Battle of Chemung or Newtown, New York - HISTORY
Year
1779

Battle of Chemung or Newtown, New York

On this day in 1779, at what is modern-day Elmira, New York, near the state’s southwestern border with Pennsylvania, Continental forces led by Major General John Sullivan and Brigadier General James Clinton defeat a combined force of Loyalists and Indians commanded by Captain Walter Butler and Chief Joseph Brant.

The Continental commander in chief, General George Washington, gave Sullivan orders to attack the Iroquois of the Finger Lakes region, who were allied with the British, in what is known as the “Sullivan Expedition.” Washington had first requested General Horatio Gates to challenge the Iroquois, but Gates refused. Washington then turned to Sullivan, who accepted the challenge. Sullivan traveled up the Susquehanna River from Easton, Pennsylvania, to the Chemung (or “big horn”) Basin, named for a mammoth tusk found in the Chemung River by Native Americans. The river provided both a means of transport and sustenance for the Iroquois of the surrounding region.

The Continentals discovered a breastwork of 80 rods erected by the combined Iroquois-Loyalist force that hoped to ambush the Patriots as they marched north towards Lake Erie and the British forts at Oswego and Niagara. The Patriots then managed to use their artillery to drive off the Indians. Sullivan subsequently embarked on a scorched-earth campaign against the Iroquois in retaliation for their continued raids against frontier settlements. At least 40 of the tribe’s villages were destroyed, along with valuable supplies. As a result, the winter of 1779 was particularly brutal for the Iroquois. Nonetheless, they managed to increase their pressure on frontier settlements in 1780.

Despite the best efforts of the Iroquois, the Chemung Valley fell into the hands of American settlers following the war. As a result, Iroquois attached to Chief Joseph Brandt followed him in a resettlement to Canada.

The Battle of Chemung is re-enacted annually at Newtown Battlefield State Park in Elmira, New York.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Michael Jackson is born

Pop sensation Michael Jackson is born on this day in Gary, Indiana.Jackson began performing with his four brothers in the pop group the Jackson 5 when he was a child. The group scored its first No. 1 single in 1969, with “I Want You Back.” By age 11, Jackson was appearing on TV, ...read more

Pizarro Executes Last Inca Emperor

Atahuallpa, the 13th and last emperor of the Incas, dies by strangulation at the hands of Francisco Pizarro’s Spanish conquistadors. The execution of Atahuallpa, the last free reigning emperor, marked the end of 300 years of Inca civilization.High in the Andes Mountains of Peru, ...read more

Soviets explode atomic bomb

At a remote test site at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, the USSR successfully detonates its first atomic bomb, code name “First Lightning.” In order to measure the effects of the blast, the Soviet scientists constructed buildings, bridges, and other civilian structures in the ...read more

Humphrey nominated in Chicago

In Chicago, the Democratic National Convention nominates Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey for the presidency, bringing to a close the most violent political convention in U.S. history.In the days preceding the convention, thousands of antiwar demonstrators descended on Chicago’s ...read more

Eamon de Valera dies

Eamon de Valera, the most dominant Irish political figure of the 20th century, dies at the age of 92.Eamon de Valera was born in New York City in 1882, the son of a Spanish father and Irish mother. When his father died two years later, he was sent to live with his mother’s family ...read more

Hurricane Katrina slams into Gulf Coast

Hurricane Katrina makes landfall near New Orleans, Louisiana, as a Category 4 hurricane on this day in 2005. Despite being only the third most powerful storm of the 2005 hurricane season, Katrina was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. After briefly ...read more

Khanh steps down

Nguyen Khanh steps down as president of South Vietnam and Xuan Oanh, former professor at Trinity College in Connecticut, is named prime minister. Khanh had been a major player in the instability that followed the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963. This period was ...read more

Marathoner assaulted at Olympics

On this day in 2004, Brazilian distance runner Vanderlei de Lima is attacked by a spectator while running the marathon, the final event of the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. At the time of the incident, De Lima had a 30-second lead in the race with four miles to go.De Lima, ...read more

Ishi discovered in California

Ishi, described as the last surviving Stone Age Indian in the contiguous United States, is discovered in California.By the first decade of the 20th century, Euro-Americans had so overwhelmed the North American continent that scarcely any Native Americans remained who had not been ...read more

Actress Ingrid Bergman dies on her birthday

On this day in 1982, the Swedish-born actress and three-time Academy Award winner Ingrid Bergman dies of cancer in London on her 67th birthday. Bergman, who was best known for her role as Ilsa Lund in Casablanca, created an international scandal in 1950 when she had a son with ...read more

Hurricane Katrina wreaks havoc on Gulf Coast

On this day in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive hurricane ever to hit the United States, makes landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast, near New Orleans, Louisiana. Katrina, which formed over the Bahamas on August 23, was the third major hurricane of a particularly severe ...read more

Hurricane Donna is born

On this day in 1960, the storm that would become Hurricane Donna forms near Cape Verde off the African coast. It would go on to cause 150 deaths from Puerto Rico to New England over the next two weeks.On August 31, Donna attained hurricane status and headed west toward the ...read more