On March 8, 1782, a group of Pennsylvania militiamen slaughtered some 90 unarmed Native Americans at the Moravian mission settlement of Gnadenhutten, Ohio. Although the militiamen claimed they were seeking revenge for Indian raids on their frontier settlements, the Indians they murdered had played no role in any attack.
Gnadenhutten Massacre: Background
In 1772, Gnadenhutten, Ohio, was settled by Moravian missionaries who went on to convert local Indians, many of them Delaware and Mohican, to Christianity. When the Revolutionary War (1775-83) broke out, the Indians and missionaries, who were pacifists, were accused by the British of aiding the Patriot cause by working as guides and spies. As a result, in 1781 the British had them removed from Gnadenhutten to Ohio’s Upper Sandusky area.
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In early 1782, some of the Indians returned to Gnadenhutten to search for food. These Indians were subsequently blamed for attacks on white settlers in western Pennsylvania that had occurred a short time earlier. In fact, the Gnadenhutten Indians had nothing to do with the attacks. Nevertheless, a group of Pennsylvania militiamen, led by Captain David Williamson, arrived to round up the Indians.
Gnadenhutten Massacre: March 8, 1782
On March 8, 1782, the militiamen murdered the group of some 90 Indians they had rounded up, including adults and children. At least one boy managed to escape and live to tell the story of the massacre.
This infamous attack on non-combatants led to a loss of faith in the Patriots by their Indian allies in the Revolutionary War and reprisals upon Patriot captives in Indian custody.