The Yankee-Pennamite War

Conflict: Uncategorized

Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania, the site of the Yankee-Pennamite War (painting by Jasper Francis Cropsey)

The American Revolution wasn’t the only war fought in the late 18th-century United States—a violent conflict between Pennsylvania and Connecticut settlers in the years before and after the Revolution comprised what was known as the Yankee-Pennamite “War.”

It all began with King Charles II unknowingly giving grants for the same land (Wyoming Valley, a swath of fertile land 6 miles wide and 25 miles long in northeastern Pennsylvania) to both Pennsylvania and Connecticut in the late 1600s. Neither group settled the area until 1762, when Connecticut settlers (Yankees) founded a temporary settlement. But problems with Indians caused the settlers to leave the following year.

Five years later (1769), Connecticut sent more settlers to the valley, but when they arrived, they discovered that some Pennsylvanians (Pennamites) had moved into the area. Initially there were more Yankees than Pennamites, but Pennsylvania then sent additional settlers. The Pennamites began to harass the Yankees, and soon both sides were threatening, bothering, and even attacking the other.

A Pennamite woman’s account of the Yankee’s harassment

Finally, in 1770, the Yankees (with the help of men from another county) captured the Pennamite Fort Wyoming, giving them control of the valley for the next decade or so. During this time, the people in the valley lived in relative peace, except for winter 1775, when the Battle of Rampant Rocks occurred, which the Yankees also won.

The Revolutionary War distracted the Yankees and Pennamites for a while, but after it was over, the two sides asked Congress in 1782 to decide who really had the rights to the land. Congress ruled (in the Decree of Trenton) in favor of Pennsylvania, and the Pennamites forced the Yankees to give up their land. Of course this angered the Yankees, and in 1784, they captured and destroyed the Pennamite Fort Dickinson.

Excerpt from a Yankee speech in response to Pennamite attempts to remove Yankees from their land following the Decree of Trenton

Some began suggesting that the problem of the conflicting land claims be solved once and for all by creating a new state, separate from both Pennsylvania and Connecticut. To prevent losing the land, the Pennamites agreed to let the Yankees keep their land claims, effectively ending the Yankee-Pennamite War.

Learn more about the Yankee-Pennamite War or other events in Pennsylvania history in Fold3’s Pennsylvania Archives.