- Historic Sites
The End Of The Iroquois
Sullivan’ s meticulously planned expedition of 1779 aimed to cripple once and for all the redskin allies of King George
October 1969 | Volume 20, Issue 6
A few days later, in Tioga, a similar celebration was held, with an Indian dance led by an Oneida sachem. The officers, wearing paint, joined in the steps, each measure ending with a war whoop. The forts were then demolished; the army moved downriver, mostly by boat, to Wyoming. Thence they marched again to their starting point at Easton, and thence to various winter quarters.
General Sullivan reported proudly to Congress that his mission was fulfilled, and at small cost—less than forty men lost. He had destroyed forty villages, approximately 160,000 bushels of corn, and a vast quantity of other vegetables and fruits. He had imposed on the British the obligation of feeding their Indian allies. Indeed, during the following winter the British at Niagara counted between two and three thousand Indian wards demanding rations. This was the bitter winter when New York Harbor was frozen solid and artillery was wheeled on the ice from Staten Island to Manhattan. The Indians in Niagara suffered cruelly from cold, hunger, and scurvy, the last affliction being an obvious consequence of the loss of their customary vegetable foods and stored fruits.
The Americans, including Washington, supposed that the Indian menace to the frontier was ended. Therein they were mistaken. The raids were resumed, prompted by hunger as well as vengefulness. The Mohawk Valley, almost depopulated, was left in ruins.
The Sullivan campaign was nevertheless a notable achievement. The army had marched well over five hundred miles, with small hope of reward or glory. The operation was admirably planned and conducted, without dash and daring but without needless risk. Its work of desolation virtually eliminated the Indian from central New York and opened a new frontier for the white man.
On the whole the campaign was a necessary but rather nasty business, as is the greater part of most wars. Some of the more tender-minded expeditioiiaries were pained by the destruction of farms and homes. Dr. Campneld wrote: “There is something so cruel in destroying the habitations of any people, (however mean they may be, being their all) that I might say the prospect hurts my feelings.”
Others looked to a more distant, a more shining prospect. Lieutenant Robert Parker, camped on the Genesee, was vouchsafed a kind of vision.
Here let us leave the busy army for a moment and suffer our imaginations to Run at large through these delightful wilds & figure to ourselves the opening prospects of future greatness which we may reasonably suppose is not far distant, & that we may yet behold with a pleasing admiration those deserts that have so long been the habitation of beasts of prey & a safe asylum for our savage enemies, converted into fruitful fields, covered with all the richest productions of agriculture, amply rewarding the industrious husbandman by a golden harvest; the spacious plains abounding with flocks & herds to supply his necessary wants. These Lakes and Rivers that have for ages past rolled in sacred silence along their wonted course, unknown to Christian nations, produce spacious cities & guilded spires, rising on their banks, affording a safe retreat for the virtuous few that disdains to live in affluence at the expense of their liberties. The fish too, that have so long enjoyed a peaceful habitation in these transparent regions, may yet become subservient to the inhabitants of this delightful country.
Lieutenant Parker’s glorious vision has today been richly realized, or at least all except the subservience of the fish.