The Battle of Wyoming

Conflict: Revolutionary War

A depiction of the Battle of Wyoming, by Alonzo Chappel

Called by some the “surpassing horror of the American Revolution,” the Battle of Wyoming (also known as the Wyoming Massacre) occurred in northeastern Pennsylvania on 3 July 1778, with a Loyalist-Iroquois alliance killing almost an entire militia of settlers.

On 30 June, about 100 Loyalist troops and 450 Iroquois warriors entered the Wyoming Valley, under Colonel John Butler. Butler demanded and obtained the surrender of Wintermute’s Fort and the next day received word that Yankee forces were gathering at nearby Forty Fort to launch an attack. Butler ordered Wintermute’s Fort to be set on fire so that the militia would mistakenly think the British forces were retreating.

On 3 July, the approximately 380-strong Yankee force marched on the British, not realizing that an ambush had been set up, with the Iroquois lying on the ground where they couldn’t be seen. When the Yankees were within 200 yards, they fired three volleys, which were not returned. Then when the Yankees advanced to within 100 yards, the Iroquois came out of hiding and, supported by gunfire from the Loyalists, began to attack.

An account of the Battle of Wyoming from the Continental Congress papers

The Yankee settlers tried to retreat but were outflanked by the Iroquois and were caught in the Loyalist crossfire. The battle only lasted 45 minutes, but by the end about 340 of the settlers had been killed (versus 2 Loyalists and 1 Iroquois). The next day, the Yankees surrendered Forty Fort and 2 other forts, and the Loyalist-Iroquois alliance raided the valley, burning hundreds of homes and stealing livestock.

The massacre proved to be a powerful propaganda tool for the patriots, and public outcry from this and other Indian attacks eventually lead to the Sullivan Expedition, commissioned by George Washington in 1779 to destroy Iroquois villages to prevent further attacks against the colonists. Around 40 villages in Pennsylvania and New York were wiped out, contributing to the Iroquois signing the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784, in which they gave up their lands in western New York and Pennsylvania.

Read more about the Battle of Wyoming and other events in Pennsylvania history in Fold3’s Pennsylvania Archives.