Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Annals of Tryon County;
or, the
Border Warfare of New York,
During the Revolution.
By William W. Campbell
New York; Printed and Published by J. & J. Harper 1831


Note H.

Among the claims set up by the State of Connecticut was the following, --that by their charter they owned all lands lying between those parallels of latitude forming the northern and southern boundary of their State, and extending west to the Pacific ocean. This claim, it will readily be perceived, would cover a large portion of the southern part of New York, and of the northern parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio. In prosecution of this claim, a colony from Windham, in Connecticut, obtained a state grant for a large tract of land lying along the Susquehanna in the State of Pennsylvania, whither they removed. The valley they occupied was called Wyoming; said to mean "Field of blood;" so called on account of a bloody battle fought in the neighborhood of the settlement by the Indians at a period anterior to the removal of the whites.

The following account of the battle and massacre is taken from an interesting history of Wyoming, written by Isaac Chapman, Esq. late of Wilkesbarre. Judge Chapman lived upon the spot, and could hardly have failed to collect accurate materials, and to give a correct narrative of the events which transpired there during the Revolutionary war. The inhabitants had collected in Forty Fort--the principal fort in the valley. The number of men in the fort was three hundred and sixty-eight.

"On the morning of the 3d of July, 1778, the officers of the garrison at Forty Fort held a council to determine on the propriety of marching from the fort, and attacking the enemy wherever found. The debates in this council of war are said to have been conducted with much warmth and animation. The ultimate determinations was one on which depended the lives of the garrison and safety of the settlement. On one side it was contended that their enemies were daily increasing in numbers; that hey would plunder the settlement of all kinds of property, and would accumulate the means of carrying on the war, while they themselves would become weaker; that the harvest would soon be ripe, and would be gathered or destroyed by their enemies, and all their means of sustenance during the succeeding winter would fail; that probably all their messengers were killed, and as there had been more than sufficient time, and no assistance arrived, they would probably receive none, and consequently now was the proper time to make the attack. On the other side it was argued, that probably some or all the messengers may have arrived at headquarters, but that the absence of the Commander-in-Chief may have produced delay; that one or two weeks more may bring the desired assistance, and that to attack the enemy, superior as they were in number, out of the limits of their own fort, would produce almost certain destruction to the settlement and themselves, and captivity, and slavery, perhaps torture, to their wives and children. While these debates were progressing, five men belonging to Wyoming, but who at that time held commissions in the continental army, arrived at the fort; they had received information that a force from Niagara had marched to destroy the settlements on the Susquehanna, and being unable to bring with them any reinforcement, they resigned their appointments, and hastened immediately to the protection of their families: they had heard nothing of the messengers, neither could they give any certain information as to the probability of relief.

"The prospect of receiving assistance became now extremely uncertain. The advocates for the attack prevailed in the council, and at dawn of day, on the morning of the 3d of July, the garrison left the fort, and began their march up the river, under the command of Col. Zebulon Butler. Having proceeded about two miles, the troops halted for the purpose of detaching a reconnoitering party, to ascertain the situation of the enemy.

"The scout found the enemy in possession of Fort Wintermoot, and occupying huts immediately around it, carousing in supposed security; but on their return tot he advancing column, they met two strolling Indians, by whom they were fired upon, and upon whom they immediately returned the fire without effect. The settlers hastened their march for the attack, but the Indians had given the alarm, and the advancing troops found the enemy already formed in order of battle a small distance from their fort, with their right flank covered by a swamp, and their left resting upon the bank of a river. The settlers immediately displayed their column and formed in corresponding order, but as the enemy was much superior in numbers, their line was much more extensive. Pine woods and bushes covered the battle ground, in consequence of which, the movements of the troops could not be so quickly discovered, nor so well ascertained. Col. Zebulon Butler had command of the right, and was opposed by Col. John Butler at the head of the British troops on the left, Col. Nathan Denison commanded the left, opposed by Brant at the head of his Indians on the enemy's right. The battle commenced at about forty rods distant, and continued about fifteen minutes through the woods and brush without much execution. (Note: Joseph Brant was not present at this battle. ajb) At this time Brant with his Indians having penetrated the swamp, turned the left flank of the settler's line, and with a terrible war whoop and savage yell made a desperate charge upon the troops composing that wing, which fell very fast,and were immediately cut to pieces with a tomahawk. Col. Denison having ascertained that the savages were gaining the rear of the left, gave order for that wing to fall back. At the same time Col. John Butler, finding that the line of the settlers did not extend as far toward the river as his own, doubled that end of his line which was protected by a thick growth of brushwood, and having brought a party of his British regulars to act in column upon that wind, threw Col. Zebulon Butler's troops into some confusion. The order of col. Denison for his troops to fall back, having been understood by many to mean a retreat, the troops began to retire in much disorder. The savages considered this a flight, and commencing a most hideous yell, rushed forward with their rifles and tomahawks, and cut the retiring line to pieces. In this situation it was found impossible to rally and form the troops, and the rout became general throughout the line. The settlers fled in every direction, and were instantly followed by the savages, who killed or took prisoners whoever came within their reach. Some succeeded in reaching the river, and escaped by swimming across; others fled to the mountains, and the savages, too much occupied with plunder, gave up the pursuit. When the first intelligence was received in the village of Wilkesbarre that the battle was lost, the women fled with their children to the mountains on their way to the settlements on the Delaware, where many of them at length arrived after suffering extreme hardships. Many of the men who escaped the battle, together with their women and children, who were unable to travel on foot, took refuge in Wyoming fort, and on the following day (July the 4th), Butler and Brant, at the head of their combined forces, appeared before the fort and demanded its surrender. The garrison being without any efficient means of defense, surrendered the fort on articles of capitulation, by which the settlers, upon giving up their fortifications, prisoners, and military stores were to remain in the country unmolested provided they did not again take up arms.

"In their battle about three hundred of the settlers were killed or missing, and from a great part of whom no intelligence was ever afterward received.

"The conditions of the capitulation were entirely disregarded by the British and savage forces, and after the fort was delivered up, all kinds of barbarities were committed by them. The village of Wilkesbarre, consisting of twenty-three houses, was burnt; men and their wives were separated from each other, and carried into captivity: their property was plundered, and the settlement laid waster. The remainder of the inhabitants were driven from the valley, and compelled to proceed on foot sixty miles through the great swamp, almost without food or clothing. A number perished in the journey, principally women and children; some died of their wounds; other wandered from the path in search of food, and were lost,and those who survived called the wilderness through which they passed the shades of death,an appellation which it has since retained."

Catrine Montour, who might well be termed a fury, acted a conspicuous part in their tragedy. She followed in the train of the victorious army, ransacking the heaps of the slain, and with her arms covered with gore, barbarously murdering the wounded who in vain supplicated for their lives.

Halleck, in allusion to the massacre at Wyoming, has the following interesting lines:

"There is a woman, widowed, gray and old,
Who tells you where the foot of battle stept.
Upon their day of massacre. She told
Its tale, and pointed to the spot, and wept,
Whereon her father and five brothers slept.
Shroudless, the bright dreamed slumbers of the brave,
When all the land a funeral mourning kept.
And there wild laurels planted on the grave,
By Nature's hand in air their pale and blossoms wave."


Perhaps the last survivor of this event, which has been made the subject of the interesting poem of the gifted Campbell, is the person whose death is recorded in the annexed notice. The actual horrors of the scene of death and conflagration, or the dramatic incident embodied in the fiction founded upon it, must be vivid in the recollection of our readers.


We find in a Connecticut paper, an account of the recent decease of Mrs. Esther Skinner, of Torringford, in the one hundredth year of her age. Mrs. S. lost a husband, a brother, and two sons, in the war of the American revolution. She, with her family, was a resident of Wyoming, at the massacre of its inhabitants by D. and T. and the Indians and Tories. Her two sons fell beneath the tomahawk, but the mother, almost by miracle, escaped with six of her children. Her son-in-law was the only man that escaped out of twenty, who threw themselves into the river, and attempted to hide themselves beneath the foliage that overhung the banks. All the others were successively massacred as they hung by the branches in the river. He alone was undiscovered. The mother traveled back to Torringford, where she has led a useful life ever since--often cheerful, though the cloud of pensiveness, brought on by her sorrows, was never entirely dissipated. But one of her children survives her. (Journal of Commerce, Aug. 16, 1931.)

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