Horton's Historical Articles
by Gerald Horton
TIMELINE FOR 1780
Mar 1780 Indian raiding parties.
During the spring of 1780, Indian war parties were constantly leaving Fort Niagara for the frontiers of New York, Pennsylvania, and as far south as Virginia. The raiding parties ranged in size from six to seventy-five men. Returning to Fort Niagara, the parties brought in prisoners, livestock, and reports of settlers killed and barns burned.
April 7, 1780 Harpersfield attacked.
A detachment of Rebel militia under the command of Captain Alexander Harper traveled from Schoharie to Harpersfield (some thirty miles). Their purpose was to gather sap and produce maple syrup/sugar to supplement the meager food supplies at the Schoharie forts. While gathering the sap, the men were surprised by a war party led by the Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant. Three of the Rebels were killed and eleven taken prisoner including Capt. Harper.
One of the prisoners, Freegift Patchin, later related the story of their capture and travails as prisoners. He mentioned one Loyalist, a Mr. Beacraft, who threatened to kill them right after their capture. Patchin also remembered a confrontation between Capt. Harper and Joseph Brant. Brant was about to tomahawk Harper when, instead, he decided to question Harper about the Schoharie forts. Harper assumed Brant was on his way to attack the settlements and forts on the Schoharie Kill (Creek). When Brant asked him if there were Continental soldiers around, Harper replied that three hundred Continentals had just arrived to defend the forts. It was a lie, but Brant believed Harper and the war party with their prisoners departed for Fort Niagara.
Had Harper not been able to convince Brant to not attack Schoharie, the number of prisoners heading for Fort Niagara would have been much greater than eleven.
May 12, 1780 Charleston, SC surrenders.
After a siege of 45 days, Rebel General Benjamin Lincoln surrenders his 5,400 man garrison and the city of Charleston, SC to 10,000 Royal and Loyalist troops. This was the Rebel’s worst defeat of the war. Most of the southern states were then in British hands.
May 21, 1780 Sir John Johnson’s first raid on Mohawk River area.
In mid-March, a Loyalist scout returned to Quebec from the Mohawk Valley. He informed Governor-General Haldimand and Sir John Johnson that the Rebels were forcing men of military age to serve in units for home defense. Any who refused such service would be considered Tories, sent to prison, and their property confiscated.
Haldimand was upset by the persecution and suggested Sir John put together a small force to lead these Loyalists up the Champlain Valley to Quebec. Sir John agreed with Haldimand, but suggested they also use this opportunity to strike a blow at the Rebels. Final plans called for Johnson to lead a force of 528 whites and Indians into the Mohawk Valley. Rebel spies heard of the plan, but couldn’t determine when this raid would take place or the route the invaders planned to use.
Using Lake Champlain and then marching southwest from Crown Point, Johnson’s force entered the Scottish Settlement just north of Johnstown on May 21st. His force killed a number of prominent Rebels in the area and burnt their homes. Caughnawaga (near present day Fonda) was burned. In total, some 120 barns, mills, and houses were destroyed on the north side of the Mohawk River. Johnson gathered 143 Loyalists, including some women and children and thirty African slaves for the trek back to Quebec.
The Rebels mustered Continentals and militia to pursue Johnson’s force. However, a rumor was spread that the Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant was going to strike the south side of the river. This drew a good number of the Rebels away from the pursuit of Johnson. Johnson and the Loyalists he had collected make it to Lake Champlain and then to Quebec.
May 29, 1780 Battle of Waxhaws, SC.
Following the surrender of Charleston, SC on May 12th, the only effective Rebel fighting force left in South Carolina was a regiment of 300 Continentals under the command of Colonel Abraham Buford. Buford’s force was ordered to withdraw to Hillsboro, NC and was pursued by British Colonel Banastre Tarleton with about 250 men, mostly cavalry.
Buford’s force was overtaken at Waxhaws on the Catawba River. Tarleton ordered a cavalry attack followed by an infantry bayonet charge. Buford was in the open and his men were either killed or captured.
It was at this action that Tarleton received his nickname, “Bloody” Tarleton. One journalist stated, “after every man was prostrate they went over the ground plunging their bayonets into everyone that exhibited any signs of life…” Author Mark Boatner writes, “As for the morality displayed by the victor, a successful cavalry charge exploited by a bayonet attack is bound to be messy, and the dividing line between military success and slaughter depends on which side you’re on”. Boatner continues, “Unknown prior to the action at Waxhaws, he (Tarleton) was now a British hero. But to the Rebel army, “Tarleton’s Quarter” became a synonym for the butchery of surrendered men, and “Bloody Tarleton” is a name more familiar in America today than it is in England”.
Jul 2, 1780 Indians join British.
About 300 Indians who had been supporting the Rebels, entered Fort Niagara. These were some 80 Tuscaroras, 180 Onondagas (who had fled to Oneida villages after their own had been destroyed by the Rebel raids in previous year) and 2 Oneida families. They said they were seeking shelter from the Rebels. However, the Indians were not allowed to sit at the fort for long. They were told they had to immediately go to war as penance for the error of their ways and not deciding for the British cause sooner.
Jul 24, 1780 Brant raids Oneida village.
Joseph Brant burned the Oneida Indian village of Canowaraghere. The Oneidas living in the village heard of the raiding party and fled to Fort Stanwix for protection. Brant burned all the homes, Rev. Kirkland’s church, and a small fort.
Jul 26, 1780 Brant attacks Oneidas who had fled to Fort Stanwix.
Oneida Indians who fled from Brant’s raid on Canowaraghere were camped outside Fort Stanwix. Joseph Brant and his war party attacked their camp. Most of the Oneidas escaped into the fort. Those caught outside were threatened until they promised to go to Fort Niagara and support the British. Before they left, Brant’s party killed any horses and cattle they found outside the fort.
Aug 2, 1780 Brant attacks Canajoharie.
Most of the Rebel militia was heading for Fort Stanwix to try and trap Joseph Brant. However, Brant had moved on and was preparing to attack the settlement of Canajoharie. He had hoped to attack the settlement and nearby Fort Plank simultaneously.
As it turned out, some of Brant’s Indians showed themselves and alarmed the settlement. This allowed most of the inhabitants to escape to Fort Plank. Brant’s party had to content itself with burning about 100 houses and barns, two mills, the church, and destroying what grain and cattle they could find. Approximately thirty people were killed. According to Rebel Colonel Abraham Wemple, some were children. A swath of land some six miles long and four miles wide was devastated by the attack.
Aug 9, 1780 Vroomans land attacked.
Joseph Brant and a small party of Indians and Tories attacked a portion of the Schoharie settlements near Middle Fort. Eleven members of the Vrooman family were made prisoner and three were killed, including the father, mother, and eight-year-old Peter. According to several reports, the Tory Benjamin Beacraft seized Peter, slit his throat, and then scalped him.
Aug 16, 1780 Battle of Camden, SC.
British General Cornwallis takes the offensive in the south and marches into South Carolina. Rebel General Horatio Gates, the victor at Saratoga, leads a force of mainly new recruits to meet this threat. The armies engage at Camden, SC. Cornwallis commanded somewhat over 2,000 veteran troops while Gates’ force numbered about 4,000 Continentals and militia.
The British soundly defeated the Rebels. The strategy and tactics of Cornwallis have been considered first class, while Gates has been accused of making every error possible. The annihilation of the Rebel army was so complete that no records of casualties exist and estimates vary widely.
It was said that 2,000 Rebels fled without firing a shot. General Gates, upon seeing the rout, rode 60 miles to Charlotte, NC – outdistancing his fleeing army.
Oct 2, 1780 British Major Andre hanged.
On direct orders of George Washington, Major John Andre is hanged as a spy. This is after the British refuse to exchange him for Benedict Arnold who had gone over to the British side.
Oct 7, 1780 Battle of King’s Mountain, SC.
As the British advanced into the mountains of western South Carolina, a large number of small Rebel militia units rallied quickly to defend the area. The British, mainly Loyalist units, numbered approximately 1,500 while the Rebel total is estimated to have been between 1.400 and 1,800 men.
The action lasted about one hour. Some reports noted scattered firing during the roundup of Loyalist prisoners that resulted in some Rebel militia shooting unarmed prisoners. Rebel losses were put at 28 killed and 64 wounded. The Loyalists lost 157 killed, 163 too badly wounded to move and about 700 prisoners. The prisoners were marched off to Hillsboro, NC. All but sixty of these escaped within a few months. Once the prisoners were marched off, the rest of the Rebel militia broke up and went home.
Oct 10, 1780 British Major Carleton captures Fort Ann and Fort George.
During the planning of Sir John Johnson’s October raid on the Mohawk Valley, Sir Frederick Haldimand, Governor-General or Quebec Province, felt a diversion was needed to draw off a major portion of the Rebel militia. To that end, Haldimand ordered Major Christopher Carleton to lead a force down the Champlain Valley into the upper Hudson River area. Carleton’s force numbered close to one thousand men, half of which were British Regulars.
The Rebel Commandant of Fort Ann on Wood Creek, surrendered the fort upon seeing the force arrayed against him. Carleton continued south along the upper Hudson destroying farms, mills, and livestock on the way. He turned his force to return to Lake Champlain when they reached Saratoga. While returning to Lake Champlain, he captured Fort George on October 11th. Both Fort Ann and Fort George were burned.
Oct 12, 1780 Ballstown, NY attacked.
On Oct 6th, Captain John Munro, in command of about 200 Loyalists and Indians, left Major Carleton’s force and marched south along the Schroon River. He hoped to link up with Sir John Johnson’s force and then attack Schenectady. On Oct 11th, Munro learned that Carleton had taken Fort Ann and Fort George and was returning to Fort Ticonderoga.
Carleton’s return north left Munro with a decision to make. Should he keep trying to contact Sir John Johnson (Munro had sent two messengers who never returned) or should he do what damage he could and return to Ticonderoga as well? He decided on the latter and on October 12th attacked and destroyed Ballstown, NY. A number of Loyalist wives and children were being held at Ballstown. Munro collected them and returned north.
Oct 17, 1780 Sir John Johnson’s second raid on the Mohawk Valley.
Sir John Johnson began his raid down Schoharie Creek. His army of close to 900 Loyalists, Indians and British Regulars had camped the night of the 16th where Kennanagara Creek flowed into the Schoharie Kill (Creek).
Johnson’s main force started out from Carleton Island and sailed across Lake Ontario to Oswego. From there, they used bateaux down the Oswego River to Onondaga Lake. They stored their boats and supplies by the lake and marched southeast to reach Schoharie Kill on October 16th.
Johnson bypassed the Upper Fort, just north of Bouck Farms Island, and marched up the east shore of the Schoharie Kill. They burned houses, barns, and crops as they went. When they reached the Middle Fort (Fort Defyance) just north of Middleburgh, NY Johnson attempted to gain the surrender of the fort’s defenders. The fort did not surrender and they continued their destructive march north. After firing several cannon shots into it, Johnson bypassed the Lower Fort, just north of the village of Schoharie, and camped the night of the 17th where Fly Creek empties into the Schoharie.
On October 18th, Johnson ordered Joseph Brant and a small party to burn the settlement around Fort Hunter while the main force continued up the west side of the Schoharie to the confluence with the Mohawk River. Arriving at the Mohawk River, Sir John split his force and marched west on both sides of the Mohawk, looting and burning as they went.
Following the Battles of Stone Arabia and Klock’s Field, Sir John and his force returned by several routes to Onondaga Lake and arrived back in Oswego on October 26th. In his report to Sir Frederick Haldimand, Sir John claimed to have destroyed six hundred thousand bushels of grain. Governor George Clinton put the destruction at one hundred fifty thousand bushels and 200 dwellings burned. So devastating was the raid, that Clinton stated Schenectady should now be considered the western frontier of New York State.
Oct 19, 1780 Battles of Stone Arabia and Klock’s Field.
As Sir John Johnson’s army marched up the Mohawk Valley, he split his force sending about one hundred Loyalists and Indians across the river to the north shore. Rebel Colonel John Brown, in command of Fort Paris near Stone Arabia, heard of this smaller force and decided to attack it with about four hundred men. Brown did not know that Sir John had just started to cross more of his army onto the north shore. At the time of the battle, Brown’s force of 400 was facing about 170 of Sir John’s army. Sir John’s forces turned Brown’s flanks and some forty Rebels were killed including Colonel Brown. The Rebels retreated back to Fort Paris.
Later that day, a militia force of about nine hundred men from Albany, led by General VanRensselaer, attacked Sir John’s army. The engagement began in early evening and continued into the night. Under cover of darkness, Sir John directed his force to move across the Mohawk to the south shore and return to Onondaga Lake. General VanRensselaer did not press the night attack through the woods. On the morning of the 20th, Sir John’s force was well ahead of Rebel pursuit.
Nov 1780 Oneida Indians at Schenectady.
The remnants of the Oneida and Tuscarora Nations who supported the Rebels, congregated outside Schenectady, NY. Their village and food had been destroyed during Brant’s raid in the summer. Rebel General Philip Schuyler was appalled at their condition and appealed to Congress to aid these people who had fought “readily and loyally” for the Rebels. He felt the United States was “bound by every principal of honor” to come to the aid of a people who had been reduced to their desperate condition solely through their attachment to the cause of American liberty.
Some of the Indians moved north hoping to hunt and survive in small huts. However, their clothing was minimal and according to Schuyler, was not adequate to cover one eighth of their number.
On March 8, 1781, the New York State Legislature ordered 185 blankets to be purchased for the Indians. With winter nearly over, they received some minimal clothing.
Dec 1780 Rebel southern command changes.
Rebel General Nathaniel Greene assumed command of Rebel forces in the south and begins to rebuild the army. He is joined by Gen Lighthorse Harry Lee (Robert E. Lee’s father), veteran units from various states, and Francis Marion’s Swamp Fighters.