American Indians at Valley Forge

During the American Revolution, the majority of the American Indian Nations sided with the British in order to preserve their culture and stop the encroachment upon their lands. However, some tribes and American Indians supported the patriots and their cause because of personal ties, shared religious beliefs, or mistreatment by the British in the past. Some of these included large numbers from the Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Mohicans, and the Stockbridge Nations. Hundreds of American Indians enlisted in the Continental Army such as the Stockbridge and Mohican Indians, which were part of several New England regiments in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Many other American Indians served as scouts in specialized units. The muster rolls from this time did not include listing the soldiers' race or ethnic identity, so it is difficult to give an exact number of the American Indians already serving in the army during the encampment, since many have integrated into colonial society.
In the spring of 1778, General George Washington asked to have the Oneida and Tuscarora warriors join his army at Valley Forge. Washington and the Congressional Committee wanted these groups to counter the British raids in the area, which were confiscating supplies, seizing stragglers, acquiring intelligence, and harassing civilians. These American Indians could help capture enemy soldiers to gain important information and discourage attempts of desertions from the Continental Army. These warriors had repeatedly proved themselves as exceptional scouts, and superb small-unit fighters. Washington praised these warriors by writing to General Philip Schuyler saying that, "The Oneidas and Tuscaroras have a particular claim to attention and kindness, for their perseverance and fidelity."
Close to fifty warriors from these nations would be sent to Valley Forge. On May 15th, 1778 they arrived at the encampment. On May 18th, they were directed to participate in a reconnaissance in force numbering 2,200 troops under the command of Marquis de Lafayette to an area called Barren Hill. On May 20th, British forces appeared trying to capture Lafayette and the army. The Oneida warriors ambushed some the British soldiers and provided some delaying action as the army started retreating back to the Valley Forge Encampment. They were the last to cross the Schuylkill in the army. It is thought that six Oneidas were killed during this engagement and they are buried at St. Peter's Church Cemetery in Barren Hill. In the middle of June, thirty-four of the original fifty returned home. Their reason for their quick return was threats from the British and British American Indian Allies on their families and homes. The warriors would continue to fight for the patriotic cause and their own survival in upstate New York for the rest of the war.
Glatthaar, Joseph T., and James Kirby Martin. Forgotten Allies: The Oneida Indians and the American Revolution. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006. Print.
Graymont, Barbara. The Iroquois in the American Revolution. Syracuse University Press, 1972. Print.
Jackson, John W. Valley Forge: Pinnacle of Courage. Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1992. Print.
Levinson, David. "An Explanation For The Oneida-Colonial Alliance In The American Revolution." Ethnohistory 1976. Print.
Reed, John. "Barren Hill." Valley Forge Journal. Print.

Last updated: August 9, 2019

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