Horton's Historical Articles

by Gerald Horton

Timeline of Events for 1778

Feb 6, 1778 France recognizes United States.

France recognizes the United States as an independent nation and enters into a military alliance with the United States.

Source: Harv Hilowitz, Revolutionary War Chronology & Almanac

Mar 1778 Naval Battle in the Caribbean.

Off the Caribbean island of Barbados, the British warship Yarmouth destroys the Continental ship Randolph, killing 300 seamen.

Source: Harv Hilowitz, Revolutionary War Chronology & Almanac

Mar 11, 1778 Schuyler letter concerning pillaging of Loyalist homes.

The Tryon County Committee of Safety controlled the political and judicial aspects of the county. It remained the highest court of law even after the New York Constitution of 1777 provided for county judges. The committee was able to continue judicial activities because its members were often judges, but there was no trial by jury.

The committee imprisoned any suspected Loyalist and encouraged Oneida Indians to attack and burn Loyalist farms. The few Mohawks who remained in the county were robbed by whites with the tacit approval of the committee.

General Philip Schuyler finally wrote to the committee on March 11, 1778, and warned them to take steps to prevent these abuses. Schuyler’s letter, however, did not dampen the zeal of the committee which continued to advocate strict suppression of suspected Loyalists.

In the spring of 1778, the state legislature abolished all Committees of Safety in New York in favor of “Commissioners of Conspiracy” to be appointed by the governor.

Even after all the other committees in New York dissolved themselves, the Tryon County Committee would not relinquish their power to the state. They feared that Commissioners of Conspiracy, as government appointees, would be men of wealth, of influence, and therefore moderates.

The committee’s demise came in May 1778 when it decided to free a certain debtor who was being held in the county jail. The committee organized an armed posse, forcibly removed the man from jail, and proceeded to charge the creditor with all costs of the case. When the state legislature learned of the case it demanded that the committee disband. With its activities condemned by the state, the committee had no choice but to dissolve.

Source: Robert Venables, Tryon County, 1775 – 1783: A Frontier in Revolution; Phd Dissertation, Vanderbilt Univ.

Mar 15, 1778 Fairfield attacked.

The small settlement of Fairfield was located eight miles north of present-day Herkimer, NY and three miles east of the West Canada Creek. The settlement had been divided in its politics, having a number of families devoted to the Johnsons. As feelings became bitter, these families left their homes and joined the Johnsons in Canada.

In mid-March 1778, a party of Indians and Tories, led by one of the former residents named Caselman, appeared on snowshoes, killed and scalped one boy, took twelve men prisoners, and burned the houses. No women were killed or taken prisoner.

Source: Thomas W. Clarke, The Bloody Mohawk.

Mar 29, 1778 Manheim attacked.

The settlement of Snyders Bush (four miles north of present-day Little Falls, NY) was attacked by the same raiding party that destroyed Fairfield. The party was again led by Mr. Caselman.

Eight men were taken prisoner, but the women were left unmolested. One mill was burned but no private residences were put to the torch. No one was killed in the raid.

Source: Thomas W. Clarke, The Bloody Mohawk.

Apr 1778 John Paul Jones raids England.

Rebel Naval Captain John Paul Jones has a series of naval victories off the English coast and raids English coastal towns, causing an uproar in Parliament and unrest in England.

Source: Harv Hilowitz, Revolutionary War Chronology & Almanac.

Apr 20, 1778 Ephratah attacked.

The afternoon of April 20, 1778, while a small company of twenty militia were drilling, a band of Indians and Tories appeared and began destroying homes and barns. Most of the militia went to defend their homes, but a small number pursued the attackers. In a skirmish, several militiamen were killed including a boy of four.

Stragglers from the Loyalist band also took a boy captive at Kringsbush and killed a young woman in sight of Fort Klock.

These and the other raids north of the Mohawk River so frightened the inhabitants that most of those whom the Indians and Tories had missed moved down into the Mohawk Valley to gain protection in the forts. As far as the northern slope of the valley was concerned, the British effort to frighten the people away from their farms was a great success.

Source: Thomas W. Clarke, The Bloody Mohawk.

Apr 21, 1778 Walter Butler escapes.

Walter Butler escaped from a house in Albany where he was being incarcerated for treason. He had been in the Albany jail, but complained of illness and through the influence of some friends in the area, was allowed on parole to a private home in Albany.

He made his escape down Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence River. He went to Quebec and then on to Fort Niagara to join his father, John Butler and Butler’s Rangers.

Source: Mark M. Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.

Apr 30, 1778 New iron chain placed across Hudson River.

To help prevent British attacks up the Hudson River from New York City, the Rebels placed a new chain and boom obstruction across the Hudson River from Chain Cove on the west bank to West Point on the east bank. The links were twelve inches wide and eighteen inches long. They were two square inches thick. The chain was buoyed up by logs about sixteen feet long.

The chain was covered by artillery batteries on both shores of the river.

Source: Lincoln Diamant, Chaining the Hudson.

May 30, 1778 Cobus Kill (Cobleskill) attacked.

Cobus Kill was a settlement of about twenty families spread over three miles in the Cobus Kill Valley. A scout sent out from the settlement on May 30th discovered a party of Indians and reported this to Captain Patrick, the senior Continental officer in the area.

Capt. Patrick went in pursuit of the Indians and was led into an ambush. Capt. Patrick, his lieutenant, and corporal were killed. Militia Capt. Christian Brown assumed command and ordered a retreat. As the troops passed the house of George Warner, five men took up position inside and returned fire at the attackers. The Indians set fire to the house. Three men burned to death inside, one was killed while trying to escape, and one (Jonathan Young, a Continental soldier) was said to have been captured and then tortured to death.

On hearing the firing, the families in the settlement fled into the woods or to Schoharie ten miles away. Several people stayed in the woods for three days. Ten houses and barns were burned in the raid. Livestock was either driven off or destroyed.

Most historians agree that twenty-two men (Continental and militia) were killed in the raid. Six were wounded, and two taken prisoner. Simms notes that a ‘mulatto’ who was with the enemy at the time of the raid and returned after the war, stated that twenty-five of the Indians and Loyalists were killed and that seven who were wounded died on the trek to Canada.

Sources: Richard Christman, The Battle of Cobleskill, article in Burning Issues March 2003 at BVMA website.

Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution.

Edward Hagan, War in Schohary.

Jeptha Simms, History of Schoharie County and Border Wars of New York.

Jun 1778 Loyalists collect their families.

The terror from the spring raids was so pervasive that in June of 1778, a body of some one hundred Loyalists were allowed to enter the Mohawk Valley, collect members of their families, who, by prearrangement, had gathered at Fort Hunter, and depart with them unmolested by way of Johnstown and the Sacandaga River to the Hudson, Lake Champlain, and St. Johns. On their return trip they captured several prisoners and destroyed considerable property. They came and went without a hand being lifted against them.

Source: Thomas W. Clarke, The Bloody Mohawk.

Jun 18, 1778 British evacuate Philadelphia.

British General Sir Henry Clinton’s strategic plans called for consolidating his forces in New York City and evacuating Philadelphia. He decided not to use ships to transfer his troops as the French naval presence made such a move dangerous. He therefore marched some 10,000 troops, 1,500 wagons, and artillery through New Jersey to New York.

Revolutionary General George Washington was made aware of this movement and rushed his army from Valley Forge into New Jersey. These movements led to the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey.

Source: Mark M. Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.

Jun 28, 1778 Battle of Monmouth, NJ.

This was the last important engagement in the north and was the longest action of the war. Tactically it was a draw.

The heat on the days preceding the battle was almost intolerable. One source states on the day of the battle the temperature was 92 degrees. Others say it was 100 degrees in the sun.

Revolutionary casualties were 356 of which 72 were killed, 161 wounded, and 132 missing. Many of the missing had dropped of heat exhaustion and soon rejoined their units, but at least 37 of them were believed to have died of sunstroke.

British casualties were recorded at 358 with 62 dying of the heat. Over 600 men deserted Clinton’s army – 440 of them Germans.

Source: Mark M. Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.

Jul 3, 1778 Wyoming “massacre”.

Major John Butler led some 110 Rangers and 460 Indians (mostly Seneca and Cayuga) into the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania. The main settlement in the valley surrounded a fort named Forty Fort (near present-day Wilkes-Barre, Pa).

On July 1st, two smaller forts in the area surrendered to Butler’s force, but Forty Fort refused. On July 3rd, Colonel Zebulon Butler led 400 men out of Forty Fort to attack the invaders. Butler set fire to the smaller forts, hoping the Rebels would believe he was retreating. The Rebels fell for the ruse and were led into an ambush. Some 300 Revolutionaries were killed, under 100 made it back to the fort. The next day, Forty fort surrendered.

According to most accounts, no non-combatants were injured. However, it appears Major Butler lost control of his Indian allies and they burned about 1,000 residences. All the mills were burned and over a thousand head of cattle, sheep, and hogs were driven off.
Source: Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution.

Jul 18, 1778 Springfield and Andrews Town destroyed.

Joseph Brant led his raiders against Springfield at the head of Otsego Lake and then Andrews Town (north of present-day Warren, NY). Both were small settlements with Andrews Town having seven families. Brant’s force killed eight men and took fourteen prisoners between the two locations. Women and children were forced into one house and not molested. The surviving women and children fled to Cherry Valley or Schoharie.

Sources: Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution.

Isabel Kelsay, Joseph Brant, Man of Two Worlds.

Jul 1778 New Governor-General of Quebec (Canada).

General Guy Carleton was replaced by General Frederick Haldimand as Governor-General of Quebec Province (Canada).

Source: John Dendy, Frederick Haldimand and the Defense of Canada 1778-1784. Phd Dissertation, Duke Univ.

Aug 10, 1778 Rebels raid Butternut Creek.

Captain Ballard with sixty militiamen raided Butternut Creek near the town of Morris, a settlement of several Loyalist families. The Loyalists were taken prisoner and their homes destroyed.

Source: Thomas W. Clarke, The Bloody Mohawk.

Sep 16, 1778 Adam Helmer’s run.

Adam Helmer was one of nine scouts sent out by Colonel Bellinger from German Flats to look for any Loyalist or Indian forces in the area. The scouts ran into an advance party of Indians. Three of the scouts were killed and Adam managed to hide until the large party had passed.

He then jumped up and ran for German Flats to warn the people and the forts of the large enemy force approaching. Helmer out ran all his pursuers and arrived in time for the people of German Flats to seek shelter in the forts. The number of miles covered by Helmer’s run varies, but most people agree it was more than nine miles.

Source: Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution.

See also: “Adam Helmer’s Run” in the Historical Articles on this website.

Sep 17, 1778 Attack on German Flats.

At 6:00am on September 17th, a raiding party of some 300 Loyalists and 150 Indians attacked the German Flats area. Captain William Caldwell was the leader along with Joseph Brant and his volunteers and Indians.

Thanks to Adam Helmer’s warning, the residents made it safely inside either Fort Herkimer or Fort Dayton. Three local men were caught outside the forts and killed. By noon, Caldwell and Brant’s force had put both sides of the river to the torch. Some 63 houses, 57 barns, 3 gristmills and 1 sawmill were burned. Over seven hundred head of livestock (cattle, horses, sheep) were driven off.

The attack left 719 people (including 387 children) homeless – but alive.

Sources: Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution.

Isabel Kelsay, Joseph Brant, Man of Two Worlds.

Sep 17, 1778 Oneidas raid Unadilla.

A party of Oneidas and Tuscaroras plundered the Loyalist settlements of Unadilla and Butternuts. They took ten prisoners and freed William Dygert who was a prisoner of the Loyalists at Unadilla.

Source: Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution.

Oct 2, 1778 Col. William Butler marches on Unadilla and Onaquaga.

Several high ranking militia officers had long seen the villages of Unadilla and Onaquaga (near present-day Windsor, NY) as bases for Joseph Brant’s operations. Col. William Butler presented a plan to destroy these bases to General Stark, then Commander of the Northern Department of the Continental Army.

Stark accepted the plan and Col. Butler left Fort Defiance (Middle Fort in the Schoharie Valley) with 267 Continentals.

Sources: Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution.

Edward Hagan, War in Schohary.

Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. IV.

Oct 6, 1778 Col. William Butler arrives at Unadilla.

Col. Butler’s force arrives at Unadilla and learns from a prisoner that none of Brant’s men are in the area. The prisoner told Col. Butler that Brant had left for Onaquaga several days ago.

Sources: Edward Hagan, War in Schohary.

Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. IV.

Oct 8, 1778 Brant raids Ulster County.

Joseph Brant, with about 80 Loyalists and a few Indians, was raiding in Ulster County. He was unaware of the Continental force destroying his base.

Source: Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution.

Oct 8, 1778 Col. Butler burns Onaquaga.

Col. William Butler led his Continentals in a night attack on Onaquaga. As Joseph Brant was raiding in Ulster County, the settlement was deserted.

The next day Butler had his men burn 40 houses and 2,000 bushels of corn. He stated in his report to Governor Clinton that “It was the finest Indian Town I ever saw; on both sides of the River; there was about 40 good houses, Square logs, shingles & stone chimneys, good Floors, glass windows, &c.”

Source: Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. IV.

Oct 10, 1778 Unadilla burned.

Col. William Butler and his Continentals burned Unadilla on their return from Onaquaga. All residences except one (the man who acted as guide to Onaquaga) were put to the torch as well as a saw and gristmill.

Source: Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. IV.

Oct 24, 1778 Carleton’s Raid in Champlain Valley.

On October 24th, Major Christopher Carleton left the Isle Aux Noix in the Richelieu River with a fleet of several large vessels, gunboats, bateaux, and canoes. He commanded a party of 354 white officers and men and some 100 Indians.

Carleton’s orders from General Frederick Haldimand, Governor-General of Quebec Province (Canada), were “to destroy all the supplies, provisions, and animals which the Rebels may have assembled on the shores of Lake Champlain, to take prisoner all the inhabitants who have settled there and have sworn allegiance to the Congress, sending their wives and children into the Colonies with orders not to return to the region.” Also,”to destroy all the boats which he could discover, as well as all the sawmills, and gristmills which could have been built in the area.”

Haldimand’s reason for the attack as explained in a letter to the British Colonial Secretary, George Germain, was that “there are some settlements upon the borders of Lake Champlain, Otter Creek, and about Ticonderoga and Crown Point that may furnish many conveniences and necessaries which would facilitate the approach of an Enemy.”

Three weeks later the expedition returned to Canada with 39 prisoners. Carleton reported burning one sawmill, one gristmill, forty-seven houses and twenty-seven barns. A considerable amount of livestock were brought off or killed.

Sources: John Dendy, Frederick Haldimand and the Defense of Canada 1778-1784. Phd Dissertation, Duke Univ.

Ida and Paul Washington, Carleton’s Raid.

Nov 11, 1778 Attack on Cherry Valley.

On November 11th, a raiding party led by Loyalist Captain Walter Butler attacked the settlement of Cherry Valley. Butler’s force consisted of three hundred twenty-one Indians, one hundred fifty Rangers, and fifty men from the 8th Regiment. Joseph Brant was also with the raiders.

The commander in charge of the Continental detachment at Cherry Valley (Col. Ichabod Alden) had received notice from Fort Stanwix that scouts had reported a large Loyalist force headed in his direction. Col. Alden refused to believe the information. He assured the people in the settlement that his scouts would report any enemy activity.

Alden’s scouts were captured so they never gave an alarm. Butler learned from a Loyalist in one of the scouts that all the officers were sleeping at the Wells’ family home. Before the attack started, Butler had the house surrounded and as others began the main attack on the fort, the officers, including Col. Alden were killed trying to get to the fort.

The attack did not proceed as Butler planned. He lost control of the Indians. They began killing and scalping anyone they could find in the village. Several Mohawk and Seneca Chiefs, including Joseph Brant, attempted to stop the carnage. By the end of the day, sixteen soldiers and thirty-two civilians lay dead – most of the latter being women and children. Seventy settlers, mostly women and children, were taken away as prisoners. Before Butler’s force left the area, forty of the seventy prisoners were released.

Reports of the carnage were shocking even in that time of brutal warfare. Many reports cited atrocities perpetrated by Loyalists as well as Indians in the party. This attack was particularly embarrassing to the British when the news reached the general public in England. There was an outcry among the British citizenry to stop using Indians in helping suppress the Revolutionaries.

Sources: Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution.

Isabel Kelsay, Joseph Brant, Man of Two Worlds.

Nov 22, 1778 Provisions for German Flats.

Colonel Peter Bellinger, Rebel militia commander at German Flats, wrote a letter to General Hand, Commander of the Northern Department of the Continental Army at Albany. He informed General Hand that the people of German Flats had been without provisions for fourteen days. There were over seven hundred homeless people in German Flats.

Provisions at the time allowed one pound of bread and one pound of beef per day for each person sixteen years and older. Half that ration was to be given to those under sixteen.

Source: Public Papers of George Clinton Vol. IV.

Dec 29, 1778 British invade Georgia.

British forces storm Savannah, Georgia and invade the state.

Source: Harv Hilowitz, Revolutionary War Chronology & Almanac.

Return to opening page for Horton's Historical Articles

Copyright 1998, -- 2003. Geraldn Horton. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.