This Day In History: The Great Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant Died (1807)

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On this day in 1807, the Mohawk chief Thayendanegea, died in his adopted home in Canada. He was better known by his English name of Jospeh Brant. Brant dies on this date in his home in Ontario. On his death bed, he was deeply concerned about the plight of the Indians in North America and his last words were stated to be ‘have pity upon the poor Indians’. Brant was a wise man and he understood Native American tribes were under great pressure and their way of life was endangered.

Brant was one of the leaders of the Mohawk nations and he served with the British during the War of Independence.

He was a remarkable man at home in two worlds. He was educated and was a Christian. Brant was also a sworn freemason. He had been taught as at charity school for Indians, in what later would become Dartmouth College.  He had even visited London and the British Monarch. The Mohawks were members of the Iroquois alliance, a group of tribes who were bound together by a common system of laws and culture. They had tried to stay neutral during the Revolutionary War.

Infantry,_Continental_Army,_1779-1783
Continental Army 1778

However, soon Brant persuaded the Iroquois coalition that their best interests lay in an alliance with the British as he considered the colonial Americans to be too unpredictable and land-hungry.

Brant was to prove a formidable leader and he first came to prominence for his role in the Battle of Orisjany in 1777. This was in reality a large-scale ambush of  American patriots who were on their way to break a British siege of an American fort.  Brant later launched a devastating raid on German Flats by a joint force of Mohawk Indians and Tories (American Loyalists). The following year they raided the Neversink Valley area in New York and caused widespread devastation.  The Mohawks were very much feared by the Patriots and were a serious problem for them in the New York State area.

A patriot force was dispatched to apprehend the raiders but Brant once again ambushed the Patriots and defeated them at the Battle of Minisink. A little over four weeks later the Americans defeated a force of Loyalists and Indians commanded by Brant and Walter Brunt. The victorious Patriots burned some 40 Iroquois villages and the tribe suffered greatly in the following winter and many of the tribe died. Brant re-organised his tribe and they were back attacking the Patriots the following summer and carried out many raids on settlements and ambushed parties of Patriots. The Americans were able to establish themselves in Iroquois territory, despite fierce resistance from the Iroquois and this meant that many of the tribe followed Joseph Brant across the border into Canada where they were given land and found safety with their war-time allies the British. The Iroquois continue to live in the area to this day.

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