Person

Thayendanegea — Joseph Brant

A profile portrait of a man in native garb. He wears a tuft of red feathers on his head.
Joseph Brant, painted in London by Gilbert Stuart in 1786

Quick Facts

Born a Mohawk, Joseph Brant was a man of two worlds. His sister Molly was the common-law wife of Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the British. Brant was thus exposed to the English culture, becoming a regular part of the Johnson household, while still retaining some ties to the Mohawk way of life.

In 1755, at age 13 he accompanied Sir William Johnson to the Battle of Lake George. Brant observed the negotiations that brought about the Boundary Line Treaty in 1768 at Fort Stanwix. Traveling to England in 1776, Brant met King George III. Voicing his concerns over the colonists' failure to abide by the 1768 Fort Stanwix Treaty, Brant was assured that the land disputes would be dealt with one the war with the colonies was over. Before leaving England Brant accepted the war belt, meaning that he had decided to support the King in this "family dispute" with the colonies. Brant's actions, along with his sister's influence, would be a factor that brought about the split of the Six Nations Confederacy.

Once home, Brant raised a group of loyalists and Indians. American General Nicholas Herkimer met with Brant in June of 1777. They had been neighbors, and for two days Herkimer tried to convince Brant to stay out of the war. Brant refused, and reasserted his intention to support the British. These men would meet again on August 6, 1777 at Oriskany, as Herkimer attempted to come to the aid of Fort Stanwix. Brant would be on the other side, as part of the force that ambushed Herkimer and his militia.

At the war's end, the British gave Brant's people land along the Grand River in Canada. This area became known as Brant's Town. Today it is known as Brantford, Canada. Brant often traveled back into the United States; however, on a trip from Philadelphia he stopped by the home of Peter Gansevoort. On another visit, in an ironic twist of fate, Marinus Willett ended up deterring a stalker who had been determined to assassinate Brant. In 1793, he even carried out a mission of peace to the Miami Indians on behalf of George Washington that helped secure peace between the two nations.

Brant died estranged from both the British and his people. He had made many enemies as he dealt with land disputes and tried to sell off property to make some money for his people to live by. Forty-three years after his death however, his body was carried back to Brant's Town, where he was laid to rest beside the Mohawk church.

Fort Stanwix National Monument, Saratoga National Historical Park

Last updated: May 25, 2022