Horton's Historical Articles
by Gerald Horton
Timeline of Events for 1777
Jan 2, 1777 Battle of Trenton
General Cornwallis attacks General Washington’s Revolutionary
Jan 3, 1777 Battle of Princeton
forces attack Washington’s Army but are defeated by the Rebels.
Mar 6, 1777 Loyalist property subject to confiscation.
The Convention of Representatives of the State of New York meeting at the state capital (Kingston, NY), passed an act allowing for confiscation of all Loyalist property. Commissions were set up for the purpose of selling this property to help finance the war.
Apr 1777 Joseph Brant recruits volunteers.
Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Sachem, was actively recruiting men to fight for the British. These men, known as Brant’s Volunteers, were mostly white men. Scarcely more than one fifth were Indians, and most if not all of them were his clansmen. The white men were mainly Loyalist refugees from the upper Delaware and Susquehanna River valleys. Revolutionaries assumed Brant had a large party of Mohawk warriors as the white men disguised themselves by dressing and painting themselves as Indians.
Brant made the village of Onaquaga (outside current Windsor, NY) his headquarters.
NOTE: There are hundreds of spellings for the village of Onaquaga in old documents and histories. I have used the spelling from Historian Marjory Hinman’s book.
Marjory Barnum Hinman, Onaquaga: Hub of the Border Wars of the
Apr 18, 1777 Chain obstruction built across the Hudson River.
The Revolutionaries placed an iron chain across the Hudson River between Fort Montgomery and Anthony’s Nose. The chain was approximately 1,650 feet of iron links reinforced by cables, log buoys, and anchors. Approaches were covered by artillery. The chain was one of several obstructions meant to thwart any British naval invasion up the Hudson River.
Apr 20, 1777 Constitution of New York State approved.
The Constitution of New York State was approved by the New York convention at Kingston, NY.
George Clinton was elected the first Governor of New York State under the new constitution.
May 1777 Revolutionary Colonel Peter Gansevoort succeeds Col. Elmore as commandant at Fort Stanwix.
May 27, 1777 Northern Department of the Bureau of War formed by Congress
The Continental Congress voted a resolution declaring that “Albany, Ticonderoga, Fort Stanwix, and their dependencies, be henceforth considered as forming the Northern Department.” General Schuyler was placed in command of the Northern Department.
Jun 2, 1777 Joseph Brant enters Unadilla.
Joseph Brant and a party of Indians entered the settlement of Unadilla which was located a few miles from his headquarters at Onaquaga. He held a conference with the minister, William Johnston, and his son, militia Captain Johnston. Brant requested provisions for his party. He told the Johnston’s that Colonel John Butler would pay them when he came through Unadilla. The residents felt they had no alternative but to furnish cattle and food to Brant’s men.
Following Brant’s departure, many inhabitants feared the return of the Indians and fled to other more secure locations. Many returned to Cherry Valley from where they had originally moved.
Jun 6, 1777 Butler receives orders.
Loyalist Col. John Butler, stationed at Fort Niagara, received letters from General Guy Carleton, Governor of Canada, informing him of Col. St. Leger’s expedition down the Mohawk Valley. Carleton instructed Butler to assemble the Iroquois to participate in the expedition.
Jun 16, 1777 British General John Burgoyne’s army sets out for Albany, NY from Fort St. Johns on the Richelieu River.
A British plan to split New England from the rest of the American colonies was developed during the winter of 1776 – 1777. The plan called for General Burgoyne to attack from Canada down the Champlain Valley to Albany, NY. He would capture Fort Ticonderoga on the way. Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger was to sail from Canada to Oswego, NY via Lake Ontario. He would then move from Oswego down the Mohawk River to Albany and meet Burgoyne. St’ Leger was to capture Fort Stanwix (current Rome, NY) along the way. General Howe, who had wintered in New York City, was to move north and also link up with Burgoyne at Albany. The plan has come to be known as the three-pronged attack.
Burgoyne left Fort St. John with approximately 7,500 to 8,000 rank and file men. Half were British, half German. Historian Gregory Edgar includes in his number 100 Loyalists and 150 Canadian Militia. There was also a sizeable contingent of Indians (some reports said as many as one thousand) included in the total number of combatants. A total of about three hundred women and an unknown number of children accompanied the army.
Jun 21, 1777 General Burgoyne’s army enters Lake Champlain
Historian John Pancake pulled together information from various journals and paints a colorful word picture: “They were formed into a spectacular column, the Indians leading in their big war canoes. Then came two ship-rigged schooners, the Royal George and the Inflexible. They were followed by a line of hundreds of bateaux crowded with colors; red-coated British infantry, the green of the jagers, the blue coats of the Brunswickers with their glittering cap plates (see NOTE below); in such perfect regularity as to form the most complete and splendid regatta you can possibly conceive.”
Pancake seems to indicate Burgoyne’s army sailed down Lake Champlain. However, Historian Gregory Edgar cites several journals indicating that while the artillery and heavier baggage was floated down the lake, most of the army marched along the west shore.
An enormous baggage train accompanied the army. Over 500 two-wheel carts were used to transport equipment and provisions. Just the champagne and clothes for Burgoyne and his mistress required more than thirty carts.
Edgar also cites a journal kept by a German officer named Du Roi. Du Roi complained of the excessive amount of baggage being hauled through the wilderness. The army averaged eighteen miles per day, stopping long before dark to take elaborate precautions, even to the point of building breastworks for protection against surprise attacks by the Revolutionaries.
NOTE: Historian Richard Ketcham states that the great majority of German soldiers who came from Canada were not Hessians. Over two thousand of the Germans were from Braunschweig (Brunswick, as anglicized) and were generally called Brunswickers. Landgrave Friedrich II of Hesse – Cassel was the first German sovereign to provide troops to the British, and during the Revolution he furnished twenty thousand of them – far more than any other ruler – so it was natural for the Americans to apply the generic term “Hessian” to all German soldiers.
Jul 6, 1777 Revolutionary General St. Clair abandons Ft. Ticonderoga.
General St. Clair held several conferences with his officers once valid information was received concerning the numbers of Burgoyne’s army. St. Clair had some two thousand effective fighting men. This should have been a sufficient defensive force for the fort. However, the British placed an artillery battery on Sugarloaf (renamed Mount Defiance) mountain. From this position, the British could fire on any point within the fort. St. Clair saw further defense of the fort as a useless waste of men and ordered the evacuation.
St. Clair was accused of cowardice and treason in the newspapers of the day. He appealed to General Washington for a court-martial. He was eventually granted one and was exonerated.
General Schuyler also came under criticism for allowing this “disaster” to occur under his command. Some historians believe this incident caused Schuyler to be replaced by General Horatio Gates prior to the Battles of Saratoga.
Jul 7, 1777 Battle of Hubbarton
Revolutionary Colonel Seth Warner, along with Col Nathan Hale (not Nathan Hale the Revolutionary spy) and Col Turbott Francis, formed their men into a rear guard for the Rebels retreating from Fort Ticonderoga.
British General Simon Fraser and Baron Von Riedesel were chasing the Revolutionaries and attacked them at Hubbarton in what is now Vermont. The battle was intense with the British eventually driving the Rebels from the area. This was the first real encounter between Burgoyne’s invasion force and the men of the Northern Department. The British and German losses were 198 killed and wounded including fifteen officers (more than 20 percent of their force). The Rebels suffered about 125 killed and wounded. Col. Francis was among the killed in action. The Rebels also lost about 200 captured. Among them was Col. Nathan Hale who later died on a British prison ship.
Jul 1777 Militia General Nicholas Herkimer confronts Joseph Brant at Unadilla.
In early July, General Nicholas Herkimer came to Unadilla with 380 men. Herkimer and Joseph Brant had known each other in earlier days and Herkimer hoped to persuade Brant to curtail any violent activities in the area.
Brant agreed to a council if all were unarmed and Herkimer agreed. Brant bragged he had five hundred men in the woods but only had about 130 in his band at the time.
Herkimer asked Brant what his grievances were and Brant enumerated them. At one point, Colonel Ebenezer Cox made some insulting remarks to Brant whereupon Brant signaled his men and they ran to their camp an fired off weapons. Herkimer smoothed over the incident and the council continued.
Herkimer agreed to Brant’s demands and the council ended amicably. Most people, including General Schuyler, were not happy with Herkimer’s concessions.
Historians Stone and Simms related a story told by Sgt. Joseph Waggoner. The story has two versions depending on which historian’s book you read. The first version (Stone) is that General Herkimer told Waggoner to get three good men and upon a signal from Herkimer they were to shoot Brant and his three lieutenants. The second version (Simms) is that Herkimer told Waggoner to get three good men and should the council turn violent to shoot Brant and his three lieutenants.
Most historians reject Stone’s version of the incident. They believe Herkimer’s character would not permit him to order such an act of cold-blooded murder.
Jul 11, 1777 George Clinton accepts office as first Governor of New York State.
Jul 13, 1777 Colonel John Butler holds Indian Council at Irondequoit.
Loyalist Col. John Butler ordered a grand council with the Iroquois at Oswego, but directed the greater number of Iroquois to Irondequoit (near present day Rochester, NY) to preserve provisions. Butler spoke to the assembled Sachems and reminded them of their alliance with the King. He also distributed a large number of presents, including rum, to remind them of the King’s generosity to his subjects.
However, a number of Seneca Sachems reminded their brothers of the treaty with the Americans to remain neutral and keep the war out of their lands. Old Smoke and Cornplanter were the two most vigorous opponents of joining the British.
During the council, another ship of presents arrived. Butler pointed out that the Revolutionaries could not supply these goods. The Iroquois were well aware of that in their past dealings with the Rebels. Therefore, the decision to support the British was becoming closer to reality.
Jul 25, 1777 St. Leger’s force reaches Fort Oswego.
British Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger’s main column traveled up the St. Lawrence River from Montreal and then across Lake Ontario to Oswego.
St. Leger found the Indians still trying to decide if they should side with the British and break their treaty with the Revolutionaries. A large amount of presents and gifts were given to the Indians to try and convince them to join the British forces. Finally, the Indians were told they really didn’t have to fight, just come with St. Leger (to Fort Stanwix) “and watch us whip the Rebels”.
Jul 27, 1777 Girls killed outside Fort Stanwix.
Three girls picking raspberries not 200 yards from the fort were attacked by Indians. Two of the girls were killed and scalped and the third had two musket balls pass through her shoulder while fleeing her attackers.
Col. Gansevoort, the fort commander, was horrified by the incident and wrote to Col. Van Schaik, “By the best discoveries we have made, there were four Indians who perpetrated these murders. I had four men with arms just passed that place, but these mercenaries of Britain came not to fight, but to lie in wait to murder; and it is equally the same to them if they can get a scalp, whether it is from a soldier or an innocent babe.”
Aug 3, 1777 Siege of Fort Stanwix begun.
Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger sent Captain Gilbert Tice to the fort with a proclamation demanding that the Revolutionaries surrender. Tice was ushered out of the fort and Col. Gansevoort issued a formal written reply to St. Leger the following day. In the reply, Gansevoort stated, “It is my determined resolution…to defend this fort and garrison to the last extremity, in behalf of the United American States, who have placed me here to defend it against all their enemies.”
Aug 3, 1777 General Nicholas Herkimer issues orders for Tryon County militia to assemble at German Flats.
Aug 4, 1777 General Herkimer’s militia (approximately 800 men) begins its march from Fort Dayton to Fort Stanwix.
Aug 4, 1777 Loyalist uprising in Schohary Valley.
Loyalists John McDonell, Adam Chrysler, and George Mann mustered about 160 men in the Schoharie Valley. They were preparing to eliminate any Revolutionaries in the valley and join Lt. Col. St. Leger as he marched down the Mohawk Valley.
McDonell and Chrysler secured the southern end of the valley while Mann used his tavern at the northern part of the valley as a Loyalist rallying point. Only 28 men stood in defense of the valley against the Loyalists. These men took position in Johannes Becker's stone house just north of Weyserstown (present day Middleburgh). The house became enclosed by the Middle fort which was at times called Fort Defyance (Defiance).
Aug 6, 1777 Battle of Oriskany
The Tryon County Militia led by General Herkimer was ambushed near the Oneida Indian village of Oriska. The militia was on the way to relieve the siege of Fort Stanwix.
General Herkimer had approximately 800 militia and about 60 to 100 Oneida Warriors. He had sent several messengers to Fort Stanwix and asked Commander Gansevoort to send out a sortie from the fort. Herkimer hoped this would distract St. Leger’s forces and allow the militia to push through the enemy lines to the fort. Three successive cannon shots from the fort were to be the signal that Gansevoort had received the message and would proceed with the sortie.
A number of Herkimer’s officers did not want to delay and wait for the signal. Herkimer was adamant that they wait. The argument over the delay became very heated and several of the militia colonels accused Herkimer of cowardice and worse yet – of Tory sympathies.
Angered and goaded by these accusations, Herkimer ordered the militia forward into the ambush that became the Battle of Oriskany.
Historians have estimated 750 to 800 Revolutionaries and Oneida Indians were engaged in the battle. Approximately 450 or 460 were killed, wounded or captured. Many families in the Mohawk Valley lost all or most of their male members. The Loyalists and Iroquois lost approximately 160 to 200 killed, wounded, or missing. The battle was particularly devastating to the Seneca Indians who lost 35 warriors including five Sachems. By Iroquois standards, these were terrible losses.
One significant result of the battle was that it marked the beginning of a civil war within the Six Nations (Iroquois). With the Oneidas and some other Iroquois siding with the Revolutionaries, the Great Peace that had held the Six Nations together for ages was now shattered. In one of his reports after the battle, Daniel Claus wrote, “they (the Six Nations) would become a divided people – nation against nation, clan against clan, lodge against lodge.”
Aug 13, 1777 Battle of the Flockey.
Militia Colonel Harper had ridden to Kingston, NY seeking reinforcements to quell the Loyalist uprising in the Scoharie Valley that began on August 4th. He arrived at Kingston on Aug 12th and was given the 41-man Second Troop of Second Continental Dragoons under Captain Jean-Louis de Vernejoux and the 29-man troop of Ulster County Light Horse under Captain Sylvester Salisbury.
The cavalry rode all night and arrived in the valley on the 13th at Mann’s Tavern. They rounded up all the Loyalists there and moved on to the southern part of the valley.
The Loyalist force led by McDonell and Chrysler were holding the southern end of the valley. They decide to make a stand at Chrysler’s farm. The cavalry forded the Schoharie River and reached some flat lands the early German settlers called Die Flache or ‘the flats’ (from which the corrupt word “Flockey” derived). In this area, the Loyalists established their position. The cavalry charged and the Loyalists retreated in disorder into the woods. The cavalry lost one officer killed and on man mortally wounded. No record of Loyalist casualties has been found.
Some Loyalists, including Chrysler, eventually went to Fort Niagara. John McDonell led 40 to 50 Loyalists to Oswego where they joined with Sir John Johnson on the British retreat from Fort Stanwix.
The skirmish known as the Battle of the Flockey is believed to be the first cavalry charge of the United States Army.
Aug 13, 1777 General Schuyler orders Major-General Benedict Arnold to relieve the siege at Fort Stanwix.
Colonel Willett, having eluded the enemy surrounding For Stanwix, joins Arnold at Albany, NY and gives Arnold valuable intelligence concerning the siege.
Aug 13, 1777 Walter Butler ordered to recruit Loyalists.
Concerned about limited manpower and flush with the victory over at Oriskany, Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger sent a recruiting party under the command of Walter Butler into the German Flats region of the Mohawk Valley. He was hoping to influence a number of Loyalist families to join their army and support King George.
Aug 15, 1777 Walter Butler arrested.
During a Loyalist recruiting speech at Shoemaker’s Tavern in German Flats, Walter Butler was arrested by Lt. Col. Brooks. Brooks was a Continental Officer stationed at Fort Dayton.
Aug 15, 1777 Battle of Bennington
General Burgoyne finally conceded his baggage train was greatly hampering the speed of his army. General Riedesel had put forth the idea of using pack horses to transport their supplies. Burgoyne was informed that the Connecticut River Valley settlers had hundreds of horses that could be acquired in a short time.
Burgoyne ordered German Colonel Friedrich Baum to lead a force of seven to eight hundred men and gather up these horses. On August 13th, the day of Baum’s departure, Burgoyne received word that hundreds of horses and cattle were being assembled at a town called Bennington and ordered Baum to raid the town and retrieve the livestock.
The report Burgoyne received failed to tell him that Rebel General John Stark had just arrived in Bennington with twice the number of men Baum had. Stark attacked Baum and the Rebels killed over two hundred while making prisoners of the rest of his force.
Aug 16, 1777 General Nicholas Herkimer dies.
As a result of a wound suffered at the Battle of Oriskany, a surgeon under Benedict Arnold’s command amputated Herkimer’s leg. The surgeon could not stop the bleeding and Herkimer died.
Aug 17, 1777 Walter Butler court martialed.
General Benedict Arnold orders that Walter Butler and several other Loyalists captured at Shoemaker’s Tavern be court martialed for treason. Col. Marinus Willett is appointed Judge Advocate.
Aug 19, 1777 General Horatio Gates takes command of the Northern Army.
Aug 20, 1777 Walter Butler given death sentence.
At his court martial, Walter Butler was found guilty of being a spy and was given the death sentence for treason.
Several Rebel officers knew Butler and pleaded for a reduced sentence. The reduced sentence was granted and Butler was sent to jail in Albany, NY.
Aug 22, 1777 Hanjost Schuyler delivers message to Lt. Col. St. Leger.
Revolutionary Lt. Col. Brooks suggests to General Benedict Arnold a ruse that may help lift the siege at Fort Stanwix. They would tell Hanjost (who was captured with Walter Butler) that they will execute his brother unless Hanjost delivers a message to St. Leger. The message was an embellished report of the number of soldiers Benedict Arnold was leading to attack St. Leger and lift the siege. A number of Oneida Indians were to arrive one after another to confirm and embellish Hanjost’s account.
Aug 22, 1777 Lt. Col. St. Leger retreats.
Upon hearing of the Revolutionary army moving to relieve Fort Stanwix, St. Leger called a council with his officers and Indian Sachems. The Indian Sachems all agreed that the British force should retreat to Fort Oswego. St. Leger gave the order to retreat.
There are many accounts that state the retreat was more like a rout. Stories also abound of the Indian allies attacking stragglers and carrying off supplies and booty acquired in the attacks.
Sep 1777 Molly Brant’s home ransacked.
Revolutionaries pillaged Molly Brant’s home in Canajoharie. Molly (Joseph Brant’s sister) fled with her children to a Cayuga Indian village.
Sep 8, 1777 Mohawk village attacked.
Revolutionaries pillaged the Mohawk Indian settlement at Fort Hunter. Approximately one hundred Mohawks fled to Burgoyne’s army and then to Montreal.
Sep 1777 John Stuart arrested.
John Stuart, Anglican pastor to the Mohawks, was arrested as a Loyalist. Stuart’s Anglican chapel at Fort Hunter was turned into a tavern by the Rebels, then a stable, and finally into a fort. Stuart’s possessions and farm were confiscated. He was paroled within the limits of Schenectady. In 1781, he was permitted to go to Canada as part of a prisoner exchange.
Sep 11, 1777 Battle of Brandywine Creek, Pa.
British and German troops under General Cornwallis outflank General Washington’s force. It was a defeat for the Continental Army, but they performed an orderly retreat.
Sep 14, 1777 Congress flees Philadelphia.
With the defeat of Washington’s forces at Brandywine Creek and the advance of British Generals Howe and Cornwallis on Philadelphia, the Continental Congress leaves that city and makes York, Pennsylvania the temporary capital.
Sep 19, 1777 First Battle of Saratoga (Freeman’s Farm).
This day-long battle left six hundred British and German soldiers killed, wounded, or captured. Revolutionary losses were about three hundred.
Sep 20, 1777 The Paoli Massacre.
Following the Battle of Brandywine Creek, General Washington left General Anthony Wayne’s division behind to harass British General Howe’s advance.
The British discovered the location of Wayne’s camp and staged a night attack. Wayne managed to get his cannon and most of his men away. The Rebels suffered about 150 killed, wounded, or captured. The British reported six killed and 22 wounded.
Sep 26, 1777 British occupy city of Philadelphia.
General Howe’s army captures Philadelphia. The city is occupied by the British until June 18, 1778.
Oct 4, 1777 Battle of Germantown, Pa
When the British took Philadelphia, General Howe split his force. One to occupy and hold Philadelphia, the other to reduce small forts and guard supplies. The second force of 9,000 British were at Germantown, Pennsylvania. General Washington decided to attack this force with his 8,000 Continentals and 3,000 militia.
The battle became very confused with some Continental elements firing on each other. Washington was forced into a retreat. Although the battle resulted in a retreat, the rebel troops felt they held their own against the British.
Oct 6, 1777 Forts Clinton and Montgomery taken by British.
British General Vaughan directed an assault on Forts Clinton and Montgomery on the Hudson River. The Revolutionaries were forced to retreat leaving valuable stores and over sixty cannon behind.
The chain across the Hudson from Fort Montgomery to Anthony’s Nose was destroyed.
Oct 7, 1777 Second Battle of Saratoga (Bemis Heights).
This battle was clearly a Rebel victory. The British lost about 600 killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. Rebel losses were about 150. Burgoyne then retreated toward Saratoga.
Oct 12, 1777 Burgoyne surrounded.
Revolutionary forces surround Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga. He was cut off from a retreat to Fort Ticonderoga.
Oct 16, 1777 Kingston, NY burned.
British General John Vaughan ordered the burning of Kingston. Some five hundred buildings were destroyed in the fire.
Oct 17, 1777 Burgoyne surrenders.
Surrounded and with winter coming, General Burgoyne surrendered to General Horatio Gates at Schuylerville, NY. Over 5,000 British and German soldiers became prisoners of war. The Continental Congress decided not to allow them to return to England on parole. The prisoners became known as the Convention Army and were moved from place to place throughout the states until their release in 1783.
Nov 2, 1777 New York State produces lead.
The Secretary of the Board of War authorizes New York Governor Clinton to use prisoners of war to mine lead in New York State.
New York was the leading producer of lead for musket balls in the initial years of the war. Lead mines were found in old Albany, Duchess, and Ulster counties. The principal mine was the Livingston Mine.
Nov 15, 1777 General Washington establishes Valley Forge as winter quarters for the Revolutionary Army.
Nov 15, 1777 Articles of Confederation are adopted.
The Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation as the guiding framework of government for the United States. The Articles were ratified by the states in 1781 and replaced by the U.S. Constitution in 1789.
Source: Mark M. Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.