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Sullivan’s Expedition – Brodhead’s Visit to the Seneca Towns

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

September 16.—The expedition of General Sullivan against the Indians has been crowned with complete success. Forty of their towns have been reduced to ashes: one of them (Genesee) contained about one hundred and twenty-eight houses; all of their corn destroyed, computed to amount to one hundred and sixty thousand bushels, besides large quantities of other articles. The whole country of the Senecas, and other tribes of the Six Nations, have been overrun and destroyed, and they compelled to fly to Niagara for security; and all this done with the loss of less than forty men on our part, including killed, wounded, taken, and those who died natural deaths. In course of the expedition, it became necessary to lessen the issues of provisions to half the usual allowance, in which the troops acquiesced with the greatest cheerfulness, being determined to prosecute the enterprise to a complete and successful issue.

Colonel Brodhead, who commanded a party from Fort Pitt, has penetrated the Indian country, lying on the Alleghany River, one hundred and eighty miles, burnt ten of the Mingo, Munsey, and Seneca towns in that quarter, containing one hundred and sixty-five houses, and destroyed all the fields of corn, computed to be five hundred acres, with the only loss on our side of three men slightly wounded. Forty-three of their warriors were met by Lieutenant Harding and an advance party of twenty-two men, who attacked the savages, and routed them, killed five on the spot, and took all their canoes and blankets.1

A gentleman who attended Colonel Brodhead, gives the following particular account of the expedition:—”The many savage barbarities and horrid depredations committed by the Seneca and Munsey nations upon the western frontiers, had determined Colonel Brodhead, as the most effectual way to prevent such hostilities in future, and revenge the past, to carry the war into their own country, and strike a decisive blow at their towns.

“On the 11th of August, our little army, consisting of only six hundred and five rank and file, marched from Pittsburg with one month’s provision. At Mahoning, fifteen miles above the Old Kittanning, we were detained four days by the excessive rains, from whence (leaving the river, which flows in a thousand manners) we proceeded by a blind path leading to Cuscushing, through a country almost impassable by reason of the stupendous heights and frightful declivities, with a continued range of craggy hills, overspread with fallen timber, thorns, and underwood; here and there an intervening valley, whose deep, impenetrable gloom has always been impervious to the piercing rays of the warmest sun. At Cuscushing (which, is fifteen miles above Venango) we crossed the Alleghany, and continued our route upon its banks. But here our march was rendered still more difficult by the mountains, which jutted close upon the river, forming a continued narrow defile, allowing us only the breadth of an Indian path to march upon. In the midst of these defiles, our advanced party, consisting of fifteen white men and eight Delawares, discovered between thirty and forty warriors landing from their canoes, who, having also seen part of our troops, immediately stripped themselves and prepared for action. Lieutenant Harding, who commanded our advance, disposed his men in a semi-circular form, and began the attack with such irresistible fury, tomahawk in hand, that the savages could not long sustain the charge, but fled with the utmost horror and precipitation, some plunging themselves into the river, and others, favored by the thickness of the bushes, made their escape on the main, leaving five dead on the field, without any loss on our side except three men slightly wounded. Upon the first alarm, supposing it to be more serious, the army was arranged for fight; both officers and men, enraged at their former cruelties, animated by the calmness, resolution, and intrepidity of the commandant, showed the utmost ardor to engage; and had the action been general, we had every prospect of the most ample success from a brave commander at the head of brave men. Continuing our march, we arrived the same day at Buchan, where, leaving our baggage, stores, &c., under a guard, we proceeded to their towns with the utmost despatch, which we found at the distance of about twenty miles further, with extensive cornfields on both sides of the river, and deserted by the inhabitants on our approach. Eight. towns we set in flames, and committed their pagod and war posts to the river. The corn, amounting in the whole to near six hundred acres, was our next object, which in three days we cut down and piled into heaps, without the least interruption from the enemy.

“Upon our return, we several times crossed a creek about ten miles above Venango, remarkable for an oily liquid which oozes from the sides and bottom of the channel and the adjacent springs, much resembling British oil, and if applied to woollen cloth, burns it in an instant.

“After burning the old towns of Conauwago and Mahusquachinkocken, we arrived at Pittsburg, the fourteenth instant, with the scalps we had taken, and three thousand dollars’ worth of plunder; having, in the course of thirty-three days, completed a march of near four hundred miles, through a country the Indians had hitherto thought impenetrable by us, and considered as a sufficient barrier for the security of their towns; and, indeed, nothing but the absolute necessity of such a measure, and a noble spirit of enterprise, could be a sufficient inducement to undertake so arduous a task, and encounter those difficulties and obstacles which require the most consummate fortitude to surmount.”2


1 New Hampshire Gazette, November 2.
2 Extract of a letter from Pittsburg, September 16, in the New York Gazette, November 1.

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