” Ref. 2, p. 54.

In August 1837, fifty-nine years after the capture, a letter appeared in the Lancaster Intelligencer written by G.W. Ewing of Logansport, Indiana, dated January 20, 1835, a year and a half previous stating: “There is now living in this place among the Miami Tribe of Indians, an aged white woman, who, a few days ago told me that she was taken away from her father’s house on or near the Susquehanna River when she was very young. She says her father’s name was Slocum, that he was a Quaker and wore a large-brimmed hat”.......Her brothers Joseph and Isaac traveled a thousand miles to see their lost sister. They identified her by a wound she had received in childhood when the middle finger of her left hand had been accidentally crushed by a hammer on an anvil in her father’s blacksmith shop. Congress.....passed a resolution exempting Frances from [having to be returned to her Quaker relatives.] Ref. 6, pp. 243-250.

 

 

26. Anthony Turkey Gets His Comeuppance

 

“Among the Indians who formerly lived in the valley was one known by the name of Anthony Turkey. When the savages removed from Wyoming [before the battle and massacre] he went with them, and returned as an enemy at the time of the invasion. With him and the people there had been a good understanding, and it created some surprise when known that he was with the bloody band who had come on the errand of destruction. It was Turkey who commanded the party that came to Mr. Weeks the Sunday after the battle, and taking the old gentleman’s hat, shoved his rocking chair into the street, and sat down and rocked himself. In the invasion of March following, Turkey was here again, and in an engagement on the Kingston flats was shot through the thigh and surrounded by our people. “Surrender, Turkey,” said they, “we won’t hurt you.” Probably conscious of his own cruelties, he defied them, and fought like a tiger-cat to the last. Some of our boys, in malicious sport, took his body, put it into an old canoe, fixed a dead rooster in the bow--fastened a bow and arrow and arrow in the dead Indian’s hands as if in the act just to fire, put a written “Pass” on his breast “to let the bearer go to his master, King George, or the d----l,” and launched the canoe into the river. Down it went amid the cheers of men and boys. It so happened that the canoe went clear and came opposite Catawissa, where there was a small settlement. Seeing it drifting, with something in it, a man, eager for the prize, jumped into a boat and pushed off. What was his surprise, as he drew near, to see an Indian, with bow bent and arrow drawn to the head--aimed directly at his breast. He fled quicker than he came, but being a man of resolution, pushed off again with his rifle, and found the old warrior just as he had been launched. After towing him in to shore, and a hearty laugh of the people there, he pushed off the canoe, speeding Anthony Turkey to the place of his destination.” Ref. 6, Appendix p. 34.

27. Capt. Bidlack and Josiah Rogers Come Back to See if the Valley is Safe

“During the early afternoon [of March 21, 1779] Captain James Bidlack and Josiah Rogers, two elderly men, while riding along the Plymouth road, were suddenly attacked by Indians secreted in the woods, which then lined Little Toby’s Creek....They immediately wheeled their horses and galloped toward the Kingston blockhouse. Capt. Bidlack’s saddle girth broke and he was thrown to the ground, taken by the Indians and subsequently carried away into captivity. Mr. Rogers succeeded in reaching the blockhouse but was pursued by several savages almost to the gates. The soldiers advanced and beat off the Indians, thus permitting Mr. Rogers’ escape.” Ref. 8, p. 173.

“In the spring of 1779, the next year after the massacre, Josiah Rogers, having returned said “I will lay my bones in Wyoming.” Indians had not been seen for some time in the valley, and Capt. Bidlack with Mr. Rogers started on horseback to go to Plymouth to see if eligible, to [move there] with their families. After crossing the river some eight rods below the present bridge, they passed up the road, on the township line, until they were near Toby’s Creek, where an Indian appeared and rushing towards them from behind the willows, would have seized their bridles. He was instantly followed by others, and the trembling willows then disclosed the cove of the creek above them red with Indians. But a Yankee, though an old man don’t give up, you know, without showing his skill. They were unarmed, but they wheeled their horses suddenly, and made towards the blockhouse on the bank of the river. Capt. Bidlack’s saddle, having an old girth which broke, turned and precipitated him to the ground. But now came a race; Bidlack after Rogers! But stepping on a rail, (laid over a slough), which turned on him, Capt. Bidlack fell and was immediately taken prisoner. The garrison at the blockhouse, on hearing the firing, advanced to the rescue... [Rogers] wore an overcoat made of wool, colored one part butternut, the other blue, in homespun...At the blockhouse he found [two bullet holes in his coat.] For many years he was compelled to wear, when abroad and at meeting, the evidence of Indian skill in shooting at a mark.” Ref. 6, Appendix p. 61.

 

28. Hammond the Bennetts Escape their Captors

 

“On the 27th of March, 1780 Thomas Bennett and his son, Andrew, a lad of thirteen or fourteen years of age......[and Lebbeus Hammond who had previously escaped from the “Bloody Rock” were captured by seven Indians.] On the third day of their captivity, Mr. Bennett accidentally pulled a button from his coat, and put it in his pocket. They were now searched, and the button being found, Bennett asked for it, saying he wished to [sew] it on again. The Indian flung it away saying, “Fool, Bennett, only one day more. You die at Wyalusing.” That day, the Indians hunted for deer, and starting one, left the prisoners a few rods behind and gave them an opportunity to consult.....When the Indians were ready to lie down, they papoosed the prisoners....that is, fastened down with poles laid across them, with an Indian on each end of the poles....About one o’clock the Indians all got up and relieved the prisoners, allowing them to get up and walk about. Bennett brought wood and flung it on the fire. In about two hours all the Indians were snoring again except the old watchman and he commenced roasting the deer’s head, first sticking it in the fire, and then scraping off the meat with his knife and eating it. Finally the old fellow began to nod....Hammond placed himself by an Indian axe, and Andrew Bennett, the boy, stood by the guns, which were stacked. [Mr. Bennett plunged a spear through the Indian by the fire.] He gave a tremendous jump and a hideous yell, and fell upon the fire....Hammond used the axe, dashing it into the head which was first lifted. ....The next blow took an Indian on the side of the neck....and he fell upon the fire. The boy snapped three guns, not one of which happened to be loaded, but his operations made the Indians dodge and jump straight under Hammond’s axe, or the breech of a gun which old Mr. Bennett had clubbed....Five of the savages were piled up on and around the fire, and two had fled badly wounded....[The Bennetts and Hammond] found their way to the fort at Wilkes-Barre after an absence of six days....” Ref. 8, pp. 177-184. Even after Sullivan’s expedition, peace did not come to the Wyoming Valley quickly. “[The years 1780-82] were rife with Indian invasions....Wyoming was...one continued scene of plunder and captivity, murder, conflagration and woe.” Ref. 6, p. 276.

  

Near this spot was fought

On the afternoon of the third of July, 1778

The Battle of Wyoming

In which a small band of patriotic Americans

Chiefly the undisciplined, the youthful, and the aged

Spared by inefficiency from the distant banks of the republic

Led by Col. Zebulon Butler and Col. Nathan Denison

With a courage that deserved success

Fearlessly met and bravely fought

A combined British, Tory, and Indian force

Of thrice their number

Numerical superiority alone gave success to the invader

And widespread havoc, desolation and ruin

Marked his savage and bloody bootsteps through the valley

This monument

Commemorative of these events

And in memory of the actors in them

Has been erected

Over the bones of the slain

By their descendants and others who gratefully appreciated

The services and sacrifices of their patriot ancestors

 

Ref. 13

 

 

 

 

References:

1. The Spirit of Seventy-Six edited by Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris, Da Capo Press, New York, 1968.

2. History of Luzerne County, PA, W.W. Munsell & Co. New York, 1880.

3. Field Book of the Revolution by Benson J. Lossing, January, 1859.

4. Indians in Pennsylvania by Paul A. W. Wallace, 2nd ed. Revised by William A. Hunter, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA, 1981.

5. Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, 1901, Vol. VII, edited by Rev. Horace Edwin Hayden, MA, printed for the society, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1902.

6. History of Wyoming in a Series of Letters from Charles Miner to his son William Penn Miner, Esq. J. Crissy, Philadelphia, 1845.

7. Indian Tribes of the United States, under the direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, per act of Congress of March 3rd, 1847, by Henry R. Schoolcraft, LLD, Lippincott, Grambo & Co., Philadelphia, PA.

8. History of the Certified Township of Kingston, PA, 1767-1929 by William Brewster, published by the school district of the borough of Kingston.

9. The Wilderness War by Allan W. Eckert, Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2003.

10. Gardiner/Gardner Genealogy compiled by Clara Gardner Miller and John Milton Stanton, date unknown.

11. The Poetry and History of Wyoming by William L. Stone, Wilkes-Barre, PA, C.E. Butler, Bookseller, 1878.

12. The Revolutionary Soldier 1775-1783 by C. Keith Wilbur, Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, CT, 1993.

13. Inscription on the Wyoming Monument, Wyoming, PA.

 

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