A group of Continental Army soldiers under the command of Colonel William Butler launch an evening attack on Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant’s home village of Unadilla on the Susquehanna River in what is now Otsego County, New York, on this day in 1778. The assault was retaliation for Brant’s September 17 raid on the town of German Flats, New York.
The Continentals were prepared for a full-scale assault, but as they approached Unadilla, about 50 miles west of German Flats, they realized that Chief Brant and the entire encampment of Mohawk Indians had recently deserted the village. Without opposition, the Continental soldiers took Unadilla and set fire to every house, sawmill and barn, reducing the entire village to ashes.
The previous month, Brant had led a force of 150 Iroquois Indians and 300 British Loyalists under the command of Captain William Caldwell in a surprise attack on German Flats. The Indian and Loyalist raiders captured hundreds of head of cattle and sheep before setting fire to the town. Despite the destruction of 63 houses, 57 barns, three gristmills and one sawmill, only three men were killed during the raid, as they had been warned in advance.
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 also 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 found land and safety with their British allies.