Chapter XV
Broadhead's Raid Up the Allegheny


The raids on the Pennsylvania and Virginia frontier in 1778 were made by the Indians of the Ohio country; those of 1779 by the Senecas and Muncys of the North, from the upper tributaries and headwaters of the Allegheny. The western tribes were temporarily disorganized by Clark's capture of Hamilton, the governor of Detroit, at Vincennes, in February, 1779, and by a destructive raid made by Kentuckians on the Shawnee towns on the Scioto, in May,1779.

The Seneca tribe of Western New York was the largest of the Six Nations. Its warriors were second only to the Mohawks in courage and military prowess. Under Corn-planter, Guyasuta and other war captains they distressed a wide extent of country in New York and Pennsylvania and decorated their huts in the valley of the Genesee with the scalps of hundreds of white persons.

It was to these marauders that Colonel Brodhead directed his attention, and he begged General Washington for permission to lead an expedition into the Seneca land. Early in the summer the Commander-in-Chief directed the formation of a large army under General John Sullivan, to invade the Iroquois territory from the east, and about the middle of July Colonel Brodhead received permission from General Washington to undertake a movement of co-operation up the Allegheny valley.(1)

Amid great difficulty Brodhead acted promptly, for he was prepared to depart from Fort Pitt within four weeks from the time he received Washington's letter. He had been making preparations for such an expedition ever since he took command of the department. Workmen from Philadelphia had built 6o boats, some in the form of large skiffs and others hollowed out of great poplar logs. Extra provisions had been slowly collected, more than Zoo packhorses were ready, and a large drove of live cattle had been brought over the mountains. In June Lieutenant Colonel Bayard built a stockade at Kittanning, which was called Fort Armstrong, after General John Armstrong, of Carlisle. This served as a sort of way-station on the march. The last remnant of the garrison of Fort Laurens, on the Tuscarawas, came into Fort Pitt early in August and Colonel Brodhead was then ready to proceed.(2)

The expedition left Pittsburg on August 11, 1779. It numbered 6o5 men. Small garrisons of regulars were left in Forts McIntosh, Pitt, Crawford and Armstrong. A part of the force consisted of militiamen and volunteers from the surrounding country, to whom Brodhead had promised a share of the plunder. A small band of Delawares accompanied the expedition, and acted with the scouting parties under Brady and Hardin.

The flour, liquors and other provisions were conveyed by boats up the Allegheny river as far as the mouth of the Big Mahoning. The main body marched along the eastern bank, past Forts Crawford and Armstrong. The cattle followed under a strong guard. Amid these conditions progress was necessarily slow. When the army reached the mouth of the Mahoning, a heavy rain set in and continued for four days. Tents were insufficient to shelter the whole force. The men suffered great discomfort, and many were afflicted with rheumatism. The supplies were taken from the boats and loaded on the horses, and when the rain ceased the expedition proceeded under most unfavorable conditions.

At this point the army left the river, which flows down from the northwest, and followed an Indian trail which ran almost due north through the forest wilderness of what is now Clarion county. The use of this path stretched out the army into a long, thin line, whose weakness was covered by the scouts, kept well out in front and on flank. This trail was so bad that on the return Brodhead preferred another route. Even now the country is a rough one. The woods were full of broken timber, and many swollen streams were forded.

The trail crossed the Tionesta near its mouth and returned to the Allegheny river at the site of an old Indian town which Brodhead called Cushcushing. This is a Delaware name, more accurately written Quoshquoshink, and means Place of Hogs. It had for a few years been deserted, but was marked by the ruins of the Indian huts. It was not far from the present town of Tionesta.(3)

At Cushcushing the troops crossed the Allegheny river to the right bank and pushed on toward the mouth of Brokenstraw creek. At that place there had been an Indian town called Buckaloons, but this was known to be deserted. Brodhead hoped, however, to strike the Senecas at their village of Conewago, at the mouth of what is now called Conewango creek, where Warren has been built(4)

A few miles below the Brokenstraw, the expedition had its only fight with the savages. It was near Thompson, a station on the Western New York & Pennsylvania railroad, where there is an island in the Allegheny river. In that neighborhood the river hills are high and so close tothe stream, that there are, in some places, very narrow passes. It was in one of these passes that the encounter took place.(5)

Lieutenant Hardin was in advance, with 5 white scouts and eight Delaware Indians, when they discovered, coming down the river, seven canoes, containing more than 30 Seneca warriors. The captain of this war party, on its way to raid the settlements, may have been Guyasuta. Tradition has assigned the command to Cornplanter, but at that time Cornplanter was in the Genesee country, trying to withstand the advance of Sullivan's army. Each party observed the other at almost the same moment. The Senecas at once ran their canoes to shore, threw off their shirts and prepared for battle. The Indians always entered a conflict as nearly naked as possible. The boldness with which the savages prepared for the fray shows that they did not believe their opponents to be numerous. They would never have prepared for the fight in this manner had they suspected the presence of a large force.

Both sides took to trees and rocks and began a sharp fusillade. For only a few minutes this conflict lasted, when another party of scouts, moving over the hills, took the Senecas in flank and poured down a hot fire upon them. At the sound of the firing in front Brodhead formed his column so as to protect the pack-train and then hurried forward with reinforcements. He was just in time to witness the retreat of the Senecas. They quickly discovered that they were overpowered and took to rapid flight. Some of them leaped into the river and waded and swam across. The shooting of the scouts was so accurate that the savages dared not pause on the shore to push off their canoes. Most of the Indians escaped along the bank and were soon out of sight amid the trees and thickets.

Five dead Indians lay on the field. Several others had gone away wounded, leaving trails of blood. Eight of their guns were left behind, as well as their seven canoes, containing their blankets, shirts and provisions. Only three of Brodhead's men were wounded, and they so slightly that they continued on the march the following morning. One of the wounded was Jonathan Zane, the Wheeling scout and guide, who received a nip in the arm, and the two others were Nanowland, the young Delaware chief, and Joseph Nicholson, the interpreter.

The army went into camp near the scene of conflict, and on the following morning moved up to the Broken-straw. Here Brodhead decided to leave his stores and baggage and march light to Conewago. A rude breastwork, guarded by fallen trees and bundles of fagots, was constructed on a high bluff commanding an extensive view up and down the river. A captain and 4o men remained in charge, and the expedition pushed on for Conewago. There Brodhead was disappointed by finding the Iroquois town deserted and the huts falling to decay. This was as far as his guides were acquainted with the country, but the commander determined to follow an Indian trail which led over the hills toward the northeast.

After a march of 20 miles the troops came again within sight of the Allegheny river, and from a hilltop discovered a number of Indian villages, surrounded by great fields of splendid corn and patches of beans, squashes and melons. This Iroquois settlement extended for eight miles along the fertile bottom land of the Allegheny river, where the Corn-planter reservation was afterward established.

The soldiers hurriedly descended into the villages, but found that all the houses were deserted. The Indian spies had discovered the approach of the Americans, and the warriors had fled so hurriedly with their women and children that they had left behind many deer skins and other articles of value.

The Iroquois had long before this learned to build substantial log houses, even squaring the timbers as the white pioneers did. In this Allegheny river settlement there were about 130 houses, some of them being large enough for three or four families. In the uppermost village stood a great war post, painted and decorated with dog skins, and that village was evidently the dwelling place of the chief.

In his report to Washington, Brodhead wrote: "The troops remained on the ground three whole days, destroying the towns and corn fields. I never saw finer corn, although it was planted much thicker than is common with our farmers. The quantity of corn and vegetables destroyed at the several towns, from the best accounts I can collect from the officers employed to destroy it, must certainly exceed 500 acres, which is the lowest estimate, and the plunder taken is estimated at $3,000. From the great quantity of corn in the ground and the number of new houses built and building, it appears that the whole Seneca and Muncy nations intended to collect in this settlement."

On the return march the supplies were picked up at Buckaloons, and the troops marched across country to French creek. At Oil creek the soldiers rubbed themselves freely with the oil which they found floating on the water, and received great relief from their rheumatic pains and stiffness. For many years this petroleum was called Seneca oil, and was supposed to be valuable only for its medicinal qualities. The army reached French creek at the mouth of Conneaut creek, where the Muncy town of Maghingue-chahocking was found to be deserted. It was composed of 35 large huts, which were burned. The Muncys formed a branch of the Wolf clan of the Delawares, and had long lived and associated with the Iroquois. Their reputation as thieves, murderers and general reprobates was very bad.

The army descended French creek almost to its mouth and thence returned to Fort Pitt by what is known as the Venango path. This was an old Indian trail running almost due north and south through the heart of Butler county. It crossed Slippery Rock and Connoquenessing creeks, and came down to the Allegheny river along the course of

Pine creek. It was a much more direct route than that followed by the troops in marching northward, along the course of the Allegheny river.

It is said that Slippery Rock creek received its name from an accident that occurred during this return march. The troops crossed the creek at a point where the bed of the stream is composed of smooth, level rock, like a floor. On this the horse of John Ward slipped and fell and severely injured the rider.

The expedition arrived at Fort Pitt on September 14, without the loss of a single man or horse. In summing up the results, Brodhead wrote: "I have a happy presage that the counties of Westmoreland, Bedford and Northumberland, if not the whole western frontier, will experience the good effect of it. Too much praise cannot be given to both officers and soldiers of every corps during the whole expedition. Their perseverance and zeal during the whole (through a country too inaccessible to be described) can scarcely be equaled in history."

The thanks of Congress were voted to Colonel Brodhead, and in a general order, issued on October i8, General Washington said: "The activity, perseverance and firmness which marked the conduct of Colonel Brodhead, and that of all the officers and men of every description in this expedition, do them great honor, and their services entitle them to the thanks and to this testimonial of the General's acknowledgment."

1 See Brodhead's Letter Book in Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. ail., Brodhead to County Lieutenants, July 17, 1779; Brodhead to Bayard, July 20, 1779; Brodhead to Washington, July 31. 1779.

2 Brodhead's Report to Washington, Pennsylvania Archives, vol. ill., p. 155; Mag. of Amer. History, vol. III., p. 649.

3 This Indian village site has sometimes been confused with Kimkuskee, at the fork of the Beaver river. Quashquoshink was visited by Rev. David Zelsberger, the Moravian missionary, In 1767, and he dwelt there for two years. The villagers were notorious for their Immorality and debauchery, and were probably of the Wolf clan of Delawares. See Losklel's History of the Moravian Mission. General Irvine, who surveyed this region In 1785, located "Cuskushhing" 25 miles up the Allegheny from the mouth of French creek. - Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. xi., p. 516.

4 The stream then called Conewago is now Conewango and is the outlet of Chautauqua Lake. Conewago is the same word as Caughnewago, used to designate an Indian village near Montreal and a mixed band of Indiana living In northern Ohio.

5 Brodhead said, In his report, that the fight took place "ten miles this side the town," meaning ten miles below Conewago or Warren. Not being acquainted with the country, his estimate of the distance was not likely to be accurate. Thompson's station, supposed to be the site of the skirmish, is about fourteen miles below Warren.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 98-101: Old Westmoreland, A History of Western Pennsylvania During the Revolution by Edgar W. Hassler, J.R. Weldon & Co, Pittsburgh, 1900

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