A Chronology of the Colonial History
of North America


Edward J. Dodson

On the frontier and within the wilderness territory, the struggle for control over the land took on a particularly violent character. The rules of civilized warfare were difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. Even the most astute frontiersmen and their 'Indian' adversaries fell victim in this environment of constant danger. To assume anything, to accept anything at face value, to fail to be always diligent, invited violent death. Too few learned the lessons of the recent past or fully appreciated the forces of change at work all around.

1778 (October)

  • Two ‘American' expeditionary forces, one mounted in New York and the other in Pennsylvania, take advantage of the absence of Thayendanegea's warriors and destroy several ‘Indian' villages in the Wyoming and Susquehanna River valleys, including Thayendanegea's own village of Oquaga. Thayendanegea and several hundred of his warriors and their families are forced to take refuge at the British-held Fort Niagara.

1778 (November)

  • Angered by their failure to take the white forts in Can-tuc-kee, returning Shawnee warriors decide to take their revenge out on Simon Kenton. Another council is called and Kenton is once again condemned. Howeever, Girty convinces them to carry out the execution at a major council being held at the British trading post on the Upper Sandusky. Once more his torment began anew. For his ninth gauntlet, Simon Kenton walked. No white man -- no person -- had ever done such a thing.

    At the last moment, because of efforts by Girty and Tal-ga-yee-ta (Logan), a British officer convinces the Shawnees to allow Kenton to be taken to Fort Detroit for questioning. Once at Fort Detroit, Kenton is given the freedom to move about in the city. The British commander, Captain Drouilliard points out to Kenton that they were a long way from ‘American' territory and no one had ever attempted an escape and lived.

1779 (February)

  • George Rogers Clark marches his army for seventy-one days to the British fort at Vincennes, forcing General Hamilton to surrender the fort. Upon news of Clark's extraordinary feat and victory, some two hundred Delawares, under chief Running Fox , decide it is once again time to migrate if they are to survive. Once more they move further west, this time abandoning their village on the Little Kanawha River. Some four thousand Shawnees, too, leave for the west as well.

1779 (15 April)

  • George Washington plans a campaign against the Iroquois tribes occupying the territory around the Finger Lakes of New York. This is to be a campaign to destroy the Iroquois towns and crops rather than engage them in battle. Six hundred men under Colonel Daniel Brodhead move north from Fort Pitt. From the east, 5,000 troops commanded by Major General John Sullivan are committed to the campaign. To Sullivan, Washington writes: "The immediate objects are the total destruction of the hostile tribes of the Six Nations, and the devastation of their settlement, and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. You are to lay waste to all the settlements around, so that the country may not only be overrun, but destroyed."

1779 (21 April)

  • Some 500 ‘Americans' commanded by Colonel Goose Van Schaick surprise and destroy Onondaga, capital of the Iroquois League. Unbelievably, the ‘Americans' were guided by Hanyerry, a chief in the Oneida tribe, and Oneida warriors -- members of the Iroquois League itself.

1779 (June)

  • General Sullivan's army begins to move against the Iroquois, leaving its gathering point at Easton, Pa. and moving upward through the Mohawk Valley. The two armies were to rendezvous at Fort Tioga.

1779 (June)

  • With help from Captain Drouilliard, Simon Kenton makes his escape from Detroit, arriving at Vincennnes on July 5. At Vincennes, he meets with George Rogers Clark and briefs him on conditions at Detroit. The following morning he is on his way back to Can-tuc-kee.

1779 (4 July)

  • A French-Canadian, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, establishes a trading post on the Checagou Portage at the southwestern end of Lake Michigan, establishing the first white presence at this site.

1779 (5 July 5)

  • At the camp of General James Clinton, at the foot of Otsego Lake, Chief Hanyerry addresses his warriors: "Those great thundering guns speak words that all the people of the Six Nations should listen to, but refuse. They speak words of death and destructionand an end to the way we and those before ushave always lived. Our world is no more the world we once knew; we are no longer the way we were. Our world changes before our eyes and if we cannot change with it then we, like our brothers the Mohawks and Senecas, Cayugas and Onondagas and Tuscaroras, will become no more than a memory."

1779 (July)

  • An ‘American' force commanded by General Anthony Wayne captures the British fortress of Stony Point on the Hudson River. Wayne's men hereafter call him "Mad Anthony" because of his courage under fire.

1779 (July)

  • An ‘American' force of regulars under Colonel John Bowman attacks and burns the Shawnee village at Chillicothe, while most of the warriors are at a council meeting at Wapatomica. One of the Shawnees mortally wounded in the fight is Black Fish, principal chief of the Shawnees. The angry Shawnees vow revenge.

1779 (28 July)

  • General Sullivan prepares his army to march out of Easton and orders General Clinton downstream from Otsego Lake. Clinton's passage is eased by steps he has taken a month earlier to dam and raise the level of the lake; when the dam is broken a deep water channel is created to carry his equipment-laden bateaux downstream.

1779 (11 August)

  • General Sullivan's army reaches the ‘Indian' villages of Queen Esther's Town and Tioga at the junction of the Susquehanna and Chemung Rivers. Both villages were abandoned and are destroyed. The next target is the Seneca village of Chemung further up the river, which they burn and destroy surrounding crops.

    Clinton's force, marching southwest pass through several abandoned ‘Indian' villages and the Tory town of Aleout, each of which is burned. Clinton finally meets up with Sullivan at Tioga on August 21.

    The next target for the ‘American' army is Newtown, only ten miles from where they are encamped on the Chemung River. Thayendanegea and John Butler here decide to set up an ambush. The trap is discovered by Sullivan's advance troops. After two hours of fighting the ‘Indians' and British retreat. The ‘Americans' move into Newtown which they burn. Every Iroquois village in Sullivan's path is now abandoned, left to be burned. Chenussio, the largest and most distant of the villages, is burned the last week of September. The army then returns to Fort Sullivan at Tioga.

    Sullivan's army has destroyed nearly fifty ‘Indian' towns and villages and vast quantities of corn, grain, vegetables and fruit trees. The Iroquois league is destroyed in the process.

1779 (31 October)

  • A young surveyor named Andrew Jackson picks a fight with Simon Kenton and is badly beaten for his trouble.

1780 (30 May)

  • Simon Kenton is reunited with his older brother and learns that he has no reason to hide from the law, that the man he thought he had killed is alive; from this day forward he returned to the use of his given name.

1780 (July)

  • In response to frequent and devastating attacks on the frontier by Shawnee war parties, accompanied by English officers, Thomas Jefferson (now governor of Virginia) sends 150 troops under Colonial John Slaughter to Fort Jefferson at the Falls of the Ohio. Slaughter puts himself and his men under the command of George Rogers Clark, who is planning a major offensive against the Shawnees.

1780 (August)

  • As Clark's army approaches Chillicothe, Chief Catahecassa (warned by Simon Girty) decides to abandon the village and move to the Mad River village of Piqua Town.

1781 (19 October)

  • General Cornwallis, his army under seige by the Continental army and the French, and any possibility of escape or reinforcement blocked by a French naval force in Chesapeake Bay, surrenders to George Washington at Yorktown.

1782 (February)

  • A village of some 150 Moravian (Christian) ‘Indians' are murdered by an ‘American' force commanded by Colonel David Williamson. A second village is warned by two young boys who managed to escape. This act merely served to intensify the raids conducted by the Shawnees and other tribes against the frontier settlers.

1782 (June)

  • An army commanded by Colonial William Crawford (in which Williamson is present) rides through the Plains of Sandusky and into an ambush set up by the ‘Indians'. Williamson escapes but Crawford is captured, tortured and burned at the stake.

1782 (August)

  • A British force, accompanied by a thousand ‘Indians' led by the Iroquois chief, Thayendanega (Joseph Brant), marches to Can-tuc-kee. Unfortunately for the British, the long journey frustrates many of the ‘Indians' so that by the time they reach Can-tuc-kee less than 250 remain. They attack Bryant's Station, which holds out until the British fear a counterattack and retreat. The Kentuckians follow and are severely beaten.

1782 (November)

  • George Rogers Clark raises an army of some 1,000 men to ride across the Ohio River against the Shawnee villages of Chillicothe and Piqua Town. Simon Kenton is put in charge of the army's scouts and spies. Both villages are burned after being abandoned by the Shawnees ahead of Clark's arrival.

1782 (30 November)

  • On behalf of the united States, John Adams signs the provisional articles to the Treaty of Peace with Britain. The British, remarkably, accede to Adams' demand that the western boundary be established at the Mississippi River.

1783 (April)

  • At age fifteen, Tecumseh takes part in in a raid against a party of whites encamped on the north shore of the Ohio. The one white survivor is taken back to the Shawnee village and burned at the stake, after which Tecumseh speeks to his fellow tribesmen: "You will say that I am young and inexperienced in such matters, and you will be right, but I cannot keep from speaking. What I have seen here has made me sick and ashamed for you and for myself. What bravery, what courage, what strength is there in the torturing of a man unable to defend himself? Are we so unsure of ourselves that in order to prove our superiority, our own excellence, we must resort to something as disgusting and degrading as this? Hear me now, my older brothers, for I speak from my heart and my heart is heavy with shame and revulsion. Our dearly loved chief, Black Fish, was strongly opposed to death at the stake, but until today I never really understood why. Now I do. Now I see that in the very act of committing it we lower ourselves to something beneath animals, to something evil and hideous and revolting. I do not and can not believe Moneto could approve of such cowardice, of such desire to inflict unnecessary pain. An enemy he was, yes! Death he deserved, yes! But the death of a man, not that of a rat cornered and tied and burned alive. How have we the right to call ourselves warriors, or even men, if we act in such manner? My heart is sick and heavy and what I have seen here will never be erased from my mind and I will never stop being ashamed of it. Young I may be. Inexperienced I may be. Yet this I can say with certainty: Never again will I take part in the torture like this of any living creature, man or animal. Never! Nor will I consider as friend any man who will allow himself to take part in so degrading a measure."

1783 (May)

  • Viginia declares the Virginia Military Lands -- all the country bordered by the Ohio River to the south, the Scioto River to the east, and the Little Miami River to the west -- open for distribution to those who had served in the regiments of Virginia during the war.

    Connecticut reaffirms its claims to land along the southern shore of Lake Erie, some 3.5 million acres called the Western Reserve Lands.

1783 (3 September)

  • The Treaty of Paris is signed. Only Fort Niagara and Detroit remained in British hands, although the British government agrees to leave "in due time and will convenient speed." The western boundary of between British and American possessions is proposed by the British as the Ohio River. Except for John Adams, this might have been accepted by the American commissioners. Instead, the British agree to the Mississippi River as the dividing line.

1783 (December)

  • George Washington relinquishes his command of the Continental Army and returns to his home in Virginia.

1784 (July)

  • New York City is made capital of the Union (or, as the nation was variously described in writing: the united States of America or the United States of America.

1784 (August)

  • By treaty, the Ottawas, Delawares, Chippewas and Wyandots cede to the united States nearly all the lands in the Ohio country. The Shawness, the most rightful claimants to this territory did not participate in the treaty negotiations.

1784 (27 October)

  • The second Treaty of Fort Stanwix is signed, by which the Iroquois League cedes to the united States all claims to territory west of the New York and Pennsylvania boundaries.

1785 (January)

  • Gathered at Fort McIntosh on the Ohio River below Pittsburgh, the chiefs of the Wyandot, Delaware, Ottawa and Chippewa nations are forced to sign a treaty ceding to the ‘Americans' territory occupied by the Shawnees, Mingoes and Miamis, none of whom had been invited to the treaty negotiation.

Now comes the final act to the drama taking place east of the Mississippi River.