By 1JMA member Justinian
The US Civil War of 1861-1865 was not the first time that official state
governments in the United States of America went to war with each other.
Armed conflict between the then British colonies of Connecticut (Yankees)
and Pennsylvania (Pennamites) started in 1769 and finally finished, after
a brief pause during the Revolution, as a settlement between the States
of Connecticut and Pennsylvania in 1807. The war involved forces of up
to 400-500 on each side, cannons, blockhouses, death marches, and area
cleansings. The eventual death toll would reach into the multiple hundreds
and most likely when losses due to exposure, starvation and Indians are
factored in the losses would top 1,000. With the majority of those losses
being suffered by the young, the old, women, and children.
The spark for all of this struggle and bloodshed was the fundamentally
different ways that the colonies dealt with the issue of land. In Connecticut
land was sold to the settler who then owned the title and the land. In
Pennsylvania the settler merely leased the land and did not own it.
The struggle starts back in 1662 when the English Crown gave a land grant
to the colony of Connecticut which extended to 41 degrees latitude and
stretched from the great Atlantic Ocean across the known lands to the
great sea on the far side. A swath of land across North America, sea to
Initially this grant caused little real trouble. But then this grant was
complicated and conflicted when that same King of England, Charles II,
issued a land grant for Pennsylvania to William Penn in 1681 which extended
up to 42 degrees latitude. Thus creating an overlap in the respective
claims and grants.
The issue remained a mere legal abnormality until in 1750 when Connecticut
based explorers started to explore and map the Wyoming valley. The Wyoming
Valley is located in that area of overlap of the two competing land grants.
The Wyoming Valley is about 30 km in length and 4.8-6.4 km in width. The
Yankee explorers found the Wyoming Valley to be fertile land (What they
did not know is that underground were the largest supplies of anthracite
coal in the world!) bounded by the Poconos Mountains and fed by the Susquehanna
River. In all the Yankee explorers found the Wyoming Valley to be desirable
So much so that in 1754 they formed the Susquehanna Company. This entity
arranged for and then purchased the lands in and around the Wyoming Valley
from the Onondagan Council. As soon as word reached Pennsbury Manor of
the land sale by the Indians to the Yankees, the Penn family, which still
administered the colony of Pennsylvania, declared this land sale and even
formation of the Susquehanna Company to be unlawful and to be the work
of “Yankee Intruders”.
Pennsylvania’s bluster and outrage remained unheeded by those intrepid
and restless Connecticut settlers. They began to migrate in, in a very
slow drivel. They established in 1762 a settlement near the modern town
The historical marker for this settlement is north of Wilkes-Barre along
River Road. The settlement began to grow. That is until all the settlers
fled the area as a result of Pontiacs Uprising (1763-1766). The rampaging
Iroquois passed through the area burning the existing settlement on the
15th of October in 1763. Following the suppression of the uprising the
flow of settlers picked up pace. By now several hundred families, not
just explorers were entering the fertile valley along the Susquehanna
River. Though still settling in small farm clusters and not forming any
villages or towns. Enraged at this thwarting of their will and the loss
of lease profits the Penn family appealed to the British Crown for redress.
In 1763 the Crown ruled. The ruling was not to the total satisfaction
of the Penn’s in that it only ordered a cessation of any new settlements
in the area by people from Connecticut. Not satisfied with the Royal rulings,
the Penn’s arranged to get the Iroquois and the other tribes of
the Onondagan Council to renege on their original treaty of 1754 with
Connecticut and the Susquehanna Company. The Iroquois did as the Penn’s
asked and formulated a new treaty with the Pennamites. This new treaty
which gave the disputed land to the Penn’s was known as the Treaty
of Fort Stanwick. Thus in a shrewd legal move the Penn’s had eliminated
any legal standing that the Yankees had for being in the valley and not
paying lease money to the Penn’s.
1765 Sir William Johnson granted to CPT Amos Ogden of NJ rights for a
trading post at Wyoming. Following the Treaty of Fort Stanwick the Penn’s
granted through their agent Sir William Johnson a seven year lease starting
in 1765 to a certain Captain Amos Ogden. This lease was for the establishment
of a trading post in the Wyoming Valley and as a part of the lease Captain
Ogden had to help resist further incursions by the Susquehanna Company.
A lease for 100 acres near the trading post was also granted to the sheriff
of Northampton County, John Jennings. To provide a greater degree of legitimacy
and incentive the Penn’s assigned the Wyoming Valley as part of
The Yankees were not going to sit on their hands and let the Pennamites
assimilate valuable land that they believed to be theirs. After a planning
meeting of the Susquehanna Company in November of 1768 it was resolved
that the Company should take clear action vis-à-vis its claims
on the Wyoming Valley. To that end a plan of action was decided
First that a notice would be placed in several newspapers announcing their
intent. This was done in the New London Gazette and the Connecticut Courant
on 02DEC1768 and again in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertisers
on 09DEC1768. The notice announced a meeting on 28DEC1768 in Hartford
in the Colony of Connecticut of the Susquehanna Company to discuss land
settlement in the Wyoming Valley. At the meeting on 28DEC1768 it was resolved
to dispatch a lead element of 40 settlers to the Wyoming Valley to secure
the area for the rest of the company. These trailblazers were to take
occupancy of the lands no later than 01FEB1769. Furthermore it was decided
that 200 more Yankee settlers would join the original 40 no later than
The first 40 Yankee settlers set out for the Wyoming Valley in a harsh
January winter on horseback to make good their claim. They left from the
city of Windham and proceeded westward to Goshen in Orange County, New
Then they headed south to the Delaware River, then south to Monroe County,
PA, then NW across the Poconos Mountains to the Wyoming Valley. They arrived
on 08FEB1769 to find the Pennamites already in occupation of the area.
The first 40 Yankee settlers did not proceed without being noticed by
the Pennamites. The Yankees in fact found several of the older buildings
already occupied by Pennamites. The 40 settlers then retreated from the
area to a place called Lackawanuck (modern day Pittston, Pennsylvania).
There they built three cabins. On 13 MAR1769 100 armed Pennamites commanded
by Captain Amos Ogden, Sheriff Jennings of Northampton County, and Captain
Alexander Patterson of the Pennsylvania militia arrived with an arrest
warrant signed by Judge Gordon of Northampton County. The warrant was
issued and the arrest was affected with the arrested Yankees being marched
down to Easton. Nine of the Yankees escaped on the way to Easton. The
rest were released upon arraignment in Easton when 100lb bail for each
was paid by the Susquehanna Company.
Undaunted and in true Yankee spirit, another group of Yankee settlers
replaced the first group on the front lines and proceeded to build their
own blockhouse from which to enforce their claims in the Wyoming Valley.
This blockhouse was in Kingston and it was called Forty Fort. The name
of the new blockhouse, Forty Fort, derived from the Forts capacity to
shelter inside its walls forty settlers and also in honor of the first
A new conditional was showing up on land purchase agreements among the
Yankees. A condition of the sale being that the buyer had to promise to
manfully defend his new lands against the Pennsylvanians. Not to be outdone,
Pennsylvania went ahead and leased out many of these same tracts of land
to some of its citizens as well. The Pennsylvanians also added to their
leases a condition that the leaser had to defend their leased lands from
the intrusions of the Yankees from Connecticut. The powder was set and
the fuzz was now lit for an explosion of violence.
Violence exploded in the form of open armed conflict in 1769 when Connecticut
settlers moved into the township of Plymouth (five townships were laid
out, Plymouth, Kingston, Hanover, Wilkes-Barre, and Pittston. Each township
was five miles square and supposed to support forty settlers with families)
they discovered Pennsylvanians already in occupancy. Apparently the local
Pennamites had in accordance with their leases also built a blockhouse.
The Yankees immediately stormed and captured this blockhouse.
The remaining local Pennamites gathered together and proceeded by some
designed ruse to lure the Yankees out of the blockhouse and into a planned
ambush. The result was that the armed band of Connecticut settlers was
captured and imprisoned by the Pennsylvanians.
The Susquehanna Company immediately authorized an advance party of 110
settlers under the command of Major John Durkee (of French and Indian
War fame). This column rendezvoused with the now paroled original 40 settlers
in the Delaware River Valley. They then as a combined column marched past
the Pennamite settlement (20 or so folks) at Mill Creek with the Connecticut
flag flying at the head of the column.
Upon reaching the site of the now burned village of Teedyuscung the Yankees
began to conduct a survey of the area and establish the town of Wilkes-Barre
on its present location. In order secure their new town the Yankees had
by 20MAY1769 constructed a stockade which they named Fort Durkee, on the
banks of the Susquehanna River (near the present site of Wilkes University
on the modern South River Street near the intersection of West Ross Street)
after their leader. This fort covered a half acre of land and consisted
of a quadrangle with twenty log cabins and a surrounding wooden palisade
complete with watch towers and loop holes for firing through. Major Durkee
named the settlement surrounding the fort, Wilkes-Barre in honor of two
English members of Parliament, Colonel John Wilkes and Colonel Isaac Barre,
who were known to be supporters of the American colonists.
The scared but loyal Pennamites immediately sent a dispatch to Philadelphia
with information about the situation. Governor Penn dispatched Sheriff
Jennings to once again return and order the Yankees out. The Yankees listened
to the proclamation and then responded to it by a discharge of musketry
over the Sheriffs head The Governor had also ordered a group of militia
under the command of Colonel Turbot Francis to remove the Yankees by force
A few weeks later in June, 1769 the aforementioned group of militia under
the command of Colonel Turbot Francis arrived in the Wyoming Valley. The
crimson clad militia complete with fifes, drums, and colors flying marched
up to the walls of Fort Durkee where upon Colonel Turbot Francis demanded
that the Yankees surrender their fort and themselves or he would burn
it and all the surrounding buildings down to ash, confiscate all property
and livestock, and kill all the people with in the walls. Finishing his
speech the militia company marched off to their own fort, Fort Augusta
(Sunbury) some 60 miles away.
The next two months were a period of harassment against the Yankees by
roving detachments of Pennamites operating from Fort Augusta. In several
of these attacks some of the Yankees were captured and sent to the jail
back in Easton. They were all charged with rioting. They were all found
guilty of the charge and sentenced to a fine of 10 pounds each and they
also had to pay the costs of their own trials. Before sentences could
be carried out some of the Yankee prisoners had managed to escape from
the Easton jail and return to the settlements in the Wyoming Valley.
Meanwhile during this period of harassment on 29AUG1769 the settlers of
Wilkes-Barre petitioned the government of Connecticut to establish and
recognize their settlement as a county of the Colony of Connecticut. While
the debating in the Connecticut State House was going on; the Pennamites
were in the process of striking back. 200 militia equipped with a four
pounder cannon under the command of Sheriff Jennings marched back into
the valley. They managed to capture a party of Yankees on 11NOV1769 which
included Major Durkee. Once in the valley they rendezvoused with Captain
Ogden and his 50 men. Together the combined Pennamite forces marched on
Fort Durkee. The appearance of the cannon, coupled with the loss of their
leader caused the Yankees to surrender their Fort with out firing a shot.
Major Durkee and three other leaders were shipped to the jail in Philadelphia,
and the rest of the Yankees were told to return to Connecticut. As soon
as they headed out on their way the Pennamite militia seized and sold
at auction all the remaining livestock and property which the Yankees
had not carried. Captain Ogden returned to Philadelphia leaving a 10 man
garrison at Fort Durkee
Remaining near the area and having been paroled Major Durkee, undaunted
by his recent defeat began to rally an armed force from among the remaining
local Yankee settlers. This rag tag force proceeded to engage and defeat
They also managed to capture the canon and Fort Durkee, which they then
proceeded to burn to the ground. But 1769 was not yet over and neither
was the see-saw struggle for land dominance.
Captain Amos Ogden returns once more to the area with 140 more Pennsylvanians
who managed to retake the heavily contested area from the Yankees. They
also rebuilt Fort Durkee and proceeded to remove all of the Connecticut
settlers creating a Pennamite only area. But the Yankees were not about
to give up with out another fight.
On 18JAN1770 with the blessing of the Susquehanna Company a certain Captain
Zebulon Butler arrived in Hanover, PA where he was successful in recruiting
a group of 40 unhappy Pennamites to the Yankee cause who where known by
the name of The Paxton Boys. As a reward force their service they were
to be allotted their own township which was to be named after their own
home town in Pennsylvania, Hanover .The Paxton Boys were led by Captain
Lazarus Stewart. On 12FEB1770 this group easily retook Fort Durkee from
the Pennamites. . Major Durkee soon escaped from the jail in Philadelphia
and ON 20MAR1770 Major Durkee and some additional men linked up with Stewart
and the Paxton Boys at the fort. Major Durkee was now back in command
of all the Yankee forces in the Wyoming Valley and Captain Zebulon Pike
was appointed the commandant of Fort Durkee.
In response to this Yankee counter stroke Captain Ogden left Philadelphia
with a small force to go retake the valley from the Yankees. On 28MAR
Captain Ogden, a deputy sheriff and 50 armed men attempted to serve a
warrant and evict the Yankees. This resulted in a sharp engagement. It
was during this engagement that the first fatal casualty from direct action
in the Yankee-Pennamite Wars occurred. He was one of the Paxton Boys from
Hanover, Pennsylvania serving alongside the Yankees, his name was Baltzer
The tension and ill feelings now began to rapidly ratchet upwards. The
Yankees trundled out their captured cannon and proceeded to fire it at
the Pennamites, who were holed up on the other side of the river (east
bank). The artillery, though producing much noise and a large cloud of
powder smoke, caused little damage when sighted and fired by the Yankee
farmers. Owing to their lack of skill and experience, Major Durkee decided
that they would have better luck if they moved the gun across the river
to the same side that the Pennamites were on. He was proven correct when
soon after redeploying the artillery piece a direct hit was scored on
a Pennamite storehouse. The storehouse then proceeded to catch fire and
in the ensuing blaze most of the Pennamite ammunition and supplies were
burned up and destroyed.
The Penn’s, responding to calls for reinforcements and assistance
sent to them by the besieged Ogden, appealed to The Commander of British
Forces in the colonies, General Gage. Since this appeal reached General
Gage shortly after the Boston Massacre, the British were reluctant to
split their own forces in case a general rebellion erupted among the colonies.
Accordingly General Gage’s reply, dated 15APR1770, denies the Pennamites
any royal assistance. He stated in his reply that he viewed the current
stand off to be merely a localized property dispute, which in his opinion
was below the dignity of the King and his troops to interfere in. This
abjectly negative response disheartened the Pennamites and they proceeded
to surrender their Mill Creek fort and exit the valley. So even though
the Yankees suffered the first fatality it was the outnumbered and outgunned
Pennamites who were forced to surrender and retreat from the field. MAJ
Durkee then promptly reduced the surrendered Pennamite fort to a pile
of smoldering ash.
The Pennamites however refused to abandon land which they viewed as rightfully
theirs. They began to return after three months of recruiting and refitting,
once again led by Captain Ogden. They entered the valley through a series
of night marches. They dispersed their force, 140 strong, into pockets
of ten men each and laid a brilliant area ambush which succeeded at early
morning on 21SEP1770 to capture many Yankee settlers as they began work
in their fields. Among those nabbed in the ambush was the Yankee commander,
Major Durkee himself. This depletion of the available manpower to defend
the Yankee fort emboldened the Pennamites into attacking the fort itself
Ogden dispatched a 100 man raiding party under the command of Captain
Thomas Craig to take Fort Durkee by a rapid approach. By approaching in
the cool September night air Captain Craig was able under the cover of
darkness on 23SEP1770 to dispatch the sentinel at the gate and get his
men inside the walls of the fort. The surprise night time assault was
successful. So early in the morning of 24SEP1770 after a brief melee in
which there were several casualties the Yankee fort capitulated. The survivors
including women and children were crammed like packed sardines into a
small building. And after a few miserable days they were ordered to march
with all haste back to Connecticut.
The Yankee leaders, including the wounded Captain Zebulon Butler, were
once again dispatched to jail. Major Durkee would spend the next 23 months
in jail and Zebulon Butler would be incarcerated for four months. This
time the Pennamite commander Captain Ogden left 20 men to hold the fort
over the winter while he returned to Philadelphia to bask in the accolades
of his deeds.
The indefatigable leader of the Paxton Boys, Lazarus Stewart however
still remained at large. He had evaded capture and was thought by the
Pennamites to be hiding in the town of Lebanon. An immediate warrant was
issued for his arrest which noted that Stewart was to be considered the
most dangerous man in Pennsylvania. Stewart was eventually captured two
weeks later in York, Pennsylvania and though handcuffed, barefoot, and
wit out a jacket he managed to effect his escape during the dark of night
and make his way cross country to Paxton, where he assumed command of
25 of the assembled Paxton Boys. At about three in the morning on 18DEC1770,
after stealthily infiltrating the Wyoming Valley, Stewart and his Paxton
Boys managed to gain entry and seize the Pennamite fort driving off the
Pennamite defenders into the dark woods.
The coming of the New Year brought the return of CPT Ogden with 100 men
to the Wyoming Valley. They arrived on 18JAN1771 100 strong and they proceeded
to build, only 1,000 feet north of Fort Durkee, another Fort which they
called Fort Wyoming. Fort Wyoming was located in the city of Wilkes-Barre
near where the General Hospital is located today.
On the 21JAN1771 Ogden a delegation of his men approached the Yankee
defenses and demanded that the Yankees surrender themselves and their
fort. The Yankees responded with gunfire wounding three Pennamites and
killing Nathan Ogden, the brother of the Pennamite commander. The Pennamites
fell back to their own fort at sunset to regroup and plan the next days
attack. During the night the Yankees realizing that they were out numbered,
and fearing that they would now face a warrant of arrest on the charge
of murder, Lazarus Stewart and a group of his men slipped out in the middle
of the night and made good their escape to Connecticut. The remaining
Yankee forces slipped out into the darkness as well leaving the fort abandoned.
The victorious Pennamites destroyed Fort Durkee and strengthened Fort
Wyoming. They also erected a new blockhouse at the sight of the original
Connecticut settlement located at Mill Creek. Additionally Governor Penn
authorized the allocation for lease of plots, 100 acres each, for 30 pounds.
Each plot came with a provision that the occupying Pennsylvanians had
to be willing to immediately occupy said land, and swear to defend their
lands against any non-Pennsylvanians.
The Yankee reaction was swift. A 100 strong Yankee column under the command
of Captain’s Zebulon Butler and Lazarus Stewart reentered Wilkes-Barre
on 8JUL1771. The Pennamites, 49 men and 48 women, who had taken up the
offer of Gov Penn, had caught wind of the of the coming Yankee invasion
force and sought refuge inside Fort Wyoming. On 30JUL1771 the Yankees
attacked besieging the Pennamites holed up inside fort Wyoming. Captain
Ogden managed to elude the cordon and escape at night from the fort and
its besiegers. He then successfully made the 122 mile trip back to Philadelphia
to get a relief force to lift the siege.
Ogden’s pleas did not go un-noticed; the Gov of Pennsylvania authorized
300 pounds for the raising of an armed force to lift the siege. An advance
party of 30 men with supplies of food and ammunition left to establish
a base camp for the main body of the relief force. With in two weeks the
relief forces under the command of Ogden and his assistant Captain John
Dick entered the Wyoming Valley.
The establishment of the base camp and the approach of the relief column
did not go unnoticed by the Yankees. The Yankees acting on their own intelligence
dispatched a flying column of their own which established an ambush along
the expected route of the Pennamite advance. The Pennamites, in march
column, came up along the expected route and when the lead elements of
the Pennamite column entered the kill zone the Yankee ambush was sprung.
20 of the Pennamites with their leader managed to escape the heavy cross
fire but they lost all of their supplies and horses as war booty to the
In response to the ambush a second Pennamite relief column under Captain
Asher Clayton was dispatched. During its approach the main Yankee force
kept up the pressure on Fort Wyoming inflicting several casualties. They
intensified their siege when the besiegers wheeled out a second canon
which had been made by the Yankee blacksmiths in the Valley. The canon,
made from an iron hoped hollow log exploded apart when the second round
was fired, flinging some of the ion hoops up to 50 yards distant. There
followed 16 more days of artillery and rifle fire.
The remaining Pennamites fought back tenaciously but with ammunition,
food, and supplies exhausted and no word of Captain Ogden’s relief
column they signed the articles of capitulation on 15AUG1771. The Yankee
victory after three years of struggle and turmoil was complete, they controlled
the valley and settlers from Connecticut were starting to enter the valley
with out fear of the Pennamites.
The Yankees felt secure enough in their mastery of the valley to start
bringing in their wives and children. How ever they still built some more
blockhouses in Hanover, Plymouth and on the west side of the river which
they called Forty Fort in honor of the first 40 settlers. The settlers
then at the salary of 60 pounds per year and a grant of 50 acres brought
in a Christian minister, Reverend Jacob Jacobson. His first duty was to
officiate at the first wedding in the Wyoming valley between Elizabeth
Sill and Nathan Denson. Along with a church, the settlers established
general stores, grist mills, saw mills, and schools. The burr under the
watching Pennamites saddle was when they also established a local militia.
The next year in response to the Yankee settlement activities the Gov.
of Pennsylvania, Richard Penn, issued in JUN1772 a proclamation charging
all of the Connecticut settlers with disturbing the peace and aiding and
abetting known criminals. He furthermore ordered them to remove themselves
and return to Connecticut. Apparently the Yankee settlements had spilled
out of the valley and were occurring along the west branch of the Susquehanna
River near Muncy. Events however stayed civil on the ground with the fighting
being confined to warring in the newspapers. This proclamation coincided
with the establishment by Pennsylvania of Northumberland County. Northumberland
County had its county seat Sunbury, but ominously the Wyoming Valley was
included in the Pennsylvania plat as a part of this new county.
Following a delay Connecticut responded in like manner. On 27JAN1774 Connecticut
itself recognized the settlement, located at modern day Wilkes-Barre,
as the Township of Westmoreland and incorporated it as part of Litchfield
County of the Colony of Connecticut. The official Connecticut census of
1774 showed that a total of 1,992 people now lived in Wyoming.
This organizing urge created yet a sixth township called Muncy. This new
township rekindled the embers into a roaring fire. Armed bands of Yankees
and Pennamites would continually fight struggle through 1775, by which
time their were over 5,000 settlers in the area. Events in Massachusetts,
at Lexington Green and in Concord seemed to not dissuade the claimants
from exerting their respective claims on the Wyoming Valley. Ignoring
the common threat posed by the British the two sides once again prepared
to cross bayonets.
AUG1775 would see a resumption of open hostilities and bloodshed. Gov.
Penn was adamant about exerting his claims to the lands. This cause he
managed to raise a force of over 700 militia under the command of COL.
William Plunkett. The first engagements occurred on 28SEP1775, among those
settlements situated along the west banks of the Susquehanna River. Having
overwhelming odds of 700 to 100 the Pennamites successfully attacked and
defeated the local Yankees killing one and wounding eight others .The
Pennamite then proceeded to confiscate all movable property, livestock,
and horses and sell it at auction. The Yankees, who were captured, were
dismissed and they fled to the city Wyoming. In response Gov Turnbull
of Connecticut petitioned The Continental Congress, which in its response
issued a rather murky and weak resolution on 04NOV1775 which basically
told the respective colonial assemblies to work it out peacefully.
The Pennamites decided to debate the issue both in words and in deeds.
The relative ease of clearing the wet bank of the river emboldened the
Pennamites to cross over and finish the job, and Colonel Plunkett was
ordered to do so and once and for all evict the Yankees and bring the
Valley under Pennsylvanian authority.
To that end 650 men and two artillery pieces were organized by COL Plunkett
at Fort Augusta. The men were divided into four separate companies. They
left Fort Augusta on 15DEC1775. in a raging snowstorm. Five days later
they had reached Nescopeck Creek which is located about 19 miles below
The Yankees being well appraised of the column, its size, and intentions
decided to lay an area ambush and attack the column To accomplish this
the Yankees under the command of Colonel Zebulon Butler put together a
force of over 400 men who were divided into ambush teams of 20-30 men.
They set off in the falling snow heading south along the western shore
of the Susquehanna River. They bivouacked at Harvey’s Creek which
is opposite of Nanticoke Falls. The Pennamites had meanwhile advanced
towards the Yankees making an encampment at Harvey’s Landing which
is about 400 meters south of the Yankee position.
The next day 24DEC1775, CPT Lazarus Stewart and 20 men crossed over to
the eastern side. The remaining Yankees retreated about a mile to a place
known as “Rampart Rocks”. Rampart Rocks is a high tree and
shrub shrouded ledge which follows the river bank. Not long after the
Yankees had left Harvey’s Creek the Pennamites arrived there. The
Pennamites came on into the valley during a heavy snowstorm. They caught
sight of a detachment of 20 or so Yankees under the command Ensign Mason
Alden who had been positioned at the southern end of the Wyoming Valley.
Alden’s departure caused a Pennamite pursuit and Alden led his pursuers
directly into the teeth of an ambush. Nearing the position the Pennamite
advance guard came under heavy musket fire from the Yankees. The ambush
kicked off and immediately four Pennsylvanians were killed and the rest
succumbed to panic and fled south of Nanticoke falls back to their camp
at Harvey’s Creek.
Plunkett believing that the majority of the Yankee forces were entrenched
at Rampart Rocks ordered that two boats be dragged over land and made
ready for an amphibious attack on Wilkes-Barre which he believed to now
be unguarded and it was the hub of all the Yankee activity in the Valley.
They managed to secure boats and start a crossing of the falls under the
cover of darkness and the falling snow. Near the far shore a fusillade
of musketry erupted directed at the Pennamites. CPT Lazarus Stewart and
his 20 men had been patiently laying in ambush for just such a crossing
attempt by the Pennsylvanians. Once again even in the dark the Yankee
balls were finding targets and panic set in among the men in boats who
hurried back across the river to where they started. Some of them giving
in to panic rode their boats straight over the falls.
The very next day 25DEC1775 Plunkett divided his forces into two wings
and they marched back to where Ensign Mason had led them into the first
ambush. The main unit conducted a frontal assault on the Yankees to hold
them in position while the second wing attempted to move to the left flank,
where they started an ascending climb up the rock face. The fighting raged
on most of the day. The Pennsylvanians were making little headway against
the well entrenched Yankees, losses were quickly mounting with Yankee
casualties amounting to three killed and ten wounded and the attackers
suffering 50-60 total killed and wounded.
Unable to dislodge or go around the Yankees and suffering from an erosion
of morale the Pennamites broke contact and fell back to Fort Augusta.
It is interesting to note how serious this affair was to both parties.
Some of the people involved on both sides were soldiers of the Continental
Army who had taken leave so that they could fight each other on behalf
of their respective states/colonies. The end of 1775 marked the end of
the second phase of armed conflict in the Wyoming Valley as both sides
finally banded together to fight against the British. Over 200 men would
leave the Wyoming Valley to serve in the Continental Army.
In 1781 before a formal treaty of peace was signed with the British. The
State/Colony of Pennsylvania once again went with the litigation route
for a final settlement of the Yankee-Pennamite land disputes. A commission
operating under the auspices of the new national government and authority
of the Articles of Confederation of 1781 issued in 1783 the Trenton Decree.
The Trenton Decree which found in favor of Pennsylvania’s claims,
though with certain caveats did not immediately put an end to the armed
combat in the Wyoming Valley. The fighting was sparked by the harsh terms
of capitulation that the Pennsylvanians issued to the occupying Yankee
settlers. The Pennsylvania State Legislature affirmed their concurrence
with the terms and appointed the terms writer Alexander Patterson as supreme
local authority in the area. He was given complete power by the State
of Pennsylvania to solve the problem.
One of his first acts was to start renaming various localities. The Yankee
town of Wilkes-Barre now became the Pennsylvania town of Londonary. But
Patterson did not come north to the Wyoming Valley by himself. He brought
various officials and militia troops to assist him. The militia he quartered
in private homes, much the British had habitually done. Patterson was
in fact the dictator of the valley acting as sole legal authority. With
him there was no separation of law and order.
Patterson soon showed that he was not at all afraid to use the extraordinary
powers that had been vested in him. He began to round up the official
and un-official leaders of the Yankee settlers through out the valley.
He had them held in dungeons with little or no food, blankets or water.
One of the prisoners held in squalor appealed the situation to Congress.
This infuriated Patterson and he decided that the only way to truly exert
Pennsylvania’s claim to the Wyoming Valley was to remove by force
all vestiges of the Connecticut settlers.
Physical reminders, like fences, markers and monuments, roads and bridges,
of the Yankees were destroyed. It was not only the works of Yankee hands
that had to be removed but the very Yankee hands that built them. 150
Yankee settler families were driven out of there homes and prodded along
by Pennsylvania bayonets into Fort Dickinson where they were kept with
out food, shelter, or water.
Those families who lived further out were rounded up and driven cross
country on a trail of tears and death. A total of 800 Yankees of all ages
were pushed along by bayonets through poring rains in the wilds of North
Eastern Pennsylvania for two weeks.
They were given no food, water, or help. The weak that fell along the
way, were left to die in the mud. The chosen path followed no road or
Reports began to reach Philadelphia about the proceedings from various
Pennsylvanian settlers in the back country. The reports of the dying and
the wretched alarmed and outraged many. The State sent sheriffs and deputies
to the area and they proceeded to round up Patterson’s men and dismiss
militia members and arrest Patterson.
The state even went so far as to encourage those recently evicted to return
to their lands. The local Pennsylvanians in the area and those who had
moved in on the heels of the departing Yankees began a campaign of squatting.
They took over abandoned Yankee farms and hired many of Patterson’s
former troops to protect their new acquisitions.
The returning Yankees finding their farms, houses, and shops occupied
congregated in a rocky area on the side of a mountain. Though they may
have thought of it as a stronghold it soon proved to be a ghetto. Pennsylvanians
still loyal to Patterson’s actions put up pickets and a rough cordon
around the area. They shot at and chased any Yankees who ventured forth
to forage for food or trade.
Eventually enough Yankees were assembled who had both the will and the
firearms to try and end the siege. They broke out at night and proceeded
to occupy three out buildings on a farm in Kingston Township.
The Pennsylvanians informal band of toughs still being directed by Patterson
himself attempted to storm the Yankee occupied buildings. On 20 July 1784
they attacked. Their attack managed to kill two of the defenders but the
attack met with several heavy fusillades and the Pennsylvanians retreated
to rethink their plan.
Smelling blood in the water and seeking to exploit their victory the Yankees
soon re-occupied all of Hanover, Kingston, and Plymouth. Following this
a column of Pennsylvanians were encountered on the march and the Yankees
engaged and gave chase driving the Pennamites back inside the stockade
walls of Fort Dickinson. There followed a siege of the fort by the Yankees.
The siege of the Pennamites trapped inside Fort Dickinson continued for
several days. The Legislature of Pennsylvania alarmed at the defiance
ordered militia troops from Northampton to march into the valley and lift
The Pennamite relief column advanced steadily until 02AUG when they were
ambushed by 40 or so Yankees who managed to kill tow militia troops and
drive the rest of them back. Fearing that they may not be able to muster
enough forces in time the Pennamites sought to negotiate an end to the
On 06AUG they managed to convince the Yankees to lift the siege and put
down their weapons. The Yankees agreed but then Patterson’s men
refused to disarm and the Pennamite negotiator returned the surrendered
arms to the Yankees and begged them to leave.
The Pennsylvania Legislature was unhappy with the turn of events authorized
a Col. John Armstrong to march into the valley with 400 militia and rectify
the situation. Armstrong sought to negotiate an end to the tensions. He
was able to get the Yankees to once again turn in their weapons. However
Armstrong double crossed the Yankees.
Once they were all disarmed he had them surrounded and arrested. There
followed a period of captivity and grand jury proceedings. The sheriff
refused to honor the arrest and released the Yankees from their bondage.
Armstrong who had left the area immediately returned with a small force
of 40-50 men and proceeded to set up his base of operations in Wilkes-Barre.
The now freed Yankees were reinforced by a group of Green Mountain Boys
from Vermont. Now reinforced the Yankees again laid siege to the Pennamite
forces. This time Pennamite resistance was up to the task and they managed
to drive the Yankees back and end the siege.
Though the Pennsylvania Council of Censors had issued on 11SEP a condemnation
of the State authorities for their treatment and actions vis-à-vis
the Wyoming Valley the legislature was not done trying to assert its rights.
The State Legislature promoted Armstrong to the position of Adjutant General
of Pennsylvania and authorized the calling out of the militia from four
counties to enforce Pennsylvanian rule and authority in the Wyoming Valley.
Though promoted and authorized to raise more forces Armstrong returned
to Wilkes-Barre with only 50 men. This small band attempted to carry out
their duty. They formed up and launched an assault on a fortified Yankee
blockhouse. The assault failed and the small Pennamite force under Armstrong
evacuated their own fort in Wilkes-Barre and marched out of the valley.
The Yankees proceeded to burn the evacuated fort to the ground on 30NOV.
This marked the end of active combat actions in the Wyoming Valley between
the Yankees and the Pennsylvanians. Though the Connecticut settlers had
won out on the field of battle they were finally abandoned in 1785 by
the State of Connecticut following their loss of appeal to Congress.