Year
1780

British retreat from Middleburgh

A combined force of 1,000 British regulars, Hessians, Loyalists and Indians, led by Loyalist Sir John Johnson and Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, attempts an unsuccessful attack upon Middleburgh (or Middle Fort), New York, on this day in 1780.

Only 200 Continental soldiers under Major Melanchthon Woolsey were defending the fort, and unknown to the British, the Continentals were low on ammunition. In their ignorance of the Patriots’ weakness, the Loyalist forces retreated in the direction of the Schoharie Valley, contenting themselves with destroying everything in their path and continuing the civil war raging in upstate New York.

Johnson was the son of Sir William Johnson, Britain’s superintendent of Indian Affairs, who lived in the Mohawk Valley. The younger Johnson inherited his father’s sizable estate in 1774 only to relinquish it when he led a group of his tenants and native allies in flight to Montreal, Canada, after the outbreak of war between the colonies and Great Britain in 1775. Johnson’s cohort created the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, which fought throughout the war. For his efforts, Johnson became a British brigadier general in 1782.

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 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.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Vichy leader executed for treason

Pierre Laval, the puppet leader of Nazi-occupied Vichy France, is executed by firing squad for treason against France. Laval, originally a deputy and senator of pacifist tendencies, shifted to the right in the 1930s while serving as minister of foreign affairs and twice as the ...read more

Gretzky breaks scoring record

During a game against his old team, the Edmonton Oilers, Canadian ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky breaks Gordie Howe’s National Hockey League career scoring record of 1,850 points. Gretzky dominated professional hockey during the 1980s, setting numerous records and leading the ...read more

Mata Hari executed

Mata Hari, the archetype of the seductive female spy, is executed for espionage by a French firing squad at Vincennes outside of Paris. She first came to Paris in 1905 and found fame as a performer of exotic Asian-inspired dances. She soon began touring all over Europe, telling ...read more

First draft card burned

In a demonstration staged by the student-run National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam, the first public burning of a draft card in the United States takes place. These demonstrations drew 100,000 people in 40 cities across the country. In New York, David Miller, ...read more

Wayne Gretzky breaks NHL points record

On October 15, 1989, 28-year-old Los Angeles King Wayne Gretzky breaks Gordie Howe’s points record (1,850) in the final period of a game against the Edmonton Oilers. Gretzky’s record-setting goal tied the game; in overtime he scored another, and the Kings won 5-4. Gretzky had ...read more

Gerald Ford marries Elizabeth Bloomer

On this day in 1948, future President Gerald Ford marries Elizabeth Anne (“Betty”) Bloomer. The handsome, blonde, blue-eyed Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and went on to play football at the University of Michigan, where he was voted the team’s most valuable player in ...read more

Hurricane Hazel hits the Carolinas and Ontario

Hurricane Hazel, the fourth major hurricane of 1954, hammers southern Ontario, Canada, on this day in 1954. Hazel hit hard from Jamaica to Canada, killing more than 400 people and causing over $1 billion in damages. On October 5 hurricane hunters spotted Hurricane Hazel about 50 ...read more

A murderous husband is executed

Arthur Eggers, who was convicted of killing his wife, Dorothy, because of her alleged promiscuity, is executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin Prison. He probably would have gotten away with the crime had the investigators not received a few lucky breaks. In January 1946, ...read more

Mikhail Gorbachev wins Nobel Peace Prize

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in ending Cold War tensions. Since coming to power in 1988, Gorbachev had undertaken to concentrate more effort and funds on his domestic reform plans by going to extraordinary lengths to reach foreign ...read more