Indigenous People in the Continental Army
At Valley Forge, a select number of individual soldiers in Connecticut regiments had either Black, Pequot, or a combined Black and Pequot heritage. The two groups began intermarrying in the eighteenth century. Unfortunately, muster rolls did not include soldiers' race or ethnic identity, and pension records or other documentation do not exist for each individual soldier. Therefore, it is difficult to gauge an exact number of American Indians serving in the Continental Army during the encampment, since many had been integrated into colonial society.
American Indian Allies to the Continental Army
During the American Revolution, the majority of American Indian Nations allied themselves with the British in order to preserve their culture and stop encroachment upon their lands. However, some supported the Patriots and their cause because of personal ties, shared religious beliefs, or mistreatment by the British in the past. These allies included large numbers from the Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Mohicans, and the Stockbridge-Munsee Nations.
The Oneida and Tuscarora at Valley Forge
In the spring of 1778, General George Washington asked to have a delegation of Oneida and Tuscarora warriors with his army at Valley Forge. Washington and the Congressional Committee wanted these allies 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 15, 1778 they arrived at the encampment. On May 18, 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 20, 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.
Last updated: June 30, 2021