Refugees on Their Own Land
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Refugees on Their Own Land
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Refugees on Their Own Land
Refugees on Their Own Land
Joseph Brant returned home from his mission in London to find his people divided.
Joseph Brant urged the Six Nations to fight with the British during the American Revolution. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Joseph Brant urged the Six Nations to fight with the British during the American Revolution. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
The Six Nations had stood as one for centuries. Now they were split by the white man's war. Four of the tribes agreed to fight for the British; the Oneida and Tuscarora chose the rebel side.

Even with only four of the Six Nations on his side, Brant and Butler's Rangers began an effective campaign of disruption and terror. Brant led the attack on the fort at Cherry Valley, southeast of where Syracuse, New York is today, below the Mohawk River. Thirty men, women and children were killed, houses were burned and 71 people were taken prisoner.

Brant also commanded the Indians at the Battle of Oriskany, fought on August 6, 1777, in what is now Rome, NY. The battle was one of the bloodiest fights of the war. Several hundred Patriots were killed in the ambush and only a handful of natives and Loyalists died.

But the native alliance with Britain prompted a brutal response from George Washington.
Joseph Brant and Butler's Rangers led an effective campaign of disruption and terror during the American Revolution. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Joseph Brant and Butler's Rangers led an effective campaign of disruption and terror during the American Revolution. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)

"The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their [Indian] settlements," he ordered, "and the capture of as many prisoners, of every age and sex, as possible... Parties should be detached to lay waste all the settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner, that the country not be merely overrun but destroyed."

"About sunrise, the General gave orders for the town to be illuminated and accordingly we had a glorious bonfire of upwards of 30 buildings at once," reported Major James Norris.
The Iroquois of the Six Nations became refugees after George Washington ordered the destruction of their settlements in 1779. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
The Iroquois of the Six Nations became refugees after George Washington ordered the destruction of their settlements in 1779. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
"It was a melancholy and desperate spectacle to the Indians, many of whom must have beheld it from a neighbouring hill."

In just two months Washington's order did more damage to the Six Nations than five years of war had done. The Indians were driven out: their homes and crops burned, their fields and orchards laid waste, their burial grounds defiled, and prisoners taken. Not even the Oneida and Tuscarora, who had not fought with the British, were spared as their homes and farms were destroyed as well.

In September 1779, Major General John Sullivan, future Governor of New Hampshire, reported on his success in his official report.

"Every creek and river has been traced, and the whole country explored in search of Indian settlements, and I am persuaded that...
there is not a single town left in the country of the Six Nations."

Brant watched as his people became refugees on their own land. "We the Indians wish to have the blow returned on the enemy as early as possible but I am afraid it will again be but a trifling affair... we the rebels will ruin us at last if we go on as we do, one year after another, doing nothing... we are in between two hells... let us have an expedition early in the spring, let us not hang our heads between our knees... "

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