Sunday, May 19, 2024

ARP312 Huddy-Asgill Affair


By the spring of 1782, the main Continental Army under George Washington had settled back into defensive lines around British occupied  New York City.

Following their loss at Yorktown, the British had given up on all offensive operations in America.  Britain had begun discussing peace terms with American commissioners in Europe.  Many believed the war would soon be over and British rule in America at an end.

Charles Asgill
There was one group who feared this result even more than the leaders in Britain.  They were the loyalists.  American colonists who had stood by the King.  They had also risked their lives, their fortunes, and their honor in this dispute.  As it was coming to an end, that was proving to be a bad bet. They stood to lose everything, including possibly their lives if convicted of treason in the newly independent United States.  They were living as outlaws or under British protection that might soon go away.

The loyalists, also called Tories, continued the war from British occupied New York by continuing raids into New Jersey.  Many of these loyalists were New Jersey natives who had taken refuge in New York.  Leading the effort was the royal governor of New Jersey, William Franklin.  Benjamin Franklin’s son remained a committed loyalist, still fighting to bring the colonies back under crown rule.

Even after Yorktown, the loyalists continued their raids, by some accounts becoming even more brutal.  British General Henry Clinton noted that he believed these loyalist refugees in New York intended to prevent “all future reconciliation between Great Britain and the revolted colonies.”

Capture of Huddy

In late March 1782, the loyalists conducted a raid on the town of Toms River, New Jersey.  They targeted the town’s salt works.  About 80 loyalists took whaleboats to make the 50 mile journey to the patriots down on the New Jersey coast.  The Patriots at Toms River were commanded by Joshua “Jack” Huddy.

Captain Huddy was an active patriot and a longtime leader in the New Jersey militia.  He had spent much of the early war fighting his loyalist neighbors, forcing many of them to take refuge in New York.  Many loyalists asserted that Huddy was a murderer who had no compunctions about executing loyalists when discovered in New Jersey.  One particularly notable event happened in 1777. Huddy was involved with a group that captured and hanged an alleged spy named Stephen Edwards, who was taken from his bed at night, given a quick trial and then hanged.

Later in the war, Huddy received a letter of marque from the Continental Congress, authorizing him to use his whaleboat to target British boats and settlements along the New Jersey coast. Huddy had some successful seizures, which he had sold at auction in Toms River.

Huddy’s reputation made him a target to be killed or captured.  In September of 1780, a loyalist force led by an escaped slave named Titus tried to capture Huddy.  Titus was an active loyalist, given the nickname of Colonel Tye for his efforts on behalf of the loyalists during the ongoing guerilla war in New Jersey.

Colonel Tye surrounded Huddy’s home with several dozen loyalists.  Huddy managed to hold out for some time with the help of only a servant girl, who reloaded muskets as he fired from multiple locations inside the house.  Apparently, he had a whole cache of muskets that he had confiscated from loyalists in the area.  Eventually, the loyalists set the house of fire, forcing Huddy to surrender.

The loyalist tied up Huddy and put him aboard a whaleboat for return to New York as a prisoner.  The local militia, however, turned out in time to attack the loyalists.  They got into a firefight, killing six of the enemy.  During the fight, Huddy was shot in the hip, probably by his would be rescuers.  He still managed to escape his captors and swim back to freedom.

The following summer, Huddy had largely recovered from his wound and took command of the blockhouse in Toms River.  When the loyalists attacked in March 1782, Huddy commanded about 25 patriot militia, who took refuge in the block house.  Eventually, they ran out of ammunition and had to surrender to the larger attacking force.  The raiders burned the town and carried Huddy back to New York in a whaleboat - this time successfully.  There, the militia captain was held in the notorious Sugar House Prison for a time and aboard a prison ship in New York Harbor.

The British then transferred Huddy to William Franklin’s loyalists, believing they wanted to trade him for a loyalist prisoner being held in New Jersey.

Up Goes Huddy for White

Instead, other events intervened.  About the same time the loyalist captured Huddy, another loyalist, Philip White also crossed enemy lines into New Jersey.  There are conflicting accounts of what White was doing in New Jersey.  By some accounts, he was conducting a raid. By others, he was just visiting his wife.

Capt. Huddy led to his hanging
In any event, White was a wanted man.  As a member of Franklin’s Associated Loyalists, White had participated in the past in numerous raids in New Jersey, killing and wounding several patriots.  Two years earlier, White had been part of an attack on the home of a patriot named John Russell.  In the attack, Russell was wounded and his father killed.

When White returned to New Jersey in late March 1782, Russell managed to capture the man who killed his father.  Exactly what happened next was also a matter of dispute, but the undisputed part is that White was killed.  The patriots claimed that White was shot and killed while trying to escape while being transferred for trial. The loyalists in New York believed that the patriots, specifically Russell who was avenging his father, had killed White in cold blood, then mutilated his body, then buried him in a shallow grave.

Huddy, of course, had nothing to do with the death of White.  He was in British custody at the time of White’s death.  But when word of White’s death reached the loyalists in New York, they were outraged.  White’s brother in law, Loyalist Captain Richard Lippincott, took custody of Huddy.  He and his men promptly took him to a tree on Sandy Hook, New Jersey and on April 2 unceremoniously hanged him without trial.  They put a placard on his body that read “Up goes Huddy for Philip White.”

The New Jersey militia, friends of Huddy, recovered his body, and the placard.  The militia called on Washington to take action regarding this outrageous murder of a prisoner of war.  Otherwise, the militia would stop taking any prisoners when they were capturing loyalists.  New Jersey was in danger of becoming like the southern colonies, where prisoners were routinely murdered after battle.

Washington’s Response

The execution of an American prisoner was something Washington had to take very seriously.  Since the war began, Britain had threatened to treat American prisoners as captured criminals - guilty of treason and subject to hanging.  The only reason this did not happen was likely due to threats by Washington and others in the American leadership that if American prisoners were hanged, they would begin hanging British prisoners.

Less than a year before this incident, the British had called the American’s bluff by hanging Colonel Isaac Hayne in Charleston (See Episode 293).  The Americans had threatened retaliation then, but ended up doing nothing.  Now the Continental leadership was faced with a second execution.  There had to be some sort of response.

Washington received word of Huddy’s hanging in a letter from the Monmouth, NJ Militia.  He was staying in Newburgh, New York at the time.  Within days, he convened a council of general officers and regimental commanders at West Point.  Twenty four officers participated in the deliberations, among them Major Generals William Heath was the senior officer. Robert Howe, and the Baron Von Steuben also participated.

Washington submitted all the documentation he had, and asked the council to answer four questions: 

  • 1st Upon the State of Facts in the above Case, is Retaliation justifiable & expedient?
  • 2d If justifiable, Ought it to take place immediately? Or should a previous Representation be made to Sir Henry Clinton & Satisfaction be demanded from him?
  • 3d In Case of Representation & Demand, who should be the person or persons to be required?
  • 4 In case of Refusal & Retaliation becomg necessary, of what Discription shall the officer be on whom it is to take place; & how shall he be designated for the purpose?

Each officer wrote out his own answer to each question.  On the first, they unanimously agreed that yes, retaliation was justifiable and expedient.  On the second question, the vast majority thought a demand of satisfaction to General Clinton would be appropriate, although a minority argued for immediate action - just hang someone, right now.  To the third question the majority believed they should demand Captain Lippincott, the loyalist officer in command of hanging Huddy, should be turned over for trial and execution.  To the fourth question, if the demand for Lippincott should be refused, the majority answered that a British captain should be selected at random and executed.  Several officers qualified this by saying the selected captain should be one who was captured in battle, not one such as those captured at Yorktown or Saratoga, who were promised certain guarantees of good treatment in exchange for surrender.

Washington acted on the answers, writing to President John Hanson to let Congress know what he was planning, then to British General Clinton to demand that Lippincott be turned over, or that a British Captain would be selected by lot and hanged.  Hanson did not respond, but Congress voted unanimously to support Washington’s plans in this matter.

Even before receiving Congress’s response, Washington wrote to General Clinton to demand Lippincott, or whoever was responsible, be turned over.  If not, Washington would order a British captain to be executed in his place.  Washington told Clinton “To save the innocent, I demand the guilty.”  

Clinton’s Departure

Clinton’s  response expressed “Surprise & Displeasure” at the tone of Washington’s letter and its “improper language”.  He assured Washington that he had only become aware of Huddy’s hanging a few days before he received Washington’s letter.  This was about a month after the incident took place.  Clinton assured Washington that such an act of cruelty was not the policy of the British Government nor his personal standards.  He had ordered an inquiry into events and would bring those responsible to trial.  He then scolded Washington for even considering hanging an innocent British officer.  He called it an act of barbarity.  Clinton went on to say it was up to each army to punish the wrongdoing of their own officers and men.

What Clinton left out of his letter to Washington, was the fact that this was not going to be his problem for much longer.  On March 27, about two weeks before Huddy’s hanging, Clinton had received a letter from Lord Germain that his resignation as Commander of North America had been accepted.  The following day, Clinton received a second letter that had been written several weeks after Germain’s letter.  The second letter was from Germain’s replacement Wellbore Ellis.   It informed Clinton that General Guy Carlton was on his way to replace Clinton.  Until Carleton arrived, Clinton should turn over command to General James Robertson.

Recall that Clinton hated Robertson.  The general simply refused to turn over command.  Robertson, who was also the Royal Governor of New York, protested, but there was not much else he could do.  Clinton outranked Robertson within the military.  Both men were also probably well aware by this time that the North Government had probably fallen or was still in the process of falling so that getting any clear direction from London for a while would probably be impossible.

Clinton did actually take some action in the matter. After receiving Washington’s letter, he ordered Lippincott arrested and held for court martial.  William Franklin, who was the head of the loyalists, objected that Lippincott was not a soldier and should not be tried by court martial.  Clinton ignored the objection and convened a court martial of 16 officers headed by General Robertson. Clinton was pretty confident this was not going to be resolved before he left.  He was right.  The Court martial convened, but was still considering the matter when General Carleton arrived on May 5.

Clinton hung around for another week before departing for London aboard a ship with the departing Hessian commander General Wilhelm von Knyphausen.  Clinton would return to begin his public feud with Cornwallis over who was responsible for Yorktown.  Knyphausen was simply headed home for retirement.

Unfortunate

With no satisfactory response forthcoming, Washington continued with the selection of a British captain to become the victim of American retaliation.  Washington wrote to Colonel Moses Hazen, who was responsible for the British prisoners of war being held in western Pennsylvania and Maryland.  He ordered that a British captain be selected by lot and sent to Philadelphia.  Washington initially requested that an officer be selected from those who had been captured unconditionally in battle, not those who had surrendered and were given terms of protection as part of their surrender.  However, when it turned out that there were not captains that met that former criterion, Washington permitted lots to be selected among thirteen captains who has surrendered with the Army at Yorktown.

Day Tavern in Chatham, NJ
where Asgill was held awaiting execution
Remember that most officers at Yorktown had been paroled and allowed to return home.  The only officers being held were those who had been retained to keep the enlisted prisoners in order.  The prisoners were gathered at the Black Bear Inn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  When informed the captains refused to draw lots.  They viewed this how process as immoral and illegal, and would play  no part in it.  In response, the Americans simply put their names in a hat.  In another hat, they placed 12 blanks and one marked “unfortunate.”  A drummer boy then drew a slip from each hat.  On the eleventh draw, Captain Charles Asgill’s name came up, along with the slip “unfortunate.”

Asgill was the youngest captain, having just turned 20 years old a few weeks earlier.  He was from an important family.  His father had been Lord Mayor of London.  Asgill joined the army at age 16, against the wishes of his father.  He had been promoted to captain less about a year earlier, a promotion he probably regretted by this point.  Upon hearing his fate, his commanding officer told him only “For God’s sake, don’t disgrace your colors.”

The unfortunate prisoner was carried first to Philadelphia, then to Chatham, New Jersey, the area where Captain Huddy had lived.  He was kept under close confinement, amid particularly hostile neighbors who had erected a gallows with a sign that said “up goes Asgill for Huddy.”

Delay

While there had been a pretty strong call for blood among the Americans after Huddy’s hanging. Once Asgill became the face of American vengeance, opposition to his execution became more vocal. Even Colonel Alexander Hamilton wrote to Washington, saying that murdering an innocent man would greatly damage Washington’s reputation.  Washington may have had second thoughts, but at this point he could not back down.  He feared that doing so would mean that neither the British leadership, nor anyone else, would trust his resolve.  

Washington delayed final execution, perhaps waiting for a determinative response from the British army.  General Carleton had suspended the Lippincott court martial almost as soon as he arrived, and debated simply turning over Lippincott, who he regarded as a criminal.  Turn him over to the Americans and make this whole thing go away.  That, of course, would have greatly angers the loyalists.  In June, Carlton also disbanded William Franklin’s Association of Loyalists, which had taken Huddy from British custody. Around this same time, Franklin left New York for London.

The court martial reached its decision in late June - not guilty. The court concluded that Lippincott had only been following orders given to him by William Franklin and that he believed his actions were in the line of duty, and not out of malice. 

Carleton then seemed to embark on a policy of procrastination to avoid any action against Asgill.  He wrote to Washington about the court decision in July, two weeks after the verdict, but failed to include the court records.  

Then, after more than a month, Carleton announced that the records were ready and asked for permission for Chief Justice William Smith to carry those records to Washington.  Carleton said Smith could provide further explanation.  A frustrated Washington responded that he was sending General Heath to meet with an officer at the British front lines and that any explanation could be in writing.  Carleton then responded he would just mail the records and Washington could get them soon.  In this case, the mail took another two weeks to arrive, far longer than normal.

Having received the court records, Washington still hesitated to act. Instead, he forwarded the records to Congress and asked them again what it wished to do. By this time, it was late August, almost five months had passed since Huddy’s hanging.

The delay gave Asgill’s advocates time to act.  Most specifically, his mother, Lady Asgill, wrote to the French Foreign Minister Vergennes pleading for her son’s life.  Lady Asgill argued that her son had surrendered to the French at Yorktown under their word that he would be protected and not subject to reprisals.  She called upon French honor to request her son’s life be spared.

Vergennes sent the letter to the King and Queen of France, resulting in a request from Queen Marie Antoinette requesting the release of Captain Asgill.  Meanwhile for months, Congress dithered and failed to reach a decision.  A majority still wanted to hang Asgill.  Finally, in November 1782, after receiving the letter from Vergennes it changed its determination.  It voted to release Asgill as a gift to the King of France.

In late November, Asgill was released.  He rushed to New York, only to find that a British packet ship had just left.  Anxious to return home, Asgill abandoned his luggage, commandeered a row boat and sailed after the ship.  He managed to catch it, boarded it and returned home in time for Christmas.

The Americans never took vengeance for Huddy’s murder.  However, the dispute, which lasted for about eight months, maintained a particular state of bitterness between the two countries.  Carleton had hoped to ease relations as the British reduced resources in America.  He also hoped to reach some plan for the exchange of prisoners.  The Americans had about 12,000 British prisoners by this time.  The result of this ongoing dispute kept the two sides at a higher level of hostility and prevented any large-scale prisoner exchange.

Next week: we head west again, as the Americans push into the Ohio Territory, hoping to stop continuing Indian raids into the area around Fort Pitt.

- - -

Next Episode 313 Crawford Expedition (Available May 26, 2024)

Previous Episode 311 Battle of the Saintes

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Further Reading

Websites

Asgill Affair: https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/asgill-affair

Damon, Allan L. “A Melancholy Chase” American Heritage, Feb. 1970. https://www.americanheritage.com/melancholy-case

Duke, Clair To Save the Innocent, I Demand the guilty: The Huddy-Asgill Affair, Kansas State Univ. 2017. https://krex.k-state.edu/server/api/core/bitstreams/7d90c8dd-3162-4d92-9795-8f83d02d283f/content

Documents of the American Revolution, Joshua Huddy Era: https://www.monmouthcountyclerk.com/archives/archives-and-history-day/2004-documents-of-the-american-revolution-joshua-huddy-era

Ward, Matthew H. “Joshua Huddy: The Scourge of New Jersey Loyalists” Journal of the American Revolution, Oct. 8, 2018. https://allthingsliberty.com/2018/10/joshua-huddy-the-scourge-of-new-jersey-loyalists

“To George Washington from John Covenhoven, 14 April 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-08154

“From George Washington to John Brooks, 19 April 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-08204

“From George Washington to John Hanson, 20 April 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-08207

“From George Washington to Henry Clinton, 21 April 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-08216

“To George Washington from Henry Clinton, 25 April 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-08256

“From George Washington to Moses Hazen, 3 May 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-08319

“From George Washington to Moses Hazen, 18 May 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-08451

Washington Came this Close to Killing an Innocent Man: https://www.historynet.com/washington-came-thisclose-to-executing-an-innocent-man

Video: Discussion of Joshua Huddy with Author Robert Mayers: https://vimeo.com/350964315

Video: Prof. Peter Enriques on The Asgill Affair (Prince William Public Libraries): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKChmpuHDRQ

Video: Charles Asgill, Setting the Record Straight (Anne Ammundsen): https://www.family-tree.co.uk/how-to-guides/expert-blogs/charles-asgill-setting-the-record-straight

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Humphreys, David The Conduct of General Washington: Respecting the Confinement of Capt. Asgill, New York The Bollard Club, 1859. 

Mayo, Katherine General Washington’s Dilemma, Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1970 (originally published 1938) (borrow only).

Paine, Thomas The American crisis, and a letter to Sir Guy Carleton, on the murder of Captain Huddy, and the intended retaliation on Captain Asgill, of the Guards, London, Daniel Isaac Eaton, 1796. 

Stryker, William S. The Capture of the Block House at Toms River, New Jersey, March 24, 1782, Trenton: Naar, Day & Naar, 1883. 

 Vanderpoel, Ambrose E. History of Chatham, New Jersey, New York: Charles Francis Press, 1921. 

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Ammundsen, Anne The Charles Asgill Affair: Setting the Record Straight, Heritage Books, 2023. 

Fleming, Thomas The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown, Harper Collins, 2007.  

Fowler, Willam H. Jr. American Crisis: George Washington and the Dangerous Two Years after Yorktown, 1781-1783, Walker & Co. 2011. 

Glickstein, Don After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence, Westholme Publishing, 2015. 

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Sunday, May 12, 2024

ARP311 Battle of the Saintes

 

Following the Franco-American victory at Yorktown in October 1781, General Washington pleaded with Admiral de Grasse to make use of the French naval fleet for a few other actions.  Washington believed that even a few weeks at Charleston, SC would allow Nathanael Greene’s southern army to take that town.

The French commander would not budge.  He had already spent longer than he had planned in Virginia.  The only reason he had removed his fleet from the West Indies in the first place was to avoid peak hurricane season.  His focus was on protecting French Islands in the West Indies, and capturing some British ones.  North America was just a sideshow.   

Almost as soon as he could, de Grasse sailed his fleet away from Virginia and back to the West Indies.  By November 26, his fleet was back at Martinique.

St. Eustatius

The same day the French fleet arrived in Martinique, another French squadron was capturing St. Eustatius.  The British had captured the tiny Dutch island colony only a few months earlier.  A fleet under Admiral George Rodney had captured the island in January 1781 before the Dutch governor there was even aware that the Dutch Republic was at war with Britain.  The Dutch had only about 60 militia on the 8 square mile island and could offer no resistance.

Admiral Rodney was pleased to take control of St. Eustatius, mostly because it offered him pay day.  Rodney had wracked up massive debt before the war. He even had to flee to France to avoid creditors.  When the Revolution began, he had to borrow money from a French officer to return to England.

As commander of the fleet, Rodney would be entitled to a pretty large share of any booty his fleet captured.  He spent weeks on the island, fleecing its population.  Of particular interest to Rodney was the small community of Jewish merchants on the island.  Rodney had the Jewish population moved to St. Kitts, while he pillaged their property, even cutting open their clothing and digging up the cemetery in search of hidden money.  

He did not stop there.  Anything of value on the island was subject to seizure.  Much of the property actually belonged to British merchants and should not have been seized.  Rodney did not seem very concerned and confiscated everything. For the next few weeks, Rodney kept the Dutch flag flying over the island, hoping to lure more merchant vessels into port where he captured and confiscated them.

St. Eustatius, 1781
Rodney remained at St. Eustatius with his fleet for about four months, even missing another major naval battle in the region due to his obsession with plundering the wealth of the island.

When the fleet left, the British Army left two regiments to hold the island.  The commander, Lieutenant Colonel James Cockburn, was not expecting an attack and did not seem to worry much about his defenses.

On the night of November 26, 1781, an invasion force of 1500 French soldiers under the command of the Marquis de Bouillé landed on St. Eustatius.  The British garrison did not even notice.  The following morning, Colonel Cockburn went out for a morning ride.  The French soldiers captured him and took him prisoner.

When the French attackers approached the fort, they found most of the garrison outside its walls on morning drill.  When the surprised British garrison saw the approach of the enemy, they rushed back into the fort.  The French simply followed through the open doors and forced an immediate surrender.  They managed to capture the island even without having the French fleet available. St. Eustatius had gone from Dutch, to British, to French occupation, all within a single year.

St. Kitts

With the arrival of French reinforcements under de Grasse, the French looked at some larger targets.  They first focused on the British held Bahamas near the end of 1781, but found the defenses there too strong to take.  

Instead, the fleet sailed north to St. Kitts, a larger island next to St. Eustatius.  They almost immediately took the nearby small island of Nevis, which they could use as a staging area. St. Kitts had a much larger defense.  Some estimates indicate as many as 12,000 British regulars and militia on the island.  I suspect the British numbers are greatly inflated by expectations of local militia who did not really materialize in the numbers expected.  The French managed to land about 8000 soldiers on St. Kitts on January 11, 1782.  Admiral de Grasse provided naval support while the marquis de Bouillé led the army.  

The French took the capital, Basseterre, without any resistance.  The British retreated into a defensive position in the hills about nine miles away.  With the British behind fortifications on Brimstone Hill, the French settled in for a siege.

Adm. Samuel Hood
Things looked bleak for the British defenders until another fleet entered the scene.  British Admiral Hood, after supporting the failed effort to relieve the British army at Yorktown, had also sailed back to the West Indies. Hood’s fleet of 21 ships of the line and nine frigates arrived at Antigua on January 21, where they took on supplies and about one thousand soldiers.  

Hood then sailed to relieve the siege on St. Kitts. The British fleet arrived about two weeks after the siege had begun.   Hood formed a line of battle and hoped to catch the French under de Grasse off guard.  The British managed to take a couple of frigates caught off guard by the newly arrived fleet, but the fighting with those frigates alerted the rest of the French fleet.  The larger French fleet included 29 ships of the line, which sailed out to sea to do battle.  De Grasse was also concerned that four additional French ships that were due to join the fleet would not be caught by the British before they could join with the rest.

The two fleets moved away from the island, with some firing, but not a full engagement.  One British frigate, the Solebay, was badly damaged.  The captain drove the ship ashore on Nevis, removed the crew and set the ship on fire in order to deny it to the enemy.

Admiral Hood took advantage of his position to sail into the anchorage at St. Kitts that the French fleet had just left.  The French line attacked the British rear, threatening to sink the last three ships in the British line.  Three other British ships were able to turn and support the ships that were at risk. They sailed directly for the French flagship the Ville de Paris and forced it to turn away.  

The French passed along the British line, exchanging broadsides, which did more damage to the French fleet than to the British.  By this time, it was evening and the French withdrew.

Repulse of French Fleet Jan. 1782
The British were in an awkward position.  Hood’s fleet was just off the shore of St. Kitts.  The ships had to remain far enough from shore to avoid the French shore batteries from the army on the island.  At the same time, they were aware that the French fleet would be back for another attack.  The French navy could not simply abandon the large French army on St. Kitts.

As expected, the following morning, the French fleet under de Grasse brought its line against the British to exchange a brutal series of broadsides that greatly damaged both fleets.  Witnesses claimed they began to lose sight of the nearby enemy due to all the smoke from near continuous cannon fire.

Badly damaged the French fleet withdrew.  Casualties on both sides were pretty even, with a little over 300 killed or wounded on each side.  

While the British now controlled the waters around St. Kitts, but the French army on the island continued the siege against the British garrison in the hills.  On February 13, about a month after the siege began, the British soldiers on the island surrendered.  

The French now controlled the island.  The French navy under de Grasse had received reinforcements and was ready to renew the battle with the British fleet.  Hood had been expecting the arrival of reinforcements of his fleet with twelve ships of  the line under Admiral Rodney, but Rodney was still at St. Eustatius, looking for more treasure.  On the night of February 14, the British fleet at St. Kitts quietly sailed away, leaving lights on floating rafts to give the illusion that the fleet remained at anchor.  At dawn the following morning, the French looked out to see that the British fleet had vanished.

With French control of St. Kitts secured, the French fleet returned to base at Fort Royal in Martinique while the British retreated to St. Lucia. Both fleets had to make considerable repairs before the next inevitable naval confrontation.

The Saintes

By spring of 1782, the French fleet had consolidated at Martinique with 33 ships of the line.  The British fleet under Admiral Rodney finally joined with the fleet under Admiral Hood giving the British a total of 36 ships of the line.  Since Rodney outranked Hood, he took command of the combined fleet.

France coordinated with Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis, General Bureau for the Spanish Indies; and Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana to develop a plan to take all of the British islands in the West Indies.  For the European powers, these islands were far more valuable than North America.  The sugar plantations on these islands were the source of most colonial wealth.

In early April, the Comte de Grasse sailed the French fleet out of Martinique.  He hoped to join with a Spanish invasion force of twelve additional ships of the line.  The Spanish had also assembled an army of 24,000 men, who would combine with another 10,000 French soldiers who had arrived in the West Indies from France and another 5000 French soldiers under de Grasse, and who had recently fought at Yorktown.  

This was a combined huge army and navy for the time: a total of 60 warships and 40,000 soldiers.  For French and Spanish military planners, the West Indies had become the priority of the war, more important than North America, more important than Gibraltar.  Control of the West Indies would break Britain economically and greatly enrich France and Spain. 

When de Grasse left Martinique, he had a total of about 150 ships in the fleet.  Only 34 of these were ships of the line.  A few more were smaller frigates, but most of the smaller vessels were slow moving troop carriers that would only be a burden in a sea battle.  De Grasse hoped to avoid a sea battle and bring the fight directly to Jamaica.  Jamaica was one of the largest and most valuable colonies still under British control

Rodney, however, received intelligence that the French fleet had left port.  He set sail with his own fleet, hoping to catch the enemy at sea, before it could combine with the Spanish fleet. The British fleet divided into three commands.  Admiral Rodney directly commanded one squadron, Admiral Hood commanded a second squadron.  Vice Admiral Samuel Francis Drake commanded a third squadron.  Although the French fleet was larger, the British ships were faster and better equipped.

The French fleet had left port on the morning of April 8.  British intelligence had been on top of French activities and was well aware of the movement.  That same afternoon, Admiral Hood’s squadron spotted the French fleet.  It was too late in the day, and not enough wind for the fleets to engage then, but battle would begin the following morning.  Even after Admiral Rodney’s squadron caught up, the French ships outnumbered the British by 2-1.  

The two fleets engaged on the morning of April 9th.  Hood’s squadron took considerable damage that day, but the fighting was inconclusive.  Overnight, Drake’s ships had arrived and took a position in the front of the British fleet, while Hood’s damaged ships fell to the rear where the men could work on repairs.

The French still hoped to avoid a major engagement at sea before joining with the Spanish.  They simply sailed away.  De Grasse continued on his original course after the engagement, separating the distance with the British fleet overnight.  The British would have to pursue them.  The French managed to keep a distance until the night of the 11th, when two of the French ships of the line collided with each other.  One of the ships was very badly damaged and began drifting back toward the enemy fleet. Rodney, seeing an opportunity, sailed his fleet at the two damaged ships. De Grasse had to turn his fleet around to protect them.  During the night rescue, de Grasse’s flagship the Ville de Paris also collided with one of the damaged ships causing more damage to both ships.  

De Grasse tried to move his fleet toward Guadeloupe, while the British gave chase.  The following day, April 12, Drake’s squadron moved into a line of battle to engage the French fleet.  At that point, de Grasse had no choice but to engage.  The ships exchanged broadsides  Right behind Drake’s line was Rodney’s squadron, which fired additional broadsides into the enemy fleet.

Ville de Paris attacked
The French line faltered leaving gaps between the ships. Rodney ordered the British to sail into the gaps, allowing the British to fire on the French from both sides of their ships at the same time, essentially doubling the amount of lead they could throw at the enemy at once - and giving the enemy limited opportunity to fire back.  Hood’s squadron brought up the rear, inflicting even more damage on the French fleet.  The slow moving French ships began throwing their dead and badly wounded into the water to lighten their loads.  Sailors reported seeing large numbers of sharks gathering behind the ships to feast on the dead.

The British had the advantage, and began to focus on several isolated French ships.  A few French captains lowered their colors and surrendered.  Admiral de Grasse, aboard the Ville de Paris continued to fight even after his flagship was badly damaged and surrounded by the enemy.  Many of the French ships who were able to do so, sailed away, leaving their comrades aboard damaged ships no choice but to surrender.  At around 6:00 PM, the Ville de Paris lowered her colors and Admiral de Grasse surrendered.  

The next few days saw very little wind.  The British fleet remained near Guadalupe, trying to effect repairs on both its own ships and several captured prizes.  After about a week, the wind returned.  Admiral Hood took ten ships in search of French stragglers.  He came across five ships, managing to capture four of them.

Adm George Rodney
Admiral de Grasse survived the battle without being wounded, but all of the other officers and all but three sailors aboard the Ville de Paris were dead or wounded after the battle.  On that one ship alone, the French suffered 400 killed and 700 wounded.  There are some widely disparate estimates of total French casualties among the entire fleet, ranging from 3000 to 9000 killed and wounded, including the deaths of six ship’s captains.  There were also between 5000 and 6000 French soldiers and sailors captured.  Nine French ships of the line were either captured or sunk.  By contrast, the British lost about 1000 casualties, about one-quarter of whom were killed.  Total British casualties across the entire fleet were less than the casualties of a single French ship, the Ville de Paris.  Among the British casualties were 50 sailors who were aboard a captured French ship that blew up after its surrender.

Admiral de Grasse became the first French admiral to be captured during a sea battle.  Command of the remainder of the French fleet in the West Indies fell to another admiral, the Comte de Vaudreuil.  He eventually joined up with the Spanish fleet. But the decimation of the French fleet and the loss of much of the Spanish army to disease meant that they called off the planned invasion of Jamaica before they even got to the island.

Admiral de Grasse did reach Jamaica, but only as a British prisoner.  Admiral Rodney returned to Jamaica with his fleet, along with his prizes and prisoners.  From Jamaica, a British ship of the line under Vice Admiral Peter Parker would carry De Grasse back to England.  There, de Grasse eventually would be granted parole and returned to France to face the consequences of his loss.  

Admiral Rodney would discover that officials in London had removed him from command because of accusations of his actions on St. Eustatius.  Admiral Hugh Pigot arrived in Jamaica to take command of the British fleet.  Pigot had been kept out of the war because of political disputes with the North Government. When the Rockingham Government took control, Pigot received this command.

The British victory became known as the Battle of the Saintes, a reference to all the nearby islands named after various saints.  The result was that the Spanish and French gave up on any new major offensives in the West Indies.

Bahamas

The Spanish fleet never arrived to assist the French fleet.  As the Battle of the Saintes was coming to an end, the Spanish commander Juan Manuel Cagigal y Monserrate left Havana aboard transport ships with 2500 soldiers.  Cagigal did not have his own ships.  Instead, he hired American privateers to carry his army.  He ignored orders to join the planned invasion of Jamaica and instead carried his army to the British-held Bahamas.

Bernardo de Galvez

On May 6, the Spanish fleet arrived outside Nassau.  Cagigal managed to convince the British commander there, Vice Admiral John Maxwell, to surrender without firing a shot. Spain took the 600 man British garrison prisoner and captured a frigate and a bunch of smaller ships, as well as 77 merchant ships..

Despite the success, Galvez was upset that Cagigal had disobeyed orders and had not joined the planned invasion of Jamaica.  The attack on Jamaica had not happened anyway because of the defeat of the French fleet.  Even so, Galvez had Cagigal arrested and imprisoned.  Spain ended up crediting Galvez with the capture of the Bahamas, even though Galvez had not approved the operation and in fact resisted it every step of the way.

The Bahamas would remain under Spanish control as the war in the West Indies came to an end.

Next week, we head back to North America as British and American leaders tangle over the Huddy-Asgill Affair.

- - -

Next Episode 312 Huddy-Asgill Affair

Previous Episode 310 Gnadenhutten Massacre 

 Contact me via email at mtroy.history@gmail.com

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Further Reading

Websites

The Capture of St. Eustatius: https://morethannelson.com/capture-st-eustatius-3-february-1781

Battle of St. Kitts: https://morethannelson.com/battle-st-kitts-2526-january-1782

St. Kitts, Captured By The French https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/st-kitts-captured-french

Monk, Will “Battle of the Saintes” Journal of the American Revolution, Sept. 17, 2020. https://allthingsliberty.com/2020/09/battle-of-the-saintes

Battle of the Saintes: https://morethannelson.com/battle-saintes-12-april-1782

American Revolution: Battle of the Saintes https://www.thoughtco.com/battle-of-the-saintes-2361162

Beerman, Eric. “The Last Battle of the American Revolution: Yorktown. No, the Bahamas!. (The Spanish-American Expedition to Nassau in 1782).” The Americas, vol. 45, no. 1, 1988, pp. 79–95. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/1007328

Beerman, Eric “Old Navy: The 1782 American-Spanish Expedition” Proceedings, Dec. 1978: https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/1978/december/old-navy-1782-american-spanish-expedition

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Balch, Thomas The French in America During the War of Independence of the United States, 1777-1783, Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1891. 

Mundy, Godfrey B. The Life and Correspondence of the Late Admiral Lord Rodney, Vol. 2 London: John Murray, 1830. 

Shea, John Gilmary The Operations of the French Fleet under the Count De Grasse in 1782-82, New York: Bradford Club, 1864. 

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Lewis, James A. The Final Campaign of the American Revolution: Rise and fall of the Spanish Bahamas, Univ of S.C. Press, 1991 (borrow on archive.org). 

Rogozinski, Jan A Brief History of the Caribbean, Facts on File, 1999 (borrow on archive.org). 

Shachtman, Tom How the French saved America: Soldiers, Sailors, Diplomats, Louis XVI, and the Success of a Revolution, St. Martin’s Press, 2017. 

Trew, Peter Rodney and the Breaking of the Line, Pen and Sword Maritime, 2006.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

ARP310 Gnadenhutten Massacre


Following Yorktown the British maintained their occupied cities in New York, Charleston, and Savannah, as well the territories that today make up Canada and Florida.  They no longer planned to go on the offensive.  London made clear they would not provide more soldiers for any offensive.  Britain did, however, provide support to any Indian tribes who wanted to continue to fight the Americans.  

One region that was still under contention was what we know today as the state of Ohio.  Britain occupied a stronghold at Detroit. The Continentals held Fort Pitt.  The area in between was almost entirely Indian tribes.  No settlers dared try to occupy that land.  When a group of French speaking frontiersmen entered the territory in 1780, with hopes of taking Detroit from the British, they were massacred by Miami Indians led by Chief Little Turtle.  Those frontiersmen not killed in battle suffered slow torturous deaths and the hand of their captors (see, Episode 271).

The massacre was meant to send a message to stay out of Ohio, and for the most part, it worked.  White settlers largely stayed out of Ohio.

Moravians

One exception to this were the Moravians.  The religious group that traces its origins back to 1400s in what is today the Czech Republic.  They came to America in the early 1700’s first trying to set up communities in Georgia and the West Indies, but eventually giving up on that and focusing on Pennsylvania.  They named their first two communities in Pennsylvania after the biblical town of Bethlehem and Nazareth.  From there, the members spread out across several colonies.

Moravian Worship
Although the Moravian name came from the region in Europe where they originated, members of the church called themselves the Unity of the Brethren.  This pacifist sect hoped to avoid doctrinal fights and simply called on members to live their lives as Jesus did.  The members held strong evangelical passions, hoping to convert others to join their communities.  They set up missions among Native Americans

One of their leading  clergymen was David Zeisberger.  Born in Moravia, in 1721, Zeisberger came to Georgia with his family at the age of six.  By age 18, he was a leading force in establishing the Moravian settlement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Several years later, the young man went to live among the Mohawk and learn their language.  He learned several native languages and began to focus on a life as a missionary to the Native Americans.  He received ordination as a Moravian minister in 1749 and began working and living among the Lenape (also known as the Delaware) in Pennsylvania.

By 1772, Zeisberger had established a Moravian community made up of Delaware and Munsey families. They founded a town in Ohio along the Tuscarawas River which they called New Schoenbrunn (Fine Spring).  Shortly thereafter, following more immigration from Delaware families from Pennsylvania, as well as more Delaware converts from tribes already in Ohio, the Moravians established a nearby town just downriver named Gnadenhutten.

By the time the Revolution began, Zeisberger, in his fifties, was well established in Ohio Country.  In early 1776 he helped to establish a third community in Ohio called Lichtenau.  Zeisberger and several other missionaries established new homes there. Zeisberger and his fellow clergy, as well as the natives with whom they lived, tried to live as pacifists who would not take sides in the war.  They found this increasingly hard to do as both sides demanded they become an ally or be considered an enemy.

British in Detroit

In the early part of the war, Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton, among other things, served as an Indian agent in Detroit.  He convinced many of the tribes around him to support the king against the American rebels.  These tribes engaged in raiding parties in Western Pennsylvania and further south in what is today Kentucky.  

Arent DePeyster

As I described in an earlier episode, Virginia militia under George Rogers Clark captured Hamilton and carried him back to Virginia as a prisoner of war in 1779.  After more than a year, Hamilton was paroled to British occupied New York. Once he was exchanged in 1781, he sailed for London. Although he returned to Quebec in 1782, he did not go back to take command of Detroit.

Instead, command in Detroit went to Arent Schuyler DePeyster, a loyalist from a Dutch New York family.  DePeyster was a distant cousin of General Philip Schuyler, but the two men had gone in very different directions.  DePeyster had received a commission the British army in 1755.  During the French and Indian War he was taken prisoner and sent to France.  After being exchanged, he continued to serve the British Army in Germany for the remainder of the Seven Years War.  He remained a British regular, and returned to America only when his regiment was transferred to Canada.  Just before the Revolution began, DePeyster became Commandant of Fort Michillmackinac in what is today Michigan.  After Hamilton’s capture, Major DePeyster took command at Detroit..

As was the policy of his predecessors, DePeyster provided aid to tribes around the region of Detroit and encouraged them to attack rebel settlements to the south and east.  He was known to buy prisoners from the Indians, which not only encouraged more attacks, it also encouraged the Indians to bring the prisoners back alive rather than simply killing them.

By late 1781, Detroit was holding hundreds of American prisoners.  Given the poor state of Detroit’s defenses, DePeyster knew that his primary defense was primarily the hostile and active Native warriors between Detroit and the Americans in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

Americans at Fort Pitt

The closest American base to this theater was the Continental garrison at Fort Pitt, at modern day Pittsburgh.  When we last looked at Fort Pitt, Colonel Daniel Brodhead was commanding.  You may recall that Brodhead grew up in eastern Pennsylvania. He was a committed patriot who received a commission as a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army in 1776.  He fought in the New York Campaign with distinction.  After his regimental commander was killed, became colonel and led the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment through the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777.  Following the winter at Valley Forge, Brodhead and his regiment were assigned to Fort Pitt in the summer of 1778.  There, he served under several commanders.  When General Lachlan McIntosh led a failed attack into the Ohio Territory in 1779, Brodhead was one of his regimental commanders.  After McIntosh was recalled, Colonel Brodhead took command of Fort Pitt.

Zeisberger preaching
Broadhead led several campaigns into Ohio Territory as well as into New York to battle various tribes that were allied with the British.  In the spring of 1781, Brodhead led an expedition against the Delaware in central Ohio.  His expeditionary force, which included both Continentals and militia, wiped out the Indian town of Coshocton, about 100 miles west of Fort Pitt.  It forced many of the local tribes to flee eastern Ohio and move toward Detroit.  It also put many of them decidedly out of the neutral camp and into the British camp.

Shortly after his return from this campaign, Brodhead learned he was being replaced as commander of Fort Pitt.  He had been accused of misuse of funds and he had to travel to Philadelphia to resolve the issue.  After the matter was resolved in his favor, Brodhead returned to Fort Pitt in August.  His second in command, Colonel John Gibson, had not received orders to return command to Brodhead and refused to do so.  Brodhead had Gibson arrested.  After a time, General Washington wrote to make clear that Brodhead did not have authority to retake command of Fort Pitt, and ordered him to return command to Gibson.  At that point, Gibson had Brodhead arrested. Apparently nothing came of those charges since shortly afterward, Broadhead returned east and receive a brevet to brigadier general from General Washington

William Irvine
Gibson did not remain in command long either.  In the fall of 1781, shortly after Washington recalled Brodhead, General William Irvine received orders from Congress to take command of the entire western theater, headquartered at Fort Pitt.

Irvine had grown up in what is today central Pennsylvania.  He began the war as a colonel and regimental commander.  His first mission was part of the Quebec campaign in early 1776.  He was wounded and taken prisoner. He received parole and returned to his home in Carlisle. He would not be exchanged until the spring of 1778.  He returned to service under General Anthony Wayne, and led his regiment at Monmouth.  As an aside, Irvine commanded the Seventh Pennsylvania Regiment, which included Sergeant John Hays.  Sergeant Hays’ wife was Mary Ludwig Hays, more commonly remembered as Molly Pitcher.

The following spring, Irvine received promotion to brigadier following the resignation of another Pennsylvania General, Thomas Mifflin.  Irvine continued to serve on the Pennsylvania Line under General Wayne, but appears to have remained in New Jersey when General Wayne took much of the Pennsylvania Line to Virginia in 1781.  It was around this time that Irvine received orders to go to Fort Pitt and take command of the Western Department.

So during the time of the events I’m about to discuss, Continental leadership in the west was in flux.  We have the command fight between Colonels Brodhead and Gibson, then orders that Irvine is to take command, but Irvine doesn’t actually arrive at the fort until the end of this story.  As a result, there was no active and unified Continental command.

The Neutral Threat

In between the British in Detroit and the Americans at Fort Pitt, the Moravians did what they could to maintain their neutrality and to let everyone know that their pacifism rendered them of no threat to anyone.  Moravian leaders gladly signed agreements with the Americans that they would remain neutral.  The British would not be content with their neutrality, but since they were much closer to the Americans, they hoped it would be enough.

Many other tribes were taking sides and expected their neighbors to stand by them in battle.  By 1777, Moravian villages learned that many of the tribes who had allied themselves with the British would not accept neutrality.  Failure to promise loyalty to Britain made one an enemy.  Over the course of 1778 and 1778, most moravian communities abandoned their eastern communities and moved to the newer one further west at Lichtenau.  This was farther away from either of the combatants, but much deeper into the central area of Delaware control.

In 1777 a group of Wyandot warriors came to Lichtenau with the intent of killing or kidnapping the Moaravian missionaries, in hopes of getting the Moravian Indians to join the war.  The Moravian responded by providing a feast for the Wyandot.  This seemed to appease the warriors who ended up leaving the community intact.

The Delaware chiefs signed a treaty with the Americans that promised continued neutrality, but even within the Delaware, many subgroups opposed this measure and wanted to pick a side.  Many Wyandot and Mingo warriors marched through this area on the way to attack American frontier settlements.  While the Moravians did not join them, they did nothing to stop them either. In fact, they regularly supplied war parties with food, shelter, and supplies, thus indirectly aiding attacks on settlements.  In some instances the Moravians warned Americans of approaching war parties, but did nothing further to get involved.

Over the course of the war, many Moravians returned to their original communities at New Schoenbrunn and Gnadenhutten, where they had homes and fields.  Staying away from their farms created the risk of starvation.  The larger Delaware rift grew more distinct.  Many Delaware moved closer to Fort Pitt in hopes of receiving American protection from pro-British war parties. Some of these warriors even joined the Continental Army.

David Zeisberger
The growing divisions among the Delaware led to the increasing isolation of the Moravians.  In the spring of 1781, Colonel Brodhead, still in command at Fort Pitt, led a raiding party into Ohio, primarily to appease militia from the area whose families had been the victims of Indian raids.

While clearing out hostile Indians, the Brodhead party marched to the Moravian community at Salem.  Knowing they were pacifists, Brodhead sent a messenger asking the Moravian leaders to come to his camp.  When one of the missionaries did so, Brodhead discussed his operations and asked for the locations of Moravians so he could avoid attacking them.  The missionary complied.  Brodhead managed to lead a successful raid against the Delaware town of Coshocton.  He also managed to steer clear of the Moravian.  Some of his militia, however, were not so concerned about which Indians were a threat and which were not.  Colonel Broadhead had to place his Continentals in between several Moravian villages and militia who were bent on destroying them.  Thanks to Brodhead’s firm action, the militia passed over the communities.

Later that summer, a rather large war party made up of Delaware and a few other western tribes came through the region under the direction of a British officer.  The group tried to force the Moravian to move to Detroit, and sought to take the missionaries by force.  They managed to Capture Zeiseberger, and at least one other missionary who were taken to Detroit.  These warriors did what they could to encourage the Moravian Indians to leave, They destroyed crops, livestock and looted their homes.  The pacifist Indians refused to fight back.  Eventually most agreed to move further west into British territory.

Since they were removed in the fall, they had no opportunity to harvest crops.  Many were on the verge of starvation.  Although the British had promised to provide supplies, once they got their, they found that the British only wanted to provide supplies to the families of warriors willing to join British led war parties.

A short time after the British removal, American militia under Colonel David Williamson also raided the Moravian communities, with the intent of removing them back to Fort Pitt.  The Americans were surprised to find the communities largely abandoned, and only captured a handful who had avoided the British dragnet. Over the course of the winter, many hungry Moravian Indians returned to their homes, hoping to harvest and store the corn that remained ungathered in their fields.  They lived in the woods near town rather than in their homes in order to avoid being captured and removed again.

The Massacre

Also during the winter months, particularly in February, the British backed warriors conducted a great many raids on the frontier settlements and houses around Fort Pitt.  They would often hit isolated farmhouses, murdering families and taking scalps.  In an effort to intimidate, the raiding parties would often mutilate bodies.  One war party returning from a raid passed through Gnadenhutten on their return.  They informed some of the Moravian Indians that they had captured a woman and a child from a farm and impaled the two on stakes on the western side of the Ohio River. They gave this information to warn the Moravians that militia would likely be headed after them in a retaliatory raid.

Gnadenhutten Massacre
Retaliation was exactly what the militia had in mind.  They knew the Moravian Indians at Gnadenhutten were storing corn, which could be used to feed these reading parties that were killing their families.

On March 4, 1782, a militia force of about 160 men under the command of Colonel Williamson mustered with the intent of eliminating the Moravian villages.  Fort Pitt at this time was in a state of disarray from the change in commanders.  It did not approve the raid, and did not send any soldiers.  The fort commander tried to send a warning to the Moravian communities, but also did nothing to stop the militia or control them.

My March 6 6h4 militia had surrounded a Moravian communities and attacked from multiple sides.  The Moravian villagers did not resist, and did not run either.  They believed they were neutrals and would not be harmed.

That was not the case.  The first Moravian they came across was Joseph Shabosh, a man of European descent.  They murdered and scalped him.  Next, they came upon a group of Indians working in the cornfields.  They escorted them to town, saying that they would be taken to Fort Pitt as prisoners.

The militia killed several more individuals whom they encountered, but took the larger groups into the town of Gnaddenhutten where they took away any items that could be used as weapons, bound their prisoners, and put them in two houses: one for men, the other for women and children.

The militia also took the nearby town of Salem, capturing the Indians there, and removing those prisoners back to GnadenHutten as well.  The militia continued to round up Moravian families, who seemed cooperative and still being told they were being removed to Fort Pitt.  The indians who remained tied up inside the two houses remained compliant, sitting bound, praying and singing Christian hymns as the militia collected more work parties still out in distant fields.

As the militia secured the Moravians, they talked among themselves about the property they had confiscated from them, including farm equipment, cooking utensils, farm implements, horses, etc.  Many of the militia were convinced that the only way they could have these things would be if they had participated in raids against the settlements.

The militia held some sort of sham trial where the Moravian Indians protested their innocence and made clear they had purchased what they owned just like any other people would over many years of working and farming.

The militia determined that all of their prisoners needed to die.  The men voted, only 16 or 18 voted not to kill. Realizing they were in the minority, these men left.

The remainder then got to work.  The first separated out a group of prisoners they believed to be warriors.  These were marched out of town and executed. 

The remaining prisoners, mostly women and children had their skulls bashed in with a mallet one by one.  After they were killed each body was scalped.  In all 96 men women and children were executed.  The militia then burned the two houses with the bodies still in them.

The primary witnesses of events were two boys who survived the massacre.  One had been scalped and left for dead, but managed to hide under a pile of bodies before escaping the house after dark, and before it was set on fire.  Another boy managed to hide in a cellar of the home, then escaped through a window after the house was set on fire.

Aftermath

Word spread quickly of the massacre and many returned to the village to see the remains for themselves.  Zeisberger was already on his way back to Detroit by the time he received word. He hoped that most of his people had been taken back to Fort Pitt, only to learn later that all of them had been killed.

The militia returned to Pennsylvania, along with the scalps and items they had looted from their victims.  At Fort Pitt, there were no consequences. General Irvine appears not to have arrived at Fort Pitt to take command until late march of 1782, several weeks after the massacre.  He seemed displeased with the massacre, but did nothing about it.  He needed to rely on the militia for the defense of the fort.  He noted that many of the militia wanted to kill Colonel Gibson, his predecessor, for being too friendly with the Indians.

Even after the militia killed two more friendly Delaware who had sought refuge near the fort, Irving did nothing.  He simply reported the matter to General Washington without any recommendation for further action.  For the Continental Army, the matter was best forgotten.

Next week, we head to the West Indies where British and French fleets once again pick up the fight over island colonies.

- - -

Next Episode 311 Battle of the Saintes

Previous Episode 309 North Government Falls

 Contact me via email at mtroy.history@gmail.com

 Follow the podcast on Twitter @AmRevPodcast

 Join the Facebook group, American Revolution Podcast 

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American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account. You may also donate via Venmo (@Michael-Troy-20) or Zelle (send to mtroy1@yahoo.com)


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You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option making monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.

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Further Reading

Websites

Sterner, Eric “Moravians in the Middle: The Gnadenhutten Massacre” Journal of the American Revolution, Feb. 6, 2018. https://allthingsliberty.com/2018/02/moravians-middle-gnadenhutten-massacre

“To George Washington from William Irvine, 20 April 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-08209

Journal of Moravian History: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/jmorahist.12.2.issue-2

Atwood, Craig d. “The Jesus Indians of Ohio” Plough Quarterly, June 1, 2016. https://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/witness/jesus-indians-of-ohio

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

A true history of the massacre of ninety-six Christian Indians, at Gnadenhuetten, Ohio, March 8th, 1782, New Philadelphia: Ohio Democrat, 1870.  

De Schweinitz, Edmund The Life and Times of David Zeisberger, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1870. 

Fisher, Kyle David Zeisberger and the Moravian Indian Mission in the old Northwest, 1782-1808, A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Church History, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, MA, 2016. 

Howells, William D. Three Villages, Boston: James R. Good and Co. 1884. 

Martin, Harry E. The Tents of Grace: A Tragedy, Cincinatti: Jennings and Graham, 1910.

Rau, Robert Sketch of the History of the Moravian Congregation  at Gnadenhutten on the Mahoning, Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, 1886. 

Rice, William H. David Zeisberger and his Brown Brethren, Bethlehem, PA: Moravian Publication Concern, 1908. 

Stocker, Harry E. A History of the Moravian Mission Among the Indians on the White River in Indiana, Bethlehem, PA: Times Publishing Co. 1917. 

Zeisberger, David Diary of David Zeisberger, a Moravian Missionary Among the Indians of Ohio, Vol. 1Vol 2, Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co. 1885.

Zeisberger, David Grammar of the Language of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians, Philadelphia: James Kay 1827. 

Zeisberger, David Zeisberger’s Indian Dictionary, Cambridge: John Wilson and Son, 1887. 

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Brusman, Denver and Joel Stone (eds) Revolutionary Detroit: Portraits in Political and Cultural Change, 1760-1805, Detroit Historical Society, 2009 (borrow on Archive.org).

Glickstein, Don After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence, Westholme Publishing, 2015. 

Olmstead, Earl P. David Zeisberger: A Life Among the Indians, Kent State Univ. Press, 1997 (borrow on Archive.org). 

Olmstead, Earl P. Blackcoats Among the Delaware: David Zeisberger on the Ohio Frontier, Kent State Univ. Press, 2002.

Sterner, Eric Anatomy of a Massacre: The Destruction of Gnadenhutten, 1782, Westholme Publishing, 2020.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.