On this day in 1779, Mohawk Indian Chief Joseph Brant leads a mixed force of Loyalists and Indians in surrounding a force of 120 colonial militiamen from New York and New Jersey at Minisink, New York. The militia was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Tusten, Major Samuel Meeker and Colonel John Hathorn.
Brant’s party of 90 Tories and Loyalist Iroquois had executed a successful raid in the Neversink Valley in New York on July 20, during which they destroyed a school and a church, as well as farms in Peenpack and Mahackamack. In response, the Patriot militia intended to ambush Brant as he traveled up the Delaware River in order to recover some of the animals and goods taken in the raid two days earlier. As the Patriot militia prepared for the ambush, a scout’s gunfire alerted Brant to the Patriots’ presence; he then ordered his troops to outflank the Americans. The Patriots were overwhelmed. Tusten and approximately 45 to 50 others were killed in the initial battle and their ensuing defense from a hillside above the river. Twenty-nine others managed to escape.
Joseph Brant ranked among Britain’s best commanders during the American War for Independence. He was an educated Christian and Freemason who studied directly with Eleazer Wheelock at Moor’s Indian Charity School, the parent institution of Dartmouth College. His older sister Mary was founding father Sir William Johnson’s common-law wife and played a significant role in colonial and revolutionary Indian affairs. At the close of the war, the Brants and their Iroquois followers left the United States for Canada, where they hoped to find land and safety with their British allies.