Sullivan's Expedition, New York 1779
Francis Whiting Halsey

Among the Indian towns which the expedition now entered and laid in ruins, were these: Two miles above Newtown, one with eight houses; farther on, Kanawaholla with twenty; Catharinetown with thirty or forty good houses, fine cornfields, horses, cows, hogs, etc.; Kendaia with twenty houses of hewn logs, some of them painted, peach-trees and an apple orchard of sixty trees; Kanadesaga with fifty houses, and thirty others near it, orchards and cornfields, the village being built around a square in which trees were growing; Skoiyase with eighteen houses, fields of corn and trees well laden with apples, this town being destroyed by detachments under Colonel John Harper; Shenanwaga with twenty houses, orchards, cornfields fenced in, stacks of hay, hogs, and fowls; Kanandaigua with twenty-three "elegant houses, some framed, others log, but large and new"; Honeoye with twenty houses; Kanaghsaws with eighteeen houses; Gathtsewarohare with twenty-five houses, mostly new, and cornfield which it took 2,000 men six hours to destroy; Little Beard's Town, the great Seneca Castle, having 128 houses, mostly "large and elegant, surrounded by about 200 acres of growing corn as well as by gardens in which all kinds of vegetables were growing, from 15,000 to 20,000 bushels of corn being burned with the buildings," and finally six or seven villages along the shores of Cayuga Lake, destroyed by a detachment under Colonel William Butler.

One of these Cayuga towns was Chonobote where were found peach-trees numbering 1,500, all of which were cut down. At Kanadesaga, besides apple and peach trees, there were mulberry-trees, and the growing vegetables were onions, peas, beans, squashes, potatoes, turnips, cabbages, cucumbers, watermelons, carrots, and parsnips. General Clinton describes the corn as "the finest I have ever seen." One of the officers saw ears twenty inches long. Under the white man, fifteen years later, this Genesee country was to acquire new and lasting fame for extraordinary fertility.

Thus was all that garden land laid waste. "Corn, gathered and ungathered, to the amount of 160,000 bushels," says Stone, "shared the same fate; their fruit-trees were cut down, and the Indians were hunted like wild beasts, till neither house nor fruit-trees, nor field of corn, nor inhabitant, remained in the whole country." He adds, that in this expedition more towns were laid in ashes and a broader extent of country ruined than had ever before been the case on this continent.

Sullivan's rigorous measures have been severly criticized, but he had instructions from Congress to be severe. Washington's letter declared that "the immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements." The country was not to be "merely overrun, but destroyed." In a letter to Laurens in September of this year, Washington said: "The Indians, men, women and children, are flying before him [Sullivan] to Niagara, distant more than one hundred miles, in the utmost consternation, distress, and confusion, with the Butlers, Brant, and the others at their head."


When Sullivan finally departed from the country, the Indians returned to witness the desolate state of their ancestral homes - blackened ruins, with fields of corn and gardens overturned. Mary Jemison says there was not enough left to keep a child. Homeless now, in their own land, the Indians marched to Niagara,where, around the fort, the English built huts for them to pass the winter in. Owing to the severe cold, hunting became impossible that season; so that they were forced to live on salted food, which produced scurvy, and hundreds of them died.


The Old New York Frontier by Francis Whiting Halsey, pages 280-283
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1901