One advantage of a stay-at-home order: the first draft of A Bitter Harvest is almost complete!
At the moment I am working on one of the climactic chapters: the Battle of Newtown. On
August 29th, 1779, Thayendanegea, a.k.a Joseph Brant, led a force of about 1,000 Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) warriors and 200-250 British/Loyalist troops. Having built a well-camouflaged defensive breastwork behind a creek bed, with its flanks tied into difficult terrain, Thayendanegea intended to lure Major General John Sullivan’s Western Army of just over 3,000 troops (almost entirely Continental soldiers) into a trap. By ambushing Sullivan’s vanguard, the Haudenosaunee hoped to cause Sullivan to rush into a disastrous headlong charge. By inflicting heavy casualties, Thayendanegea might be able to turn back Sullivan’s invasion of the Haudenosaunee homeland.
It did not work. Morgan’s Rifle Corps, the vanguard of Sullivan’s force, spotted the enemy positions. Brigadier General Edward Hand engaged with long range rifle fire, and Sullivan sent up his artillery regiment to help fix the enemy in place. Meanwhile, he sent two brigades in a wide movement around Thayendanegea’s eastern flank. Only by a desperate counterattack at the last moment was Thayendanegea able to prevent his defeat from becoming a massacre. The Haudenosaunee and their allies escaped, but their spirit was broken. There would be further bloody incidents in the campaign, but never again would so many Haudenosaunee take to the field to defend their land. The sun was setting on the League of Six Nations and the Haudenosaunee way of life.
In November I had the opportunity to retrace Sullivan’s route, from Wilke-Barre, Pennsylvania up to Seneca Lake. It was humbling to see the terrain Sullivan’s Army overcame, and the beautiful land for which the Haudenosaunee were fighting.
I hope I do justice to dramatic events which unfolded in this rugged, stunning corner of our country many years ago!
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