THAYENDANEGEA – JOSEPH BRANT
1775 – The American Six Nations Confederacy announces a policy of neutrality at Albany in 1775. The Declaration of Independence is read at City Hall. Mayor Abraham Cuyler, a royalist, is deposed. Many local Tories flee, departing north to Canada.
1776 – Joseph Brant is solicited by both American 6 Nations (Confederate) and British (Tory) sides to pledge his people’s loyalty and found himself perplexed amidst a contrariety of arguments upon this tragic subject, which he could not well understand. Before coming to a decisive resolution he resolved to go himself into the presence of the Great King, as the British Sovereign is styled amongst the Onkwehon:we. He accordingly travelled to London, accompanied by Captain Tice, an officer of English extraction, born in America and who has a settlement just in the neighborhood of the Mohawk Nation. By what mode of reasoning this chief was convinced of the justice of the demands of Great Britain upon her colonies, and the propriety of enforcing them, in exchange for a pledge to better times, it is said he promised to not only pledge his assistance to the government, but to bring three thousand men into the field.
Frustrated, Brant returned to Onoquaga in the spring to recruit independent warriors. Few Onoquaga villagers joined him, but in May he was successful in recruiting Loyalists who wished to retaliate against the rebels. This group became known as Brant’s Volunteers. In June, he led them to Unadilla to obtain supplies. There he was confronted by 380 men of the Tryon County militia led by Nicholas Herkimer. Herkimer requested that the Iroquois remain neutral but Brant responded that the Indians owed their loyalty to the King who they hoped evict European settlers from their territories.
In May, Brant returned to Fort Niagara where, operated a farm on the Niagara River, six miles (10 km) from the fort. He built a small chapel for the Indians who started living nearby. There he also married for a third time.
Brant’s honors and gifts caused jealousy among rival chiefs, in particular the Seneca war chief Sayenqueraghta. A British general said that Brant “would be much happier and would have more weight with the Indians, which he in some measure forfeits by their knowing that he receives pay.” In late 1779, after receiving a colonel’s commission for Brant from Lord Germain, Haldimand decided to hold it without informing Brant.
In early July 1779, the British learned of plans for a major American expedition into Iroquois Seneca country. To disrupt the Americans’ plans, John Butler sent Brant and his Volunteers on a quest for provisions and to gather intelligence in the upper Delaware River valley near Minisink, New York. After stopping at Onaquaga, Brant attacked and defeated American militia at the Battle of Minisink on July 22, 1779. Brant’s raid failed to disrupt the Continental Army‘s plans, however.
In the Sullivan Expedition, the Continental Army sent a large force deep into Iroquois territory to attack the warriors and, as importantly, destroy their villages, crops and food stores. Brant and the Iroquois were defeated on August 29, 1779 at the Battle of Newtown, the only major conflict of the expedition. Sullivan’s Continentals swept away all Iroquois resistance in New York, burned their villages, and forced the Iroquois to fall back to Fort Niagara. Brant wintered at Fort Niagara in 1779-80.
In February 1779, Brant traveled to Montreal to meet with Frederick Haldimand, the military commander and Governor of Quebec. Haldimand commissioned Brant as Captain of the Northern Confederated Indians. He also promised provisions, but no pay, for his Volunteers. Assuming victory, Haldimand pledged that after the war ended, the British government would restore the Mohawk to their lands as stated before the conflict started. Those conditions were included in the Proclamation of 1763, the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, and the Quebec Act in June 1774.
APRIL 7, 1779 HALDIMAND PLEDGE
“Some of the Mohawks of the Villages of Canojaharie, Tikondarago, and Aughugo, whose settlements than had been on account of their steady attachment to the King’s service and the interests of Government ruined by the rebels; having informed me that my predecessor, Sir. Guy Carleton, was pleased to promise, as soon as present troubles were at an end, the same should be restored at the expense of the Government, to the state they were in before these wars broke out, and said promise appearing to me just, I do hereby ratify the same and assure them the said promise, so far as in me lies, shall be faithfully executed, as soon as that happy time comes.”
Brant resumed small-scale attacks on the Mohawk Valley. In February 1780, he and his party set out and in April attacked Harpersfield. In mid-July, 1780 Brant attacked the Oneida village of Kanonwalohale, as the nation was an ally of the American colonists. Brant’s raiders destroyed the Oneida houses, horses, and crops. Some of the Oneida surrendered, but most took refuge at Fort Stanwix.Wounded and service in Detroit area, 1780-1783
Traveling east, they attacked towns on both sides of the Mohawk River: Canajoharie and Fort Plank. He burned his former hometown of Canajoharie because it had been re-occupied by American settlers. On their return up the valley, they divided into smaller parties, attacking Schoharie, Cherry Valley, and German Flatts. Joining with Butler’s Rangers and the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, Brant’s forces were part of a third major raid on the Mohawk Valley, where they destroyed settlers’ homes and crops. Brant was wounded in the heel at the Battle of Klock’s Field.
In April 1781 Brant was sent west to Fort Detroit to help defend against Virginian George Rogers Clark‘s expedition into the Ohio Country. In August 1781, Brant soundly defeated a detachment of Clark’s force, ending the American threat to Detroit. He was wounded in the leg and spent the winter 1781-1782 at the fort. During 1781 and 1782, Brant tried to keep the disaffected western Iroquois nations loyal to the Crown before and after the British surrendered at Yorktown in October 1781.
In June 1782 Brant and his Indians went to Fort Oswego, where they helped rebuild the fort. In July 1782, he and 460 Iroquois raided forts Herkimer andDayton, but they did not cause much serious damage. Sometime during the raid, he received a letter from Governor Haldimand, announcing peace negotiations, recalling the war party and ordering a cessation of hostilities. Brant denounced the British “no offensive war” policy as a betrayal of the Iroquois and urged the Indians to continue the war, but they were unable to do so without British supplies.
Other events in the New World and Europe as well as changes in the British government had brought reconsideration of British national interest on the American continent. The new governments recognized their priority to get Britain out of its four interconnected wars, and time might be short. Through a long and involved process between March and the end of November 1782, the preliminary peace treaty between Great Britain and America would be made; it would become public knowledge following its approval by the Congress of the Confederation on April 15, 1783. Nearly another year would pass before the other foreign parties to the conflict signed treaties on 3 September 1783, with that being ratified by Congress on January 14, 1784, and formally ending the American Revolutionary War.
In July 1777 the American Six Nations Confederacy council decided to abandon neutrality and enter the war on the British side. Four of the six nations chose this route, and some members of the Oneida and Tuscarora, who otherwise allied with the rebels. Brant was not present. Sayenqueraghta and Cornplanter were named as the war chiefs of the confederacy. The Mohawk had earlier made Brant one of their war chiefs; they also selected John Deseronto. In July, Brant led his Volunteers north to link up with Barry St. Leger at Fort Oswego. St. Leger’s plan was to travel downriver, east in the Mohawk River valley, to Albany, where he would meet the army of John Burgoyne, who was coming from Lake Champlain and the upper Hudson River. St. Leger’s expedition ground to a halt with the Siege of Fort Stanwix. Brant played a major role in the Battle of Oriskany, where a Patriot relief expedition was stopped. St. Leger was eventually forced to lift the siege, and Brant traveled to Burgoyne’s main army to inform him. Burgoyne restricted participation by native warriors, so Brant departed for Fort Niagara, where his family joined him and he spent the winter planning the next year’s campaign. His wife Susanna likely died at Fort Niagara that winter. (Burgoyne’s campaign ended with his surrender to the Patriots after the Battles of Saratoga.) In April 1778, Brant returned to Onoquaga. He became one the most active partisan leaders in the frontier war. He and his Volunteers raided rebel settlements throughout the Mohawk Valley, stealing their cattle, burning their houses, and killing many. On May 30, he led an attack on Cobleskill and in September, along with Captain William Caldwell, he led a mixed force of Indians and Loyalists in a raid on German Flatts. In the Battle of Wyoming in July, the Seneca were accused of slaughtering noncombatant civilians. Although Brant was suspected of being involved, he did not participate in that battle.In October 1778, Continental soldiers and local militia attacked Brant’s home base at Onaquaga while his Volunteers were away on a raid. The soldiers burned the houses, killed the cattle, chopped down the apple trees, spoiled the growing corn crop, and killed some native children found in the corn fields. The American commander later described Onaquaga as “the finest Indian town I ever saw; on both sides [of] the river there was about 40 good houses, square logs, shingles & stone chimneys, good floors, glass windows.” In November 1778, Brant joined his Mohawk forces with those led by Walter Butler in the Cherry Valley massacre;Butler’s forces were composed primarily of Seneca angered by the rebel raids on Onaquaga, Unadilla, and Tioga, and by accusations of atrocities during theBattle of Wyoming. The force rampaged through Cherry Valley, a community in which Brant knew several people. He tried to restrain the attack, but more than 30 noncombatants were reported to be slain in the attack.
The Patriot Americans believed that Brant had commanded the Wyoming Valley massacre of 1778, and also considered him responsible for the Cherry Valley massacre. At the time, frontier rebels called him “the Monster Brant”, and stories of his massacres and atrocities were widely propagated. The violence of the frontier warfare added to the rebel Americans’ hatred of the Iroquois and soured relations for 50 years. While the colonists called the Indian killings “massacres”, they considered their own forces’ widespread destruction of Indian villages and populations simply as part of the partisan war, but the Iroquois equally grieved their losses.
Joseph Brant’s Children
Peggy (Neggen Aoghyatonghsera), daughter of Isaac, married Joseph Brant on July 22, 1765. They were married by Rev. Theophilus Chamberlain, a newly ordained minister. Their wedding was in Canajoharie. Samson Occum, the great Indian (Mohegan) preacher was there. Samson Occum’s school would later be known as Dartmouth College. (On this same day, Young Brant Kaghnegtago/Brant Johnson, son of Sir William Johnson, was married the daughter of a Virginian gentleman). Peggy died in March 1771 of consumption (TB). Peggy was buried in an old graveyard in Canajoharie. Peggy was an Oneida. Her father was called Isaac, the religious leader of their village. They lived in a longhouse in the white settlement at Cherry Valley (Schoharie).
Suzanna (Peggy’s sister) in the winter of 1773. Their children were:
….. A. Karaquantier (christened Isaac Brant), born in 1767, who died in 1796.
….. Christina Brant was born in 1769.
Joseph Brant is solicited by both American 6 Nations (Confederate) and British (Tory) sides to pledge his people’s loyalty and found himself perplexed amidst a contrariety of arguments upon this tragic subject, which he could not well understand. Before coming to a decisive resolution he resolved to go himself into the presence of the Great King, as the British Sovereign is styled amongst the Onkwehon:we. He accordingly travelled to London, accompanied by Captain Tice, an officer of English extraction, born in America and who has a settlement just in the neighborhood of the Mohawk Nation. By what mode of reasoning this chief was convinced of the justice of the demands of Great Britain upon her colonies, and the propriety of enforcing them, in exchange for a pledge to better times, it is said he promised to not only pledge his assistance to the government, but to bring three thousand men into the field.
In company with Captain Tice Joseph Brant sailed for America in the spring of 1776, and was landed cautiously and privately in the neighborhood of New York harbor, about the beginning of April. He participated with Howe’s forces as they prepared to retake New York. Although the details of his service that summer and fall were not officially recorded, Brant was said to have distinguished himself for bravery. He was thought to be with Clinton, Cornwallis, and Percy in the flanking movement at Jamaica Pass in the Battle of Long Island in August 1776. He became lifelong friends with Lord Percy, later Duke of Northumberland.
In November, Brant left New York City and traveled northwest through Patriot-held territory. Disguised, traveling at night and sleeping during the day, he reached Onoquaga, where he rejoined his family. At the end of December, he was at Fort Niagara. He traveled from village to village in the confederacy, urging Onkwehon:we to enter the war as loyal British allies. Many balked at Brant’s plans. Joseph Louis Cook, a Mohawk leader who supported the rebel American colonists, and the American Six Nation’s Confederacy became a lifelong enemy of Brant’s.
Suzanna died of TB in 1778.
Catherine Crogham (Adonwentishon), daughter of George Croghan, the head of the Turtle clan, the first in rank in the Mohawk Nation, Catharine had the honor of selecting which one of her sons was to be chief. George Crognan was one of Sir William Johnson’s agents at Fort Pitt. Catherine married Joseph Brant in late 1779. Their first son was born in 1784.
Children of Joseph and Catherine Brant were:
- Joseph Brant, Jr. was born in 1784, and died in November 1850 (at age 66).
- Jacob Brant (1768-1846) died at age 78. He was said to look the most like his grandfather Crognan.
- Margaret Brant
- Catherine Brant was born in 1791 and died November 24, 1867 (at age 76).
- Mary Brant
- Chief John Brant (Ahyouwaigha) was born September 27, 1794 in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, and died of cholera on August 27, 1832 (at age 38) in Brantford. John Brant never married.
- Elizabeth Brant was born circa 1796/7. She married William Johnson Kerr, grandson of Sir William Johnson.
Joseph and Catherine had a high standard of living. When Joseph wrote his will, on October 18, 1805, he provided for all his children. Joseph Brant died on November 24, 1807. His executors were Augustus Jones and Ralfe Clench