Wyoming Valley

The American Revolution
by John Fiske

In June, 1778 Colonel John Butler took the war-path from Niagara with a company of his own rangers, a regiment of Johnson's Greens, and a band of Senecas; in all about 1200 men. Reaching the Susquehanna, they glided down the swift stream in bark canoes, landed a little above the doomed settlement, and began their work of murder and pillage. Consternation filled the valley. The women and children were huddled in a blockhouse, and Colonel Zebulon Butler, with 300 men, went out to meet the enemy. There seemed to be no choice but to fight, though the odds were so desperate. As the enemy came in sight, late in the afternoon of July 3d, the patriots charged upon them, and for about an hour there was a fierce struggle, till, overwhelmed by weight of numbers, the little band of defenders broke and fled. Some made their way to the fort, and a few escaped to the mountains, but nearly all were overtaken and slain, save such as were reserved for the horrors of the night.

The second anniversary of independence was ushered in with dreadful orgies in the valley of Wyoming. Some of the prisoners were burned at the stake, some were laid upon hot embers and held down with pitchforks till they died, some were hacked with knives. Sixteen poor fellows were arranged in a circle, while an old half-breed hag, known as Queen Esther, and supposed to be a granddaughter of the famous Frontenac, danced slowly around the ring, shrieking a death-song as she slew them one after the other with her tomahawk.

The next day, when the fort surrendered, no more lives were taken, but the Indians plundered and burned all the houses, while the inhabitants fled to the woods or to the nearest settlements on the Lehigh and Delaware, and the vale of Wyoming was for a time abandoned. Dreadful sufferings attended the flight. A hundred women and children perished of fatigue and starvation in trying to cross the swamp, which has since been known to this day as the "Shades of Death". Several children were born in that fearful spot, only to die there with their unhappy mothers. Such horrors needed no exaggeration in the telling, yet from the confused reports of the fugitives, magnified by popular rumor, a tale of wholesale slaughter went abroad which was even worse than the reality, but which careful research has long since completely disproved.