Joseph Brant (Thayendanega)


The Iroquois, or Six Nations Confederacy, did not agree on which side to support during the Revolutionary War. At a council fire near Albany in 1775, the leaders of the Iroquois first decided the war between the British and the American colonists was a private war, and they should try to remain neutral.  Joseph Brant, whose Iroquois name was Thayendanega, was a Mohawk chief.  He sided with the British against the colonists. He was angry at the colonists for taking Iroquois land. He said the Iroquois would lose even more of their lands if the American colonies became independent. He convinced the Mohawks,  Senecas, Onondagas, and Cayugas that they must side with England.

The Oneidas and Tuscaroras later took the side of the Americans and became their allies in the fight for independence.  The Oneidas fought in battles at Fort Stanwix, Oriskany, and Saratoga where other Iroquois nations were fighting along side the British.  The Oneidas even helped supply food to General George Washington's army at Valley Forge.

The Mohawks later punished the Oneidas for helping the American Army.  Joseph Brant, (Thayendanega), had become a British Army Captain and leader.  He fought in many major Revolutionary War battles.  He led a war party which attacked Oneida villages, killing hundreds, and causing great suffering among the Oneidas. Taking sides against each other split the Iroquois Confederacy, and they were never as strong again.


In the late 1770's the Mohawks fought along side British Loyalists carrying out quick raids against American settlers living on farms in New York's frontier. The British were trying to stop supplies of food and horses from reaching General Washington and the American Army.  There were many massacres in which farms were raided and destroyed by the Loyalists and their Native American allies.

In 1779, General Washington sent an army of 4,000 soldiers, led by Generals Sullivan and Clinton to western New York to stop the raids on the frontier and punish the Iroquois for supporting the British during the Revolutionary War. They marched across the state, burning villages, corn fields, orchards and granaries, and destroying anything and everything that belonged to the Iroquois.  Many Iroquois escaped certain death by leaving their villages and hiding in the woods.  Joseph Brant and his followers escaped to Canada.  This destruction of the Iroquois became known as the Sullivan Campaign.  It did not matter to the soldiers which side the Iroquois had fought on, or if they were friendly or hostile. The strength of the Iroquois Confederacy was doomed. The Sullivan Campaign was clearing out all of the Iroquois to make way for American settlers after the Revolutionary War.

There were less than 8,000 Iroquois left at the end of the Revolutionary War. The Six Nations Confederacy had paid a terrible price for joining in the war.



neutral: not taking either side in a war


allies:  friends or partners during a war


Loyalists:  those who remained loyal to England were known as "Loyalists" or "Tories


raid: a quick attack


frontier:  an area between a populated area and wilderness usually with few people

massacres:  killing large numbers of people in a cruel and vicious manner


granaries: buildings for storing grain


Sullivan Campaign:  a march through western New York led by General John Sullivan and General James Clinton to destroy Native American villages and lands as punishment for siding with England during the Revolutionary War.


hostile:   an enemy in warfare

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