Native Americans at Valley Forge

The War Years (1775-1783)

November 10, 2020
by Joseph Lee Boyle Also by this Author


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At the Bethlehem Hospital near Valley Forge on November 21, 1777, John Ettwein visited a “Narragansett Indian in great distress about his soul, at the near approach of death.” On March 18, 1778, Ettwein noted the passage of a company of New England soldiers that included “a few Stockbridge Indians.” Ettwein was one of many to make note of the Native Americans who served and suffered in the most famous encampment of the American Revolution.

Surgeon Albigence Waldo inoculated two Indians for small pox in the Spring of 1778, and on January 4, recorded that:

I was call’d to relieve a Solder tho’t to be dying—he expir’d before I reach’d the Hutt. He was an Indian—an excellent Soldier—and an obedient good natur’d fellow. He engaged for money doubtless as others do;—but he has serv’d his country faithfully—he has fought for those very people who disinherited his forefathers-having finished his pilgrimage, he was discharged from the War of Life & Death. His memory ought to be respected.[1]

Cato Griger/Greger, a Delaware Indian, enlisted in the 1st Massachusetts Regiment on January 20, 1778, for three years “and soon after marched . . . to Valley Forge.” Griger was about thirty-six years old at the time of his enlistment.[2] In the New England regiments there were some Stockbridge Indians including Benjamin Waunechnauweet and Daniel Wauwaunpeguannant, privates in the 8th Massachusetts. A few others, such as Unkus Abimeleck, served in Connecticut regiments.

In April 1778, a Hessian officer saw several Mohawks in a troop of Americans at the White Horse tavern on the Lancaster Road. He reported “They are blacker, or browner, than the Delaware, have long, hanging down, very black hair, and look more evil and wilder than the others. They shoot, with bow and arrows, in a most amazing manner, as I have seen with my own eyes that they can shoot an arrow through a single bottle at a distance of 100 yards.”[3]

On January 29, 1778, George Washington suggested to the committee of Congress visiting the camp that the Americans use “two or three hundred indians against General Howe’s army the ensuing campaign.” Operating with “some of our Woodsmen” they “would probably strike no small terror into the British and foreign troops . . . The good resulting from the measure . . . would more than compensate for the trouble and expence they might cost us.”[4]

On February 20 the committee urged the employment of “a Number of Indians” to Congress. This was due to the failure of the military to bottle the British up in Philadelphia, and keep civilians from going in with supplies.

We are of Opinion no Measure can be adopted so effectual to break off the pernicious Intercourse which the disaffected Inhabitants of this Country still hold with the Enemy from which they derive the greatest Advantages . . . it is in Contemplation to form a Flying Army composed of light Infantry & rifle Men . . . it is proposed to mix about 400 Indians with them . . . The Situation of the Oneidas to the Northward is such, that . . . bringing their Warriours to the Army, for whose Fidelity & Perseverance we shall then have the best Pledges.[5]

Congress referred the recommendation to the Board of War which concurred but “doubted the expediency of the measure, from the great difficulty and expense which will attend the raising them, and still greater in employing them to advantage, and satisfying their demands . . . and the embarrassments they create in an army.”[6]

Meanwhile the Committee had discussed with Baron von Steuben using Indians “to act as light Troops upon out Posts, advanced Parties and the like.” On March 2, they reported to the President of Congress that Steuben liked the idea and, “the Austrians always use the Croats (a kind of white Indians) for such Purposes and to so good Effect that the King of Prussia imitated them by enrolling a Body of Irregulars to Cover in like Manner his Army.” The letter concluded that a force of Indians would “keep the Enemy Compact, prevent Desertion in our Troops, make us Masters of Intelligence and give us Pledges of their Fidelity.”[7]

On March 4, Congress empowered Washington to employ “a body of Indians, not exceeding 400; and that it be left to him to pursue such measures as he judges best for procuring them, and to employ them . . . in such way as will annoy the enemy without suffering them to injure those who are friends to the cause of America.”[8] Washington wrote on March 13, to the Commissioners of Indian Affairs at Albany, reporting that he was authorized to employ a body of 400 Indians and:

Divesting them of the Savage customs exercised in their Wars against each other, I think they may be made of excellent use, as scouts and light troops, mixed with our own Parties . . . The Oneidas have manifested the strongest attachment to us throughout this dispute and I therefore suppose, if any can be procured, they will be most numerous . . . If the Indians can be procured, I would choose to have them here by the opening of the Campaign, and therefore they should be engaged as soon as possible as there is not more time between this and the Middle of May than will be necessary to settle the business with them and to March from their Country to the Army.[9]

A meeting at Johnstown was held on March 7-9 with some 700 Iroquois in attendance. These were mostly Oneidas, Tuscaroras and Onondagas. James Duane reported that “The faithful Oneidas & Tuscarores were excepted and distinguished. They were applauded for their Integrity and Firmness, and assured of our Friendship and Protection.”[10]

Peter Agwrongdougwas, “Good Peter,” (1717–1793), Chief of the Oneida Indians by John Trumbull. (Yale University Art Gallery)

Gen. Philip Schuyler reported that “The faithful Oneidas & Tuscaroras In the presence of the others declared their determination to Sink or swim with us” and that he had asked Lafayette for help in building a fort for the Indians. On March 22 he stated Lafayette had been promised “two or three hundred of them” and that a message was sent that day “to invite them down” for Washington’s army. But Schuyler felt there was “little room to hope that we shall be able to prevail on them to Join you.”[11]

The Marquis de Lafayette had arrived in Albany on February 17, and decided to attend the meeting at Johnstown as Schuyler “told me that a parcel of french men would be of some use to the cause.” Lafayette brought gifts including “woollen blankets, little mirrors, and above all plenty of paint . . . There was also some gunpowder, lead, and bullets, and some silver crowns of six francs.” He was adopted by the Indians and given the name “Kayewla.”[12]

The commissioners agreed to build a fort for the Oneidas at Kanowalohale. On March 16 Lafayette wrote the governor of New York that he would send a French engineer for that purpose. On March 20 he informed Henry Laurens of his plan to build a fort for the “Onoyedos” and “The love of the french blood mix’d with the love of some french louis d’or have engag’d those indians to promise they would come with me.” That day he informed Washington that he had dispatched Lt. Col. Jean-Baptiste Gouvion to build a fort for the “Onoyedas” and hoped “to bring down to your excellency some scalping gentlemen for dressing the fine hair of the Howe actually dancing at Philadelphia.”[13]

Two days later he wrote that he had dispatched “three french men with black belts and yellow guineas to bring down as many as possible.” He ordered Anne-Louis de Tousard to accompany Gouvion “to help him in building the fort of the Oneydos, and in engaging theyr warriors to join me. He will come back . . . as soon as he will be able to have collected a sufficient number of indians to march them to Albany.” On April 2 Tousard wrote from “Oneidas” to Col. Marinus Willett that the Indians “promised us to follow the Marquis delafayette where he would be pleased to go.”[14]

On April 24, Duane wrote to Congress that every measure possible was being taken to forward Indians to Washington. The Oneidas would not send 200 men, but if “the Troops and Fortress which they solicited are furnished . . . they will send forward a party of their Warriors; the number they do not ascertain.”[15] On April 24 “the Whole nation of Oneida” met at Fort Schuyler to receive presents. Tousard reported that after a “month of deliberations,” he was granted some warriors to join Washington. The Oneida Sachems addressed the departing warriors exhorting them to their best behaviour as they

will be Introduced to General Washington the Chief Warrior, and to a great officer of our father french King the Marquess delafayette at Whose particular application you go — any misconduct in you, if only a little will be of Extensive Influence — The reproach not Easily whiped away.[16]

The Indians under Tousard’s leadership left Fort Schuyler on April 29. Their route is not known but on May 13 Henry Muhlenberg at Trappe, Pennsylvania, reported a party of “allied Indians” encamped in the neighborhood.[17]

In the meantime, Washington had received Schuyler’s letter reporting on the proceedings at Albany. He decided from this and other accounts “there is very little prospect of succeeding in . . . engaging a body of Indians from that quarter to serve with this army.” He felt that “affairs are now on such a footing as to render their aid, in the field, unnecessary, and that all we require of them is their friendship and good wishes.”[18]

The Indians arrived at Valley Forge on May 13, 14, or 15 amounting to between “seven and fourthy” or fifty. Tousard had brought them down and reported that it was “a long and tedious march” and “I was pretty much troubled in the Road by some of the Indians who remain’d behind in order to get drinking with more ease, but the totality behaved well enough, and we arrived . . . without accident nor complaints against them.”[19]

On May 15 Washington asked that no more Indians be sent to him:

I should wish the party to be stopped, or if they should be on the way and not far advanced, and it can be done without occasioning disgust, I should be glad they might return home. When my application was made for a body of Indians to join this army, our prospects were very different from what they are now . . . there will be very little of that kind of service in which the Indians are capable of being useful. To bring them such a distance, while there is likely to be scarcely any employment suited to their active and desultory genius, could answer no valuable purpose; but would be productive of needless expence, and might perhaps have a tendency to put them out of humour.[20]

That day one of Washington’s guards reported that “The Ingen Chief Come to Head Quarters to Congratelate with his Excelency and also Dined with him.”[21] Years later a French officer remembered an Indian at dinner:

One day we were at dinner at head-quarters; an Indian entered the room, walked round the table, and then stretching forth his long tattooed arm seized a large joint of hot roast beef in his thumb and fingers, took it to the door, and began to eat it. We were all much surprised, but General Washington gave orders that he was not to be interfered with.[22]

On May 17, Col. Daniel Morgan was ordered to select fifty men to send to White Marsh, to join a party of Indians and to act together. They were to be part of a “Considerable detachment” Washington planned to send towards the enemy. In a second letter, Morgan was advised that about forty Indians would either be immediately under Morgan’s command or on the other side of the Schuylkill River.[23]

The next day Washington ordered Lafayette to march towards Philadelphia to block enemy parties from entering the countryside, “and obtain intelligence of their motions and designs. This last is a matter of very interesting moment, and ought to claim your particular attention.” This movement was prompted by accounts that the British were preparing to evacuate Philadelphia. Washington hoped Lafayette could attack the enemy rear as they withdrew.[24] Around midnight on May 18, Lafayette left Valley Forge and crossed the Schuylkill with about 2,000 men. The march ended at Barren Hill in eastern Whitemarsh Township near the present Philadelphia County line. The Indian party, with Capt. Allen McLane’s cavalry, were assigned patrol duty down the Ridge Pike.

On May 19 the British commander received information on Lafayette’s position. He assembled a strong force and marched out of Philadelphia that night, hoping to trap the Americans. Divided into three columns, the British nearly caught Lafayette, but the Americans were able to retreat over the Schuylkill at Matson’s Ford after several skirmishes. After Lafayette crossed to safety, Morgan was ordered to join the Marquis and plan a return over the river with up to 500 “active Volunteers.” As the British had marched all the previous night they “must be much fatigued” and Morgan could “plague them and pick up some straglers.” It was suggested “If any of the Indians will go over they may do some Service.”[25]

The role of the Indians in the expedition is variously stated. Lafayette wrote that “fifty of our Indian allies met fifty British dragoons. The war cries on one side and the appearance of the cavalry on the other side surprised the two parties so much that they fled with equal speed.” According to Henry Dearborn “the Enimy after a small scurmish with a Party of our Anydo Indians Retired into Philadelphia . . . our only Loss was 6 of my frenchmen.” Anthony Wayne, who was not with the column, stated there were no American losses and reported “some Prisoners taken by our Light Troops and Indians hanging on their Rear—the latter at one fire killed five of the Enemie’s Horse, and by the war Hollow put the Remainder to flight.”[26]

Tousard commanded the party which he said consisted of fifty Indians and ten frenchmen.

I have had the occasion to acquaint the british light horses with the hollow of the Indians, and their hability in firing; but I have lost three french men on the spot . . . four were made prisoners, and myself owe my liberty, perhaps much more to two Indians, and two french men who stood constantly by me, and kill’d two Light horse at whose fire my horse had throwd me. I cannot tell the exact number of the Light horse killed . . . I have seen my self five or six killed.[27]

Lafayette lauded Tousard’s efforts and told Laurens “that he has taken the greatest trouble for them.” Lafayette recommended Tousard be commissioned as a major, the rank promised to him for coming to America.[28]

Elijah Fisher recorded American losses as “fore or five of our party that the Enemy’s Lite horse Cut to pieces.” Washington wrote that the losses were “nine men in the whole.” Neither mentioned the role of the Indians.[29]

Capt. John Peebles of the British Army listed two Indians killed with no British losses. Capt. John Montresor said there were “killed on the Field, one French officer and five more Rebels and 12 Prisoners.” Apparently neither were with the column. Sgt Thomas Sullivan, who was with the British force, said the Americans retreated “leaving a few men killed and wounded, and five men Prisoners. Our loss was four men wounded, and two horses killed.”[30] A Hessian officer reported that Lafayette sacrificed his rear guard “part of whom were killed, wounded, and captured. Among the latter were a French major and several Indians who were armed with bows and arrows . . . said to be the Stockbridge tribe . . . They were handsome well-built people, who had a rather deep yellow skin.” Another Hessian mentioned sixty Indians in Lafayette’s vanguard and stated that one French officer was killed and another captured with six riflemen killed and nine men captured, but “The Indians, who enjoyed undisturbed rest, returned unmolested across the Schuylkill.” Gen. Wilhelm von Knyphausen recounted there were 200 Indians, and in the American rear-guard “one officer and five men were killed and some, mostly French, taken prisoners.” An Anspach lieutenant who remained behind in Philadelphia heard that there were 150 Indians, four of whom were among the seventy prisoners captured.[31]

News of the action passed to civilians, who heard different stories. On May 22, Christopher Marshall at Lancaster wrote, “it’s said that our Indians killed and scalped the last parcel.” The next day Henry Muhlenberg at Trappe wrote he had learned of the action from his son, Gen. Peter Muhlenberg, who visited that day:

seventy Indians of the American Army were posted as an observation corps . . . The Indians were the last to cross and were surrounded by the English Light Horse in a little wood. But they retired behind the trees as their way is and made the usual horrible war-cry, which threw horses and riders into disorder and put them to flight, when the Indians shot a few cavalrymen and picked up their cloaks . . . The Indians were the last to get over, and they were surrounded in a small thicket by the English light cavalry, but they retired behind the trees in accord with their custom and let loose their usual hideous war whoops, which threw the riders into confusion and sent them flying; where upon the Indians shot several of the cavalrymen and gathered up their lost cloaks.[32]

Richard Henry Lee at York wrote that “Some Oneida Indians skirmished with the enemy & killed a few of their light Horse.”[33] Henry Laurens, also at York, mentioned American losses of three killed and four prisoners, that “45 Indians & about ten French Men in the Indian Corp” accompanied Lafayette and “The Enemy lost 2 Horsemen killed & six or eight wounded. When the Indians had discharged their fire upon the light Horse they set up the War Whoop & according to their Custom scampered off. The British light Horse Men terrified by the yelling of the Indians fled precipitantly the other way. The Indians picked up several of their Cloaks and converted them into Boots.”[34]

A newspaper carried a similar account:

The enemy had two horsemen killed, and many wounded. When the Indians had fired off their pieces at the light horse, they set up the War Whoop, and scampered according to their Custom. The light-horse, terrified at the unusual sound, scampered off then as fast as their horses would carry them! The Indians collected some of the coats, which were dropped in the flight, and soon converted them into leggins.[35]

On December 12, 1780, Lafayette returned to Barren Hill with the Marquis de Chastellux of the French Army. Chastellux was told there were no American losses and:

The fifty Indians who had been assigned to La Fayette were placed in the woods, in ambush, after their manner, that is to say, lying as close as rabbits. Fifty English dragoons, at the head of the column, rode into the woods. They had never seen any Indians and the Indians had never seen any dragoons. So, up jumped the savages with a savage cry, threw down their arms, and escaped to safety by swimming across the Schuylkill, while the dragoons, as frightened as they were, turned tail and fled in such a panic that they could not be stopped until they reached Philadelphia.[36]

Capt. Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy, an engineer, drew maps of the field. One version of the “Retraite de Barrenhill” indicates a spot where “les sauvages” crossed the river to rejoin Lafayette’s main body.[37]

Joseph Plumb Martin remembered about a hundred Indians “from some northren tribe” who “were stout-looking fellows and remarkably neat for that race of mortals, but they were Indians.” He recounted when an Indian shot an arrow into a cluster of bats hanging on a church roof that “The poor bats fared hard: it was sport for all hands. They killed I know not how many.” Of the skirmish itself he wrote:

The Indians, with all their alertness, had like to have ‘bought the rabbit.’ They kept coming in all the afternoon, in parties of four or five, whooping and hallooing like wild beasts. After they got collected they vanished; I never saw any more of them.[38]

A plaque in St. Peter’s Church Cemetery at Barren Hill honors “six indian scouts who died in battle May 1778.” No one, however, except British Lieutenant Peebles, stated that Indians were killed and he mentioned only two. While casualties from Lafayette’s outing may be buried there, no known records corroborate this.

On June 4 Lafayette recommended that Congress “make a present to our Indians of vermillion, looking glasses, pipes, cloathes &c. it would have a fine effect.” Nearly sixty years later Peter Du Ponceau related a story about a meeting a “tall Indian figure in American regimentals and two large epaulettes on his shoulders” singing a French opera song. He said the Indian held the rank of colonel and was well educated by the Jesuits. After breakfast at Steuben’s quarters, Du Ponceau never saw him again. This may have been “Colonel Louis” Atayataronghta, a Caughnawaga, who was one of the leaders of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras at Saratoga and other places. A year later Congress approved officer commissions for thirteen Oneida and Tuscarora warriors and commissioned Louis a lieutenant colonel.[39]

On June 12, Lafayette wrote to Allen McLane, responding to a request to use the Indians with his detachment. Lafayette answered he would speak to Washington about it and expected, “the Indians will do well with you in the lines.” He wrote again that day that “the greatest part of them is going home to oppose the Senecas, whose intentions they do’nt trust upon” but “that some would stay with the army.” The ones that were staying Washington wished to send to Morgan at Radnor, but they “may join you from there in some days.”[40]

On June 13, Washington ordered Ens. Jacob Klock of the 1st New York Regiment to escort “Thirty four of the Indians . . . who are in Camp being desirous of returning home” to New York. Lafayette wrote to the commander of Fort Schuyler that “the others stay with me whose wives and children I Recommend to your attentive care. As the husbands are fighting for us, and cannot provide for them, they must be furnish’d with provisions.” The departure must have been immediate as on June 14, Henry Muhlenberg recorded that a “small party of Indians returned from the American camp.” On June 16 “a whole company of Indians on their way home from camp” was near Emmaus in what is now Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.[41]

Why they left is unknown. On May 29 Christopher Marshall heard from Christopher Ludwick, who had left camp the day before, that “our Indians at camp had killed three officers by mistake owing to their being dressed in the English officers’ uniform.” But the muster rolls show no officer casualties from the time the Indians arrived, nor is the incident mentioned by anyone else.[42]

The departure of the Indians may have been due to ravages by other tribes. Spring brought renewed raids on the frontier in Western Pennsylvania and other areas. On May 16 Timothy Matlack, secretary of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, wrote of information from the west “which makes it necessary to give immediate attention to the defence of that quarter against the Indians.” On May 19 Henry Laurens wrote, “The Indians & Tories are exceeding troublesome on the Western frontier.” One author attributed their departure to simple homesickness.[43]

By June 9 the commissioners wrote Washington of the alarm of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras in New York and enclosed a letter from them “requiring the return of their warriors for their own defence.” The Commissioners suggested that they “ought not to be apprised of the message from their Sachems,” until the British had evacuated Philadelphia. It is possible that Washington received this letter by June 13, the day he ordered Ensign Klock to escort them home. The remaining Indians with Washington probably traveled home with Maj. Myndert Wemple who came from Albany with a party of Senecas, some Oneidas and Tuscaroras, in search of Atskeray, a Seneca warrior who had been wounded and captured near Fort Pitt. This contingent met Washington in Pennsylvania, ten miles from Coryell’s Ferry (now New Hope) on June 21. Washington referred them to the President of Congress and stated that the Oneidas and Tuscaroras had “dispatches from their sachems for the immediate return of such of their Men and Warriors as were here.” Washington consented to this and directed they be given presents.[44]

Benedict Arnold, then commanding in Philadelphia, was directed to provide “Trinkets &ca” to the Indians, but to have the presents and gifts to the Oneidas and Tuscaroras “greatly to exceed” those given to those Senecas. He was instructed to “Have them well presented, after which they may return to their nation.” Arnold promised that “particular Attention shall be paid to the Contents.” On June 24 Arnold wrote Henry Laurens that a “Committee” of Senecas arrived the day before in search of their captive chief.[45]

Congress was at York until June 27, and then adjourned to reconvene in Philadelphia. Apparently the Indian “Committee” grew tired of waiting and left. On July 7 the Board of War was ordered “to send for and confer with the Seneca Chiefs who have lately quitted the city of Philadelphia.” They refused, however, to do so. On July 17 Major Wemple arrived at Albany “with the Senecas and the other Indians from Philadelphia.” It is assumed this included the remainder of the Indians that had come to Valley Forge in May.[46]

Legends have survived among the Oneidas about those sent to Valley Forge. One is that food they brought with them saved the starving army. By the time they arrived in May, though, the food shortages had passed. No known primary-source documents mention the Indians bringing food with them. The tradition claims they brought 600 bushels of corn, amounting to twelve bushels or approximately 672 pounds per man. Supposedly the Oneidas had taught the soldiers how to prepare dry corn, but corn was already familiar to the soldiers. Part of the tradition states that an Oneida woman named Polly Cooper taught the men to properly cook corn, and the army wished to pay her but she refused; instead Martha Washington took her into Philadelphia and purchased a shawl and bonnet, and the shawl is now a treasured heirloom of the Oneida Nation. Facts argue against the truth of this tradition: Martha left for Virginia on June 8, 1778, and the British did not evacuate Philadelphia until June 18. There are no known contemporary references to an Indian woman at Valley Forge.[47]

While the stay of the Indians at Valley Forge was brief, it was a matter of interest to several civilian observers who marked their passage. In 1845, a Chester County resident still remembered them passing by her house near Zion Church, on what is now State Route 724.[48]


[1].John W. Joran, “Bethlehem During the Revolution,”Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (PMHB) 13, no. 1 (1889): 77, 80; “Diary Kept at Valley Forge by Albigence Waldo,” The Historical Magazine 5, no. 6 (June 1861): 171.

[2].RG 15, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land-Warrant Files, M804, r 379, Claim W 2731. National Archives.

[3].Defeat, Disaster and Dedication: The Diaries of the Hessian Officers Jakob Piel and Andreas Wiederhold, trans. and ed. Bruce E. Burgoyne (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1997), 106-7.

[4].Washington to the Committee of Congress with the Army, 29 January 1778, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1931), 10: 400-1 (WGW).

[5].Committee at Camp to Henry Laurens, 20 February 1778, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, ed. Paul H. Smith et al. (Washington: Library of Congress, 1979), 9: 144-45 (LDC).

[6].Ibid., 9:146; Journals of the Continental Congress, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904-1937), 10: 220-21 (JCC).

[7].Committee at Camp to Laurens, 2 March 1778, LDC, 9: 199-200.

[8].JCC, 10: 220-21.

[9].Washington to the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, March 13, 1778, WGW, 11: 76-77. For the Oneidas see Joseph T. Glatthaar and James Kirby Martin, Forgotten Allies: The Oneida Indians in the American Revolution (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006).

[10].James Duane to George Clinton, March 13, 1778, LDC, 9: 288-89; Duane to Robert Morris, March 19, 1778, ibid., 9: 309.

[11].Philip Schuyler to Laurens, March 15, 1778, Papers of the Continental Congress, Record Group 360, M247 (PCC), r173, i173, 3: 286-92; Schuyler to Washington, March 22, 1778, Washington Papers, r48, Library of Congress; JCC, 10: 291.

[12].Lafayette to George Clinton, February 27, 1778, Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution, ed. Stanley J. Idzerda et al. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), 1: 325; The Chevalier de Pontgibaud, A French Volunteer of the War of Independence, trans. & ed. Robert B. Douglas (1898: reprint, Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1968), 48; Idzerda, “Memoir of 1779,” Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution, 1: 247, Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette Joins the American Army (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937), 143, 145.

[13].Lafayette to Laurens, March 20, 1778, Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution, 1: 364; Lafayette to Washington, March 20, 1778, ibid., 1: 370.

[14].Lafayette to Washington, March 22, 1778, Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution, 1: 375-76; Tousard to Marinus Willett, April 2, 1778, Letters on the American Revolution in the Library at “Karolfred,”ed. Frederic R. Kirkland (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc: 1952), 2: 47.

[15].James Duane to Laurens, April 24, 1778, LDC, 9: 474-75.

[16].Samuel Kirkland to Tousard, April 24, 1778; Tousard to Laurens, May 23, 1778, A Salute to Courage: The American Revolution as Seen Through Wartime Writings of Officers of the Continental Army and Navy, ed. Dennis P. Ryan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), 138-40.

[17].The Journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, trans. Theodore G. Tappert & John W. Doberstein (Philadelphia: The Muhlenberg Press, 1958), 3: 152.

[18].Washington to Laurens, May 3, 1778, WGW, 11: 343-44.

[19].On May 16 Tousard wrote he arrived on May 13 with forty-seven Indians but on May 23 wrote he arrived on May 15 with fifty. Tousard to Marinus Willett, May 15, 1778, Emmett Collection, New York Public Library (NYPL); Tousard to Laurens, May 23, 1778, A Salute to Courage, 139. George Fleming noted on May 14 that “About 50 Indians are just arrived.” Fleming to Sebastian Bauman, May 14, 1778, Bauman Papers, New York Historical Society. Another wrote “a Bout 50 Indians a Rived this Day thea Say there is 4 hundred moor In 2 Days March of to joine us.” John Sumner to Samuel Huntington, May 14, 1778, PCC, Roll 56, i42, v7, p43.

[20].Washington to Schuyler, May 15, 1778, 1934, 11: 389-91.

[21].“Elijah Fisher’s Diary,” in Carlos E. Godfrey, The Commander-in Chief’s Guard (1904; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co.), 276.

[22].Pontgibaud, A French Volunteer, 49.

[23].Alexander Hamilton to Daniel Morgan, May 17, 1778, Myers Collection, NYPL; James McHenry to Morgan, Myers Collection, NYPL.

[24].Washington to Lafayette, May 18, 1778, WGW, 11: 418-20.

[25].Tench Tilghman to Morgan, May 20, 1778, Myers Collection, NYPL.

[26].“Memoir of 1779,” Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution, 2: 7; Revolutionary War Journals of Henry Dearborn: 1775-1783, ed. Lloyd A. Brown & Howard H. Peckham (Chicago: The Caxton Club, 1939), 121; Anthony Wayne to Sharp Delany, May 21, 1778, PMHB 11, no. 1 (1887): 115-16.

[27]. Tousard to Laurens, May 25, 1778, PCC, M247, r176, i156, 9-12.

[28].Lafayette to Laurens, May 25, 1778, Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution, 2: 56-57; same to same, June 7, 1778, ibid., 2:71.

[29].Fisher, “Diary,” 277, Washington to Laurens, May 24, 1778, WGW, 11: 443.

[30].John Peebles Diary, Cuninghame of Thorton Papers, Scottish Record Office (microfilm, David Library of the American Revolution); “Journals of Capt. John Montresor,” ed. G. D. Scull, in Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1881 (New York: New York Historical Society, 1882), 493; Thomas Sullivan Journal, American Philosophical Society.

[31].Johann Ewald, Diary of the American War, trans., ed. Joseph P. Tustin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), 130; Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals 1776-1784 of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces, trans., ed. Bernhard A. Uhlendorf (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1957), 175-76; Knyphausen to The Landgrave, May 23, 1778, Lidgerwood Collection, G.250-51, Morristown National Historical Park; Heinrich Carl Philipp von Feilitzsch, “Diary (1777-1780),” Diaries of two Ansbach Jaegers, trans. and ed. Bruce E. Burgoyne (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1997), 38.

[32].Muhlenberg, Journals, 3: 156.

[33].Lee to John Page, May 25, 1778; LDC, 9: 748.

[34].Extracts from the Diary of Christopher Marshall, ed. William Duane (1877; reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1969), 182; Muhlenberg, Journal, 3: 156-57; “A Journal of Sundry Matters happening during the Stay of the Enemy at Germantown,” Joseph Reed Papers, NYHS; Laurens to Francis Hopkinson, May 27, 1778, LDC, 9: 756.

[35].Pennsylvania Packet, June 3, 1778.

[36].Francois Jean, Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781 and 1782, trans. Howard C. Rice, Jr. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1963), 1: 171-72.

[37].Peter J. Guthorn, American Maps and Map Makers of the Revolution (Monmouth Beach, NJ: Philip Freneau Press, 1966), 9-10.

[38].Joseph Plumb Martin, Private Yankee Doodle, ed. George E. Scheer (Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1962), 118-20.

[39].Lafayette to Laurens, June 4, 1778, Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution, 2: 67; “The Autobiography of Peter Stephen DuPonceau,” PMHB 63, no. 2 (July 1939): 221-223.

[40].Lafayette to Allen McLane, June 12, 1778, Allen McLane Collection, Historical Society of Delaware; Lafayette to McLane, June 12, 1778, Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution, 2: 72.

[41].Washington to Jacob Klock, June 13, 1778, WGW, 12: 56; Lafayette to Peter Gansevoort, June 13, 1778, LAAR, 2: 76 Muhlenberg, Journal, 3: 163; Preston A. Barba, They Came to Emmaus (Emmaus, PA: Borough of Emmaus, 1959), 124.

[42].Marshall, Diary, 184.

[43].Laurens to John Rutledge, LDC, 9: 718; Timothy Matlack to John Lacey Jr., May 16, 1778, The Register of Pennsylvania3, no 23 (June 6, 1829): 357; John F. Reed, “Indians at Valley Forge,” The Valley Forge Journal, 3, no. 1 (June 1986): 32.

[44].Commissioners of Indian Affairs to Washington, June 9, 1778, PCC, r168, i152, 6: 131-34; Laurens to Schuyler, May 28, 1778, LDC, 9: 765-66; Washington to Laurens, June 21, 1778, WGW, 12: 98-99; James McHenry reported that “a deputation of the . . . Indians” had an audience with Washington. James McHenry, Journal of a March, a Battle, and a Waterfall. . . . (privately printed, 1945), 2.

[45].Washington to Benedict Arnold, June 21, 1778, WGW, 12: 101-2; Arnold to Washington, June 22, 1778, George Washington Papers, r50 LC; Arnold to Laurens, June 24, 1778, Laurens Papers, 13: 512.

[46].JCC, 11: 675; Schuyler to Laurens, July 19, 1778, PCC, r173, 3: 348-51.

[47].Washington to John Augustine Washington, June 10, 1778, WGW, 12: 43; Washington to Laurens, June 18, 1778, ibid., 12: 82.

[48].Frederick Sheeder, “East Vincent Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania,” PMHB 34, no. 2 (1910): 199.


  • I live in Williamsburg, so I was interested in the grand opening in 2017 of the American Revolution Museum of Yorktown. Two weeks later, the Museum of the American Revolution had its grand opening in Philadelphia, so I went to see that as well. Neither of them, alas, says anything about the Navy. The Yorktown one is much bigger, but the Philadelphia one is more accurate. They point out that for a large proportion of Americans fighting, they were not so much interested in gaining independence from Britain as in ripping off land from the Indians.
    The Oneidas were the one tribe that committed to American Independence. A few tribes, such as Mohawks, fought on the British side, and most Indians (thanks to education by Moravians) were neutral. After the war, nearly ALL the Indians, including the Oneida, found their lands being taken away by the USA. That is the background to this article that remained unsaid.

  • I had some followup in the original article which had to be taken out due to lack of space.

    As follows: “The Oneidas and Tuscaroras who had allied with the Americans were poorly served. The Revolution was a disaster for all the tribes involved, but the faithful suffered with the defiant. In the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784, the United States pledged that “the Oneida and Tuscarora Nations shall be secured in the Possession of the Lands on which they are settled” in recognition of their loyalty. This was reaffirmed by several subsequent treaties but these proved worthless. The State of New York felt differently and by the Treaty of Fort Herkimer in 1785, the Treaty of Fort Schuyler in 1788, and other transactions, the Oneidas lost millions of acres to land speculators. In 1794 the United States absolved its obligations to the Oneidas with a cash award of $5,000 and an annuity of $4500. In 1796 white visitors to the Oneidas commented that “Once we coveted their friendship…now…they are rather objects of pity.” The Indian Trade and Non-Intercourse Act of 1790 was ignored by New York, and through a string of illegal treaties, the Oneidas were robbed of their homeland by 1838. Most left for Wisconsin or Canada and in the 1830s and 1840s with only 151 remaining in New York by 1855. “

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