Battle of Cattaraugus

During the American Revolutionary War, in 1779, General George Washington adopted a strategy of reducing the assets of the British by attacking the American Indian tribe’s villages who sided with them.  Nearly all of New York State’s Iroquois Indian Tribes fell into that category.  Washington sent two of his most trusted soldiers through Pennsylvania into New York State with significant forces, to punish the Seneca Indians both in the Genesee River Valley and also along the Allegany River.  General Sullivan campaigned against the Seneca Indians in the Genesee Valley totally destroying many Indian villages and crops.  The Seneca Indians fled to the Zoar Valley area between Springville and Lake Erie in northern Cattaraugus County just east of Chautauqua, and to Fort Niagara on Lake Ontario; both under British protection.   

 What is less well known is that at the same time as Sullivan’s expedition, General Washington sent a force of over 600 men under the command of Col. Daniel Brodhead up the Allegany into Western New York from Pittsburgh to test the resolve of the Seneca’s, as well as the western defenses of the British.   The soldiers destroyed many Indian villages and all crops of those tribes loyal to the British as they encountered them.   Sullivan and Docksteder had a plan of joining forces and capturing Fort Niagara from the British.

A British force was encamped at the mouth of the Cattaraugus River at present day Sunset Bay under the command of John Docksteder.    A Seneca Scout from Chief Cornplanter’s Town in Pennsylvania arrived at Docksteder’s outpost to alert the British of Brodhead’s advance.  Seneca Indians were well known for their long distance running skills.  One or more runners covered this distance of nearly 75 miles in a matter of hours!   The British Army force-marched to present day Cattaraugus Village to engage the advancing  American Soldiers.    Seneca Scouts were key in leading  the British force against  Revolutionary Soldiers and their Delaware Indian scouts within, and just south of, present day Cattaraugus Village. 

The British followed up their victory by pursuing and further engaging  the Revolutionaries at the mouth of Bucktooth Creek where there were many casualties, all thought to be Delaware.   Cattaraugus Village was the northernmost incursion of Brodhead’s force into New York.  His defeat at Cattaraugus Village dashed the possibility of joining forces with General Sullivan and attacking Fort Niagara.  Col. Daniel Brodhead escaped with the remainder of his force back to Pittsburgh, but not without losses enroot from Chief Cornplanter’s braves.

Patrick J. Cullen, Village of Cattaraugus Historian

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