The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign of 1779 was the largest expedition ever before mounted against the Indians of North America. Its 225th anniversary happened only yesterday. This year, the 231st anniversary of the American Revolution, it is more relevant than ever...

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Arguably among the most, if not the most "journalized" expedition in military history, Sullivan-Clinton's officers journals are now going online. A Must Read: Erkuries Beatty's "forgotten" diary of Van Schaick's destruction of Onondaga, site of the central council fire, in April of 1779, the 1st phase of the Campaign.

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Speaking appearance at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NY) -- NATIVE RESPONSE TO HISTORY | The Sullivan - Clinton Campaign: Then and Now. Historian Robert Spiegelman and G. Peter Jemison (Seneca), Director of Ganondagan, NYS Historic Site, re-examine the Sullivan- Clinton Campaign. (Click image for more...)

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SULLIVAN/CLINTON is an essential journey. It's not for the faint of heart, nor the stubborn of mind. It's a major event in our history that's been way off the radar screen for far too long. More road signs than any NY event, yet not in our school books. But just as America undergoes historic changes, the lessons of Sullivan/ Clinton are more relevant than ever. So, read on below. Browse our 14 great photo GALLERIES. Enjoy the A/V Images & VIDEO. Search through the eye-popping info in our TEXTS. Jump into our MAP. And enter your own COMMENTS! Come learn - at your own pace. Do your Research here. Then come back again for more, as we continually update this living website...


The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign was the largest expedition ever before mounted against native North Americans. It targeted the Iroquois Six Nations Confederacy: specifically, the Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga nations. Indeed, the Fall of Iroquoia is forever entwined with the Birth of the American Republic.

The year was 1779. In the middle of the American Revolution, George Washington ordered two Generals, John Sullivan and James Clinton, and more than 6,200 men – roughly 25% of the entire rebel army – to clear-cut and burn these resisting or then neutral Iroquois nations from one of Earth’s most fertile regions. They should “not merely be overrun," Washington insisted, “but destroyed.” And England, for its part, couldn't and/or wouldn't send forces enough to defend its Indian allies' homelands against the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign.

After five days in April and four weeks in September, almost all of Iroquoia was reduced to shattered hearths and fields of fire. According to Sullivan’s Official Report, the army burned 40 towns and their surrounding fields; consuming at least 160,000 bushels of corn, “with a vast quantity of vegetables of every kind.” A study (1969) by Anthony Wallace concluded that the Campaign destroyed 500 dwellings and nearly 1 million bushels of corn. Drawing on extensive records, a history (1978) by Allan Eckert estimated at least 50 towns and nearly 1,200 houses were burned. All this before the worst winter in recorded memory.

While these figures vary, all show an earth-shaking defeat for America’s native peoples that cannot truly be expressed in numbers; one that still lingers today - often hidden in plain sight or deep in people's souls. Against this background, a hard-won foothold in NY and Rebirth of Iroquoia have been well underway...

So, keep scrolling! You'll quickly get the whole picture, from Then to Now!

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Who's Who: The Key Players

For a "Who's Who" of the Sullivan/Clinton saga:

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When & Where: Timeline & Main Events

For the Main Events & Sites of the Sullivan/Clinton saga:

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The Marching Orders

The Expedition you are appointed to command is to be directed against the hostile tribes of the Six Nations of Indians, with their associates and adherents. The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements, and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent their planting more.

I would recommend, that some post in the center of the Indian Country, should be occupied with all expedition, with a sufficient quantity of provisions whence parties should be detached to lay waste all the settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner, that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.

Orders of George Washington
to General John Sullivan
At Head-Quarters
May 31, 1779

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A Desert Called Peace

They make solitude, which they call peace - Tacitus

We moved, on the next day, to Chinesee, crossing in our path a deep creek and the Little Seneca river, and after marching six miles we reached the castle, which consisted of 128 houses, mostly very large and elegant. The town was beautifully situated, almost encircled with a clear flat which extends for a number of miles, where the most extensive fields of corn were, and every kind of vegetable that can be conceived. The whole army was immediately engaged in destroying the crops. The corn was collected and burned in houses and kilns, that the enemy might not reap the least advantage from it, which method we have pursued in every other place... Every creek and river has been traced, and the whole country explored in search of Indian settlements; and I am well persuaded, that, except one... there is not a single town left in the country of the five nations.

General John Sullivan
Report to Congress
Tioga, New York, September 30, 1779

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Ode to Town Destroyer

When your army entered the country of the Six Nations, we called you Town Destroyer: and to this day when that name is heard our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling close to the necks of their mothers. Our counsellors and warriors are men, and cannot be afraid; but their hearts are grieved with the fears of our women and children, and desire that it may be buried so deep as to be heard no more.

Seneca Chief Cornplanter
To George Washington

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The Road To Empire

The immediate purpose was to give protection to the defenseless frontier settlements. This was to be accomplished by destroying the Indian villages and sources of food supply, and by driving the Indians westward and northward.

A second objective was to cut off the food supply of corn and dried vegetables and fruits, which had been going from the Indians to the Loyalists and British for waging the war.

A third part of the plan was to capture the strong forts at Oswego and Niagara which were storehouses of the enemy and bases for military operations.

The most important objective has been entirely overlooked by most historians... Washington and other leaders saw that independence with a mere fringe of land along the seacoast would scarcely be worth the cost of the struggle if the rest of the continent to the westward and northward remained in the hands of the motherland. Washington knew by actual experience the potential wealth of the fertile regions of the interior of the continent. He realized that when the time came to discuss terms of peace that rich area could be secured for the young nation only if it was in possession of the Americans.

Hence in The Sullivan Clinton Expedition an inland empire was the stake for which Washington was playing and not merely the punishment of dusky foes on our border.

Alexander C. Flick
Historian of the State of New York

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Having Second Thoughts

[I write of] the great Loneliness which is creeping into my Soul
with every hour and every mile which separates me from you.
I really feel guilty as I applied the torch to huts that were
Homes of Content until we ravagers came spreading desolation
everywhere... Our mission here is to destroy but may it not
transpire that we pillagers are carelessly sowing the seeds of Empire?

American Officer
Letter to His Fiancé Before His Death in Battle
Sullivan-Clinton Campaign
September 1779

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White Birds Cry

After this transaction, the voice of the birds from every quarter cried out:
"You have lost your country. You have lost you country. You've lost your
country! You have acted unwisely and done wrong." And what increased the
alarm was that the birds who made this cry were white birds.

Good Peter, Oneida Leader
Denounces NY Gov. George Clinton
to US Commissioner Pickering
April 1792

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Ours or Mine?

All of these things are a gift provided by the Creator for our needs. That everything we need has been provided here, but we have to treat it in a manner that is respectful, so we don't use it all up in our lifetime. Because there are faces that are young, or just born -- those who are coming. And they’re going to need what we have enjoyed here. So our job is to take care of it while we’re here. Not to destroy it, but to hand it on to the next generations. We’re only stewards of it while we’re all alive. Whereas the other view is "I’m going to get everything that I need now for my family and my needs. So I’ll become better than I was, have more than I’ve ever had. I’ll become rich basically." Money is driving this thinking. And then it asks: "What is the obstacle to my efforts to become this way?" The answer: "It’s these people [the Haudenosaunee/Seneca] that are living here."

G. Peter Jemison
Seneca Artist & Spokesman
Ganondagan, 2003

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Rights of Return

I would like to explain to you why we have the right and the desire to return to our native land here in New York…

Each tribe here represented today has a similar story to tell regarding what happened during the Revolutionary War years and immediately thereafter. Scattered to the winds, literally struggling to survive and find food on a daily and weekly basis… The history surrounding what they had to go through… makes me shocked and dismayed that now, when we’re litigating, and we have successfully litigated at least a portion of our land claim, the state’s saying the Cayugas voluntarily left the state of New York. I wonder what the state’s definition of voluntarily means. Imagine yourself, if anyone here has small children – I have 5-year old and a 2-year old – if your children were starving, what would you do to save them?

Would you walk 100 miles? Would you walk 300 miles? And I think clearly the answer is yes, and that’s what many of our people did.

Scott Wood
Business Committee Member/
Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma
Symposium at Syracuse University
Syracuse Post-Standard
November 20, 2003

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What makes it especially frightening is that whole communities have been annihilated. We've known for years now that the emotional devastation that survivors feel and experience is often greater than the physical devastation.

Dr. John Clizbe
Fmr. VP, Disaster Services
American Red Cross
December 2004

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We Will Have Our Lands

Whole Indian nations have melted away like snowballs in the sun before the white man's advance. They leave scarcely a name of our people except those wrongly recorded by their destroyers... Finally the whole country, which the Cherokees and their fathers have so long occupied, will be demanded, and the remnant of Ani-Yunwiya, THE REAL PEOPLE, once so great and formidable, will be compelled to seek refuge in some distant wilderness. There they will be permitted to stay only a short while, until they again behold the advancing banners of the same greedy host. Not being able to point out any further retreat for the miserable Cherokees, the extinction of the whole race will be proclaimed. Should we not therefore run all risks, and incur all consequences, rather than submit to further loss of our country? Such treaties may be alright for men who are too old to hunt or fight. As for me, I have my young warriors about me. We will have our lands. A-WANINSKI, I have spoken.

Dragging Canoe (Cherokee)
On Concluding the Transylvania Treaty
Cherokee Country, 1775

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“General Washington and the Army;”
“General Sullivan & Western Expedition;”
“ King and Queen of France;”
“A Successful and Decisive Campaign;”
“May the new World be the last Asylum for Freedom and the Arts;”
“Civilization or death to all American Savages;”
“May the husbandman’s Cottage be blest with peace and his fields with plenty.”

After-Dinner Toasts by Sullivan's Officers
Journal of Major James Norris
Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania
July 4th, 1779

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Sullivan-Clinton 2005

Clearly, NY's taking of millions of acres of Haudenosaunee land in 1788 was based upon the devastation of the Van Schaick April 1779 raid on Onondaga and the September Sullivan/Clinton scorched earth raids on the Cayuga and Seneca villages. New York exploited the fact that many Haudenosaunee people and some Chiefs had fled their homelands to live near the British "protection" near Ft. Niagara. The state went between the two groups and played one off against each other and they further exploited the hunger that the raid had caused.

Joe Heath
Counsel to the Onondaga Nation
Spring 2005

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Total land holdings for the Iroquois in 1995 are about 86,716 acres remaining from the original 25,000,000 or .034% of what we once had.

Doug George-Kanentiio
Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) Scholar
How Much Land Did the Iroquois Possess?

______________________ ***** ______________________

During the twenty years from the beginning of the American Revolution to the Treaty of Big Tree… [T]he net effect was to reduce the Iroquois population approximately by half.

Anthony F. C. Wallace
The Death & Rebirth of the Seneca

______________________ ***** ______________________

The dual process of dispossessing Indians and creating private property constructed the state of New York, the United States, and the British Empire in Canada... From 1790 to 1820, NY’s population quadrupled from 370,000 to 1,373,000

Alan Taylor
Pulitzer Prize Historian
The Divided Ground

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The forest which covers it, consisting chiefly [of] trees that live in excessive moisture, is now decayed and death struck, by the partial draining of the swamp into the great ditch of the canal. ...In spots, where destruction had been riotous, the lanterns showed perhaps a hundred trunks, erect, half overthrown, extended along the ground, resting on their shattered limbs, or tossing them desperately into the darkness, but all of one ashey-white, all naked together, in desolate confusion...The scene was ghost-like -- the very land of unsubstantial things, whither dreams might betake themselves, when they quit the slumberer's brain.

Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Canal Boat
A Description of the Erie Canal
December 1835

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Ode to a Chosen People

Indeed to see a forest tree, which had withstood the elements till it attained maturity, torn up by its roots, and bending itself to the earth, in obedience to the command of man, is a spectacle that must awaken feelings of gratitutde to that Being, who has bestowed on his creatures so much power and wisdom.

Cadwallader D. Colden
Grandson of the Canal Visionary

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Bury My Heart

“When we look at historical accuracy, we look at history as it plays in the service of a narrative,” said Sam Martin, a vice president at HBO Films in charge of production on the project. "HBO has at times gone the opposite route; last year it publicized the pains it took to ensure the factual accuracy of its Emmy-winning miniseries “Elizabeth I.”

TV Producer
"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" Project
New York Times
May 2007

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From The Late Ray Fadden

"I love these woods. They're alive to me. The woods have life of their own. From the smallest insect to the largest moose. Everything has a function. It is all here for a purpose. All of them are necessary."

"People, they try to play God, and every time they do, they make a terrible mistake."

"Indians didn't worship trees. They talked to trees, they respected this form of life. The Christian, the European mentality couldn't understand that. To them trees, plants, animals even whole mountains had no significance...all of that is believed to below the human... boy, what craziness."

"Man was created in the image of God. Boy, if I were God I would be insulted. With all the destruction they have caused. How arrogant!"

"See that little bumblebee? That one is more important to the Creation than the President of the United States."

"The white man has invented an Indian in his own image: unforgiving, vindictive, treacherous. The Indian is none of these things and never was."

"The minute they landed on Plymouth Rock, they skinned our Mother Earth like you skin a muskrat, without one thought of the future."

"I wouldn't hesitate to bet my life on it any day, that White people in this country, whether they realize it or not, are actually living more the way the Indians lived at the time of Columbus, thinking and governing themselves the way the Indians did at the time of Columbus, eating foods that Indians ate at the time of Columbus, than the Indians living the way the White man did at the time of Columbus."

"...if Sokwaiatison (Creator) ever took away the many gifts of the American Indians to the world, believe-you-me, this civilization we live in today would crumble, and crumble mighty fast."

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